JANUARY 14, 1784: THE DAY THE UNITED STATES BECAME A SOVEREIGN NATION

We cite and celebrate July 4, 1776, as the birth of the United States of America because that is when the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. 

However, a vital yet largely forgotten moment of American history happened January 14, 1784, or 237 years ago today. 

The American Revolution ended with the Treaty of Paris of 1783.

On that day, the Continental Congress officially declared the sovereignty of the United States of American by ratifying the Paris Treaty. The treaty, negotiated on the American side by founding fathers Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay, formally ended the Revolutionary War with Great Britain and established the U.S. as an independent nation. 

Franklin, of course, represents a key figure in American history not only for his statesmanship but also for his scientific discoveries, his inventions that included bifocal lenses, the Franklin stove, the lightning rod, and also for his extensive writings.

Adams, who went onto become the second U.S. president, also was a prolific writer whose diaries provided great insight into the events that led to the birth of the new nation. 

Jay, an abolitionist, went on to become the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the second governor of New York. He was the only one of the three Americans who did not also sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

The trio’s work on the Treaty of Paris became somewhat jeopardized when the states nearly missed their deadline to sign, risking nullification of the agreement and perhaps giving the British the impetus to renegotiate with terms less beneficial to the United States. 

The treaty’s timeline:  

  • Fighting in the Revolutionary War ended after British General Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia, in October 1781.  
  • In the spring of 1782, negotiations began between the Colonists and British to end the war formally. The British, however, refused to recognize the U.S. as an independent nation. Ultimately, the cost of the war compelled the British to relent, and they reached their agreement. 
  • On April 15, 1783, the Congress approved the agreement and signed it on September 3 of that year. All 13 states then needed to ratify it within six months. Scheduled to meet at the Maryland Statehouse that November, representatives of only seven of the 13 states showed up by January 13; a vote shy of the quorum needed to ratify. They achieved that quorum when an ailing representative from South Carolina crawled out of bed and cast his vote on January 14, 1784. 
OTD in history, the American Revolution ended with the Treaty of Paris of 1783.
The new nation expands its territory.

The terms of the treaty stretched U.S. territory to the Mississippi River while reserving Canada for Great Britain. Navigation of the Mississippi River remained open to both sides. 

Ultimately, eight years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence and more than four years before George Washington became its first president, the United States became an independent nation. 

10 comments

  1. Larry Bell · · Reply

    The USA did not become a sovereign state on 4 July 1776; the former 13 British colonies broke away and became 13 sovereign states. The USA as a sovereign state began on 4 March 1789 when the US Constitution became operational.

    Like

  2. In the last paragraph the signing date is mistakenly referenced as 1783

    Like

    1. Thanks, John! It’s been corrected.

      Like

    2. Larry Bell · · Reply

      Please, reread the Paris Peace Treaty again. This treaty, signed on 3 September 1783, between the American colonies and Great Britain, ended the American Revolution and formally recognized the United States as 13 sovereign states.

      Article 1. Britain acknowledges the United States (New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia) to be free, sovereign, and independent states, and that the British Crown and all heirs and successors relinquish claims to the Government, property, and territorial rights of the same, and every part thereof,.

      The United States at the time was only referring to the confederation of 13 sovereign states. It was never a single sovereign state until 4 March 1789.

      Like

  3. Rhode Island and Providence Colonies were one and the same.

    Like

    1. Larry Bell · · Reply

      “On January 14, 1784, the Continental Congress officially declared the sovereignty of the United States of America by ratifying the Paris Treaty. ”

      This conflicts with the Articles of Confederation in which all 13 former states were 13 free and independent states. If this really was the case, then there would be no need for constitutional convention in May 1789.

      Like

  4. From the Library of Congress: ” The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784, officially establishing the United States as an independent and sovereign nation. The Continental Congress approved preliminary articles of peace on April 15, 1783. The treaty, signed in Paris on September 3, 1783, required Congress to return the ratified document to England within six months.”

    Like

    1. Larry Bell · · Reply

      Hmm…the Paris Peace Treaty, Article I says differently. What is the official US government statement on this?

      And why was there a Constitutional Convention that scrapped the Articles of Confederation in 1987? If the USA was a sovereign state in 1784 then the Articles of Confederation would cease to exist in 1784.

      Like

    1. Larry Bell · · Reply

      So why was there a Constitutional Convention in 1787? What is the official US government on this? And what form of government did this sovereign state have from 14 January 1784 to 3 March 1789?

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: