Historical Documents

of the United States of America

Provisional Articles, Between The United States Of America, And His Britannic Majesty ~ 1782

Signed 30 November 1782


     As early as the 14 January 1779 session of the Second Continental Congress, overtures toward a peace treaty with Great Britain were being sounded. During that meeting of the delegates, an article of the recently signed Treaty of Alliance with France was discussed. It was resolved: "That as neither France or these United States may of right, so these United States will not conclude either truce or peace with the common enemy, without the formal consent of their ally first obtained..."
     During the previous year, a delegation of commissioners, led by Lord Carlisle, from Great Britain had attempted to be heard by the Continental Congress, but had been rebuffed in every attempt. The actual objective of this so-called peace commission was to prevent the Americans from enterring into a treaty of alliance with France. Lord North's government had authorized the peace commission, which arrived on American soil on 22 April, to offer the repeal of various of the Coercive Acts and to reexamine the trade regulations that had been imposed by Parliament. The one thing that the commission was not authorized to offer was acknowledgement of the independence of the colonies. And because of that, the American delegates to the Second Continental Congress refused to even meet with the British commission. A letter to the commissioners was drafted, and approved on 17 June, in which the Congress stated in part: "The acts of the British parliament, the commission from your sovereign, and your letter, suppose the people of these states to be subjects of the crown of Great Britain, and are founded on the idea of dependence, which is utterly inadmissable." Noting that the American colonies were inclined toward peace, and that such would be possible only if the king would demonstrate a sincere disposition in the same manner, the letter ended by stating: "The only solid proof of this disposition, will be, an explicit acknowledgement of the independence of these states, or the withdrawing his fleets and armies."
      In a vain effort to save their failing scheme, one of the commissioners, George Johnstone, attempted to offer bribes to members of the Congress. They also, in mid-October, engaged a number of ships to transport to each of the colonies various documents for the purpose of spreading seditious ideas. The Congress discovered the intentions of the commissioners and therefore resolved that any man or body of men, who made any sort of agreement with the commissioners, would be deemed and treated as an open and avowed enemy of the United States. The peace commission set sail on 27 October, and returned, defeated, to England.
     The Provisional Articles, signed on 30 November 1782, perhaps grew out of the British Peace Commission's fiasco, which, albeit inadvertently, might have provided action points for the Americans' articles.


     ARTICLES agreed upon, by and between RICHARD OSWALD, Esq, the Commissioner of his BRITANNIC MAJESTY, for treating of Peace with the Commissioners of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in behalf of his said Majesty, on the one part; and JOHN ADAMS, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, JOHN JAY, and HENRY LAURENS, four of the Commissioners of the said States, for treating of Peace with the Commissioner of his said Majesty, on their behalf, on the other part; to be inserted in, and to constitute the Treaty of Peace, proposed to be concluded between the Crown of GREAT-BRITAIN and the said UNITED STATES: But which Treaty is not to be concluded, until Terms of a Peace shall be agreed upon between GREAT-BRITAIN and FRANCE; and his BRITANNIC MAJESTY shall be ready to conclude such Treaty accordingly.
     WHEREAS reciprocal advantages and mutual convenience are found by experience to form the only permanent foundation of peace and friendship between States: It is agreed to form the articles of the proposed treaty, on such principles of liberal equity, and reciprocity, as that partial advantages, (those seeds of discord,) being excluded, such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse between the two countries may be established, as to promise and secure to both, perpetual peace and harmony.
     Article the First. His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz. 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; that he treats with them as such; and for himself, his heirs and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety and territorial rights of the same, and every part thereof; and that all disputes which might arise in future, on the subject of the boundaries of the said United States, may be prevented, it is hereby agreed and declared, that the following are, and shall be their boundaries, viz.
     Article the Second. From the north-west angle of Nova-Scotia, viz. that angle which is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of St. Croix river to the Highlands; along the said Highlands which divide those rivers that empty themselves into the river St. Lawrence, from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the north-westernmost head of Connecticut river; thence down along the middle of that river, to the forty-fifth degree of north latitude; from thence, by a line due west on said latitude, until it strikes the river Iroquois at Cataraquy; thence along the middle of said river into Lake Ontario; through the middle of said Lake, until it strikes the communication by water between that lake and Lake Erie; thence along the middle of said communication into Lake Erie, through the middle of said lake, until it arrives at the water communication between that lake and Lake Huron; thence along the middle of said water communication into the Lake Huron; thence through the middle of said Lake to the water communication between that lake and Lake Superior; thence through Lake Superior northward of the isles Royal and Philipeaux, to the Long Lake; thence through the middle of said Long Lake, and the water communications between it and the Lake of the Woods, to the said Lake of the Woods, thence through the said Lake to the most north-western point thereof, and from thence on a due west course to the river Missisippi; thence by a line to be drawn along the middle of the said river Missisippi, until it shall intersect the northernmost part of the thirty-first degree of north latitude. South by a line to be drawn due east from the determination of the line last mentioned, in the latitude of thirty-one degrees north of the Equator, to the middle of the river Apalachicola or Catahouchi; thence along the middle thereof to its junction with the Flint river; thence straight to the head of St. Mary's river; and thence down along the middle of St. Mary's river to the Atlantic ocean. East by a line to be drawn along the middle of the river St. Croix, from its mouth in the bay of Fundy to its source, and from its source directly north to the aforesaid Highlands which divide the rivers that fall into the Atlantic ocean, from those which fall into the river St. Lawrence; comprehending all islands within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States, and lying between lines to be drawn due east from the points where the aforesaid boundaries between Nova-Scotia on the one part, and East Florida on the other shall, respectively touch the bay of Fundy, and the Atlantic ocean; excepting such islands as now are, or heretofore have been within the limits of the said province of Nova-Scotia.
     Article the Third. It is agreed that the people of the United States shall continue to enjoy unmolested the right to take fish of every kind on the grand bank, and on all the other banks of Newfoundland; also in the gulph of St. Lawrence, and at all other places in the sea, where the inhabitants of both countries used at any time heretofore to fish; and also that the inhabitants of the United States shall have liberty to take fish of every kind on such part of the coast of Newfoundland, as British fishermen shall use, (but not to dry or cure the same on that island;) and also on the coasts, bays, and creeks of all other of his Britannic Majesty's dominions in America, and that the American fishermen shall have liberty to dry and cure fish in any of the unsettled bays, harbours and creeks of Nova-Scotia, Magdalen islands and Labrador, so long as the same shall remain unsettled; but so soon as the same or either of them shall be settled, it shall not be lawful for the said fishermen to dry or cure fish at such settlement, without a previous agreement for that purpose with the inhabitants, proprietors or possessors of the ground.
     Article the Fourth. It is agreed that creditors on either side, shall meet with no lawful impediment to the recovery of the full value in sterling money, of all bona fide debts heretofore contracted.
     Article the Fifth. It is agreed that the Congress shall earnestly recommend it to the Legislatures of the respective States, to provide for the restitution of all estates, rights and properties which have been confiscated, belonging to real British subjects, and also of the estates, rights and properties of persons resident in districts in the possession of his Majesty's arms, and who have not borne arms against the said United States. And that persons of any other description shall have free liberty to go to any part or parts of any of the thirteen United States, and therein to remain twelve months unmolested in their endeavours to obtain the restitution of such of their estates, rights and properties as may have been confiscated; and that Congress shall also earnestly recommend to the several States a reconsideration and revision of all acts or laws regarding the premises, so as to render the said laws or acts perfectly consistent not only with justice and equity, but with that spirit of conciliation, which on the return of the blessings of peace should universally prevail. And that Congress shall also earnestly recommend to the several States, that the estates rights and properties of such last mentioned persons shall be restored to them; they refunding to any persons who may be now in possession the bona fide price, (where any has been given) which such persons may have paid on purchasing any of the said lands, rights, or properties since the confiscation. And it is agreed that all persons who have any interest in confiscated lands, either by debts, marriage settlements, or otherwise, shall meet with no lawful impediment in the prosecution of their just rights.
     Article the Sixth. That there shall be no future confiscations made, nor any prosecutions commenced against any person or persons for, or by reason of the part which he or they may have taken in the present war; and that no person shall, on that account, suffer any future loss or damage either in his person, liberty or property, and that those who may be in confinement on such charges, at the time of the ratification of the treaty in America, shall be immediately set at liberty, and the prosecutions so commenced be discontinued.
     Article the Seventh. There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between his Britannic Majesty and the said States, and between the subjects of the one and the citizens of the other, wherefore all hostilities both by sea and land shall then immediately cease: All prisoners on both sides shall be set at liberty, and his Britannic Majesty shall with all convenient speed, and without causing any destruction, or carrying away any negroes or other property of the American inhabitants withdraw all his armies, garrisons and fleets from the said United States, and from every port, place and harbour within the same; leaving in all fortifications the American artillery that may be therein: and shall also order and cause all archives, records, deeds and papers, belonging to any of the said States or their citizens, which in the course of the war may have fallen into the hands of his officers, to be forthwith restored and delivered to the proper States and persons to whom they belong.
     Article the Eighth. The navigation of the river Missisippi, from its source to the ocean, shall for ever remain free and open to the subjects of Great-Britain and the citizens of the United States.
     Article the Ninth. In case it should so happen that any place or territory belonging to Great-Britain or to the United States, should be conquered by the arms of either from the other, before the arrival of these articles in America, it is agreed, that the same shall be restored without difficulty, and without requiring any compensation.
     DONE at Paris, the thirtieth day of November, in the year one thousand seven hundred eighty two.
     Richard Oswald, John Adams, B. Franklin, John Jay, Henry Laurens.
From Laws Of The United States Of America, Volume I, 1795, Pages 459-462.