Britain had fought France and Spain in Europe, as well as the Americans overseas, and was greatly tempted to end the war as quickly as possible. The United States had obtained a secret document, prepared by the French ambassador in Washington, stating that France would oppose American claims to fishing rights in Canadian waters. It was also clear that Spain, which owned Florida and the lands west of the Mississippi, would oppose American expansion to the south and west. The Americans thus had every reason to suspect the future intentions of their allies, and were willing to close a separate peace with Britain.
Benjamin Franklin, American ambassador in Paris, was told to try to make a deal with Britain as quickly as possible. Lord Shelburne, then Colonial Secretary, sent Richard Oswald to Paris to negotiate with Franklin. Oswald did not even know the geography of North America, and was no match for a wily trader like Franklin, who persuaded him that the surrender of Canada was a logical part of the peace plan. Oswald sent the proposal to Shelburne, who is believed to have shown it to the King, but kept it from the members of the cabinet.
Fortunately, Charles Fox who was Secretary for Foreign Affairs, sent his own agent to Paris on May 8 to see what was going on. He learned about the proposal to give up Canada and rushed the information back to Fox. There was a row in the cabinet during which Prime Minister Rockingham died, and Shelburne became Prime Minister. He immediately got rid of Fox and it looked as though the Canada deal would go through.
Just then, Britain received some favourable news from Admiral Rodney in the West Indies: he had beaten the French fleet there. He wrote: “In two years I have taken two Spanish, one French, and one Dutch admiral.” This, and the obvious conflict between the United States, France and Spain, strengthened Britain’s hand at the conference table. When the Treaty of Paris was finally signed in September 1783, Canada remained a British possession.
Interesting, eh? You want to read more than just what’s written in today’s post? Okay. Here are a few places to get you started. There’s the New World Encyclopedia for a good article; and a timeline at Son of the South; another well written timeline is at The History Place; another interesting article can be found at American-Acadian Home.org; The U.S. Government Archives has a collection of reports on their Records of Boundary and Claims Commissions and Arbitrations‘s page.
If you are like me, it’s also nice to hold a book. A few good books to check out are Battles of the Revolutionary War, and Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution Through British Eyes, and finally Iron Tears: America’s Battle for Freedom, Britain’s Quagmire: 1775-1783.
Finally, even though it’s not exactly related to today’s story, you might want to visit the following site for its history posts: The Battle (gloriousfirst.wordpress.com)
- Loyalists Flee to Canada (tkmorin.wordpress.com)
- Franklin on Immigration (scratchofthequill.wordpress.com)
- The U.S. Might Have Owned 1/2 of B.C.! (tkmorin.wordpress.com)