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Ratification Day

January 14, 1784 is the day the Treaty of Paris was formally signed by delegates representing the 13 original colonies.

On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed by representatives of the Continental Congress and the country of Great Britain. The signing of the treaty, witnessed and signed by delegates from Spain and France, formally ended the Revolutionary War and established the United States as a free and independent nation.

But to make the treaty legitimate, it had to be approved and sent back to England within 6 month. Time was of the essence. It would take at least two months to cross the Atlantic by ship. This cut deep into the time that was needed to get the documents to America and then get delegates from each colony to convene to ratify the treaty.

At that time, the State House at Annapolis, Maryland served as the nation's capital. Once the treaty reached Annapolis, it would still take at least 6 weeks before enough members of congress could convene to hold a vote. On top of that, extremely bad weather made it almost impossible for delegates from certain states to travel at all.

According to the Articles of Confederation, the treaty had to be signed by at least 9 of the 13 colonies to become legitimate. There was a division within the Continental Congress, some supporting the treaty and some against it. On top of that, there were only 6 delegations present in Annapolis and time was running out.

Thomas Jefferson, who had been elected to chair a committee to arrive at a compromise, set forth several potential scenarios that could be used if not enough delegates could arrive to approve the treaty. This included ratifying the treaty with delegates from only 6 of the colonies being present. But that wasn't necessary because delegates from New Hampshire, South Carolina and Connecticut arrived at the last moment.

On January 14, 1784, the Continental Congress voted unanimously to ratify the treaty. It then ordered “That a proclamation be immediately issued, notifying…the states of the union” that the Treaty had been signed.

With the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, the American Revolution was officially over and established the independence of the 13 former British colonies, thereby forming the United States of America.

The treaty also established boundaries in North America between the United States and Great Britain, established fishing rights off Canadian coast, the release of prisoners of war, guaranteed the return of land to British citizens that was seized during the war, and gave both countries the rights to navigate the Mississippi River.

January 14, 1784 is seen as one of the most important dates in American history. Known as Ratification Day, it highlights the day that the United States of America actually became a sovereign nation.

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