Peace of Paris, 1763

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The Peace of Paris, signed by Britain, France, Spain, and Portugal, was ratified on February 10, 1763. Together with the Treaty of Hubertsburg (February 15, 1763) between Prussia and Austria, it ended the series of European conflicts that were fought worldwide and known collectively as the Seven Years' War, or in America, the French and Indian War.


As befit the global character of Britain's triumph, the settlement's terms were overwhelmingly favorable to the subjects of George III. In North America, France and Spain recognized Britain's title to all territory east of the Mississippi River except New Orleans. Britain's new possessions included the French colonies of Acadia, Cape Breton, Quebec, and the Spanish East and West Florida, which Spain ceded in exchange for the restoration of Cuba. In the West Indies, Britain acquired Grenada, Saint Vincent, Dominica, and Tobago from France while restoring Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Saint Lucia. In Europe, France returned Minorca in exchange for BelleÎle, and France and Spain promised to withdraw their forces from Germany and Portugal, respectively. In West Africa, Britain restored Gorée to France but kept Senegal, and in India France regained its possessions of 1749 but on an exclusively commercial basis. The British government returned Spanish Manila, which the East India Company had captured in 1762, without territorial compensation; however, the peace confirmed the rights of British settlers to cut logwood on the Spanish coast of Honduras Bay. Spain also renounced all claims to the Newfoundland fishery, although France kept its fishing rights off Newfoundland and in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, as well as the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon. As part of the Florida cession, France gave Spain New Orleans and all of Louisiana west of the Mississippi.


Although Britain's victory appeared complete, the peace created a host of new problems. In Europe, Britain's wartime ally Frederick II of Prussia resented his abandonment on the eve of negotiations; Austria showed no interest after 1763 in reviving the alliance that had once been the centerpiece of British policy in Germany; and France and Spain sought revenge by rebuilding their empires and threatening British interests in Gambia, the Bahamas, Honduras Bay, and the Falkland Islands. Compounding this diplomatic isolation was a series of new obligations within the British Empire. In the Ohio Valley, the ill-advised decision to stop the practice of Indian gift giving triggered Pontiac's War (1763–1765). In response, the government issued the Royal Proclamation (1763), temporarily barring settlers from Indian lands west of the Appalachians, and decided to leave a permanent force of 10,000 regulars in the colonies. Britain also continued its wartime attempts to curtail illicit trade in North America and the West Indies, notably with the Sugar Act (1764). Finally, in an elaborate arrangement with the Mogul Emperor, the East India Company became the effective ruler of Bengal, raising the prospect of a new territorial British empire on the subcontinent.

The peace's domestic consequences were equally momentous. Although the British public welcomed the end of hostilities, the concessions to France and Spain gained the lasting enmity of William Pitt and his supporters, among whom was a hitherto obscure militia colonel named John Wilkes, whose North Britain no. 45 helped launch his own career as well as the myth that the Scottish Earl of Bute (whose ministry had handled the negotiations) was a closet Jacobite who had betrayed the English nation to its ancient enemies. More seriously, the magnitude of Britain's conquests fueled the popular press's enthusiasm for imperialism, creating fantasies of military invincibility and global hegemony. At the same time, the war raised taxation and military service to unprecedented levels, and its end coincided with a serious economic contraction, triggering unrest across England and prompting both Bute and his successor George Grenville to look for new sources of revenue without raising taxes at home.

One widely mooted solution to these fiscal problems was for Parliament to tax the colonies directly. Despite the objections of the Americans and their metropolitan friends, many Britons thought of the colonists as the main beneficiaries of the peace's North American provisions. The recent war had also encouraged the metropolitan public to think of Americans as fellow subjects in a greater British nation and to assume they possessed the same rights and responsibilities as British subjects in England, Scotland, and Wales. In addition, according to many observers, the tax burden in the individual colonies was comparatively light, meaning that a modest increase would do far less damage than in Britain proper. With these goals and assumptions in mind, Grenville persuaded Parliament to adopt the American Stamp Act in 1765.

Although the North American empire that the peace bequeathed to Britain lasted barely two decades, several of the peace's consequences were more enduring. By stripping France of Canada and Louisiana, the settlement all but ensured the Anglicization of the continent's northern and eastern half (whether under the auspices of the British Empire or the post-1783 United States). In India, the peace opened the way for another kind of English-speaking hegemony in the form of the British Raj. It is even possible to trace the origins of the modern humanitarian impulse to the sense of global responsibility felt by many Britons in the war's aftermath, with the movement to abolish slavery being only the most conspicuous. In a sense, the world we inhabit today is a legacy of the one created by the peace settlement of 1763. The taxation of the American colonies that followed with the 1764 Sugar Act and especially the 1765 Stamp Act marked the beginning of a constitutional crisis over the power of Parliament to rule the American colonies and over the rights of British citizens in America. The peace of 1763, which ended nearly a decade of imperial war, not only brought the British Empire to its height but also led to policies that caused Americans to protest what they considered British tyranny, and in 1775 to defend with arms what they felt were their rights and privileges.


Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. New York: Knopf, 2000.

Brown, Christopher L. "Empire without Slaves: British Concepts of Emancipation in the Age of the American Revolution." William and Mary Quarterly (1999).

Gould, Eliga H. The Persistence of Empire: British Political Culture in the Age of the American Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Hinderaker, Eric. Elusive Empires: Constructing Colonialism in the Ohio Valley, 1673–1800. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Sosin, Jack. Whitehall and the Wilderness: The Middle West in British Colonial Policy, 1760–1775. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1961.

Eliga H. Gould

See also:Fort William Henry Massacre, Cultural Legacy; French and Indian War, Legacy of; Mobilization, French and Indian War; Sons of Liberty.