Peace of Paris Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

In the Peace of Paris, Great Britain, France, and Spain made peace with one another, ending their participation in the Seven Years’ War and the French and Indian War. The treaty confirmed the supremacy of the British colonial empire and the virtual destruction of the French overseas empire.

Summary of Event

In 1763, the Peace of Paris brought to a close the British-French-Spanish phases of the war known in Europe as the Seven Seven Years’ War (1756-1763)[Seven Years War] Years’ War and in North America as the French and Indian War. French and Indian War (1754-1763) The European conflict involved mainly the continuing struggle for supremacy in the German states between Prussia (supported by England) and Austria (aided by France and Russia). Simultaneously, in North America, in India, in Africa, and in the West Indies, England and France were engaged in a struggle for supremacy, another phase of the Second Hundred Years’ War. [kw]Peace of Paris (Feb. 10, 1763) [kw]Paris, Peace of (Feb. 10, 1763) Paris, Peace of (1763) Treaties;European Treaties;North America Seven Years’ War (1756-1763)[Seven Years War] French and Indian War (1754-1763) Paris, Peace of (1763) [g]France;Feb. 10, 1763: Peace of Paris[1680] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Feb. 10, 1763: Peace of Paris[1680] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Feb. 10, 1763: Peace of Paris[1680] [c]Colonization;Feb. 10, 1763: Peace of Paris[1680] [c]Expansion and land acquisition;Feb. 10, 1763: Peace of Paris[1680] Choiseul, Étienne François de Bedford, fourth duke of Bute, third earl of George III Pitt, William, the Elder

While by no means ignoring central Europe, British and French statesmen alike were well aware that the major stakes of the war would be won or lost on the North American continent. From May 28, 1754, when the French and Indian War began, to mid-1757, the French dealt the British forces a number of serious defeats on many of the worldwide fronts of the conflict. Not until the appointment of William Pitt the Elder as British foreign secretary in the summer of 1757 did Great Britain begin to turn the tide. Pitt, supremely confident of his own ability and that of his country to wage war, by the end of 1759 had forged a series of spectacular English victories over France in Canada, India, and the West Indies. The British conquest of Canada in September, 1760, elevated Pitt to the zenith of his power and encouraged him to prosecute the war even more vigorously until France was completely crushed. King George III, who ascended the throne in the following month, had decidedly different views.

King George III and his advisers, above all John Stuart, third earl of Bute, disliked Pitt and his militant war policy. Their aim was to terminate as soon as possible what was becoming an expensive conflict, in order to consolidate the young monarch’s authority by associating his name with peace and good economy in government. The execution of such plans ultimately presupposed the ouster of Pitt from office, but George III and Bute both realized that their Whig adversary would have to be retained until prospects for peace improved. Hence, in 1761, George responded eagerly to the proposal of the French foreign affairs minister, Étienne François de Choiseul, that peace negotiations, begun in December, 1759, at the behest of a beleaguered Prussia but subsequently broken off, be resumed.

The reopening of negotiations in March, 1761, in Augsburg, reflected a desire for peace that was strong in both countries, but not strong enough to prevent the collapse of talks by September and a consequent prolongation of the war. Pitt’s unwillingness to accede to certain French demands, among them the surrender of Great Britain’s Canadian fishing monopolies, and the insistence that Great Britain incorporate in any peace treaty a settlement of outstanding disagreements with Spain, hitherto neutral, prompted Choiseul to continue the war. Thus, while continuing negotiations until September, Choiseul had entered into an alliance on August 15 with Spain, a “Family Compact” of the two Bourbon powers, wherein Spain agreed to declare war on Great Britain if peace were not concluded within eight months.

Through the interception of certain diplomatic dispatches, the British government learned of the existence of this agreement. Pitt, firm in his belief that the compact involved the intention of Spain to declare war on Great Britain, sought to persuade George III to undertake a preventive war against Spain. Others in the British government shared Pitt’s view that Spain probably intended to go to war against Great Britain, but their dislike for him enabled them to use his insistence on a war with Spain as the opportunity to oust him from office.

Pitt’s successors, the third earl of Bute and the fourth duke of Bedford, were themselves obliged to press for such a declaration, which came on January 1, 1762, after Spain refused to deny the existence of the compact. As the year progressed, disastrous Spanish defeats at the hands of Great Britain, including the capture of Havana, coupled with abandonment of the alliance with Prussia, created an atmosphere in which Choiseul and his British counterparts felt constrained to return to serious peace negotiations.

By early November, 1762, Choiseul and Lord Russell had worked out the outline of a settlement. The peace preliminaries signed on November 5, 1762, at Fontainebleau generated great controversy in Great Britain. In the House of Commons, Pitt argued that the British should retain the islands of Martinique, St. Lucia, Miquelon, and Gorée, and gain more than Florida in exchange for Havana. Bute countered that he would demand only what was easy for Britain to obtain and for France to yield. Public opinion was of two minds: It wanted a speedy end to the war, but it condemned the terms Bute had achieved.

Bute had his way, and the Fountainebleau agreement served as the basis for the Peace of Paris, which was formally concluded at Paris between Great Britain, France, and Spain on February 10, 1763. As far as Europe was concerned, France agreed to restore the territory of all Great Britain’s German allies, including Hanover, Hesse, Brunswick, and, contingent upon the approval of Austria, Prussia’s Rhenish lands as well. Among the major stipulations of the Peace of Paris pertaining to colonial affairs, France ceded to England all of Canada and French territory east of the Mississippi River, Senegal in Africa, and some islands in the West Indies, but retained certain trading stations in India. Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain, which in turn guaranteed Spanish control over Cuba. To compensate Spain for the loss of Florida, France ceded to Spain the Louisiana territory west of the Mississippi.

Significance

The consequences of the war and the Peace of Paris were of considerable importance. First, the intention of Great Britain and France to terminate their struggle prompted their respective allies, Prussia and Austria, to resolve their differences in the Treaty of Hubertusburg, signed five days after the Peace of Paris. Great Britain emerged from the war at the peak of its maritime power, but its position was not so secure as the stipulations of the treaty might have indicated. The removal of the French menace made the colonists of New England less dependent on the Mother Country than they had been previously. Moreover, when the American Revolution finally broke out in 1775, Great Britain found itself isolated by a bitter France, which it had defeated, and an equally bitter Prussia, which it had deserted. France, in time, gave open support to the British colonists in America, while in the German states, Prussia hindered Britain’s recruitment of troops for use in America. As a direct result of the Peace of Paris, France lost considerable territory to Great Britain in the New World and was eclipsed in India. The Peace of Paris, like most peace treaties, was not conclusive; in a few years, France was to renew its traditional rivalry with Great Britain.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Black, Jeremy. Natural and Necessary Enemies: Anglo-French Relations in the Eighteenth Century. London: Gerald Duckworth, 1986. Black discusses British-French relations between 1713 and 1793 against their cultural background.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. Pitt the Elder. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. The author offers a readable, scholarly account of Pitt’s life.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hyam, Ronald. “The Treaty of Paris, 1763.” In Reappraisals in British Imperial History, edited by Ronald Hyam and Ged Martin. New York: Macmillan, 1975. A careful historical analysis of the Bute administration’s presuppositions and policies in making a relatively moderate peace with France.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Israel, Frederick L., ed. Major Treaty Treaties of Modern History, 1648-1966. Vol. 1. New York: Chelsea House, 1967. The text of the Peace of Paris is reproduced; editorial commentaries are set forth on related groups of treaties.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Schweizer, Karl W. War, Politics, and Diplomacy, 1756-1763. Reprint. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2001. Originally published in 1991 under another name, Schweizer’s study analyzes the financial, political, and strategic forces influencing Pitt’s attitude toward the British-Prussian alliance.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Watson, J. Steven. The Reign of George III, 1760-1815. Vol. 12 in The Oxford History of England, edited by Sir George Clark. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1960. This older work contains a clear, concise discussion of the negotiations for the Peace of Paris.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Williams, Basil. The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Reprint. New York: Octagon Books, 1966. Originally published in 1913, this work is a classic biography of Pitt, rather indulgent of Pitt’s judgment and actions and harsh toward those of his opponents.

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