J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Treaty of Paris Celebrates Its 250th Birthday in Boston

Today the Bostonian Society opens an exclusive new exhibition: “1763: A Revolutionary Peace.” This year marks the sestercentennial—that’s the 250th anniversary—of the end of the Seven Years’ (French & Indian) War.

To observe the occasion, the British government has loaned its original copy of the 1763 Treaty of Paris, signed by representatives of Britain, France, and Spain, which has never been in North America before.

The exhibit announcement explains how profoundly important this treaty was for the people on this continent:
The Paris treaty of 1763 literally redrew the map of North America, giving Britain all lands east of the Mississippi River, including Spanish Florida. Lands west of the Mississippi (and New Orleans) remained French, but because France had secretly transferred those claims to its ally Spain, the treaty effectively ended France’s presence on the continent’s mainland.

Britain had won the war, but now faced complex challenges in integrating new territories, peoples (including Native nations and French inhabitants), and governments into the new order. Even as the Treaty of Paris promised the start of a new era of peace and prosperity, it also sowed seeds of discontent from which a new crisis in the British Empire would soon grow.
(In fact, this Treaty of Paris was so unsuccessful at keeping the peace in North America that it appears to be completely overshadowed online by the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which ended America’s War for Independence. When I went looking for web images of the 1763 treaty, I kept finding documents and proclamations from 1783 that had been mislabeled. It took me about fifteen minutes before I stumbled on the image above in a blog about the Kennedy administration. And odds are that’s a different copy.)

The exhibit at Boston’s Old State House museum has been curated by Donald C. Carleton, Jr., director of the 1763 Peace of Paris Commemoration. In addition to the treaty, the display includes weapons and artifacts from the Seven Years’ War, medals marking peace between the Crown and First Nations formerly allied with France, and a Native American wampum treaty belt. It will be on view through 7 Oct 2013. And this is the treaty’s only North American appearance, perhaps for another 250 years.

COMING UP: A two-day, two-city symposium about the 1763 Treaty of Paris.

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