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Early on the morning of September 3, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and William Temple Franklin rode into Paris carrying four official copies of the treaty that would end the War for American Independence.3 Joined by Adams, they convened at Hartley’s chambers at the Hôtel de York. There the texts were reviewed, and the two secretaries—William Temple Franklin and George Hammond—attested the copies of the commissions that would be appended to them. At half past ten o’clock, the four principals signed the treaties and affixed their seals “with the most perfect cordiality on both sides,” as Hartley wrote. Cordiality may have reigned, but this was not the treaty any of them had hoped for.

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Hartley assured the Americans that morning, on Fox’s behalf, that all the points that had been under consideration since the previous spring and any others they might wish to raise would be “immediately resumed in negotiation.”4 In the meantime, they were signing essentially the same document they had signed on November 30, 1782.5 The nine articles of the provisional treaty were retained nearly verbatim, the chief difference being the shift of a portion of text from the end of Article 1 to the beginning of Article 2, where it belonged thematically. The British added a tenth article stipulating standard terms for ratification and dropped the separate article concerning the borders of West Florida. Fox had worried that the Americans would object to the crown’s priority in the preamble he supplied, but they did not.6

Another matter of protocol which caused concern on both sides was the question of gifts. Fox knew that royal portraits were out of the question, but he thought it would not be excessive to present each of the four American peace commissioners with the sum of £1,000 sterling that was customary for a sole ambassador. Manchester and Hartley recommended that each commissioner receive half that sum, for a total of £2,000. Hartley promised to broach the subject with Franklin. As the American commissioners had no means to reciprocate and did not wish to insult the king by refusing, they were in a quandary. “So much was said against it,” according to Adams’ later account, “that we never saw the presents and heard no more about them.”7

Once the treaties were signed, the commissioners dispatched a messenger to Versailles, as Vergennes had requested.8 The British and Spanish ambassadors and their secretaries convened at Vergennes’ chambers between noon and one o’clock to sign their own treaties. (The preliminary Anglo-Dutch treaty had been signed the previous day.) That business was concluded at three o’clock in the afternoon, after which Vergennes hosted a dinner for those who had been involved in all four negotiations. There were 31 at table.9

None of the American commissioners left descriptions of the evening’s celebration, other than Adams’ recollection 30 years later that they traveled to Versailles in company with Hartley and “dined amidst mutual congratulations.”1 Franklin anticipated the day’s events with a degree of resignation. When informing Henry Laurens, he wrote that after so many frustrating months, “it is come finally to this.” When Laurens wrote to Congress, he expressed regret at the outcome. Adams was overtly gloomy when writing to his wife the day after the signing: “We have negotiated here, these Six Months for nothing.” Jay said nothing of his disappointment when writing to Robert Morris, but did offer a reflection. “We are now thank God in the full Possession of Peace and Independence,” he wrote. “If we are not a happy People now, it will be our own Fault.”2