10 Things You Should Know About The Treaty Of Paris (1763)

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Winston Churchill called it "the first world war." Fought between 1754 and 1763, the misleadingly named Seven Years' War (often called the French and Indian War in North America) pitted Europe's major colonial powers against each other in theaters across the globe, from North America and Africa to India and the Philippines. On one side of the conflict stood Great Britain and its allies, including Portugal and German states. The other camp was led by France, whose comrades included Russia, the Holy Roman Empire, and Spain.

In the end, Great Britain prevailed. On February 10, 1763, representatives from Britain, France, Spain, Hanover, and Portugal met in Paris to sign a peace treaty. Few documents have shaken up global politics so dramatically. This Treaty of Paris wrested Canada from France, redrew North American geography, promoted religious freedom, and lit the fuse that set off America's revolution.

1. THE TREATY HANDED CANADA TO BRITAIN—A MOVE ENDORSED BY BEN FRANKLIN AND VOLTAIRE.

Before the war ended, some in the British government were already deciding which French territories should be seized. Many believed that Great Britain should annex Guadaloupe, a Caribbean colony that produced £6,000,000 worth of exports, like sugar, every year. France’s holdings on the North American mainland weren't nearly as valuable or productive.

Benjamin Franklin thought that securing the British colonies' safety from French or Indian invasion was paramount [PDF]. In 1760, he published a widely-read pamphlet which argued that keeping the French out of North America was more important than taking over any sugar-rich islands. Evidently, King George III agreed. Under the Treaty of Paris, Britain acquired present-day Quebec, Cape Breton Island, the Great Lakes basin, and the eastern bank of the Mississippi River. France was allowed to regain possession of Guadaloupe, which Britain had temporarily occupied during the war. Some thought France still came out on top despite its losses. In his 1759 novel Candide, the French philosopher Voltaire dismissed Canada as but a "few acres of snow."

2. FRANCE RETAINED EIGHT STRATEGIC ISLANDS.

Located in the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland, the Archipelago of St. Pierre and Miquelon is the last remnant of France's North American empire. The Treaty of Paris allowed France to retain ownership of its vast cod fisheries around the archipelago and in certain areas of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In return, France promised Britain that it wouldn't build any military facilities on the islands. Today, the 6,000 people who live on them are French citizens who use euros as currency, enjoy the protection of France's navy, and send elected representatives to the French National Assembly and Senate.

3. AN EX-PRIME MINISTER LEFT HIS SICKBED TO DENOUNCE THE TREATY.

william pitt the elder
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder had led Britain's robust war effort from 1757 to 1761, but was forced out by George III, who was determined to end the conflict. Pitt's replacement was the third Earl of Bute, who shaped the Treaty of Paris to placate the French and Spanish and prevent another war. Pitt was appalled by these measures. When a preliminary version of the treaty was submitted to Parliament for approval in November 1762, the ex-Prime Minister was bedridden with gout, but ordered his servants to carry him into the House of Lords. For three and a half hours, Pitt railed against the treaty's terms that he viewed as unfavorable to the victors. But in the end, the Lords approved the treaty by a wide margin.

4. SPAIN SWAPPED FLORIDA FOR CUBA.

Florida had been under Spanish control since the 16th century. Under the Paris treaty, Spain yielded the territory to Britain, which split the land into East and West Florida. The latter included the southern limits of modern-day Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. East Florida encompassed the the territory's peninsula. In return, Spain recovered Cuba and its major port, Havana, which had been in British hands since 1762. Twenty-one years later, Great Britain gave both Florida colonies back to the Spanish after the American War of Independence.

5. THE DOCUMENT GAVE FRENCH CANADIANS RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.

French Canada was overwhelmingly Catholic, yet overwhelmingly Protestant Britain did not force religious conversions after it took possession of the territory. Article Four of the Treaty of Paris states that "His Britannic Majesty, on his side, agrees to grant the liberty of the [Catholic] religion to the inhabitants of Canada … his new Roman Catholic subjects may profess the worship of their religion according to the rites of the [Roman] church, as far as the laws of Great Britain permit."

The policy was meant to ensure French Canadians' loyalty to their new sovereign and avoid provoking France into a war of revenge. As anti-British sentiment emerged in the 13 American colonies, historian Terence Murphy writes, Great Britain needed to bring the French Canadians into the fold because they were "simply too numerous to suppress." This provision in the Treaty of Paris probably influenced the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom.

6. A SECOND, SECRET TREATY GAVE HALF OF LOUISIANA TO SPAIN.

By the 1760s, the French territory of Louisiana stretched from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mountains. Faced with a likely British victory in the Seven Years' War, France quietly arranged to give the portion of Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans, to its ally, Spain, in 1762. (The rest eventually went to Great Britain.) The deal was struck in the Treaty of Fontainebleu. This arrangement wasn't announced to the public for more than a year, and Britain's diplomats were completely unaware that it had taken place while they negotiated the Treaty of Paris. By ceding so much territory to Spain, French foreign minister Étienne François de Choiseul hoped to compensate that country for its forfeiture of Florida.

7. CHOISEUL PREDICTED THAT THE TREATY WOULD LEAD TO AMERICAN REVOLT.

Before the Treaty of Paris, the threat of a French Canadian invasion had been keeping Britain's colonies loyal to the crown. When Canada became British, king and colonies no longer shared a common enemy, and the colonists' grievances with Britain came to the fore.

Choiseul predicted this chain of events, and saw it as an opportunity for France take revenge on Britain. Before the Treaty of Paris had even been signed, he'd started rebuilding France's navy in anticipation of a North American revolt. He also sent secret agents to the American colonies to report signs of growing political upheaval. One of these spies, Baron Johan de Kalb, later joined the Continental Army and led American troops into numerous battles before he died in action in 1780.

8. THE TREATY HAD A MAJOR IMPACT IN INDIA.

In the early 1750s, the British East India Company and its French counterpart, the Compagnie Française des Indes, clashed regularly over control of lucrative trade on the Indian subcontinent. Once the Seven Years' War began, this regional tension intensified. France's most vital Indian trading post was the city of Pondicherry, which British forces captured in 1761.

The Treaty of Paris returned to France all of its Indian trading posts, including Pondicherry. But, it prohibited France from fortifying the posts with armed troops. That allowed Britain to negotiate with Indian leaders and control as much of the subcontinent as it could, dashing France's hope of rivaling Great Britain as India's dominant colonial power.

9. IT TRIGGERED A HUGE NATIVE AMERICAN UPRISING.

Ottawa chief Pontiac meets with British troops after French and Indian War
Ottawa leader Pontiac (center) meets with British generals after the Treaty of Paris was signed.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For decades, French leaders in the eastern Louisiana Territory had developed alliances with native peoples. However, when that land was transferred to the British, some Native Americans were shocked at the French betrayal. Netawatwees, a powerful Ohio Delaware chief, was reportedly "struck dumb for a considerable time" when he learned about the Treaty of Paris. In 1762, the Ottawa chief Pontiac forged an alliance between numerous tribes from the Great Lakes region with the shared goal of driving out the British. After two years, thousands of casualties, and an attack with biological weapons, Pontiac and representatives of Great Britain came to a poorly enforced peace treaty in 1766.

10. THE TREATY CAME TO AMERICA AFTER 250 YEARS.

Once the Treaty of Paris was signed in that city, it stayed put. In 2013, the British government lent its copy—the first time the document would be displayed outside Europe—for an exhibit in Boston, Massachusetts, commemorating the 250th anniversary of the signing. The Bostonian Society's "1763: A Revolutionary Peace" exhibited the document alongside other artifacts from the Seven Years' War. Afterward, the manuscript returned to Great Britain.

There Could Be Hundreds of Frozen Corpses Buried Beneath Antarctica's Snow and Ice

Prpix.com.au/Getty Images
Prpix.com.au/Getty Images

Scientists and explorers take a number of risks when they travel to Antarctica. One of the more macabre gambles is that they'll perish during their mission, and their bodies will never be recovered. According to the BBC, hundreds of frozen corpses may be trapped beneath layers and layers of Antarctic snow and ice.

“Some are discovered decades or more than a century later,” Martha Henriques writes for the BBC series Frozen Continent. “But many that were lost will never be found, buried so deep in ice sheets or crevasses that they will never emerge—or they are headed out towards the sea within creeping glaciers and calving ice.”

In the world’s most extreme regions, this is not uncommon. For comparison, some estimates suggest that more than 200 bodies remain on Mt. Everest. Antarctica's icy terrain is rugged and dangerous. Massive crevasses—some concealed by snow—measure hundreds of feet deep and pose a particularly serious threat for anyone crossing them on foot or by dogsled. There’s also the extreme weather: Antarctica is the coldest, driest, and windiest place on Earth, yet scientists recently discovered hundreds of mummified penguins that they believe died centuries ago from unusually heavy snow and rain.

One of the most famous cases of a left-behind body on Antarctica dates back to the British Antarctic Expedition (also known as the Terra Nova Expedition) of 1910 to 1913. British explorer Robert Falcon Scott and his four-man team hoped to be the first ones to reach the South Pole in 1912, but were bitterly disappointed when they arrived and learned that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it.

On the return trip, Scott and his companions died of exposure and starvation while trapped by a blizzard in their tent, just 11 miles from a food depot. Two of those bodies were never found, but the others (including Scott’s) were located a few months after their deaths. Members of the search party covered their bodies in the tent with snow and left them there. The bodies have since travelled miles from their original location, as the ice grows and shifts around them.

Other evidence suggests people landed on Antarctica decades before Scott’s team did. A 175-year-old human skull and femur found on Antarctica’s Livingston Island were identified as the remains of a young indigenous Chilean woman. No one yet knows how she got there.

Accidents still happen: After coming close to completing the first solo, unaided traverse of Antarctica, British adventurer Henry Worsley died of organ failure following an airlift from the continent in 2016. Most modern-day polar visitors, however, have learned from past missteps.

[h/t BBC]

Dolly Parton, They Might Be Giants, and More Featured on New Album Inspired By the 27 Amendments

Valerie Macon, Getty Images
Valerie Macon, Getty Images

Since 2016, Radiolab's More Perfect podcast has taken what is typically viewed as a dry subject, the Supreme Court, and turned it into an engrossing podcast. Now, fans of the show have a whole new way to learn about the parts of U.S. history which textbooks tend to gloss over. 27, The Most Perfect Album, a new music compilation from Radiolab, features more than two dozen songs inspired by each of the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, from freedom of religion to rules regulating changes to Congressional salaries.

More Perfect assembled an impressive roster of musical talents to compose and perform the tracklist. They Might Be Giants wrote the song for the Third Amendment, which prohibited the forced quartering of soldiers in people's homes. It goes, "But the presence of so many friendly strangers makes me nervous, and it does not mean that I'm not truly thankful for your service."

For the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, Dolly Parton sings, "We carried signs, we cursed the times, marched up and down the street. We had to fight for women's rights with blisters on our feet." Less sexy amendments, like the 12th Amendment, which revised presidential election procedures, and the 20th Amendment, which set commencement terms for congress and the president, are also featured. Torres, Caroline Shaw, Kash Doll, and Cherry Glazerr are just a handful of the other artists who contributed to the album.

The release of the compilation coincides with the premiere of More Perfect's third season, which will focus on the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. You can check out the first episode of the new season today and download the companion album for free through WNYC.

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