Friday, September 03, 2010

Treaty of Paris, getting it right

Neo-Confederates like to quote Article 1 of the Treaty of Paris of 1783 in odd ways.

This is the actual text.

Article I

His Britannic Majesty, acknowledges the said United States, viz. New-Hampshire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina, Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent States; that he treats them as such; and for himself, his heirs and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety and territorial rights of the same, and every part thereof.

You can read it online as it was printed in the Statues-at-Large here at and go to the Statues at Large, Vol. 8, page 80. On page 81 is Article 1.

First note that it is "independent States," and that "States" is capitalized. It is a proper noun and is not referring to states in general. "States" is short for United States. If you take the viz. clause out, the sentence is:

His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States to be free, sovereign and independent [United] States; ....

The treaty is saying the United States is an independent [United] States. "States" is short for United States. The viz. is just explaining of which former colonies these States are. It wouldn't do to have the United States be declared independent while his Britannic majesty was still claiming one of the former colonies.

Neo-Confederates sometimes like to have the Article 1 in capital letters so that the meaning of the text is obscured or have "States" with a lower case "s" to obscure its meaning.

Article 1 is merely saying, the United States is independent and making sure that all the former colonies are included.

Finally, when does the King of Britain define what American government would be, or a peace treaty with a formerly hostile power define what American government is? What the King of Britain thinks American government is or is not is irrelevant. That is what independence was all about. The first constitution of the United States was The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.

It the intention was that each state was an independent sovereign state individually, the word "each" would be used and "States" not capitalized.

The rest of the treaty implies that it is one sovereign nation involved. For example, the boundary described in the treaty is for the United States as a whole, and the boundaries of the individual states are not described.

The mind of neo-Confederacy is constantly straining to grasp straws. When they are contradicted they resort to name calling.

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