What Happened Directly After The American Revolution Ended?

What happened right after the Revolutionary War ended? It's easy to think the United States of America was born immediately after the British surrendered at Yorktown, but in truth it was a long, arduous process to transform the idealistic embryonic state to a fully formed nation. Only after many years of challenging diplomatic talks was a peace treaty with Great Britain established. Not even the most insanely cool Revolutionary War hero could help speed up the process. It also took a long time for the British soldiers to actually leave American soil, taking loyalists and slaves with them back to England.

The real work began after the British left, however. History rarely plays out easily for anyone. With much toil and debate, the United States Constitution was written after the country spent years languishing in economic hardship. Rebellions, disorganized states, and an ineffective Continental Congress threatened to destroy the great experiment that was America. Luckily, the country managed to get its act together and write the Constitution we're still using today. However, it was certainly a winding, complicated road to get there. 

Photo: Howard Chandler Christy / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

  • The Loyalists Left America

    It's easy to think that when the Revolutionary War was raging in the colonies, most if not all Americans were in support of rebelling against the crown. The truth is that around 15 to 20% of the American colonists were still loyal to the crown and were unhappy when the British surrendered at Yorktown in 1781. Some of these Loyalists were beaten up by gangs of Patriots, who came to their houses to punish them for backing the other side. While a number of people had the luxury of keeping silent about their politics, those living on the front lines often had to pick a faction and stick with it.

    Therefore, when the British started pulling out of the states, many Loyalists left with them. 

  • Lord North Resigned As British Prime Minister

    The year after the British surrendered at Yorktown, the first prime minister of Britain, Lord North, resigned in disgrace. Before the conflict ended, he tried to put an end to it through diplomacy with the Conciliation Plan. It basically said that the British would stop any oppression if the colonies ended the rebellion. The colonies, however, continued to fight.

    By the time the American Revolution ended, North was exhausted by the tension between the two countries and couldn't handle the position anymore.  

  • The British Evacuated Savannah, Georgia

    It took a while for the British to fully leave the colonies after their surrender. On July 11, 1782, British Royal Governor Sir James Wright and military personnel fled Georgia for South Carolina. The goal was to evacuate the colonies via the ocean. Several ships sailed for New York, while others went to Florida and the West Indies.

    Wright eventually returned to London and perished there three years later. 

  • The Articles Of Peace Were Signed

    Though the British surrendered at Yorktown, the conflict was technically not over for some time. Peace talks began the following year in 1782 in Paris. Richard Oswald negotiated for the British while Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams represented America. Eventually, the Articles of Peace were signed, which became the basis for the formal treaty several years later.  

  • Congress Ratified The Preliminary Peace Treaty

    Congress Ratified The Preliminary Peace Treaty
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The agreement set up by John Jay, John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Richard Oswald brought both America and Britain closer to the conclusion of the conflict. In 1783, the Continental Congress officially ratified a preliminary version of a treaty.

    This allowed them to take a more fleshed-out version of the treaty to Paris, where representatives from the United States, Great Britain, Spain, and France gathered. 

  • The Treaty Of Paris Was Signed

    The document that finally led to the formal end of the revolution, the Treaty of Paris, was the product of many months of negotiation and politics. As the result of the treaty's final iteration, England had to recognize America as an independent nation, American fishermen were allowed to fish in Canadian waters, and England had to hand over territory between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River. America also agreed not to persecute Loyalists or block creditors who had debts to collect, and to restore property taken during the conflict.