The British Refuse to Surrender their Western Posts
four days prior to the
Signing of the Articles of Peace
(Near Princeton August 29 1783)
An historically important letter, documenting the negotiations on the removal of British troops from American western frontier forts. The Articles of Peace were agreed upon and the treaty signed just a four days after General Washington wrote this letter. General Baron von Steuben had returned from Canada where he was to have received the surrender of the British frontier posts:
I have just heard of the return of Baron Steuben without having been able to accomplish the business of his mission. I have judged it impossible to take possession of the Western Posts this fall; and have directed the movement of troops to be suspended, but the prosecution of the works of clearing land and water communications and of erecting the Buildings at Fort Schuyler, which I wish you would still take the trouble of having completed.
The British did agree to vacate the forts located in the western United States as part of the treaty:
“…his Brittanic Majesty shall with all convenient speed, and without causing any destruction, or carrying away any Negroes or other property of the American inhabitants, withdraw all his armies, garrisons, and fleets from the said United States, and from every post, place, and harbor within the same; leaving in all fortifications, the American artillery that may be therein…”
However, once the treaty was signed, the British refused to vacate the forts. In fact, eleven years later as part of the requirements of the Jay Treaty, the British finally agreed to relinquish their illegal holding of these forts. Unfortunately, Jay had to agree also that pre revolutionary debts to British merchants would be paid. These debts affected mainly Southern planters. Jay was vilified and his chances as the former front runner for the presidency of the U.S. were lost.