Why Can’t We Be Friends?

On November 19, 1794, Britain and the United States finally buried the hatchet (until the War of 1812 broke out, anyway) and resolved some of the lingering issues from the Revolutionary War with the signing of Jay’s Treaty.

The American Revolution had been over for more than a decade, but there were still some problems that needed to be addressed in order for Britain and the U.S. to play nicely together. Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, President George Washington, and chief negotiator John Jay strongly supported a treaty that would, among other things, help re-establish peaceful trade between America and Britain. Jay’s Treaty accomplished that and also called for the withdrawal of British troops from forts it was reluctant to relinquish in the Northwest Territory. Disputes over the wartime debt and the American-Canadian border were sent to arbitration, and the former colonies were granted limited rights to trade with India and colonies in the Caribbean.

Although the treaty accomplished many goals Americans had been gunning for since the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1793, Jeffersonians protested, fearing that close economic ties with Britain would promote an aristocracy and undercut republicanism. It was only when Washington threw his support behind it that everyone shut up and the treaty was ratified. Washington, as we know, could do no wrong. It was officially ratified by both countries and came into effect on February 29, 1796. The treaty was in effect for 10 years, by which time Jefferson was in the White House. He rejected the replacement Monroe-Pinkney Treaty in 1806, and America and Britain were back on the road to war again.



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