On Sept. 27th, 1779, the American Continental Congress appointed John Adams as the minister in charge of negotiating peace and commerce treaties with Great Britain during the Revolutionary War. Adams conducted much of his work during the war out of Paris, and was able to negotiate highly favorable terms for the United States following the end of the war.
The diplomatic manner in which Adams and his colleagues negotiated peace with Great Britain is radically different from how military conflicts often end today. In recent decades, victorious countries have often pushed for the unconditional surrender (or at least surrender on very unconditional terms) of their foes, with one of the most notable examples being the harsh treatment of Germany during the post-WWI peace negotiations. In other instances, nations have sought to change the governing body (or “regime”) of another country, such as when America invaded and displaced Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
- Should the Americans have pushed for harsher terms of peace with Great Britain? Why or why not?
- What do you think some of the causes of countries pushing for harsher terms of surrender have been?
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian. 20, Sept. 2018, Portrait of John Adams [Digitial image]. Retrieved from <pbs.org>.