The Republic in the World, 1783–1803

J. M. Opal

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199746705
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Republic in the World, 1783–1803

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  • United States History
  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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In February 1778, France and the United States formed a military alliance and signed a Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Five years later, Britain sued for peace and surrendered its claims to North America south of Canada. These two diplomatic coups led to the formation of the American republic. Even before the 1783 treaty, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and other statesmen were already hatching plans on how to secure the republic's vast territorial gains. Jefferson and many of his political supporters turned away from traditional European statecraft and embraced a “naturalist” approach that would become the prevailing language of American foreign relations and an important element of American national identity. However, Jefferson's natural rights statecraft was consistently challenged by the realities of international politics, which explains why American statesmen continued to invoke Vattel's Law of Nations doctrine and to urge, into the 1820s, the United States to respect and abide by international law.

Keywords: France; United States; natural rights; Thomas Jefferson; statecraft; international law; foreign relations; Law of Nations; national identity; international politics

Article.  8306 words. 

Subjects: History ; United States History ; Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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