National Archives and Records Administration

American Originals Exhibit

Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)

The American Revolution

"From the day I enter upon the command of the American armies, I date my fall, and the ruin of my reputation."
George Washington to Patrick Henry, 1775

On June 15, 1775, the Continental Congress unanimously elected George Washington to be Commander in Chief of the Continental Army—of all the forces raised or to be raised in defense of American liberty. He was not only a veteran of the French and Indian War but a person of unchallenged character. He was a natural-born leader, and his commanding personality lent prestige and legitimacy to the American cause.

In accepting command of the Continental Army, he rejected the $500 monthly salary, refusing to profit personally from the position. It was a widely praised gesture that reinforced the themes of personal sacrifice and patriotism that would resonate throughout his career. He did, however, keep an account of his expenses so that the government could one day reimburse him.

George Washington made two copies of the wartime expense account books, one to keep and one to submit to the Treasury Department for reimbursement. The one shown here is among the Treasury Department records preserved by the National Archives and Records Administration.

George Washington's account of expenses while Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, 1775–1783.

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Treaty of Paris

"We were better tacticians than was imagined."
John Adams, December 14, 1782,
describing U.S. negotiators for the peace treaty
with Great Britain ending the American Revolutionary War

The American War for Independence (1775–83) was actually a world conflict, involving not only the United States and Great Britain but also France, Spain, and the Netherlands. The peace process brought a vaguely formed, newly born United States into the arena of international diplomacy, playing against the largest, most sophisticated, and most established powers on earth. The three American negotiators proved themselves to be masters of the game, outmaneuvering their counterparts and clinging fiercely to the points of national interest that guaranteed a future for the United States.

The treaty is named for the city in which it was negotiated and signed. The last page bears the signatures of David Hartley, who represented Great Britain, and the three American negotiators, who signed their names in alphabetical order.

The Treaty of Paris, like all U.S. treaties with foreign powers, is preserved in the National Archives of the United States.

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Continue to
Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
The Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900)
The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)
The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)

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Colonization and Settlement (1585-1763)
American Originals 2

National Archives and Records Administration
Last updated: July 1, 1998