|Signing of the preliminary Treaty of Paris, 1782|
By Roseanna M. White
It was 1783. The Treaty of Paris had been written, peace was a tenuous string between England and America. There was a deadline for getting the document signed, ratified, and returned to France, where Benjamin Franklin was waiting to present it to the English delegates. The hopes and fears of two nations were on the line.
And the document sat, unsigned, in Annapolis, Maryland, where the Congress was meeting. It sat, and it waited, while delegates from the 13 newly-christened states failed, and failed again to show up.
When I was writing Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland many moons ago, I kept reading about how the delegates weren't there, but it took me a long time to find something that told me why. And given the "snowpocalypse" that just closed in on Maryland again this past week, it seemed like an appropriate time to tell y'all about it. =)
I lived in Annapolis for 6 years, so I knew what normal winter weather looked like for the town. Windy. Very, very windy. Nasty windy. Cold. The occasional just-above-freezing rain, a few days of ice. Snow once a year or so. Overcast aplenty, but some days of nice sunshine too.
Not so in the winter of 1783-84. No, Jefferson and Franklin both termed this "the long winter of 1783-84," and Jefferson further added that it was "severe beyond all memory." Even the oldest men alive at the time couldn't remember a winter that was worse for the eastern seaboard. The snow kept coming. And coming. The temperatures were frigid.
|The Laki fissure, from which toxic gases fumed|
So as we sit beneath our three feet of snow in 2016 and watch the plows come through, as we thank the Lord that electricity has stayed on and our houses are snug, I can't help but think back to the winter that nearly kept peace from being ratified, and the snows that trapped delegated and statesmen in their homes for weeks and months.
Even after they eventually made it to Annapolis and ratified the Treaty, the ordeal wasn't over. The ships meant to carry it across the Atlantic were iced in well past the deadline...but Franklin managed to get said deadline extended. And since the winter was just as brutal in Europe, everyone was understanding...and very ready for peace.
That long winter of 1783-84 recorded the most below-zero temperatures ever in New England. The most snow in New Jersey. The Chesapeake Bay was frozen solid. The Mississippi River froze at New Orleans, and there was even ice in the Gulf of Mexico.
But peace prevailed. The people hunkered down and got through. And now, all these many years later, we can rest safe and warm inside.