April 19, 1983

Bicentennial of the Announcement to the Continental Army of the Cessation of Hostilities Between the United States and Great Britain, April 19, 1783, to April 19, 1983

Today is a very special day in our nation's history -- the bicentennial of the announcement to the Continental Army of the cessation of hostilities between the United States and Great Britain.

On April 19, 1783, which coincided with the eighth anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the cessation was proclaimed to the troops at General George Washington's headquarters at Newburgh, New York.

Standing on the steps, General Washington read, ``The glorious task for which we first flew to arms being thus accomplished, the liberties of our country being fully acknowledged and firmly secured . . ., and the character of those who have persevered through every extremity of hardship, suffering, and danger, being immortalized by the illustrious appellation of the patriot army, nothing now remains but for the actors of this mighty scene to preserve a perfect unvarying consistency of character through the very last act; to close the drama with applause, and to retire from the military theatre with the same approbation of angels and men which has crowned all their former virtuous actions.''

The vigilant Continental Army and State Militias could at last relax in confidence that a long-sought peace would soon fall over a newly-recognized and independent nation.

On October 19, 1981, we celebrated the Bicentennial of the Battle of Yorktown, the last major engagement between deployed field armies of the two sides. That event -- though impossible without the courage and fortitude of the footsoldier and sailor -- was nonetheless most memorable as an occasion to recall and appreciate the contribution of our allies and the astute judgement and actions of our joint land and sea commands.

This occasion today is different. The interregnum between Yorktown and this April day two centuries ago was a long one of minor skirmishes and the dull and repetitive duties of men who were justifiably impatient to return to their homes. Yet they stood loyally as the visible expression of the nation's will. Our hearts turn with affection toward them on the anniversary of this day when their Commander announced that further hazard to life and limb was suspended and likely to be recognized soon through formal treaty.

On September 3 the official conclusion to the American Revolution will be observed when we celebrate the bicentennial of the Treaty of Paris.

The focus then will be on the diplomatic process. The patient and skillful efforts of our plenipotentiaries in Paris, Madrid, and the Hague -- Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay -- and the constant support of the people of this great new land made independence for the American people a reality.

There are further events that merit our continued recognition and celebration. The blessings of independence, which were secured for us on the field of battle, became truly secure only when ensconsed in a viable political structure.

Ronald Reagan