About the Proclamation of 1763

Britain controlled all of North America east of the Mississippi, after the French and Indian War was over. Settlers from the Thirteen Colonies were anxious to move into the Ohio Valley now that it was free of French influence, but the lands were still in the possession of Indian Nations who were rightly suspicious of 'Yankee' motives and resented their intrusion. Pontiac's Rebellion along the frontier began in August of 1763.

When the British created the Proclamation of 1763 partly to conciliate the Indians by checking the encroachment of European settlers on their lands. Indian grievances resulted in Pontiac's War in 176364. This was a violent, yet futile uprising, but demonstrated to the settlers and the British that for the fur trade and agriculture to develop without further bloodshed, the British had to make some commitments to the Indians. At the same time, Britain was moving to consolidate its gains and implement governing structures. This is set out in the opening paragraphs of the Proclamation, and details of their governance and settlement in later sections.

The British authorities also were determined to subdue the inter-colonial rivalries and abuses they had witnessed in the colonies. They believed that they needed to deal with Indian problems as a whole. To this end, the proclamation organized new British territories in Americathe provinces of Quebec, East and West Florida, and Grenada (in the Windward Islands)and a vast British-administered Indian reservation west of the Appalachians, from south of Hudson Bay to north of the Florida's. It forbade all white settlement on Indian territory, ordered those settlers already there to withdraw, and strictly limited future settlement. For the first time in the history of European colonization in the New World, the proclamation formalized the concept of Indian land titles, prohibiting issuance of patents to any lands claimed by a tribe unless the Indian title had first been extinguished by purchase or treaty.

It is important to remember that even though the French and Indian War was fought primarily in the northern territory, Indians of the Ohio Valley were the third major party in the French and Indian War. The British victory was disastrous to them. These tribes had allied themselves with the French and had earned the enmity of the victorious English. The Iroquois Confederacy, which had allied themselves with Britain, fared only slightly better. The alliance quickly unraveled and the Confederacy began to crumble from within. The Iroquois continued to contest the English for control of the Ohio Valley for another fifty years; but they were never again in a position to deal with their white rivals on terms of military or political equality.

However, the British had a certain resolve to protect the Indians. The sentiment on the part of the British to protect the Indians goes back to 1754, when Pennsylvania negotiated a treaty purchasing the lands of western Pennsylvania west of the Appalachians from the Six Nations (of the Ohio Valley). In 1758, they negotiated a treaty with the Six Nations to induce them to become neutral in the ongoing war with France. As a token of good faith, they released these lands back to the Six Nations. Military leaders supported this as an important war step. The Crown ratified the treaty.

As an honorable result, the British government felt obliged to include a provision in the Proclamation of 1763 closing settlement in the trans-Appalachian West, albeit with the qualifier that they would try to negotiate an opening of land in the future. This not only honored a treaty with the Indians, but served a useful purpose in restricting the expansion of the English population beyond all reach of government or protective forces.

This regulation was openly defied by frontiersmen moving West to settle on the Indian Reserve. The efforts of the British troops to enforce the Proclamation were futile and bred contempt and hatred. The large speculators like Patrick Henry and others in Virginia and Richard Henderson and friends in North Carolina ignored the Proclamation, as they negotiated with the Cherokee nation for land grants.

The proclamation of 1763 was not intended to alter western boundaries. Nevertheless, the Proclamation of 1763 was offensive to the colonies. They perceived it as undue interference in their affairs. Treaties following Pontiac's War drew a more acceptable line of settlement and the rest of the territory north of the Ohio River was added to Quebec in 1774. The proclamation, however, failed to stem the westward movement of pioneers, whose disregard of its provisions evoked decades of continued Indian warfare throughout the area.

The British victory in the French and Indian War had a great impact on the British Empire. First, it meant a great expansion of British territorial claims in the New World. But the cost of the war had greatly enlarged Britain's debt. Second, the war generated substantial resentment towards the colonists among English leaders, who were not satisfied with the financial and military help they had received from the colonists during the war. All these factors combined to persuade many English leaders that the colonies needed a major reorganization and that the central authority should be in London. The English leaders set in motion plans to give London more control over the government of the colonies and these plans were eventually a big part of the colonial resentment towards British imperial policies that led to the American Revolution.

The Proclamation was actually intended to induce a controlled population movement, that prohibited settlement west of the line drawn along the crest of the Allegheny mountains. To enforce that measure they authorized a permanent army of 10,000 regulars (paid for by taxes gathered from the colonies; most importantly the "Sugar Act" and the "Stamp Act"). This infuriated the Americans who, after having been held back by the French, now saw themselves stopped by the British in their surge west.

The French and Indian War had an equally profound, but very different effect, on the American colonists. The colonists had learned to unite against a common foe. Before the war, the thirteen colonies had found almost no common ground, and they coexisted in mutual distrust. Now they saw that together they could be a power to be reckoned with. Britain became the common enemy.

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