Proclamation of 1763 Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

In an effort to avoid further conflict over territorial sovereignty, the British parliament issued the Proclamation of 1763, drawing a frontier line between the American colonies and Native American lands.

Summary of Event

In 1763, in the wake of its North American victory over France in the French and Indian War (1754-1763) French and Indian War, Great Britain was faced with the question of how to control the vast domain between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. The answer to that question interested not only Native Americans, French Canadians, and British colonial administrators but also American fur traders, merchants, and land speculators. The trans-Appalachian West had increasingly occupied the attention of British and colonial officials since the Albany Congress Albany Congress (1754) of 1754. [kw]Proclamation of 1763 (Oct. 7, 1763) Proclamation of 1763 Proclamation of 1763 Land acquisition in colonial America Territory distribution;colonial America [g]American colonies;Oct. 7, 1763: Proclamation of 1763[1730] [g]Canada;Oct. 7, 1763: Proclamation of 1763[1730] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;Oct. 7, 1763: Proclamation of 1763[1730] [c]Colonization;Oct. 7, 1763: Proclamation of 1763[1730] [c]Expansion and land acquisition;Oct. 7, 1763: Proclamation of 1763[1730] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Oct. 7, 1763: Proclamation of 1763[1730] Amherst, Lord Hillsborough, first earl of Shelburne, second earl of Egremont, second earl of Johnson, William Gage, Thomas

During the war, the Crown had appointed superintendents to coordinate Native American affairs, but exigencies of the moment made the new arrangement inadequate. In the eyes of Whitehall officials, the old policy of leaving control of the frontier Frontier;American to the individual colonies had been chaotic and ruinous. The line of Euro-American agricultural settlement had steadily edged westward, with scant regard for Native American land claims or indigenous culture. Royal governors, superintendents for Native American affairs, and British military men repeatedly had complained that the colonists disregarded Native American treaties and made fraudulent land purchases, and that Euro-American traders mistreated the tribal peoples.

The necessity of reaching an accord with the Native Americans seemed even more urgent with Pontiac’s Resistance (1763-1766)[Pontiacs Resistance] Pontiac’s Resistance, which had begun in the spring of 1763. The indigenous population, already uneasy over the defeat of their French allies, encountered repeated insults from the British commander in chief, General Jeffrey Amherst, who refused to present them with guns, ammunition, and other gifts, as had been the French custom. They responded with violence.

Striking first in the remoter sections of the West, such as at Fort Michilimackinac, and later on the Pennsylvania frontier, roving parties of Ottawas Ottawas, Chippewas Chippewas, Lenni Lenapes Lenni Lenapes (Delawares), and Senecas Senecas overran one British-occupied post after another; by the end of June, only Forts Detroit, Pitt, and Niagara still held out against the warriors. Amherst, near recall from the home government, dispatched relief expeditions to his remaining garrisons, and several colonies raised troops to repel the indigenous combatants. The prospect of fire and sword, the diplomatic skills of William Johnson, Pontiac’s calling off the sieges, and the breakup of the coalition of tribes—which never was united on ultimate objectives—explain the demise of the rebellion and restoration of peace in 1764.

Eager to bring an end to hostilities and avoid another outbreak, the British exacted little retribution from the western tribes. During the uprising, the government announced its new policy for the West, one that had evolved from British experience in the French and Indian War. It was the work of no single minister or subminister, although the second earl of Egremont, the second earl of Shelburne, and the first earl of Hillsborough were keenly interested in the matter.

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On October 7, 1763, King George III signed the edict now known as the Proclamation of 1763. By its terms, the recently acquired territories of Canada and East and West Florida became Crown colonies, and their inhabitants became entitled to the same rights as the English at home. The proclamation nullified all colonial claims to territories west of the crest of the Appalachians and set those lands aside for Native Americans “for the present, and until our further Pleasure be known.” Wishing to monopolize the substantial and lucrative Trade;fur fur trade of the area, Whitehall hardly wanted colonial farmers crowding out the furbearers’ habitat and local traders competing for the business. The trade with the tribal peoples would be “free and open,” although traders would have to obtain a license and obey any pertinent regulations.

As the Proclamation of 1763 contained no provision for law enforcement in the area beyond provincial boundaries, an ad hoc system of confining trade to a few forts under superintendent and military supervision developed. The Crown expected that the colonials would obey the edict out of allegiance to England. Moreover, the royal government hoped that restless colonists would move northward into the thinly settled districts of Maine, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick to offset the Catholic French Canadian population there and in Quebec, or relocate southward into Georgia to bolster that buffer province against the Spaniards.

Native Americans in the region heard about the Proclamation Line and watched some of the actual surveying with distrust and bemusement. The document promised that

the several Nations or Tribes of Indians with whom We are connected, and who live under Our Protection should not be molested or disturbed in the Possession of such Parts of our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to, or purchased by Us, are reserved to them, or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds.

British general Thomas Gage rushed copies westward, because he imagined that “these Arrangements must be very satisfactory to the Indians.” The tribes, however, had witnessed earlier attempts at boundary treaties, such as at Easton and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1758 and 1760 respectively, and in South Carolina in 1761, crumble as squatters leapfrogged the line.

Significance

In the long run, Great Britain’s Westward migration (North America) “western policy” failed. Land-hungry settlers spilled over into the trans-Appalachia area in defiance of the Proclamation of 1763. British troops could not guard every mountain gap, nor could they and royal superintendents force traders to patronize specific posts. Several ambitious Virginia speculators, some of whom later joined the patriot cause in the revolution, had claims across the divide. Faced with the prospect of worthless holdings, they pressed for repeal of the order. The maintenance of western garrisons was expensive, especially when American revenues for the army’s upkeep failed to materialize, and when the troops did not accomplish their mission.

In 1768, the British government, beset with these problems and colonial rebelliousness in the eastern regions, adopted a policy of retrenchment in the West. Control of the trade with Native Americans reverted to the individual colonies, and British troops received orders to abandon all the interior posts except Niagara, Detroit, and Michilimackinac. Almost simultaneously, the government bowed to pressure to push the Native American boundary westward. The []Fort Stanwix, Treaty of (1768) Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768) with the Iroquois Confederacy Iroquois Confederacy and the Hard Labor, Treaty of (1768) Treaties of Hard Labor (1768) and Lochaber, Treaty of (1770) Lochaber (1770) with the Cherokee signified this change. No longer did the trans-Appalachian West loom uppermost in British imperial policy.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766. New York: Vintage Books, 2001. This massive, meticulously detailed account of the French and Indian War includes information about the Proclamation of 1763. With illustrations from the William L. Clements Library.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Jennings, Francis. Empire of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies, and Tribes in the Seven Years’ War in America. New York: W. W. Norton, 1988. Contains a short discussion of the Proclamation of 1763 and the Native American response.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Martin, James Kirby. In the Course of Human Events: An Interpretive Exploration of the American Revolution. Arlington Heights, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, 1979. Links the Proclamation of 1763 with other British decisions to control the colonies, such as stationing ships in American waters.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Nester, William R. Haughty Conquerors: Amherst and the Great Indian Uprising of 1763. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. This account of the Native American revolt against the British includes information about the Proclamation of 1763.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">“Proclamation of 1763: Governor Henry Ellis’ Plan, May 5, 1763.” In The American Revolution, 1763-1783: A Bicentennial Collection, edited by Richard B. Morris. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1970. Demonstrates the thinking by one colonial official that prompted the Proclamation of 1763.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sosin, Jack M. Whitehall and the Wilderness: The Middle West in British Colonial Policy, 1760-1775. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1961. Detailed examination of royal decisions leading to the Proclamation of 1763.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stagg, Jack. Anglo-Indian Relations in North America to 1763 and an Analysis of the Royal Proclamation of 7 October, 1763. Ottawa, Ont.: Research Branch, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1981. Provides a detailed interpretation of the text of the Proclamation of 1763 and the Crown’s motives.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Steele, Ian K. Warpaths: Invasions of North America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Places the decisions for the Proclamation of 1763 within the context of the military actions of the recent war and earlier treaties.

French and Indian War

Albany Congress

Acadians Are Expelled from Canada

Seven Years’ War

Siege of Louisbourg

Cherokee War

Peace of Paris

Pontiac’s Resistance

Paxton Boys’ Massacres

Indian Delegation Meets with Congress

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