What is the Proclamation of 1763?
- On October 7, 1763, King George III declared the Royal Proclamation of 1763. It came into effect after Great Britain had acquired New France, the French Territory in North America, or present-day Canada.
- Though the victory of Great Britain against France in the Seven Years’ War accorded a large expanse of valuable land in North America, it also came at great costs.
- During the 18th century, European forces were fighting to expand their control over Native American territory. The aggressive settlements of the colonists caused a violent rebellion led by Ottawa Chief, Pontiac.
- To lawfully advance the British Empire into newly conquered French territories and to appease the Native Americans the Royal Proclamation of 1763 was laid out by the British Crown.
- The essential purpose of this decree was to control the expansion of colonial settlements toward the west of the Appalachian Mountains. The area was described as an Indian Reserve.
- Apart from giving structure to the expanding British Empire in North America, the document attempted to better relations with the Native Americans by acknowledging their rights over the hunting lands.
- However, the Proclamation of 1763 caused anger among the colonial settlers since it restricted their ambition of owning farmlands and conducting fur trade. They viewed the proclamation as a form of monopolization by the British Crown in the purchase of lands from Native Americans.
- Their objection and resentment toward the proclamation and the British Crown led to a 12-year crisis and eventually to the American Revolution.
- The Proclamation of 1763 did not prevent the westward expansion of the colonists as many disregarded it causing several years of conflict with the Native Americans.
- Though it did little for the Native American population of North America at the time, it did become the foundation of Native American law in both the United States and in Canada. This was the very first instance in the history of European colonization in the New world where the concept of land titles of Native Americans was formalized.
What is the Historical Background and Context?
- During 1756 and 1763, several European forces were engaged in what became “a struggle for global primacy between Britain and France.” This period is referred to as the Seven Years’ War or the French Indian War.
- Because the war was fought among the major powers of the era and in various parts of the world, the war was named according to the battles and the theaters in which they took place. Third Silesian War (Prussia and Austria, 1756–63), Pomeranian War (Sweden and Prussia, 1757–62), Third Carnatic War (Indian subcontinent, 1757–63), and the French and Indian War (North America, 1754–63).
- In Europe, Prussia sought more dominance after the War of Austrian Succession and in the Americas, the colonial competition grew fierce between Britain, France, and Spain. While Prussia wanted territories and power in Europe, Britain, France, and Spain fought for colonial expansion in North America and the valuable sugar of the Caribbean Islands.
- In North America, the Seven Years’ War is called the French and Indian War because both the French and the British allied with the Native Americans to defeat each other. This war became the most important event to occur in eighteenth-century North America.
- The Native American Tribes that allied with the French were Ottawa, Shawnee, Wyandot, Lenape, Ojibwa, Wabanaki Confederacy, Algonquin, Caughnawaga Mohawk while the Iroquois confederacy, Cherokee, and Catawba allied with the British.
- The main cause for the French and Indian War was the largely undefined boundary on the lands separating New France and the British colonies from Nova Scotia to Virginia. France and Britain both disputed the claim over the entire Mississippi River basin.
- In the 18th century, the region of North America west of the Appalachian Mountains and the region of upper Ohio River, south of Lake Erie was called the Ohio Country or Ohio Valley.
- The French and British invaders found the region lucrative for development and expansion and allowed their merchants to trade with the Ohio Country Indians. The Ohio natives and the Iroquois also sought control of the same region.
- This intense rivalry between various forces broke out in the Seven Years’ War when France started constructing forts in the Ohio Country.
- At first, Britain faced several defeats against the French and the Native people, the French won Fort Oswego and Willian Henry from Britain. However, when William Pitt, a great wartime leader, was appointed as Secretary of state in the British government things changed for Britain.
- He raised money to support the cause of war and also involved Prussia to weaken France in Europe. The capture of Fort Duquesne, Fort Frontenac, and the victory in the Battle of Cartagena blocked assistance to France and further strengthened British presence in the region.
- On 13 September 1759, 5000 troops were led by General James Wolfe in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. They strategically outnumbered the French and the indigenous troops and took over Quebec.
- The French troops began retreating their forces thereafter but not without a fight. In Montreal in the summer of 1760, they surrendered after a two-month intense campaign by the British forces.
- This defeat caused the Six Nations of The Iroquois Confederacy to withdraw from the war and sign the Treaty of Kahnawake. It guaranteed unrestricted travel between Canada and New York which was essential to their trade route between Montreal and Albany.
- The Battle of Signal Hill was the last and final battle that put an end to the Seven Years’ War in North America and forced the French to surrender to British General William Amherst.
- The Treaty of Paris was then signed on 10 February 1763 by the Kingdoms of France, Spain, Great Britain, and Portugal. The victory of Great Britain and Prussia against France and Spain formally ended the French Indian War and gave the British dominance outside of Europe.
- According to the Treaty, the French colonial territory west of the Mississippi River was given to Spain and all on the east of the Mississippi River and south of Rupert’s Land except Saint Pierre and Miquelon were acquired by the British. Additionally, Great Britain also acquired some of the French territories in the Caribbean Islands.
- The Treaty effectively removed any European rivals against the British in North America. However, while the Europeans fought against each other, the Native Americans gradually formed a rebellion against the British headed by Pontiac, the Ottawa Indian Chief.
- The aggressive settlements of the British colonists in the Ohio Country caused discontent and outrage leading to an organized and intertribal war called the Pontiac’s war. Pontiac organized support from all the native tribes from Lake Superior to the lower Mississippi against the British.
- The plan was for each tribe to attack the nearest fort and then meet to capture the unprotected settlements. This plan came to be known as the ‘Pontiac’s Conspiracy’ and the several attacks and captures of British settlements by the tribes came to be known as the Pontiac’s War.
The Royal Proclamation of 1763
- The end of the Seven Years’ War and the beginning of the Pontiac’s Rebellion prompted King George III to issue the Royal Proclamation of 1763.
- The proclamation laid out the boundaries of four new colonies, namely, Quebec, East Florida, West Florida, and Grenada. It assigned powers to each new colony and also allotted land to soldiers based on their ranks.
- The proclamation forbade any purchases or settlements in the newly acquired American Indian Reservation in the west of the Appalachians.
- The key feature of the Proclamation of 1763 is its acknowledgment of land titles of the Native Americans. It prohibited the colonists from settling westward and from purchasing land in the territory without the Crown’s involvement.
- The proclamation further commanded any settlers to withdraw from the said region and to not disturb any land that is claimed by a tribe. It urged private persons to avoid antagonizing the Native Americans by frauds and abuses in purchases of lands and reiterates that all purchases of such lands can be carried out only through the British Crown in public meetings.
- The proclamation drew a geographical line along with the lands with rivers that flow in the Mississippi as the region reserved for Native American Populations. This was meant to be a temporary boundary that would allow the British government to extend the settlements in an organized and legal manner.
- People could cross the boundary physically, however, they could not settle or purchase it. The proclamation was designed to appease the Native Americans and pacify the Pontiac Rebellion. At the same time, it allowed the British government to control the settlements in the new colonies.
- Lastly, the proclamation commanded that trade with the Native Americans will be conducted only through licensed traders. This brought control of the economic activities between the natives and the settler population under the British government.
Impact of the Proclamation of 1763 on the Colonial Settlers
- The colonial settlers strongly objected to the proclamation and developed discontent toward the British government. They viewed the proclamation as undue interference in the affairs of the settlers.
- The proclamation line that forbade the settlers from expanding westward was won by the British in the Seven Years’ War. As such, they did not want to cede it to the Native Americans. They rejected the proclamation as they saw it being advantageous to the Native Americans more than themselves.
- Land companies, British colonists, and land speculators asked for the land grants assigned to them but they were rejected by King George III. Many wealthy American colonials came together to lobby the British government to allow expansion into the Ohio Country as many settlements already existed in the region.
- According to the decree, the settlers not only lost control over the valuable fur trade with the Native Americans but also access to the fertile lands and investment opportunities in the Ohio Country. This was unacceptable to the settlers and they accused the Crown of seizing control from its colonial subjects.
- To enforce the proclamation, the government invested in building posts along the boundary. The cost of this venture was to be borne by the settlers through taxes. This outraged the rich and poor settlers alike.
- The colonists did not see the Native Americans as a threat nor did they believe that the British Crown had authority over the economic activities of the settlers. Their motto was ‘No taxation without Representation’ and they treated the proclamation with just as much seriousness as they did other mercantile laws.
- The colonists disregarded the decree and continued expansion westward which led to decades of conflicts with the Native Americans and subsequent treaties.
- Biological warfare in the form of spreading smallpox through infected blankets was used against the Native Americans to reduce their population.
- The contempt of British settlers toward the Native Americans and the policies of British General Jeffrey Amherst further deteriorated any chance of reconciliation and many more tribes joined in the Pontiac’s War.
- Eight forts were destroyed and several 100s of colonial settlers were captured or killed by the tribes.
- The earlier presence of French traders in the region supplied ammunition to the tribes, however, after the Seven Years’ War the only European power that remained was the British.
- Jeffrey Amherst cut off the supply of explosives to the Native Americans and sent two expeditions led by Colonel John Bradsheet and Colonel Bouquet to negotiate with the Native Americans. With some resistance, peace treaties were signed and on July 25, 1766, Pontiac made an agreement with William Johnson.
- Though the Native American Uprising had come under the control of the British Government the Uprising of the colonial settlers had come to a boiling point.
- Several laws such as the Stamp Act of 1765, Townshend Acts of 1767, and the Tea Act of 1773, decidedly laid the foundation of the American Revolution and led to the Independence of the United States of America from the British Crown.
- It became the first modern form of Constitutional Liberal Democracy.
Other Interesting Facts
- Though the Pontiac’s War is named after the Ottawa Indian Chief Pontiac, there were many other Native Americans that played a worthy role in the Native American Uprising. Guyasuta, who led the Ohio Indians also played a noteworthy role in the rebellion as well as the consequent peace negotiations.
- One of the land speculating companies called the Ohio Company was led by George Washington. His role in lobbying the British Government to expand settlements into the Ohio Country was monumental as it was in the War of Independence.
- The Royal Proclamation of 1763 remains a very important document for the First Nations in Canada. In fact, the Appalachian Divide region in Canada today still follows the proclamation line of 1763.
P.S. If you enjoyed what you read and are a teacher or tutor needing resources for your students from kindergarten all the way up to high school senior (or even adults!), check out our partner sites KidsKonnect, SchoolHistory, and HelpTeaching for hundreds of facts, worksheets, activities, quizzes, courses, and more!