- Dec 2017
Proclamation of 1763
The encroachment of the English upon their land became a source of great hostility among the indigenous peoples of North America. In an effort to resolve this issue, King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763 – which drew an imaginary line along the crest of the Appalachian Mountains from Nova Scotia to Georgia. Subjects in the colonies were forbidden from settling west of this line unless purchased by the Crown. Settlers could only legally obtain land through negotiations with the indigenous peoples. As one historian explained, “Notwithstanding the Royal Proclamation’s stated intent and purpose, George Washington characterized it as a temporary pacifier to ‘quiet’ the natives”1. George Washington was indeed right as the boundary was pushed even further just five years after the Royal Proclamation. In 1768, the Indian Boundary line was established as the new boundary line. Located further westward than the original Proclamation line, this new boundary gave the natives significantly less territory2.
Since the Proclamation required lengthy negotiations, it slowed the English settlers’ movement west. Thomas Jefferson stated this to be one of the main causes of the Revolutionary War. It was initially “…drafted to deal with the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War and the transfer of extensive French and Spanish colonial territories to Great Britain in the Treaty of Paris, 1763”1. The Proclamation is a complex document with four parts; some relate to newly ceded territories, while others discuss the existing colonies. The first part of the Proclamation of 1763 states that portions of the newly acquired French and Spanish territories were to be made into British territories. These newly established colonies were Quebec, East Florida, West Florida, and Grenada, with other parts being left to existing colonies or the state. After establishing these new colonies, the Proclamation announced the expansion of old ones. The second part focuses on the constitutions of the newly established colonies; these constitutions follow the Law of England. The areas lying beyond the boundaries of Quebec contained the Indigenous peoples who were able to make their own laws. The third part differs from the first two, as it does not refer to land ownership and the way things are run. It offered free land grants to the officers and soldiers that served in the Seven Years’ War. Finally, the fourth and longest part of the Proclamation of 1763 contains detailed measures pertaining to Aboriginal people and their lands1.
Though Colin Calloway, a British historian, refers to the Proclamation as “…the Indian ‘Bill of Rights,’” scholars argue whether it supported or undermined the indigenous peoples3. Repeated references to the Crown’s sovereignty and dominion throughout the document make it clear that the Proclamation of 1763 gave Indians a scarce measure of control when it came to native matters. Unfortunately, this pattern continues throughout history; Berger notes that the Proclamation’s “...procedure for the purchase of Indian land was the basis for the treaties of the 19th and 20th centuries"4. Since it was issued in 1763, courts in both the United States and Canada have modeled their treaties after the Royal Proclamation.
Image: http://data2.archives.ca/e/e097/e002418682.jpg Caption: British colonies in North America.
- Jim Aldridge, Keeping Promises: The Royal Proclamation of 1763, Aboriginal Rights, and Treaties in Canada, ed. T. Fenge. Mcgill-Queen’s Native and Northern Series, 78. (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015), 4-17.
- Eugene M. Del Papa, "The Royal Proclamation of 1763: Its Effect upon Virginia Land Companies," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 83, no. 4 (1975): 406-407.
- Colin G. Calloway, The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America. Pivotal Moments in American History. (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2006), 96-97.
- Thomas Berger, “Native Claims,” in Northern Frontier Northern Homeland: The Report of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry. (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1988), 165.