Proclamation of 1763 (Great Britain)

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The British government intended the Proclamation of 1763 partly as a war measure and partly as a means of administering the new territory taken from France under the terms of the Treaty of Paris. It had two main provisions that affected the colonists. First, the British government drew a line along the watershed of the Appalachian Mountainsthe point at which waters run downhill either to the Atlantic Ocean in the east or to the Mississippi River drainage system in the westseparating colonial territory from that of the Native Americans. All lands west of the line were reserved exclusively for Indians, and any settlers living in Indian territory were required to leave. Secondly, in order to make certain that peace was maintained on the American frontier, the British government arranged for the garrisoning of up to 10,000 soldiers in the colonies. The cost of their upkeep, British Prime Minister George Grenville decided, would be borne by the colonists an estimated 250,000 pounds sterling per year.

Although some members of the British government may have had a sincere desire to protect the land rights of Native Americans, their main intention was to evade more expensive Indian wars. By limiting white settlement to areas east of the Appalachian watershed, the government hoped to minimize conflict between Indians and colonists. However, Grenville's government also wanted to tie the American colonies closer to England. The British worried that settlers who moved to lands across the Appalachians and lost direct contact with the British Empire would form economic ties with the Mississippi Valley, then under Spanish control. They also realized that these settlers would need to manufacture some goods for themselves, rather than importing them from England. The British feared that in time such local industries would undercut imperial trade. The simplest way to prevent these things from happening was to forbid settlement west of the Appalachians. This would also keep colonial settlers from drifting away from a market economy. A settler who went far into the interior and began to live in a subsistent economy without using money, would soon lose contact with other colonists and, eventually, also his allegiance to the British crown.

The second part of the Proclamation also threatened American economic prosperity. Grenville's government had inherited a national debt of 137 million pounds sterling, almost twice what it had been before the beginning of the war with France. The costs of administering the North American empire, Grenville concluded, could well be borne by the colonists, whose debt amounted to only 2.6 million pounds sterling. But the colonies were suffering from a severe post-war depression, and hard cash, or specie (minted gold and silver), was in short supply because of the colonial trade deficit with Great Britain. Most colonial specie was used to pay English or Scottish merchants for goods the colonists had imported.

In order to raise the 250,000 pounds sterling needed to fund the frontier troops, Grenville's government put together a series of direct and indirect taxes on colonial goods and services, including the Sugar Act, the Currency Act, and the Stamp Act. These taxes led to conflict between the American colonies and England, eventually culminating in the American Revolution (17751783).

See also: Stamp Act, Sugar Act


Jennings, Francis. Empire of Fortune: Crown, Colonies, and Tribes in the Seven Years' War. New York: W. W. Norton, 1988.

Leach, Douglas E. Roots of Conflict: British Armed Forces and Colonial Americans, 16771763. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1986.

Middleton, Richard. The Bells of Victory: The Pitt-Newcastle Ministry and the Conduct of the Seven Years' War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Schwartz, Seymour I. The French and Indian War, 17541763: The Imperial Struggle for North America. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.

Walton, Gary M., and James F. Shepherd. The Economic Rise of Early America. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

we do further strictly enjoin and require all persons whatever who have either willfully or inadvertently seated themselves upon any lands . . . reserved to the said indians . . . forthwith to remove themselves from such settlements.

text of the proclamation of 1763

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PROCLAMATION OF 1763, issued by the British government regulating the settlement of land in North America. It was prepared in part by William Petty Fitzmaurice, Lord Shelburne, and was proclaimed by the Crown on 2 October. By it, parts of the territory in America acquired through the Treaty of Paris earlier in the year were organized as the provinces of Quebec, East Florida, West Florida, and Grenada; the laws of England were extended to these provinces; and provision was made for the establishment of general assemblies in them. Settlement within the new provinces was encouraged by grants of land to British veterans of the French and Indian War.

The proclamation called for a new strategy to conciliate the Indians. The governors of the provinces and colonies were forbidden to grant lands "beyond the Heads or Sources of any of the Rivers which fall into the Atlantic Ocean from the West and North West." An Indian reservation was thus established south of the lands of the Hudson's Bay Company, west of Quebec and the Appalachian Mountains, and north of the boundary line of the Floridas. Settlement upon the Indian lands was prohibited, and settlers already on such lands were commanded "to remove themselves." Furthermore, private purchases of land from the Indians were forbidden; prior acquisitions in the Indian reservation were voided; and future purchases were to be made by licensed traders for the Crown alone.

For more than a decade successive ministries had been dissatisfied with the management of Indian relations by the different colonies. Rivalry among the colonies for Indian trade, and in some cases for western lands, had led to abuses by the governors of their power over trade and land grants, arousing a justified resentment among the Indians. The success of the French in conciliating the Indians strengthened the argument in favor of imperial control of Indian affairs.

The appointment in 1756 of two regional superintendents of Indian affairs had been the first step toward the British government's control of Indian relations. Sir William Johnson, superintendent of the northern Indians, urged the fixing of a line west of which settlement should be prohibited. The danger from the Indians during the French and Indian War automatically fixed such a line at the Appalachian Mountains. Settlers, however, disregarding the proclamations, swarmed over the mountains, and their encroachments were one of the causes of Pontiac's War. The Proclamation of 1763 was an attempt to check their advance until some agreement could be negotiated with the Indians. The proclamation was not intended to change the boundaries of the old colonies; nevertheless, many in the colonies resented it as an interference in their affairs. After Pontiac's War, negotiations with the Indians resulted in the treaties of Hard Labor, Fort Stanwix, and Lochaber, by which a new line was drawn. In 1774 the Quebec Act added the remainder of the Indian reservation north of the Ohio River to the province of Quebec. This aroused resentment in some of the thirteen colonies already close to rebellion, since it was seen as an attempt to deprive them of their claims to western lands.


Jennings, Francis. Empire of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies, and Tribes in the Seven Years War in America. New York: Norton, 1988.

Sosin, Jack M. The Revolutionary Frontier, 1763–1783. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1967.

Solon J.Buck/a. r.

See alsoFlorida ; Georgiana ; Indian Policy, Colonial ; Indian Reservations ; Paris, Treaty of (1763) ; Western Lands ; Westward Migration .

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Proclamation of 1763

PROCLAMATION OF 1763. 7 October 1763. To reduce Indian unrest stemming from land frauds and westward expansion, the imperial government and several colonies had taken largely ineffective steps before 1763 to limit the migration of white settlers into lands claimed or controlled by Native Americans. The end of the French and Indian War opened the gates for a flood of settlers into western lands, putting further pressure on tribes trying to resist the creeping tide of white settlement. Moreover, the expulsion of the French from Canada eliminated the possibility that the tribes might strike a balance between competing European powers and thus negotiate a better deal for themselves.

Aware of the problem, Lord Shelburne, the president of the Board of Trade, drafted a plan that was put in final form by his successor, the earl of Hillsborough, and rushed to King George III for his signature on 7 October 1763. The Proclamation of 1763 was intended to provide a comprehensive solution to a wide range of issues raised by the expansion of the empire. Territories recently won from France were organized into four distinct and separate governments: the provinces of Quebec, East Florida, West Florida, and Grenada, the latter actually comprising the island of Grenada, the Grenadines, Dominica, St. Vincent, and Tobago, all in the West Indies. The boundary of Georgia was extended south from the Altamaha River to the St. Mary's River, the northern boundary of East Florida. The new province of Quebec (encompassing only the eastern portion of the former New France, from the St. Lawrence valley northwards) was put under English law, a provision that alarmed the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, formerly French, inhabitants. The colonies reacted most strongly to the provision of the proclamation that established, for an indefinite period, a line along the watershed of the Allegheny Mountains as the western limit of British settlement and, in a modification of Shelburne's draft, ordered the withdrawal of colonists already west of this line, which meant those in the upper OhioValley. A vast territory west of Quebec and the Alleghenies was reserved for the indigenous Native Americans, who were nominally placed under the government of the British army, which was to garrison forts in the region to keep the peace and especially to regulate trade with the natives. The act specifically mentioned colonial land frauds and other offenses against the Indians and went into great detail about how these were to be prevented in the future.

The colonists strongly opposed the proclamation, which withdrew lands promised to veterans of the French and Indian War, restricted trade with the Indians, and curtailed the claims of the so-called Three-Sided colonies. Land speculators and frontiersmen objected to the restrictions on western migration. Canadians resented the imposition of English law, fearing it would be anti-Catholic and would call into question legal precedents established under the French regime. The colonists also recognized that the proclamation confined them to the seaboard, where they could be more easily controlled by the mother country; eliminated the chance for debtors to avoid prosecution by escaping over the Alleghenies; and curtailed the economic opportunities that seemed to shimmer just over the crest of the mountains.

SEE ALSO Pontiac's War; Three-Sided States.


Douglas, David C. English Historical Documents. Vol. 9: American Colonial Documents to 1776. Edited by Merrill Jensen. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955.

Knollenberg, Bernhard. Growth of the American Revolution, 1766–1775. Edited by Bernard W. Sheehan. Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Fund, 2002.

Thomas, Peter D. G. British Politics and the Stamp Act Crisis: The First Phase of the American Revolution, 1763–1767. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.

                            revised by Harold E. Selesky

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The conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1763 brought vast new territories and complex problems to the British Empire. To establish governments for the new territories and to address the complex state of the trans-Appalachian west, King George III issued a royal proclamation on 7 October 1763. The proclamation placed the territories won from France and Spain under four distinct governments: much of French Canada was placed within the province of Quebec, the former Spanish colony of Florida was divided into East and West Florida, and the Caribbean conquests were combined into the province of Grenada. Because the Crown was unprepared to extend representative government to populations that had been hostile to British power for over a century, the proclamation provided only for the appointment of governors and councils, with the promise of assemblies at a later date.

More controversial were the provisions governing Indian policy and western expansion. The expulsion of the French from the Ohio Valley left the British government solely responsible for organizing a region that was already the object of bitter dispute among colonial governments, high-powered speculators, unscrupulous Indian traders, and a host of prospective settlers. Yet much of this land remained, by treaty, under the control of Native American tribes. Angry over the penetration of their lands and the shady activities of some of the traders, tribes allied under Pontiac began a series of attacks leading to Pontiac's War. These attacks made the Crown see the need for a conciliatory approach toward Native Americans, an approach manifested in the Indian policy of the proclamation.

While no definitive line was drawn, the proclamation prohibited all settlement on trans-Appalachian Native American lands, to the extent of ordering that all present settlement be abandoned. To protect the Native Americans from future fraud, the proclamation authorized only the colonial governors and the commander-in-chief to purchase Native American lands. Finally, the Indian trade was to be regulated and conducted under licenses assigned by the governors.

The proclamation was a temporary expedient designed to give the Crown time to pacify the Native Americans and obtain the fair and orderly transfer of their lands. Meanwhile, the conflicting claims of colonial governments and private speculators could be investigated and adjudicated. Americans, however, viewed the proclamation in a different light. Unconcerned with Indians' rights, the American assemblies, speculators, and settlers joined in protesting the closure of the lands that had been the objective and, in their minds, the just prize of the late war. A growing number of Americans resented the closure of the trans-Appalachian west as evidence that London officials were determined to expand their power and authority at the expense of colonists' rights. That parliamentary taxes were imposed to support the implementation of the proclamation solidified this view in the minds of many Americans.

The Proclamation of 1763 achieved mixed results. The policies concerning Canada and the Floridas proved successful, as these populations remained peaceful during the revolution developing in the seaboard colonies. The provisions concerning the trans-Appalachian west failed, however, as the British were unable to enforce them and the British western policy served largely to provoke and sustain resistance to British rule.

See alsoFrench and Indian War, Consequences of; Fur and Pelt Trade; Land Policies; Land Speculation; Pontiac's War; West .


Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. New York: Knopf, 2000.

Sosin, Jack M. The Revolutionary Frontier, 1763–1783. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1967.

Daniel McDonough

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Proclamation of 1763 British government edict designed to restrain encroachment on Native American lands by settlers following the French and Indian Wars. It forbade settlement west of the line of the Appalachians and ordered those who had already settled there to vacate the area.