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The Proclamation of 1763

image, Proclamation of 1763, Digitized 2011, Library and Archives Canada
Question 

What are some primary sources related to the Proclamation of 1763?

Answer 

King George III issued a proclamation on October 7, 1763, that created a boundary between Indian lands and white settlements. Running from north to south along the Appalachian Mountain range, the proclamation decreed that whites would henceforth be forbidden to settle in land west of the boundary, which was to be reserved for Indian use. No individuals or groups would be allowed to purchase western lands without the Crown's explicit consent. Whites currently living in the western territory were ordered to vacate their lands. In order to enforce the proclamation, Britain stationed troops at forts throughout the region.

The royal decree came at the end of the French and Indian War, a conflict that had pitted the British against the French and their native allies. Although the British had defeated the French, the conflict was marked by a bloody cycle of violence and revenge on the frontier involving Indians and whites. As the British calculated the immense cost of putting down the uprisings, including Pontiac's Rebellion, they decided to reject a policy of mutual coexistence in favor of separating Indians and whites. The proclamation line thus represented an effort to placate the natives on the frontier, simplify administrative matters, and ease the cost of Britain's military expenditures in North America.

[The British] decided to reject a policy of mutual coexistence in favor of separating Indians and whites.

Despite the strong language of the proclamation, the British could not, or would not, enforce their provisions. White settlers continued to pour into the region, returning to old frontier towns and establishing new ones. Although many wealthy land speculators who held large tracts of land in the western territories believed that the line was only a temporary expedient that would never succeed, many others felt annoyed or threatened by Britain's heavy-handed intervention in colonial affairs. In many ways, then, the Proclamation Line can be considered the first of Britain's policies that would put the colonies on the path to revolution.

Primary Sources

Royal Proclamation, October 7, 1763. This is an image of the actual proclamation.

Royal Proclamation, October 7, 1763. This is a transcript of the King's proclamation.

Cantonment of the Forces in North America, October 11, 1765. More than most contemporaneous maps, this map from the collection at the Library of Congress clearly shows the division between the area reserved for white settlers and the lands reserved for Indians

Letter of George Washington to William Crawford, September 21, 1767. This letter describes George Washington's contempt for Britain's attempt to limit settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. Washington held extensive landholdings in the region and hoped to sell the land for a profit.

Papers of Sir William Johnson. Sponsored by the New York State Library, this site contains the complete collection of the papers of Sir William Johnson, a British Indian agent who was an active supporter of the King's proclamation and who negotiated the Treaty of Fort Stanwix of 1768 with the Six Nations (Iroquois). This treaty adjusted the boundary line.

Secondary sources

Anderson, Fred. The War That Made America. New York: Viking, 2005.
This is an excellent short treatment of events in the French and Indian War that led up to the Proclamation of 1763.

Calloway, Colin G. The Scratch of a Pen: 1763, The Transformation of North America. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006.
This is the definitive account of the process of negotiating the treaty which ended the French and Indian War and of the drafting of the Proclamation of 1763.

Griffin, Patrick. American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and the Revolutionary Frontier. New York: Hill & Wang, 2007.
This book discusses the Proclamation of 1763 within the larger context of ongoing conflicts between settlers and natives for control over the frontier.

Holton, Woody. Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
This book discusses the discontent of the Virginia gentry with the Proclamation of 1763. Because many Virginians held extensive land claims in the West, the proclamation frustrated their efforts to sell their land for profit, a development which, in Holton's view, contributed to the growing resistance to Britain that culminated in the American Revolution.

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