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Royal Proclamation of 1763


Royal Proclamation of 1763

A portion of eastern North America; the 1763 "proclamation line" is the border between the red and the pink areas

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 was issued October 7, 1763, by drainage divide on the "St. Lawrence Divide" from there northwards through New England.


  • Background 1
  • Provisions 2
    • New colonies 2.1
    • Native lands 2.2
      • Proclamation line 2.2.1
  • Legacy 3
    • Indigenous People of Treaty Six Territory 3.1
    • United States 3.2
    • 250th anniversary celebrations 3.3
  • Footnotes 4
  • Sources 5
  • Further reading 6
    • Canada 6.1
  • External links 7


The Treaty of Paris was the official conclusion of the Seven Years' War or the French and Indian War, the North American theater of the Seven Years' War. Under this treaty, France ceded ownership to Britain all of continental North America east of the Mississippi River, including Quebec, and the rest of Canada. Spain received all French territory west of the Mississippi. Both Spain and Britain received some French islands in the Caribbean. France kept a few small islands used by fishermen[2] and modern-day Haiti.


New colonies

The Eastern (yellow line) in the southern areas, and St. Lawrence (magenta line) watershed boundaries in the northern areas of this map more-or-less defined almost all of the Royal Proclamation's western boundaries

Besides regulating colonial expansion, the Proclamation of 1763 dealt with the management of inherited French colonies from the French and Indian war. It established government for four areas: Quebec, West Florida, East Florida, and Grenada.

Native lands

Some Native American peoples—primarily in the Great Lakes region—had a long and close relationship with France, and were dismayed to find that they were now under British sovereignty. They missed the gifts the French bestowed and the relative amicity with the French, neither of which they had with the British. Pontiac's Rebellion (1763–66), a war launched by a group of natives around the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, was an unsuccessful effort by the western tribes to push the British back. The Proclamation of 1763 had been in the works before Pontiac's Rebellion, but the outbreak of the conflict hastened the process.[3] British officials hoped the proclamation would reconcile American Indians to British rule and help to prevent future hostilities.

Proclamation line

New borders drawn by the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

At the outset, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 defined the jurisdictional limits of the conquered territory. Out of what had been Canada, a diminutive new colony, the Province of Quebec was carved. The territory northeast of the St. John River on the Labrador coast was placed under Newfoundland.[4] The lands west of Quebec and west of a line running along the crest of the Allegheny mountains became Indian territory, temporarily barred to settlement. (to the great disappointment of the land speculators of Virginia and Pennsylvania, who had started the Seven Years' War to gain these territories.[5] The proclamation created a boundary line (often called the proclamation line) between the British colonies on the Atlantic coast and American Indian lands (called the Indian Reserve) west of the Appalachian Mountains. The proclamation line was not intended to be a permanent boundary between white and Aboriginal lands, but rather a temporary boundary which could be extended further west in an orderly, lawful manner.[6][7] It was also not designed as an uncrossable boundary; people could cross the line, just not settle past it. Its contour was defined by the headwaters that formed the watershed along the Appalachia. All land with rivers that flowed into the Atlantic was designated for the colonial entities, while all the land with rivers that flowed into the Mississippi was reserved for the native Indian population. The proclamation outlawed the private purchase of Native American land, which had often created problems in the past. Instead, all future land purchases were to be made by Crown officials "at some public Meeting or Assembly of the said Indians". Furthermore, British colonials were forbidden to settle on native lands, and colonial officials were forbidden to grant ground or lands without royal approval. However, the line was not an uncrossable boundary; people could cross the line for trade and such, just not settle past it. The proclamation gave the Crown a monopoly on all future land purchases from American Indians.

British colonists and land speculators objected to the proclamation boundary since the British government had already assigned land grants to them. Many settlements already existed beyond the proclamation line, [3] some of which had been temporarily evacuated during Pontiac's War, and there were many already granted land claims yet to be settled. For example, George Washington and his Virginia soldiers had been granted lands past the boundary. Prominent American colonials joined with the land speculators in Britain to lobby the government to move the line further west. Their efforts were successful, and the boundary line was adjusted in a series of treaties with the Native Americans. In 1768 the Treaty of Fort Stanwix and the Treaty of Hard Labour, followed in 1770 by the Treaty of Lochaber, opened much of what is now Kentucky and West Virginia to British settlement.


Indigenous People of Treaty Six Territory

The Royal Proclamation continued to govern the cession of Indigenous land in British North America, especially Upper Canada and Rupert's Land. The proclamation forms the basis of land claims of Indigenous peoples in Canada – First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 is thus mentioned in section 25 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to historian Colin Calloway, "[settler] scholars disagree on whether the proclamation recognized or undermined tribal sovereignty".[8] The proclamation established the important precedent that the indigenous population had certain rights to the lands they occupied.

Some see the Royal Proclamation of 1763 as a “fundamental document” for First Nations land claims and self-government.[9] It is “the first legal recognition by the British Crown of Aboriginal rights"[10] and imposes a fiduciary duty of care on the Crown. The intent and promises made to the native in the Proclamation have been argued to be of a temporary nature, only meant to appease the Native peoples who were becoming increasingly resentful of “settler encroachments on their lands”[11] and were capable of becoming a serious threat to British colonial settlement.[12][13] Advice given by a merchant to the Board of Trade on August 30, 1764 expressed that

The Indians all know we cannot be a Match for them in the midst of an extensive woody Country...from whence I infer that if we are determined to possess Our Posts, Trade & ca securely, it cannot be done for a Century by any other means than that of purchasing the favour of the numerous Indian inhabitants.[14]

Some historians believe that “the British were trying to convince Native people that there was nothing to fear from the colonists, while at the same time trying to increase political and economic power relative to First Nations and other European powers.”[15] Others argue that the Royal Proclamation along with the subsequent Treaty of Niagara, provide for an argument that “discredits the claims of the Crown to exercise sovereignty over First Nations”[16] and affirms Aboriginal “powers of self-determination in, among other things, allocating lands.”[17]

United States

USA Proclamation of 1763 Silver Medal. Franklin Mint Issue 1970.

The influence of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 on the coming of the American Revolution has been variously interpreted. Many historians argue that the proclamation ceased to be a major source of tension after 1768, since the aforementioned treaties opened up extensive lands for settlement. Others have argued that colonial resentment of the proclamation contributed to the growing divide between the colonies and the mother country. Some historians argue that even though the boundary was pushed west in subsequent treaties, the British government refused to permit new colonial settlements for fear of instigating a war with Native Americans, which angered colonial land speculators.[18] Others argue that the Royal Proclamation imposed a fiduciary duty of care on the Crown.

Treaty of Lochaber of 1770, except for the lands located 2 miles south of Fort Pitt, now known as Pittsburgh.[19]

In the United States, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 ended with the American Revolutionary War because Great Britain ceded the land in question to the United States in the Treaty of Paris (1783). Afterward, the U.S. government also faced difficulties in preventing frontier violence and eventually adopted policies similar to those of the Royal Proclamation. The first in a series of Indian Intercourse Acts was passed in 1790, prohibiting unregulated trade and travel in Native American lands. In 1823, the U.S. Supreme Court case Johnson v. M'Intosh[20] established that only the U.S. government, and not private individuals, could purchase land from Native Americans.

250th anniversary celebrations

In October 2013 the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation was celebrated in Ottawa with a meeting of Indian leaders and Governor-General David Johnston.[21] The aboriginal movement Idle No More held birthday parties for this monumental document at various locations across Canada.[22]


  1. ^ Royal Proclamation I
  2. ^ Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 (2007)
  3. ^ a b Gordon S. Wood, The American Revolution, A History. New York, Modern Library, 2002 ISBN 0-8129-7041-1, p.22
  4. ^ W. J. Eccles, France in America, Fitzhrenry & Whiteside Limited 1972, p220
  5. ^ Jack M. Sosin, Whitehall and the Wilderness (Univeristy of Nebraska Pres. 1961 p. 146
  6. ^ Harvey Markowitz, American Indians (1995) p. 633
  7. ^ Louis De Vorsey, The Indian boundary in the southern colonies, 1763–1775 (1966) p. 39.
  8. ^ Calloway, Scratch of a Pen, 93.
  9. ^ Borrows, “Wampum", 155.
  10. ^ Douglas R. Francis, Richard Jones and Donald B. Smith, Origins: Canadian History to Confederation 6th ed. (Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd., 2009), 157.
  11. ^ Francis et al., Origins, 156.
  12. ^ Jack Stagg, Anglo-Indian Relations In North America to 1763 and An Analysis of the Royal Proclamation of 7 October 1763, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Research Branch, 1981, 356.
  13. ^ Borrows, "Wampum," 158–159.
  14. ^ Quoted in Native Liberty, Crown Sovereignty: The Existing Aboriginal Right of Self-Government in Canada, Bruce Clark. (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990), 81.
  15. ^ Borrows, "Wampum," 160.
  16. ^ Borrows, "Wampum," 164.
  17. ^ Borrows, "Wampum," 165.
  18. ^ Woody Holton (August 1994). "The Ohio Indians and the Coming of the American Revolution in Virginia". The Journal of Southern History 60 (3): 453–78.  
  19. ^ "Letter from George Washington to George Mercer dated November 7, 1771, at Williamsburg". The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources 3. p. 68. 
  20. ^ 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543 (1823)
  21. ^ "Royal Proclamation of 1763, Canada's 'Indian Magna Carta,' turns 250" 6 Oct 2013
  22. ^ G+M "Royal Proclamation’s 250th anniversary has First Nations reflecting on their rights" 7 October 2013


  • Abernethy, Thomas Perkins (1959) [1937]. Western Lands and the American Revolution. New York: Russell & Russell. 
  • Borrows, John (1997). "Wampum at Niagara: The Royal Proclamation, Canadian Legal History, and Self-Government". In Asch, Michael. Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press.  
  • Calloway, Colin (2006). The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America. Oxford University Press.  

Further reading

  • Marshall, Peter. "Sir William Johnson and the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, 1768." Journal of American Studies (1967) 1#2 pp 149–179. doi:10.1017/S0021875800007830
  • Sosin, Jack. Whitehall and the wilderness: The Middle West in British colonial policy, 1760-1775 (1961), the standard scholarly history of the proclamation and its effects.
  • Stuart, Paul. The Indian Office: Growth and Development of an American Institution, 1865-1900 (UMI Research Press, 1979)


  • Cashin, Edward J. "Governor Henry Ellis and the Transformation of British North America." Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994.
  • Lawson, Philip. The Imperial Challenge: Quebec and Britain in the Age of the American Revolution. Montreal/Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1989.
  • Roth, Christopher F. (2002) "Without Treaty, without Conquest: Indigenous Sovereignty in Post-Delgamuukw British Columbia." Wicazo Sa Review, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 143–165.
  • Stonechild, Blair A. "Indian-White Relations in Canada, 1763 to the Present." In Encyclopedia of North American Indians, ed. Frederick E. Hoxie, 277–81. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996.
  • Tousignant, Pierre. "The Integration of the Province of Quebec into the British Empire, 1763–91. Part 1: From the Royal Proclamation to the Quebec Act." In Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980.

External links

  • Complete text of the Royal Proclamation, 1763
  • Royal Proclamation of 1763 - Chickasaw.TV
  • Complete text of the Royal Proclamation, 1763
  • Article about the proclamation
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