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At the end of the French and Indian War (1756-1763), France gave much of the Ohio and Mississippi Valley along with Canada to the British. The American colonists were happy with this, hoping to expand into the new territory. In fact, many colonists purchased new land deeds or were granted them as part of their military service. However, their plans were disrupted when the British issued the Proclamation of 1763.
The stated purpose of the Proclamation was to reserve the lands west of the Appalachian mountains for Indians. As the British began the process of taking over their newly gained lands from the French, they encountered major problems with the Native Americans who lived there. Anti-British feelings ran high, and a number of groups of Native Americans such as the Algonquins, Delawares, Ottawas, Senecas, and Shawnees joined together to make war against the British. In May 1763, the Ottawa laid siege to Fort Detroit as other Native Americans arose to fight against British outposts throughout the Ohio River Valley. This was known as Pontiac's Rebellion after the Ottawa war leader who helped lead these frontier attacks. By the end of the summer, thousands of British soldiers, settlers, and traders were killed before the British fought the Native Americans to a stalemate.
Issuing the Proclamation of 1763
In order to avoid further wars and increase cooperation with the Native Americans, King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763 on October 7th. The proclamation included many provisions. It annexed the French islands of Cape Breton and St. John's. It also set up four imperial governments in Grenada, Quebec, and East and West Florida. Veterans of the French and Indian War were granted lands in those new areas. However, the point of contention for many colonists was that colonists were forbidden from settling west of the Appalachians or beyond the headlands of the rivers that eventually flowed into the Atlantic Ocean. As the Proclamation itself stated:
And whereas it is… essential to Our Interest and the Security of Our Colonies, that the several Nations… of Indians… who live under Our Protection should not be molested or disturbed… no Governor… in any of Our other Colonies or Plantations in America, is allowed to grant Warrants of Survey, or pass Patents for any Lands beyond the Heads or Sources of any of the Rivers which fall into the Atlantic Ocean…
In addition, the British restricted Native American trade only to individuals licensed by parliament.
We… require that no private Person do presume to make any Purchase from the said Indians of any Lands reserved to the said Indians…
The British would have power over the area including trade and westward expansion. Parliament sent thousands of troops to enforce the proclamation along the stated border.
Unhappiness Amongst the Colonists
The colonists were greatly upset by this proclamation. Many had bought up land claims in the now forbidden territories. Included in this number were future important colonists such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and the Lee family. There was a feeling that the king wanted to keep the settlers confined to the eastern seaboard. Resentment also ran high over the restrictions placed on trade with the Native Americans. However, many individuals including George Washington felt that the measure was only temporary in order to ensure greater peace with the Native Americans. In fact, the Indian commissioners pushed forward a plan to increase the area allowed for settlement, but the crown never gave final approval to this plan.
British soldiers attempted with limited success to make settlers in the new area leave and stop new settlers from crossing the border. Native American land was now being encroached upon again leading to new problems with the tribes. Parliament had committed up to 10,000 troops to be sent to the region, and as the issues grew, the British increased their presence by inhabiting former French frontier fort and constructing additional defensive works along the proclamation line. The costs of this increased presence and construction would result in increased taxes among the colonists, eventually causing the discontent that would lead to the American Revolution.
"George Washington to William Crawford, September 21, 1767, Account Book 2." George Washington to William Crawford, September 21, 1767, Account Book 2. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2014.