Royal Proclamation of 1763

Image: King George III. Allan Ramsay. (1761-1762) National Portrait Gallery.
How did the Royal Proclamation attempt to regulate interaction between whites and Indians? Was the proclamation a wise course? Did it work? How might it have been more effective?
How has the U.S. government sought to regulate Natives and their interaction with non-Natives? Consider the Fort Laramie Treaty, The Advantages of Mingling Indians with Whites, and House Concurrent Resolution 108.

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The Seven Years’ War, commonly known as the French and Indian War in North America, ended with the Treaty of Paris in February 1763. In the wake of the British victory, King George III of Great Britain issued a proclamation on October 7.

The proclamation declared two important things. First, it said that no colony or individual person could purchase or take lands from Indians; only the British Crown could do that, by treaty. Second, it established the line of “permanent white settlement” in North America at the crest of the Appalachian Mountains. The U.S. Trade and Intercourse Act of 1790 mirrored the first provision, putting the new Republic in the shoes of the British Crown as the only legitimate taker of land from Indians. Likewise, Thomas Jefferson’s proposed amendment to the Constitution (1803) after the Louisiana Purchase sought to set the Mississippi River as the line of permanent white settlement.

The royal proclamation was meant to appease and reassure Indians about whites’ intentions. Instead, it outraged American colonists, who wanted to continue westward expansion unhampered

—Jace Weaver

British Royal Proclamations relating to America, 1603–1783, ed. Clarence S. Brigham (New York: Burt Franklin, 1911), 215–218,

. . .And whereas it is just and reasonable, and essential to our interest, and the security of our colonies, that the several nations or tribes of Indians with whom we are connected, and who live under our protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the possession of such parts of our dominions and territories as, not having been ceded to or purchased by us, are reserved to them, or any of them, as their hunting grounds—we do therefore, with the advice of our Privy Council, declare it to be our royal will and pleasure, that no governor or commander in chief in any of our colonies of Quebec, East Florida, or West Florida do presume, upon any pretense whatever, to grant warrants of survey, or pass any patents for lands1 beyond the bounds of their respective governments, as described in their commissions: as also that no governor or commander in chief in any of our other colonies or plantations in America do presume for the present, and until our further pleasure be known, 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 from the west and northwest, or upon any lands whatever, which, not having been ceded to or purchased by us as aforesaid, are reserved to the said Indians, or any of them.

And We do further declare it to be our royal will and pleasure, for the present as aforesaid, to reserve under our sovereignty, protection, and dominion, for the use of the said Indians, all the lands and territories not included within the limits of our said three new governments, or within the limits of the territory granted to the Hudson’s Bay Company,2 as also all the lands and territories lying to the westward of the sources of the rivers which fall into the sea from the west and northwest as aforesaid. And we do hereby strictly forbid, on pain of our displeasure, all our loving subjects from making any purchases or settlements whatever, or taking possession of any of the lands above reserved, without our especial leave and license for that purpose first obtained.

And we do further strictly enjoin and require all persons whatever who have either willfully or inadvertently seated themselves upon any lands within the countries above described, or upon any other lands which, not having been ceded to or purchased by us, are still reserved to the said Indians as aforesaid, forthwith to remove themselves from such settlements.

And whereas great frauds and abuses have been committed in purchasing lands of the Indians, to the great prejudice of our interests, and to the great dissatisfaction of the said Indians; in order, therefore, to prevent such irregularities for the future, and to the end that the Indians may be convinced of our justice and determined resolution to remove all reasonable cause of discontent, we do, with the advice of our Privy Council, strictly enjoin and require, that no private person do presume to make any purchase from the said Indians of any lands reserved to the said Indians, within those parts of our colonies where we have thought proper to allow settlement; but that, if at any time any of the said Indians should be inclined to dispose of the said lands, the same shall be purchased only for us, in our name, at some public meeting or assembly of the said Indians, to be held for that purpose by the governor or commander in chief of our colony respectively within which they shall lie; and in case they shall lie within the limits of any proprietary government,3 they shall be purchased only for the use and in the name of such proprietaries, conformable to such directions and instructions as we or they shall think proper to give for that purpose: and we do, by the advice of our Privy Council, declare and enjoin, that the trade with the said Indians shall be free and open to all our subjects whatever, provided that every person who may incline to trade with the said Indians do take out a license for carrying on such trade from the governor or commander in chief of any of our colonies respectively where such person shall reside, and also give security to observe such regulations as we shall at any time think fit, by ourselves or by our commissaries to be appointed for this purpose, to direct and appoint for the benefit of the said trade; and we do hereby authorize, enjoin, and require the governors and commanders in chief of all our colonies respectively, as well those under our immediate government as those under the government and direction of proprietaries, to grant such licenses without fee or reward, taking especial care to insert therein a condition, that such license shall be void, and the security forfeited in case the person to whom the same is granted shall refuse or neglect to observe such regulations as we shall think proper to prescribe as aforesaid.

And we do further expressly conjoin and require all officers whatever, as well military as those employed in the management and direction of Indian affairs, within the territories reserved as aforesaid for the use of the said Indians, to seize and apprehend all persons whatever, who standing charged with treason, misprisions of treason,4 murders, or other felonies or misdemeanors, shall fly from justice and take refuge in the said territory, and to send them under a proper guard to the colony where the crime was committed, of which they stand accused, in order to take their trial for the same.

Given at our Court at St. James’s the 7th Day of October 1763, in the Third Year of our Reign. GOD SAVE THE KING.

  1. 1. A warrant of survey authorizes a survey of land, in this case in preparation for its sale. A patent for land is a grant of land to someone.
  2. 2. The Hudson’s Bay Company, chartered by George III in 1670, controlled the fur trade in what is now Canada.
  3. 3. The Crown from time to time gave land in North America to people to hold as their property. Such land was known as a proprietary colony. Pennsylvania and South Carolina, for example, were proprietary colonies.
  4. 4. Misprision of treason means concealing or failing to report a treasonous act.
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