Proclamation of 1763 by England’s King George III

At the end of the French and Indian War, the English had to organize Britain’s vast new North American empire, and to stabilize relations with North American Indians through regulation of trade, settlement, and land purchases on the western frontier. The document doing so was The Royal Proclamation of 1763. The American colonists were offended because it

  • forbade Americans from settling or buying land west of the Appalachians, and
  • it gave the Crown a monopoly in any land bought or negotiated from Native Americans.

Unfortunately some colonists already had land in that area, and certainly colonies like Massachusetts believed they already “owned” land in the area.

The document is really quite remarkable for the time, containing two new ideas which were liberal in intention:

  • Indians were recognized as having some rights to the land, and although the King was legally the owner of the land, he announced his intention to inquire land by purchase or negotiation with the Indians.
  • Officers and soldiers who had fought in the war and wished to remain in the new colonies were to be awarded land without any payment by them. (The novel procedure established was a patent system, still used by the United States today, in which the government grants a “patent” to government land to private owners.)

King’s Proclamation of 1763
George R.

WHEREAS, we have taken into our royal consideration the extensive and valuable acquisitions in America, secured to our crown by the late definitive treaty of peace, concluded at Paris the 10th day of February last, and being desirous that all our loving subjects, as well of our kingdoms as of our colonies in America, may avail themselves, with all convenient speed, of the great benefits and advantages which must accrue therefrom to their commerce, manufactures, and navigation; we have thought fit, with the advice of our privy council; to issue this our royal proclamation, hereby to publish and declare to all our loving subjects, that we have, with the advice of our said privy council, granted our letters patent, under our great seal of Great Britain to erect within the countries and islands ceded and confirmed to us by the said treaty; four distinct and separate governments, styled and called by the names of Quebec, East Florida, West Florida, and Grenada, and limited and bounded as follows, viz.

FIRST. — The government of Quebec, bounded on the Labrador coast by the river St. John, and from thence by a line drawn from the head of that river, through the lake St. John, to the south end of the lake Nipissim; from whence the said line crossing the river St. Lawrence, and the lake Champlain, in forty-five degrees of north latitude, passes along the high lands which divide the rivers that empty themselves into the said river St. Lawrence, from those which fall into the sea; and also along the north coast of the baye de Chaleurs and the coast of the gulf of St. Lawrence, to cape Rosieres; and from thence, crossing the mouth of the river St. Lawrence, by the west end of the island of Anticosti, terminates at the aforesaid river St. John.

SECONDLY. — The government of East Florida, bounded to the westward by the gulf of Mexico, and Apalachicola river; to the northward by a line drawn from that part of the said river where the Chatahouchee and Flint rivers meet, to the source of St. Mary’s river, and by the course of the said river to the Atlantic ocean; and to the eastward and southward by the Atlantic ocean, and the gulf of Florida, including all islands within six leagues of the sea coast.

THIRDLY. — The government of West Florida, bounded to the southward by the gulf of Mexico, including all islands within six leagues of the coast, from the river Apalachicola to lake Pontchartrain; to the westward, by the said lake, the lake Mauripas, and the river Mississippi; to the northward, by a line drawn due east from that part of the river Mississippi which lies in thirty one degrees north latitude, to the river Apalachicola or Chatahouchee; and to the eastward, by the said river.

FOURTHLY. — The government of Grenada, comprehending the island of that name, together with the Grenadines, and the islands of Dominica, St. Vincent, and Tobago.

And, to the end that the open and free fishery of our subjects may be extended to, and carried on upon, the coast of Labrador, and the adjacent islands, we have thought fit, with the advice of our said privy council, to put all that coast, from the river St. Johns to the Hudson’s straits, together with the islands of Anticosti and Madelaine, and all other smaller islands, lying upon the said coast, under the care and inspection of our governour of Newfoundland.

We have also, with the advice of our privy council, thought fit, to annext the islands ofSt. John’s and Cape Breton, or Isle Royale, with the lesser islands adjacent thereto, to our government of Nova Scotia.

We have also, with the advice of our privy council aforesaid, annexed to our province of Georgia all the lands lying between the rivers Alatamaha and St. Mary’s.

And whereas it will greatly contribute to the speedy settling our said new governments that our loving subjects should be informed of our paternal care for the security of the liberties and properties of those who are and shall become inhabitants thereof, we have thought fit to publish and declare, by this our proclamation, that we have in the letters patent under our great seal of Great Britain by which the said governments are constituted, given express power and direction to our governors of our said colonies, respectively, that so soon as the state and circumstances of the said colonies will admit thereof, they shall, with the advice and consent of the members of our council, summon and call general assemblies within the said governments, respectively, in such manner and form as is used and directed in those colonies and provinces in America which are under our immediate government; and we have also given power to the said governors, with the consent of our said council, and the representatives of the people, so to be summoned as aforesaid, to make, constitute and ordain laws, statutes, and ordinances, for the public peace, welfare and good government of our said colonies, and of the people and inhabitants thereof, as near as may be agreeable to the laws of England, and under such regulations and restrictions as are used in other colonies: and in the mean time, until such assemblies can be called as aforesaid, all persons inhabiting in, or resorting to, our said colonies may confide in our royal protection for the enjoyment of the benefit of the laws of our realm of England; for which purpose we have given power, under our great seal, to the governors of our said colonies respectively, to erect and constitute, with the advice of our said councils respectively, courts of judicature and public justice within our said colonies, for the hearing and determining all causes, as well criminal as civil, according to law and equity, and as near as may be agreeable to the laws of England: with liberty to all persons who may think themselves aggrieved by the sentences of such courts in all civil cases, to appeal under the usual limitations and restrictions, to us in our privy council.

We have also thought fit with the advice of our privy council as aforesaid, to give unto the governors and councils of our said three new colonies upon the continent, full power and authority to settle and agree with the inhabitants of our said new colonies, or with any other persons who shall resort thereto, for such lands, tenements and hereditaments, as now or hereafter shall be in our power to dispose of, and them to grant to any such person or persons, upon such terms, and under such moderate quitrents, services, and acknowledgments, as have been appointed and settled in our other colonies, and under such other conditions as shall appear to us to be necessary and expedient for the advantage of the grantees, and the improvement and settlement of our said colonies.

And whereas we are desirous, upon all occasions, to testify our royal sense and approbation of the conduct and bravery of the officers and soldiers of our armies, and to reward the same, we do hereby command and empower our governors of the said three new colonies, and all other our governors of our said provinces on the continent of North America, to grant without fee or reward, to such reduced officers as have served in North America during the late war, and to such private soldiers as have been, or shall be disbanded in America; and are actually residing there, and shall personally apply for the same, the following quantities of lands, subject at the expiration of ten years, to the same quitrents as other lands are subject to in the province within which they are granted, as also subject to the same conditions of cultivation and improvement, viz.

To every person having the rank of a field officer, five thousand acres; to every captain, three thousand acres; to every subaltern or staff officer, two thousand acres; to every non-commissioned officer, two hundred acres; to every private man fifty acres.

We do likewise authorize and require the governors and commanders in chief of all our said colonies upon the continent of North America, to grant the like quantities of land, and upon the same conditions, to such reduced officers of our navy, of like rank as served on board our ships of war in North America at the times of the reduction of Louisbourg and Quebec in the late war, and who shall personally apply to our respective governors for such grants.

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 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 lands 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 future 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, 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 special 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 the 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 settlements, but that if, at any time, any of the 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 colonies, respectively, within which they shall lie; and in case they shall like within the limits of any proprietary government 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 and 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 enjoin 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, 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.

REF: “The Statutes at Large, Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia”, Volume VII, Edited by William Waller Hening, 1820, pp 663-669.