The Royal Proclamation of 1763 was issued October 7, 1763, by King George III following Great Britain's acquisition of French territory in North America after the end of the French and Indian War/Seven Years' War, which forbade all settlement past a line drawn along the Appalachian Mountains. It rendered worthless land grants given by the British government to Americans who fought for the crown against France. The Proclamation angered American colonists who wanted to continue their westward expansion into new farm lands and wanted to keep their control of local government. The Royal Proclamation continues to be of legal importance to First Nations in Canada. The 1763 proclamation line is similar to the Eastern Continental Divide's path running northwards from Georgia to the Pennsylvania–New York border, and north-eastwards past the drainage divide on the St. Lawrence Divide from there northwards through New England.
The Treaty of Paris was the official conclusion of the Seven Years' War, of which the French and Indian War was the North American theater. 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 and modern-day Haiti.
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.
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 amicable relationship 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. However tribes were able to take over a large number of the forts which commanded the waterways involved in trade within the region and export to Great Britain. The Proclamation of 1763 had been in the works before Pontiac's Rebellion, but the outbreak of the conflict hastened the process. British officials hoped the proclamation would reconcile American Indians to British rule and help to prevent future hostilities.
At the outset, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 defined the jurisdictional limits of the conquered territory. Out of what had been the Canada colony of New France, 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 the Newfoundland Colony. 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. 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 the colonists and Aboriginal lands, but rather a temporary boundary which could be extended further west in an orderly, lawful manner. 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 Appalachians. 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. 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, 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.
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". 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. It is “the first legal recognition by the British Crown of Aboriginal rights" 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” and were capable of becoming a serious threat to British colonial settlement. 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.
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.” 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” and affirms Aboriginal “powers of self-determination in, among other things, allocating lands.”
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. Others argue that the Royal Proclamation imposed a fiduciary duty of care on the Crown.
George Washington was given 20,000 acres (81 km2) of wild land in the Ohio region for his services in the French and Indian War. In 1770, Washington took the lead in securing the rights of him and his old soldiers in the French War, advancing money to pay expenses in behalf of the common cause and using his influence in the proper quarters. In August 1770, it was decided that Washington should personally make a trip to the western region, where he located tracts for himself and military comrades and eventually was granted letters patent for tracts of land there. The lands involved were open to Virginians under terms of the Treaty of Lochaber of 1770, except for the lands located 2 miles south of Fort Pitt, now known as Pittsburgh.
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 established that only the U.S. government, and not private individuals, could purchase land from Native Americans.
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. The Aboriginal movement Idle No More held birthday parties for this monumental document at various locations across Canada.