October 7, 2013, marks the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, issued by King George III of Britain. With the end of the Seven Years War, Great Britain took possession of all North American territories east of the Mississippi River. The Royal Proclamation was a key legal document for the British to organize and manage their expanded North American empire.
The Royal Proclamation regulated the expansion of the newly ceded colonies of Québec, East Florida, West Florida and Grenada, and stabilized relations with Aboriginal peoples through the regulation of trade, settlement and land purchases on the frontier. It also set a boundary for European settlement, known as the “proclamation line”, along the Appalachian Mountains. Land along rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean would be available for European settlers, while territory along rivers flowing into the Mississippi would remain First Nations’ lands. The proclamation line was to be temporary and extend westward in an organized manner.
The Royal Proclamation became the constitutional framework for the negotiation of Indian treaties in British North America. It recognized Aboriginal peoples as autonomous and capable of negotiating agreements with the Crown. The document also acknowledged that First Nations are entitled to continue owning their territories, including hunting and fishing grounds, until they surrendered them to the Crown. The first attempt to enforce the treaty took place north of the Great Lakes and resulted in the Treaty of Fort Niagara on August 1, 1764.
To learn more and to read a full transcription of the Royal Proclamation, consult the web page, 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s website.