Author: King George III
In 1773, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) published a brief history of the British government’s actions during the preceding decade. Its title: Rules by Which a Great Empire May be Reduced to a Small One. Beginning in 1763, successive British ministries made a series of political missteps that gradually stirred the colonists to assert American liberties against British oppression.
Before 1763, the colonists largely accepted Parliament’s right to take actions on their behalf–and even the primacy of England’s economic interests over their own. Prior to the Seven Years’ War, however, almost all parliamentary actions had been designed to regulate trade, and while the colonies sometimes regarded these acts as unfair or inexpedient, they did not regard them as especially oppressive or burdensome.
After 1763, however, Parliament’s actions appeared to clash with the colonists’ interests. At the end of the Seven Years’ War, France surrendered Canada and much of the Ohio and Mississippi valley–two-thirds of eastern North America–to British rule. Many colonists regarded these new lands as a godsend. But the Proclamation of 1763 reserved lands west of the Appalachian mountains for Indians and forbade white settlement there.
Equally disturbing, new British politics restricted Indian trade to traders licensed by the British government. For the first time, power over westward expansion was placed in the hands of British officials, outside the colonists’ control. By preventing the colonial population from moving inland, the British ministry hoped to avoid costly Indian wars, protect the western fur trade, and keep western land speculation under the control of the crown. To enforce the proclamation, the British cabinet decided to station up to 10,000 troops along the frontier, at a cost of 250,000 pounds sterling annually. The colonists, who wanted to expand westward without the interference of British troops, deeply resented the proclamation. They feared that if they were walled in along the eastern coast, the results would be overpopulation, the growth of crowded cities, and social stratification along rigid class lines.
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…and being desirous that all Our loving Subjects…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…to issue this Our Royal Proclamation….
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…no Governor…in any of Our other Colonies or Plantations in America, do presume for the present…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….
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 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…enjoy and require that no private Person do presume to make any Purchase from the said Indians of any Lands reserved to the said Indians….
Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute