What Was the Purpose of the Proclamation of 1763?

Archive Photos/MPI/Getty Images

The British government passed the Proclamation of 1763 in the 13 colonies to end conflicts between American Indians and colonial settlers after the French and Indian War. The proclamation was intended to prevent colonists from moving westward into American Indian territories, reducing violent attacks between the two groups. The British also hoped to appease the indigenous tribes to ease the transition of taking over the French fur trade.

Uprisings led by Ottawa chief Pontiac led King George III to grant the British government the exclusive right to buy land or make contracts with the indigenous tribes. The proclamation prohibited colonists from traveling beyond the Appalachian Mountains and only allowed licensed traders to journey westward. The decree created an Indian reserve under the king’s protection and commanded settlers currently living in American Indian lands to vacate. To enforce these laws, the government set up border outposts to discourage settlers from overstepping boundaries. The proclamation also established the redefined colonies of West Florida, East Florida, Quebec and Grenada.

After the French and Indian War, the British won vast lands from the French, but were unsuccessful at maintaining positive relations with the indigenous people. The French had honored the practice of showing respect to American Indian leaders through gifts, while the British overlooked the importance of these subtle exchanges. Feeling alienated, Chief Pontiac and other tribal leaders organized raids on British forts. The proclamation’s attempt to resolve these disputes ultimately inspired distrust from the American Indians and the colonists, who continued crossing the border largely unchecked.