The Treaty of Paris in 1763 ended the Seven Years War (known as the French and Indian War in North America) with England the victor over France. Under the Treaty, Canada and all of America east of the Mississippi now came under British control. While this was a welcome chance to add new territory to the British empire, it came with a complex set of problems.
Indians Versus Colonials
One of these problems was how to balance the conflicting needs of American Indians and American colonists. With the war over and the threat from the French gone, colonists began to head west of the Appalachians, seeking new land. The problem, in part, was that the land didn’t belong to them. It was either Indian land or land owned by private companies that had begun speculating in land west of the Appalachians. The British tried to stop the land rush, but they were only partially successful, and soon fighting broke out between Native Americans and the new pioneers.
A Proclamation Line
The British themselves increased tensions by halting the practice of gift-giving to the Indians, something the French had understood that the indigenous peoples expected. In the face of these affronts and white encroachment, the Ottawa chief Pontiac coordinated successful attacks on British forts in the current-day Midwest. Concerned about this opposition, the British Crown issued the Proclamation of 1763, which stated that all lands west of the Mississippi were off-limits to colonists and colonial governments -- only traders licensed by the British Crown could travel across a line that extended from the Atlantic coast at Quebec to West Florida.
The British Crown felt that they were providing a refuge for Indians and protecting their land from settlers. At the same time, they thought they were protecting whites from attacks by Indians. However, the American colonists saw the Proclamation of 1763 very differently. It was their opinion that the British were trying to keep them penned up on the east coast of the continent, where they could be more easily regulated. Knowing that the colonists would not respect this boundary unless it was enforced, the British set up a series of posts along the boundary line, for which they felt the colonists should pay, further enraging the Americans.
Something for Everyone to Hate
It wasn’t only the settlers who found the Proclamation problematic. The rich Virginia planters who had bought parcels beyond the Appalachians as a form of land speculation had now essentially lost their investments, and frontiersmen accustomed to hunting the game-rich lands were as angered as the settlers who were denied access to them. In the end, this anger added to the resentment that would eventually find its outlet in the Revolutionary War.
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