250th Anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763

In 2013, Canada commemorates the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763. The Royal Proclamation is a foundational document in the relationship between First Nations people and the Crown and laid the basis for Canada's territorial evolution.

This commemoration marks a unique opportunity to recognize an important event in Canadian history.

Since first contact and the issuance of one of our founding constitutional documents, the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the evolving Crown–First Nations relationship has helped shape modern-day Canada. …We cannot undo the mistakes of the past, but we can learn from them and affirm that they will not be repeated. In this year, the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, and with next year being the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, it serves as an appropriate time to reinvigorate the Crown–First Nation relationships.

All Canadians are encouraged to learn more about the Royal Proclamation and how it redefined the Crown–First Nations relationship, established the treaty-making process and recognized First Nations rights in Canada.




History of the Royal Proclamation

From 1756 to 1763, as the Seven Years' War (also known as the French and Indian War) continued throughout North America, the newly created Indian Department and its superintendent general, Sir William Johnson, began to prepare for future relations between Britain and its First Nations allies. Johnson realized that the encroachment of settlement onto First Nations lands would ultimately lead to future conflict, especially as several colonies pushed their borders west beyond the Appalachian Mountains into unsettled lands.

Image of Sir William Johnson
Sir William Johnson
Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN no. 2837321

Over 150 years of European competition and conflict came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Through this agreement, France ceded much of its North American possessions, making Britain the primary European power throughout much of North America. To demonstrate British authority, officials in London recommended that King George III officially issue a proclamation announcing the new administrative structure for British North America, as well as establish new procedures and protocols for its relations with First Nations people.

Image of Niagara Fort
A view of Niagara Fort, taken by Sir
William Johnson on the 25th July 1759,
drawn on the spot in 1758
Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN no. 3723947



The Issuance of the Proclamation

Image of the 1763 Proclamation by King George III
Royal Proclamation, King George III of England
Issued October 7, 1763. Broadside.
Library and Archives Canada, e010778430, AMICUS no. 7468714

On October 7, 1763, King George III issued a Royal Proclamation establishing a new administrative structure for the recently acquired territories in North America. He also established new rules and protocols for future relations with First Nations people.

The Proclamation has two significant parts. First, it defined the land west of the established colonies as "Indian Territories", where First Nations people "should not be molested or disturbed" by settlers and where the Indian Department would be the primary liaison between the Crown and First Nations people; and second, in order to prevent any future abuse, the Proclamation prohibited colonial governors from making any grants or taking any land cessions from First Nations people and established a set of protocols and procedures for the purchasing of First Nations land.






The Recognition of First Nations Rights in Canada

Image of First Nations fishing at Sault Ste. Marie
Fishing at Sault Ste. Marie
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1981-55-6. MIKAN no. 2833409

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 in the Possession of such Parts of Our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to, or purchased by Us, are reserved to them, or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds. . . .

The issuance of the Royal Proclamation and the accompanying promises made at Fort Niagara in 1764 laid the foundation for a constitutional recognition and protection of First Nations rights in Canada. The Royal Proclamation itself is referred to in the Constitution Act 1982, in section 25, which states:

25. The guarantee in this Charter of certain rights and freedoms shall not be construed as to abrogate or derogate from any aboriginal, treaty or other rights or freedoms that pertain to the aboriginal peoples of Canada including:

  1. any rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763; and
  2. any rights or freedoms that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.

Constitution Act, 1982

Image of signing of the Constitution
Signing of the Constitution
Robert Cooper, Library and Archives Canada, e008300499, MIKAN no. 3206003



The Establishment of the Treaty-making Process

Image of the Treaty of peace and friendship between Sir William Johnson and the Hurons of the Detroit
Treaty of peace and friendship between
Sir William Johnson and the Hurons of
the Detroit
Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN no. 106678

Since its issuance in 1763, the Royal Proclamation has served as a basis of the treaty-making process throughout Canada. The protocols and procedures it established led to the orderly opening of the lands of Southern Ontario, and eventually Western Canada, as well as the establishment of the Indian Department's primary role as intermediary between First Nations people and the Crown. While its intent was to slow the uncontrolled western expansion of the colonies and regulate the relationship between First Nations people and colonists, the Royal Proclamation also became the first public recognition of First Nations rights to lands and title.

And We do further declare it to be Our Royal Will and Pleasure, for the present as aforesaid, to reserve under Our Sovereignty, Protection, and Dominion, for the Use of the said Indians, all the Lands and Territories not included within the Limits of Our said Three New Governments, or within the Limits of the Territory granted to the Hudson's Bay Company, as also all the Lands and Territories lying to the Westward of the Sources of the Rivers which fall into the Sea from the West and North West, as aforesaid; and We do hereby strictly forbid, on Pain of Our Displeasure, all Our loving Subjects from making any Purchases or Settlements whatever, or taking Possession of any of the Lands above reserved, without Our especial Leave and Licence for that Purpose first obtained.

After Confederation in 1867, the principles established by the Proclamation continued to guide the treaties of Western Canada and the development of the Department of Indian Affairs. Between 1871 and 1921, the Crown entered into treaties with various First Nations that assisted the Canadian government to actively pursue agriculture, settlement and resource development in the Canadian West and the North. For more information, consult the AANDC History of Treaty-Making website.



Crown-First Nation Relationship

News of the Royal Proclamation reached Sir William Johnson, Superintendent for Indian Affairs, in December 1763, and he immediately sent word of its provisions to all of the First Nations people of the interior of North America. Johnson cited British intentions as declared in the Royal Proclamation to secure an end to the First Nations lead rebellion in the Great Lakes region and to renew and rebuild the relationship with former allies during a special assembly of First Nation representatives at Fort Niagara in July 1764.

At Niagara, Johnson formally re-established the relationship between the British and the Seneca who had participated in the rebellion and concluded with them the first treaty under the protocols of the Royal Proclamation. The treaty, negotiated on July 8, 1764, granted the British unimpeded access to two miles on either side of the Niagara River for the purposes of communication and travel between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

First Nations from the interior of North America gathered at Fort Niagara to meet with Johnson, who extended the Covenant Chain of Friendship to all. This offering was made to renew the relationship with Aboriginal allies and to form new alliances with the former allies of France. Johnson was able to gain the respect of Aboriginal people by honouring their social conventions and recognizing how First Nations understood their relationship with the Crown.



Royal Proclamation of 1763

The following text of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 is derived from Clarence S. Brigham, ed., British Royal Proclamations Relating to America, Volume 12, Transactions and Collections of the American Antiquarian Society (Worcester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society, 1911), pp. 212-18, which reproduces the original text of the Proclamation printed by the King's Printer, Mark Baskett, in London in 1763. This text appears to be the most authoritative printed version of the Proclamation available. For discussion of the status of the various versions of the Proclamation text, see Brian Slattery, "The Land Rights of Indigenous Canadian Peoples", doctoral dissertation, Oxford University, 1979, p. 204, note 1. There is only one extant copy of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 in Canada currently in the Library and Archives Canada collection, although there are three contemporary copies in the United States, and one in the UK.

Royal Proclamation of 1763

1763, OCTOBER 7.

BY THE KING.

A Proclamation

George r.

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 the Tenth Day of February last, and being desirous, that all Our loving Subjects, as well of Our Kingdoms as of Our Colonies in America, 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, with the Advice of Our Privy Council, to issue this Our Royal Proclamation, hereby to publish and declare to all Our loving Subjects, that We have, with the Advice of Our said Privy Council, granted Our Letters Patent under Our Great Seal of Great Britain, to erect within the Countries and Islands ceded and confirmed to Us by the said Treaty, Four distinct and separate Governments, stiled and called by the Names of Quebec, East Florida, West Florida, and Grenada, and limited and bounded as follows; viz.

First. The Government of Quebec, bounded on the Labrador Coast by the River St. John, and from thence by a Line drawn from the Head of that River through the Lake St. John to the South End of the Lake nigh Pissin; from whence the said Line crossing the River St. Lawrence and the Lake Champlain in Forty five Degrees of North Latitude, passes along the High Lands which divide the Rivers that empty themselves into the said River St. Lawrence, from those which fall into the Sea; and also along the North Coast of the Baye des Chaleurs, and the Coast of the Gulph of St. Lawrence to Cape Rosieres, and from thence crossing the Mouth of the River St. Lawrence by the West End of the Island of Antiocosti, terminates at the aforesaid River of St. John.

Secondly. The Government of East Florida, bounded to the Westward by the Gulph of Mexico, and the Apalachicola River; to the Northward, by a Line drawn from that Part of the said River where the Chatahouchee and Flint Rivers meet, to the Source of St. Mary's River, and by the Course of the said River to the Atlantick Ocean; and to the Eastward and Southward, by the Atlantick Ocean, and the Gulph of Florida, including all Islands within Six Leagues of the Sea Coast.

Thirdly. The Government of West Florida, bounded to the Southward by the Gulph of Mexico, including all Islands within Six Leagues of the Coast from the River Apalachicola to Lake Pentchartain; to the Westward, by the said Lake, the Lake Mauripas, and the River Mississippi; to the Northward, by a Line drawn due East from that Part of the River Mississippi which lies in Thirty one Degrees North Latitude, to the River Apalachicola or Chatahouchee; and to the Eastward by the said River.

Fourthly. The Government of Grenada, comprehending the Island of that Name, together with the Grenadines, and the Islands of Dominico, St. Vincents and Tobago. And, to the End that the open and free Fishery of Our Subjects may be extended to and carried on upon the Coast of Labrador and the adjacent Islands, We have thought fit, with the Advice of Our said Privy Council, to put all that Coast, from the River St. John's to Hudson's Straights, together with the Islands of Anticosti and Madelaine, and all other smaller Islands lying upon the said Coast, under the Care and Inspection of Our Governor of Newfoundland.

We have also, with the Advice of Our Privy Council, thought fit to annex the Islands of St. John's, and Cape Breton or Isle Royale, with the lesser Islands adjacent thereto, to Our Government of Nova Scotia.

We have also, with the Advice of Our Privy Council aforesaid, annexed to Our Province of Georgia all the Lands lying between the Rivers Attamaha and St. Mary's.

And whereas it will greatly contribute to the speedy settling Our said new Governments, that Our loving Subjects should be informed of Our Paternal Care for the Security of the Liberties and Properties of those who are and shall become Inhabitants thereof; We have thought fit to publish and declare, by this Our Proclamation, that We have, in the Letters Patent under Our Great Seal of Great Britain, by which the said Governments are constituted, given express Power and Direction to Our Governors of Our said Colonies respectively, that so soon as the State and Circumstances of the said Colonies will admit thereof, they shall, with the Advice and Consent of the Members of Our Council, summon and call General Assemblies within the said Governments respectively, in such Manner and Form as is used and directed in those Colonies and Provinces in America, which are under Our immediate Government; and We have also given Power to the said Governors, with the Consent of Our said Councils, and the Representatives of the People, so to be summoned as aforesaid, to make, constitute, and ordain Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances for the Publick Peace, Welfare, and Good Government of Our said Colonies, and of the People and Inhabitants thereof, as near as may be agreeable to the Laws of England, and under such Regulations and Restrictions as are used in other Colonies: And in the mean Time, and until such Assemblies can be called as aforesaid, all Persons inhabiting in, or resorting to Our said Colonies, may confide in Our Royal Protection for the Enjoyment of the Benefit of the Laws of Our Realm of England; for which Purpose, We have given Power under Our Great Seal to the Governors of Our said Colonies respectively, to erect and constitute, with the Advice of Our said Councils respectively, Courts of Judicature and Publick Justice, within Our said Colonies, for the hearing and determining all Causes, as well Criminal as Civil, according to Law and Equity, and as near as may be agreeable to the Laws of England, with Liberty to all Persons who may think themselves aggrieved by the Sentences of such Courts, in all Civil Cases, to appeal, under the usual Limitations and Restrictions, to Us in Our Privy Council.

We have also thought fit, with the Advice of Our Privy Council as aforesaid, to give unto the Governors and Councils of Our said Three New Colonies upon the Continent, full Power and Authority to settle and agree with the Inhabitants of Our said New Colonies, or with any other Persons who shall resort thereto, for such Lands, Tenements, and Hereditaments, as are now, or hereafter shall be in Our Power to dispose of, and them to grant to any such Person or Persons, upon such Terms, and under such moderate Quit-Rents, Services, and Acknowledgements as have been appointed and settled in Our other Colonies, and under such other Conditions as shall appear to Us to be necessary and expedient for the Advantage of the Grantees, and the Improvement and Settlement of our said Colonies.

And whereas We are desirous, upon all Occasions, to testify Our Royal Sense and Approbation of the Conduct and Bravery of the Officers and Soldiers of Our Armies, and to reward the same, We do hereby command and impower Our Governors of Our said Three New Colonies, and all other Our Governors of Our several Provinces on the Continent of North America, to grant, without Fee or Reward, to such Reduced Officers as have served in North America during the late War, and to such Private Soldiers as have been or shall be disbanded in America, and are actually residing there, and shall personally apply for the same, the following Quantities of Lands, subject at the Expiration of Ten Years to the same Quit-Rents as other Lands are subject to in the Province within which they are granted, as also subject to the same Conditions of Cultivation and Improvement; viz.

To every Person having the Rank of a Field Officer, Five thousand Acres. — To every Captain, Three thousand Acres. — To every Subaltern or Staff Officer, Two thousand Acres. — To every Non-Commission Officer, Two hundred Acres. — To every Private Man, Fifty Acres.

We do likewise authorize and require the Governors and Commanders in Chief of all Our said Colonies upon the Continent of North America, to grant the like Quantities of Land, and upon the same Conditions, to such Reduced Officers of Our Navy, of like Rank, as served on Board Our Ships of War in North America at the Times of the Reduction of Louisbourg and Quebec in the late War, and who shall personally apply to Our respective Governors for such Grants.

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 in the Possession of such Parts of Our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to, or purchased by Us, are reserved to them, or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds; We do therefore, with the Advice of Our Privy Council, declare it to be Our Royal Will and Pleasure, that no Governor or Commander in Chief in any of Our Colonies of Quebec, East Florida, or West Florida, do presume, upon any Pretence whatever, to grant Warrants of Survey, or pass any Patents for Lands beyond the Bounds of their respective Governments, as described in their Commissions; as also, that no Governor or Commander in Chief in any of Our other Colonies or Plantations in America, do presume, for the present, and until Our further Pleasure be known, 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 Atlantick Ocean from the West and North-West, or upon any Lands whatever, which, not having been ceded to, or purchased by Us as aforesaid, are reserved to the said Indians, or any of them.

And We do further declare it to be Our Royal Will and Pleasure, for the present as aforesaid, to reserve under Our Sovereignty, Protection, and Dominion, for the Use of the said Indians, all the Lands and Territories not included within the Limits of Our said Three New Governments, or within the Limits of the Territory granted to the Hudson's Bay Company, as also all the Lands and Territories lying to the Westward of the Sources of the Rivers which fall into the Sea from the West and North West, as aforesaid; and We do hereby strictly forbid, on Pain of Our Displeasure, all Our loving Subjects from making any Purchases or Settlements whatever, or taking Possession of any of the Lands above reserved, without Our especial Leave and Licence for that Purpose first obtained.

And We do further strictly enjoin and require all Persons whatever, who have either wilfully or inadvertently seated themselves upon any Lands within the Countries above described, or upon any other Lands, which, not having been ceded to, or purchased by Us, are still reserved to the said Indians as aforesaid, forthwith to remove themselves from such Settlements.

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 therefore 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, with the Advice of Our Privy Council, strictly enjoin and require, that no private Person do presume to make any Purchase from the said Indians of any Lands reserved to the said Indians, within those Parts of Our Colonies where We have thought proper to allow Settlement; but that if, at any Time, any of the said Indians should be inclined to dispose of the said Lands, that same shall be purchased only for Us, in Our Name, at some publick Meeting or Assembly of the said Indians to be held for that Purpose by the Governor or Commander in Chief of Our Colonies respectively, within which they shall lie: and in case they shall lie within the Limits of any Proprietary Government, they shall be purchased only for the Use and in the Name of such Proprietaries, conformable to such Directions and Instructions as We or they shall think proper to give for that Purpose: And We do, by the Advice of Our Privy Council, declare and enjoin, that the Trade with the said Indians shall be free and open to all our Subjects whatever; provided that every Person, who may incline to trade with the said Indians, do take out a Licence for carrying on such Trade from the Governor or Commander in Chief of any of Our Colonies respectively, where such Person shall reside; and also give Security to observe such Regulations as We shall at any Time think fit, by Ourselves or by Our Commissaries to be appointed for this Purpose, to direct and appoint for the Benefit of the said Trade; And We do hereby authorize, enjoin, and require the Governors and Commanders in Chief of all Our Colonies respectively, as well Those under Our immediate Government as those under the Government and Direction of Proprietaries, to grant such Licences without Fee or Reward, taking especial Care to insert therein a Condition, that such Licence shall be void, and the Security forfeited, in Case the Person, to whom the same is granted, shall refuse or neglect to observe such Regulations as We shall think proper to prescribe as aforesaid.

And We do further expressly enjoin and require all Officers whatever, as well Military as those employed in the Management and Direction of Indian Affairs within the Territories reserved as aforesaid for the Use of the said Indians, to seize and apprehend all Persons whatever, who, standing charged with Treasons, Misprisions of Treason, Murders, or other Felonies or Misdemeanours, shall fly from Justice, and take Refuge in the said Territory, and to send them under a proper Guard to the Colony where the Crime was committed of which they stand accused, in order to take their Tryal for the same.

Given at Our Court at St. James's, the Seventh Day of October, One thousand seven hundred and sixty three, in the Third Year of Our Reign.

God Save the King

London: Printed by Mark Baskett, Printer to the King's most Excellent Majesty; and by the Assigns of Robert Baskett. 1763.



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