The Proclamation of 1763 - dummies

By Steve Wiegand

Starting in 1763, Britain and her American colonies began to irritate each other almost incessantly. Like an impatient parent with an unruly child, Britain tried different methods to instill discipline. Only America wasn’t such a kid anymore, or as Ben Franklin put it:

“We have an old mother that peevish is grown / She snubs us like children that scarce walk alone / She forgets we’re grown up and have sense of our own.”

One of the first things Britain wanted to do after finally whipping the French was to calm down the Native Americans, who were understandably upset by the generally pushy, and often genocidal, actions of the colonists. So King George III decided that as of October 7, 1763, no colonist could settle beyond the crest of the Appalachian Mountains. That decision meant America would remain basically a collection of coastal colonies.

The idea was to give everyone a sort of timeout after all the fighting. But even if it was well intentioned, it was impractical. For one thing, a bunch of colonials were already living west of the dividing line and weren’t about to move just because some potentate thousands of miles away said so.

Worse, the decree was a slap in the face to those who had fought against the French and Native Americans with the expectation that winning meant they could move west to vast tracts of free land. In the end, it was an unenforceable law that did nothing but anger the colonists and vex British officials when it wasn’t obeyed.