After the conclusion of the French and Indian War in America, the British Empire began to tighten control over its rather autonomous colonies. This royal proclamation, which closed down colonial expansion westward, was the first measure to affect all thirteen colonies. In response to a revolt of Native Americans led by Pontiac, an Ottawa chief, King George III declared all lands west of the Appalachian Divide off-limits to colonial settlers. The edict forbade private citizens and colonial governments alike to buy land from or make any agreements with natives; the empire would conduct all official relations. Furthermore, only licensed traders would be allowed to travel west or deal with Indians. Theoretically protecting colonists from Indian rampages, the measure was also intended to shield Native Americans from increasingly frequent attacks by white settlers.
Although the proclamation was introduced as a temporary measure, its economic benefits for Britain prompted ministers to keep it until the eve of the Revolution. A desire for good farmland caused many colonists to defy the proclamation; others merely resented the royal restrictions on trade and migration.
The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.