I firmly believe that those in power sometimes lose touch with the citizens who elected them. It is that point they forget that they were elected, rather than anointed, and they attempt to lead by proclamation. How often might those proclamations be dismissed by the citizenry and lead to a bevy of unintended consequences? Here is a good example:
On October 7, 1763, King George III issued a royal proclamation. I know what you are thinking…..She is writing about a King! Monarchs anointed rather than elected or appointed, aren’t they? While that is true in some countries, power in Great Britain had slowly shifted so that more and more of it rested in the control of the Parliament. Yes, King George issued the Proclamation, and yes he made many of the decisions. However, he was not acting alone. He had advisors, a prime minister, and a Parliament that often made decisions which he rubber stamped.
The Proclamation issued by King George in 1763 is best known as the document which stretched an invisible line across the Appalachian Mountains and forbid colonists from crossing over it to claim land held by Native Americans for themselves. Other colonists, who had already “seated themselves” upon those lands, were ordered to remove themselves “forthwith.” One reason for issuing the Proclamation was to quiet the escalating conflict between the colonists and the native population in the Ohio Valley and elsewhere along the western border of the Colonies. As the British assumed control of forts, and other property, held by the French prior to the war, they ceased many of the traditions that the native population once enjoyed. With ceremonial gift giving, and other practices, taken off of the table, the native population became increasingly uninterested in a cooperative relationship with the British. Eventually, the now British held forts were attacked by members of tribes, such as the Ottawa and their leader Pontiac, as well as other groups which joined them in their efforts. While the prohibition against colonial settlement was intended to reduce conflict, the Proclamation had little impact upon the behavior of Native Americans. Although Pontiac joined with others to sign a formal treaty with the British in 1766, conflict continued between the indigenous groups, the colonists, and the governmental officials sent by Britain. The settlement prohibition also angered many colonists who were accustomed to living with little interference from Britain.
The Proclamation of 1763 contained far more than just the effort to halt Colonial expansion. As a result of land obtained during the war, it established four “distinct and separate Governments” in Quebec, East Florida, West Florida, and Grenada. Significant amounts of land were annexed to Nova Scotia and Georgia. Another unpopular purpose of the document was to further compensate those who had served during the Seven Years’ War. Why was it unpopular? Although colonists were forbidden to settle certain areas of land, the Crown was more than happy to freely distribute land, without so much as one pence in quit-rents, to those who served in the Seven Years’ War. That was viewed as unfair to those who sought to settle the land, and then sell the land to others. Although naval officers received land grants as well, the following are parcel sizes mentioned directly in the document: “To every Person having the Rank of a Field Officer–5,000 Acres. To every Captain–3,000 Acres. To every Subaltern or Staff Officer,–2,000 Acres. To every Non-Commission Officer,–200 Acres. To every Private Man–60 Acres.”
George Washington received 20,000 acres for his service during the war. However, it was clear that he gave little weight to the settlement prohibition contained within the Proclamation. In a letter to William Crawford in 1767, Washington wrote: “I can never look upon the Proclamation in any other light (but this I say between ourselves) than as a temporary expedient to quiet the minds of the Indians. It must fall, of course, in a few years, especially when those Indians consent to our occupying those lands. Any person who neglects hunting out good lands, and in some measure marking and distinguishing them for his own, in order to keep others from settling them will never regain it. If you will be at the trouble of seeking out the lands, I will take upon me the part of securing them, as soon as there is a possibility of doing it and will, moreover, be at all the cost and charges surveying and patenting the same . . . . By this time it be easy for you to discover that my plan is to secure a good deal of land. You will consequently come in for a handsome quantity.”
In the end the Royal Proclamation of 1763 played more of an inflammatory role than its intended purpose of mitigating the anger of both colonists and the indigenous population. The British military were, for the most part, unwilling to force settlers off of property, but land speculators were unable to forge new settlements. Additionally, colonists viewed the Proclamation as having made the deaths of fellow colonists, who fought in the Seven Years’ War, virtually meaningless because they were forbidden to settle territory once held by the French. Moreover, the language in the document is patronizing at best. Phrases such as “our loving Subjects should be informed of our Paternal care,” “declare it to be our Royal Will and Pleasure,” and “We do hereby strictly forbid, on Pain of our Displeasure” could have only served to further raise the ire of many colonists.
The attached picture is of The Blowing Rock in North Carolina which rests along the Proclamation Line created by the Proclamation of 1763. There is a wonderful Cherokee legend that the updrafts are so strong in the area a brave, who jumped off the rock because of his indecision over remaining with his true love or returning to his native plains, was raised up from the valley floor below to be reunited with his true love. The wind indeed is so strong that it is reported that snow appears to be falling upward!
How is it that the Proclamation of 1763 was given little notice of or weight by the colonists or the native population? As we are seeing today, people are able to grasp the underlying intentions of the statements or writings of those in power. Statements made by the King over many years, as well as those made by members of Parliament, seemed to have little concern for or possibly complete unawareness of the mounting anger over taxation, regulation, and control that emanated from the Colonies. Many of the proclamations, pontifications, and off-the-cuff statements made by our own elected officials seem tremendously out-of-touch with the American People. Consequently, when we hear that someone “will not” do something which is clearly in the nation’s best interest, we tend to receive it with a sizable grain of salt.
“We the People” should begin to ponder how best to rein in an out-of-touch group of elected officials. In keeping with the concept of consent of the governed, those in power above us are actually sitting at our pleasure. Consent of the governed is at the heart of What IS Right With America.
Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.
Read the entire Royal Proclamation of 1763 at:http://www.bingoforpatriots.com/american-history/13-colonies/british-proclamations-and-documents-regarding-the-colonies/royal-proclamation-of-october-7-1763/