1763 - King George III and the frontier

Portrait of King George III by Allan Ramsay, hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London, England

      King George III of England, also know as the Mad King due to a period of erratic behavior that resulted from an illness, was quite in his legal rights when he summarily disenfranchised colonial land syndicates with his Proclamation of 1763 following the 'French and Indian War.'

      King George declared that all Indians in the Americas, or 'discovered lands' of North America, were entitled to occupy their aboriginal homelands without molestations from the colonists.  The Appalachian watershed was established as a dividing line between the British settlements and colonies, and lands deemed by the king to be Indian County.

       People who had settled on land not ceded to Britain by the Indians themselves were thereby ordered to remove themselves from Indian land.  The King rightly arguled that only he had the authority to negotiate with Indian tribes for cessions of land, as one sovereign to another sovereign.  Members of the colonian land syndicates, men such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, rebelled against the royal perogative and argued that they should be allowed to negotiate with the Indians directly, but their arguments were dismissed as having no basis in International law.

       The real powers at work here were the businessmen in London who feared that moving the frontier beyond the mountains would break the colonists dependency on London merchants for trade, and in this, the merchants were correct.  That is exactly what happened when the colonists won independence from the crown and began pushing west.

       When the tables were turned in 1787, and George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were now esteemed members of the federal government, they changed their tune with regard to Indian lands.  Now, they argued the very same principles put forward by King George III in 1763 by stating that only the federal government had the right to deal with Indian tribes for land cessions, as one sovereign to another.  By this time, American settlers were already ignoring both the king's proclamation, and the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause, and were setting up towns in treaty protected Indian lands on the Ohio River betwen Pittsburn and the river's mouth.

       The turbulent and tragic history of Euro-American settlers on the Indian frontier began, in many respects, when King George III ordered colonists removed from Indian lands.  History, that timeless midwife of irony, would soon see the grandchildren of those colonists removing Indians from their own homelands during the Removal Era of the 19th century.