March 23, 2024

Episode 6: The Proclamation

Against the backdrop of Pontiac's War in North America, George III's ministers in London draw on lessons learned in colonial Nova Scotia to begin drafting a blueprint for transforming British America into an empire of order. Featuring: Fred Anderson,...

Against the backdrop of Pontiac's War in North America, George III's ministers in London draw on lessons learned in colonial Nova Scotia to begin drafting a blueprint for transforming British America into an empire of order.

Featuring: Fred Anderson, Matthew Dziennik, Max Edelson, and Alexandra Montgomery

Voice Actors: Grace Mallon and Beau Robbins.

Narrated by Jim Ambuske.

Find the official transcript here.

This episode is made possible with support from the John Carter Brown Library, an independent research library located on the campus of Brown University. 

Worlds Turned Upside Down is a production of R2 Studios at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

Further Reading:

Fred Anderson, The Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754 - 1766 (2001).

Andrew D. M. Beaumont, Colonial America and the Earl of Halifax, 1748-1761 (2015).

Gregory Evans Dowd, War Under Heaven: Pontiac, the Indian Nations, and the British Empire (2004).

Justin Du Rivage, Revolution Against Empire: Taxes, Politics, and the Origins of American Independence (2017).

Kathleen DuVal, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (2016).

S. Max Edelson, The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence (2017).

Paul Kelton, “The British and Indian War: Cherokee Power and the Fate of Empire in North America.” The William and Mary Quarterly 69, no. 4 (2012): 763–92.

Jane T. Merritt, At the Crossroads: Indians and Empires on a Mid-Atlantic Frontier, 1700-1763 (2011).

John Oliphant, Peace and War on the Anglo-Cherokee Frontier, 1756–63 (2001). 

John Oliphant, "The Cherokee embassy to London, 1762." The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 27 no. 1 (1999): 1-26.

John Shy, Toward Lexington: The Role of the British Army in the Coming of the American Revolution (1965).

William Smith and Steven Zucker, Portraying Cherokee Power: Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA, Portrait of Syacust Ukah, Smart History (2022)

Primary Sources: 

Anonymous, "Mass-Aniello or the Neapolitan Insurrection Liberty, Property and no Excise" (1763). The British Museum. 

Emanuel Bowen, An accurate map of North America. Describing and distinguishing the British, Spanish and French dominions on this great continent; exhibiting the present seat of war, and the French encroachments. Also all the West India Islands belonging to, and possessed by the several European princes and states (1755). Library of Congress Geography and Map Division,

Emanuel Bowen, An accurate map of North America. Describing and distinguishing the British, Spanish and French dominions on this great continent; according to the definitive treaty concluded at Paris 10th Feby. 1763. Also all the West India Islands belonging to, and possessed by the several European princes and states. The whole laid down according to the latest and most authentick improvements (1763). Library of Congress Geography and Map Division,

Earl of Egremont to the Board of Trade, 5 May 1763
Board of Trade's Report to Earl of Egremont and George III, 5 June 1763, all in Adam Shortt and Arthur G. Doughty, eds., Canadian Archives: Documents Relating to The Constitutional History of Canada, 1759-1791 (1907), Part 1:

George III: By the King, A Proclamation, 7 October 1763
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Jeffrey Amherst to Earl of Agreement, 23 July 1763
Earl of Egremont to Jeffrey Amherst, 13 August 1763
Board of Trade to Sir William Johnson, 5 August 1763, all in E. B. O'Callaghan, ed., Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New-York: London Documents, 1756-1767 (1856)

"News." Lloyd's Evening Post, July 13, 1763 - July 15, 1763. Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Burney Newspapers Collection, Accessed 8 Feb. 2024.

Charles Morris, A chart of the peninsula of Nova Scotia (1761). Library of Congress Geography and Map Division,

George Montague-Dunk, Earl of Halifax, Some Considerations relating to the present Condition of the Plantations; with Proposals for a better Regulation of them (December 1758).

Nova Scotia Provincial Council Minutes, 28 July 1755, Acadian Heartland: Records of the Deportation and Le Grand Dérangement, 1714-1768

Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of Syacust Ukah (Ostenaca), 1762. Gilcrease Museum,

Robert Rogers, Pontiac, or the Savages of America: A Tragedy edited by Tiffany Potter (1766; 2010)

The Three Cherokees, came over from the head of the River Savanna to London, 1762. The British Museum,

Museums and Cultural Heritage Sites:

Colonial Michilimackinac 

Museum of the Cherokee People


 Worlds Turned Upside Down

Episode 6: “The Proclamation”
Published 03/23/2024

Written by Jim Ambuske


JIM AMBUSKE: This episode of Worlds Turned Upside Down is supported by the John Carter Brown Library, an independent research library located on the campus of Brown University.

AMBUSKE: King George III kept the Cherokee emissaries waiting for days. The three leaders, including Ostenaca, had arrived in England aboard the HMS Revenge on June 16, 1762. They had come to see the king, to assure him and the British people of the Cherokees’ friendship, after peace treaties negotiated in the colonies finally brought an end to the Anglo-Cherokee War. 

AMBUSKE: The Cherokees were the latest in a long line of Indigenous peoples from North America to visit the imperial capital. To the curiosity and shock of British onlookers, Ostenaca and his fellow Cherokees stepped ashore at Plymouth, on England’s southwestern coast, and wailed a song of thanks to the sky for their safe passage.

AMBUSKE: Engraved prints made during their visit reveal three men dressed in expertly woven cloaks, trimmed with wampum beads, and wearing leggings. Earrings hang from tattooed faces. In a portrait of Ostenaca by Joshua Reynolds, the famed historical painter, Reynolds omitted the Cherokee leader’s face tattoos. He is wearing a scarlet red cloak trimmed with gold lace, with a wampum belt draped around his neck. In his right hand, Ostenaca holds a weapon as a monarch would hold a royal scepter. Reynolds wanted his audience to see what Ostenaca was not: a Cherokee king.

AMBUSKE: What the Cherokees thought of the crowds who turned out to see them as they made their way to London is mostly lost. Major Henry Timberlake had accompanied them from British America, but he spoke little of their language and the translator had died on the ocean crossing.

AMBUSKE: While the British public gawked as they caught sight of the Cherokees on the road to London, the king’s ministers recognized the significance of their visit. Between 1759 and 1761, the Anglo-Cherokee War had brought ruin and hardship to white settlers and Cherokee communities alike. The British were eager to have the Cherokees as allies once again, to ensure the stability and order of their empire. Ostenaca went to London to bolster his standing with his own community, and convince the government that Virginia would make a valuable Cherokee trading partner.

AMBUSKE: On July 8th, after days spent touring gardens, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abby, and the Tower of London, and having met the Earl of Egremont, one of the ministers in charge of the American colonies, the three Cherokee men were finally presented to George III at St. James Palace.

AMBUSKE: Without a proper translator for their 90-minute meeting, Ostenaca’s speech to George III was lost on most of its witnesses. Major Timberlake felt he got the gist of it though, and told the king that Ostenaca and the Cherokees pledged friendship and a faithful alliance with the crown.

AMBUSKE: The Cherokees remained in Britain a few more weeks after their audience with the king. They sailed for South Carolina in late August, having been the subject of public spectacle, often racist press commentary, and diplomatic overtures for more than two months. 

AMBUSKE: For British officials, however, who were ready to proclaim a new vision of empire in North America, the Cherokee delegation’s visit and the history of recent wars, were powerful reminders that unless the king’s men reformed the colonies, and brought order to the empire, then the future of British America would stand always on knife’s edge.

AMBUSKE: I’m Jim Ambuske, and this is Worlds Turned Upside Down, a podcast about the history of the American Revolution.

AMBUSKE: Episode 6: “The Proclamation”

AMBUSKE: On November 17, 1763, General Jeffrey Amherst departed New York City for London aboard the HMS Weazel. The commander in chief of British forces in North America was headed to the imperial capital, to confer with government officials, and help plan the future of George III’s American empire.

AMBUSKE: Having accepted New France’s surrender three years earlier, Amherst crossed the Atlantic Ocean expecting to arrive in Britain hailed as a conquering hero. Instead, he was met with disdain for his more recent conduct in the field.

AMBUSKE: Months earlier, in July, word of a major Indigenous uprising in the Ohio Country began circulating in London.

AMBUSKE: The stunning success of the Odawa leader Pontiac and his allied warriors at distant outposts like Fort Michilimackinac, the sieges against centers of British power at forts Detroit, Pitt, and Niagara, and repeated raids on settlements in western Pennsylvania and Virginia, caught the British government, and the public, off guard.

AMBUSKE: How General Amherst and the 8,000 British regulars under his command had so quickly turned triumph into travesty, was beyond them.

AMBUSKE: But it all made perfect sense to colonial officials like Sir William Johnson.

AMBUSKE: Unbeknownst to Amherst, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern District had been writing to his superiors on the Board of Trade, to offer them his assessment of the general’s abilities. Johnson complained to the men who managed American affairs that Amherst’s new restrictions on trade, his inattentiveness to reciprocity, and his indifference to Indigenous diplomatic customs were a threat to peace, to say nothing of his own prestige and standing among native nations.

AMBUSKE: Ohio peoples like the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Wyandot, Miami, and Shawnee were already alarmed at Britain’s inability to honor its previous agreements to stop settlers from heading west over the Appalachian Mountains.

AMBUSKE: Was it any wonder then, that these nations, many of whom were inspired by the Delaware prophet Neolin’s encounter with the Master of Life, and spirit’s commandment to cast off white ways and live as their ancestors once had, had chosen to make common cause with each other, and resist British authority through force?

AMBUSKE: As Johnson took pains to point out that his own methods for ensuring good order in the king’s new dominions were the proper ones, London newspapers offered their readers insight into the origins of Pontiac’s War. As Lloyd’s Evening Post reported in mid-July:

LLOYD’S EVENING POST (GRACE MALLON): “The advices from the Continent of America of an Indian war, cannot but be alarming…..Many reasons are given for their rising, among the rest, the notion the Indians have that we shall extirpate them when we have an opportunity; and our calling the Continent of America our own, makes them think that time approaching. If we search into the beginning of some of the late Indian wars, we shall find they have taken rise from some of our Colonists over-reaching them in their treaties, and getting possession of their hunting and fishing grounds, without which they cannot possibly subsist.”

AMBUSKE: In London private correspondence, British and colonial officials alike damned Amherst’s handling of the uprising. In December 1763, Thomas Penn, a son of Pennsylvania founder William Penn, noted that:

THOMAS PENN (BEAU ROBBINS): “Sir Jeffrey Amherst’s conduct is extremely injurious to the Colonys, and his Schemes not approved of here.”

AMBUSKE: Pontiac and his warriors may have failed to capture forts Detroit, Pitt, or Niagara, but in many ways, and with a little help from Sir William Johnson, they had conquered General Amherst after all. His failure to quell the uprising cost him his command. In 1764, the king replaced Amherst as commander-in-chief with a veteran army officer named Thomas Gage.

AMBUSKE: So, what steps did George III and his ministers take to promote peace and prosperity in North America? And how did those plans reflect a new vision for transforming an old empire after a decade of war?

AMBUSKE: To begin answering these questions, we’ll head first to London, where some of the king’s men were drafting blueprints for the future, just as British America exploded in violence again. We’ll then sail west, to the colony of Nova Scotia, where settlement schemes of the past shaped British plans for colonizing the present, before heading back to the imperial capital, to draft a royal proclamation to remake British America into an empire of order.

AMBUSKE: The spring of 1763 bloomed in London with a sense of possibility. The Treaty of Paris had been signed on February 10th, bringing the Seven Years’ War to a close. The treaty left George III and the British in command of new lands and new subjects in North America. Cartographers were busy updating old maps to represent the king’s claims to conquered territories like New France, Louisiana, Florida, and a host of Caribbean islands.

 AMBUSKE: The change in seasons also brought a change in His Majesty’s government. By the spring of 1763, the prime minister, John Stuart, the 3rd Earl of Bute, had become deeply unpopular.

AMBUSKE: The king’s mentor had taken office in May 1762, becoming the first Scottish-born prime minister in British history. Lord Bute ushered in a new era of conservative government, what today we might call a Tory government.

AMBUSKE: But, the concessions Bute offered to France and Spain during peace talks later that year rankled some Members of Parliament as being far too generous to Britain’s enemies. Bute was also subjected to relentless, anti-Scottish attacks by radical English politicians and authors like John Wilkes, who believed that Scots were corrupting English liberty and the crown.

AMBUSKE: And Bute also had to contend with a tax revolt. As British diplomats negotiated with Spain and France, the government began addressing the enormous cost of the war, and a national debt that had ballooned to £133,000,000 because of it.

AMBUSKE: Somebody had to bear the price the British had paid for victory. In 1762, Bute asked an already overtaxed British public to pay a little more. As part of a series of domestic tax reforms, he devised an excise tax that levied a 4-shilling duty per hogshead of cider, which was about 64 gallons. Enacted by Parliament in early 1763, the new tax, and the intrusive powers the law granted to excise officials to enforce it, infuriated Britons, most especially those in cider-producing regions like England’s West Country. Rioters and pamphleteers all condemned the new tax.

AMBUSKE: As one satirical print loudly declaimed: “Liberty, Property and No Excise”

AMBUSKE: After entreating the king for weeks to let him resign, George III put Bute out of his ministerial misery. He accepted Bute’s resignation on April 8, 1763. In his place, the king named George Grenville as prime minister, a politician who in short order would introduce new taxation schemes of his own.

AMBUSKE: The change in prime ministers did nothing to lessen the impulse to reform British America. In fact, it only emboldened it. For the moment, however, the most pressing concerns for the ministers who managed the colonies were how to incorporate the new conquered territories into the empire, how to settle them and ensure their loyalty to the crown, and how to prevent conflicts between colonists and Indigenous peoples.

AMBUSKE: For more than a decade, members of the Board of Trade and government officials like Charles Townshend, John Pownall, the Earl of Shelburne, and the Earl of Halifax had been contemplating similar questions and lamenting the inefficiencies of the empire.

FRED ANDERSON: For the most part, the British aren't very systematic in the way they think about their colonies, before the middle of the 18th century. In the 17th century, they'd been founded as enterprises of joint stock companies, or they were founded by grandees who were given by the crown the right to deal with the Indians on behalf of the crown and acquire the lands from the Indians on with royal authority, proprietary colonies were organized that way.

ANDERSON: I’m Fred Anderson, professor emeritus University of Colorado Boulder

ANDERSON: So there was a sort of public private partnership, we would call it today between the crown and people who would colonize lands that the crown was willing to grant. Now that's that meant for a messy, kind of colonial picture, there was little in the way of governing policy, because it was opportunistic, and based on external factors that were that were often unpredictable, and it produced strange results, you know, you get colonies made up of religious fanatics like Massachusetts, and colonies made up of people who were religious fanatics who were in flight from religious fanatics, which is to say, Rhode Island, each of which, acquires its own corporate existence, each of which is part of this empire, but neither of which is really a project that reflects an imperial vision. And the same can be said, for all of the British colonies in North America.

AMBUSKE: Despite this messy colonial picture, trade statistics and security concerns, to say nothing of pride and prestige, had convinced the Board of Trade and the king’s ministers that Great Britain could not do without its empire. It generated significant wealth for the Mother Country and extended Britannia’s rule across the waves. But, intercolonial rivalries, tension with native peoples, haphazard settlement schemes, and weak regulations had made for a motley America.

AMBUSKE: The Board of Trade, the government, and the king believed they could bring order to the empire. Inspired in part by the Scottish Enlightenment, with its new ideas on social improvement and political economy, they began planning the transformation of British America by first engineering a new kind of colonialism in the conquered colonies.

AMBUSKE: And that effort began with a series of questions.

AMBUSKE: On May 5, 1763, just four days before Pontiac’s allied warriors began laying siege to Fort Detroit, Charles Wyndham, the 2nd Earl of Egremont, sent a lengthy letter to the Board of Trade. Egremont was Secretary of State for the Southern Department, the cabinet office that worked closely with the Board on colonial affairs. He had held the post since William Pitt resigned in 1761. Egremont began his letter this way:

EGREMONT (ROBBINS): “My Lords. His Majesty having brought the Negotiation with France & Spain to a happy Conclusion, and having given the necessary Orders for carrying into Execution the several Stipulations of the late Treaty, is now pleased to fix His Royal Attention upon the next important Object of securing to His Subjects, and extending the Enjoyment of the Advantages, which Peace has procured.”

AMBUSKE: The map of British America looked much different in 1763 than it did ten years earlier. By the terms of The Treaty of Paris, the British claimed the whole of the east coast –  from Nova Scotia and the Canadian Maritime provinces in the north to Florida in the south – and all the land west from the east coast to the Mississippi River. The new imperial borders encompassed Indigenous nations who had not consented to the land cessions, and whose status as subjects or sovereigns remained, at least from the British perspective, unresolved.

AMBUSKE: With the ink on the peace treaty now dry, the king directed Egremont and the Board of Trade to evaluate North America’s potential, and create a plan to manage this new empire. The Board was asked to consider three fundamental questions:

EGREMONT (ROBBINS): “1st What New Governments should be established & what Form should be adopted for such new Governments?”

EGREMONT (ROBBINS): “2ndly What Military Establishment will be sufficient?”

EGREMONT (ROBBINS): “3rdly In what Mode least Burthensome and most palatable to the Colonies can they contribute towards the Support of the Additional Expence, which must attend their Civil & Military Establishment?”

AMBUSKE: Egremont’s questions were as much about addressing the needs of British America’s present as they were about rectifying problems the reformers saw with its past.

AMBUSKE: Implicit in his queries was a shared belief that while private-public partnerships might have made sense to settle colonies like Virginia or Massachusetts Bay in the seventeenth-century, they had given rise to an unwieldy assortment of provinces in the eighteenth century, each with their own legislative assemblies, who were too often consumed with local concerns, and not enough with the common, imperial interest.

AMBUSKE: Britain’s struggle to mobilize the colonies to meet the French and Indigenous threat during the Seven Years’ War only confirmed this assessment.

AMBUSKE: In other words, what British America lacked could be distilled down to one word: coherence.

AMBUSKE: And in the mid-eighteenth century, few British politicians saw this more clearly than one man:

ALEXANDRA MONTGOMERY: George Montague-Dunk, the second Earl of Halifax.

MONTGOMERY: He was many things but most relevant to this story, he was the president of the board of trade.

MONTGOMERY: I'm Dr. Alexandra Montgomery. I am the manager for the Center for Digital History at the George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon.

MONTGOMERY: The Board of Trade had been pretty ineffectual body up until the point when Halifax gets his position, which is in the 1740s.

MONTGOMERY: The Earl of Halifax was different. He had a vision, he was up, I was a vision guy. And he looked at the British colonies. And he went, Ah, this is a mess. He was just disgusted by the chaos. And the fact that nothing was uniform. And everyone was doing their own strange things. And no one had any control over and he was like this will not stand this is no good. We can't be having this. The problem of course, is that how do you actually fix something like that?

AMBUSKE: Here’s Fred Anderson.

ANDERSON: Halifax is a is a very interesting figure because he's one of the few people in the British administrative system that deals with the North American colonies. He's one of the very few people in that small body, who actually sees the big picture.

ANDERSON: And he sees an empire that is, by its very nature, a Rube Goldberg device, which is threatening to just go crazy.

AMBUSKE: Halifax’s view of the empire was shaped profoundly by the events of the 1740s during the War of Austrian Succession, known to the colonists as King George’s War.

AMBUSKE: In 1745, New England soldiers launched an attack on Fortress Louisbourg, the French stronghold on Cape Breton Island. They acted without orders from London in hopes of protecting Protestant New England from the Catholic French and their Wabanaki allies. 

ANDERSON: These are New England, colonists now think of themselves as acting on behalf of the crown of Great Britain in this great imperial contest against the French, they seize the Fortress of Louisbourg, on Cape Breton Island, which effectively closes off the St. Lawrence River to French trade and French control, and it renders the whole sort of control of Canada just instantly unstable. That's a huge asset. I mean, all of New France is at risk because these New Englanders have mounted an expedition on their own paying for themselves to seize the Fortress of Louisbourg. New Englanders have their own war that they're fighting in 1745 when they, when they take off for Louisbourg, and they, by what looks like God's grace, they wind up in control of it.

AMBUSKE: The British returned Louisbourg to the French in the peace of 1748 in exchange for Madras in India, much to the consternation of New Englanders, who believed they had acted in the king’s interest. But for the Earl of Halifax, who was by now president of the Board of Trade, the New Englanders’ attack on the fort was a powerful example of how colonists acting in self-interest could destabilize the balance of power in North America. 

ANDERSON: Halifax comes out of this experience as a young and politically ambitious aristocrat. The experience of seeing the colonies up close during King George's war, he comes out of that thinking, we got to fix this, or the next war with France is going to just, who knows what's going to happen as a result. So he is one of the very few people in England. And certainly, in at Westminster, who thinks in terms of long-term policy toward North America isas important not as something you can improvise. And so he's beginning already in 1748 49 50, to think ahead about how to maintain some kind of unity or some kind of coherence, at least in this administration of the North American colonies. He's thinking big, and he has plans.

AMBUSKE: As Halifax constructed the ideal empire in his mind, one of the lessons he took away from colonial history and from King George’s War was that the older British American provinces lacked coherence because they had developed with too little oversight and influence from the crown or Parliament.

AMBUSKE: In December 1748, Halifax decried the older colonies as:

HALIFAX (ROBBINS): “Little independence Commonwealths; in some of which the Governors, who are chosen annually by the People, give no Security for the due Observance of the Laws of Trade and navigation…From which it is but too easy to judge what Effect, any other Laws here, without a coercive Power, would have among them.”

AMBUSKE: In his view, the empire’s future prosperity and security depended on the government taking a more proactive role in directing colonization itself, and strengthening British rule in North America.

MONTGOMERY: So he's looking around, he wants to standardize he wants to create a uniform imperial system. And he looks at Nova Scotia, which from his perspective is like, pretty empty, pretty strategically important. He says, Here we go. This is my playground, this is my sandbox mode. This is where I am going to figure out the system for imperial government, and then we're going to roll it out everywhere else. So Nova Scotia in his eyes, and then in the eyes of the Board of Trade generally becomes his laboratory for this new standardized vision of empire in the 18th century.

AMBUSKE: Halifax’s experimentation in Nova Scotia in the 1740s and 1750s is one of the keys to understanding British ambitions for reforming North America beginning in 1763. And to do that, we must first grapple with Nova Scotia as a contested, even an invented place. Alexandra Montgomery explains. 

MONTGOMERY: Nova Scotia was invented in 1621. That is the year that Sir William Alexander receives a grant from King Charles the First of essentially all of the land, encompassing what we now think of as Atlantic Canada, and a large chunk of Maine. It is called New Scotland because Charles the First was granting this land not in his capacity as King of England, but in his capacity as King of Scotland. This was a Scottish colonization venture.

MONTGOMERY: It's imagined as a way for the Scots to get in on this big colonization game in the quote, unquote, new world, and it fails miserably. It fails almost immediately. It does not go anywhere. This is during a period where that chunk of land is already claimed by the French by them it is called Acadia. And essentially, Sir William Alexander sent some folks over there. It's a disaster, they leave immediately and nothing ever comes of it. But the name sticks.

 MONTGOMERY: So I say invented because rather than simply it certainly wasn't a founding in 1621. But what do you get out of it is not so much the founding of a place as a concept that then floats around for several decades not that they founded Nova Scotia it's that they had this idea of Nova Scotia and then they made it real.

AMBUSKE: In 1710, the British began to reimagine Nova Scotia as a place when they conquered the French colony of Acadia, and took control of the peninsula that now forms most of the modern Canadian province.

MONTGOMERY:Tthey take it over they rename it Nova Scotia, but the unsureness about what exactly Nova Scotia is what it means. Whether or not it's even real persists in the way that this area actually ends up getting called Nova Scotia, or Acadia, for the better part of the 18th century. No one is totally sure what to call it.

MONTGOMERY: And part of the reason it's so contested is that the British, although they take political possession of this space in 1710, have very little power to actually control it to a large degree because there is practically zero loyal population on the ground. This is land that is inhabited primarily by indigenous folks. And in terms of a settler population, it's overwhelmingly French and Catholic. And this is the status quo in this area, until the run up to the Seven Years War.

AMBUSKE: In that continued state of uncertainty, the Earl of Halifax saw an opportunity to make Nova Scotia real, and establish it as a model for future settlement in British America. Under his leadership, in 1749 the Board of Trade proposed the creation of a new colony on the peninsula. Unlike the older colonies, this settlement would be funded and managed directly by the British government.

MONTGOMERY: This is a completely parliamentary funded project. This is a planned colony using government money, using folks that they have literally like rounded up, they're trying to like dredge up as many colonists as possible and stick them on a boat and send them over. The whole thing is planned out, sketched out, the map is sketched out in London, and then they are just sent over there to make it happen.

AMBUSKE: To convince Parliament to fund the project, Halifax successfully pitched it as a matter of imperial security in the wake of King George’s War. By the mid-eighteenth century, Nova Scotia was inhabited by more than 10,000 Catholic French Acadians and Indigenous Mi'kmaq people. The British viewed them with suspicion. And the peninsula’s geographic location in the northern Atlantic was especially advantageous.

MONTGOMERY: Nova Scotia is in a very interesting position. From an imperial perspective. This is because if you look at a map of shipping routes of the very practical ways in which folks got from Europe to North America, all of the Northern routes, go right past Nova Scotia, they either go past sort of along what we call the South Shore, and then down the eastern seaboard, or they go around Cape Breton into the St. Lawrence Seaway. So it's seen as and is incredibly strategically important. Because the idea is that if you can control the space, there is a sense in which you can also control shipping, you have a greater control of the way every European or Northern European enters into this space. So it's tremendously strategically geographically important just because of where it is.

AMBUSKE: This new Nova Scotia would be led by a governor and provincial council, all appointed and paid by the crown, and not by taxes levied by a provincial assembly. Halifax and the Board of Trade wanted to ensure that the governor and other officials did not become creatures of local politicians. For Halifax, creating a coherent empire meant keeping their eyes fixed on the imperial interest.

AMBUSKE: To plant this new colony, Halifax and the Board of Trade recruited roughly 2,500 people with the promise of land grants. Most of them were demobilized soldiers and sailors who had served in King George’s War. In 1749, they sailed for Chebucto, the Mi’kmaq name for the natural harbor in the center of Nova Scotia’s southeast coast, where they began building a new town called Halifax – named for the earl.

MONTGOMERY: So the plan is they are going to found this new capital city, Halifax, where there previously had been from European perspective, nothing. And then they are going to create a series of strategically located townships, sort of amongst Acadian populations. As part of this idea that they could kind of naturally overwhelm the French settler population is this idea that like, trying to deport them is messy, I guess we can't just kill them all. So what we're going to do is we're going to harness the incredible power of fertile Protestant families to out breed them. So we're going to see them strategically within these existing populations. And through just magic Protestant power, they will become dominant, they will take over control will we will naturally have a settler population that will be loyal to us.

AMBUSKE: But the settlement of Nova Scotia did not go as planned.

MONTGOMERY: This does not work. It may shock you to know that this is in fact an almost immediate failure to such a degree that it's even difficult to realize that that was the plan in the first place. Instead, what ends up happening is Halifax is founded with a lot of grumbling.

AMBUSKE: The British recruited few women for the first wave of settlement, making it difficult for that magical Protestant power to have its intended reproductive effect. Women arrived in greater numbers beginning in 1750 when the government sent German Protestants to the colony, but few of them were unmarried, leaving the demobilized British soldiers and sailors mostly out of luck.

AMBUSKE: To lead the new colony, the king appointed an army officer named Edward Cornwallis.

MONTGOMERY: Edward Cornwallis, who's sort of a mid level government figure he was fresh off of terrorizing Highlanders after the Jacobite Rising. And he just hates everything about this.

MONTGOMERY: I would say even by 18th century standards, he's a real piece of work.

MONTGOMERY: All of his letters are him complaining about all of the folks that are in Halifax is like, there's so poor, they don't even have shoes, it's gross. I hate looking at them, I had to make them work harder. And then he also is just openly genocidal towards Mi’kmaq.

AMBUSKE: Indigenous communities challenged British claims to their land, the settlement of Halifax, and British plans to expand beyond it.

MONTGOMERY: The Mi’kmaq are highly resistant to this because this is in fact in violation of treaties previously signed with the British where they had promised not to develop new towns, at least without consultation. And so they are successfully blocked from doing anything like this.

AMBUSKE: Violence erupted between the Mi’kmaq and the new settlement, with Governor Cornwallis offering a bounty for Mi’kmaq scalps in hopes of driving them from the peninsula. 

MONTGOMERY: Halifax does get founded. And rather than creating this string of townships throughout the most fertile and agricultural useful areas of the peninsula, they are able to found one additional Township, which is Lunenburg, which is essentially on top of a existing Mi’kmaq and Acadian village or Mirliguèche. But that's it.

AMBUSKE: The Earl of Halifax’s increasingly expensive model colony was floundering when the Seven Years’ War broke out in the mid-1750s. The renewed conflict with the French, however, offered the British a convenient excuse to deal with the Acadian population. Many Catholic French Acadians refused to swear allegiance to the Protestant British king, and the British remained fearful of the support they might offer to Fortress Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island.

AMBUSKE: On July 28, 1755, Nova Scotia’s Lieutenant Governor, Charles Lawrence, and the colony’s Provincial Council ordered the expulsion of the Acadians.

MONTGOMERY: The French population, the Acadians, about 10,000 plus strong, are wholesale rounded up and deported by the British government, which was a catastrophe for a number of reasons. From a sheer level of humanity. You can imagine it was it was horrible. Many, many people died. Many people were forced to live in terrible conditions. People obviously lost their homes en mass.

AMBUSKE: The Acadians remembered this period as The Great Derangement. In the months and years that followed the expulsion order, Acadians were dispersed throughout the rest of British America. Some were sent to Britain and France. Others resettled in French Louisiana where in time, they would become known as “Cajuns.”

MONTGOMERY: But it was also an economic disaster. They had deported the only population that was producing European goods. They were the only folks there that were doing large scale provisional farming. They were the only folks there that were fully and actively participating in a European economic system on the way that you need someone to be in order to run a colony.

AMBUSKE: British Nova Social might have faltered because of poor planning, conflict with the Mi’kmaq, and the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, but it never entirely failed. More importantly:

MONTGOMERY: This dream, this vision of creating a Protestant, colonized, Nova Scotia becomes the principal driving light for the rest of the 18th century and into the 19th century when it comes to Nova Scotia.

AMBUSKE: Despite setbacks in Nova Scotia, the spirit of Lord Halifax’s vision for British America endured. The Seven Years’ War only confirmed his worst fears. Like the New Englander’s assault on Fortress Louisbourg in 1745, the outbreak of violence in the Ohio Country in 1754 was in his mind a direct result of too little imperial oversight from London and too much self-interest on the part of the colonists. Fred Anderson explains why:

ANDERSON: For example, controlling Indian relations, centrally, which no one else has ever had, they've simply let Indian relations be the province of the governors of the various colonies. Halifax believes by 1750, certainly by 1752, that that's not necessarily a good idea. And that, in that the intrusion of these Pennsylvania traders into the Ohio Valley in 1752, to establish trading posts as far west as nearly what's now the border with Indiana in the Ohio Valley, I mean that these people are dangerous to the British imperial stability, he wants to control that kind of activity. Well, by the time he realizes that this needs to be done, and it starts thinking about Indian trade is something that needs to be controlled. The whole system has been blown up by this by this unstable set of relationships, in trans Appalachian West in the area, where neither the French or the British can claim real direct control. So it's Halifax’s view that you need some kind of unity among the various colonies, or everything will turn into a nightmare of disorder and make the British imperial system in North America vulnerable to disruption at will by the French. So he's thinking big, and he's thinking about policy. And he's thinking about diminishing the autonomy of British colonies, in areas where the British colonists are used to thinking of themselves as being in charge.

ANDERSON: Now, the Seven Years’ War intervenes, because Halifax thinks he didn't have a chance to prevent this by creating administrative coherence, before it all blew up. But he's still thinking about this. And when the war finally the Seven Years War is finally concluded, in 1763, he's still in government he's more powerful than he was before because he's older and he's better connected.

 AMBUSKE: By May 1763, when the Earl of Egremont sent the Board of Trade questions meant to guide the future development of British America, Halifax was no longer a member of the board. A year earlier, the king had appointed him Secretary of State for the Northern Department, the minister in charge of British relations with northern Europe. The Earl of Shelburne had become the board’s president. But that change in position really didn’t matter. Halifax’s influence and commitment to the imperial interest infused every aspect of Egremont’s questions and the Board’s answers.

AMBUSKE: In keeping with their instructions, the Board under Shelburne’s leadership approached British America from a continental perspective, one that took into account the new colonies as well as the old. The Board consulted with Britons knowledgeable about American affairs, including some who had served in the colonies. More than sixty pieces of advice in the form of reports, recommendations, maps, letters, and journals survive in Shelburne’s papers. None were more important or influential than the works of two men, Henry Ellis and William Knox. Both were protégés of Halifax.

AMBUSKE: Ellis and Knox were of Irish descent. In the late 1750s, Halifax engineered Ellis’ appointment as governor of Georgia. Once he was settled in the capital of Savannah, Ellis negotiated a border between the province and the Creek nation, and instituted new land policies designed to make Georgia more productive for the empire. Knox served under Ellis as the colony’s provost marshal. In Georgia, Knox acquired a plantation and enslaved people, and he came to share Ellis’s view that British America was a land of disorder.

AMBUSKE: By 1763, Ellis and Knox were back in London, and were part of a cadre of ministers and former colonial officials who were advising the Board of Trade on the future of British America.

 AMBUSKE: In separate, and unsurprisingly similar, essays, Ellis and Knox urged the Board to create a more rationalized colonial system. They called for the conquered territories to be organized into colonies with clearly defined boundaries to prevent the competition that had plagued older provinces like Virginia and Pennsylvania, who were often at odds over where the one began and the other ended. Provincial rivalries worked against the common imperial good. They argued that the government should impose a barrier to western migration, to keep settlers facing east toward the Mother Country, instead of gazing west, where they might become Britain's political and economic competitors.

AMBUSKE: Just over a month after the Earl of Egremont sent his queries, the Board of Trade completed its assignment. The Board drew on the arguments of Ellis, Knox, and others to supply Egremont and George III with an extensive report that pointed to a prosperous future in North America, if properly managed and regulated.

AMBUSKE: The king’s subjects might grow indigo, silk, and cotton in Florida; ply the fisheries off the coast of Nova Scotia; harvest Canadian lumber for the Royal Navy’s needs; and with the French gone, they could take command of the fur trade with native peoples.

AMBUSKE: But what shape would these colonies take? As conquered territories, all lands ceded by the French and Spanish fell under George III’s royal prerogative, giving the crown considerable authority to develop new colonies, and control over any remaining unorganized lands.

AMBUSKE: The Board advocated for dividing Florida into two colonies - East and West Florida. And it called for Cape Breton Island and St. John’s Island, both formerly part of New France, to be annexed to Nova Scotia.

AMBUSKE: To govern the new colonies, these Board recommended Halifax’s chosen model for Nova Scotia:

BOARD OF TRADE (ROBBINS): “With respect to the Form of each of these Governments, We are of Opinion, that in regard to their being Infant Settlements the most suitable will be that of a Governor and Council, by Your Majesty’s Commission, with Instructions adapted to the most quick and speedy Settlement of these Countries.”

AMBUSKE: The governors and councils of the new colonies would draw their salaries from the crown, and not from their future provincial assemblies, to prevent local concerns from corrupting their loyalty to the king’s interests. British regiments would be sent to defend the colonies against lingering Indigenous and French threats until the provinces were capable of raising their own militias. 

AMBUSKE: Soldiers and sailors were critical in another regard. As they considered how best to populate the new provinces, the Board drew inspiration from Halifax’s earlier scheme to settle Nova Scotia by offering land grants to demobilized servicemen:

BOARD OF TRADE (ROBBINS): “We cannot help offering it as Our humble Opinion that the utmost Attention should immediately be given to the Speedy Settlement of this Tract of Country and that Instructions be prepared for Your Majesty’s Governor for that purpose, with particular regard to such Officers & Soldiers who have served so faithfully & bravely during the late War…”

AMBUSKE: But the North American interior was a much more vexing problem.

AMBUSKE: The Board’s report reflected Halifax, Ellis, and Knox’s collective view that the territory roughly west of the Appalachian Mountains was a potential flash point for violence. It was inherently unstable. The late war had made that very clear. Reports from Sir William Johnson communicated the unease and distrust that many Indigenous nations felt since New France’s surrender, and British officials in the older colonies struggled to enforce treaties that forbid white settlement over the mountains.


AMBUSKE: And when the Board sent its report to Egremont on June 5, 1763, its members had no idea that Fort Detroit lay under siege by Pontiac and his allied warriors, or that Fort Michilimackinac had fallen to Ojibwe and Saux peoples.

AMBUSKE: Max Edelson, a professor of History at the University of Virginia, explains:

MAX EDELSON: One of the great concerns for the Board of Trade and the British government in this moment was the expansion of territorial settlement into the interior of North America, it was hard to defend a big frontier, encroaching settlers caused conflict with Native Americans.

AMBUSKE: From London, the Board drew on Knox’s and Elllis’s arguments to frame the problem as one of overpopulation, rampant speculation that drove up land prices, and governors who were under the influence of local elites.

BOARD OF TRADE (ROBBINS):: “Nothing is more certain than that many of Your Majesty’s ancient Colonies appeared to be overstock’d with Inhabitants, occasioned partly from an extremely increasing Population in some of those Colonies, whose Boundaries had become too narrow for their Numbers, but chiefly by the Monopoly of Lands in the Hands of Land Jobbers from the extravagant injudicious Grants made by some of Your Majesty’s Governors, whereby a great many of Your Majesty’s industrious Subjects were either forced into Manufactures, being excluded from planting by the high Price of Land…or forced to emigrate to the other Side of the Mountains, where they were exposed to the Irruptions of the Indians as well as the Hostilities of the French.”

AMBUSKE: The acquisition of Canada and the Floridas could help alleviate this problem. In an ideal world, settlers who couldn’t find land in the older colonies would move north or south to the new provinces. And by offering land grants in these places, the government could direct the colonial process.

EDELSON: Part of the new plan was not only to make available these new tracts of land closer to the coast in new colonies, to redirect the flow of that settlement toward those lands and away from the interior where those settlers did more harm than good according to Imperial planners.

AMBUSKE: British settlers would do the Lord’s work in other ways as well. Matthew Dziennik, Associate Professor of History at the United States Naval Academy, tells us how:

MATTHEW DZIENNIK: What's often forgotten about this is that it's actually more to encourage settlers not to continue their journey into the interior, but to gravitate to the margins, particularly Quebec and Florida. Because these are two places that the British Empire has secured through the Seven Years War. And these are two places where the predominant religion is Catholicism. And for 18th century Britons, the idea of having to manage an empire that includes large number of Catholics forces many people in positions of authority in Britain to kind of rethink their priorities on religion on governance. And one of the things that are trying to do is ensure a kind of Irish solution to the problem of Quebec and Florida, which is to throw a bunch of Protestant settlers in there.

AMBUSKE: Lord Halifax’s Nova Scotia stood to play a key role in the grander scheme of things. Here’s Alexandra Montgomery.

MONTGOMERY: Nova Scotia actually has a lot in common with Florida, sort of perversely, in this moment, in that both are coastal regions, on the Atlantic on these shipping routes, that do not have a large existing settler population. These are seen as, if anywhere in the empire should be developed. These are the regions because these are the ones that are on the water. These are the ones that are most suited to this vision of empire.

MONTGOMERY: But it's kind of like the war ends and this is Nova Scotia’s moment. Everything has finally aligned for this is the moment where we are finally going to fulfill Halifax's dreams. We're finally going to get those townships, we're finally going to get a stable white settler population

AMBUSKE: Routing settlers to Nova Scotia and the Floridas also served another crucial purpose.

MONTGOMERY: People are very, especially on the British side and the British government, suspicious of ideas about creating interior colonies. The idea being if you let people go to Ohio, God forbid, they're never going to come back. They're too far away from shipping routes, they're going to start manufacturing things or weaving flax. And they're just going to become their own little independent polity and you can't get them back. So instead, what we want is to keep our white settlers on the coasts, and wouldn't you know it, we've got these two grid spaces, we've got Florida, we got Nova Scotia, this is where we should be sending folks this is where we should be encouraging folks to go.

AMBUSKE: The reformers believed that if they permitted western settlement, it would break the bonds between wayward British Americans and the home government. London would struggle to maintain its authority over such interior settlements, and defending them would be expensive. Their distance from Atlantic markets would by necessity compel these colonists to manufacture their own goods, to the possible disadvantage of British industry.

AMBUSKE: Lord Halifax’s dream of a coherent empire would be nothing but a pleasant fiction.

AMBUSKE: Most importantly, the government was keen to prevent future bloodshed between white settlers, who coveted lands in the Ohio Country, and Indigenous peoples, who were determined to defend their sovereignty. The Board wanted to ensure that trade continued between Indigenous peoples and British colonists, while also creating fairer rules to govern future negotiations with native nations. 

AMBUSKE: But these plans could only work if the government imposed more stringent regulations to stop colonists from moving west.

AMBUSKE: That was easier said than done. Two versions of the same map help us to understand why. 

AMBUSKE: In 1755, cartographer Emanuel Bowen published An accurate Map of North America. Describing and distinguishing the British, Spanish and French dominions on this great continent; exhibiting the present seat of war, and the French encroachments.

AMBUSKE: Bowen’s map depicted a tense geography. The Welshman used yellow to shade the British colonies and show the extent of British settlement at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. New France and Louisiana appear in a powder blue, but not with borders the French would have recognized. Bowen placed the boundary of Louisiana beyond the Mississippi River, and that of New France above the Great Lakes. In the space between the British and the French, Bowen used light pink to show a contested area that both powers claimed.

AMBUSKE: And in a not so subtle nod to Britain’s ambitions and the boundaries described in the old colonial charters, Bowen inscribed the map with the names of colonies like Virginia and North Carolina in capital letters, and stretched them from the Atlantic coast to beyond the Mississippi River.

AMBUSKE: Eight years later, Bowen revised his map and gave it a new title: An accurate map of North America. Describing and distinguishing the British, Spanish and French dominions on this great continent; according to the definitive treaty concluded at Paris 10th Feby. 1763.

AMBUSKE: It depicted the new mainland and Caribbean territories the British had acquired by the terms of the treaty, and it used shades of yellow, pink, and green to depict the borders of the older colonies.

AMBUSKE: Those borders no longer passed beyond the Mississippi River, as they once had on older maps. The Treaty of Paris established the river as the western border of British America, overriding the land claims written into old colonial charters, like Virginia’s, and challenging the sovereignty of Indigenous nations. 

AMBUSKE: The Board of Trade imagined what Bowen visualized: If settlers flocked west into lands the British claimed on paper, but in reality hardly controlled, then what once had been a perilous space between empires could become a site of internal turmoil.

AMBUSKE: The territory between the mountains and the Mississippi River would have to be dealt with. For the Board, that meant George III should adopt:

BOARD OF TRADE (ROBBINS): “… the general proposition of leaving a large Tract of Country round the great Lakes as an Indian Country, open to Trade, but not to Grants and Settlements, the Limits of such Territory will be sufficiently ascertained by the Bounds to be given to the Governors of Canada and Florida on the North and South, and the Mississippi on the West; and by the strict Directions to be given to Your Majesty’s several Governors of Your ancient Colonies for preventing their making any new Grants of Lands beyond certain fixed Limits to be laid down in the Instructions for that purpose.”

AMBUSKE: What those “certain fixed Limits” were, would require an army of surveyors and cartographers to map out.

AMBUSKE: In July 1763, George III accepted almost all of the Board of Trade’s recommendations. The king made adjustments here and there, as befitting a man who obsessed over details, and who cared deeply about the importance of the empire to the crown and the nation. He asked its members for additional thoughts on Canada, but the board’s blueprint for British America remained largely intact.

AMBUSKE: Ironically, the Earl of Egremont informed the Board of the king’s satisfaction on July 14th, just one day after the first reports of Pontiac’s War began appearing in London newspapers.

AMBUSKE: Word of the Indigenous uprising in North America injected the Board’s work with a greater sense of urgency.

AMBUSKE: By early August, Egremont had received reports from General Jeffrey Amherst himself. What Amherst initially described as simply “the mischief the Indians were doing” had become much more serious. Amherst’s own journals reveal a commander-in-chief struggling to respond to assaults on outposts like Forts Pitt and Detroit, attacks that were part of a coordinated Indigenous revolt that seemingly had come out of nowhere.

AMBUSKE: To Egremont and the king, it was becoming clear that the violence was spinning out of control.

AMBUSKE: On August 5th, the Board of Trade urged the king to implement the proposed reforms, by arguing that:

BOARD OF TRADE (ROBBINS): “... a Proclamation be immediately issued by Your Majesty as well on Account of the late Complaints of the Indians, and the actual Disturbances in Consequence, as of Your Majesty’s fixed Determination to permit no grant of Lands nor any settlements to be made within certain fixed Bounds, under pretence of Purchase or any other Pretext whatever, leaving all that Territory within it free for the hunting Grounds of those Indian Nations Subjects of Your Majesty, and for the free trade of all your Subjects, to prohibit strictly all Infringements or Settlements to be made on such Grounds.”

AMBUSKE: That same day, the Board’s members dispatched a letter to Sir William Johnson in New York, informing him that they had entreated the king to prevent settlers from moving west into Indian Country

AMBUSKE: In mid-August, Egremont informed Amherst that the king had granted the general’s request to return home for the coming winter. Egremont expressed confidence in Amherst’s abilities, though he made no attempt to mask his horror at the reports of Pontiac’s war.

EGREMONT (ROBBINS): “The King has seen with great concern the accounts you give…of the savage and unprovoked behaviour of the Indians by which several of His Majesty’s subjects have already suffered, and it is to be feared that many more may have been victims to their horrid Barbarities before you can be able to put a stop to thereto.”

AMBUSKE:  Amherst was instructed not to leave the colonies until there was some measure of quiet in North America. That would not come until November, after Indigenous warriors had abandoned their sieges of Forts Pitt and Detroit to turn to the winter hunt.

AMBUSKE: It was one of Egremont’s last letters. The task of overseeing the drafting of the king’s proclamation should have fallen to him, but Death had other ideas. The fifty-three-year-old Secretary of State for the Southern Department died on August 21st.

AMBUSKE: In his place, George III appointed the Earl of Halifax. Here’s Fred Anderson:

ANDERSON: Halifax is operating on the same set of concerns in 1763. That he was developing 15 years earlier, in the aftermath of King George's war. Halifax wants coherence.

ANDERSON: So, what's to do well, Halifax becomes a great engineer then of Imperial policies to create coherence after the Seven Years’ War n a context then of an Indian uprising in the interior. Halifax from his new position of authority, the Secretary of State for the southern department, he orders drafted the proclamation of 1763, which forbids among other things, European white British settlers from crossing the Appalachians and settling in the interior on Indian land.

AMBUSKE: In the weeks that followed, Halifax and the Board of Trade worked to draft what became the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763. In our own time, proclamations are often little more than ceremonial pronouncements with no real meaning, but in the eighteenth century, a king’s proclamation was law.

AMBUSKE: The Proclamation of 1763 embodied almost everything Halifax had worked for since the 1740s. Max Edelson explains.

EDELSON: The proclamation first and foremost was a legal definition of the new colonies and established a path so that they could be self-sufficient self-governing colonies. So it wasn't as if Britain was envisioning places like the island of Grenada or British East Florida, as kind of societies that wouldn't have representative democracy. But they sought to impose greater imperial control in these new places. So they define them, really in the first instance territorially, as places that would be easier to control from London.

AMBUSKE: The proclamation made real on maps what the Board of Trade had recommended on paper. It formerly created East and West Florida, attached Cape Breton Island and St. John’s Island to Nova Scotia, defined the boundaries of Quebec, reorganized the government of Grenada, and adjusted the borders of Georgia.

AMBUSKE: The new colonies would be administered solely by governors and provincial councils appointed and paid by the crown, until their populations warranted the creation of legislative assemblies.

AMBUSKE: To reward British soldiers and sailors for their service in North America during the Seven Years’ War, the king offered demobilized veterans land grants in the colonies on a graded scale, ranging from 5,000 acres for field officers to 50 acres for privates. Sailors like James Bruce would use the king’s gift to claim lands in the colony of West Florida, where in the years to come he would begin building a new life with his wife Isabella Chrystie and their enslaved West Africans, whom they called Glasgow, Caithness, and Aberdeen.

AMBUSKE: In keeping with Halifax’s strategy from 15 years earlier, the land grants were a means to settle the new colonies, and establish a more loyal population in British America who were willing to defend the interests of the king who had made their settlement in America possible.

EDELSON: The other aspect of the proclamation of 1763 is this control of land in the interior. Britain had already reorganize the way it dealt with Indian nations diplomatically. Previously, Native Americans could sell their land to individual colonists. They tended to negotiate directly with colonial governors on a case by case basis. And this was now formally ended in the around the era of the proclamation of 1763. Now, there were official Indian superintendents, one for the North and one for the South, who were the ultimate authority when it came to negotiation with Native Americans. It was forbidden for Native Americans to sell land piecemeal to individual colonists, that all had to be done at a formal diplomatic meeting, so that the British could assure the Indians that they would be treated fairly and that Britain was not going to endorse a process of dispossession by treaty, as some historians have called it, where Indian land would be taken bit by bit, but over time, so the proclamation of 1763 codified new rules for the development of colonies. It codified the power of the British officials in Indian country. And it laid a legal basis for how all these schemes were going to be developed.

AMBUSKE: Of the Proclamation’s roughly 2,000 words, almost 40% of the king’s commands address Indigenous affairs. George III claimed under his “Sovereignty, Protection, and Dominion,” all the lands “lying to the Westward of the Sources of the Rivers which fall into the Sea.” These lands were now reserved for Indigenous peoples. It was, as Halifax and the Board of Trade had written for the king:

GEORGE III (ROBBINS):  “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.”

AMBUSKE: The proclamation defined Indigenous peoples living under the king’s protection as distinct from his British subjectsBut whether these native nations, many of whom were at that very moment waging war against the British in the Ohio Country, remained sovereign in their own right, the proclamation left unresolved.

AMBUSKE: Nevertheless, the king forbade colonial governors from making land grants beyond “the Sources of the Rivers which fall into the Sea.” British Americans who envisioned transforming the fertile Ohio Valley into an agricultural paradise, didn’t need a map to know that the injunction applied to the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains.


ANDERSON: Which the colonists are appalled by. Because, they see this as an intrusion into their rights, and their ability to shape their own futures. Halifax, sees none of that as relevant, because what he's doing is trying to create a stable North America.

ANDERSON: And that's a kind of Imperial thinking, with the Metropolitan emphasis and policy coherence that just scares the devil out of North American colonists who see it as tyranny or perhaps heading their way.

AMBUSKE: “God Save The King.”


AMBUSKE: Two-hundred-sixty years after William Shakespeake wrote his Hamlet, Robert Rogers gave the world his Ponteach, or the Savages of America: A Tragedy.

AMBUSKE: By 1766, Rogers was a veteran soldier and a well-known author in Great Britain. During the Seven Years’ War, the New Hampshire-born colonist had taught British officers such as Lord George Howe how to wage war in the American woods. His company of men, known as Rogers Rangers, had served with distinction during that war, and Rogers later fought to relieve Fort Detroit from Pontaic’s siege in the summer of 1763.

AMBUSKE: After publishing two widely regarded books on the history of North America and his experiences during the Seven Years’ War, Rogers tried his hand at playwriting.

AMBUSKE: In early 1766, Rogers published his Tragedy in London. His fictional Pontiac is one that some of his contemporaries would have recognized – an Indigenous leader angered by the intrusion of white settlers over the mountains and British officials who failed to keep their promises. It is a dark play full of despair, one that the world quickly forgot.

AMBUSKE: Rogers’s Tragedy was never put on stage. It received horrid reviews in the London press. The Monthly Review called it “one of the most absurd productions of the kind we have seen.” The Gentleman’s Magazine condemned its vulgar language and murderous plot.

AMBUSKE: Who could blame them? Despite recent protests in the colonies over a stamp tax, the future of British America and the Empire seemed bright. Rogers’ play foretold otherwise.

AMBUSKE: In the opening scene of the second act, Rogers offered his readers a debate between Ponteach’s two fictional sons over the meaning of British victory in the war and their hopes for peace. In perhaps a veiled reference to the Proclamation of 1763, one son claims “Now may we hunt the Wilds secure from Foes.”

AMBUSKE: His brother was less certain.

AMBUSKE: "Happy Effects indeed! Long may they last!

But I suspect the Term will be but short,

Ere this our happy Realm is curs’d afresh

With all the Noise and Miseries of War,

And Blood and Murder stain our Land again."

AMBUSKE: Thanks for listening to Worlds Turned Upside Down. Worlds is a production of R2 Studios, part of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

AMBUSKE:  I’m your host, Jim Ambuske.

AMBUSKE: This episode was made possible by the support of the John Carter Brown Library, an independent research library located on the campus of Brown University. Head to for a complete transcript of today’s episode and suggestions for further reading.

AMBUSKE:  Worlds is researched and written by me with additional research, writing, and script editing by Jeanette Patrick.

AMBUSKE: Jeanette Patrick and I are the Executive Producers. Grace Mallon is our British Correspondent.

AMBUSKE:  Our lead audio editor is Curt Dahl of CD Squared.

AMBUSKE:  Rachel Birch, Amber Pelham, and Alexandra Miller are our graduate assistants.

AMBUSKE: Our thanks to Fred Anderson, Matthew Dziennik, Max Edelson, and Alexandra Montgomery for sharing their expertise with us in this episode.

AMBUSKE: Thanks also to our voice actors Grace Mallon and Beau Robbins.

AMBUSKE:  Special thanks to Sarah Doneslon and Lynn Price Robbins.

AMBUSKE:  Subscribe to Worlds on your favorite podcast app. Thanks, and we’ll see you next time.




Fred Anderson, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Fred Anderson, Ph.D.

Professor of History Emeritus | University of Colorado-Boulder

Fred Anderson received his B.A. with Highest Distinction from Colorado State University in 1971 and his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1981. He taught at Harvard and at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His publications include Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 (2000) and, with Andrew Cayton, The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America,1500-2000 (2005).

Alexandra Montgomery, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Alexandra Montgomery, Ph.D.

Alexandra L. Montgomery is the Manager of the Center for Digital History at the Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon. She holds a PhD in early American history from the University of Pennsylvania. When she is not wrangling digital projects about George Washington, her work focuses on the role of the state and settler colonialism in the eighteenth century, particularly in the far northeast.

Matthew Dziennik, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Matthew Dziennik, Ph.D.

Professor of History | United States Naval Academy

Matthew Dziennik is an historian of the eighteenth-century British Empire and received his PhD from the University of Edinburgh in 2011. He is the author of The Fatal Land: War, Empire, and the Highland Soldier in British America (Yale University Press, 2015) as well as over 20 articles and chapters on the history of the Scottish Highlands and the wider history of Britain's global expansion. His current project explores the recruitment of Indigenous peoples into the ranks of the British military in the Age of Revolutions.

S. Max Edelson, Ph.D. Profile Photo

S. Max Edelson, Ph.D.

Professor of History | University of Virginia

S. Max Edelson teaches the history of early America, digital humanities, and the history of cartography at the University of Virginia. He received his PhD from Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina and The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence. His current research explores mapping and empire in early English America.

Grace Mallon, Ph.D. Profile Photo

Grace Mallon, Ph.D.

Kinder Junior Research Fellow | University of Oxford

Grace Mallon is a historian of the early American republic. She is currently the Kinder Junior Research Fellow in Atlantic History at the University of Oxford.

Beau Robbins Profile Photo

Beau Robbins

Historical Interpreter

Beau Robbins is an historical interpreter, speaker, consultant and model for historical artists. He is also an historical tailor and mantua maker, bringing to life fashions of the past for other interpreters and museums, specializing in the 18-19th centuries. He has performed at historical sites and events throughout the US including national and state parks, as well as private venues and film. Through specialized programming, valuable and informative content can be brought to your classroom, event, symposium or meeting.