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This Day in Georgia History

October 07, 1763

Proclamation of 1763 Issued

King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763, which would affect Georgia’s external and internal boundaries. The Proclamation of 1763’s impact on colonial boundaries is sometimes misunderstood. By 1763, the official boundaries of British colonies were set by treaties and royal charters, commissions, proclamations, and other documents issued by the king. British policy in America was to first establish a political claim for a particular region in light of rival European powers, and then to negotiate actual internal boundaries through treaties with the different Indian tribes living on the land. This meant there were two types of colonial boundaries: (1) official boundaries to be defended from rival claims by other European powers, and (2) internal boundaries negotiated with Indian inhabitants to determine where white settlement would be permitted. The Proclamation of 1763 made changes to both types of boundaries. With respect to Georgia’s official boundaries, the proclamation expanded Georgia’s southern boundary by giving the colony all lands between the Altamaha and St. Marys rivers. Previously, the Altamaha had served as Georgia’s southern boundary. On Feb. 10, 1763, in the Treaty of Paris ending the French and Indian War, Britain had relinquished its claims to any territory west of the Mississippi River. So, the impact of the Proclamation of 1763 was to set Georgia’s official southern boundary as the St. Marys River from its mouth to the headwaters, then north to the Altamaha River, then north to the headwaters of that river, and then westward to the Mississippi River. Georgia’s northern boundary was the Savannah River from its mouth to its headwaters, then westward to the Mississippi River. The proclamation created four new British colonies. Two of these - East Florida and West Florida - were located south of Georgia. Between the two Floridas and Georgia was a vast area of undesignated territory. Three months after the Proclamation of 1763, on Jan. 20, 1764, King George III would redefine Georgia’s boundaries giving Georgia all the territory that had been undesignated by his October 7 proclamation. Five months later, on June 6, 1764, King George III would again redefine Georgia’s boundaries - this time by expanding West Florida’s northern boundary. These would be Georgia’s official boundaries through the end of the American Revolution. The Proclamation of 1763 also affected the internal boundaries open to land grants and settlement in Georgia and most sister colonies. The document established the Eastern Continental Divide as the western-most boundary for granting land in Britain’s Americans colonies. The Eastern Continental Divide is the roughly north-south line marking the ultimate headwaters of any river (including tributaries) that empties into the Atlantic Ocean. For most of the American colonies, the highest crest of the Appalachian Mountains marked the Eastern Continental Divide and served as the western limit for white settlement, with all lands to the west reserved to the Indians living there. However, the Appalachian Mountains only extend into the northern section of Georgia. From there, the Eastern Continental Divide travels southward through Georgia along a line east of the Chattahoochee, Flint, and Alapaha river basins to the head of the St. Marys River.

Image of Proclamation of 1763 Issued View large image
Source: Georgia Boundaries: The Making of a State