The Seven Years’ War
The Seven Years’ War (1756-63) was the first global war, fought in America, Europe, India and at sea. In North America, imperial rivals Britain and France struggled for supremacy. With the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France formally ceded Canada to the British. This was a crucial turning point in Canadian history.
Royal Proclamation, 1763
This was a document that set out guidelines for European settlement of Aboriginal territories in what is now North America. It was initially issued by King George III in 1763 to officially claim British territory in North America after Britain won the Seven Years War. In the Royal Proclamation, ownership over North America is issued to King George. However, the document explicitly states that Aboriginal title has existed and continues to exist, and that all land would be considered Aboriginal land until ceded by treaty. The Proclamation forbade settlers from claiming land from the Aboriginal occupants, unless it has been first bought by the Crown and then sold to the settlers. The Royal Proclamation further sets out that only the Crown can buy land from First Nations. (indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca)
News of the Royal Proclamation reached Sir William Johnson, Superintendent for Indian Affairs, in December 1763. He immediately sent word of its provisions to all of the First Nation people of the interior of North America and invited former allies to a special assembly of first Nation representatives at Fort Niagara in July 1764. At Fort Niagara, Johnson met with these First Nations, estimated to be 20,000 people, and extended the Covenant Chain to all. This offering was made to renew the relationship with First Nation allies and to form new alliances with the former allies of France.
Fort Niagara (on the American side of the river) was originally built by New France to protect its interests in North America. On July 25, 1759 the French surrendered Fortress and its garrison to the British. It served as the Loyalist base in New York during the American Revolutionary War for Colonel John Butler and his Butler’s Rangers. Niagara became notorious for drinking, brawling, whoring and cheating. Crude taverns, stores and bordellos sprouted on “the Bottom”, the riverside flat below the fort. After the Jay treaty American forces occupied the fort in 1796.
The following letter was written on August 9, 1759 from Fort Niagara by Sir William Lee, an officer in Johnson’s army, to General Bunberry.
“The situation of this place and the country round it are certainly most magnificent. It (the fort) stands on Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Niagara River, eighteen miles from the great falls, the most stupendous cataract in the known world. Had I a throat of brass and a thousand tongues I might attempt to describe it, but without them it certainly beggars’ description. The country resembles Ickworth park, if not surpassing it. For an immense space round it is filled with deer, bears, turkeys, racoons, and in short, all sorts of game. The lake affords salmon and other excellent fish. But I am afraid you will think I am growing romantic. Therefore, I shall only say it is such a paradise and such an acquisition to our nation that I would not sacrifice it to receive the dominion of any one electoral prince in German from the hands of the enemy.”
The General features of this country had scarcely changed during the long occupation of the French. The trade routes were more active, but no settlement had been made nor the cultivation of the land as yet attempted.