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Empire by TreatyNegotiating European Expansion, 1600-1900$
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Saliha Belmessous

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199391783

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199391783.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 November 2020

To “Clear the King’s and Indians’ Title”

To “Clear the King’s and Indians’ Title”

Seventeenth-Century Origins of North American Land Cession Treaties

(p.45) 3 To “Clear the King’s and Indians’ Title”
Empire by Treaty

Daniel K. Richter

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that the distinctive role of land cession treaties in the dispossession of indigenous people in the United States can be traced to historical circumstances in North America and England during the second half of the seventeenth century. Proprietary titles derived from the English Crown were confused, overlapping, and contested by colonists who rested their titles on grants from other colonial powers or on purchases from Native Americans. In practical terms European sovereign claims could seldom be enforced, but neither (in English law) could those derived from treaties of purchase. The imperfect solution that English proprietors of William Penn’s generation discovered was to bring the two sorts of claims together. In theory royal titles remained supreme, but those who held them henceforth had to use the treaty process to extinguish native claims before lands could be sold to settler-colonists.

Keywords:   land cession treaties, Native Americans, North America, Pennsylvania, Carolina, New Jersey, proprietary titles, seventeenth century, sovereign claims, William Penn

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