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Living in the British empire - North America
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Extract from a government report written in 1836 commenting on relations between the British and the Native Americans
(Catalogue ref: T 64/393)
  • This extract comes from a long report written by Sir Francis Head. He was a senior British official in North America. Like all Europeans of the time, he describes the Native Americans as 'Indians'. When the first Europeans discovered America they were looking for India, which is why Native Americans were called Indians.
  • Sir Francis had been asked by the British government to see if he could find ways to cut the amount of money the government was spending in North America. One of the areas he was asked to cut was the amount spent on 'Presents' to Native Americans. The presents were usually guns and ammunition. In return, Native Americans generally kept the peace with British troops and settlers and behaved as loyal subjects of the British monarch.
  • Large numbers of Native Americans lived in the border areas between the USA and Canada. They did not recognise these borders and often travelled across them as they hunted and moved.
  • This extract gives some of Sir Francis's views. He is opposed to cutting spending. He sets out the arguments in favour of cutting spending and then the points against.
  • One feature that comes out from this source is the sympathy of Sir Francis towards the Native Americans. His attitude towards them is probably kinder than that of many other Britons. However, the Native Americans of British North America were loyal to Queen Victoria throughout her reign.
  • Another feature is that relations between the British and the Native Americans seem to be much better than relations between the USA and the Native Americans. Throughout the 19th century there was a steady stream of native Americans out of the USA and into British ruled Canada.
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