tion. Back in England, controversy immediately arose over which of the two, the Crown or the American colonies, were to assume control of the Western territo- ries. As remarked by Clarence Carter in his work on Great Britain in Illinois, "No hint appears in the correspondance that the Ministry had any idea of the existence of the several thousand French inhabitants of the West." 2
Finally, the partisans of direct control of Illinois to be assumed from the seat of military government in Canada won out. The control of the Indian trade had been the major factor in the crown's decision.
It was not until December 30 1764, that General Thomas Gage, "Com- manding-in-Chief all the forces of His Majesty in North America, " issued a proclamation from his headquarters in New York which stipulated among other things,
Whereas, by the peace concluded in Paris on the 10th of Febru- ary, 1763, the country of Illinois has been ceded to His Britan- nic Majesty, ... we have found it good to make known to the in- habitants: That His Majesty grants to the inhabitants of the Illinois the lib- erty of the Catholic religion, as it has already been granted to His subjects in Canada;... That His Majesty, moreover, agrees that the French inhabitants, or others who have been subjects of the Most Christian King, may retire, in full safety and freedom, whereas they please, even to New Orleans, ... and transport their effects, as well as their person, without restraint upon their emi- gration,... That those who choose to retain their lands and become subjects of His Majesty, shall enjoy the same rights and privileges ... as the old subjects of the King; That they are commanded by these presents, to take the oath of fidelity and obediance to His Maj- esty, in presence of Sieur Sterling, Captain of the Highland Regiment, the bearer hereof, and furnished with our full powers for this purpose. 3
It was a sensible proclamation, meant to reassure. It remained, however, for Captain Stirling to be able to communicate its contents to the inhabitants themselves, a formidable task.
The extension of effective control over the western territories by the Brit- ish was long and difficult. The first officers sent to reconnoiter Illinois were lucky to have escaped with their lives from a journey in the midst of open Indian hostility brought about by the impending change in régime from French to Eng- lish.