Sample of a Native Treaty

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Sample of a Native Treaty

INTRODUCTION In the last quarter of the nineteenth century Europeans became interested in acquiring colonies in Africa, including the interior; previously, their activities had been confined mostly to creating trading posts on the coasts of Africa, and a few settlements at the northern-most and southernmost ends of the continent.

In some cases, European governments took on colonial conquest and rule directly, but often they preferred to charter private companies to do this. This freed the European governments from the monetary costs of direct rule and from embarrassing questions about how that rule worked. Most of the merchants and financiers behind these companies were interested in either mining concessions or a variety of cash crops (especially in West Africa) such as cocoa and palm oil. To maximize their profits the companies tried to minimize their costs, which meant ruling either indirectly, through "native chiefs," or directly but in cooperation with them. Treaties such as the one below—a standard form used by the British Royal Niger Company during the 1880s and 1890s—were used to legalize such arrangements. Agreement was sometimes given voluntarily, particularly by chiefs seeking protection from rivals, but it was often procured through force, fraud, or both.

Over time, private companies gave way to formal colonial governments supervised by London or other European governments. However, these historical treaties are still important even today, sometimes serving as evidence in ongoing disputes about land ownership and sovereignty. ∎

We, the undersigned Chiefs of.............., with the view of bettering the condition of our country and people, do this day cede to the Royal Niger Company (Chartered and Limited), for ever, the whole of our territory extending from....................

We also give to the said Royal Niger Company (Chartered and Limited) full power to settle all native disputes arising from any cause whatever, and we pledge ourselves not to enter into any war with other tribes without the sanction of the said Royal Niger Company (Chartered and Limited).

We understand that the said Royal Niger Company (Chartered and Limited) have full power to mine, farm, and build in any portion of our country.

We bind ourselves not to have any intercourse [i.e., transactions or communications] with any strangers or foreigners except through the said Royal Niger Company (Chartered and Limited).

In consideration of the foregoing, the said Royal Niger Company (Chartered and Limited) bind themselves not to interfere with any of the native laws or customs of the country, consistently with the maintenance of order and good government

The said Royal Niger Company (Chartered and Limited) agree to pay native owners of land a reasonable amount for any portion they may require.

The said Royal Niger Company (Chartered and Limited) bind themselves to protect the said Chiefs from the attacks of any neighbouring aggressive tribes.

The said Royal Niger Company (Chartered and Limited) also agree to pay the said Chiefs..................... native value.

We, the undersigned witnesses, do hereby solemnly declare that the..................... Chiefs whose names are placed opposite their respective crosses have in our presence affixed their crosses of their own free will and consent, and that the said...................... has in our presence affixed his signature.

Done in triplicate at....................... this..................day of................., 188......

Declaration by Interpreter.

I,...................... of.................., do hereby solemnly declare that I am well acquainted with the language of the.......................... country, and that of the........day of........., 188....., I truly and faithfully explained the above Agreement to all the Chiefs present, and that they understood its meaning.

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Sample of a Native Treaty

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