Treaty between United States and Great Britain
for the Suppression of the Slave Trade 4/7/1862
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF
WHEREAS a treaty between the United States of America and her
Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
was concluded and signed by their respective Plenipotentiaries, at
the city of Washington, on the seventh day of April last, which
treaty is, word for word, as follows:
Treaty between the United States of America and her Majesty the
Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, for the
suppression of the African slave trade.
The United States of America and her Majesty the Queen of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, being desirous to render more
effectual the means hitherto adopted for the suppression of the
slave trade carried on upon the coast of Africa, have deemed it
expedient to conclude a treaty for that purpose, and have named as
their Plenipotentiaries, that is to say:
The President of the United States of America, William H. Seward,
Secretary of State;
And her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Ireland, the right honorable Richard Bickerton Pemell, Lord Lyons, a
peer of her United Kingdom, a knight grand cross of her most
honorable Order of the Bath, and her Envoy Extraordinary and
Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States of America;
Who, after having communicated to each other their respective full
powers, found in good and due form, have agreed upon and concluded
the following articles:
The two high contracting parties mutually consent that those ships
of their respective navies which shall be provided with special
instructions for that purpose, as hereinafter mentioned, may visit
such merchant vessels of the too nations as may, upon reasonable
grounds, be suspected of being engaged in the African slave trade,
or of having been fitted out for that purpose; or of having, during
the voyage on which they are met by the said cruisers, been engaged
in the African slave trade, contrary to the provisions of this
treaty; and that such cruisers may detain, and send or carry away,
such vessels, in order that they may be brought to trial in the
manner hereinafter agreed upon.
In order to fix the reciprocal right of search in such a manner as
shall be adapted to the attainment of the object of this treaty, and
at the same time avoid doubts, disputes, and complaints, the said
right of search shall be understood in the manner and according to
the rules following:
First. It shall never be exercised except by vessels of war,
authorized expressly for that object, according to the stipulations
of this treaty.
Secondly. The right of search shall in no case be exercised with
respect to a vessel of the navy of either of the two Powers, but
shall be exercised only as regards merchant-vessels; and it shall
not be exercised by a vessel of war of either contracting party
within the limits, of a settlement or port, nor within the
territorial waters of the other party.
Thirdly. Whenever a merchant-vessel is searched by a ship of war,
the commander of the said ship shall, in the act of so doing,
exhibit to the commander of the merchant-vessel the special
instructions by which he is duly authorized to search; and shall
deliver to such commander a certificate, signed by himself, stating
his rank in the naval set of his country, and the name of the vessel
he commands, and also declaring that the only object of the search
is to ascertain whether the vessel is employed in the African slave
trade, or is fitted up for the said trade. When the search is made
by an officer of the cruiser who is not the commander, such officer
shall exhibit to the captain of the merchant-vessel a copy of the
before-mentioned special instructions, signed by the commander of
the cruiser; and he shall in like manner deliver a certificate
signed by himself, stating his rank in the navy, the name of the
commander by whose orders he proceeds to make the search, that of
the cruiser in which he sails, and the object of the search, as
above described. If it appears from the search that the papers of
the vessel are in regular order, and that it is employed on lawful
objects, the officer shall enter in the log-book of the vessel that
the search has been made in pursuance of the aforesaid special
instructions, and the vessel shall be left at liberty to pursue its
voyage. The rank of the officer who makes the search must not be
less than that of lieutenant in the navy, unless the command, either
by reason of death or other cause, is at the time held by an officer
of inferior rank.
Fourthly. The reciprocal right of search and detention shall be
exercised only within the distance of two hundred miles from the
coast of Africa, and to the southward of the thirty-second parallel
of north latitude, and within thirty leagues from the coast of the
Island of Cuba.
In order to regulate the mode of carrying the provisions of the
preceding article into execution, it is agreed-
First. That all the ships of the navies of the two nations which
shall be hereafter employed to prevent the African slave trade shall
be furnished by their respective Governments with a copy of the
present treaty, of the instructions for cruisers annexed thereto,
(marked A,) and of the regulations for the mixed courts of justice
annexed thereto, (marked B.) which annexes respectively shall be
considered as integral parts of the present treaty.
Secondly. That each of the high contracting parties shall, from time
to time, communicate to the other the names of the several ships
furnished with such instructions, the force of each, and the names
of their several commanders. The said commanders shall hold the rank
of captain in the navy, or at least that of lieutenant; it being
nevertheless understood that the instructions originally issued to
an officer holding the rank of lieutenant of the navy, or other
superior rank, shall, in case of his death or temporary absence, be
sufficient to authorize the officer on whom the command of the
vessel has devolved to make the search, although such officer may
not hold the aforesaid rank in the service.
Thirdly. That if at any time the commander of a cruiser of either of
the two nations shall suspect that any merchant-vessel Elder the
escort or convoy of any ship or ships-of-war of the other nation
carries negroes on board, or has been engaged in the African slave
trade, or is fitted out for the purpose thereof, the commander of
the cruiser shall communicate his suspicions to the commander of the
convoy, who, accompanied by the commander of the cruiser, shall
proceed to the search of the suspected vessel; and in case the
suspicions appear well founded, according to the tenor of this
treaty, then the said vessel shall be conducted or sent to one of
the places where the mixed courts of justice are stationed, in order
that it may there be adjudicated upon.
Fourthly. It is further mutually agreed that the commanders of the
ships of the two navies, respectively, who shall be employed on this
service, shall adhere strictly to the exact tenor of the aforesaid
As the two preceding articles are entirely reciprocal, the two high
contracting parties engage mutually to make good any losses which
their respective subjects or citizens may incur by an arbitrary and
illegal detention of their vessels; it being understood that this
indemnity shall be borne by the Government whose cruiser shall have
been guilty of such arbitrary and illegal detention; and that the
search and detention of vessels specified in the first article of
this treaty shall be effected only by ships which may form part of
the two navies, respectively, and by such of those ships only as are
provided with the special instructions annexed to the present
treaty, in pursuance of the provisions thereof. The indemnification
for the damages of which this article treats shall be paid within
the term of one year, reckoning from the day in which the mixed
court of justice pronounces its sentence.
In order to bring to adjudication with as little delay and
inconvenience as possible, the vessels which may be detained
according to the tenor of the first article of this treaty, there
shall be established, as soon as may be practicable, three mixed
courts of justice, formed by an equal number of individuals of the
two nations, named for this purpose by their respective Governments.
These courts shall reside, one at Sierra Leone, one at the Cape of
Good Hope, and one at New York.
But each of the two high contracting parties reserves to itself the
right of changing, at its pleasure, the place of residence of the
court or courts held within its own territories.
These courts shall judge the causes submitted to them according to
the provisions of the present treaty, and according to the
regulations and instructions which are annexed to the present
treaty, and which are considered an integral part thereof; and there
shall be no appeal from their decision.
In case the commanding officer of any of the ships of the navies of
either country, duly commissioned according to the provisions of the
first article of this treaty, shall deviate in any respect from f
the stipulations of the said treaty, or from the instructions
annexed to it, the Government which shall conceive itself to be
wronged thereby shall be entitled to demand reparation; and in such
case the Government to which such commanding officer may belong
binds itself to cause inquiry to be made into the subject of the
complaint, and to inflict upon the said officer a punishment
proportioned to any wilful transgression which may be proved to have
It is hereby further mutually agreed, that every American or British
merchant-vessel which shall be searched by virtue of the present
treaty may lawfully be detained, and sent or brought before the
mixed courts of justice established in pursuance of the provisions
thereof, if, in her equipment, there shall be found any of the
things hereinafter mentioned, namely:
First. Hatches with open gratings, instead of the close hatches,
which are usual in merchant vessels.
Second. Divisions or bulk-heads in the hold or on deck, in greater
number than are necessary for vessels engaged in lawful trade.
Third. Spare plank fitted for laying down as a second or slave deck.
Fourth. Shackles, bolts, or handcuffs.
Fifth. A larger quantity of water in casks or in tanks than is
requisite for the consumption of the crew of the vessel as a
Sixth. An extraordinary number of water casks, or of other vessels
for holding liquid; unless the master shall produce n certificate
from the custom-house at the place from which he cleared outwards,
stating that a sufficient security had been given by the owners of
such vessel that such extra quantity of casks, or of other vessels
should be used only to hold palm oil, or for other purposes of
Seventh. A greater number of mess-tubs or kids than requisite for
the use of the crew of the vessel as a merchant-vessel.
Eighth. A boiler, or other cooking apparatus, of an unusual size,
and larger, or capable of being made larger, than requisite for the
use of the crew of the vessel as a merchant-vessel; or more than one
boiler, or other cooking apparatus, of the ordinary size.
Ninth. An extraordinary quantity of rice, of the flour of Brazil, of
maniac or cassada, commonly called farinha, of maize, or of Indian
corn, or of any other article of food whatever, beyond the probable
wants of the crew; unless such rice, flour, farinha, maize, Indian
corn, or other article of food, be entered on the manifest as part
of the cargo for trade.
Tenth. A quantity of mats of matting greater than is necessary for
the use of the crew of the vessel as a merchant-vessel, unless such
mats or matting be entered on the manifest as part of the cargo for
If it be proved that any one or more of the articles above specified
is or are on board, or have been on board during the voyage in which
the vessel was captured, that fact shall be considered as prima
facie evidence that the vessel was employed in the African slave
trade, and she shall in consequence be condemned and declared lawful
prize; unless the master or owners shall furnish clear and
incontrovertible evidence, proving to the satisfaction of the mixed
court of justice, that at the time of her detention or capture the
vessel was employed in a lawful undertaking, and that such of the
different articles above specified as were found on board. at the
time of detention, or as may have been embarked during the voyage on
which she was engaged when captured, were indispensable for the
lawful object of her voyage.
If any one of the articles specified in the preceding article as
grounds for condemnation should be found on board a merchant-vessel,
or should be proved to have been on board of her during the voyage
on which she was captured, no compensation for losses, damages, or
expenses consequent upon the detention of such vessel, shall in any
case be granted either to the master, the owner, or any other person
interested in the equipment or in the lading, even though she should
not be condemned by the mixed court of justice.
It is agreed between the two high contracting parties, that in all
cases in which a vessel shall be detained under this treaty, by
their respective cruisers, as having been engaged in the African
slave trade, or as having been fitted out for the purposes thereof,
and shall consequently be adjudged and condemned by one of the mixed
courts of justice to be established as aforesaid, the said vessel
shall, immediately after its condemnation, be broken up entirely,
and shall be sold in separate parts, after having been so broken up;
unless either of the two Governments should wish to purchase her for
the use of its navy, at a price to be fixed by a competent person
chosen for that purpose by the mixed court of justice, in which case
the Government whose cruiser shall have detained the condemned
vessel shall have the first option of purchase.
The captain, master, pilot, and crew of any vessel condemned by the
mixed courts of justice shall be punished according to the laws of
the country to which such vessel belongs, as shall also the owner or
owners and the persons interested in her equipment or cargo, unless
they prove that they had no participation in the enterprise.
For this purpose, the two high contracting parties agree that, in so
far as it may not be attended with grievous expense and
inconvenience, the h master and crew of any vessel which may be
condemned by a sentence of one of the mixed courts of justice, as
well as any other persons found on board the vessel, shall be sent
and delivered up to the jurisdiction of the nation under whose flag
the condemned vessel was sailing at the time of capture; and that
the witnesses and proofs to establish the guilt of such master,
crew, or other persons, shall also be sent with them.
The same course shall be pursued with regard to subjects or citizens
of either contracting party who may be found by a cruiser of the
other on board a vessel of any third Power, or on board a vessel
sailing without flag or papers, which may be condemned by any
competent court for having engaged in the African slave trade.
The negroes who are found on board of a vessel condemned by the
mixed courts of justice, in conformity with the stipulations of this
treaty, shall be placed at the disposal of the Government whose
cruiser has made the capture; they shall be immediately set at
liberty, and shall remain free, the Government to whom they have
been delivered guarantying their liberty.
The acts or instruments annexed to this treaty, and which it is
mutually agreed shall form an integral part thereof, are as follows:
(A.) Instructions for the ships of the navies of both nations,
destined to prevent the African slave trade.
(B.) Regulations for the mixed courts of justice.
The present treaty shall be ratified, and the ratifications thereof
shall be exchanged at London in six months from this date, or sooner
if possible. It shall continue and remain in full force for the term
of ten years from the day of exchange of the ratifications, and
further, until the end of one year after either of the contracting
parties shall have given notice to the other of its intention to
terminate the same, each of the contracting parties reserving to
itself the right of giving such notice to the other at the end of
said term of ten years: And it is hereby agreed between them, that,
on the expiration of one year after such notice shall have been
received by either from the other party, this treaty shall
altogether cease and determine.
In witness whereof the respective plenipotentiaries have signed the
present treaty, and have "hereunto affixed the seal of their-arms.
Done at Washington the seventh day of April, in the year of our Lord
one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two.
WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
[L. S.] LYONS.