Bond of 1844

Bond of 1844
   A treaty, signed on March 6, 1844, by the King of Denkera and seven Fanti and Assin chiefs, acknowledging British “power and jurisdiction” over their respective territories on the Gold Coast. By the end of the year, the rulers of a dozen more coastal polities had signed the agreement, which banned human sacrifice and other customs and recognized the judicial authority of British officials. The treaty stood as the basic charter of British rule on the Gold Coast until it was superseded by the formation of Crown Colony of the Gold Coast and Lagos in 1874.
   In the early 1840s, British authority was officially limited to the coastal forts inhabited by British merchants. Nonetheless, British officials wielded a considerable degree of informal influence within a loosely defined protectorate and were periodically called on to intervene in legal and political disputes. During the tenure of George Maclean from 1830 to 1844, the frequency and scope of such actions grew inexorably despite the formal limits of British jurisdiction. In 1842, the informal and irregular nature of British legal proceedings on the Gold Coast was criticized by a committee of the House of Commons. One result of the inquiry was the passage of new legislation clarifying the legal foundation for British jurisdiction and requiring the formal consent of the various African states.
   In this context, it is clear that the Bond of 1844 was not intended to expand British jurisdiction, but simply to document its existing extent. As intellectuals like James Africanus Horton understood, the signatories to the Bond “submitted themselves to the British Government, not as subjects, but as independent nations.” In practice, the Bond provided a license for the continued expansion of British authority over the next three decades in ways that went well beyond the actual terms of the agreement. That the Bond was ultimately superseded by a unilateral proclamation of British authority in 1874 rather than another consensual agreement was no accident but rather a reflection of the altered balance of power on the Gold Coast.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
    Fage, J. D. Ghana: A Historical Interpretation. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1959.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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