Before Britain’s Bombardment of Lagos in 1851, Lagos had been the main port for slave trading activities under the rule of Oba Kosoko. Britain fought hard to abolish the slave trade in Lagos but due to some reasons connected with Oba Kosoko, the mission was not accomplished.
In 1849, Britain appointed John Beecroft as the consul of the Bights of Benin and Biafra, whereas Lagos was in the western part of the Consulate of the Bights of Benin and Biafra, this made it possible and easier to dethrone Oba Kosoko (because he was a hindrance to the abolition of the slave trade in Lagos) and the installation of Oba Akintoye.
On January 1 1852, Oba Akitoye boarded HMS Penelope, a British ship, and together with John Beecroft and Henry William Bruce (Great Britain representatives), he signed the abolition of the slave trade treaty.
This treaty of January 1 1852 resulted in the emergence of the consulate era in Lagos whereby Lagos enjoyed military protection from Britain. However, the British later annexed Lagos as a colony in 1861.
The 1st of January, 1852 will forever remain a historical and memorable day in the history of slave trade in Nigeria.
Below is the transcription of the treaty
Commodore Henry William Bruce, Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty’s ships and vessels on the West Coast of Africa, and John Beecroft, Esquire. Her Majesty’s Consul in the Bights of Benin and Biafra, on the part of her Majesty the Queen of England, and the King and Chiefs of Lagos and of the neighborhood, on the part of themselves and of their country, have agreed upon the following Articles and Conditions:
The export of slaves to foreign countries is for ever abolished in the territories of the King and Chiefs of Lagos; and the King and the Chiefs of Lagos; and the King and Chiefs of Lagos engage to make and to proclaim a law prohibiting any of their subjects, or any person within their jurisdiction, from selling or assisting in the sale of any slave for transportation to a foreign country; and the King and Chiefs of Lagos promise to inflict a severe punishment on any person who shall break the law.
No European or other person whatever shall be permitted to reside within the territory of the King and Chiefs of Lagos for the purpose of carrying on in any way the traffic in Slaves; and ho houses, or stores, or buildings of any kind whatever shall be erected for the purpose of Slave Trade within the territory of the King and Chiefs of Lagos; and if any such houses, stores, or buildings shall at any future time be erected, and the King and Chiefs of Lagos shall fail or be unable to destroy them, they may be destroyed by any British officers employed for the suppression of the Slave Trade.
If at any time it shall appear that the Slave Trade has been carried on through or from the territory of the King and Chiefs of Lagos, the Slave Trade may be put down by Great Britain by force upon that territory, and British officers may seize the boats of Lagos found anywhere carrying on the Slave Trade; and the King and Chiefs of Lagos will be subject to a severe act of displeasure on the part of the King and Queen of England.
The slaves now held for exportation shall be delivered to any British officer duly authorized to receive them, for the purpose of being carried to a British Colony, and there liberated; and all the implements of Slave Trade, and the barracoons or buildings exclusively used in the Slave Trade, shall be forthwith destroyed.
Europeans or other persons now engaged in the Slave Trade are to be expelled from the country; the houses, stores, or buildings hitherto employed as slave-factories, if not converted to lawful purposes within three months of the conclusion of this Engagement, are to be destroyed.
The subjects of the Queen of England may always trade freely with the people of Lagos in every article they wish to buy and sell in all the places, and ports, and rivers within the territories and Chiefs of lagos, and throughout the whole of their dominions; and the King and Chiefs of Lagos pledge themselves to show no favour and give no privilege to the ships and traders of other countries which they do not show to those of England.
The King and Chiefs of Lagos declare that no human being shall at any time be sacrificed within their territories on account of religious or other ceremonies; and that they will prevent the barbarous practice of murdering prisoners captured in war.
Complete protection shall be afforded to Missionaries or Ministers of the Gospel, of whatever nation or country, following the vocation of spreading the knowledge and doctrines of Christianity, and extending the benefits of civilization within the territory of the King and Chiefs of Lagos.
Encouragement shall be given to such Missionaries or Ministers in the pursuits of industry, in building houses for their residence, and schools and chapels. They shall not be hindered or molested in their endeavours to teach the doctrines of Christianity to all persons willing and desirous to be taught; nor shall any subject of the King and Chiefs of Lagos who may embrace the Christian faith be on that account, or on account of the teaching or exercise thereof, molested or troubled in any manner whatsoever.
The King and Chiefs of Lagos further agree to set apart a piece of land, within a convenient distance of the principal towns, to be used as a burial-ground for Christian persons. And the funerals and sepulchres of the dead shall not be disturbed in any way or upon any account.
Power is hereby expressly reserved to the Government of France to become a party to this Treaty if it shall think fit, agreeably with the provisions contained in Article v of the Convention between Her Majesty and the King of the French for their suppression of the Traffic In Slaves, signed at London, May 22, 1845.
In faith of which we have hereunto set our hands and seals, at Lagos, on board Her Britannic Majesty’s ship Penelope, 1st January, 1852.
(L.S. ) H. W. BRUCE
(L.S. ) JOHN BEECROFT
(L.S. ) KING AKITOYE
(L.S. ) ATCHOBOO
(L.S. ) KOSAE
- Sir William M.N. Geary (2013). Nigeria Under British Rule (1927): Lagos from 1851-1861. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 9781136962943.
- Hopkins, A. (1980). Property Rights and Empire Building: Britain’s Annexation of Lagos, 1861. The Journal of Economic History, 40(4), 777-798. Retrieved March 11, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2120001