Treaty of Axim

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The Treaty of Axim was concluded on February 17, 1642 between the United Netherlands and the chiefs of the town of Axim in the southwest of present-day Ghana . The treaty regulated the sovereignty of the Netherlands and the Dutch West India Company over the city and its territory. The contract was concluded after the Dutch West India Company had expelled the Portuguese, who had previously owned Fort Sao Antonio (now Fort St. Anthony), one of their oldest bases on the West African Gold Coast . Over time, the agreement has been replaced or expanded by several new treaties and agreements. However, the treaty remained the basis for Dutch sovereignty and political relations between Axim and the Dutch until they withdrew from the Gold Coast in 1872.


Fort St. Anthony near Axim, 1709. Lithograph

The state of Axim in what is now the western region of Ghana formed a regional power in the form of a city-state with two chief chiefs, each with their own territory.

The Portuguese had had a trading post here since the late 15th century, which they expanded into the Sao Antonio fortress (now Fort St. Anthony) in the early 16th century.

After the Dutch captured the most important Portuguese fortress on the Gold Coast, the Fort São Jorge da Mina in Elmina, in 1637 , they soon broke the Portuguese resistance in the other places on the Gold Coast as well. The fortress in Axim was the most important remaining base of the Portuguese. When the Dutch captured the fortress in 1642, they gave the Portuguese and their allies safe conduct and negotiated a treaty with the political leaders of Axim to normalize the situation. This made the Dutch the greatest power in the region.

The agreement with the two chiefs of Axim was concluded on February 17, 1642, immediately after the fort was conquered. First, the transfer of Axim's loyalty from the Portuguese to the Dutch was confirmed by a declaration of hostility towards all enemies of the Dutch. The Dutch also demanded control of the city-state's external relations, initially only to European powers, but it could also be understood that this applied to all foreign powers.

As mentioned, the Portuguese were assured of free withdrawal. The remainder of the treaty dealt with mutual assistance in times of war, the exercise of legal authority, tax issues, and regulation of trade. For the latter, the regulations that were in force in Elmina were adopted. U. covered with those who were under Portuguese suzerainty. In diplomatic terms, only parts of the agreement can be viewed as an ordinary treaty. Over time, the rules for internal affairs have been revised on various occasions through further, negotiated contracts. In this respect, the Treaty of Axim was very different from the Treaty of Butre , which was concluded 14 years later and, unlike the Treaty of Axim, lasted almost unchanged for 213 years.

Content of the contract

Title : The treaty was entitled “Agreement between General Jacob Ruijchaver and the Caboceros of Axim, concluded in February 1642”. Ruijchaver was the acting general director of the Dutch Gold Coast and head of the Dutch West India Company in Africa as well as representative of the States General, the sovereign power of the Republic of the United Netherlands. The Caboceros of Axim were the city's two chief chiefs.

Place and date : The treaty was signed by the delegates from Axim and those of the Netherlands at Fort St. Anthony in Axim on February 17, 1642 and came into force immediately.

Contractual partner : On the Dutch side, this was the Dutch West India Company, which represented the Republic of the United Netherlands through its Director General. The signatory was General Jacob Ruijchaver.

On the Axim side, it was the "Caboceros" (chiefs, English: Caboceers) of Axim, in addition to the chief chiefs mentioned, Atty Ansi and Peter Agoey also signed.

Subject of the contract : The contract regulated matters of loyalty and security as well as internal affairs in ten articles.

  1. The chiefs of Axim declare that the King of Spain and his allies are their enemies forever. They also declare to be loyal servants and to recognize the legitimate authorities of the States General of the United Netherlands, His Highness the Prince of Orange and the Dutch West India Company.
  2. Axim's leaders are not allowed to correspond or trade with foreign nations without the permission of the Dutch authorities.
  3. The Dutch promised the Portuguese, Africans of European-African descent, Muslims and slaves belonging to the Portuguese free withdrawal, provided they accepted Dutch authority.
  4. Civil and criminal matters are dealt with by the chiefs of Axim and the “merchants of the fortress”, that is, by the governor who acts as president. Fines will be paid to the chiefs, as is customary in Elmina.
  5. In the event of a war against one of the contracting parties by a third party, the parties are obliged to support each other.
  6. The fees for fish were regulated in the same way as in Elmina: one in five good fish plus one fish head. Failure to do so could result in breaking or confiscation of the fishing canoe.
  7. The ownership of all houses, gardens, courtyards and the fortress, which were previously owned by the Portuguese, was transferred to the Dutch for free disposal. No one was allowed to damage the property.
  8. The chiefs of Axim received an ounce of gold for every ship that anchored here from the Netherlands to bring goods for the Gold Coast. Depending on the value or volume of the freight, this amount should increase or decrease.
  9. Africans buying goods in Axim were allowed a "gift" according to the Elmina system.
  10. To assure that the contract is binding, the parties signed the document and the chiefs of Axim each gave one of their sons to the Dutch.

See also


  1. ^ Van Dantzig: Forts and castles of Ghana, pp. 7, 17-18
  2. Doortmont Savoldi: The castles of Ghana, pp. 48-49.
  3. ^ Van Dantzig: Forts and castles of Ghana, pp. 7, 17-18
  4. Doortmont Savoldi: The castles of Ghana, pp. 48-49.
  5. a b c Original text of the contract at Wikisource
  6. Doortmont, Savoldi: The castles of Ghana, S. 64th
  7. Doortmont, Savoldi p. 64.
  8. see the original text at Wikisource


  • Michel R. Doortmont, Jinna Smit: Sources for the mutual history of Ghana and the Netherlands. An annotated guide to the Dutch archives relating to Ghana and West Africa in the Nationaal Archief, 1593–1960s . Brill, Leiden et al. 2007, ISBN 978-90-0415-850-4 .
  • Michel R. Doortmont, Benedetta Savoldi (Ed.): The castles of Ghana. Axim, Butre, Anomabu. Historical and architectural research of three Ghanaian forts . Associazione Giovanni Secco Suardo, Lurano 2006, ISBN 88-89566-46-9 .
  • Albert van Dantzig: Forts and Castles of Ghana. Sedco Publishing Ltd., Accra 1980, ISBN 9964-72-010-6 .