A cession deed is used to give up property rights to a government authority. It is possible for individuals, companies, or organizations to sign a cession deed with a state or the federal government in the U.S. Cession deeds have generally been utilized between great imperial powers like the United States or Great Britain and smaller independent entities such as islands or Indian tribes ruled by chieftains. Both American Samoa and the British colony of Fiji were created by a cession deed in the 1800’s.
American Samoa arose because of the Deed of Cession of Tutuila. The local chiefs from the island of Tutuila signed this treaty with the United States on April 17, 1900. As part of the cession deed, the chiefs ceded their island to the U.S. and swore allegiance to the country. Four years later in 1904, the chiefs of neighboring island Manu’a also agreed to cede their territory to the U.S.
In exchange for this, the chiefs received guarantees that they could continue to exercise control over their individual villages. Their rule had to be maintained according to the American laws that pertained to Samoa. The control also could not obstruct any advances of civilization or the peace of the people over which they ruled. The U.S. promised to protect and respect the rights of the inhabitants, particularly their property and land rights.
Congress did not ratify this cession deed until the Ratification Act of 1929. The navy administered this new American Samoa during the years of 1900 to 1951. At that point the President of the U.S. issued executive order 10264 and transferred control of the American Samoa territory to the Secretary of the Interior. American Samoa has been a territory of the U.S. with a locally elected governor, lieutenant governor, and legislative assembly since the 1960s. The territory is self governing under its constitution that took effect in 1967.
The British Empire also signed a cession deed when in gained control of the Kingdom of Fiji. This process began in 1871 when the British honorary consul John Bates Thurston persuaded the other chiefs of Fiji to accept the great war chieftain Cakobau as constitutional monarch. Actual power resided in the legislature and cabinet that the Australian cotton settlers dominated. The assembly had its first meeting in November 1871 in Levuka.
This constitutional monarchy arrangement did not work out well for Fiji. The government spent more money than it had and built up an unmanageable debt in only a matter of months. Two years of economic and social unrest followed in the islands kingdom. At this point, Cakobau asked the British consul Thurston to talk with the British government about ceding control of the islands to the empire. This was the second time Cakobau had attempted to cede his control to Great Britain.
Two British commissioners came to Fiji to consider the practicalities of annexing Fiji. Cakobau presented a final offer on March 21, 1874. The British accepted this deal. Sir Hercules Robinson who was eventually to be appointed governor arrived in September on British naval ship Dido. Cakobau enjoyed a royal 21 gun salute as Robinson received him.
King Cakobau, rival chief Ma’afu, and other senior Fijian Chiefs signed two separate copies of the Deed of Cession on October 10, 1874. One copy remained in Fiji while the other copy went back to Great Britain. The British ruled Fiji for the next ninety-six years under a series of appointed governors before granting the island nation its independence.