Guano Islands Act

The Guano Islands Act was passed by the U.S. Congress on 18 August 1856. This is still valid law states that an island on which there is a certain kind of bird excrement, part of the U.S. territory once a U.S. citizen is one such island. However, it is assumed that

  • The island is not part of the territory of any other nation,
  • The island is not inhabited by citizens of another nation,
  • And that the American citizen takes in a peaceful manner of the island possession.

"Whenever any citizen of the United States discovers a deposit of guano on any Iceland, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other government, and not occupied by the citizens of any other government, and takes peaceable possession thereof [ ... ] "

In the early 19th century guano obtained ( Indian term for bird droppings ) as fertilizer great importance in agriculture. In 1840 toured the American whalers Benjamin Morrel the penguin islands off the coast of South West Africa, but despite his 1844 published book history can not find investors for a reduction of the local guano a trip to the southern and western coasts of Africa and the described therein guano wealth. 1855 learned American agriculture of large guano reserves in the Pacific Ocean, and shortly thereafter the Guano Islands Act was enacted. This law, however also served to increase the American sphere of influence.

More than fifty islands were added in this way to the American territory. Of these, Baker Iceland, Iceland Jarvis, Howland Iceland, the Kingman Reef, Johnston Atoll, and Midway Islands are still under U.S. control. The others no longer belong to the United States. The possession of Navassa Iceland is currently the subject of discussions with Haiti. In 1971, the Swan Islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus, returned to Honduras. Due to the guano Iceland Acts some U.S. citizens claimed the possession of Clipperton Island.