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The Historical Treaty between the Omani Empire and the United States of America

Atheer – Oman History

Over the course of the reign of Sayyid Said bin Sultan, the founder of the Omani Empire, Oman enjoyed a great deal of independence. Geographically speaking, the Omani Empire stretched all the way to eastern Africa, where Sayyid Said had turned Zanzibar into Oman’s thriving capital.

The success of its empire meant that Oman became a magnet for foreign powers, who rushed to conclude a number of treaties that reflected the interests and ambitions of such commercial and colonial countries as Britain, France and the United States of America.

The beginning of the trade relationship between Sayyid Said bin Sultan and the United States of America started when American merchant Edmund Roberts visited Zanzibar in 1827, in an effort to attain commercial gain through trade. Roberts however was not afforded the same facilities that the Omani government granted to its ally Britain. Roberts then returned to the United States of America with the idea of concluding a trade agreement with Sayyid Said bin Sultan to facilitate and promote American goods in the Omani Empire.

US President Andrew Jackson agreed to this idea and ordered Roberts to undertake the necessary negotiations in Muscat to finalise the treaty. The US envoy headed to Muscat aboard the American ship Pikopek and the historic agreement between the two parties was signed in 1833. In the agreement Sayyid Said pledged to the Americans that Oman would strive to attain peace and friendship between the two countries for many a generation to come.

Through the treaty the Americans enjoyed economic and judicial rights and privileges throughout the Omani Empire. American merchants who came to the ports of Oman paid only five percent tax on goods that they brought to the Sultanate’s ports and were exempted from paying any other taxes for exports and shipping fees. The US consul also had the power to settle disputes between American nationals, with the same privilege being extended to the Omani consul in the United States of America.

As a result of the increased American business activity within Omani-controlled East Africa, in 1836 the US government chose Richard Waters to be the first American consul in Zanzibar, followed by Henry Marshall. The latter then became the first American Consul in Muscat two years later.

In 1840, in line with the friendly policy between Oman and the United States of America, Sayyid Said sent his ship Sultana to New York under the leadership of Ahmed Al Nu’man Al Kaabi, who carried with him a gift of two authentic Arabian horses, some jewels and perfumes and a golden inlaid sword to the President of the United States. In return the US President gave Sayyid Said a boat decked out with the most luxurious of furniture, four pistols, two rifles and a number of American products, as an expression of the friendship enjoyed between the two countries.

This friendly Omani-American relationship continued for a further twenty years, before beginning to deteriorate due to several factors.

A dispute arose regarding the second article of the agreement, which the America understood to grant it traders the right to enter all ports that lay within Omani territories. Sayyid Said however suggested that it merely stipulated that American traders enjoy such commercial concessions only at Zanzibar port.

In the meantime, the United States was keen not to lose its friendship with the Sultan, with whom it had entered into a trade and friendship treaty in 1833. American President Millard Vilmor therefore sent a letter via his envoy, Commodore Olek, in 1851, in an attempt to improve the relationship and solve the disputes that had arisen between the Omani Empire and the United States of America.

The treaty remained in force until 1958, when it was abolished and replaced by a new treaty of friendship, economic relations and consular rights between the two nations.

*Image taken from Internet (Google)

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