African Company of Merchants
The African Company of Merchants or Company of Merchants Trading to Africa was a British Chartered Company operating from 1752 to 1821 in the Gold Coast area of modern Ghana. This coastal area was dominated by the indigenous Fante people. It was established by the African Company Act 1750, and in 1752 replaced the Royal African Company. The latter had been established in 1660.
The assets of the Royal African Company were transferred to the new company and consisted primarily of nine trading posts or factories: Fort William, Fort James, Fort Sekondi, Fort Winneba, Fort Apollonia, Fort Tantumquery, Fort Metal Cross, Fort Komenda, and Cape Coast Castle, the last of which was the administrative centre.
The Company was managed by the African Committee, which was composed of nine committee members, three each from London, Liverpool and Bristol. These were elected from the general body of traders from these cities, who paid 40 shillings to be admitted to the company. The company was funded by an annual grant approved by parliament, which covered the costs of the London office and the forts. The Committee had to report to the Exchequer, the Admiralty and, from 1782, the Secretary at War. John Shoolbred FRSE was secretary to the committee for several years.
In 1807, the Imperial government prohibited the African slave trade after 1807, although the Company continued to operate for some years afterwards. In keeping with the ethos of liberal reform, administrative authority over the African Company's territory was transferred to Governor Charles MacCarthy of Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone having been founded as a refuge colony for freed slaves. (Governor McCarthy was subsequently killed in the First Anglo-Asante War.) In 1817, the Company signed a treaty of friendship recognising the Asante claims to sovereignty over large areas of the coast, including areas claimed by the Fante. However, after it became public knowledge that Company had failed to suppress the African slave trade within its privately held territory, the British government abolished the Company once and for all in 1821. Slavery as an institution, however, continued to exist throughout the British Empire until 1834.