Guano Islands Act

Guano Islands Act

The Guano Islands Act (usc-title-chap|48|8 §§ 1411-1419) is federal legislation passed by the U.S. Congress, on August 18, 1856, which enables citizens of the U.S. to take possession of islands containing guano deposits. The islands can be located anywhere, so long as they are not occupied and not within the jurisdiction of other governments. It also empowers the President of the United States to use the military to protect such interests, and establishes the criminal jurisdiction of the United States.


In the early 19th century, guano came to be prized as an agricultural fertilizer. In 1855, the U.S. learned of rich guano deposits on islands in the Pacific Ocean. Congress passed the Guano Islands Act to take advantage of these deposits.

The act specifically allows the islands to be considered a possession of the U.S., but it also provided that the U.S. was not obliged to retain possession after the guano was exhausted. However, it did not specify what the status of the territory was after it was abandoned by private U.S. interests.

This is the beginning of the concept of insular areas in U.S. territories. Up to this time, any territory acquired by the U.S. was considered to have become an integral part of the country unless changed by treaty, and to eventually have the opportunity to become a state of the Union. With insular areas, land could be held by the federal government without the prospect of it ever becoming a state in the Union.

The provision of the Act establishing U.S. criminal jurisdiction over such islands was considered and ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in "Jones v. United States", ussc|137|202|1890.


More than 100 islands have been claimed. Some of those remaining under U.S. control are Baker Island, Jarvis Island, Howland Island, Kingman Reef, Johnston Atoll, Palmyra Atoll and Midway Atoll. Others are no longer considered United States territory. In the Caribbean, Navassa Island is claimed by both the United States and Haiti. An even more complicated case deals with Serranilla Bank and the Bajo Nuevo Bank, where multiple countries claim ownership. In 1971, the U.S. and Honduras signed a treaty recognizing Honduran sovereignty over the Swan Islands.

ee also

*United States Miscellaneous Pacific Islands
*United States Minor Outlying Islands

External links

* [ Text of U.S. Code, Title 48, Chapter 8]
* [ 34th Congress Statutes at Large]
* [ 43rd Congress Statutes at Large]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Guano Islands Act — Le Guano Islands Act est une loi fédérale américaine votée par le Congrès des États Unis le 18 août 1856. Elle autorise tout citoyen américain à prendre possession d une île contenant des gisements de guano. L île peut être située n importe où… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Guano Islands Act — Das Guano Islands Act wurde vom US amerikanischen Kongress am 18. August 1856 verabschiedet. Dieses heute noch gültige Gesetz besagt, dass eine Insel, auf der es eine bestimmte Sorte von Vogelexkrementen gibt, zum amerikanischen Staatsgebiet… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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