Treaties are a big thing. Leaders from different countries go on lengthy discussions about the terms of these essential steps in reaching peace among nations in conflict. While most of these agreements were reasonable, well planned, logical, and well thought of, there were some that involved unlikely and unusual objects that would make you scratch your head. What was more surprising was how others involved were not weirded out by the context of these treaties. To be fair, they were sensible too, but just with a dash of weirdness and uniqueness. Check them out and decide for yourself.

The Barbary Treaties that paid Pirates not to be Pirates

To be able to protect the interests of the US shipping in the region and secure the safe release of prisoners captured by these countries’ privateers, the United States signed a total of seven different treaties with Algeria, Morocco, Tripoli, and Tunis between 1795 and 1836. These treaties were collectively called the Barbary Treaties, which basically legalized and codified the use of blackmail by North-African city-states. If that was not enough, the actions were to be incentivized by the United States by paying the pirates to release US merchants and sailors that they captured trying to do US shipping matters in the area.

This reprint was sanctioned by Congress on March 2, 1831, and printed the following year by Gales & Seaton. It is a part of the American State Papers publication. (Joel Barlow, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

For instance, Article Number 16 of the Treaty with Morocco states,

In case of a War between the Parties, the Prisoners are not to be made Slaves, but to be exchanged one for another, Captain for Captain, Officer for Officer and one private Man for another; and if there shall prove a deficiency on either side, it shall be made up by the payment of one hundred Mexican Dollars for each Person wanting; And it is agreed that all Prisoners shall be exchanged in twelve Months from the Time of their being taken, and that this exchange may be effected by a Merchant or any other Person authorized by either of the Parties.

The Peace Treaty of Washington that ended the Legendary Pig War

If you haven’t heard of the infamous Pig War yet, what happened was in 1859, the 12-year territorial dispute between the United States and the United Kingdom had finally been resolved. Both nations started inhabiting the small island and being good neighbors. That all ended when a British pig wandered into the neighboring farmer’s backyard and ate his American potatoes. This led to both nations sending their naval forces to the area, although no actual war happened, and the tension was diffused by a clear-headed official.

The British High Commissioners for the Treaty of Washington.
The British High Commissioners for the Treaty of Washington. (Matthew B. Brady (Place of publication: Washington, DC, USA), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Treaty of Washington was signed in 1871, addressing and settling various disputes between the two nations. It included the Pig War and other issues like the Alabama Claims for the damages caused by British-built warships to the American ships, illegal fishing in the Canadian waters, and the losses of the British civilians during the American Civil War.

The Floating Treaty of Tilsit

The Treaty of Tilsit was an agreement signed in July 1807 between Napoleon I of France and Emperor Alexander I of Russia. This was after France won a series of decisive battles against Russia and Prussia, so he was willing to enter peace agreements so that he could concentrate instead on his great enemy, Great Britain.

Credit: Photo Credit: Brooke Robinson Museum

Now, this treaty was unique not for the reasons it was signed but for where it was signed. While the parties agreed to have peace talks, neither Tsar Alexander nor Emperor Napoleon was willing to go the distance and travel to the other’s camp. However, they agreed to meet halfway, but what was in the middle of the two opposing camps was the Neiman River. As a solution, a raft was built where the two parties met, complete with tents on each side of their floating meeting raft. After several days of negotiations and ferrying back and forth, the Treaty of Tilsit was finally signed.

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