Danish West Indies
|Status||Colony of Denmark–Norway (1754–1814)|
Colony of Denmark (1814–1917)
|Capital|| Charlotte Amalie (1672–1754 and 1871–1917)|
|Common languages|| Danish |
|Christian Leberecht von Prøck (first)|
|Henri Konow (last)|
• Sold by the Danish West India Company
|March 31 1917|
|400 km2 (150 sq mi)|
|Currency|| Rigsdaler (1754–1849)|
The Danish West Indies (Danish : Dansk Vestindien) or Danish Antilles was a Danish colony in the Caribbean, consisting of the islands of Saint Thomas with 32 square miles (83 km2); Saint John (Danish : St. Jan) with 19 square miles (49 km2); Saint Croix with 84 square miles (220 km2), and Water Island (Danish : Vand ø) with 491.5 acres (1.989 km2). The Danish West India Guinea Company annexed the uninhabited island of Saint Thomas in 1672 and St. John in 1675. In 1733, Saint Croix was purchased from the French West India Company. When the Danish company went bankrupt in 1755, the King of Denmark–Norway assumed direct control of the three islands. Britain occupied the Danish West Indies in 1801–02 and 1807–15, during the Napoleonic Wars.
Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in Denmark and in the region of Southern Schleswig in northern Germany, where it has minority language status. Also, minor Danish-speaking communities are found in Norway, Sweden, Spain, the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. Due to immigration and language shift in urban areas, around 15–20% of the population of Greenland speak Danish as their first language.
Denmark and the former political union of Denmark–Norway had a colonial empire from the 17th through the 20th centuries, large portions of which were found in the Americas. Denmark and Norway in one form or another also maintained land claims in Greenland since the 13th century.
The Caribbean is a region of the Americas that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands and the surrounding coasts. The region is southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and the North American mainland, east of Central America, and north of South America.
Danish colonizers in the West Indies aimed to exploit the profitable triangular trade, involving the export of firearms and other manufactured goods to Africa in exchange for slaves, who were then transported to the Caribbean to work the sugar plantations. Caribbean colonies, in turn, exported sugar, rum, and molasses to Denmark. The economy of the Danish West Indies depended on slavery. After a rebellion, slavery was officially abolished in 1848, leading to the near economic collapse of the plantations.
Triangular trade or triangle trade is a historical term indicating trade among three ports or regions. Triangular trade usually evolves when a region has export commodities that are not required in the region from which its major imports come. Triangular trade thus provides a method for rectifying trade imbalances between the above regions.
Abolitionism, or the abolitionist movement, was the movement to end slavery. This term can be used both formally and informally. In Western Europe and the Americas, abolitionism was a historic movement that sought to end the Atlantic slave trade and set slaves free. King Charles I of Spain, usually known as Emperor Charles V, was following the example of Louis X of France, who had abolished slavery within the Kingdom of France in 1315. He passed a law which would have abolished colonial slavery in 1542, although this law was not passed in the largest colonial states, and it was not enforced as a result. In the late 17th century, the Roman Catholic Church officially condemned the slave trade in response to a plea by Lourenço da Silva de Mendouça, and it was also vehemently condemned by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839. The abolitionist movement only started in the late 18th century, however, when English and American Quakers began to question the morality of slavery. James Oglethorpe was among the first to articulate the Enlightenment case against slavery, banning it in the Province of Georgia on humanitarian grounds, and arguing against it in Parliament, and eventually encouraging his friends Granville Sharp and Hannah More to vigorously pursue the cause. Soon after his death in 1785, Sharp and More united with William Wilberforce and others in forming the Clapham Sect.
In 1852 the Danish parliament first debated the sale of the increasingly unprofitable colony. Denmark tried several times to sell or exchange the Danish West Indies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: to the United States and to the German Empire respectively. The islands were eventually sold for 25 million dollars to the United States, which took over the administration on 31 March 1917, renaming the islands the United States Virgin Islands.
The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.
The United States Virgin Islands, officially the Virgin Islands of the United States, is a group of islands in the Caribbean and an unincorporated and organized territory of the United States. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles to the east of Puerto Rico and west of the British Virgin Islands.
Merchants in Copenhagen asked King Christian IV for permission to establish a West Indian trading company in 1622, but by the time an eight-year monopoly on trade with the West Indies, Virginia, Brazil, and Guinea was granted on 25 January 1625, the failure of the Danish East India and Iceland Companies and the beginning of Danish involvement in the Thirty Years' War dried up any interest in the idea. Prince Frederick organized a trading mission to Barbados in 1647 under Gabriel Gomez and the de Casseres brothers, but it and a 1651 expedition of two ships were unsuccessful. It was not until Erik Smit's private 1652 expedition aboard the Fortuna was successful that interest in the West Indies' trade grew into an interest in the creation of a new Danish colony.
Christian IV was king of Denmark and Norway and duke of Holstein and Schleswig from 1588 to 1648. His 59-year reign is the longest of Danish monarchs, and of Scandinavian monarchies.
The West Indies is a region of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean that includes the island countries and surrounding waters of three major archipelagos: the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, and the Lucayan Archipelago.
The Viceroyalty of Brazil refers, in narrow scope, to office of viceroy of the Portuguese colonial State of Brazil and, in broad scope, to the whole State of Brazil during the historic period when its governors had the title of "viceroy". The term "viceroyalty" however never officially designated the title of the colony, which continued to be designated "state". Until 1763, the title "Viceroy" was occasionally granted to some governors of Brazil who were members of the high nobility, with the remaining keeping the title "governor-general". From around 1763, the title "viceroy" became permanent, so being granted to all governors. The position of viceroy was abolished, when the Portuguese court transferred to Brazil in 1808, with the State of Brazil becoming directly administered by the Portuguese Government seated in Rio de Janeiro.
Smit's 1653 expedition and a separate expedition of five ships were quite successful, but Smit's third found his two vessels captured for a loss of 32,000 rigsdaler. In August two years later, a Danish flotilla was destroyed by a hurricane. Smit returned from his fourth expedition in 1663 and formally proposed the settlement of St. Thomas to the king in April 1665. After only three weeks' deliberation, the scheme was approved and Smit was named governor. Settlers departed aboard the Eendragt on 1 July, but the expedition was ill-starred: the ship hit two large storms and suffered from fire before reaching its destination, and then it was raided by English privateers prosecuting the Second Anglo-Dutch War. Smit died of illness, and a second band of privateers stole the ship and used it to trade with neighboring islands. Following a hurricane and a renewed outbreak of disease, the colony collapsed, with the English departing for the nearby French colony on Saint Croix, the Danes fleeing to Saint Christopher, and the Dutch assisting their countrymen on Ter Tholen in stealing everything of value, particularly the remaining Danish guns and ammunition.
The rigsdaler was the name of several currencies used in Denmark until 1875. The similarly named Reichsthaler, riksdaler and rijksdaalder were used in Germany and Austria-Hungary, Sweden and the Netherlands, respectively. These currencies were often anglicized as rix-dollar or rixdollar.
A flotilla, or naval flotilla, is a formation of small warships that may be part of a larger fleet. A flotilla is usually composed of a homogeneous group of the same class of warship, such as frigates, destroyers, torpedo boats, submarines, gunboats, or minesweepers. Groups of larger warships are usually called squadrons, but similar units of non-capital ships may be called squadrons in some instances, and flotillas in others. Formations including more than one capital ships, e.g. men-of-war, battleships, and aircraft carriers, typically alongside smaller ships and support craft, are typically called fleets, each portion led by a capital ship being a squadron or task force.
Saint Thomas is one of the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea and, together with Saint John, and Saint Croix, form a county and constituent district of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), an unincorporated territory of the United States. Located on the island is the territorial capital and port of Charlotte Amalie. As of the 2010 census, the population of Saint Thomas was 51,634, about 48.5% of the US Virgin Islands total. The district has a land area of 32 square miles (83 km2).
The Danes formed a Board of Trade in 1668 and secured a commercial treaty with Britain, providing for the unmolested settlement of uninhabited islands, in July 1670. The Danish West India Company was organized in December and formally chartered by King Christian V the next year on March 11, 1671. – 12 officials, 116 company "employees" (indentured servants), and 62 felons and former prostitutes – only 104 remained, 9 having escaped and 77 having died in transit. Another 75 died within the first year, leaving only 29 to carry on the colony.Jørgen Iversen Dyppel, a successful trader on Saint Christopher, was made governor and the king provided convicts from his jails and two vessels for the establishment of the colony, the yacht Den forgyldte Krone and the frigate Færøe . Den forgyldte Krone was ordered to run ahead and wait but ended up returning to Denmark after the Færøe under Capt. Zacharias Hansen Bang was delayed for repairs in Bergen. The Færøe completed her mission alone, establishing a settlement on St. Thomas on May 25, 1672. From an original contingent of 190
The Treaty of Copenhagen or Treaty of 1670 was a treaty of commerce and alliance signed on July 11, 1670, between King Christian V of Denmark and of Norway and King Charles II of England and of Scots. It was written in Latin. It was expanded the next day on July 12, 1670, with the Third Article concerning contraband amended and clarified by a declaration in French signed at Copenhagen on July 4, 1780. The terms of the treaty were later reaffirmed by the Treaty of Kiel, following the defeat of Denmark-Norway during the Napoleonic Wars.
The Danish West India Company or Danish West India–Guinea Company was a Dano-Norwegian chartered company that exploited colonies in the Danish West Indies.
Christian V was king of Denmark and Norway from 1670 until his death in 1699.
In 1675, Iversen claimed St. John and placed two men there; in 1684, Governor Esmit granted it to two English merchants from Barbados but their men were chased off the island by two British sloops sent by Governor Stapleton of the British Leeward Islands. Further instructions in 1688 to establish a settlement on St. John seem not to have been acted on until Governor Bredal made an official establishment on March 25, 1718.
The islands quickly became a base for pirates attacking ships in the vicinity and also for the Brandenburg African Company. Governor Lorentz raised enormous taxes upon them and seized warehouses and cargoes of tobacco, sugar, and slaves in 1689 only to have his actions repudiated by the authorities in Copenhagen; his hasty action to seize Crab Island prohibited the Brandenburgers from establishing their own Caribbean colony, however. Possession of the island was subsequently disputed with the Scottish in 1698 and fully lost to the Spanish in 1811.
St. Croix was purchased from the French West India Company in 1733. In 1754, the islands were sold to the Danish king, Frederick V of Denmark, becoming royal Danish colonies.
The first British invasion and occupation of the Danish West Indies occurred during the French Revolutionary Wars when at the end of March 1801 a British fleet arrived at St Thomas. The Danes accepted the Articles of Capitulation the British proposed and the British occupied the islands without a shot being fired. The British occupation lasted until April 1802, when the British returned the islands to Denmark.
The second British invasion of the Danish West Indies took place during the Napoleonic Wars in December 1807 when a British fleet captured St Thomas on 22 December and Saint Croix on 25 December. The Danes did not resist and the invasion was bloodless. This British occupation of the Danish West Indies lasted until 20 November 1815, when Britain returned the islands to Denmark.
By the 1850s the Danish West Indies had a total population of about 41,000 people. The government of the islands were under a governor-general, whose jurisdiction extended to the other Danish colonies of the group. However, because the islands formerly belonged to Great Britain the inhabitants were English in customs and in language. The islands of that period consisted of:
In 1916 a referendum was held in Denmark itself on the future of the islands, which had become both a financial burden and a strategic concern. On 17 January 1917, according to the Treaty of the Danish West Indies, the Danish government sold the islands to the United States for $25 million ($489 million in current prices), when the United States and Denmark exchanged their respective treaty ratifications. Danish administration ended on 31 March 1917, when the United States took formal possession of the territory and renamed it the United States Virgin Islands.
The United States had been interested in the islands since at least the 1860s. The United States finally acted in 1917 because of the islands' strategic position near the approach to the Panama Canal and because of a fear that Germany might seize them to use as U-boat bases during World War I.
St Thomas was a hub of the West Indies packet trade from 1851 to 1885. Denmark issued stamps for the Danish West Indies from 1856 onward.
The Danish West Indies were inhabited by many different cultures, and each had its own traditions and religions. The king and the church worked closely together to maintain law and order; the church was responsible for people's moral upbringing, and the King led the civil order. There was no state-sponsored religion in Denmark until 1849, but in the Danish West Indies there had always been a great deal of religious freedom. Danish authorities tended to be lenient towards religious beliefs, but required that all citizens had to observe Danish holidays. Freedom of religion was partially granted to help settle the islands, as there was a shortage of willing settlers from Europe. This worked to an extent, seeing that a large proportion of settlers were in fact Dutch and British natives fleeing religious persecution.
Jews began settling the colony in 1655, and by 1796 the first synagogue was inaugurated. In its heyday in the mid-19th century, the Jewish community made up half of the white population.One of the earliest colonial governors, Gabriel Milan, was a Sephardic Jew.
In spite of a general tolerance for religion, many African religions were not recognized because they typically revolved around belief in animism and magic, beliefs which were consistently met with scorn, and were regarded as immoral and subservient. A widespread viewpoint was that if you could convert slaves to Christianity, they could have a better life, and therefore many slaves were converted.
By 1900, with a population of 30,000, a fourth of the people were Roman Catholics, along with Anglicans, and some Moravians and other Protestant groups. For decades the Moravians had organized missions and also taken charge of the educational system.
Laws and regulations in the Danish West Indies were based on Denmark's laws, but the local government was allowed to adapt them to match local conditions. For example, things like animals, land, and buildings were regulated according to Danish law, but Danish law did not regulate slavery. Slaves were treated as common property, and therefore did not necessitate specific laws.
In 1733, differentiation between slaves and other property was implied by a regulation that stated that slaves had their own will and thus could behave inappropriately or be disobedient. [ failed verification ] The regulation also stated that the authorities were to punish slaves for participating in illegal activity, but many owners punished slaves on their own. There was a general consensus that if the slaves were punished too hard or were malnourished, the slaves would start to rebel. This was borne out by the 1733 slave insurrection on St. John where many plantation owners and their families were killed by the Akwamu, including Breffu, before it was suppressed later the following year. In 1755 Frederick V of Denmark issued more new Regulations, in which slaves were guaranteed the right not to be separated from their children and the right to medical support during periods of illness or old age. However, the colonial government had the ability to amend laws and regulations according to local conditions, and thus the regulations were never enacted in the colony, on grounds that it was more disadvantageous than advantageous.
By 1778, it was estimated that the Danes were bringing about 3,000 Africans to the Danish West Indies yearly for enslavement.These transports continued until the end of 1802 when a law by Crown Prince Regent Frederik that banned the trade of slaves came into effect.
When Denmark abolished slavery in 1848, many plantation owners wanted full reimbursement on the grounds that their assets were damaged by the loss of the slaves, and by the fact that they would have to pay for labor in the future. The Danish government paid fifty dollars for every slave the plantation owners had owned and recognized that the slaves' release had caused a financial loss for the owners.However, the lives of the former slaves changed very little. Most were simply hired at the plantations where they had previously worked and were offered one-year contracts, a small hut, a little land and some money as part of a sharecropping system. However, as employees, former slaves were not the plantation owners' responsibility and did not receive food or care from their employers.
The History of the British Virgin Islands is usually, for convenience, broken up into five separate periods:
Saint Croix is an island in the Caribbean Sea, and a county and constituent district of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), an unincorporated territory of the United States.
Christiansted, U.S. Virgin Islands is the largest town on Saint Croix, one of the main islands composing the United States Virgin Islands, a territory of the United States of America. It is a former capital of the Danish West Indies and home to the Christiansted National Historic Site. Christiansted as of 2004, had a population of about 3,000. The 2000 census population of the town was 2,637; that of the larger sub-district was 2,865.
Christiansted National Historic Site commemorates urban colonial development of the Virgin Islands. It features 18th and 19th century structures in the heart of Christiansted, the capital of the former Danish West Indies on St. Croix Island.
The United States Virgin Islands, often abbreviated USVI, is a group of islands and cays in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico. Consisting of three larger islands (Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas plus fifty smaller islets and cays, it covers approximately 133 square miles. Like many of its Caribbean neighbors, its history includes native Amerindian cultures, European exploration followed by subsequent colonization and exploitation, and the enslavement of Africans.
Peter Carl Frederik von Scholten was Governor-General of the Danish West Indies from 1827 to 1848.
The Danish Gold Coast comprised the colonies that Denmark–Norway controlled in Africa as a part of the Gold Coast, which is on the Gulf of Guinea. It was colonized by the Dano-Norwegian fleet, first under indirect rule by the Danish West India Company, later as a crown colony of the kingdom of Denmark-Norway.
Jørgen Iversen Dyppel, also called George Iversen or Ifversen, or sometimes Doppel in Knox, was the first governor of the renewed establishment of St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies, from 1672 to 1680. His rule was marked by the work to construct a functioning colony and the difficulties of such a task.
The Brandenburg colony of St. Thomas consisted of a leased part of the Danish island of St. Thomas
The 1733 slave insurrection on St. John in the Danish West Indies started on November 23, 1733, when 150 African slaves from Akwamu revolted against the owners and managers of the island's plantations. Lasting several months into August 1734, the slave rebellion was one of the earliest and longest slave revolts in the Americas. The Akwamu slaves captured the fort in Coral Bay and took control of most of the island. They intended to resume crop production under their own control and use Africans of other tribes as slave labor.
Sugar production in the United States Virgin Islands was an important part of the Economy of the United States Virgin Islands for over two hundred years. Long before the islands became part of the United States in 1917, the islands, particular the island of Saint Croix, was exploited by the Danish from the early 18th century and by 1800 over 30,000 acres were under cultivation, earning Saint Croix a reputation as "The Garden of the West Indies". Since the closing of the last sugar factory on Saint Croix in 1966, the industry has become only a memory.
Danish slave trade occurred separately in two different periods, the trade in enslaved European people during the Viking Age from the 8th to 10th century and the Danish role in trading enslaved African people during the Atlantic slave trade from the 1600s until a 1792 law to abolish the trade came into effect on 1 January 1803. Slavery continued in the Danish West Indies until July 1848 when all unfree people were emancipated.
Arnold Ray Highfield is a professor, historian, writer, and poet, best known for his historical works on the Danish West Indies and the United States Virgin Islands.
Frederik Christian Hals von Moth was a Dano-Norwegian businessman who served as Governor-General of St. Thomas and St. John in the Danish West Indies from April 1724 - May 1727 then again from 21 February 1736 - 13 April 1744. In addition, he served as Governor of St. Croix from 8 January 1735 - 15 May 1747. In 1736, his title was changed to Governor General (generalguvernør). His military rank was Commander (kommandørkaptajn). In addition, he held the rank of justitsråd.
The Indian community in the United States Virgin Islands is made up of Indo-Caribbeans, Indian Americans and other persons of Indian origin. The first Indians in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) arrived in the Danish colony of Saint Croix in June 1863 as indentured workers. However, all of the nearly 325 Indians who came to Saint Croix left the island by the 1870s. Nearly two-thirds returned to India, while the others emigrated to Trinidad. Some settled in that country, while others returned to India from Trinidad.
The Danes found no one living on St. Thomas when they landed. The English settlers who had occupied the island after the end of the first Danish settlement, had left six or seven weeks before, though the reason for their departure is not known. [...] Denmark's long association with the Virgin Islands began with this occupation of St. Thomas in 1672.
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