Danish West Indies Becomes United States Virgin Islands
On March 31, 1917 the Danish government sold the Danish West Indies to the United States government for 25 million dollars. The primary reason the US acquired the islands was for a US navel base in the Caribbean. This was not the first time the US looked to purchase the islands from Denmark. Each previous time was also fueled by some military incentive. The Virgin Islands offered a strategic position that the US highly coveted.
During the 1860's, right before the US Civil War, Secretary of State, William H Seward, began investigating the islands as a potential coaling station for US vessels. On October 24, 1867 the Danish government ratified a treaty which would sell the islands of St. Thomas and St. John to the US government for 7,500,000 dollars in gold; as long as the native population consented. However, during that same year the islands were hit by a terrible hurricane, an destructive earthquake, and a devastating tsunami. This treaty was never ratified in the wave of the natural disasters; however it was mostly voided due to the imperialistic overtone the US wrote into the treaty, and unrest within the US government itself.
At the end of the Spanish American War, the US showed renewed interest in the Virgin Islands. This time drawing up a treaty, which was ratified by the Us congress, that would sell the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix for five million dollars. The Danish government never ratified this insulting treaty. This treaty prompted the poem, The bride and the Bridegroom, to be published in the local newspaper. Which can be read here.
The US continued efforts to negotiate the purchase of the Virgin Islands after the failed Treaty of 1902. However by 1915, due to US fear of the impending WWII, the US had purchased Puerto Rico, and therefore were not concerned with acquiring the Virgin Islands for there own strategic purposes, but as a way to keep other world powers out of the Caribbean.
In March of 1916 the US sent a drafted treaty to the Danish government offering 25,000,000 dollars in gold for the three islands. On August 14, 1916 both governments signed a revised treaty in New York City. The US Senate approved the treaty on September 7, 1916; and on December 21, 1916 the Danish Rigsdag approved the treaty as well. On January 17, 1917 the treaty was fully ratified, exchanged and finalized.
The 50 year long process of selling the Danish West Indies to the United States was finally completed on March 31, 1917; where the official transfer occurred on the island of St. Thomas, at a ceremony held in front of the Virgin Islands Legislature building.
HAPPY VIRGIN ISLANDS HISTORY MONTH EVERYBODY
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