National Geographic : 1916 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE the Lesser Antilles. Fredericksted is the seat of business in the island, most of the sugar being exported from there. For scores of years the sugar planters, seeing that the United States is the greatest sugar-consuming community in the world, have hoped that the island might become American, thus providing them with a free market. In latter years the experi ence of the sugar planters of Porto Rico,, who have grown very rich under the pro tection received by them as a result of American tariff laws, has stimulated this desire upon the part of those of the Dan ish West Indies. The island has suffered, much as our own South has suffered in the past, from a lack of crop diversification; as every thing in the South was for so many years cotton, so everything in St. Croix has been sugar, and the putting of all of its eggs in one basket has resulted seriously on many occasions. The Danish Planta tion Company has sought to overcome this evil by introducing the planting of cotton, cocoa, coffee, and other crops. The history of the Danish West Indies is full of interest. Columbus found St. Thomas inhabited by Caribs and Ara waks in 1493. In 1657 a colony of Dutch settlers occupied the island; but when they heard of New Amsterdam, now New York, they left it to become a part of the new colony with such a remarkable fu ture ahead of it. The English came to St. Thomas next, but in 1666 it was for mally taken over by the Danish crown. In 1764 the King of Denmark took the government into his own hands and threw the port of Charlotte Amalie open, duty free, to all nations. In 1801 the British took the island from the Danes, but re stored it after ten months. Again, in 1807, Britain took possession of St. Thomas, but returned it in the readjust ments growing out of the Napoleonic wars in 1815. AN ISLAND OF MANY FLAGS St. Croix was settled by Dutch and English, but they quarreled and the Dutch had to get out in 1650. The English in their turn were driven out by the Span iards. Then the French from St. Kitts took a hand and expelled the Spaniards. France gave the island to the Knights of Malta; but after a prolonged, but losing, effort to put it on a profitable basis, the Knights, in 1720, demolished their forts, abandoned the island, and removed to Santo Domingo. In 1727 the French cap tured eight British vessels lying there and took possession of the island again, finally selling it to King Christian of Denmark. The first proposal to buy the Danish West Indies was made by Secretary of State Seward at Washington, in January, 1865. July 17, 1866, the United States offered $5,000,000 for the islands. In 1867 Denmark declined to sell them for that amount, but offered St. Thomas and St. John for $o1,ooo,ooo, or $15,ooo,ooo for the three. Mr. Seward replied by of fering $7,500,000 for the group. Den mark made a counter offer of St. Thomas and St. John for that price. Finally Sec retary Seward accepted the proposal; but then Denmark insisted that the consent of the peoples of the islands should be formally given before the sale was con summated. This was at first objected to by Mr. Seward; but he finally cabled our minister to concede the question of vote, and on the 24th of October, 1867, the treaty was signed. On January 9, 1868, the election was held, and out of 1,139 votes cast there were but 22 against the cession. St. John was unanimous, cast ing 205 votes in favor and, none against. Denmark ratified the treaty, but Senator Sumner, then chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, held the bill unre ported for more than two years. When he did report it, it was adversely. Again, in 1902, the United States sug gested to Denmark that we would like to buy the islands, and although that coun try had seen one treaty fail of ratification after it had been proposed by the United States and ratified by Denmark, it took up the matter again and signed the treaty providing for the sale of the islands. The treaty agreed to transfer them upon the payment of the sum of $5,000oo,ooo. It failed of ratification by Denmark by only one vote. If the present treaty passes, that one vote will have cost the United States the sum of $20,000,000.