The Historical Possession of St Croix

The island of St. Croix has a rich history marked by a succession of different European powers and, eventually, its purchase by the United States.

Early European Settlers

In 1625, Dutch and English settlers landed at Saint Croix. They were soon joined by some French refugees from Saint Kitts. However, conflicts were inevitable. The English expelled the Dutch and French settlers, only to be evicted themselves by a Spanish invasion from Puerto Rico in August 1650.

French Control and the Knights of Malta

The Spanish occupation was short-lived. In 1650, a French force of 166 men attacked and established control over the island. By the following year, 1651, the French had established a colony of 300 settlers. From 1651 until 1664, the Knights of Malta, a vassal state of the Kingdom of Sicily, ruled the island in the name of Louis XIV. The French West India Company then took control. However, during the War of the Grand Alliance, the colony was evacuated to San Domingo in 1695. The island lay uninhabited and abandoned for another 38 years.

Danish Purchase and Development

In 1725, Governor Frederik Moth of St. Thomas encouraged the Danish West Indies Company’s directors to consider purchasing Santa Cruz (Saint Croix). A treaty between France and Denmark-Norway was concluded on June 15, 1733, allowing the Danish West India Company to buy Saint Croix for 750,000 livres. Louis XV ratified the treaty on June 28, and the payment was split between French coins and installments over 18 months. Moth was appointed the first Danish governor of Saint Croix on November 16, 1733.

By 1742, the island’s economy was booming with 120 sugar plantations and 122 cotton plantations, supported by 1,906 enslaved individuals compared to only 360 whites on the island. The plantation system rapidly expanded, and by 1754, when King Frederick of Denmark took direct control of Saint Croix from the Danish West India Company, the number of enslaved individuals had grown to 7,566. The Danish period saw extensive agricultural development, with numerous additional plantations established over the years, significantly impacting the island’s demographic and social structure.

Purchase by the United States

The Danish West Indies, including Saint Croix, were sold to the United States in 1917. The purchase was driven by strategic interests during World War I and concerns over German expansion in the Caribbean. The United States paid $25 million in gold for the islands, which included Saint Thomas, Saint John, and Saint Croix. The transfer of sovereignty took place on March 31, 1917, and the islands were renamed the United States Virgin Islands.

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