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desires, would be most inaccurate here. Even the Danish authorities agree that although statistics yield a sufficiently definite language frontier, which would leave to the south a large Danish minority in only one place, namely, Flensburg, yet, in the triangle between this line, which juts down southwest of Flensburg, and a line drawn, roughly, westward from the city, the population, though Danish in language, is only exceptionally so in sentiment.1 Nor can credence be given to an interpretation of votes in recent elections under German rule, for in this region of sparsely populated moorland many of the people of Danish language and sympathies have bowed before the storm. There is this further objection that a division according to statistics would disregard the historic desire for unity in the smaller group, a desire which led the refugees in Copenhagen in 1848 to protest that they preferred unity under Germany rather than division. This objection has an historic claim to consideration although it is possible that the events of the past seventy years have rendered its importance merely academic.
THE ISLANDS OF ST. THOMAS AND ST. JOHN, WEST INDIES, 1868
The first plebiscite regarding a cession of sovereignty ever held in the western hemisphere is that which was held in the islands of St. Thomas and St. John, in January, 1868, on the question of their cession by Denmark to the United States. It is a matter of some interest that both the vote and the insertion of the clause referring to it in the treaty between the two Powers, 40,000. This Government is taking steps to have the Peace Conference guarantee the freedom of the plebiscite in accordance with the desires of the Danish North Schleswigers as expressed by the second Aabenraa resolution of December 30, 1918. Translation. From The Nation, April 5, 1919.
1 This statement is taken from the article by H. V. Clausen, “ La situation des langues en Nord-Slesvig après 1864,” in Manuel historique, p. 341. See map on opposite page, which is a copy of that accompanying the article. According to the author's comment, the colored part represents all of that part of Schleswig in which Danish is spoken by the majority of the families owning land. To the south of this region there is only one place, namely Flensburg, where there is any considerable Danish speaking minority, the number there being about 4,000. The figures given on the map are of two kinds. In North Schleswig these figures are in three sets (see note 1 on map). In the middle portion of Schleswig, where the Danish language is still dominant, namely, that part contained in the triangle bounded on the east by the peninsula of Anglia and on the west by the Frisian territory, there is only one numeral under each commune (see note 2 on map). This difference in the method of evaluation is caused by the difference in the sources from which the statistics are compiled. In middle Schleswig, where the people," although Danish in language, are only exceptionally so in sentiment,” the statistics are based on German works and, in particular, on the work of Adler, Die Volkssprach in dem Herzogthum Schleswig seit 1864. In the north, where it was possible for the Danes themselves to take the statistics in each commune, the figures are more complete and more accurate, except for the cities of Haderslav, Apenrade, Sonderburg and Tondern, where only an approximate result could be secured.
were directly due to the presence of Article 5 in the Treaty of Prague of 1866. Owing to the fact that the treaty with Denmark was never ratified by the United States and that thus the cession was never completed, the circumstances of the affair have been largely forgotten.
During the American Civil War the Government of the United States had felt the need of a coaling station in the West Indies for which the three small Danish islands of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John, the last two with excellent harbors, were well suited. The islands had no great area or population, St. Thomas being 12 miles long and 3 wide, with about 13,000 inhabitants, St. Croix, the largest one, being twice as large in area and population, and St. John being about the same area as St. Thomas but with a much smaller number of inhabitants. The people of the islands were largely negroes who had been freed but not enfranchised, and, although Danish subjects, the language in common use was English. According to a Danish estimate made at the time there were in the three islands, even including the military force and the government employees, only about 200 people whose mother tongue was Danish. 1
In pursuance of his policy of territorial expansion, and while the need of a coaling station in the Caribbean was still a matter of public concern, Secretary Seward on July 17, 1866, intimated to General Raaslof, the Danish Minister at Washington, that the United States would be willing to pay five million dollars for the three islands,” which were not only a source of debt rather than of revenue to Denmark but were of little use to her in any other respect. Her treasury, too, had been depleted by the recent disastrous war with Prussia and Austria. Yet, coming as it did so soon after the loss of Schleswig and Holstein, the proposal of a further reduction of her territory did not appeal to Denmark. Fear of opposition from Great Britain and, more especially, France, also deterred her from accepting the American offer. Although certain informal conversations took place regarding the matter, it was not until May 17 of the following year that the official Danish reply was delivered to Mr. Yeaman, the American Minister at Copenhagen. The answer was a counter proposition. Denmark would sell the smaller islands for ten million and St. Croix for five, if the consent of France, which was necessary for the transfer of the latter, could be obtained, but for any cession
1 Faderlandet, Copenhagen, Aug. 29, 1867; United States, Compilation of Reports of Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (Sen. Doc. No. 231, pt. 8, 56th Cong., 2d sess.),
2 Documents, post, p. 945. The sum fixed was that suggested by General Delafield as a most generous compensation in his report to Mr. Seward on July 9, 1866, regarding the value of the islands. U. S. Sen. Doc. No. 231, pt. 8, 56th Cong. 2d sess., p. 178.
3 The question raised as to the cession of St. Croix grew out of the provisions of Article 5 of the convention signed at Copenhagen June 15, 1733, by which France ceded the island to the Danish West India Company. The article provided that the Danish
whatever, not only was the sanction of the Rigsdag required by the constitution but the Danish Government would also insist on the consent of the people of the islands as well.1
To this Seward sent an answer on May 27 that the United States must have all the islands and at a price not exceeding seven and one-half million and that a plebiscite would be wholly unnecessary in view of the inclusion of a two year option clause in the treaty draft which he was forwarding. On the receipt of a telegram from Washington, Yeaman submitted, on May 28, to Count Frijs, the Danish Foreign Minister, the terms proposed by Mr. Seward, with the condition that the treaty must be ratified by Denmark before August 4th or the negotiations would be considered at an end.
Mr. Seward had expressly withheld his consent that the ratification of the treaty should await or depend upon a vote of the people of the islands. The exact source of this objection of Mr. Seward's to a vote in the islands is not clear. There are three explanations, first, that he feared that the influence of Great Britain, France, and Spain would be excited to cause an adverse vote; secondly, that if the islanders were allowed to vote on the question they would then demand statehood; third, that haste was imperative owing to the early adjournment of Congress. Whatever the cause of his objection he adhered to it for many months, after all the other difficulties of price and time of ratification were removed. The Danish Cabinet, on their side, was equally insistent that a vote was imperative. For this they gave two reasons, as stated by Yeaman in his dispatch of June 17. The first was that the modern custom of Europe upon the subject was so uniform as to amount to a rule of public law, and that any departure from it would cause comment and discontent, and, the second, that Denmark, especially, could not afford to disregard the rule as she would thereby infinitely weaken her claim to a plebiscite in Northern Schleswig. To Yeaman's arguments that the plebiscite would offer opportunity for intrigue from without as well as tend to weaken the authority of the State over the subject, the Danish Cabinet, though doubtless sympathetic, again dwelt on the Schleswig situation, whose force as an argument Yeaman was compelled to admit.
On June 17, Yeaman had forwarded Denmark's proposal to sell the two islands of St. Thomas and St. John for seven and a half million dollars, and
West India Company should engage and obligate itself in a formal and authentic manner, neither to sell nor to cede the island on any terms to any other nation without the approval and consent of the King of France. See John Bassett Moore, Digest of International Law, vol. 1, p. 603, note a.
1 Documents, post. p. 946.
3 Cf. Frederic Bancroft, Life of William H. Seward, vol. 2, p. 483, and Waldemar Westergaard, The Danish Indies, p. 259.
to make St. Croix the subject of separate negotiations. Seward, early in July, cabled to close with the offer, but with no indication that he yielded on the matter of the vote. Finding the Danes still insistent on the vote, Yeaman cabled for instructions and received the answer “Do not agree to submit the question.” Congress being about to adjourn, the immediate need for haste would appear to have passed, but there was another reason which still made Seward insistent against delay. The return of peace had gradually eliminated the importance of a coaling station in the West Indies from the public mind whose demand for expansion had been gratified by the acquisition of Alaska. For these reasons the negotiations for St. Croix were eventually abandoned.
Despite the diplomatic concern of the Danish Government not only that the vote should be held but that it should be stipulated in the treaty, Count Frijs, in order to meet Mr. Seward's objection, after the other points of difference had been disposed of, on August 17 signified his willingness to yield the demand for a conditional clause in the treaty, if, instead, there should be inserted an allusion to the intention of the Danish Government to take the vote. This Yeaman refused at first, but finally took ad referendum, and, on September 27, forwarded the text of the clause as drawn up by the Danish negotiators. Convinced at last by the repeated advices of his Minister that Denmark would not yield and that if there were no vote there would be no cession, Seward, early in October, yielded to the Danish insistence for a plebiscite so far as to cable the withdrawal of his objection to the vote, if the condition of the vote were not mentioned in the treaty. In yielding this Seward was doubtless influenced by Yeaman's account of sentiment in the islands, the word received in Copenhagen being that the people were well disposed for union and would give it a good majority, and by the warning that, news of the negotiations having leaked out, France was already protesting and similar protests were expected from Great Britain. On receipt of Seward's telegram Yeaman informed Count Frijs that a clause would be inserted simply stating the fact that the King would afford the people an opportunity of freely expressing their approbation of the cession.
The treaty draft was signed at Copenhagen on October 24. Article 1 contained the clause that the King of Denmark would not exercise any constraint over the people and would, therefore, as soon as practicable, give them an opportunity to express freely their wishes in regard to the cession. In addition to this the option clause was retained.3
It now remained to take the vote. On October 1, before the treaty had
1 Documents, post, p. 959. 2 Documents, post, p. 959. 3 Documents, post, p. 960.
been signed, General Raasloff, now the Danish Prime Minister, had suggested to Mr. Yeaman that as an agreement seemed probable, the American Government should send to the islands both ships of war and agents, “properly provided with instructions and all that may be useful to assist the Danish commissioner in his work and to do whatever else circumstances may require. Rear Admiral Palmer was accordingly ordered to St. Thomas with the Susquehannah, and the Reverend Charles Hawley of Auburn, New York, was appointed by Secretary Seward to act as confidential representative to help secure a favorable decision. His instructions were to present to the inhabitants the advantages of the change of sovereignty, and, especially, the great market that they would gain for their products as well as the further prosperity which would result from the proposed naval station. In all things, however, he was to cooperate with the Danish commissioner, deferring to his judgment.
Hawley, accompanied by two assistants, arrived at the islands on November 12. The Danish Commissioner arrived some ten days later, and at once invited the American agents to confer with the Danish officials. The Danish government was as eager for a favorable vote as was the American government. Chamberlain Carstensen, the Danish commissioner, was frankly unwilling to order an election until reasonably assured that the vote would be favorable. The agents of both governments were convinced that the mass of the inhabitants were for the cession, but that the mercantile interests of St. Thomas would be a unit against it unless they should receive some assurance from the United States that the status of St. Thomas as a free port would be preserved, at least for a certain period, and thus the trade with the other islands, which was the chief source of their income, remain unhampered. This demand of the merchants was presented to the American representatives at a formal conference convened by the Governor at the request of the Danish Commissioner. It was a demand to which the American agents could only answer that it was a matter for Congressional action, but that no doubt such action would be generous. The Danish Commissioner, however, was unwilling to chance a vote on such a vague declaration and decided to take advantage of the disorganization due to a recent great earthquake and tidal wave, and to go himself to Washington hoping to obtain some more definite promise which would insure a favorable vote. Hawley went with him on the journey. Before their departure the royal proclamation of the King of Denmark was read, acquainting the islanders with the provisions of the treaty. Dissatisfied with its contents the merchants of St. Thomas at once forwarded to the Commissioner a set of additional articles containing the stipulations as to trade and other matters which they desired. The memorial and articles were duly laid
1 Documents, post, p. 957. 2 Documents, post, p. 971.