File No. 711.5914/56

Minister Egan to the Secretary of State


240. Referring to your 99, April 24, 2 p.m. Following is the Foreign Office interpretation of the contre projet with its text:

The United States Government will be aware from previous negotiations respecting the questions now at issue that a cession of these islands which from olden times have belonged to the Danish Crown will only seem justifiable to Danish public opinion if the Danish public feel convinced that both, the islands and their inhabitants will gain by the union with the United States, a great power in their vicinity, this position being preferable to a continued union with Denmark. This point of view manifested itself during the previous negotiations in the wish that the inhabitants of the islands might, through voting, be given an opportunity of expressing themselves respecting the contemplated cession. It is not impossible that this point of view will again be brought forward by the Danish Rigsdag.

It must therefore again be put forward as Danish desiderata that those of the inhabitants who may not make use of their right to retain their Danish citizenship within the limits especially prescribed by the cession of the islands shall obtain all the rights of which citizens of the United States are possessed.

Furthermore, the island should simultaneously with the cession be exempt from any customs duty in their commercial connection with the United States, or at least that at the time of the union with the United States the customs duties shall be considerably diminished and entirely abolished after a short period of transition.

The Danish Government has enumerated in Article II, Section 4, of the contre projet as accurately as possible the monopolies, franchises and concessions existing in the said islands, and they cannot [Page 618] imagine that other claims or demands can be put forward from any side on account of the cession, but should such demand nevertheless be brought forward by any interested party who might feel that his rights had been violated on account of the cession, the King’s Government must expressly insist that it shall not be possible on that account to bring forward any claim against the Danish Treasury. The administration of the islands have possibly granted certain concessions, for instance wharf space to different parties, such as the Hamburg-American Line and the Royal Mail.

As regards the public monies in the islands, it is taken for granted that the special purposes to which they may possibly be allotted will be respected by the United States.

It will be remarked that Article XI in the original American proposal is not found in the accompanying contre projet from the Danish Government. The Danish Government deem it most expedient that the acknowledgment on the part of the United States of the measures taken by the Danish Government in Greenland does not form part of the convention itself, but is made simultaneously with the signing of the convention in the form of a declaration from the United States. A draft for such declaration will be forwarded later.

It has further not been thought possible to include in the convention an article respecting the extension of the Danish-American commercial treaty to the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. As the Government of the United States will be aware, trading with Greenland is at present government monopoly and the extension of the Danish-American commercial treaty to the Faroe Islands and Iceland will necessitate a series of negotiations which among other things could be expected to delay the settlement of the proposed main object of the present convention.

The small differences which in reality exist between the original American proposal and the contre projet of the Danish Government will easily appear in comparing the two texts.

Full text follows.

Convention between His Majesty the King of Denmark and the United States of America respecting the cession of the Islands of Saint Thomas, Saint John and Sainte Croix in the West Indies.

His Majesty the King of Denmark and the United States of America, being desirous of confirming the good understanding which exists between them, have to that end appointed as Plenipotentiaries:

  • His Majesty the King of Denmark:
    Mr. Constantin Brun, Grand Cross of Dannebrog and decorated with the cross of honor of the same order, His Majesty’s Chamberlain and Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary at Washington,
  • And the President of the United States:
    Robert Lansing, Secretary of State of the United States,

Who, having mutually exhibited their full powers which were found to be in due form, have agreed upon the following articles:

Article I

His Majesty the King of Denmark by this convention cedes to the United States the Islands of Saint Thomas, Saint John and Sainte Croix in the West Indies together with the adjacent islands and rocks with all the sovereignty exercised or claimed therein by the Danish Government.

This cession includes the right of property in all public, government, or crown lands, buildings, wharves, ports, harbors, fortifications, barracks and all other public property and public means of every kind or description now belonging to the Danish Government together with all appurtenances thereto.

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Any government archives, papers and documents relative to the islands ceded and the dominions of the same, which may now be existing there, shall pass by this cession, but an authenticated copy of such documents or papers as may be required shall at all times be given by the United States to the Danish Government or to such properly authorized Danish officers or subjects as may apply for them.

Article II

It is specially agreed, however, that:

The arms and military stores existing in the islands at the time of the cession and belonging to the Danish Government shall remain the property of that Government and shall, as soon as circumstances will permit, be removed by it, unless they, or parts thereof, may have been bought by the Government of the United States; it being however understood that flags and colors, uniforms and such arms and baggage or military articles as are marked as being the property of the Danish Government shall not be included in such purchase.
The movables, especially silver plate and pictures to be found in the Government buildings in the islands ceded and belonging to the Danish Government shall remain the property of that Government and shall, as soon as circumstances will permit, be removed by it.
The pecuniary claims now held by Denmark against the colonial treasuries of the islands ceded are altogether extinguished in consequence of this cession and the United States assume no responsibility whatsoever for or in connection with these. Excepted is however the amount due to the Danish Treasury in account current with the West Indian colonial treasuries pursuant to the making up of accounts in consequence of the cession of the islands; should on the other hand this final accounting show a balance in favor of the West Indian colonial treasuries, the Danish Treasury shall pay that amount to the colonial treasuries.
The United States will maintain the following grants, concessions and licenses, given by the Danish Government, in accordance with the terms on which they are given:
The concession granted to “Det vestind ske Kompagni” (The West Indian Company), Limited, by the communications from the Ministry of Finance of January 18, 1913, and of April 16, 1913, relative to a license to embank, drain, deepen and utilize certain areas in Saint Thomas harbor and preferential rights as to commercial, industrial or shipping establishments in the said harbor.
Agreement of August 10 and 14, 1914, between the Municipality of Saint Thomas and Saint John and “Det vestindiske Kompagni,” Limited, relative to the supply of the city of Charlotte Amalie with electric lighting.
Concession of March 12, 1897, to “The Floating Dock Company of Saint Thomas, Limited,” subsequently transferred to “The Saint Thomas Engineering and Coaling Company, Limited,” relative to a floating dock in Saint Thomas harbor, in which concession the maintenance, extension and alteration of the then existing repairing slip are reserved.
Royal Decree No. 79 of November 30, 1914, relative to the subsidies from the colonial treasuries Saint Thomas and Sainte Croix to “The West India and Panama Telegraph Company, Limited.”
Concession of November 3, 1906, to K. B. Hey to establish and operate a telephone system on Saint Thomas Island, which concession has subsequently been transferred to the “Saint Thomas Telefonselskab,” Limited.
Concession of February 28, 1913, to the Municipality of Sainte Croix to establish and operate a telephone system in Sainte Croix.
Concession of July 16, 1915, to Ejnar Svendsen, an engineer, for the construction and operation, of an electric light plant in the city of Christiansted, Sainte Croix.
Concession of June 20, 1904, for the establishment of a Danish West Indian bank of issue. This bank has for a period of thirty years acquired the monopoly to issue bank notes in the Danish West India Islands against the payment to the Danish Treasury of a tax amounting to ten per cent of its annual profits, such tax to be paid in Danish West Indian bills of credit in case the bank possesses such bills. It must however be observed that the Danish Treasury undertakes to redeem such Danish West Indian bills of credit as are in the possession of the bank.
Guarantee according to the Danish supplementary budget law for the financial year 1908–1909 relative to the Saint Thomas harbors four per cent loan of 1910.
According to a promise given provisionally in accordance with petitions from the following companies: “Det ostasiatiske Kompagni,” Limited, and “Det kontinentale Syndikat Forpowlsen Radio Telegrafi,” Limited, there is reserved for each of these companies within a period of ten years from January 1, 1916, a right to establish and thereafter to operate, within the limits of the islands ceded, a radio telegraph station, in the case of the former for correspondence with vessels at sea and in the case of the latter for correspondence as well with ships at sea as with stations over the islands.
Whatever sum shall be due to the Danish Treasury by individuals on the date of the exchange of ratifications are reserved and do not pass by this cession; and where the Danish Government at that date holds property taken over by the Danish Treasury for sums due by the private individuals, such property shall not pass by this cession, but the Danish Government shall sell or dispose of such property and remove its proceeds within two years from the date of the exchange of ratifications of this Convention; the United States Government being entitled to sell by public auction, to the credit of the Danish Government, any portion of such property remaining unsold at the expiration of the said term of two years.
The congregations belonging to the Danish National Church shall retain the undisturbed possession of the churches which are now used by them, together with the parsonages appertaining thereunto and all other appurtenances including the capitals allotted to churches.
The colonial treasury continue to pay the yearly allowances now given to heretofore retired functionaries appointed in the islands but holding no royal palace commission, unless such allowances may have until now been paid in Denmark.

Article III

The Danish Government shall appoint with convenient despatch ah agent or agents for the purpose of formally delivering to a similar agent or agents appointed on behalf of the United States, the territory, dominion, property and appurtenances which are ceded herewith, and for doing any other act which may be necessary in regard thereto. Formal delivery of the territory and property ceded shall be made immediately after the payment by the United States of the sum of money stipulated in this convention. Any Danish military or naval force which may be in the islands ceded shall be withdrawn as soon as may be practicable after the formal delivery, it being however understood that if the persons constituting these forces, after having terminated their Danish service, do not wish to leave the islands, they shall be allowed to remain there as civilians.

Article IV

In full consideration of the cession made by this convention, the United States agree to pay, within ninety days from the date of the exchange ratification of this convention in the city of Washington to the diplomatic representative or other agent of His Majesty the King of Denmark duly authorized to receive the money, the sum of twenty-five million dollars in gold coin of the United States.

Article V

Danish citizens residing in said islands may remain therein or may remove therefrom at will, retaining in either event all their rights of property, including the rights to sell or dispose of such property or its proceeds; in case they remain in the islands, they shall continue until otherwise provided, to enjoy all the private, municipal and religious rights and liberties secured to them by the laws now in force. If the present laws are altered, the said inhabitants shall not thereby be placed in a less favorable condition in respect to the above mentioned rights and liberties (than they?) now enjoy. Those, who remain in the islands may preserve their citizenship in Denmark by making before a court of record, within one year from the date of the exchange of ratifications of this convention, a declaration of their decision to preserve such citizenship; in default of which declaration they shall be held to have renounced it, and to have accepted citizenship in the United States; for children under eighteen years the said declaration may be made by their parents or guardians. Such election of Danish citizenship shall however not, after the lapse of the said term of one year, be a bar to their renunciation of their preserved Danish citizenship and their election of citizenship in [Page 621] the United States and admission to the nationality thereof on the same terms as may be provided according to the laws of the United States, for other inhabitants of the islands.

The civil rights and the political status of the inhabitants of the islands shall be determined by the Congress, subject to approval stipulations contained in the present convention.

Danish citizens not residing in the islands but owning property therein at the time of the cession, shall retain their rights of property, including the right to sell or dispose of such property, being placed in this regard on the same basis as the Danish citizens residing in the islands and remaining therein or removing therefrom to whom the first paragraph of this article relates.

The rights of property, secured by copyrights and patents acquired by Danish citizens in the islands ceded at the time of exchange of the ratifications of this convention, shall be maintained.

Article VI

Judicial proceedings pending at the time of the formal delivery in the islands ceded shall be determined according to the following rules:

(1) Judgments rendered either in civil suits between private individuals, or in criminal matters, before the date mentioned, and with respect to which there is no recourse or right to review under Danish law, shall be deemed to be final, and shall be executed in due form and without any renewed trial whatsoever by the competent authority in the territories within which such judgments should be carried out.

The same rule is applicable to such extrajudicial agreements in civil matters as according to the law hitherto in force, are to be exacted (are exigible), without foregoing procedure.

If in a criminal case a mode of punishment has been applied which according to new rules is no longer applicable on the islands ceded after delivery, the nearest corresponding punishment in the new rules shall be applied, or, if the Danish Government should so desire, the punishment shall be undergone in Denmark.

(2) Civil suits or criminal actions pending before the first courts in which the pleadings have not been closed at the same time, shall be confirmed before the tribunals established in the ceded islands after the delivery in accordance with the law which shall thereafter be in force.

(3) Civil suits and criminal actions pending at the said time before the superior court or the supreme court in Denmark or which are subsequently brought before these courts against persons from the islands ceded by this convention, shall continue to be prosecuted before the Danish courts until final judgment according to the law hitherto in force. The judgment shall be executed according to the rules stipulated in paragraph number 1 of this article.

Article VII

Treaties, conventions and all other international agreements of any nature existing between Denmark and the United States shall eo ipso extend, in default of a provision to the contrary, also to the ceded islands.

Article VIII

In case of differences of opinion arising between the high contracting parties in regard to the interpretation or application of this convention, such differences, if they cannot be regulated through diplomatic negotiations, shall be submitted for arbitration to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague.

Article IX

The ratification of the treaty will be exchanged at Washington as soon as possible after ratification by both of the high contracting parties according to their respective procedure.

In faith whereof the respective plenipotentiaries have signed and sealed this convention, in the Danish and English languages.

Done at Washington