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sailing from the United States and Canada to Brazil and other countries in South America. It is a point where all vessels touch for coal, water, and other supplies when needed, and is a central rendezvous or focus for the commerce of the West Indies. All mail intended for ships that frequent those waters is sent to St. Thomas, for every ship is pretty sure to touch there either going to or returning from its destination. In a military sense St. Thomas is a central point commanding all of the West Indian Islands, and is so situated that it can be fortified to any extent. The bay on which lies the town of Charlotte Amalie, the principal city, is almost circular, the entrance being narrow and deep, and guarded by two heavy forts which could be so strengthened and protected that no foreign power could ever hope to take it. There is no other landing place, for the island is surrounded by reefs and breakers which constitute a natural protection, and the surf runs so high that it would be impossible for a boat-load of sailors or soldiers to land anywhere outside of the harbor. There is no harbor in the West Indies better situated for commerce or for military purposes, and it is large enough to shelter all the vessels in the world.
The Civil War demonstrated that the greatest military weakness of the United States was the lack of a harbor of refuge and a source of naval supplies in the West Indies.) The sovereignty of these islands, more than a thousand in number, is divided among nearly all of the great nations of the earth, but the United States has no foothold there. England, France, Holland, Spain, and other countries have ports in which their vessels can seek supplies and protection at any time. In case the United States should become involved in war with any of those nations we should be at a great disadvantage because our vessels would be compelled to return frequently to our Atlantic ports for coal and provisions. It
is the universal opinion among naval experts that the lack of such a station in the West Indies prolonged the late war at the cost of millions of dollars and the loss of thousands of lives; therefore, at the close of hostilities, Mr. Seward, who was secretary of state, endeavored to secure a base of supplies.
After considering the various questions involved, in January, 1865, he conveyed to the Danish minister at Washington, General Rassloff, an intimation that the United States would consider a proposition to purchase the possessions of Denmark in America. Although the communication was informal, the subject was widely discussed, both in the United States and in Copenhagen, and informal but very earnest protests were received by the Danish government from England, France, Germany, and other foreign powers. The assassination of President Lincoln caused the proposition to be temporarily abandoned, but during the winter of 1866 the negotiations were resumed.
Secretary Seward, after his recovery from the wounds of the assassin on the night when Lincoln was killed, sailed through the West Indies for the purpose of restoring his health, and made personal investigation of the advantages of St. Thomas, which were afterwards the subject of a report to the President. Consequently, in July, 1866, a formal proposition was made to Denmark, through General Rassloff, for the purchase of the three islands for the sum of $5,000,000. The latter arrived in Copenhagen with the proposition just at the moment of the defeat of the conservative party, whose late leaders had rejected the original overtures from the United States. The new ministry, which was military in its instincts, did not show any greater favor toward the American proposition, but, for fear of offending the United States, the government decided to make no answer to the proposition. General Rassloff resigned, and the Danish mission in the United
States was vacant. Mr. Seward telegraphed Mr. Yeaman, the United States minister to Copenhagen, to obtain a definite reply, but he failed to secure from the Danish government any expression either of assent or dissent. He was informed, however, that there were many interests, sentiments, and conditions that must be considered and conciliated before any action could be taken.
Ten months later the Danish minister of foreign relations informed Minister Yeaman that while the government declined the offer of $5,000,000 for its American provinces it would agree to cede them to the United States for $15,000,000, the transfer of Santa Cruz, however, to depend upon the consent of France, as this was required by a treaty stipulation of two hundred years' standing. Or, if this proposition was not acceptable, St. Thomas and one other island would be ceded to the United States for $10,000,000, provided the inhabitants would approve the proposition by ballot. This offer was met by the United States with a counter-proposition to purchase two of the islands for $7,500,000, which was accepted by Denmark, with the condition that the inhabitants might express their assent to the measure. Senator Doolittle of Wisconsin, who happened to be in Europe at the time, was requested to proceed to Copenhagen and there conclude the negotiations. The purchase of Alaska from Russia was pending at the same time, and it was suggested that the endorsement of Russia upon the St. Thomas proposition would have a favorable effect. Thereupon, Senator Doolittle secured from Chancellor Gortchakoff an assurance that Denmark would have the moral support of Russia in the transaction. All of the papers having been signed on the 24th of October, 1867, the treaty, together with a history of the case and the documents, was sent to the Senate when Congress met in December.
In the meantime the Danish government appointed Edward Carstensen as a commissioner to take the vote of the people of St. Thomas on the proposition to transfer them from subjects of his majesty the king of Denmark to citizens of the United States. The United States sent Reverend Doctor Hawley, who was pastor of the church attended by Secretary Seward at Auburn, N. Y., as a commissioner to observe the election and answer any questions of a general character, or give any desired information in regard to the purposes of the United States that might be demanded by a people who were about voting upon a measure that affected their interests so deeply. Dr. Hawley found the people earnestly and amiably inclined, but the merchants desired an assurance that in the event of the transfer to the United States no duties would be imposed upon articles imported into St. Thomas for at least a stated length of time. He was unauthorized to meet this question, and Commissioner Carstensen could not proceed with the vote until it was settled. Rear Admiral Palmer at once dispatched a vessel to the United States with the Danish commissioner and Dr. Hawley, to lay this important matter before the government, but they arrived in Washington in the midst of the quarrel between President Johnson and the Senate which resulted in the impeachment of the former. Commissioner Carstensen returned alone to St. Thomas, and informed the merchants that he was not authorized to give them any assurances about the continuance of St. Thomas as a free port. On the 9th of January the vote was taken amid great ceremonies and festivities. The result was almost unanimity in favor of annexation, there being but 22 votes cast against the proposition in St. Thomas, and not one dissenting vote in St. John. When the news reached Copenhagen the parliament ratified the treaty without debate, and the king signed it on the 1st of January, 1868; but no notice was taken
of it in Washington. The treaty lay buried in a pigeon-hole of the desk of Mr. Sumner, the chairman of the committee on foreign relations. Official notice was sent to the Senate of the result of the vote on the islands, and the action of the Danish parliament and the king, and attention was called to the fact that the limit of time for ratification would expire on the 24th of February; but that produced no effect. The Senate was otherwise engaged. On the 21st of February the proceedings in the impeachment of President Johnson began, and amidst the political excitement St. Thomas was not thought of.
In the following August, our government proposed to Denmark that the time for the exchange of ratifications be extended one year from October 14, 1868, which was agreed to, and the treaty was revived. The Danish government soon became indignant at the delay of the United States and sent Mr. Rassloff to demand that either the treaty should be ratified by the United States Senate, or just cause shown for the failure to do so. But during the busy session of Congress in 1869 the treaty remained suspended, and although a third opportunity was offered for the extension of the time for ratification no action was ever taken upon it. The failure of these negotiations caused the downfall of the first liberal ministry that ruled in Denmark, and the friendly relations between the United States and that country were impaired for several years by the unexplained neglect of the United States to carry out a solemn compact of its own seeking.
The Republic of Liberia.
By the terms of paragraph 1, section 9, of article 1 of the Constitution of the United States, the admission of African slaves into our country was, in effect, prohibited after the year 1807. This period expired near the termination of the administration of President Jefferson, who, anticipating the capture