The Sales Treaty 1902

In 1873 rumor had it that Denmark intended to relinquish the Danish West Indies to Germany in exchange for Southern Jutland (lost to Germany in lost the Second Schleswig War in 1864). This was not correct, just as there was no basis in fact to other rumors concerning the cession of the colonies circulating in the decades following the failed sales attempt in 1867.
The first page of the sales treaty from 1902.
The first page of the sales treaty (Danish National Archives)

Renewed American interest

The Americans were still very interested in taking over the colonies, and in January 1900 the Secretary of State John Hay, presented a draft sales treaty. America now expressed a wish to purchase all three islands for the sum of 3.5 million dollars in gold and it wanted to act fast.

Danish counterclaims

The Danish government and parliament were largely in favor of selling the colony, which was showing a deficit, but demanded a minimum of 4 million dollars for the islands. In addition, the Danes wanted a number of privileges for the population of the islands and Danish economic interests. A referendum was also on the agenda.

The Americans agreed on most of the points, and on 24th January 1902 Denmark, represented by Ambassador Constantin Brun, and the USA, represented by Secretary of State John Hay, finally signed the text of the treaty. The final price was 5 million dollars.

Debate in Denmark

Congress ratified the sales treaty already in the middle of February 1902, and the Danish parliament was to follow suit. At that time, it consisted of two chambers – Folketinget and Landstinget – (similar to the British parliament with its House of Commons and House of Lords). After extensive public debate, Folketinget approved the sale of the islands on 14th March by 88 votes to 7.

Drama in Landstinget

However, the composition of Landstinget was considerably more conservative, and it was predicted that the vote would be extremely close. Everything was done to ensure that all members were present on 22nd October 1902. A 96-year-old gentleman was collected from his estate in Jutland, transported to Copenhagen by ambulance and carried into the chamber of the Landsting on a stretcher. The result of the vote was 32 in favor of the sale and 32 against. The proposal thus fell and the sales treaty could not be ratified.

See the full text of the treaty here.

The last page of the sales treaty from 1902.
The last page of the sales treaty signed by Ambassador Constantin Brun and the American Secretary of State John Hay (Danish National Archives)