A People's Historical Journey to Self Determination & Decolonization

The Ay Ay Islands, (f.k.a.) The Danish West Indies, (n.k.a.) Virgin Islands of the United States

Abolition of the Slave Trade

1803 - Denmark is the first to ban the slave trade.

"Denmark was the first European country to ban slavery. In 1807 Britain declared the slave trade to be illegal. One year later the United States of America followed, Sweden in 1813, The Netherlands in 1814, France in 1815 and Spain in 1820.


However the constant demand for slaves in the Caribbean and in the Southern States of America continued. Huge profits could still be made with the slave trade. In the years that followed, dozens of illegal slave transports took place between Africa and those destinations. Britain on an international level made great efforts to stop this illegal trade. It made agreements with other countries, and British marine ships were authorized to ransack ships leaving Africa. They patrolled along the African coast to stop illegal slave transports. When a slave trader was caught, the ship was confiscated and the captain punished. The punishments England imposed in 1811 was deportation or the death penalty."


Danish decision to abolish transatlantic slave trade in 1792

From the 1650s onward, Denmark participated in the transatlantic slave trade. A total of approximately 120,000 enslaved Africans were transported from Africa to the West Indies on ships flying the flag of Denmark. On the other hand, Denmark was the first slave-trading nation that prohibited the barbaric traffic.

Count Ernst Schimmelmann appoints a commission

Despite Denmark’s active slave trading, there was largely no public debate about the subject in Denmark for many years. Even in 1760, the Bishop of Zealand defended this traffic in human beings.


This changed, however, at the end of the 1700s. In 1788, a book was published by the physician Paul Erdmann Isert which condemned the slave trade. There were also new measures on the part of the government. Count Ernst Schimmelmann, appointed Denmark’s Minister of Finance in 1784, was very well-to-do and owned some of the best plantations in the Danish West Indies colony, with approximately a thousand slaves. In 1791 he had a commission established to secure “a better arrangement for the trade in blacks”. In a comprehensive report, authored mostly by Schimmelmann himself, the commission argued for better living conditions for the slaves in the West Indies. The purpose was not solely humanitarian, however. The desire was primarily to avoid the many fatalities in the colony, which resulted in a constant need for expensive shipments of slaves from Africa. In addition, savings were sought on the expensive forts on the Guinea Coast.

King Christian VII signs a decree on “the trade in blacks”

In March 1792, Christian VII signed a new decree on “the trade in blacks”, based on the Commission’s report to the General Customs Office. The transatlantic slave trade under the Danish flag was to cease, but very pragmatically not until 1803 – ten years later. In the interim, the islands could import all the slaves they wished. Financial support was even available from the national government so that the slave population could become as large and as balanced as possible with respect to gender and age.

The result was, paradoxically enough, that the slave population grew from 28,000 to 36,000 during the winding-down period of 1792-1803. Afterward, there was only limited illegal transatlantic slave trading under a Danish flag.

Read more at: Slavery

List of estate items, including slaves