The Danish St Croix Project: Revisiting the Lincoln Colonization Program with Foreign-language Sources

Working from previously unknown sources in Danish archives, this article establishes for the first time the important role that the island of St Croix played in the Lincoln administration’s considerations on colonizing African Americans abroad. This article argues that U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward, commonly viewed as an anti-colonizationist, was at least a mild proponent of colonization in its earliest stages. The article demonstrates further that in the summer of 1862, the St Croix colonization project was an important stepping stone in the Lincoln administration’s legal justification for emancipation, and that it was recognized as such by high-ranking Confederates. The negotiations failed for reasons that had little to do with Lincoln or his opinion on the matter. Rather, the plan fell through because the Danes slowly turned against it for economic and political reasons. The substantial conclusion of this article is that, contrary to earlier perceptions in the historiography, African American colonization during the Civil War was not led and directed entirely from Washington. Rather, in this case, the Danish minister proposed a colonization plan and then worked with the U.S. Government to attempt to see it through.