100 years ago on March 31, 1917, the United States got a whole lot closer to paradise when they bought three islands from Denmark. The three islands of Saint Thomas, Saint John and Saint Croix were purchased for the sum of $25 million in gold and were incorporated as a US Territory. The USVI is comprised of 85,568 acres so that’s $292 per acre, a great deal considering that the 15-acre Estate at Spring Bay is currently priced at $10 million or $666,000 per acre.
Water Island, which sits just off the coast of Saint Thomas, wasn’t included in the purchase of the Saints because it was privately owned by the East Asiatic Company. The US didn’t acquire Water Island until 1944, but got it for just $10,000. The original idea was to use it as a massive fort and proving ground, but those plans we scrapped with the end of the second World War. The Department of Defense transferred ownership to the Department of the Interior which then leased it to a private citizen. The lease ran out in 1992 and the island was transferred to the USVI government making it the fourth US Virgin Island.
The 191 7 transfer went pretty smoothly, though residents were frustrated that they didn’t receive US citizenship immediately. The islands were also not granted a representative government, instead being run by naval administrators since the islands were purchased for strategic military value. The passage of the Organic Act in 1936 established the rule of an elected governor and granted American citizenship to the residents of the islands.
Our opinion is that the US citizens of the USVI should have voting rights in our democracy, as of now they have elected local government officials but their congressional representatives can’t vote and they can’t vote in the general election for president of the United States. We do know one thing, though, the US is better for having the Virgin Islands as part of our country, not just to be a mainlander’s playground but for the diversity they bring to our nation.