Documents

TRIAL RECORDS


Documents from the trials are brutal!!


The trial protocol from the court martial ends with death sentences that were executed immediately. The sentences from the second trial end with death sentences that were later commuted to imprisonment.


These archival documents are not neutral or resulting from a fair trial. They are inscribed in the Danish colonial power, who had the authority over laws, verdicts and enforcement and who did not grant the Danish colonial subjects, the plantation laborers the same legal position as Danish national subjects in Denmark.

The documents are written by Danish administrators in Danish, despite the fact that interrogations were held in English.

The role of Danish administrators was to exercise colonial power and restore the colonial order.


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TRIAL PROTOCOL - COURT MARTIAL

Protocol of The West Indian Government, Court martial of 5. October 1878, Christiansvaern.

Sentenced 12 men to their death and immediate execution for participating in the uprising 1. October 1878.


INTERROGATION RECORDS

   5/11/1878 - 05/08 1880


Commission of 25.Oct 1878


Translation

The Government of the Danish West Indian Islands appointed 25.Oct. 1878 a “Commission of Inquiry” on the Fireburn. Hundreds of people were interrogated from 1878 until 1880.


Here is the whole interrogation protocol of more than 650 pages translated to English


FROM THE RECORDS:

'Specified Surrender of the damage added to the island’s sugar plantations'

ON THE COMMISION OF 25. OCTOBER 1878

On the 25th of October 1878, only some three weeks after the Fireburn, the Government of the Danish West Indian Islands appointed a “Commission of Inquiry”. The aim was, as is written in the preface of the records, to “examine and determine actions in the cases emerged and the crimes committed during the revolt of October 1878 on St. Croix, with participation of the insurgents, the troublemakers and all the participants in the revolt and the destruction of the same”.

FINAL REPORT AND SENTENCES

Commission of 25. Oct 1878

INTERROGATION RECORDS

   5/11/1878 - 05/08 1880


Commission of 25.Oct 1878


Background

The Government of the Danish West Indian Islands appointed 25.Oct. 1878 a “Commission of Inquiry” on the Fireburn. Hundreds of people were interrogated from 1878 until 1880.


Get more background information here


JUDGE ROSENSTAND'S LIST

This overview of people accused in the trial was found in Judge Rosenstands private archive together with the handwritten draft for the final sentences. The document is not digitalized by the Danish National Archives and has not been published anywhere until this site.

INTERROGATION RECORDS

   5/11/1878 - 05/08 1880


Commission of 25.Oct 1878


Navigate the interrogation records

The Government of the Danish West Indian Islands appointed 25.Oct. 1878 a “Commission of Inquiry” on the Fireburn. Hundreds of people were interrogated from 1878 until 1880.


Here we suggest various tracks throughout the many pages of documents.



** Notes on translation:

In translation, you always deal with a shift between languages and cultural environments, and in the translation of text from a different time, the shift is deepened. Also, however faithfully one tries to translate, it will always involve an aspect of interpretation.

In the translation of the Fireburn files, the aim has been to keep the historical and cultural tone of the original text.


Read more about translation here

PRISON RECORDS


Eight persons were sentenced to hard labour for life in Copenhagen. Four women came across the Atlantic together with three men from the rebellion. Mary Thomas, Mathilde McBean, Susanna Abraham, ’Bottom Belly’, and Axeline ’Agnes’ Solomon were incarcerated in Christianshavn's Womens Prison. The three men, Joseph Bowell, James Emmanuel Benjamin and Edvard Lewis were taken to Horsens' Penitentiary.

Mary Thomas

Trialed and convicted for "participation in looting and arson during the revolt on St. Croix 1878".

SUSANNA ABRAHAMSON

Trialed and convicted for "Participation in plundering and arson in Frederiksted during insurrection 1878".

MATHILDE MCBEAN

Trialed and convicted for "participation in murder of two soldiers on the Plantation Carlton and theft during the Rebellion 1878".

'Agnes' Axeline Elisabeth Salomon

Trialed and convicted for "participation in murder of two soldiers on the Plantation Carlton and theft during the Rebellion 1878".

NEWS CLIPPINGS


Fireburn was widely discussed and reported in contemporary media as well as on the occassion of Denmark
selling the colony to the US. This is a selection from the period.

St Thomas Times

2.-5.-9. Oct 1878


On the Fireburn, reported from St Thomas and the Danish / planter perspective

THE NEW YORK HERALD,

28. NOVEMBER 1878

The paper is critical towards the Labour Act of 1849; ‘…….but the recent work of destruction in St Croix was but the natural result of long years of extortion and suffering endured by the blacks at the hands of their white employers.´

ST. CROIX AVIS, 1878

Proclamations regarding the "insurrection", ordering the workers to remain at the estates and refrain from joining the "insurrectionists".

THE HERALD, 1916

"A Retrospective Glance of the dark and cruel days through which St- Croix has passed from 1848-1916."

THE NEW YORK TIMES, 1878

"The Distress in St. Croix"
- a letter to the editor