Sweden had bought the island of Saint Barthélemy from France in 1784 and possessed it as a colony until 1878, when it was sold back. An aerial view. The foregoing proclamation from the year 1785 by Gustavus III, the promise of being protected from creditors for ten years and the idea of the tropical location of the island caused unrestrained migration in Finland. Poor peasants arrived in thousands to coastal cities to wait for - as they thought - the king's free voyage to the West Indies. This led to numerous tragedies which made the king to give a new proclamation in May 1786 warning about the crammed space and meager income on the island. The province governors were ordered to make the proclamation publicly known.The island fever did not end before the autumn 1786.
The Swedish Baron, Major Salomon Mauritz von Rajalin (1757-1825) was appointed as the first governor of the island. The island soon became a port of call to Nordic navigators. The brig Exprès (Capt. Granberg) of the merchant L.J. Escholin from Åbo (Turku) stayed at the island for nearly two months in 1787. The Swedes founded the town of Gustavia as their administrative center on the island. The island was, like other remote places, very suitable for sending people to exile. The commander of the Finnish Tavastehus Dragoon Regiment, Colonel Robert Montgomery (1737-1798), who took part in the Anjala plot against Gustav III, was sentenced to death in 1789. The sentence was, however, commuted to exile to the island of St. Barthélemy. He returned from here in 1793. St. Barthélemy was separated from the Swedish state administration in 1812. It remained as a personal possession of the king (Carl XIV Johan) and its revenues were directed to a foundation supervised by the king. A Finnish adventurist and freedom fighter August Maximilian Myhrberg (1797-1867), born in Raahe, was appointed as the sectary of the Great Council of the island in 1842. He returned from the island in 1848.
The Swedish Diet abolished slavery on the island in 1845 (Britain had abolished it throughout her Empire in 1833). The island's economy entered a slump and the state had to subsidise it. In1868 the Diet proposed to the king selling of the island which then was carried out in 1878. The last inhabitant of Swedish ancestry, seamstress Selma Justina Milander, died on the island at the age of 90 in 1939.
Sources Bengt Sjögren: Ön som Sverige sålde (Zindermans, Uddevalla 1967); Göran Skytte: Det kungliga svenska slaveriet (Askelin & Hägglund, Stockholm 1986); Resan till S:t Barthélemy. Dr. Christopher Carlanders resejournal 1787-1788. (Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien, Stockholm 1979)