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Thu, 07.01.1784

Saint Barthélemy, Swedish Colony is Formed

*On this date, in 1784, the Swedish colony of Saint Barthélemy was formed. This was a Swedish colonial property during the Middle Passage and existed for nearly a century.  

Following problems experienced by early French settlers, Saint Barthélemy was successfully colonized by French mariners in 1763. Attracted by the island's prosperity during the American Revolutionary War, Gustav III of Sweden agreed to exchange French trading rights in Gothenburg against Swedish colonization of the island. In addition to its freshwater sources, the Caribbean island produced moderate amounts of cotton, sugar, cocoa, tobacco, and fruits. At the same time, it promised substantial revenue from trade through its natural harbor on the island's west coast.

In 1784, one of Louis XVI's ministers ceded the French Caribbean island to Sweden in exchange for trading rights in the Swedish port of Gothenburg. In March 1785, the French commandant Chevalier de Durant ceded authority to Salomon von Rajalin and, on April 16, 1785, introduced tax-free trading for visiting ships. On September 7, he established Saint Barthélemy as a free port. The French port of La Carénage was renamed Gustavia after the Swedish king. In January 1785, the Swedish merchants Jacob Röhl and Adolf Fredrik Hansen arrived.

They incorporated the Swedish West India Company to establish a trading post with warehousing. At the time, the island had a population of some 750, of whom 281 were slaves. French was spoken in rural areas, while English was spoken in the capital. Only 3-4% of the population were of Swedish ancestry. Swedish rule lasted until 1878, when the French repurchased the island.



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