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St. Eustatius

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Title: St. Eustatius  
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Subject: American Revolutionary War, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Nevis, War of the Spanish Succession, 1780, Western Hemisphere, Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, USS Alliance (1778), George Clymer, Thomas Lynch, Jr.
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St. Eustatius

Sint Eustatius
Public body of the Netherlands

Coat of arms
Caribbean  (light yellow)

St. Martin.

Coordinates: 17°29′N 62°59′W / 17.483°N 62.983°W / 17.483; -62.983

Country Netherlands
Incorporated into the Netherlands 10 October 2010 (dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles)
(and largest city)
Government (see Politics of the Netherlands)
 • Lt. Governor Gerald Berkel
 • Total
Population (2013[1])
 • Total 3,897
 • Density 190/km2 (480/sq mi)
 • Official Dutch
 • Recognised regional English[2]
Time zone AST (UTC−4)
Calling code +599-3
Currency US dollar (USD)
Internet TLD .an,[3] .nl

Sint Eustatius, also known affectionately to the locals as Statia[4] /ˈstʃə/ or Statius, is a small Caribbean island and a special municipality (officially public body) of the Netherlands.[5]

The island lies in the northern Leeward Islands portion of the West Indies, southeast of the Virgin Islands. Sint Eusatius is immediately to the northwest of Saint Kitts, and to the southeast of Saba. The regional capital is Oranjestad.

The island has an area of 21 km² (8.1 sq. miles). In the 2001 census, the population was recorded as 3,543 inhabitants, with a population density of 169 inhabitants per square kilometre. The official languages are Dutch and English. A local English-based creole is also spoken informally. Travellers to the island by air arrive through F.D. Roosevelt Airport.

Formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, Sint Eustatius became a special municipality within the country of the Netherlands on 10 October 2010.[6]

The name of the island "Sint Eustatius" is the Dutch name for Saint Eustace (also spelled Eustachius or Eustathius), a legendary Christian martyr known in Spanish as San Eustaquio and in Portuguese as Santo Eustáquio or Santo Eustácio.


The island was seen by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and claimed by many different nations over the course of the next 150 years. In 1636, the chamber of Zeeland of the Dutch West India Company took possession of the island that was then reported to be uninhabited. As of 1678, the islands of St. Eustatius, Sint Maarten and Saba fell under direct command of the Dutch West India Company, with a commander stationed on St. Eustatius to govern all three. At the time, the island was of some importance for cultivation of tobacco and sugar.

In the 18th century, St. Eustatius' geographical placement in the middle of Danish (Virgin Islands), British (Jamaica, St. Kitts, Barbados, Antigua), French (Ste. Lucie, Martinique, Guadeloupe) and Spanish (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola) territories—its large harborage, neutrality and status from 1756[4] as a free port with no customs duties were all factors in it becoming a major point of transhipment of goods, and a locus for trade in contraband.[4] The island was known as The Golden Rock and its economy flourished by ignoring the trade embargoes between the great powers.

Edmund Burke said of the island in 1781:

It has no produce, no fortifications for its defense, nor martial spirit nor military regulations ... Its utility was its defense. The universality of its use, the neutrality of its nature was its security and its safeguard. Its proprietors had, in the spirit of commerce, made it an emporium for all the world. ... Its wealth was prodigious, arising from its industry and the nature of its commerce.[4]

"First Salute"

Since the island sold arms and ammunition to anyone willing to pay, it was one of the few places from which the rebellious British Thirteen Colonies of North America could obtain weaponry. This good relationship between St. Eustatius and the United States resulted in the noted "First Salute" of 16 November 1776, when Commander Johannes de Graaff of St. Eustatius decided to return the salute fire of the visiting American brig Andrew Doria by firing the cannons of Fort Oranje, the first international acknowledgment of the independence of the United States.[Note 1] While in the harbor of St. Eustatius, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 recognised the importance of the event by offering a plaque that says: "Here the sovereignty of the United States of America was first formally acknowledged to a national vessel by a foreign official." The gesture also provided the title for Barbara W. Tuchman's 1988 book The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution.

The British took the incident seriously, and protested against the continuous trade between the United States and St. Eustatius. In 1778, Lord Stormont claimed in Parliament that, "if Sint Eustatius had sunk into the sea three years before, the United Kingdom would already have dealt with George Washington". The trade between St. Eustatius and the United States was the main reason for the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War, which was disastrous for the Dutch economy.

As a result of the war, St. Eustatius was taken by British Admiral George Brydges Rodney on 3 February 1781. Commander De Graaff, who at the time did not know about the declaration of war, saw that he was facing superior forces, and surrendered the island after firing two rounds as a show of resistance for the honor of Dutch Admiral Lodewijk van Bylandt, who commanded a ship of the Dutch Navy which was in the harbor.[4] Ten months later, the island was conquered by the French, allies of the Dutch in this war. The Dutch regained control over the island in 1784.

At its peak, St. Eustatius may have had a population of about 10,000 people, but over time it was eclipsed by other Dutch ports, such as those on the islands of Curaçao and Sint Maarten, and the population gradually declined. During the last years of the 18th century Statia developed trade in aging rum. As the warehouses constructed for profits from more active commerce decayed that too left the island.

Jewish population

The island was home to a Jewish settlement, mainly merchants and plantation-owners. Within two days of the island's surrender to the British in February 1781, part of the Jewish community—all of the men—together with governor de Graaff, were forcibly deported, being given only 24 hours' notice.[7]

A series of disastrous French and British occupations from 1795 to 1815 diverted trade to the occupiers' islands. As a result, St. Eustatius' economy collapsed. The Jews left along with the other merchants. Without a community using and looking after the synagogue, the building gradually fell into ruin. In 2001, its walls were restored as part of the Historic Core Restoration Project. Now funds are being sought[by whom?] from private donors to construct a modern roof on the ancient ruins. No known images showing what the synagogue looked like when it was in use have survived, preventing a proper "restoration" of the structure to its former condition.

Dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles

Unlike the other member islands of the Netherlands Antilles, the people of St Eustatius did not vote to leave. In a referendum on 8 April 2005, 77% of voters voted to remain within the Netherlands Antilles, compared to 21% who voted for closer ties with the Netherlands. However, once the other islands decided to leave, meaning that the Netherlands Antilles would become defunct, the island council opted to become a special municipality of the Netherlands like Saba and Bonaire.


Topographically, the island is saddle-shaped, with the 602 meter-high dormant volcano Quill, (from Dutch kuil, meaning 'pit'—originally referring to its crater) to the southeast and the smaller pair Signal Hill/Little Mountain (or Bergje) and Boven Mountain to the northwest. The Quill crater is a popular tourist attraction on the island. The bulk of the island's population lives in the saddle between the two elevated areas, which forms the center of the island.

The national parks of St. Eustatius, which comprise the Quill/Boven park, the Botanical Garden, and the Marine Park, are all under the control of the non-profit foundation STENAPA.[8]


In the 18th century, "Statia" was the most important Dutch island in the Caribbean and was a center of great wealth from trading. At this time it was known as the "Golden Rock" because of its immense wealth. A very large number of warehouses lined the road that runs along Oranje Bay; most (but not all) of these warehouses are now ruined and many of the ruins are partially underwater.

A French occupation in 1795 was the beginning of the end of great prosperity for Sint Eustatius.

According to the Sint Eustatius government website, "Statia's economy is stable and well placed to grow in the near future. With practically no unemployment and a skilled workforce, we have a infrastructure in place to ensure sustained growth."[9]


The most popular sports on St. Eustatius are: softball, soccer, basketball and volleyball.

See also

Geography portal
North America portal
Caribbean portal
Netherlands portal




Further reading

External links

  • St. Eustatius Tourist Office's homepage
  • The website of STENAPA, the National Parks of St. Eustatius
  • St. Eustatius info in Lonely Planet website
  • St. Eustatius Center for Archaeological Research
  • The Farm in St. Eustatius: Not Dead Yet
  • Colorful stories from St. Eustatius' eventful history. Saba invasion
  • Colorful stories from St. Eustatius' eventful history. Bermuda connection
  • "Retribution: Admiral Rodney and the Jews of St. Eustatius", by Louis Arthur Norton

Coordinates: 17°29′N 62°58′W / 17.483°N 62.967°W / 17.483; -62.967

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