Peter von Scholten

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Peter von Scholten, engraving by unknown artist

Peter Carl Frederik von Scholten (May 17, 1784 – January 26, 1854) was Governor-General of the Danish West Indies from 1827 to 1848. He was born in Vestervig, Thy, Denmark as the son of captain Casimir Wilhelm von Scholten[1] and Catharina Elisabeth de Moldrup.[2]


As a young man, he joined the Danish army and in 1803 he was appointed ensign in the West Indies unit. He was transported to Great Britain when this country occupied the Danish West Indies, likely in 1807. Peter von Scholten married the daughter of captain of the Danish army Johan Thortsen, Anne Elisabeth Thortsen, on October 31, 1810.[2]

Later, he had a career as an officer in Copenhagen, first as second lieutenant for Sjællandske Jægerkorps in 1808, then as premier lieutenant in 1811, and finally as staff captain in 1813. This led to becoming adjutant for Frederick VI of Denmark's general adjudant Frants Cristopher Bülow. He served there until 1814 as British occupation of the Danish West Indies ended, and he got his first official position on St. Thomas, as customs toller.[2]

Meanwhile, von Scholten continued advancing in the Danish military, becoming major in 1816, lieutenant colonel in 1820, commander of Dannebrog in 1828, and major general in 1829.

In 1827, he became acting governor general of St. Thomas. From 1835 to 1848, he became governor general for all three islands, Saint Thomas, Saint Croix, and Saint John, giving him virtually absolute command of the islands. In this period he showed himself a patriarchal ruler trying to lighten the burden of the slaves and to cushion the racial tensions. He did this by creating schools for them, as well as permitting them private ownership.[3]

Regardless, von Scholten was opposed to Christian VIII of Denmark's idea that every child born of an unfree woman should be free from birth, as he felt that such an arrangement could cause displeasure and envy with serious consequences. When this was brought into effect, he felt himself proven right as a slave rebellion broke out on St. Croix in 1848.[3] Peter von Scholten responded by, on July 3, 1848, emancipating all slaves in the Danish West Indian Islands.

Shortly thereafter, von Scholten was called back to Denmark.[3] There, a humiliating and hard trial was brought against him, and he was at first denied his pension, although he was later cleared of the charges and acquitted shortly before his death. Von Scholten was the last governor general of the West Indies because of the beginning democratisation of the Danish state and colonial administration.

Peter von Scholten died on January 26, 1854 in Altona, Holstein (present day Germany), leaving little to his heirs.[3]

His fate has inspired several authors. A movie about his last years as a governor general was made in 1987.[4]

Personal life[edit]

During his early years on St. Thomas, von Scholten enjoyed a wealthy life, due to his position as customs officer during the surge in trade under the state of war between the nearby Spanish islands and the South American colony insurgents. He was later promoted to the position of Governor based on St. Croix. [3] At this time, Peter von Scholten lived with Anna Heegaard (1790–1859) a woman of color.[5] Consensus among scholars today is that Anna Heegaard influenced von Scholten to a more humane treatment of the Blacks.[6][7][8][9] Von Scholten's brother Frederik also served on the West Indian Islands.

Peter von Scholten is buried in Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen.



  1. ^ "Casimir Wilhelm von Scholten" (1752 - 1810) Personal Information at
  2. ^ a b c Bricka, Biografisk, 257
  3. ^ a b c d e Bricka, Biografisk, 258
  4. ^ IMDB: Peter von Scholten
  5. ^ GORP - Christiansted National Historic Site in the U.S. Virgin Islands
  6. ^ Anita Davis ::: Published Articles
  7. ^ Caribbean Writer On Line BOOK REVIEW - The Governor-General's Lady
  8. ^ Isaac Dookhan, History of the Virgin Islands Page 173 ISBN 978-976-8125-05-7
  9. ^ Neville A. T. Hall, Slave Society In The Danish West Indies: St Thomas, St Thomas And St Croix, Page 175 ISBN 978-976-41-0029-4

another reference can also be the book by Thorkild Hansen about the danish slave trade, the third volume(Slavernes Öer)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Christian Ludvig von Holten
Governor-General of the Danish West Indies
Succeeded by
Frederik von Oxholm