By René-Jean Duret, former Territorial Councillor on French St. Martin

Diamond Hill (or Partition Hill), which can be seen behind a pass, when one is off the coast of Babit Point, is probably the place where the island was shared between French and Dutch.

Babit Point serves as a border reference on ancient maps, and it is the only place in the eastern part of the island that can be seen from Mount Diamant, which rises to 274m above sea level, to the south-east of Marigot. This alignment also coincides, very exactly, with the boundary mark on the ravine of French Quarter.

As for the division of the western part of the island, the old maps show that the entire area of Maho, Princess Juliana International Airport, Simpson Bay's Big Pond was once separated from the sea only by a thin sandy cordon.

From the "Mont du Partage", a visual alignment with Mont Fortune (or Fortuné?) directs us to the rocky point between Burgeaux Bay and Maho Bay, where the former Bliss and Caravanserai are currently located.

However, from the summit of St. Peters Hill, the alignment with the previously determined course (marked A) corresponds exactly to the straight line of the boundary between the hill and the lagoon, as it appears on the Institut Géographique National (IGN) map.

From Flagstaff Hill, at 398m above sea level, the second highest point of the island after Pic Paradis, there are also two alignments that correspond to the current boundaries: from Mount Flagstaff to the Orléans District gully border located south of “Morne des Deux Frères”, between the ravine of Orléans and the valley leading to Oyster Pond.

It should be noted, however, that a plot error has been made on the last edition (2001) of the IGN map where the highest point of Mount Flagstaff is entirely located in the French part, unlike the previous edition (1986) where the border passed at the top of the mountain.

These cartographic observations allow us to imagine the journey followed by the French and Dutch, who, on that historic day of Monday, March 23, 1648, preferred to share the island (and co-manage it) rather than wage war between themselves:

* Appointment is given to the “Col des Accords”, which was the most direct and the least crossing point between the French and Dutch slopes, and, to have a more extended view, we follow the ridge line to the closest summit, which will become the “Mont des Accords”.

It is decided that this line of ridge will be the frontier and it is agreed "that the French will remain in the district where they are now and will live on the side facing Anguilla" (article 1 of the treaty), while "the Dutch will have the district of Fort and the lands that are around it on the south side "(article 2 of the treaty).

But it is not from this hill that it was possible to specify the precise route of the border, to the east and west of the island, because from the “Mont des accords” the Atlantic coast cannot be seen.

* The French and Dutch representatives moved a little further west on the "Mont du Partage" (1) (or Diamant on the IGN map), from where they see the rocky peninsula of Babit Point in the East.

From there, they set the two most extreme points of the island's watershed, namely Burgeaux Point (A) on the Caribbean coast, by alignment with Mount Fortuné, and Babit Point (B), on the Atlantic coast.

* Then they move back to Mont or “Col des Accords” for the signing of the sharing treaty, probably followed by a good buffet with good drinks, on the French or Dutch side, to bury the war hatchet...!

The rest of the course of the border will be determined later, because the eighth article of the treaty specifies indeed that “the limits and partitions of the isle which must be made between the two nations will be given by the General of the French and the Governor of St. Eustatius, and the deputies who will be sent to visit the places and, after their report is made, divide their quarters.

It is therefore not Monday, March 23, 1648, but probably much later, that the boundary line would be finalised as follows:

* At St. Peter’s Hill (2), the "deputies" specify the land boundary from the ridge line to the Simpson Bay Lagoon taking the alignment of Pointe Burgaux (Point A).

* Then they descend St. Peters and go up to the pass of the East side (3) where they see the eastern part of the island. The same alignment with Babit Point makes it possible to determine the boundary mark with the intersection of the ravine of French Quarter (Point C) and they agree to take as border the bottom of the valley which leads towards the protected harbour of Oyster Pond.

* From the ravine of French Quarter, the visual alignment with Flagstaff hill defines the boundary, and the DE alignment, from the Oyster Pond Valley exit, to Flagstaff Hill, also defines the border, at the South-West of the “Morne des Deux Frères”. 

This explanation of the course of the border does not settle the current French-Dutch litigation at Oyster Pond. There are also distortions between the last two IGN maps.

On the last edition (2001), the border passes in the middle of Oyster Pond, while on the previous map (1986) it runs along the coast of the French side, which justifies, for some Dutch people, the fact that the marina and the restaurant at Captain Oliver's are under Dutch jurisdiction.

In fact, according to the fifth article of the treaty, which states that “hunting, fishing, salt works, rivers, ponds, fresh waters, dyes, mines or minerals, harbours and other conveniences of the island will be common, in order to meet the needs of the inhabitants.”

There should be no border on the harbour of Oyster Pond, or elsewhere on the lagoon of Simpson Bay.

Similarly, the Juliana and Grand Case airports, built on ponds, could be considered as "common amenities" in both parts of the island, and managed jointly (as is the case for example between the French and Swiss for the Airport of Basel-Mulhouse), especially since the Franco-Dutch convention of November 18, 1839, which confirmed the provisions of the original treaty, also provided for "the pooling of the natural features of the island and man-made facilities”.

But this is another debate!