Statement on Signing a Bill To Approve a Constitution for the United States Virgin Islands

July 10, 1981

I take great pleasure in signing into law House Joint Resolution 238, an act to ``approve a Constitution for the United States Virgin Islands.''

There have been many important moments in the history of Virgin Islands self-government since the King of Denmark ceded sovereignty over the islands to the United States in 1917. In 1937 the Legislative Assembly of the Virgin Islands was established for the territory; in 1970 the territory inaugurated its first elected Governor; and in 1972, the first Virgin Islands delegate to Congress was sworn in. These were significant events for Virgin Islands self-government. All were accomplished, not by Virgin Islanders, but rather for Virgin Islanders through enactments by the United States Congress. Now, however, a locally written constitution, if adopted by the people of the Virgin Islands, will be the capstone of local self-government.

This legislation approves referring the constitution to the voters of the Virgin Islands for referendum. It does not represent a Federal endorsement of the constitution's substantive provisions. That task is reserved to the voters of the Virgin Islands.

The draft constitution represents a great deal of hard work and serious thought on the part of Virgin Islands constitution drafters. It is the product of the democratic process at work in the territory.

This resolution will further advance the progress of self-government in the Virgin Islands. It is, indeed, a privilege for me to play a role in this constitution-making process.

Note: As enacted, H.J. Res. 238 is Public Law 97 - 21, approved July 9.