Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Pig War - 1859 to 1874

The Blue line follows the Haro Straight, followed by the Americas.
The Red Line follows the Rosario Straight, followed by the British.
The Green Line was the San Juan Channel, was a compromise proposal.
In the end, the Americans won, and the Haro Straight became the official boarder.

In today's post, we will explore the explosive Pig War of 1859, also known as the Pig Episode, Pig and Potato War, San Juan Boundary Dispute, and finally, Northwestern Boundary Dispute.

 The British and United States where not the best of friends during the late nineteenth century, and have had their fare share of clashes. The West Coast of North America has always been a touchy issue. Despite the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War, which established the boarders of the United States, and British North America at the 49th Parallel. This did not settle Vancouver and the islands in-between the mainland of what is modern Washington State and British Columbia.  

In 1859, The U.S. and the British Empire began to fight over the San Juan Island. After the Oregon Treaty of June 15, 1846, which ended the Oregon Boundary Dispute, which divided Oregon Country and the Columbia District along the 49th parallel, further cementing the Treaty of Paris. However, it caused uncertainty about the geographic location of the San Juan Islands. Most people believed the border was through the Haro Strait, whole others believed it was on the Rosario Strait. 

To help solve the problem, the British established a Boundary Commission, despite the commission, progress was extremely slow in finding a solution. On June 15th, thirteen years after the Oregon Treaty, the confusion left to a conflict. Lyman Cutlar, an American Farmer moved onto one of the islands claiming the right to live there under the Donation Land Claim Act. On the 15th, he found a pig eating in his garden, and Cutlar, upset at the destruction caused by the pig, he shot it, killing it.

The pig in question was owned by Irishman Charles Griffin who was an employee of the Hudson's Bay Company, running a sheep ranch on the islands. To solve the problem, Cutler offered to pay $10 for the pig, an offer Griffin took as an insult and demanded $100.  As the conflict continued into a War of Words, the British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar, the American settlers on the island called for military protection. 

Immediatly Brigadier General William S. Henry was dispatched with 66 American soldiers, with Captain George Pickett. Their intention was to prevent the British authorities from landing on the island. To counter the American deployment, the British sent three Warships under the command of Captain Geoffrey Hornby. Captain Pickett viewed the British Warships as a direct threat to American sovereignty  and threatened to fortify the island, putting the small issue on centre stage for the entire nation. By August more than 400 Americans and 14 cannons were stationed on the island under the command of Colonel Silas Casey, who were opposed by 5 British Warships, housing 70 guns, and more than 2000 troops. During the coming weeks, no shots were fired. 

At the end of August, the governor of Vancouver Island, James Douglas, demanded that the British land its marines on the island and engage the American soldiers.  Rear Admiral Robert L. Baynes of the British Navy  decided that the two great nations starting a war over a dead pig was foolish, and called for a resolution.  

While negotiations were ongoing, both the British and Americans agreed to jointly occupy the islands. Both sides agreed to leave no more than 100 troops. The British took the north end, while the Americans took the south end.  For the next 12 years, joint military occupation occurred.  In 1871, Britain and the U.S signed the Treaty of Washington, which dealt with a number of differences between the two countries, but not specifically with the Islands of San Juan. As the Americans we busy with their Civil War, the issue was sent to international arbitration. Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany was to act as the arbitrator. Wilhelm referred the case to Geneva, and a year later on October 21, 1872 favoured the U.S. claim on the islands.  The boundary was set at the Haro Straight. 

On November 25, 1872 the British withdrew their Royal Marines from the camp. The Americans removed their military presence in July of 1874. Canadians were offended by the British lack of interest in Canada's best interest and sought more international autonomy. 

Today the Union Jack still flies where the British Camp was located. It is raised and lowered daily by park rangers. It is one of few places in the U.S. without diplomatic status where the U.S. employees regularly hoist the flag of another country. 

The Pig War ended with the only casualty being a pig. 

Remembering History - The Pig War - 1859 to 1874.