The Pig War of 1840
In 1840, the new Republic of Texas was financially broke.
The capital was in Austin: Despite its modest beginnings, Austin had several notable residents. President Lamar and Ex-President Houston both had homes here. The Bullock House, Austin’s first hotel, was located where Congress Avenue crossed Sixth Street.
The legation from France to Texas, in the form of French Charge d’Affaires, Jean Peter Isidore Alphonse Dubois, Comte de Saligny, appeared upon the scene to assist the beleaguered Texans.
But, pending completion of theFrench Embassy buildings and grounds, de Saligny had to lease quarters from Richard Bullock at Sixth and Capitol. The Bullock House was a series of rough hewn log structures furnished with handmade pioneer furniture and operated by the somewhat crude, no-nonsense frontiersman from Tennessee.
This time de Saligny was to lobby for a piece of legislation known as the Franco-Texian Bill. This bill, properly titled, "An Act to Incorporate the Franco Texian Commercial and Colonization Company", if passed by the congress in Austin, would charter 8,000 French families onto three million acres of Texas with French military rights to establish and maintain twenty military forts and garrison ten thousand French troops tax-free for twenty years. That represented, opponents pointed out, more troops than Santa Anna had ever commanded in Texas.
Richard Bullock took an immediate disliking to the pretentious little Frenchman but he was not alone. The crude frontier ruffians of 1840 Austin quickly took to ridiculing the Count of Saligny—or, as they referred to him, the No-Count of Saligny.
No less a personage than Sam Houston himself took liberties in insulting the charge d’affaires. When de Saligny visited Houston one day wearing French military decorations and medals, Houston reportedly removed his Indian blanket and, revealing his numerous scars, told the astounded Frenchman, "A humble republican soldier, who wears his decorations here, salutes you."
But if Houston was crude, he was also shrewd. It was Houston, not Lamar, who later pushed for congressional passage of the Franco-Texian Bill.
But it was Bullock who seems to have galled (no pun intended) the Count. As soon as possible, de Saligny moved out of Bullock’s hotel and into the elegant French Legation atop the hill overlooking the capitol building.
And elegant the it was—hardware and elaborate millwork was imported from France along with servants and a Parisian chef. The Kitchen boasted foods that most Texans couldn’t pronounce and the wine cellar was probably the best to be found west of New Orleans. The bedrooms were furnished with French furniture of the period and fine linens.
The twenty-one acre estate included a fenced garden growing, among other crops, corn to feed the legation’s horses. It was truly the showpiece of early Austin and designed to serve as a governmental and social center for the city’s political elite that, incidentally, didn’t include Richard Bullock.
And so Bullock, who didn’t like de Saligny anyway, wasn’t overly impressed when the charge d’affaires moved into the French legation. Nor does he seem to have been overly concerned when his hogs moved into the legation with de Saligny.
Bullock’s hogs immediately established a daily routine of rooting through the wooden fence around the legation and feasting on the corn growing there. The hogs—and the Count’s anger—became the laughing stock of frontier Austin.
Things continued to deteriorate. At one point the hogs even got inside the legation and ran wild—eating the expensive imported linens in the bedrooms and even official French governmental communiques from the Count’s own bedroom. Today, copies of de Saligny’s posted diplomatic papers are missing five reports—allegedly lost as fodder for Bullock’s hogs.
Finally, the Frenchman had had enough. The legation servants were instructed to kill any hog found on the legation grounds and in February, 1841, Eugene Pluyette did so.
An enraged Bullock attempted to seek reparations for the lost hogs only to learn that the French were invoking diplomatic immunity from Texas laws. Not prone to protocol and formalities, Bullock approached Pluyette in downtown Austin and whipped him most undiplomaticaly.
On February 19, 1841, the Texas Secretary of State, J. S. Mayfield, received an official protest from the French over the incident. Two days later, Mayfield received another communique that Bullock had again threatened Pluyette and, fearing the innkeeper was going to kill the French servant, the secretary ordered a judicial hearing for February 22.
De Saligny refused to appear before a Texas court of law and forbade Pluyette to testify either insisting, instead, that ‘the Laws of Nations" be applied to punish Bullock. That must have raised a few mugs in toast around Austin’s numerous saloons.
The judge, in absentia, found sufficient evidence to indict Bullock. At this point, Texas politics got involved, and the issue became officially the "Pig War" and an international issue.
Ex-President David Burnet, always opposed to anything involving Sam Houston, had also grown tired of the pompous Frenchman. The fact that Houston was backing the Franco-Texian bill in Congress was enough to cause Burnet to get involved. Bail for Bullock was immediately posted by John Chalmers, who also happened to be the Texas Secretary of the Treasury. Bullock used the occasion to attempt an assault on de Saligny himself and the situation was really turning ugly.
When de Saligny complained about the course of Texas law, he was told by Secretary of State Mayfield on April 5, 1841, that "…you can obtain your passports when you choose to demand them." Meanwhile Bullock’s hogs continued to roam unimpeded throughout Austin looking for corn and the innkeeper had become the toast of the town.
Convinced that crude Texas law was an affront to the dignity of France, de Saligny left Austin for New Orleans effectively suspending diplomatic relations between the Republic and France for a year.
De Saligny, true to his word, used his influence with his brother-in-law to defeat the French loan to Texas. The Franco-Texian Bill, after passing the Texas House on January 23, 1841 was never addressed by the Senate and died through inaction. No French soldier ever was garrisoned in the Republic of Texas as a result of de Saligny’s initiative.
The only true casualties of the "Pig War" were the hogs killed by Pluyette—estimated between five and twenty-five—and the resulting injuries suffered by the servant at the hands of Bullock.
When Houston returned to the office of President, he made "satisfactory explanations" and requested that de Saligny return to Austin. In April of 1842 Jean Peter Isidore Alphonse Dubois, Comte de Saligny returned to the French Legation but by then his health was failing and he left again for France in July of that year.
The Pig War appears to have damaged de Saligny’s diplomatic career although he continued to play minor roles in Texas after annexation and later in Mexico where he married and had a child. Involved heavily in Mexican political intrigue, he was accused of financial fraud and was recalled to France in 1863. He never held another diplomatic post and died in Normandy in 1888.
Bullock continued to live in Austin, unpunished, after the affair. His hotel became know as Swisher’s Hotel after 1852 and was renamed again in 1858 as Smith’s Hotel.
The surviving hogs grew fat around Austin. Despite their annoying behavior they achieved celebrity status at the expense of the ridiculed Count of Saligny and his "Law of Nations".
How one pig might
have changed American history
The Pig War of 1859
By Chuck Woodbury
editor, Out West
One of the America's most unusual wars involved only one casualty -- a pig -- and yet it could have changed the course of history. The bizarre conflict took place on present-day San Juan Island (in Washington state) and involved American and British troops, and even warships.
The Pig War began on June 15, 1859, when an American settler named Lyman Cutlar shot and killed a trespassing pig belonging to Englishman Charles Griffin of the Hudson Bay Company. "It was eating my potatoes," said Cutlar, who had already warned Griffin to keep his pig out his potato patch. "It is up to you to keep your potatoes out of my pig," was Griffin's reply.
Normally, the shooting of a pig would be a small matter, but American and British tempers were short in those days. Both the United States and England claimed the San Juan Islands; ill-defined boundary lines were to blame.
When British authorities threatened to arrest pig-killer Cutlar, his fellow Americans called for U.S. military protection -- which they got in the form of the 9th Infantry.
The Brits responded by dispatching three warships under the command of Capt. Geoffrey Hornby.
Forces on both sides grew, but guns remained silent. A month passed without incident. British Rear Adm. Robert L. Bayes, commander of British Naval forces in the Pacific, did his best to avoid war. He would not, he said, "involve two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig."
Yet, the scene remained tense and potentially explosive. By August 10, American forces numbered 461; British forces numbered 2,140 with five warships.
When word reached Washington, officials were shocked that the shooting of a pig could cause such an international incident. President James Buchanan dispatched General Winfield Scott, commanding general of the U.S. Army, to investigate and hopefully contain the potentially deadly affair.
Scott got both sides to agree to restrain their guns while a solution was worked out. During this time, both countries kept token forces on hand -- at what are now National Historic Sites called American Camp and British Camp.
The paramount issue was who owned San Juan Island -- the Americans or the British.
For twelve years, including the Civil War period, the issue was debated. It wasn't until 1872 that the question was put to a third party for a decision. On October 21, Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany declared the San Juan Islands American property; land north of the 49th parallel was Canadian, to the south it was American. A month later, British troops departed.
And so ended the Pig War. If things had gone differently -- and war had actually begun, who knows what would have happened. Would the angry British have then sided with the Confederacy in the Civil War? If so, how would that have affected that war's outcome? Would it have swung the balance of power toward the South?
If so, the world would be a far different place today -- and all because of a hungry pig in a potato patch.
The Pig War of 1906
This Pig War was not a conflict waged on a battlefield. It was a confrontation of the economic variety brought about by Austria-Hungary in an attempt to put an end to the Pan-Serb movement, and, hopefully, Serbia itself. It is mentioned here because it was the incident that tainted diplomatic relations between the countries and created the atmosphere that would lead to the events of 28-Jun-1914 in Sarajevo.
Austria-Hungary had carefully planned the economic dependence of its Slav neighbor since the 1870's. By 1903 a whopping 90 percent of Serbia's foreign trade was with the Hapsburg empire. This disproportionate trade was mostly in the form of livestock, mainly pigs. While this "guaranteed trade" situation was not without benefit for Serbia, many Serbs felt, and rightfully so, that it impeded Serbian industrial growth.
In 1906 the Austrians decided to take advantage of the situation and apply an economic stranglehold by stopping the import of all Serbian livestock. The Pig War had begun and would continue for five years with unexpected results for both sides. The Serbians reacted quickly by opening new trade with Egypt, Greece, Turkey and Germany. That's right, Germany. It seems the Germans knew a good pig price when they saw one. By the end of the embargo's first year, the Serbians were exporting more livestock than ever before. Their economy was booming. Vienna could only look on in disbelief.
Public opinion outside the empire turned against Austria-Hungary since they were now viewed as bullies. Within the empire, the Magyars were less than pleased. This was a policy invented in Vienna that was having monetary implications in Budapest. It was also clear that this was an open affront to Slavs in general and Serbs in particular. The Pig War had divided the Monarchy.
The Pig War would be forgotton to the events that would follow but it is an interesting case study in a foreign policy gone very wrong.