Pig War

By: Nancy N. Barker

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: July 21, 2016

Pig War is the name given to the dispute between Alphonse Dubois de Saligny, French chargé d'affaires, and the Lamar administration that resulted in a temporary rupture of diplomatic relations between France and the Republic of Texas. It originated in 1841 in a private quarrel between the Frenchman and an Austin hotelkeeper, Richard Bullock (see BULLOCK HOUSE), over a matter of marauding pigs. Dubois de Saligny complained that the pigs, owned by Bullock, invaded the stables of his horses, ate their corn, and even penetrated to his very bedroom to devour his linen and chew his papers. Bullock, charging that the Frenchman's servant had killed a number of his pigs on orders from his master, thrashed the servant and threatened the diplomat himself with a beating. Dubois de Saligny promptly invoked the "Laws of Nations," claimed diplomatic immunity for himself and his servant, and demanded the summary punishment of Bullock by the Texas government. The Frenchman was already on bad terms with the administration, especially acting president David G. Burnet and secretary of state James S. Mayfield, who opposed Dubois's project of a Franco-Texan commercial and colonization company (although Mayfield had originally introduced the Franco-Texian Bill in the House). Dubois may have exploited the undignified wrangle with Bullock as a means to vent his spleen on the current administration of the republic. When Mayfield refused to have the hotelkeeper punished without due process of law, the chargé d'affaires, acting without instructions from his own government, broke diplomatic relations and left the country in May 1841. From Louisiana, where he resided for more than a year, he emitted occasional dire warnings of the terrible retribution that would be exacted by France.

While the French government officially supported its agent in his quarrel with Texas, it disapproved of his highhanded departure from his post and had absolutely no intention of resorting to force on behalf of this very undiplomatic and short-tempered subordinate. Thus the "war" ended in a compromise. The Houston administration, which succeeded that of Lamar, made "satisfactory explanations" to the French government and requested the return of Dubois de Saligny. These explanations were less than Saligny had asked for, as they contained neither censure of the previous administration nor promises to punish Bullock. But aware of disapprobation in the French Foreign Ministry, he accepted this peace offering and returned to Texas in April 1842 to resume his official duties. The Pig War was an isolated episode in the history of the Texas frontier with few repercussions. It was a black mark against Dubois de Saligny in the French Foreign Ministry that hurt his career, but it did not alter the policy of France toward the young republic.

Nancy Nichols Barker, "Devious Diplomat: Dubois de Saligny and the Republic of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 72 (January 1969). Nancy Nichols Barker, trans. and ed., The French Legation in Texas, Vol. 1: Recognition, Rupture, and Reconciliation (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1971); Vol. 2: Mission Miscarried (1973). Diplomatic Correspondence of the Republic of Texas, ed. George Pierce Garrison (3 parts, Washington: GPO, 1908–11). Kenneth Hafertepe, A History of the French Legation (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1989).

  • Peoples
  • French
  • Military
  • Politics and Government
Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Nancy N. Barker, “Pig War,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 09, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/pig-war.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

July 21, 2016