The Aroostook War (sometimes called the Pork and Beans War) was a military and civilian-involved confrontation in 1838–1839 between the United States and the United Kingdom over the international boundary between the British colony of New Brunswick and the U.S. state of Maine. The term "war" was rhetorical; local militia units were called out but never engaged in actual combat. The event is best described as an international incident.
|The St. Johns River divides the towns of Van Buren, Maine and St. Leonard, Canada|
The peace treaty of 1783 ending the American Revolution had left unclear the location of a supposed “highlands,” or watershed, dividing the two areas. Negotiators from Britain and the United States in subsequent years failed to come to an agreement.
Mostly early Acadians (descendants of the original French colonists) settled the Saint John and Madawaska River basins. Some Americans then settled in the Aroostook River Valley. During 1826–1830, provincial timber interests also settled the west bank of the Saint John River and its tributaries.
|The twin bridges cross the St. John's River from Madawaska, Maine into Edmundston, Canada.|
When Maine broke away from Massachusetts as a separate state in 1820, the status and location of the border emerged as a chief concern to the new state government. Massachusetts also retained an interest in the matter, as it retained ownership of half the public lands in Maine, including a large part of the disputed territory, as part of the separation.
The matter was referred to the king of the Netherlands, who in 1831 rendered a decision that the citizens of Maine objected to strenuously, forcing the U.S. Senate to reject it.
Gen. Winfield Scott was ordered to Augusta, Maine, by Pres. Martin Van Buren to keep the peace. On March 21, 1839, he and the British negotiator, Sir John Harvey, arranged a truce and a joint occupancy of the territory in dispute until a satisfactory settlement could be reached. The boundary was later settled by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.
|Aroostook War Boundary Dispute|
In 1840, Maine created Aroostook County, Maine, to administer the civilian authority of the area. This explains the preponderance of French-Canadians in Maine, and why vital records involve two countries.
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