Did we steal a chunk of Canada?


When you look at the map of the United States, Maine looks like it was a late add-on, as if the original settlers wanted to tack on another state to extend as far into the other British territory (Canada) as they could.  Maine wasn’t one of the original thirteen colonies, so how did it appear where it did?


The state of Maine originally began as part of the Plymouth Colony, which was later renamed the Massachusetts Colony and it stayed that way until after the American Revolution.  When it came time to settle the Maine border, plenty of people had differing opinions on where it should stand.  At stake was the very definition of what constituted the United States, and American interests were busy creating settlements as far north as they could.


For the British who were establishing territories in Canada, the St. Lawrence River was a jewel in their crown.  They had no intention of allowing the despised revolutionaries cut them off from this important line of commerce.


The early versions of the treaty contained language that was vague and unclear so the task of settling the border dispute was ultimately turned over to the Dutch to act as a mediator.  But neither side particularly liked the compromise proposed by the King of the Netherlands, and they continued to bicker, mostly because they both coveted the rich timberlands there.


Before it was finally settled, a border skirmish called the Aroostook War (named after the valley) broke out.  The war was bloodless although there are rumors that the conflict did bring one casualty – a pig that wandered across contentious lines.  Finally in 1842 Daniel Webster brokered a treaty and the final border is the one that stands today.  Americans probably should have taken the compromise offered by the Dutch King because it would have given them a bigger chunk of land than the ultimate treaty of 1842.



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3 Responses to Did we steal a chunk of Canada?

  1. Phil says:

    Isn’t this dispute where the slogan, 54, 40, or fight came from? It was either that or the Oregon territory boundary. I just remember the slogan.

  2. Phil – I had to google the slogan to find the answer. Pretty good memory you old geezer. It was a campaign slogan for James Polk because the U.S. and Great Britain were battling over who owned the Oregon territory that stretched all the way to the southern end of Alaska. 54°40′ was the upper boundary of the territory, and Polk vowed to fight for every bit of it. The compromise that was reached only gave us territory up to the 49th parallel, and that’s where the line remains to this day. I talk a little bit about that 49° line in my post about the notch at the top of Minnesota.

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