|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, 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 members of the administration who opposed Dubois’s project of a Franco-Texan commercial and colonization company. Dubois may have exploited the undignified wrangle with Bullock as a means to vent his spleen on the current administration of the republic.
When secretary of state James S. 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.