Aroostook War (1838–1839)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Farmers of the U.S. state of
Maine vs. loggers of the British-Canadian province of
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Aroostook River valley on the
United States-Canadian border
DECLARATION: No formal declaration
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: The 1783 Treaty of Paris
failed to demarcate the United States-Canadian border, and
thus both countries claimed the fertile, lumber-rich lands.
OUTCOME: After bloodless clashes and demonstrations of
military bluster by both sides, the dispute was settled by
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
The state of Maine rallied 10,000 volunteers; the U.S.
Congress voted 50,000 troops to the cause; totals for the
British-Canadian forces are unknown.
TREATIES: Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842
Conflict between the American Colonies and Britain (see
AMERICAN REVOLUTION: COASTAL THEATER and AMERICAN
REVOLUTION: FRONTIER THEATER) ended with the Treaty of
Paris in 1783. The terms of the treaty, however, failed to
demarcate the exact location of the north-south boundary
between the U.S. state of Maine and the British-Canadian
province of New Brunswick. The lands in question incorporated
the lush Aroostook River valley, ideal for agriculture
and rich with timber. For 30 years following the
American Revolution, United States and British officials
attempted to negotiate a settlement, but neither side was
satisfied with the results. In 1831 the matter was placed
before the king of the Netherlands for mediation. His decision
so angered the citizens of Maine that the U.S.
Congress was forced to reject the king’s solution.
As the officials sought a compromise for the dispute,
New England farmers and Canadian loggers moved into
the Aroostook valley. Each group challenged the other,
and before long both were making arrests of “trespassers.”
In March 1839 British troops from Quebec marched into
Madawaska in the American sector. The Maine legislature
immediately voted to free $800,000 in funds and called for
10,000 volunteers to defend the valley. The U.S. Congress
appropriated $10,000,000 and allocated 50,000 troops for
the cause. U.S. president Martin Van Buren (1782–1862)
sent General Winfield Scott (1786–1866) to Augusta,
Maine, to keep the peace. Scott successfully negotiated a
truce with Sir John Harvey (1778–1852) on March 21,
1839, and a joint occupation of the contested 12,000
square miles until a settlement could be reached. In 1842
the Webster-Ashburton Treaty fixed the border to the satisfaction
of both sides.
Further reading: Howard Jones, To the Webster-Ashburton
Treaty: A Study in Anglo-American Relations, 1783–1843
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977).