Friday, 6 September 2013

Falkland Islands: the Concise History
or the 'Falkland's History for Non-Academics'

by Roger Lorton


This is the shortened version for non-academics that don't want to spend their time having to constantly refer to footnotes and end-notes. For those that do, or those that wish to check the information here for accuracy, the full, non-concise, version can be found at -

What follows is not the 'revisionist' version of history so favoured by Argentina; which I believe lacks the context necessary for the truth of history to be seen. Rather it is a 'reversionist' version, that takes us back to the way it was. Historical events cannot be viewed in isolation and the issues affecting the Falkland Islands were just a small part of the greater events that dominated Europe and the America's in the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries. Those events are relevant.

Most of my sources are available on the Internet and can be verified with a little work. If anyone cares to disagree they are welcome to challenge my findings. I relish debate as it helps clarify matters - for me as much as anyone.

More than that - I hope you enjoy it.

Roger Lorton
Sept. 2013

Put quite simply, nobody knows. In 1500 a Portuguese expedition under the leadership of the navigator Cabral set out to round Cape Horn and during the next 100 years numerous other expeditions set out from Europe in search of new lands including Spain and England.
Some historians claim that the Falklands' archipelago was seen first by the Portuguese expedition of 1501 upon which Americus Vespucius was the designated astronomer, but this seems unlikely as the evidence points to that expedition clinging to the coasts of the American continent from where the islands are far over the horizon and cannot be seen. The astronomer certainly made no such claim.

In 1507 islands near the coast of South America indicated at 50 degrees south latitude appeared on a map by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemuller and it seems that he gained his knowledge from another German, Martin Behain, who was employed as an explorer by the Portuguese Crown. Other evidence suggests that the 50th parallel, as marked, is too far north to be the Falkland Islands.

Ferdinand Magellan, working for the Spanish monarch, set sail in August, 1519 and he certainly discovered the extent of the strait that now bear his name albeit acting on Portuguese intelligence it is claimed. Magellan also hugged the coast, and again could not have seen the archipelago.

It has also been asserted that one of Magellan's captains, who deserted the expedition, was the first to sight the islands as he fled back to Spain. There is no evidence to support this, and although Spain made the claim in 1765, she has never attempted to provide such evidence.

What is known is that the Portuguese cartographer, Diego Ribeiro, included the islands in his map of 1529 lending support to the contention that the Portuguese were the first to sight the Falkland Islands.

So why didn't Portugal claim the islands for herself? The answer is that Portugal and Spain had agreed a Treaty in 1494 known as the Treaty of Tordesillas which divided the New World between them. The Falklands fell within the area that Portugal, and only Portugal, recognised as belonging to Spain and so there was no advantage in telling her main competitor about the discovery. The adherence to secrecy would compromise many of both Portugal's and Spain's American claims.

The English, amongst others, were not so reticent when it came to publishing their discoveries although Capt. John Davis' sighting was not made public due to the politics of the time. That occurred in 1592 and was followed up by a visit to the archipelago by Richard Hawkins in 1594. Hawkins was the first to name these islands, which he called Hawkins' Maidenland in honour of Queen Elizabeth I; the 'maiden' queen.

Then, around 1598, the Dutchman Sebald de Weerdt saw three islands to the north-west of the main group which he named after himself. Most importantly, in the days long before longitude was an exact science, de Weerdt made an accurate charting of the islands' location.

It was John Strong, in the ship Welfare, that is credited with making the first recorded landing on the Falklands; in January, 1690. It was he who named the passage between the two largest islands Falkland's Sound; from which name the archipelago would eventually be known.

Navigation was a hit-and-miss affair back then though, and with a variety of locations given for the islands, other sailors would pass by and claim to have 'discovered' them resulting in the group gaining a number of different names in that early period; including South Belgia and the Malouines; the latter by French merchant-adventurers who used the islands as a watering place after 1698. They even named one place - Port Louis.

The Falkland Islands had been discovered.


There is little doubt that temporary settlement were put into place by the French merchants between 1700 and 1715 but by then their trade with Chile was dying and they left the islands abandoned. That is, until a Frenchman named Louis-Antoine Bougainville heard of them in the 1740', and read a book published in both English and French by Admiral Anson in 1749.

Anson had sailed around South America in the early 1740's and had come to the conclusion that an English base there would give his country mastery of those seas. He had settled upon the Falklands as the obvious choice and had petitioned the Admiralty to survey them for that purpose in 1749. His book was a part of the pressure he brought to bear. Having just concluded one war with Spain however, the British Government decided to delay any such adventure until after a commercial Treaty with Spain had been concluded.

In 1754, Bougainville served with France's diplomatic staff in London, and met Lord Anson. It was around this time that he started to conceive of a plan to put France in pole position by getting a settlement onto the Falkland Islands first.

Bougainville's plans were complete by 1763 and he quietly gained his Government's permission to try and establish a French colony on East Falkland Island, where the French merchant-adventurers had taken on water 60 years before. He sailed from the French coast in September, 1763.

Travelling via Montevideo, Bougainville and his two ships finally arrived at a suitable inlet of East Falkland Island in February 1764 where his settlers quickly erected a fort which they dedicated to their King and named Port Louis; the marks and signs of possession being made with due ceremony.

In April, 1764, Bougainville set out on his return journey to France to make known his success. That same month, and oblivious to Bougainville's actions, the British Government prepared an expedition to the South Seas with its commander, Commodore John Byron, instructed to survey the Falklands in order to ascertain the archipelago's suitability as a British base. Anson's delayed proposition was finally underway.
After Byron had sailed, news of Bougainville's settlement started to circulate in Paris arousing the jealousy of Spain which still considered most of the New World its own property.

Commodore Byron arrived at West Falkland Island in January 1765 and formally claimed the archipelago for King George III on January 22nd. He sent word that what he had found was suitable for the English base (Port Egmont) and, having left the appropriate marks and signs, sailed on to complete his remaining tasks.

Back in France, Bougainville's enterprise was mired in controversy setting the Crowns of France and Spain at loggerheads. Initially unwilling to give up its primary position the French Government resisted the Spanish attempt to convince them that Spain already owned the islands. The two Kings were related however, and eventually the French King ordered that Bougainville should relinquish his title and hand over Port Louis to the Spanish for an amount of compensation. Not a 'sale'; the Spanish Crown claiming that the islands were theirs as a result of the Treaty of Tordesillas and the Treaty of Utrecht; but compensation for the buildings and works completed by Bougainville's settlers.

Before this capitulation by the French however, a second English expedition had arrived at Port Egmont to erect a fort and blockhouse. Under capt. John Macbride, this force had arrived in January, 1766 and Macbride quickly set out to survey his King's possession. During one of these surveys he found the French.

The Spanish too became aware of the English establishment.

Bougainville finally signed over his settlement property to Spain in October 1766 and executed the handover in person, on East Falkland, in 1767. Port Louis became Port Soledad while France gave up any rights that they could claim and left. Bougainville always felt that France had been misused by the Family Compact between the two Crowns, and was still urging the renewal of the French claim, based upon first settlement, in 1801.

Although able to bring pressure to bear over the French, the Spanish Crown were less successful in their dealings with the English who reminded Spain that the English claim went back to Hawkins in 1594. With neither side prepared to give any ground, but also with neither ready to fight over the Falklands, the dispute sat and festered for a few years; helped by the fact that the Spanish had no accurate idea of where Port Egmont was.

This changed in November, 1769 when Capt. Hunt in HMS Tamar instructed a Spanish schooner to leave the area. Quickly the Spanish challenged the garrison at Port Egmont to abandon what their Governor described as 'Spanish territory.' The garrison refused and, with no certainty of having a superior force, the Spanish retired to Port Soledad.

Spain's Governor in Buenos Aires was informed of events and, operating under his general orders from Spain, set about putting a small fleet together to eject the English at Port Egmont.

The first two Spanish frigates to arrive at Egmont in February 1770 found that they were not up to the task and also retired, but then a fleet of five Spanish ships-of-war sailed into the bay in May of that year. The English were now heavily outnumbered and, after a suitable display of resistance, capitulated.

When news of this arrived back in England, King George was apoplectic at the insult and challenge to his 'ancient rights' and a new English fleet was gathered at Spithead.  Challenges were issued, Spain readied herself for war and then the French, and a little diplomacy, intervened.

England was all fired up for a war, although she could hardly afford one. Spain needed France to back her, but France was nowhere near ready and the French King was in little mood for more conflict.

To cut a long story short, in January, 1771 Spain backed down and signed a Declaration disclaiming their Governor's actions and returning the situation to the place it had been before Port Egmont had been attacked. In other words, with Spain on East Falkland claiming the archipelago, and England on West Falkland also claiming the whole archipelago. In its Declaration, Spain felt its position sufficiently vulnerable to emphasis that they still held onto their claim. England, the winner, felt no such need.

English forces returned to Port Egmont while Spain retreated to its fort at Port Soledad. In the face of unfounded rumours of some secret agreement that England would evacuate Port Egmont within two months, the Spanish Ambassador sought in vain to get a discussion with Lord Rochford on the issue of sovereignty. In the end, the Spanish quietly dropped the matter.

The English did leave Port Egmont, but not until 1774 and without relinquishing or abandoning their sovereignty as was made plain in a lead plate secured to the fort. Two Union Jacks were left flying and, the niceties having been properly performed the garrison sailed back to England where it was needed to deal with the revolutionaries in America.

Before the garrison's beds were cold however, a party of British sealers took up residence in the blockhouse signalling the start of the first English oil industry based in the Falkland Islands.


Oil! Not the stuff that is now drilled for, but the kind that came from animals, boiled down for their fats and oils. Seals, whales and even penguins. It was this first oil industry in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries that lit the streets of London and other cities in Europe and America.

Those early sealers at Port Egmont were shortly after joined by others, and in particular one Francis Rotch, a New England Quaker loyal to the Crown of England, who had lost a consignment of tea at Boston. Rotch spearheaded an attack by New England and London based sealers which decimated the shores of the Falkland Islands during the late 18th Century and produced the first tangible evidence that the Falklands could have some material worth other than as a distant base for the Royal Navy. Rotch is rumoured to have sat out the first two years of the American War of Independence at Port Egmont, undisturbed by any Spaniards.

Indeed, the sheer scale of destruction is staggering. In 1778, for example, 40,000 seal skins and 28,000 tons of Elephant Seal oil were taken to London. Whaling grew too, supported by bounties offered under the Whale Fishery, &c. Act of 1776 which extended the existing bounty system to the South Atlantic. A further extension of the bounties was sought in 1786; the year that Thomas Edgar RN surveyed West Falkland - again without disturbance by Spain. South Georgia was soon added to the list of sought after sealing grounds, and little that could be boiled down was safe from the sealers.

So great was the destruction that in 1788 John Leard RN appealed to the head of the Council for Trade and Foreign Plantations for measures to be introduced to control the slaughter.

By 1790, the beaches of the Falklands were described as "desolate and spoilt" by the first Spanish captain to visit Port Egmont in some years where he found seven British whalers moored near the old English settlement.

In fact, where were the Spanish? The evidence suggests that those members of the garrison at Port Soledad on East Falkland, rarely ventured outside the walls of their fort and relied heavily upon the annual supply ship that the Royal Spanish Navy provided from Montevideo. When it was late they starved.

In August, 1776, King Carlos III of Spain had formed the Viceroyalty de la Rio de la Plata the southern limit of which was set at 41 degrees south latitude; and which promoted the Governor of Buenos Aires to the position of Viceroy. The Falkland Islands were not included within the area of the new Viceroyalty; but seem to have been passed to the Royal Spanish Navy whose responsibility was to operate the garrison and provide both the fort's commander and regular supplies. Montevideo, in modern Uruguay was the headquarters for this operation.

They were also responsible for checking on Port Egmont to see whether the English had returned. A return they always expected. For all their previous claims to the whole archipelago, no attempt was ever made to raise the Spanish flag over the old settlement; although, in 1775, Capt. Clayton's lead plate was quietly removed and passed on to the Viceroy at Buenos Aires.

Visits to check upon Egmont were, weather permitting, annual and, contrary to some reports, did not involve warning off English sealers or whalers. Not before 1790 anyway. Pablo Sisur's orders, in 1777, were to warn off any American vessels he found, but only to accuse English ships of a lack of "good faith;" a reference to the 'secret promise' Spain always hoped had come out of 1771.

Spain did destroy the remains of Port Egmont in 1780, having returned to a state of war with England; in this case in support of France and the American revolutionaries; the orders received by the Viceroy from Spain revealing Spain's old fears of an English return. However, the English sealers hadn't left and promptly rebuilt Egmont which continued to serve them as a base for sitting out the harsh southern winters. American sealers seem to have preferred New Island.

In 1788, the United States, a captive vessel of the American War, arrived at Dover with 25,000 gallons of oil from the Falklands archipelago. Indeed, by 1790, a practice had been established whereby sealing vessels would sail from England and America to the Cape Verde Islands to take on a cargo of salt necessary to preserve the skins, and then head for the Falkland Islands to take on fresh water before continuing to whichever sealing grounds were productive. As the local supplied dwindled, those sealers had to hunt further and further south; but always returning to the Falkland Islands to sit out the winter and repair their ships.

That same year, Spain and England again clashed, this time at Nootka Sound high up on the north-west coast of the American continent. This resulted in the Nootka Sound Convention; a vague document open to misinterpretation but which purported to stipulate English and Spanish areas of interest along the American coastline. The peace deal only lasted until 1795 though, when the two nations returned to war.

Spain's interpretation of the Convention was unsuccessful in driving away the English sealers who appear to have carried on their practices without let or heed; only limited by the overstretched resources that they preyed upon. HMS Rattler arrived off the Falklands in 1793 during its investigation into the demise of the Sperm Whale; the same year that 16,000 seals were slaughtered for their skins. No Spanish ship even approached HMS Rattler.

In 1794, the Spanish expedition led by Malaspina arrived back at Port Egmont to find three American sealers which, after much consideration, he warned off, quoting the 1790 Convention - which must have confused the Americans. They promised to go, but didn't. Thereafter the Spanish seem to have lost heart, and gave up trying to warn off anyone. There is no evidence either that any more visits were made to Port Egmont which remained the sole preserve of the sealers and whalers well into the 19th Century.

There is even a report of Egmont acting as a supply depot in 1817 and the remains of the building that can be seen there today probably date from this time. But by then the Spanish had gone, and Port Soledad lay more abandoned than Egmont had ever been.


Once the Americans had done it, other colonists started to consider the benefits; so revolution arrived in South America.

The 1800's started quietly enough in the Falklands. It was business as usual for the sealers and whalers although stocks had been much reduced by the predations of the previous 30 years, but there were still profits to be made from slaughter.

The Spanish garrison remained holed up within their walls at Soledad, rarely venturing out and in France, Bougainville urged Napoleon to restate Frances claim to the islands; " No time is more suitable than now for Spain to renounce in our favour her imaginary right to these islands and for England to consent to this concession." There is no evidence that Napoleon listened however. 

In 1805 Spanish maps started to call the island group the 'Malvinas' in an apparent Spanification of the French 'Malouines,' and in 1806 General Beresford attacked an occupied Buenos Aires for a short period. Long enough to hinder the annual supply ship from Montevideo which reduced the garrison to near starvation.

Then, in 1808, Napoleon turned on his Spanish allies and occupied Spain. King Charles IV abdicated in favour of his son, Ferdinand VII, who was promptly disinherited by Napoleon in favour of Napoleon's brother, Joseph. While the importance of these events did not immediately affect the Falkland Islands, they would have repercussions that linger even today.

The Spanish weren't sure who was now governing them and this confusion reached South America where revolutionary ideas had been taking hold for much of the previous decade.

On May 22nd, 1810 the citizens of Buenos Aires decided to form their own Junta and declared their allegiance to Ferdinand VII of Spain. Chile declared full independence, as did Paraguay and Venezuela. Declaring for the King of Spain was hardly an act of independence and other Provinces promptly disagreed - setting the stage for disunion that would last until the 1860's.

Montevideo chose loyalty to both the Spanish Crown and its Government resulting in conflict with Buenos Aires. The last Viceroy defended himself in the Banda Oriental and called for the loyal garrison at Soledad to assist him - so the Spanish left the Falklands.

That garrison departed on February 13th, 1811, leaving behind the same marks and signs that the English had left 37 years before. The Spanish claim was to be maintained to the Island of Soledad - not, it seems, to the whole archipelago; "This island with its ports, buildings, units and contents belongs to the sovereignty of Sr. D. Fernando VII King of Spain and the Indies ..."

Spain's last Viceroy of the Rio de la Plata lost his final battle and returned to Spain, taking the claim to the Falklands with him.

As is the way with these events, confusion then set in with faction fighting faction, and Province fighting Province until, in one of the few examples of cohesion, the United Provinces finally declared independence from Spain on July 9th, 1816. An independence that neither Spain, nor the rest of the Old World recognised. Ferdinand VII would certainly never accept the loss of any of his claims.

Only in 1818 did the Spanish think about going back; to use Soledad as a base for attacking Buenos Aires but the plan didn't get off the drawing board.

So Spain had gone, but it was business as usual on the Falklands. British ships came and went, over-wintered, watered and made repairs as they had been doing since the 1770's. Undisturbed. Undisturbed by either Spain or the United Provinces; until the 1820's when Buenos Aires grew confident enough to flex its muscles.

Col. David Jewitt

In 1820 there occurred something that one notable author who has written three books on the history of the islands has described as "A Curious Incident'; while James Weddell, the explorer who witnessed it, dismissed it as untrue. What happened is this.

After 1816, in pursuit of its war against the mother country Spain, Buenos Aires, without a navy of its own, licensed foreign crews to hunt down and capture Spanish ships - the so-called Privateers. This from the American Statesman John Quincy Adams in 1820; " There is scarcely a Buenos Ayrean privateer which has not committed piracy of every description ... There is not a day that passes but we hear of new crimes of this description committed under the flag and commission of Buenos Ayres..."

One such was Brevet-Colonel David Jewitt, an American by birth, who took command of the Heroina and its crew of 200 on March 21st, 1820, under the terms of a 'corsair' licence issued by Jose Rondeau. The licence was to pursue Spanish vessels only. Jewitt however, finding prey in short supply attacked a Portuguese ship, the Carlotta, en-route to Lisbon.

Col. Jewitt was not a lucky man

The Heroina and her mutinous, scurvy-ridden, remains of a crew arrived at the Falkland Islands in October, 1820, some 7 months after she had set out in search of Spanish wealth -with no prize to take home.

On his arrival, Jewitt discovered that there were some thirty foreign ships moored around the islands, repairing their vessels and killing the wild cattle for their food supplies. Jewitt's ship however, was in such a poor state that he required assistance to get it to a safe mooring. That assistance was from an Englishman,  James Weddell.

For all the poor state of his crew, Col. Jewitt was recognised as being a dangerous man and many of the sealers there, including Weddell, viewed him with distrust. In need of material to repair his ship, Col. Jewett latched onto a recent wreck, that of the French corvette Uranie which had foundered in Berkely Sound that February. With other captains viewing the prospect of salvage rights and the availability of free materials with some relish, Col. Jewitt, a week after his arrival, suddenly announced that he had been sent from Buenos Aires with the express purpose of taking; " .. possession of these islands in the name of the country to which they naturally appertain," the 'Supreme Government of the United Provinces of South America.'

Weddell didn't believe him and I quote Mary Cawkell's 1983 work on the subject; "The un-United Provinces were in a state of unrest. there were in the year 1820 at least twenty-four governments. Described by Argentina's historians as the "terrible year," it was the most anarchic. .. It is most unlikely that one of these governments, during its brief reign, would have had time to think of the islands, let alone task Jewitt to take possession."

Ignoring any protests, Col. Jewitt duly held a small ceremony, fired a 21-gun salute and promptly claimed the Uranie. he then settled down to write a 13-page long Report to his masters in Buenos Aires in which he failed to mention what he'd done. And once he got back there, Jewitt again failed to mention his claim on behalf of the United Provinces. There was even an official inquiry into his voyage at which no mention was made of his claim or even of his flag-raising ceremony.

The only way that news got out in fact was, initially, by one captain from Salem, Massachusetts whose copy of Jewitt's letter was reproduced in the local newspaper in 1821 and found its way back to Buenos Aires via London and Gibralter. No-one took any notice. The Government in Buenos Aires didn't acknowledge it and, as the United Provinces were viewed as an illegal and rebellious Spanish colony; no other country did either.

James Weddell wrote a book about his adventures which was published in 1825 in which he dismissed Jewitt's claim, but by then things had moved on and Europe was starting to consider some recognition of Spain's old colonies as real nation states; even if Spain wasn't.

Luis Vernet

A man of many parts, places and even spellings, Luis (Louis, Lewis) Vernet was born in Germany to a French Hugenot family; spending his formative years in the USA and Portugal before settling in Buenos Aires where he got into the cattle business.

Articulate, well educated, multi-lingual and a hard-headed business man, Vernet's early ventures with cattle suffered badly as a result of the long drought of 1823 when the conditions raised the cost of raising cattle while the Buenos Airean Government artificially kept prices low in the markets. Vernet ended up in debt.

Under such strained circumstances it is unsurprising that Vernet, on hearing of the herds of wild cattle roaming on East Falkland more than fifty years after Bougainvile had released them, saw an opportunity - both to settle his debts and rescue his business.

Vernet was not the only one in debt. The Buenos Airean Government had a poor reputation in money management even then and had its own creditors, one of whom was a military man, Don Jorge Pacheco.

Luis Vernet also owed Pacheco and, aware of the government's debt, conceived of a plan to resolve both. Enlisting Pacheco as a partner, in 1823 the two of them applied to their government for a usufruct covering the island of Soledad and permitting them to take the wild cattle there. Quick to recognise an opportunity to discharge its debt to Pacheco, and disregarding the fact that they had not previously claimed the island, the government of the day approved the adventure. This grant was kept unofficial however and not gazetted. Also no titles were approved for the leader of the expedition, Pablo Arequati.

Not that the proposed expedition was actually Vernet's. On hearing of the grant, an Englishman, Robert Schofield, based in Montevideo, asked Vernet for a sub-lease allowing him to take the cattle. Vernet and Pacheco agreed to this and Schofield, an alcoholic, set about organising the venture. Badly as it turned out.

Areguati, a number of gauchos experienced in catching cattle, horses and supplies eventually sailed and arrived at Soledad in February, 1824. The horses were in poor condition and the supplies insufficient, so that before the month was out Areguati was writing for help. More horses were delivered in the March, but again were unsuited to the terrain and the expedition fell apart. Areguati abandoned the island in June, and the remaining gauchos had to be rescued by an English ship the following month. Schofield immediately drank himself to death while Vernet and Pacheco found themselves out of pocket.

Vernet need to seek new money to support another attempt, but while he was gathering what he could anther historical event occurred.

On March 31st, 1824 a British emissary, Woodbine Parish, arrived in Buenos Aires. His task was to evaluate what he found so that his superiors in London could decide whether the United Provinces, as a new nation, were worthy

Buenos Aires was not a large city, and the great and the good quickly became acquainted. Vernet and Parish became friends; a friendship that would survive subsequent events and one that would affect those events.

Article 3 of the 1825 Treaty between Britain and Buenos Aires permitted the citizens of Buenos Aires the liberty of commerce within the British King's dominions - which included the Falkland Islands. Parish was well aware of the island's legal status, having prepared a history of the region for Lord Londonberry in 1822.

There is little doubt that Vernet learned of the British claim around this time as, in 1826, and before attempting a second expedition, he submitted the usufruct granted by Buenos Aires to Parish's Vice-Consul, Mr. Griffiths, for British approval. Griffiths counter-signed the document in recognition that the commerce complied with Art. 3 of the Treaty. this would be the first of two such approvals granted to Luis Vernet's business.

For the second attempt at sending an expedition, Vernet devoted his own, not inconsiderable, talents at organisation. The expedition arrived at Berkeley Sound, the site of Bougainville's settlement, in June 1826.

He was not alone. English and American sealers were still their, pursuing their merciless business. One Englishman, Capt. Low, whose name reoccurs throughout this period, was there in January 1827, by which time Vernet had a fledgling colony.

William Langdon, another name to be remembered, was there in March, 1827, en-route to England from Tasmania.

In 1828 however, the United provinces fell apart - neither for the first time nor the last.

That same though, Luis Vernet, having seen the profits that the sealers and whalers were making around him, decided to convert his commercial venture into a political one. the result of this was the submission of his plan for a colony to be formed under the auspices of the United Provinces. Just to make sure that he would not experience any future difficulties however, once his plan had been approved by Buenos Aires, he submitted the grant yet again to Griffiths for British approval.

A hard-headed business man prepared to play off one emerging nation against a super-power, Vernet had been trying to persuade the British to reassert their authority over the Falklands. Britain was not yet ready although consideration was being given to the prospect. Apparently frustrated at the snail's-pace of Britain's consideration's, Luis Vernet got a further grant from Buenos Aires and yet, astute enough to also have gained Britain's permission, in May 1828 he flew both nation's flags over Port Soledad.

Once again, the Decree issued by Buenos Aires was kept secret and not gazetted nor circulated amongst the diplomatic community; a fact that would be raised first by the Americans when trouble came in 1831.

Back in the Falklands, Vernet's attempts to control the sealers went unheeded and he saw, what he now believed to be his profits, disappearing with the English and American sailors.

Again frustrated, Vernet went back to the Buenos Airean Government in 1829 to seek more powers and some back-up. He got the first, but not enough of the second to do more than mire himself in controversy.

Argentine Pretensions

Argentina's first public act to claim the Falkland Islands occurred in 1829. When it comes to sovereignty overt actions beat covert actions every time.

The Decree issued by the government in Buenos Aires in 1829 is itself mired in dispute. It was issued by the Lavalle Government which had taken power in a coup and was later disavowed by the Rosas Government which displaced Lavalle after less than twelve months in power.

Argentina's pretensions over the archipelago had actually become obvious to Woodbine Parish in march, 1829 when he noted a reference to them in a court judgement anf promptly notified London. He also managed to fall out with Lavalle by declaring another Decree, unconnected to the Falklands, to be against the 1825 Treaty. In fact, so concerned was Parish with the changing attitude that he summoned Vernet for an interview in which Vernet happily agreed that he would prefer to British claim over that of the United Provinces.

Around the same time, William Langdon, in London, was attempting to persuade the British Government of the advantages of reasserting their ancient claim to the archipelago.

The contentious Decree was published on June 10th, 1829 and was, for the first time, officially gazetted. This Decree made out the 'Political and military Command of the Malvinas," and claimed a right based upon Buenos Aires; ".. having succeeded to every right which the Mother Country previously exercised over these Provinces, and which its Viceroys possessed ..," adding; "that possession being justified by right of being the first occupant, by the consent of the principle maritime Powers of Europe and the proximity of these islands to the Continent that formed the Viceroyalty of Buenos Aires, unto which government they depended."

This Decree appears to have been ignorant of the southern limit imposed upon the Viceroyalty de la Rio de la Plata by Spain upon its formation; and of the fact that the European powers still recognised Spain as the holder of sovereignty de jure over all its old colonies.

The title of 'Commandante' given to Luis Vernet was in a second, ungazetted, Decree dated that same day. Vernet had also requested some military assistance to enforce his will upon the islands, but none was forthcoming.

Most importantly, Woodbine Parish immediately informed London and, after some deliberation and the taking of legal advice, the British Government ordered Parish to submit a formal diplomatic protest about what it referred to as 'pretentions' to Britain's ancient rights. That protest was properly made to the Buenos Aires Government, now led by General Rosas, in November, 1829. It was acknowledged; but as Rosas had declared 'illegal' all the Decrees of the Lavalle Government, no other response was ever received.

With Vernet back in the islands, and Port Soledad returned to being Port Louis, Woodbine Parish warned Vernet's deputy, Matthew Brisbane, an Englishman with another oft reoccurring name, that whatever Vernet did, he should avoid doing it to British ships. That advice was received, and understood.

USS Lexington

It was October, 1830 before Luis Vernet felt confident enough to exercise his new powers, which he advertised in the British Packet and Argentine News in Buenos Aies. The warning was clear; ".. the trangression of these laws will not, as heretofore, remain unnoticed." Every American sealers arriving at Berkeley Sound was also provided with a copy of the warning; notably the Harriet, the Superior and the Breakwater.

Finding his warnings ignored, on July 30th, 1831, Vernet seized the Harriet and confined its captain, Gilbert Davison, and the crew. The ship's supply of seal skins was confiscated and placed in Vernet's own store.

On August 17th, Capt. Don Carew and the Breakwater were taken, as was Capt. Stephen Congar and the Superior two days later. The crew of the Breakwater managed to escape with their ship however, albeit without their captain, and fled to take the news to the American authorities with the result that, on October 31st, the USS Lexington was ordered from Rio de Janeiro to Montevideo under the command of Capt. Silus Duncan.

Back on the Falklands, Luis Vernet seems to have 'persuaded' Capt. Congar to go sealing in the Superior on Vernet's behalf, while he took Davison back to Buenos Aires as the representative of both ship's owners to be tried for the offences of illegal sealing.

Vernet and Davison arrived back in Buenos Aires on November 20th, where Davison immediately registered a complaint with the US Consul George Slacum, who, in turn, protested the action.

On the 29th, the USS Lexington anchored in the Rio de la Plata allowing Duncan and Slacum to confer - and Davison a refuge. Two days later, Capt. Duncan told Consul Slacum that he was duty bound to go to the islands in order to protect US interests. Duncan also wrote to the Buenos Airean Government demanding that Luis Vernet be handed over to him or otherwise prosecuted for the crime of piracy. That Government prevaricated and so the USS Lexington sailed on December, 9th.

During the period that the ship-of-war took to get to Port Louis, the diplomatic battle began with the Argentine Foreign Minister attacking Consul Slacum's protest and US President Jackson weighing in to assert America's rights of fishery.

Then, on the arrival at Port Louis of the USS Lexington, on January 1st, 1832, Duncan 'arrested' Matthew Brisbane and six other of Vernet's employees; spiked the settlements guns, burnt their powder and 'liberated' all the seal skins from Vernet's storehouse. Capt. Duncan also offered to take the remaining settlers back to Montevideo should they wish to go, and all but a handful took up his offer.

Capt. Duncan arrived back at Montevideo at the beginning of February to find a diplomatic storm raging. He offered to release his prisoners on an undertaking from the Argentine Government that they had been acting on Vernet's authority, but when this did not immediately arrive, he took them off to Rio de Janeiro.

In Washington, President Jackson had appointed Francis Baylies to act as his trouble-shooter and this 'diplomat' was sent to Buenos Aires where, without doubt, he made relations between the two countries far worse.

The diplomatic war lasted all of 1832, indeed relations between the USA and Argentina did not begin to recover until the 1840's - unhelped by President Jackson's public support of Silas Duncan; and Baylies' support of the British claim to the Falkland Islands. While Buenos Aires claimed to have inherited the islands from Spain, Baylies claimed that the USA had inherited a right of fishery from England - and the US President instructed his Minister at Madrid to discover whether the Spanish had ever given up their claim. While the answer is unrecorded, Ferdinand VII was still alive and there is little doubt that the answer was in the negative.

Amongst all the detail of this early example of American enthusiasm in protection of what they saw as their rights, there rest a few nuggets including, perhaps most importantly, the recognition of a British right of sovereignty. Employed to boost their defence of Duncan's action, and bolster their right to fish, it was undoubtedly a recognition that has caused them some hand-wringing ever since.

Luis Vernet was deeply affected; in fact scared to death of a rumoured American plot to kidnap him and take him to trial in the USA with the effect that he resigned his Commandancy and refused to go back to Port Louis. He never would return to the Falklands.

Also important, as it turned out, was that Francis Baylies clearly urged the British to take some positive action against what he described as a "nest of pirates" based within a British territory. The British were now somewhat embarrassed and needed to be seen to be doing something. Which is what they did.

British Assertion

In fact the deliberations about returning a garrison to the Falklands had started in 1829 and before Woodbine Parish notified London of Argentine pretensions.

HMS Tribune had stopped off at Port Soledad on March 13th, 1829 and Capt. Wilson had noted Vernet's settlement which he shortly after reported to the Rear-Admiral at Rio de Janeiro together with his concerns over Argentine interest.

Then, in the April, William Langdon who was operating a regular commercial passage between London and Holbart, Tasmania, wrote to Thomas Potter MacQueen, a Member of Parliament, extolling the virtues of a colony on the Falklands as a stop-off point for vessels travelling between Australia and Britain.

Following Woodbine Parish's warning the British Government was forced to protest about Argentine pretensions having established that they were on good legal ground to reassert their ancient rights.

This was then followed by a period on inactivity. The causes for this are plain - the protest was acknowledged but not replied to; all the Decrees of the Lavalle Government were disavowed as 'illegal' and Luis Vernet continued to report on the state of his settlement to Parish as he had been instructed to do. As a result, Parish's initial fears were allayed and the matter rested. Even Vernet's announcement on the British Packet caused Parish no concern as Matthew Brisbane assured him that it was not aimed at English ships.

Parish reported to London that the matter appeared forgotten.

Then came the Lexington Raid right in the middle of Woodbine Parish's handover to Minister Fox.

Matters had not been forgotten in London either, and Langdon seems to have formed a partnership with George Whitington, an enthusiastic promoter of Falklands colonization. Langdon had also purchased land off Vernet which he tried to get recognised by the British Government but by April 1832 the repercussions of Duncan's visit to Port Louis meant that London was starting to recognise Vernet's perfidy. Poor Langdon had wasted his money.

Minister Fox, in Buenos Aires, once aware of the Lexington's action, informed the Foreign Office in London which demanded that Buenos Aires immediately revoke any authority granted to Luis Vernet to exercise powers with the British territory. With the political storm raging between the USA and Argentina, Fox held off until the Government in Buenos Aires committed itself to a display of force by sending an armed garrison to take over Vernet's settlement and raise the Argentine flag once and for all time.

Vernet wanted nothing to do with this and stayed well away. General Rosas obviously felt confident though; surprisingly so given that the Lexington, under a new Commander, was preparing to go back to the Falklands to continue its protection of American interests. In any case Rosas issued a new Decree giving the title of Political and Military Commandant of the Falkland Islands to Sgt. Major Jose Mestivier and despatched him with an armed force, and a ship-of-war under Lieut.Colonel Jose Pinedo, to the archipelago.

Minister Fox immediately protested this new act, on September 28th, stating that; " .. no act of government or authority can be exercised over those Islands by any other Power, without infringing upon the Just Rights of His Britannick Majesty."

This warning was ignored but unknown to either Fox or Rosas orders had already been issued to the Admiralty, on August 31st, for the Royal Navy to go to the islands; " .. for the purpose of exercising His full rights of sovereignty there."

Landing unopposed, Sgt. Major Mestivier took control of Port Louis on October 10th, 1832 while Pinedo set out to patrol the islands. Seven weeks later Mestivier was dead, killed in a mutiny that was put down by the crew of a British ship, the Rapid, with help from a French crew. By the time that Pinedo returned all he found was chaos; there being no central authority.

Around the same time that Pinedo was restoring some order, Commander Onslow, on the Royal Navy ship Clio was flying the Union Jack over Port Egmont and reconstructing the blockhouse. Having failed to find any foreign forces in the area of Egmont, Onslow then moved on to Port Louis.


HMS Clio arrived at Port Louis on January 2nd, 1833, where Onslow found Lieut.Colonel Pinedo and the Sarandi together with a ship's crew and 25 soldiers from the garrison; some of who were in chains. He also saw the flag of Argentina flying over the settlement.

"I awaited upon the commander of the schooner... and requested him to embark his force and haul down his flag on shore, he being in a possession belonging to the Crown of Great Britain."

On paper Pinedo had the superior force, even with some under arrest, and his specific orders were to defend his position; indeed, his general orders called upon him to fight until 50% of his men, and most of his ammunition had been lost. Pinedo chose to ignore his orders and he requested more time.

Onlsow was blunt, the flag could not remain, and, on the 3rd, when Pinedo seemed unsure of what to do, Commander Onslow sent a party of marines ashore. They lowered the Argentine flag, with due ceremony, folded it and returned it to the Sarandi with a message that they had found; " .. a foreign flag in the territory of His Majesty."

Pinedo, his crew and the mutinous garrison sailed away two days later. before leaving, the Argentine commander had offered to take the remaining settlers with him but only four chose to go; one married couple from Brazil, and another couple from the Banda Oriental. 

A total of twenty-two of Vernet's employees and settlers remained including 12 gauchos, 3 women and a child.

Vernet's gauchos, who hunted the wild cattle and were necessary for the survival of the settlement, were initially unwilling but, not having been paid since the Lexington's visit, they agreed when Onslow settled the debt in silver - rather than the promissory notes issued by Vernet which were only exchangeable in his store.

William Dickson, an Irishman, being the senior British resident having returned with the Sarandi the previous October, was given the role of being the British representative with instructions to raise the Union Jack every Sunday and whenever a foreign ship was sighted.

His orders completed, Commander Onslow sailed away again.

In Buenos Aires, when the Sarandi arrived back in that port, there was uproar. Pinedo was accused of cowardice and the mutinous members of the garrison met grisly ends. The USS Lexington, on the verge of heading back to the Falklands held off now that the British had returned.

Argentina's Foreign Minister, Manuel Vicente de Maza protested to the British charge d'affairs, Philip Gore who merely responded that he had no instructions to discuss the matter; which isn't quite the same thing as not knowing anything about it. He is promptly summoned to the Foreign Ministry and berated about the action of the Clio by an irate Foreign Minister who expressed his "surprise" with regard to the lack of any warning. Gore reminded de Maza that the Argentine Government had been warned - twice in fact.

Formal diplomatic protests were then made to Gore in Buenos Aires, and Lord Palmerston in London; the latter by Argentina's Ambassador, Manuel Moreno.

Back on the islands, Capt. Robert Fitzroy, on the Beagle, had arrived with orders to survey the islands; orders issued the previous year. Charles Darwin was with the expedition and noted the latest diplomatic storm over Buenos Aires; "By the awful language of Buenos Ayres one would suppose this great republic meant to declare war against England."

Darwin and Fitzroy did not remain long; but when Fitzroy left he noted in his journal that; " .. there were no lack of elements of discord; and it was with a heavy heart and gloomy forebodings that I looked forward to the months which might elapse without the presence of a man-of-war, or the semblance of any regular authority."

He was right to be worried. Convinced that Onslow's persuasion of his employees to stay at Port Louis meant British approval of his colony, Vernet had sent Matthew Brisbane and his other managers back to renew his commerce on the Falklands; but without sufficient funds to actually meet his obligations to those principle employees - the gauchos.

Antonio Rivero

Luis Vernet had long avoided the problems associated with a need for ready cash by paying his workers, especially the gauchos, with promissory notes. His own currency which could only be used at his own shop. This had the advantage also of keeping his workers on the island as they could not amass enough money to pay to get off.

Vernet left in 1831 and there was no direct management after the Lexington had taken off Matthew Brisbane, William Dickson and most of the settlers. As a result, throughout much of 1832, the only people on Soledad were a few of the more resilient settlers, including ex-slaves; and the gauchos.

For 10 months they had the run of the place. The gauchos continued to hunt the wild cattle but now negotiated their own prices with the sealers and whalers; and received hard currency and the dismay that they must have felt when Dickson returned with the Sarandi can only be imagined; made all the worse when the hard man Bisbane followed in 1833.

Matthew Brisbane was an Antarctic hero in his own right, and as tough and unbending as stone. Without sufficient silver to pay the gauchos he quickly reverted to using Vernet's promissory notes - and, indeed, promises. One such was to pay the gauchos a sum for their erection of a new cattle pen - the sum promised is disputed, but it hardly mattered as Brisbane could not pay regardless of what had been agreed.

Considering themselves cheated, some of the gauchos, together with Indians from Montevideo, rioted. William Dickson, Matthew Brisbane, Antonio Wagnar, Jean Simon and Ventura Pasos were butchered while the other settlers, in fear of their lives as witnesses, fled.

This was no great revolution; just murder - over money. No flags were flown, there were no speeches; just mayhem, destruction and looting. If there was any rebellion then it was against Luis Vernet, and by extension Buenos Aires; because it was Vernet's managers who were slaughtered; Vernet's business which was destroyed.

The perpetrators were eventually caught by the British Royal Navy; but, because of a legal technicality, they were never prosecuted. Identified as the leader of this murderous band was one 26 year old gaucho, Antonio Rivero, who was eventually released near Montevideo - never, contrary to some later myths, to be heard of again.

Rivero's riot had one silver lining however, as it forced the British Government to recognise that the Falklands could not be left without some authority to enforce good order. Early attempts, done on the cheap, were hardly successful, but eventually, with increasing pressure by would-be colonisers, the British realised that they had to do the job properly.


Pressure from would-be colonizers, coupled with changing attitudes at the Foreign and Colonial Offices in London, brought change to the Falklands.

The first settlers arrived from Britain in December, 1840; sent by George Whitington to claim the land that he'd obtained from William Langdon. They came as  something of a surprise to Lieut. Tyssen, the officer-in-charge at Port Louis and although Whitington's claim was not recognised, his settlers stayed.

Then, in March, 1841, the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners recommended the establishment of a settlement and, in the August, Lieut. Richard Moody was appointed to administer the Falkland Islands. He sailed from England in October with a party of sappers and miners, and their families - 26 people in all - to join the 39 men. women and children already at Port Louis. They arrived in January, 1842.

Moody immediately set about planning for the future of the islands and, in June, recommended that the climate would suit only the hardier emigrants and he suggested Scots, as; "They have the general character of being intelligent, steady, well-disposed men, and excellent shepherds; and the hardships they might have to undergo at the commencement of their residence would be trifling in comparison to what they constantly experience among their native hills ..."

In 1843, an Act of Parliament was passed to facilitate the administration of the Falklands and Richard Moody was named as the first Governor. Royal Letters Patent also provided for the government of South Georgia as a dependency of the Falkland Islands.

Moody reported that there were 56 permanent settlers in 1844, of which 31 were from Britain. This number included some of Vernet's remaining settlers, Antonina Roxa for example, who had formed the mainstay of the Port Louis population during the period 1833 to 1840.

While Governor Moody relocated the island's capital to Port Stanley, the population grew to 150 by the end of 1845. Allotments were surveyed and sold to the settlers and moves were made to attract others with the sale of land. This was also the beginning of the time of absentee landlords though; Samuel Lafone, from Montevideo, being the first after contracting to manage the wild cattle over a large tract of East Falkland Island. He sent gauchos from the Banda Oriental to add to the growing numbers on Soledad.

In 1847, Governor Moody introduced a grazing scheme to encourage small-scale farming and land was sold for the princely sum of eight shillings an acre for 'country' land, and fifty pounds for half an acre in the 'town.' By the end of that year there were 270 residents, of which 106 were employed by Lafone.

The new Governor, George Rennie, arrived in September, 1848 and the development of the colony continued. Fourteen more settlers arrived that year; adding to a population that included a magistrate, a chaplain, a surgeon, two clerks and a schoolmaster.

By October, 1849 the population was put at 200, including 30 Chelsea Pensioners and their families. Lafone's employee numbers had dropped following a dispute with Governor Rennie, who closed the operation down for 12 months.

Lafone re-established his business with the formation of the Royal Falkland Land, Cattle, Seal and Whale Fishery Company in 1851; the same year that a census was held. This put the population at 287, including 78 gauchos working for the new company.

The following year, Lafone's business changed its title to the Falkland Islands Company and sheep were introduced in increasing numbers. By 1853 Port Stanley consisted of; " .. a church, exchange, two public houses called hotels, and two billiard-rooms.." Nine hundred  thousand acres of land had been sold whilst three million acres were also put up for sale. The population rose to 500.

Eight years later the census estimate was 541; about the same number as Vice-Admiral Luiz de Pinzon found there when he arrived in 1863 at the head of a diplomatic mission from Spain. Argentina's mother country had finally recognised the independence of her errant offspring; and also finally recognised British sovereignty over East Falkland Island. Pinzon exchanged diplomatic gifts with the Governor and had his flag-ship fire a salute to the Union Jack.

Population numbers continued to increase slowly with the occasional reduction in numbers. Antonina Roxa died in 1869; not quite the last of Vernet's original settlers - the same year that Italy appointed a Consul at Stanley - and by 1871 there were 811 people present for the census.

Ten years later it was 1,510; and after another decade, 1,789, in 1891; the year before the Falklands were named a Crown Colony. The new century saw a resident population of 2,043 people - many of them born there and having known no other country.

The colony at the Falkland Islands grew in much the same manner as colonies everywhere in the world, slowly and steadily. There were no gold rushes to attract an abundance of emigrants, and the work was hard, the pay low but still the population increased, much as is natural - via breeding. And the settlers were not limited by their origins either. Many came from England and Scotland, but there were also many from other parts of Europe and, contrary to recent assertions, South America too. Sufficient for Consulates in Stanley recognised by the USA, Italy, Denmark, Chile, Sweden and Norway, Germany and Uruguay.

Many families in the Falklands today, can trace their ancestors on the islands back eight or nine generations - something to be proud of. And of course, it is still growing - naturally. There may yet be a gold-rush too, if oil is found in commercial quantities; but gold-rushes are also part of the process of colonization. Ask the Americans.

Against the historic facts, recent assertions that the population of the Falkland Islands was in some way 'implanted' look faintly ridiculous.

Re-establishing Perfect Relations of Friendship with Argentina 1849

Relations between Britain and the Argentine Republic deteriorated further during 1845 when, in an alliance with the French, the Rio de la Plata was blockaded. The causes of this action are not particularly relevant to the Falkland Islands other than in how the affair ended. The blockade was an attempt, by the British and French Governments, to bring pressure to bear on Argentina's leader, General Rosas, who was besieging Montevideo.

It didn't work. The problem was, having started it, how to finish it with some dignity.

Negotiations started in 1847 and proceeded at an exceedingly slow place, hindered as much by the need to maintain the alliance as by Rosas' stubbornness over recognition of an independant Uruguay.

The two sides talked for over two years and there is little doubt that General Rosas had the better of the debate. He couldn't get Uruguay, but he could have obtained almost anything else, including, from the evidence of speeches in the House of Commons, the Falkland Islands. What is strange, is that he didn't ask for them.

Every year, after 1833, at the opening of the Argentine Congress, General Rosas gave a speech in which he reasserted his country's claim to the archipelago. Every year he said that Argentina's claim was indisputable and yet, on two previous occassions, Rosas had attempted to dispose of that claim in exchange for Britain settling Argentina's debt to Baring Bank.

Those attempts failed, but he recognised a bargaining chip when he saw one and instead was prepared to gave up the claim to Soledad in exchange for Britain's retreat from the Rio de la Plata.

The result, was the Convention for re-establishing the perfect Relations of Friendship between Her Britannic Majesty and the Argentine Confederation - otherwise known as the Southern-Arana Treaty, which was signed on November 24th, 1849.

This was a peace treaty, and that fact is important. It is important because when the parties to a conflict agree upon a peace, then any occupied territory not included within the articles of the peace treaty remain with the occupiers after peace has been restored. Argentina considered that the Falkland Islands were occupied territory and it was in her interests to ensure that some mention was made of the situation there, if only to keep Argentina's own claim alive.

This readiness on the part of Rosas, to bargain the islands away, raised questions at the time. Argentina's press were bemused and the failure to make mention of the islands has since been described by one Argentine politician as either; "a concession to Britain, or a culpable oversight." An Argentine historian said that the loss formed an 8th, unwritten, article of the treaty.

Prior to the ratification of the Treaty by both Governments, General Rosas made one more speech to Congress in which he repeated Argentina's claim to the Falklands but then, in a departure from the usual rhetoric, explained to his audience the reasons why Britain could not give to Argentina what they would not give to Spain.

The peace treaty was ratified by Argentina and Britain in 1850 and Rosas never made mention of the Falklands again. In fact it would be 91 years before a President of Argentina spoke of his country's pretensions in a speech to the Argentine Congress. When, in the 1880's, the British Government referred to the issue as being "closed," it was because of the agreement in 1849.

General Rosas was eventually ousted and Argentina occupied itself for the next three decades with conquering Patagonia and its Indian tribes. Once that had been achieved, and feeling confident, the Government in Buenos Aires started to wonder how it could re-open the question despite the finality of the Southern-Arana Treaty.

So they proceeded with caution - and tried to forget Rosas' deal.

Protest and Counter Protest

Protests over the archipelago had been bouncing about between Spain and England from 1848 up to the verge of open warfare in 1771. Matters quietened after that and remained in a state of limbo until Spain left its enclave on Soledad in 1811.

The next decade saw Spain heavily reliant upon its former adversary, at first due to Napoleon, and after within the larger picture of European politics. Ferdinand VII maintained his claim up until his death in 1833 and it was only after that Spain could start to reconcile itself to the reality that its colonies could not be regained. Britain played an important role in that process and was even involved in the negotiations that led to Spain's recognition of the Argentine Republic in 1859, albeit a Republic without the Province of Buenos Aires. When Buenos Aires rejoined, a new treaty was required and this was agreed in 1863. Spain recognised the Republic, and also recognised British sovereignty over East Falkland.

Protest recommenced in 1829 when Buenos Aires, claiming an inheritance from Spain that it had not yet gained, revealed her designs on the British Falkland Islands. Buenos Aires proclaimed a Governor for the islands and Britain protested.

Silence followed until 1832 when Buenos Aires again proclaimed a Governor, in replacement for Vernet who had resigned, and again Britain protested. More, Britain took the action that Buenos Aires should have seen coming in 1829.

Onslow's ejection of the trespassing Argentine garrison placed the boot firmly on the other foot and now it was Buenos Aires which protested. Manuel Moreno, the Ambassador in London, started on a series of protests that lasted, with gaps, from 1833 until 1849. He even, very undiplomatically, published his first protest and had it circulated around London.

Early protests demanded the return of the Falklands to the Republic, later ones merely asked for compensation. There were even two attempts by Argentina to give up their claim in exchange for the debt that the country owed Barings bank in London. This was never considered - if only because the debt was far larger than the islands were worth.

Argentina's protests stopped after 1849. Rosas stopped making his country's claim in Congress, and the Argentine Ambassador in London stopped too. Recognition that the Southern-Arana Treaty had resolved the question.

Even in 1882, the officially published Latzina map showed the Falkland Islands as foreign territory.

Argentina's new-found confidence following its successes over the tribes in Patagonia and over Chile regarding Tierra del Fuego, were revealed in 1884 when the Republic's Ambassador to Washington was instructed to re-open the dispute over the USS Lexington.

The instructions sent to Ambassador Dominguez were that he should lodge a compensation claim for the equivalent of 200,000 pesos, being the value of Vernet's colony; and should offer to take the matter to arbitration. Arbitration was a new idea, having been employed successfully between Britain and the USA as a means of removing all the old claims between them, dating back to the American Civil War.

What Dominguez was not to do, however, was discuss the question of sovereignty.

Back in Buenos Aires, the Foreign Minister, Dr. Fransisco Ortiz, sidled up to British Ambassador Monson, at a party, and suggested that; "now the country was consolidated and rounding off its territory," Argentina was thinking of reviving the old claim to the Falklands.

"He thought it a question which might be fairly settled by arbitration. Great Britain

Monson's reply was that; " .. if the Argentine Government contemplated so serious a step, the better and more regular plan would be to cause a communication on the subject to be made to Her Majesty's Government by the Argentine Minister in London."

Ortiz preferred to deal with the matter at an unofficial level however, and asked Monson to pass the idea on. In response, the British Government gave the proposal an unofficial, "no."

Interestingly, when Monson was asked why Argentina should attempt to raise the matter again, he replied that he could only think that it was to do with the forthcoming presidential election.

Argentina's response to their informal enquiry was to publish another map - this time with the Falklands archipelago indicated as being a part of Argentine territory. Britain immediately protested - officially.

Argentina responded to the protest in January, 1885 by saying that the map could not be considered official until it had been sanctioned by the Government. Foreign Minister Ortiz attached a memo to the response which outlined the grounds upon which Argentina would claim the islands; inheritance and geography. Ortiz also mentioned the fictional 'secret promise' of 1771.

In the USA, Argentina's claim for compensation fell on deaf ears and eventually, after it had been submitted to the American Government four times in a few months, Dominguez was firmly told that the matter would have to await some resolution with Britain over sovereignty. President Cleveland dismissed Argentine protests over the decision in his State of the Union address in December, 1885.

In February, 1886, Argentina's Government pressed the Ambassador for a response to the memo that Ortiz had attached to his response of the previous year. Britain's charge d'affaires in Buenos Aires reminded the Foreign Ministry of the answers given to Manuel Moreno's protests in 1834 and 1843, and the Minister was told that; " .. the discussion was closed so far as Her Majesty's Government were concerned; .. they could not consent to reopen the matter."

The question had, after all, been terminated 37 years before, on the signing of the Southern-Arana Treaty.

Twenty months later, in November, 1887, Dominguez, now Foreign Minister, again pressed Britain's Ambassador for a reply to Ortiz's memo. He was referred to the earlier response.

Argentina then returned to a formal diplomatic protest Note addressed to the British Government, dated January 20th, 1888. This protested Britain's occupation of the Falkland Islands and laid out Argentina's claim; again citing events in 1771 and 1774 and, for the first time, suggesting that the 1790 Nootka Sound Convention had been 'tantamount' to recognition of Spanish rights.

Her Majesty's Government's response was made clear when they; " .. declined to enter into any discussion of the right of Her Majesty to the Falkland Islands which, in their judgement, was not open to doubt or question." The British Government had no doubts about its sovereignty.

In 1899, following the first Hague Peace Conference, a Permanent Court of Arbitration was formed to deal with matters of contention between states. Argentina did not immediately join and when she did, made no mention of any dispute with Britain.

No formal diplomatic protest on the question of the Falkland Islands between 1849 and 1888; only an unofficial suggestion that the issue should go to arbitration. No further formal, diplomatic protest by Argentina was handed to Britain before the turn of the century - indeed all further protests have been aimed at others.

The 20th Century to 1945

The 20th century commenced quietly enough, with over 2000 residents appearing the census of 1901. The first hint of continuing Argentine pretensions came in 1908 when Argentina objected to a reference by an Italian Minister to the British Falkland Islands at the Rome Postal Union Convention. 1908 was also the year that the UK issued Letters Patent concerning the governance of its islands further south than the Falklands including South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Argentina requested a copy but registered no objection.

Two years later something happened in the British Foreign Office however. In September, 1910, the American department requested some detail of the history of the Falklands. Quite why isn't known, but the task was given to a librarian, Gaston de Bernhardt.

Bernhardt was only given a few weeks to research this history, which he produced on December 7th. The work concentrated mainly on the series of protests that started with that from Manuel Moreno in 1833 although some of the earlier history was mentioned - including Bernhardt's concentration on finding the supposed 'secret agreement' of 1771. He could not find any such agreement or any correspondence concerning it. Strangely he did not include any of the official correspondence between the main players, Rochford and Masserano.

This suggests that Bernhardt was being directed as to the evidence that he should produce. If such was the case then it backfired as Bernhardt himself said that he had been unable to access all the files and that much remained unclear.

There followed a couple of attempts by Foreign Office personnel to suggest that Bernhardt's report led to a conclusion that Britain's claim to the Falkland Islands was less than perfect. Others have claimed that the British Government began to have doubts. This is ridiculous. Firstly the Foreign Office is not the British Government whose Ministers have never expressed any doubts. Secondly, whatever doubts the Foreign Office harboured were dispelled by Anthony Eden in 1936. Julius Goebel's 1927 book also suffered from a lack of access to all those missing records mentioned by Bernhardt. Not that they were actually missing; merely stored in the Royal archive at Windsor and not at the British Museum where Bernhardt concentrated his search.

1919 saw another petty act when Argentina's Minister of Marine Affairs instructed all its radiotelegraph stations not to accept messages from the Falklands. This rather set the pattern of Argentina's protests until the formation of the United Nations in 1945 with Argentina directing its ire mainly at the International Telegraph Bureau and the Universal Postal Union.

1929 saw a rise in Argentine nationalism and the 1829 Decree of June 29th was celebrated by the far-right Patriotic League of Argentina while Buenos Airean newspapers called for the 'return' of the archipelago. An article in La Prensa proclaimed the myth that the British had ejected Argentina's colonists in 1833; also the notion that Argentina had never ceased to demand restitution.

La Prensa's call was repeated in 1933, the centenary of the British assertion of ownership by HMS Clio; commencing what has been called the War of the Stamps. To commemorate the event the Falkland Islands produced a set of stamps with 1833-1933 printed on each one. Argentina immediately protested. Not to the UK, but yet again to the International Postal Union; saying that they would not recognise the stamps as valid.

1934 saw the arrival of indoctrination in the Argentine education system with the passing of a new law, requiring all secondary schools to be supplied with a revisionist account of history based upon a book by Paul Groussac written in 1910; "It being necessary that all inhabitants of the Republic should know that the Falkland Islands are Argentine and that Great Britain, without any title of sovereignty, took possession of them by force."

That indoctrination of Argentina's schoolchildren continues to this day and no opposing view is allowed to be expressed within the nation's schools or universities.

Argentina made the next move in the stamp war in 1935 with its own issue portraying the Falklands as Argentine territory and in 1937 Falkland Islanders' were refused visas to enter Argentina on the basis that they already lived there.

Another third party protest was made to the 1937 Whaling Conference with Argentina objecting to a reference that South Georgia and the other south Atlantic islands were under British jurisdiction. Then on February 2nd, 1938 Argentina declared that all those people born in the Falkland Islands were Argentine citizens.

Then, in 1939 and with an European war looming, the Government of Augustin Rolon decided to expand their pretensions to cover British Antarctica with the establishment of a Commission to compile a claim.

Argentine assertions to third parties continued throughout the period of WWII - to the Panama Conference in October, 1939; the Havana Conference, 1940; the Pan-American Conference of Foreign Ministers, 1942; and the International Postal Union, 1943.

On each, and every, occasion, Britain responded by formally protesting the action to Buenos Aires. On no occasion did Argentina assert its claim in a formal diplomatic note to the United Kingdom.

Argentina finally declared war on the Axis powers on March 27th, 1945; it's hopes of a defeated and pliable Britain shattered, and just in time to get an invitation to join the United Nations organisation - an idea which had come out of the Yalta Conference the month before.

What Argentina was not prepared to sign up to however was another new idea - that of the right of 'self-determination.'

United Nations and Decolonization

The idea that territories, after the war had ended, should have the option to decide their own futures was raised the Havana Conference in July, 1940. One of the purposes of that Conference had been to consider how to prevent European colonies in the Americas falling under Axis control and it was agreed that any territory that was in such a danger should come under the collective trusteeship of the American nations. Regarding the opportunity of those territories to decide their own future, Argentina submitted 'reservations' concerning the Falkland Islands and; "certain regions in the south."

In August, 1941, the Atlantic Charter was agreed between the USA and Britain with one of the 8 principle agreements recognising that; "all peoples have a right to self-determination."

This very much reflected American thinking, and a desire to address the issue of Britain's Empire. The Empire had placed Britain at the top of the international tree and, in exchange for military assistance, that power was to be diluted - the USA's price for its support in WWII. Four months later the Japanese changed support into involvement.

1942's Pan-American Conference met to discuss the implications of Pearl Harbour and Argentina quickly proposed that it be given responsibility for 'protecting' the Falklands; "If they do not get the Falklands then they have an admirable excuse for staying out of the war; if they do get them they at once become national heroes instead of being disliked and despised by 90% of the Argentine public."

Argentina also attempted to 'protect' Deception Island and Graham Land by sending an expedition to those places, intent on laying inscribed plaques declaring them as Argentine property. Britain was forced to garrison the Falklands with 2,000 men from the 11th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment; men who could have been better employed elsewhere. It was also necessary to deploy HMS Carnarvon Castle in order to protect the Dependencies from Argentine occupation. The plaque found at deception Island was returned to Buenos Aires by the British Ambassador with the message that; ".. the United Kingdom Government had no intention of allowing the British title to the island to be usurped by Argentina."

Argentina's response was to state a claim to all the territories south of 60 degrees south latitude which, they claimed, they had "inherited from Spain." No mention was made of the Falkland Islands in this, the first official claim by Argentina to the British Antarctic, and sub-Antarctic, islands.

The concept of a United Nations came about as a result of the Yalta Conference when Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin declared their resolve to establish; "a general international organization to maintain peace and security." April, 1945 saw the start of United Nations Conference on International Organisation which was to consider all matters, including the prospects for decolonization. In May, at the 25th meeting of the Fourth Committee on Declonization, Argentina submitted a note stating that it did not recognise British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. No similar note was addressed to the United Kingdom.

The Conference resulted in the United Nations Charter, a multi-lateral Treaty, enforceable in international law, signed by 29 of the delegates including both Britain and Argentina.

Article 1, of that Treaty, states very clearly that one of the purposes of the United Nations is to; "develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples..."

Article 73 addressed the duties of those members which had responsibility for the administration of territories; " .. whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government." Britain, with its colonies, out of all the Administrating Powers, had the most colonies that were to be decolonized. In full knowledge of what was required, Britain signed without hesitation. Article 74, perhaps less well-known, requires the other members of the UN to act with "good-neighbourliness" towards these Non-Self Governing Territories. Argentina signed up to that too.

These two Articles came into force in February, 1946 with the UN requirement that the Administering Powers declare the NSGT's under their administration. Argentina's reaction was to introduce a new law banning the use of any maps within its schools that did not show the Falklands as Argentine territory.

Britain submitted its list of NSGT's to the United Nations in October 1946 and the UN, in Resolution 66(I) of December, noted a total of 74 territories submitted by the Administering Powers for the purposes of decolonization.

In 1948 Argentina's Permanent Representative at the UN rejected the Falklands inclusion among the NSGT's; as noted in the British parliament; The vociferous claims of the Argentine Republic to the Falkland Islands, .., are to my mind examples of .. excessive nationalism, though happily in none of these cases has there been any resort to violent action. Clearly, cases of this kind ought to be referred to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, as His Majesty's Government have expressed their willingness to refer them, for a decision on legal ownership. The claimants, however, are showing themselves reluctant to adopt this procedure, and I cannot but deduce from their hesitation that in fact the claims are not legally sound.”

In line with Britain's obligations as the Administering Power under Art.73; 1948 saw new Letters Patent providing for the government of the Falklands, accompanied by legislation constituting a new, partially elected, Legislative Council. This was quickly followed by the addition of an Executive Council and instructions to the Governor requiring that he consult with the executive. All in compliance with Art.73b - ".. to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement;"

Having formed its list of colonies in need of 'decolonization,' the United Nations then announced that it would decide upon the conditions necessary for a listed colony to be delisted. This immediately created problems; the first being that some consensus would be required amongst the UN's members on the meanings to be applied to the various words and terms. Self-determination proved one of the most difficult.

The source of this issue was the concept of self-determination itself. A socialist concept considered at some length by Lenin in the early part of the 20th century, the idea had become something of a tenet of socialism by the 1950's; seen as the way in which the 'people' could emancipate themselves and embrace socialist principles - particularly in the case of the remaining colonial populations. Unsurprisingly the western view, and in particular the American perception, was that self-determination was the underlying principle of self-government; by the people, for the people. In neither case, however, was the concept considered as a route to succession - hence the balance of 'territorial integrity' included within the Charter itself.

And that was the easy part. All the UN had to decide was who the right of self-determination applied to; surely it would be easy enough when dealing with the colonies? 1952 proved particularly frustrating: socialist countries could not agree with the West, and vice versa. In the end there was an acceptance that there could be no definition of the terms; no limitations placed upon it and that it was better left alone; allowing each country to decide for themselves what they thought it meant and who they thought that it was for. It was all too hard to handle and so it was put to one side. The best that the UN could come up with was Resolution 637(VII) which stated that; " The General Assembly recommends that; 1. The Member States of the United Nations shall uphold the principle of self-determination of all peoples and nations;... "

That lack of definition continues to plague the whole issue.

Article 73 doesn't mention independence. It talks of the development of self-government; and, in the 50's and early 60's it cannot be denied that the UK stood opposed to the idea that self-determination was a right available to the Falkland Islanders. Britain would eventually be persuaded but it took time for attitudes to change.

1955 saw an attempt by the UK to have the outstanding issue over sovereignty of the Dependencies decided by the UN's own court; the International Court of Justice. The Falkland islands were not included in the submission quite simply because that issue had been dealt with back in 1849 and had been 'closed' ever since. In the event, nothing happened at the ICJ simply because Argentina refused to recognise that the court had any jurisdiction over matters of sovereignty. As the UN itself has no remit to resolve sovereignty cases, they had a point although the court was capable of deciding some of the contentious issues had both sides agreed.

The United Nations did achieve something in 1960 with Resolution 1514, entitled the Declaration of the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. This Resolution clearly made out the general right of all peoples to determine their own futures; "2. All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development." This Resolution mentioned 'independence.'

This is important as the instruction contained in Art.5 is quite clear - " Immediate steps shall be taken, in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories or all other territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, without any distinction as to race, creed or colour, in order to enable them to enjoy complete independence and freedom.”

Britain did not immediately support the passing of this Resolution as it went further than the Charter had done; further than the UK had thought necessary. They were in a minority however, as the number of UN members had increased dramatically in the preceding decade with the coming to independence of many African and Asian states, all of who supported the idea of freedom for the remaining colonies - including the Falkland Islands.

To back up these instructions the UN set up a Special Committee to report on the progress of decolonization to the General Assembly; now known informally as the C24. A form of pressure to be put on the Administering Powers to drive forward the UN's desire for an exercise of the right of self-determination by the colonies still listed as NSGT's.

to be continued ...........

Falklands War 1982
to be continued ...........

The 21st Century

to be continued ...........


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