The 3 Most Juvenile Historical Conflicts
People, especially the kind of people with the power to start wars, love to put on their most somber look and gravely declare that war is always a last resort. Unfortunately, this is most often said shortly before war is declared. If there’s anything history has taught us, it’s that war is usually, at the most, a third or fourth resort, especially if someone is royally pissed off.
We also like to pretend that anyone who could rise to the heights of government, thanks to its extreme and unquestionable devotion to pure meritocracy, is the image of wisdom and foresight. Again, that’s something that time hasn’t exactly borne out. Throughout history, we’ve seen plenty of leaders send thousands of their people into bloody, gory messes over things that seem like they could have been hammered out with just an adult conversation or two. Instead, we’re forced to watch a peeved politician sink in their mudhooks and ride a wave of stubbornness straight into a whole lot of unnecessary death.
The Pastry War
Everybody loves a delightful baked treat, but most wouldn’t say it’s worth spilling blood over. Yet, in 1838, at least in part, damages to a pastry shop in Mexico resulted in a brief war between Mexico and France. Now, the destruction of this pastry shop, owned by the French Monsieur Remontel, wasn’t wholly the reason for the war, but instead served as a final straw and rallying point. Mexico was not exactly united, and there was widespread infighting in the streets by supporters of different leaders. This infighting resulted in damage to French-owned businesses, including the pastry shop in question, after which owners like Remontel asked to be compensated by the Mexican government. In Remontel’s case, he wanted 60,000 pesos.
Mexico refused to pay Remontel and others, and this only added to a stack of debt they already owed the French, who decided it was time to make a house call for debts due, blocking off the port of Veracruz and demanding 600,000 pesos immediatamente. Mexico’s pursestrings remained tightly cinched, and in November, the French began to attack the port. Mexico declared war in retaliation, but fairly quickly lost control of the port, forcing them to agree to pay back the debt before the French would cede control of their main port. Not only did Mexico have to cough up every cent the French had asked for in the beginning, but they also had to rebuild their main port after the fighting.
The Pig War
In 1859, a pig living on San Juan Island on the border between the U.S. and Canada saw some potatoes. As pigs are wont to do, it immediately decided that these potatoes needed eating, and it was the perfect man for the job. As it chomped away happily on a couple of seemingly free spuds, it had no idea that it was setting in motion what would almost become a war between the U.S. and Britain.
The problem here was first, that San Juan Island, thanks to being right on the 49th parallel that divided the U.S. and Canada, was still claimed by both countries. Second, it was that the pig in question was British, and the potatoes in question were American. When the farmer who owned the potatoes saw this act of international potato larceny, he shot the pig dead on the spot. Of course, the owner of the pig didn’t take too kindly to that, and demanded money for the pig, but was less than pleased with the offer of $10. He countered by requesting $100. One thing led to another and suddenly the pig’s owner was threatening to have the farmer arrested and the farmer had requested military assistance.
Two months later, there were warships, cannons and thousands of men staring each other down over this single pig’s honor. Thankfully, at least one man, British Rear Admiral Robert Baynes, had the good sense to refuse an order to fire on the U.S. troops over a pig, and eventually, the whole thing was defused diplomatically. In the end, the death toll remained at only one pig, whose simple search for potatoes held more power than he ever could have dreamed.
The Wrestling Match That Maybe Contributed to a War
What could two rambunctious boys love more than a bit of classic roughhousing? Of course, it’s almost a guarantee that even the most playful wrestling match will eventually activate some sort of male dominance gland in the brain that ends with the tussle turning into a Whole Thing. Throw some alcohol in there, and you’ve got a great way to strain a friendship, or, in this case, a burgeoning alliance.
Young kings Francis I of France and Henry VII of England were having a lovely time at one of the biggest parties in history, known as the Field of Cloth of Gold, meant to better acquaint the two royals and build allegiance between them. Though there were plenty of contests of strength occurring there, in order to keep things pleasant, a rule banned competition between the two kings themselves. Thanks to a generous bit of old-timey booze, Henry, who at the time was a strapping young lad of over 6 feet tall, not the famously portly fellow he became after a jousting accident, violated this rule by challenging Francis to a wrestling match.
Unfortunately for Henry, Francis was no slouch in the art of grappling, and threw the king to the ground, staining both his clothes and his ego. Not too far in the future, despite the celebration meant to unite the two, Henry declared war on Francis. Now, whether this was an inevitability or whether it was in some way a result of Henry’s hurt feelings from being upended in front of pretty much everybody who was anybody, is hard to confirm. But some historians do suggest his toppling tipped the scales, like Jules Michelet, who called the match a “small, fatal event that had incalculable consequences.”