179 + 30 + 60 = 2012

2 Jan

Tomorrow (3rd) Argentina will mark an anniversary; 179 years since Commander Onslow in HMS Clio pulled down the flag of the Federal Pact and instructed Lt. Colonel Pinedo to leave East Falkland and take his men with him.

This date tends to be marked as the one on which Britain re-established its control over the Islands, although historically this is not very accurate. Onslow arrived at Purto Louis today, but even that is not all of it as Britain’s claim can be traced back to 1690.

Matters moved slowly until 1765 when John Byron, acting on instructions from the King, visited the archipelago and established a watering-place and vegetable garden. This was swiftly followed up in 1766 by Cpt. Macbride’s arrival with a garrison, and whilst 2012 may see the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, that was only the most violent of the disputes that have beset ownership of these distant lands. Spain objected to Britain’s claim as soon as she knew of it, and the two countries nearly went to war over them in 1770, following Spain’s ejection of the garrison there.

Spain maintained its claim until the death of Ferdinand VII in 1833, shortly after Onslow’s return and Pinedo’s departure, but still the issue of ownership has rumbled on.

Argentina claims to be Spain’s heir and to have inherited the claim that Spain was unable to enforce. Legally this is unlikely, but Argentina has spent the last 80 years pounding this supposed right into the nation’s consciousness and the historical truths are long forgotten.

2012 will see an uplift in the rhetoric, partly because of the 1982 anniversary, partly because of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrating 60 years, and the Royal visit that is due, but mostly because 179 years ago tomorrow, a British officer suggested to an Argentine one that he was trespassing and would be advised to leave. While the settlers remained, that inglorious retreat is burnt into the hearts of every Argentine, and they cannot forget.




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