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In January 1833, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Irelandmarker sent two naval vessels to re-assert British sovereignty over the Falkland Islandsmarker ( ), after the United Provinces of the River Plate (which later became Argentinamarker) ignored British diplomatic protests over the appointment of Luis Vernet as Governor of the Falkland Islands and a dispute over fishing rights.

Background

Luis Vernet
1826 and 1828, Luis Vernet approached the British Consulate in Buenos Aires seeking permission to form a settlement on the Falkland Islands; Vernet had also been tasked by the Government of the United Provinces with the same task. After receiving consent, Vernet agreed to provide regular reports to the British and expressed the desire for British protection for his settlement should they decide to re-establish their presence in the islands.

In 1829, the United Provinces proclaimed Luis Vernet as Governor of the islands, British diplomatic protests at the appointment and declarations of sovereignty were ignored. The United Provinces also granted Vernet exclusive rights to seal hunting in the islands. This too was disputed by the British and American consulates but once again the diplomatic protests were ignored.

In 1831, Luis Vernet began to seize American fishing vessels hunting seals in Falklands waters, confiscating their catch and arresting their crews. Vernet returned to the mainland with senior officers of the American vessels to stand trial for violating restrictions on seal hunting. On 28 December 1831, the American corvette USS Lexington destroyed the Puerto Luis settlement in response. The captain declared the islands to be free of government.

This latter incident finally convinced the Foreign Officemarker to reassert its sovereignty claim over the islands. Throughout much of 1832, the United Provinces did not have a Government representative in the islands. The Buenos Airesmarker government commissioned Major Esteban Mestivier as the new Governor of the Islands, to set up a penal colony, but when he arrived at the settlement on 15 November 1832 his soldiers mutinied and killed him. The mutiny was put down by Lt. Col. José María Pinedo, commander of the United Provinces schooner Sarandí, with aid from a French ship in Puerto Luis. Order was restored just before the British arrived.

Arrival of the squadron

Under the command of Captain John James Onslow, the brig-sloop HMS Clio, previously stationed at Rio de Janeiromarker, reached Port Egmontmarker on 20 December 1832. It was later joined by HMS Tyne.

Onslow arrived at Puerto Luis on 2 January 1833. Pinedo sent an officer to the British ship, where he was presented with a written request to replace the Argentine flag with the British one, and leave the location. Pinedo entertained plans for resisting, but finally desisted because of his obvious numerical inferiority and the want of enough nationals among his crew (approximately 80% of his forces were British mercenaries who refused to fight their countrymen). The British forces disembarked at 9 am of 3 January and promptly switched the flags, delivering the Argentine one to Pinedo, who left on 5 January.

Aftermath

HMS Beagle


The British vessels did not stay long and departed two days later, leaving William Dixon (Vernet's storekeeper) in charge of the settlement.

Argentina claims that the population of the islands were expelled in 1833, however sources from the time suggest that the colonists were encouraged to remain under Vernet's deputy, Matthew Brisbane.

HMS Beagle arrived on 15 March 1833. Charles Darwin commented that:

After the possession of these miserable islands had been contested by France, Spain, and England, they were left uninhabited.
The government of Buenos Aires then sold them to a private individual, but likewise used them, as old Spain had done before, for a penal settlement.
England claimed her right and seized them.
The Englishman who was left in charge of the flag was consequently murdered.
A British officer was next sent, unsupported by any power: and when we arrived, we found him in charge of a population, of which rather more than half were runaway rebels and murderers.
(The Voyage of the Beagle.)


Vernet dispatched his deputy Brisbane to the islands to take charge of his settlement March 1833. Meeting with Captain Fitzroy of the Beagle he was encouraged to continue with Vernet's enterprise provided there was no attempt to further the ambitions of the United Provinces. In August 1833, eight members of the settlement ran amok, killing the five senior members. Lt Henry Smith was installed as the first British resident in January 1834, he immediately set about establishing British authority arresting the murderers. The United Kingdom has held the territory ever since, but for a two months period after the 1982 invasion, during the Falklands War.

References

See also




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