FIFTY FOUR FORTY OR FIGHT!

FIFTY FOUR FORTY OR FIGHT!

So, how's your Washington state history knowledge? Do you remember learning about "Fifty Four Forty or Fight" in school? The slogan comes from a boundary dispute in the 1840's between the U.S. and Great Britain involving an area including the modern states 54-40of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and parts of Montana, Wyoming and even British Columbia- generally known as the Oregon territory. It referred to the latitude line of fifty four degrees and forty minutes North which the U.S. wanted as the dividing line between the U.S. and Canada in that area.

President Tyler had attempted a compromise proposal to the British which had not been accepted. When President Polk took office he withdrew the offer and made a proposal that was less favorable to the British then Polk's. They 54-40immediately rejected it. As a result Polk withdrew his proposal and terminated negotiations.

At that point Congress was angry and there was talk of going to war over the disputed boundary. Senator William Allen of Ohio created the slogan in Congress and soon the slogan began to be heard across the U.S. with talk of war. Gradually it was clear neither side wanted another war and eventualy the treaty of 1846 established the line at the 49th degree north latitude line. An exception to the latitude line was made by moving the line to go around the tip of Vancouver Island and then turning South  and West through San Juan de Fuca Strait dividing the area and the islands.

This information isn't particularly important except it may be helpful in a crossword puzzle or trivia game.

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