Texas Trails

Clay Coppedge, Southern Livestock Standard

November 27, 2023

No count Saligny and the pigs

As a Republic, Texas was hard to get along with. The Mexican government learned this the hard way. The French government discovered the same thing when it sent Alphonse Dubois de Saligny to Austin in 1840 to help determine if France should recognize the young upstart Republic. Saligny had no connection to French nobility but bestowed upon himself the title of “Count”. Anyway. 

Saligny arrived in Austin in 1840 when the town had a population of 856 and Congress Avenue was just a muddy trail lined by wooden shanties and cabins. The most imposing building was not the new capitol but the French Legation, an elegant and sprawling structure in its final stages of construction. 

The self-described Count planned to make the French Legation his home and headquarters while he oversaw the establishment of a Franco-Texan commercialization and colonization company. The Franco-Texian bill called for a hefty French loan to the Republic and three million acres of land for the French to settle 8,000 families and build 20 forts and garrisons manned by 10,000 soldiers.

 Opponents of the bill pointed out that this was more troops than Santa Anna ever had in Texas at one time. They were right.

Saligny took temporary headquarters at the Bullock complex as workers applied the finishing touches to the French Legation. The complex was a series of log structures owned by a hard-edged frontiersman from Tennessee named Richard Bullock, who hated pretension in all its forms, making it a given that he would never get along with anybody claiming to be a count. Both men were happy to part company when the Frenchman moved to another dwelling on Pecan Street. 

When Bullock’s pigs discovered the corn that Saligny grew to feed his horses they compromised the integrity of a wooden fence that surrounded his garden and claimed the corn as their own. The pigs soon expanded their attention to the house where Saligny stayed and where they revealed themselves to be the most indiscriminate of gourmands by making meals out of expensive imported linen and important papers to Saligny from the French government. 

The Count was shocked! Appalled! Outraged! But he didn’t get much sympathy in Austin, where people had taken to calling him “No Count Saligny.” Transactions such as paying the teamster who hauled his possessions into Austin with counterfeit bills and refusing to pay Bullock for staying at his place did not endear him to the locals. Austinites respected Bullock’s pigs more than they did Saligny.  

The so-called count took matters into his butler’s hands. He ordered Eugene Pluyette, his loyal butler, to shoot the pigs on sight, which Pluyette did on Feb. 11, 1841. Let the record show that the butler did it. 

When Bullock sought damages for the loss of his pigs, Saligny invoked diplomatic immunity and the “Law of Nations” in response.  Bullock’s response was to find Pluyette and pound him senseless. More shock and outrage from Saligny. The French filed a formal protest and asked for a judiciary hearing. A judge, in absentia, found sufficient evidence to indict Bullock. John Chalmers, Secretary of the Texas Treasury, personally paid Bullock’s bail. He didn’t like Saligny either. 

Saligny, acting without consent of the French government, moved to New Orleans and stayed there for a year, issuing dire missives to Texas when he wasn’t busy parading through the French Quarter as a count. His own government, perhaps a little embarrassed by Saligny and his barnyard drama, offered only token support. 

Texas and France eventually worked a deal that allowed Saligny to return to Texas with a minimum of embarrassment, but the French never loaned Texas millions of dollars and the landscape was never dotted with French forts, thanks to Bullock’s rampaging pigs. 

The pigs were the only casualties of what history knows as the Pig War, unless you count the butler’s injuries at the hands of Bullock and a temporary disruption of diplomatic relations between France and Texas. Saligny eventually went away and misrepresented his country elsewhere; the French government called him home after he was accused of financial fraud in Mexico. 

Saligny lobbied for another shot at foreign diplomacy but France’s foreign ministry had nothing else to do with him. Neither did Texas. 

Southern Livestock

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