’54-40 or fight’ was a slogan that gained popularity during the 1844 American election of James Polk. Birthed from the American concept of Manifest Destiny, 54-40 or fight was the battle cry of Yankee aggressors who demanded that the American border be placed at the the latitude after which it was named, which happened to be the border with the–at that time–Russian territory of Alaska.
Basically, Americans wanted the whole ball of wax, even though they had no real claim to it. Success would have blocked Canadian expansion to the Pacific coast.
(image from About.com.)
Previously the area known as Oregon Territory was jointly owned by American and British interest, with Americans having very little representation in any region north of Columbia River, which is located at roughly the 45th parallel. The Hudson Bay Company, on the other hand, had a presence in the area and had a greater claim to it than Americans did.
Eventually the compromise position of drawing the border at the 49th parallel was reached, with Canada retaining Vancouver Island, part of which falls south of this border, due to the presence of an already established fort on the southern end of the island.
Personally, I think this is a shame. Britain/Canada should have held fast an kept the North West for itself. How amazingly awesome would it be if Washington and Oregon were both Canadian provinces. Oregon seemed to me to be fairly similar to Canadian perspectives anyway, and the North West has a very distinctive culture that ignores the border. I propose that Canada adopts the NW as honorary Canadians.
54-40 is also the name of a Canadian band, from Vancouver. They formed in the early 80’s and may still be around for all I know.
The above image is of the band’s ‘Green’ album. My greatest memory of this album comes from high-school when I listened to it all night while finishing an essay because I was leaving for a trip to Quebec City’s Winter Carnival the next day. It was advertised as a ski trip, but no one did any skiing.
Drinking? Sure. Carousing? Absolutely. Skiing? Not so much.
One song from the album, I Go Blind, later became a hit in America after Hootie and the Blowfish stole it and represented it to popular American consumption in pretty much the exact same way it was played by 54-40. Really what Hootie should have done is just taken the track from the 54-40 album and slapped it on their own. Why bother recording it whe it’s EXACTLY THE SAME anyway?
I propose we ban Hootie and the Blowfish from ever crossing the 49th parallel ever again.
Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: 54-40, America, american history, band, border, british columbia, Canada, canadian american relations, canadian history, culture, history, music, north west, opinion, vancouver.