Tuesday, September 22, 2015

AltHistory Scenario #9: What if The American Revolution Never Happened?

Ah, the United States. One of the biggest, richest and most powerful nations in the world; Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. Biggest economy, biggest military... biggest waistlines. And, for being a fairly young country (especially by European and Asian standards), has been able to pack in 50 states, 44 Presidents, the assassination of three of them, 237 years of history, and quite a few wars including a long, bloody civil war, which if you look at it... is a bit more exciting than, say, Canada.

I said exciting, not that it isn't beautiful.

However, Canada and the US have a very similar background, namely in that both nations were former "settler colonies" of the United Kingdom. However, the US violently broke away from the Motherland in the Treaty of Paris in 1783, while Canada more peacefully became a self-governing Dominion of the British Empire in 1867. So, what if the United States didn't have it's revolution and broke away from the British Empire?

Point of Divergence

There are several reasons why the Thirteen Colonies eventually declared independence, but the most well known is taxes. There are a lot of other reasons as well, but let's keep it simple today. After the Seven Years War (also known as the French and Indian War in North America), which took place between 1756 and 1763, the United Kingdom was nearly bankrupt from the cost of the war, despite the fact that they were the big winners, having gained Quebec, territory in India, and forced the French to give up land to their continental allies, such as Prussia.

Lead by a pug in a powdered wig human costume, King Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia

In North America, it changed the entire political situation. For over a century, as the French, English, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and other Europeans settled in the New World, different ways of dealing with the Native American tribes that were already in the America's were developed. At one end of the spectrum, Spain sought to dominate, control, kill and enslave many of the tribes and civilizations they met, all for the quest for gold, silver, and other resources. On the other end, France and England were more willing to work with the tribes up north, exchanging manufactured goods for furs and territory. While the French and English had there share of fighting with the Natives, were also more likely to ally with opposing tribes, providing weapons to their preferred side. This is the main reason for the big battles between settlers and natives, though they were often better described as massacres for whichever side got the jump.

Anyway, so with the French driven out of North America, the British believed that since they fought, and spent a lot of money, to save the colonists, the colonists should help pay for their defense. While it does make sense when you look at it subjectively, on the other hand no one likes taxes, especially when you have no say in how it should be spent. The Stamp Act, The Quartering Act, the Townshend Acts, and other such laws were passed by the House of Commons to raise revenue, but in most cases they were repealed or modified after huge public outcry in the colonies. With the rallying cry "No Taxation without Representation," the colonies eventually joined together in a Continental Congress, and the rest is history.

And... wow, still lost of powdered wigs. Was that like the only thing people liked back then?

So, for this scenario, let's say that a new act, The American Colonies Act (1776), let's call it, is passed along with the other money raising acts. To summarize, let's say that each colony is allowed to send one representative for each colony to the House of Commons to act as the representative to their colony in London. So, not only are the Thirteen Colonies now given representation, but also other colonies in what is now Canada and the many Islands of the Caribbean: Newfoundland, Lower Canada (Quebec), Upper Canada (now Ontario), St. John's Island (Prince Edward Island) Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Jamaica, the Leeward Islands, and the British East Indies. So, 22 men (and only men for a long time, becuase, you know, the patriarchy and etc.) now can sit in the House of Commons, though they can't vote, but have a say in how their colony will be governed back in England. The not-voting thing is mostly because, due to the long communication delay between Europe and North America, it would be impossible for the new representatives to be able to work with the people they are representing.

Immediate Consequences

The demand for "No taxation without representation," is somewhat undercut with the new American Colonies Act. While the representatives can't vote, they have a voice in London, especially in the well written and popular Benjamin Franklin, the representative for Pennsylvania. Franklin, while he can't vote, is given many chances to speak in the House of Commons, and is recognized as a smart, well informed, and passionate individual, especially for his home in North America, science and, later in life, abolition. Another representative, George Washington for Virginia, is more quiet, and only makes one speech in the House of Commons, but he got along with many of the MPs, and helped to convince many to reduce or eliminate the taxes on the colonies.

If I could ever go back into time, meeting Benjamin Franklin would be right up there on the list. Right after seeing if you really can kill Hitler...

While there is a small minority in the Americas that seek independence from England (Patrick Henry still demands "Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!" all he really got was ignored), but it would remain a constant issue for decades to come, and would always flare up when, despite the best efforts of the new colonial representatives, laws that are seen to negatively effect the colonies are still passed. Eventually a new movement arises for the American colonies to have their own Parliament separate from London, calling for "Local" or "Home Rule."

The colonies would continue to prosper, but now other issues besides taxes would become important. Settling the western frontier, long an important part of American History right up until the start of the 20th century, would still be a major issue. The British, in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, banned settling west of the Appalachian Mountains. I think eventually the British would relent, it would be a lot slower, and land could only be purchased from the Imperial government, land that the government would purchase from Native tribes.

Another fairly immediate consequence would be foreign affairs. When the Americans declared independence, King Louis XVI of France eventually sided with the colonists against arch enemy England, and the arrival of French help eventually forced the British to recognize the independence of the colonies. However, the cost of aiding the rebels was too much for France to handle. The King was forced to call the Estates General, the Parliament of France, to raise taxes, which eventually spiraled into the French Revolution, the rise and fall of Napoleon, and the Congress of Vienna that more or less defined Europe until the First World War. Now, I don't think the French Revolution would be postponed forever, and eventually a major, costly, and/or unpopular war could force the King to call the Estates General for money, and that could lead to an alternate, but no less bloody or revolutionary French Revolution.

And most likely still have some great time's cutting off the head's of kings.

Later Consequences

Back in North America, that Home Rule movement eventually leads to crisis in the 1810-20s, including several abortive rebellions in 1822-1824 the full breadth of the colonies. Without a Napoleonic style war (yet), the British eventually have to confront the issue, and eventually a new system is put together to give the colonies self-government. However, it was decided that they couldn't give all of the colonies in North America one single government. It was believed that not only was the land mass to big to have just one separate government, culture and economics would lead to political deadlock. And, well, they are right. All of the British colonies in North America, ranging from French and Catholic Quebec, the English and Protestant Ontario, the slavery holding South and Caribbean Islands, the mercantile New England colonies, and the native lands west of Appalachia and east of the Mississippi, all have their separate goals and desires, and usually they are incompatible with one another. 

So four separate "dominions" for the British-Americans are created: The Dominion of Canada, (Quebec, Ontario, Newfoundland), the Dominion of New England (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, and New York), the Dominion of America (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland) and the Dominion of Virginia (Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia). Each country is given a separate Parliament, though a larger, American Parliament, is established for a wider, inter-Dominion issues, though it has little power. This system would be modified in the 1870s, with each Dominion being given nearly all the rights of an independent nation, with the last, that of foreign affairs and declaring war, being given in 1910 after the "Churchill Memorandum." Eventually, the land between Appalachia and the Mississippi would also be colonized, but serve merely as extensions to New England, America and Virginia. Rupert's Land, owned by the Hudson's Bay Company, is transferred to Canada in 1849. The Dominion of Oregon is created in the 1857, encompassing Oregon (IRL Washington State), British Columbia, Alaska (gained in a war with Russia similar to the Crimean War), and Northern California (IRL Oregon).

I had something clever to say about Alternate Historians changing names for everything, but I can't remember it. Here's The Four Lads with the only song anyone ever remember's they did.

But does this solve problems like slavery? Well... yes. No. Kinda. It's complicated. But when the British Empire banned slavery, an extremist government in the Dominion of Virginia sought to maintain the "peculiar institution," but a combined British/America/New England army smashed the rebellion in only a few months. Most slave owners were given restitution for the freed slaves except those that took up arms against the Empire, but full civil rights in the south would take until the mid 20th century to be fully implemented. So... no real civil war, but still some blood shed, and "Jim Crow" like laws show up.

What about the non-British Colonies? In the 1803, and with  support from the British, freedom seekers in the Viceroy of New Spain declares independence and begins a long, bloody war with the Spanish, eventually winning after 12 years of fighting. After a period of instability, a democratic constitution is adopted in 1822, and the United States of Mexico is established. While some British-Americans advocate for the annexation of the vast Southwest territory, no wars are waged, and with the wealth of the region, Mexico establishes itself as the largest, richest, and possibly the most powerful nation in Latin America, rivaled only by a dictatorial Brazil, with allies in the British American Dominions. Another nation, the Confederacy of the Plains, is formed in the Great Prairies by native tribes pushed over the Mississippi by settlers. While somewhat backwards, economically and militarily, few of the other nations in North America see much value in the Confederacy, but that is beginning to change with the discovery of oil.

Could have done a better map, had my procrastination not gotten in the way, hence why I'm doing this at 1 AM in the morning.

And the rest of the world? Well, after the mid 1800s, it could go anywhere. However, I have a few general ideas: if the French Revolution is delayed another 20-30 years, I think most of Europe's history would also be shifted to another generation. With massive holdings in North America, the British people's interest in Africa and India might be lesser, though not completely gone. With the British more focused on the Atlantic and the lack of a major American nation, the Japanese and Chinese would not have as much of a motivation to industrialize or have political upheavals. I don't think a "Cold War" situation would develop, with a battle between two major ideological powers. If anything, a continuation of the "Great Powers" system would continue on to the present, with ever shifting alliances keeping the peace.

Conclusions

When I started to write this, my idea was that in a scenario where the US never left the British Empire, then maybe what would have been the US would parallel Canadian history, from colony to self-governing to dominion to independent nation. However, there are a few things that in most "America stays British" TL's that I dislike. Namely in how the British Empire still becomes world conquering, even though they have a rather demanding colony just three thousand miles away across the Western Sea, and that the 13 Colonies becomes one massive country still (and possibly with the inclusion of Canada), reaching from Atlantic to Pacific. 

However, one thing I cannot argue against: the United States is, and always has been, one really lucky country, starting with how it was created. While many historians can point out the things that makes the American Revolution successful, they still won against the British, the most powerful military force of the period. Unlike the empires and nations in Europe and Asia that have, over time, become massive and all powerful, the US is in no immediate danger of military invasion, one of the biggest reasons why old nations eventually fall. They have a treasure trove of resources, over 300 million people in a land mass that could take millions more. And, as a general rule, every war the US has gotten into they have won. Well... Vietnam and Iraq v.2.0 may be the exceptions, but, considering that nations like France, Russia, China, and others were not always on the winning side and usually suffer massive upheavals when they lose, the US has never gone through that. And no, I don't think the political deadlock, the introduction of Obamacare, and the train-crash that is the Republican Presidential hopefuls means the US is going to collapse any time soon. It's going to take a lot more than disagreement, Donald Trump and a bit of socialism to topple the US.

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