Monday, October 24, 2016

AltHistory Scenario #26: What if Matthew Perry Failed to "Open" Japan?

Civilization VI just came out on Friday, and I've spent all my free time of the past weekend (in between watching my brother try Portal 2 for the first time) playing it, and loving every moment. Despite everyone's fears that it's cartoony art style would mean it was taking a simpler, free-to-play Mobile game approach, Civ VI has proven to be a huge step forward, much better than it's predecessor was when it was in Vanilla. Although there are a few issues I have, like religion never seeming to restore itself in it's own holy city and not being able to negotiate a peace treaty at certain times (and not explaining why I can't get a peace treaty), over all, it's a good game.

Okay, review time over. Back to Alternate history! But since it's a bit late, and I've been procrastinating all weekend, instead I'm going to try something different, and instead write a short timeline instead of the long, drawn out explanations. So tell me what you think at the end!.


July 1853: The arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry's American fleet to Edo, Japan, results in a firefight when Japanese sailors tried to board the USS Mississippi. The American ships proceed to bombard the ancient capital of Japan, destroying the small wooden ships in the harbour, and land a force of Marines to capture Edo Castle. The sickly Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyoshi, died of a heart attack before he could be captured. The Council of Elders assembled to rule Japan in place of Tokugawa's son, seeing the death and destruction caused by the American weapons, surrendered. Matthew Perry, realizing how backward the Japanese were, drew up a treaty that would place all of Japan under an American Protectorate, which the Emperor Kōmei was forced to sign.

Matthew Perry, seen here, on his way to meet the Emperor of Japan to discuss Phoebe's new cat and Joey's lost keys... 
September 1853: The news of what happened in Edo reaches America, and in Washington, D.C., President Millard Fillmore, Congress and the nation at large is suddenly faced with the fact that the US had just basically taken over Japan as a colony. In a huge debate in the Senate over wether the treaty should be accepted or not dragged on for weeks, until in a narrow vote, it was approved, with Northern industrialists and southern Landowners working out a deal to make Japan an "associate state" that would never be given statehood (and not upsetting the delicate balance of slave and free state) while it would be made a free economic territory for the whole US. Perry was appointed American Military Governor of the Japanese Empire, and a small force of 4,000 soldiers, including Colonel Robert E. Lee, the commandant of West Point, to establish a garrison there.

I'm going to avoid a Civil War joke here, because I General Lee don't find them that funny.

1854-1860: American businessmen began to invest in the backward nation, selling new factory equipment and tools to the populace, while pushing through major American reforms, including dismantling the Shogunate, getting rid of the Samurai class, heavy promotion of Christianity (Methodist and Baptist missionaries traveled to Japan to convert the Buddhist and Shinto populace, compulsory education and many other "western" motives and mores. This lead to resistance, especially amongst the deposed Samurai, the associates of the former Shogun, and conservative Buddhist and Shinto priests and practitioners. But many Japanese, especially in the lower class, traders, scholars and the Crown Prince Mutsuhito support the reforms, and the 4,000 strong garrison soon had 40,000 Japanese auxiliaries that helped to suppress those that want to hold Japan back to it's isolationist path. The Japanese economy begins to boom with it's close ties to the US, and the final armed uprising, in northern Honshu, is suppressed in 1860. Tensions would continue to remain, but under first Perry, and then later Lee as Governor, Americans came to respect the quickly modernizing Japanese.
Though the Americans had serious questions about Japan's taste in headwear.

1860-1870: The American colonial experiment soon begins to blossom. Places as diverse as Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Canada, Alaska, Mexico, Western Africa (where Liberia, the home for freed slaves in the Mother Continent, had been set up in the 1820s) , and the Philippines all are soon seen as possible areas to further push "Manifest Destiny." Trading companies, with a larger US Navy to back them, begin to set up trading posts in Africa and in the Pacific. Hawaii is annexed in 1863, followed with the purchase of Alaska in 1865. A brief war between the US and Spain in 1869-70 results in Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico being taken over as further Protectorates. Liberia begins to expand, as the generous provisions of the Bill of Emancipation, pushed by Representative Abraham Lincoln of Illinois in 1863, resulted in the US government basically purchasing slaves and freeing them, many electing to go back to Africa, ending slavery as painlessly as possible. This money was then often invested back into the US, with northern manufacturers selling automated machinery to the South to take up the slack. The entire US boomed, with Industry roaring ahead in the north, food, cotton and tobacco from the south being sold all over the world, and the colonies growing quickly as Immigration filled the "Homeland."

And, uh... okay, I've never actually seen the show. MOVING ALONG...

1870-1873: The American Empire hit it's first major stumbling block in the summer of 1870, when tensions between the US and the British Empire finally reached a head when an American ship owned by the Vanderbilt family was impounded in India, with a member of the crew (an immigrant from Scotland) being arrested for desertion from the army. President Schuyler Colfax, taking the affront as an insult directed from an "old and tired kingdom on a new, vigorous Republic," got Congress to declare war. In months, the first American troops began to march on the recently formed Dominion of Canada. However, the Canadian militia managed to stymie the Americans into the long and cold winter of 1870-71, and allowed British troops and the Royal Navy to sail to the Canadian's rescue. The war would last for three years, but despite efforts by the Royal Navy to interdict American trade between American and it's colonies in the Atlantic and Pacific, American troops took over all of Canada. The Treaty of New York ceded all British holdings in British North America, who then turned east, to India, Egypt and for allies in Europe.

Though, tbh... it's not exactly hard to find redcoats in white snow...
1873-1900: The next quarter century was America's Golden Age: with colonies around the world and one of the quickest growing populations and economies in the world, and with an entire continent to itself (Mexico was made a protectorate in 1881 after yet another civil war and military coup made the nation too unstable). However, the quick expansion and the military to protect it, funded mostly through tariffs, was proving too much. Income tax was introduced in 1881 to prevent the nation from going into default, but it was hugely unpopular measure. Questions also began to rise about the nature of American imperialism: was America going to eventually liberate the countries they took over, and make them independent? Or were they to remain in a permanent limbo between full statehood and full independence? And what was the boundary to make it clear? In some cases, like Canada, it was easy: once enough white men lived in an area, it could be entered as a state. This lead the America adopting the 60 star flag by 1900 with the introduction of Saskatchewan as a state. But in areas like Japan, Liberia and Cuba, the question was more fraught: racism and economic interests formed a powerful bulwark to preventing those nations from going their own way. It was only a matter of time before something gave.

And then the whole world will be flooded with all the weird Japanese memes

1905-1910: That something was the Great War of 1905-1910. Europe found itself at war as tensions between France and Germany finally resulted in war. Britain, coming to the aid of it's ally Germany, put up a blockade against France. France, reeling from the double blow of German invasion and British blockade, was only helped by Russia, who's ineffectual army was soon destroyed by the German and Austro-Hungarian forces it opposed. But the Royal Navy sank several American ships that continued to trade with France, and soon President Theodore Roosevelt was pushing his nation to fight the British once again. The US and Royal Navies soon began a running battle across the ocean, while British troops invaded American colonies in Africa and Asia, and vice-versa. However, the steady supply of troops and resources prevented France from loosing the war, while Russia descended into a brutal three war civil war by 1908, with Republicans, Communists and the Czar's Loyalists all fighting for the nation, and the outside world unsure of who to help or hinder. But the war in France ended in a stalemate: British and German forces were not enough to overcome French and American troops, but the US and France were not in any shape to fight back. So the Treaty of Brussels ended the war with all four major powers (and Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey and Italy as minor players) dividing the world between them.

Just draw the lines where you want them. That's basically what the Europeans did.

1910-1929: But the world of Empires, however, soon began to strain. The colonies of the Europeans were underdeveloped and slowly bleeding the homelands white from the cost in money, men and morals, while the Americans were struggling to deal with the high costs of the war with their increasingly resistant populations. American Exceptionalism that drove the empire was now tearing it apart: The belief that because America had built their nations up not just for the betterment of the homeland but for the people that lived there blinded them to the fact that they were just like the American colonies in the mid 1700s, seeking to break free from a disinterested homeland that only saw them as a source of income and burdens of defence. And in 1929, three years after the New York and London Stock Exchanges crashed, destroying the global economy, the American colonies in Japan, Liberia, Mexico, the Philippines and Cuba all rose up, and began to fight the American oppressors.

I've picked on Japan enough. Time to go to another Asian country and make a silly reference about them!

1929-1935: The American Colonial Wars, also known as the Independence Wars and the Second American Revolution rocked the nation and it's Empire. Japan, the oldest and most developed of the territories held by the US, was the first to rise up, under the leadership of Japanese Nationalists like
Isoroku Yamamoto and Hideki Tojo, followed a few months later by the Philippines. Cuba, which was poor and even still held slavery in several places, had a violent insurrection of the black populace that was brutally put down by the Cuban National Guard, only for it to constantly flare up again and again, leading to a long running guerrilla war. Mexico, after a few precious decades of peace, demanded freedom again (and a long running fight between Liberals and Conservatives there would cause even more damage). Canada and Liberia also had their moments of resistance, but except in a few isolated instances in Quebec and in the deplorable Indian Reservations, it was mostly peaceful, with constant demonstrations and demands for rights. President Herbert Hoover, elected in 1928 to try to solve the Great Depression, was now faced with a multi-front Colonial War which he was increasingly incapable of handling. More and more soldiers were sent to Japan, Cuba, the Philippines and elsewhere, and the casualty lists grew longer and longer. Taxes at home went up to pay for it all, which only pushed the US even deeper into debt.

Because there is no American political crisis like one over spending money, not raising taxes to cover it, then borrowing it, and then engineering a crisis because of an arbitrary borrowing limit!

1932: Bombings, assassinations, blackmail and gang wars at home by blacks, Japanese-Americans, Mexicans, the Mafia and other groups soon ended with the Assassination of Herbert Hoover in early 1932, the first American president so killed in history. Vice-President Charles Curtis, now the President, declared Martial Law, suspending the US Constitution for a year (and later continuously extended as the crisis continued), imposing censorship which ended up shutting down many newspapers and strangling the radio and motion pictures in it's infancy, and ordering the army, the FBI, the Secret Service and other police forces to round up all suspected revolutionaries, deporting many to hastily constructed prison camps in the wilds and unpopulated areas of Ontario, Dakota, Manitoba, Alabama, Louisiana, Nevada and Alberta. This only inflamed Americans at home, and soon Communists, Fascists, Canadian and Quebecois Nationalists, and "Minutemen" democratic patriots were fighting at home. The American Civil War had begun.

From this picture, you'd think the civil war was over if the flag looks better in stripes or in a cross...

1932-1937: Five years of bloody war left the US a wreck. It's Colonies one by one had gained their freedom (Japan in 1933, Liberia in 1934, Mexico in 1935), and the Canadian states, along with Dakota, Montana, Michigan, New England, Oregon and Washington had all seceded and formed the Union of North American States. Communists in Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey and Wisconsin had joined together and formed the People's Republic of America, lynching corrupt bankers and industrialists and attempted to build a true communist society compared to the totalitarian hellhole that was Stalin's Soviet Union. In the South, lead by Southern plantation owners, many of whom had land and prestige, but little money, and white-power supremacists that still resented the Emancipation Bill sixty some years before, established a Fascist Confederation of Southern States that attempted to undo decades of as of yet unfinished civil rights and virtually re-enslave African Americans. Texas went their own way, along with Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma. The US Government had fled from Washington, D.C. and set up a temporary capital in San Francisco, with California and other western states now under brutal military rule by the remnant of the old United States. By this time, Liberia had established itself as a mostly democratic state that would, in the future, provide a blueprint for the colonies of Africa when they managed to leave their European masters.

Nature, however, is still there. And terrifying. 

But what do you think? What would have happened had the US decided to go on a colonizing spree? Or if you have a topic or idea you would like me to talk about, please leave comments below, email me at, or tell me on Twitter @tbguy1992.

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