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Decades of Darkness #18: The Next Generation

5 December 1816

Near Nob Creek, Kentucky

United States of America

The log cabin looked awfully small to Thomas Lincoln, as he set his eyes on it for the last time. It had housed him and his family for the last five years, but now he had to depart. The legal wrangles which had cost him part of his farm were just too much, and now he needed to strike out elsewhere.

“I’ll miss this place,” Nancy Lincoln said. She held their older son Abraham [1] with one hand, and their younger son Thomas in the other. [2] Their only daughter, Sarah, brought up the rear.

“So will I,” Thomas said. “But we’ll find something better in Missouri, I know it.”

His wife nodded, while young Abraham looked around, apparently excited by the journey. It probably hadn’t sunk in yet that they would never see this cabin again. But they would find a better life, Thomas was sure. There was land for the taking in Missouri, and that was enough for him to decide to go.

That territory would soon become a state, if the rumours were true, but it was still a large land with not many people, and the perfect place for a new life.

“To Missouri!” he said.

--

4 March 1819

Near the Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania

United States of America

What happened on 4 March 1819 – apart from the minor matter of the inauguration of the third president of New England, an event which few in the United States cared about – would be argued about for generations to come. To an ever-increasing number of believers, the events of 4 March were the beginning of a great faith. To most skeptics, particularly those inside the United States, this was just the first instance of a charlatan Yankee whose family should never have been allowed across the still-open border between New York and Pennsylvania. [3]

The only account of that day was that related by Joseph Smith himself, years after the event. He claimed that after earlier reading a Biblical passage instructing those who needed guidance to ask of God, he had gone out into the woods to pray, asking God what was the true church. He claimed that he was visited by two “personages” – who called themselves God the Father and God the Son, the Christ – who talked to him, telling him that none of the churches yet in the world were the true church.

Since no-one can very what the very precious thirteen-year-old did – if indeed he did anything – this account can never be verified. But it was, without doubt, the beginning of something much larger...

--

28 March 1818

Cumberland Island, Georgia

United States of America

Eleven-year-old Robert Edward Lee kept his head down as the funeral service rolled on. His father was gone. He held back his tears easily; he had already done his crying in private. The long years of his father’s declining health – almost as long as Robert could remember – had given him plenty of time to prepare himself. His father’s death was a cause for sadness, but not surprise.

“They should never have called you traitor, father,” Lee said. His father had been a hero of the Revolution even before Robert was born, and staunchly committed to it all his life, yet men had called him a traitor because he adhered to the Federalists. So what if Henry Lee had wanted to let the New England states go without forcing them to remain?

His head bowed, Robert vowed on his father’s death, that he would not make the same mistake. He would join the army, just as his father had, but he no-one would call him traitor. New England was gone, and the United States would surely be better for it. But Robert would make sure that he restored the family name. Henry Lee had gone to his death with the stigma of “treason” lingering over him; his status as a hero of the Revolution forgotten.

“Father, I will join the army, but no-one will call me traitor. I will make the United States again honour a Lee who leads them to war.”

--

8 March 1818

Washington, District of Columbia,

United States of America

“There’s so much to do here,” Colonel Winfield Scott said, as he settled into the chair of his new office. “Organising a real army for the United States... that is a role any true soldier should welcome.” He hadn’t really wanted to return to the army, but who could refuse the request of a man like President Wilkinson? Even before his inauguration, Wilkinson had been the closest thing the United States had to a war hero – although Andrew Jackson and Thomas Pinckney came close, and, although modesty forbade him from saying it aloud, Scott himself. If the President wanted a new professional army, Scott could only agree.

“Who would have thought that being assigned to the Indian frontier was a good thing?” Scott murmured. But being assigned there after his release as a prisoner of war had brought him into contact with Wilkinson. Between them, they had crushed the various Indian tribes in the south, making sure the Indian Confederation was limited from reaching there, before Scott was reassigned to the north. His victory over the British and Continental Army in New Jersey had proven to be too little, too late to preserve that state in the Union – much like Jackson’s doomed efforts further south – but they had won him recognition.

And now this was the result. The United States needed a professional army, the President had decided, and now Scott was one of those chosen to shape the armed forces.

“Time to get to work,” he murmured.

--

1 April 1815

Schönhausen, Saxony

Kingdom of Prussia [4]

Ferdinand von Bismarck, former officer of the Prussian cavalry, paced back and forth inside the room. At least it was big enough to pace. That was what he needed, right now. His wife Wilhelmine laboured to bear their child, and all he could do was wait for it to happen.

Thankfully soon, the midwife emerged. “Congratulations, Herr von Bismarck. You have a son!”

Bismarck smiled. A son, just as he had expected. And he already knew the names he wanted. “Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck, welcome to the world,” Bismarck said, as he stepped inside to greet his newborn son. [5]

--

[1] Abraham Lincoln was born on 12 February 1809, after the POD (6 January 1809), but was conceived before it, and was thus safe from any potential butterflies, except perhaps from some minor ones on his exact birthday.

[2] This not the child who died in infancy in OTL. It’s another child, conceived after the POD, but the Lincolns still liked the name.

[3] Joseph Smith’s family moved out of New York in the aftermath of the War of 1811 in this TL. But most Pennsylvanians still thought of them as Yankees.

[4] Technically, Saxony had not yet been assigned to Prussia, as the Congress of Vienna had not yet finalised things. But it was clear by then that this would be the outcome, so people were by then getting used to the idea of being part of Prussia.

[5] Yes, I know Bismarck was born after the POD, but it’s not that much after. Given that Europe wasn’t affected by significant butterflies for a couple of years, I don’t think it’s impossible that someone like Bismarck might be born so soon after it. Strictly speaking, he’s an analogue rather than the same Bismarck, but he’s going to be close enough personality wise for most purposes.

--

Decades of Darkness #19: My Fellow New Englanders

3 March 1815

New England House of Representatives,

Hartford, Connecticut

Republic of New England

“My fellow New Englanders,

To all of you who have gathered here today to attend my final address as first President of New England, I thank you. You honour me with your attendance, and I hope that you will remain here for the inauguration of President De Witt Clinton tomorrow.

Sometimes it still amazes me, when I look outside these windows, that this fair land we possess is part of the Republic of New England. For less than five years ago, we were still firmly yoked to the United States, and it seemed that all of our opportunities were slipping into the mire of the swamplands that surrounded Washington, D.C. – and how appropriate it seemed to us that such a place had been chosen as the capital of the United States. For, while there were and are many men of good character in the United States, few of those could be found in Washington then, and even fewer today.

Let us reflect, my friends, on how far Our Lord has allowed us to come since that time! We have built much; we have made of ourselves a nation with men of stout heart can guard us in our army, in our militia, in our navy, and in our separate states against any attempt to create a new Washington here. We have built ourselves many ships to foster our commerce, our fishing, and all the other products we produce. Above all, here we have built a place where the principles of good government, of justice, of sound morality, and of religion, can be accepted. Here we have built ourselves a true republic.

Let us reflect further, on the status of the United States today. They retain the name of a republic, but not the form. All of the ideals of the founding fathers have been cast aside; the President rules nearly as a king, and his court of Congressmen are so corrupted by dwelling in Washington that they soon adopt the same principles. To become a man of power in the United States takes only money, not breeding or good character, and since money is required to attain government there, the principles and policy of those in power is concerned solely with its acquisition. They think only of the dollar; it has become their goal, their creed, and it rules them now. For just as those who want political office there must have money, even men of good character who seek office find that they must attain money in order to achieve office, and in the seeking of such money they become tainted, until maintaining their money is more important than maintaining their character, and this outlook they bring with them into office.

I charge you, my friends who are before me, to ensure that the same does not befall our beloved New Republic. Let us continue to ensure that the dollar alone is not the mark of a man’s value, but rather the strength of his character, his virtue, his religion, his breeding, and his birth as a true citizen of New England. [1] It was in defense of these principles that we separated from the United States, and while I regret that blood had to be shed to secure our separation, I am glad that it was attained.

By the same token, however, let no man think that we should pursue enmity to the United States. They are our brothers, and while we now dwell in our own house, they are still our neighbours. We still have much to do with them, and in the natural intercourse of our commerce, we shall continue to grow alongside them. We must be firm and stalwart in our defense, to ensure that no future tyrant in Washington can dare seek to force us back under their yoke; but we are and should remain friends with them. Likewise, we should maintain our friendship with Great Britain, not forgetting our differences which required our forefathers to separate during the First Revolution, and protecting our interests and our commerce where we disagree, but nonetheless standing beside them to keep our independence secure. [2]

Whither, then, does New England go from here? We shall grow in prosperity and in wealth, in friendship to the United States and to Great Britain, but separate and of ourselves. In time, our neighbouring British provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland may choose to join our New Republic. [3] We can hope that Britain will of her own consent relinquish these provinces, so that she is rid of the charge of maintaining them, while she will derive from them still, as she does from us, all the commercial returns which her merchants now receive. And in time, we may be able to add further lands to New England, as our commerce may dictate. [4]

--

Timeline of the United States of America and Republic of New England

- Excerpts taken from James H. Worthington’s “1800-1850: Early History of the Republic of New England”. (C) 1947: Boston University Press. Used with permission.

1815:

19 December: Vice-President Goodrich dies in office. Under the terms of the New England Constitution, the Senate names Secretary of State Harrison Otis as the replacement Vice-President. Otis continues his responsibilities as Secretary of State as well as being Vice-President.

1818:

Treaty of Halifax signed between Great Britain and New England. The treaty specifies a defensive pact where both countries will come to the assistance of the other if New England or Britain’s North American possessions are attacked by a foreign power within North America. The treaty specifies both land-based and naval cooperation in the event of war. The treaty negotiations also settle the issue of the Maine and New Hampshire borders, and grant New England fishing rights in the Grand Bank. [5] Maine is admitted as a New England state on 1 October, in time to vote in the third presidential elections.

The treaty was noteworthy for provoking considerable anger in some parts of New England where anti-British sentiment still lingered, particularly upstate New York, and in some commercial sectors.

1819:

Harrison Gray Otis (Massachusetts) inaugurated as 3rd President of New England. Samuel Whittlesey Dana (Connecticut) inaugurated as Vice-President.

--

[1] In the New England Constitution, it is necessary to be born there (or to have been a naturalised citizen at the time of the Republic’s formation) to be granted any government office, not just the presidency. Needless to say, this is likely to cause a problem with future immigration.

[2] Historians have often interpreted this remark to mean that Pickering recognised the future problems that New England would face, as a small neighbour to a United States which, even by his time, was growing much larger.

[3] Pickering had been advocating this as a possibility for years; since at least 1804. Here, though, he is expressing more of a wish than a realistic opportunity for New England to grow. The Loyalist populations in the maritime provinces may be friendlier to New England than to the United States (since both have departed from it), but the Federalist character of New England is hardly one they find attractive. Not to mention that Great Britain would be reluctant to let them go, to say the least.

[4] As with some of the earlier remarks in Pickering’s farewell address, this hint has been interpreted in many ways. The most common view is that Pickering saw the Indian Confederation as a short-lived entity, and that he expected New England to acquire some of its land. Others suspect that he was referring to the Canadas, or to the ‘border states’ of Pennsylvania, Delaware and Ohio.

[5] The Maine-New Brunswick border is approximately the same as that arranged in OTL (it’s actually closer to the border devised by the failed arbitration of the King of the Netherlands in OTL). The New Hampshire border is as per OTL.

--

Decades of Darkness #20: The Three James’s

5 March 1817

The White House,

Washington, District of Columbia

United States of America

Three men were gathered in the room, all named James. Madison, the just-departed President; Monroe, the barely-failed aspirant to that rank; and Wilkinson himself, the incumbent President.

Wilkinson knew he had a faint smile on his lips. He had followed a very long, very twisted road before he finally arrived here. Indeed, for much of his life had had not even been sure that he would remain a citizen of the United States. But now he was certain, and now he was here. The time in his life when he had declared himself a citizen of Spain and encouraged Kentucky to depart the United States now seemed a distant memory. And his more recent victories in the war had made him a hero, and led people to press him to stand for the presidency. Wilkinson had originally planned to retire to his new lands in Louisiana and live out the remainder of his days, but he had found himself called to this office.

Madison raised a glass of wine. “To the new President of the United States, and to his Vice-President.”

Wilkinson mimicked raising a glass himself as Madison drank. He noted the twinge of regret in Madison’s tone; the now-former President had never really recovered his spirits after losing the late war. The death of his wife had been a further blow. [1]

After the toast, an awkward pause lingered, until Wilkinson said, “Sir, you wished to discuss some private matters with me?” As private as they could be with Monroe in the room – Madison had also insisted on that.

Madison said, “Yes. I wish to discuss my... legacy to the United States. My advice for the future.”

Wilkinson said, “You think to offer me instructions?” He kept his voice firm.

“Instructions? Certainly not,” Madison said. “But I have had some experience in government, and wish merely to pass on my thoughts to you. Whether you take that advice, sir, is of course your prerogative.”

Wilkinson nodded. “Carry on, then.”

Madison said, “The aftermath of the late war is, naturally, the largest issue which faces our country today.” Madison sounded bitter about the war, sure enough. He no doubt wondered how history would treat him. “Out of that, naturally, arises the question as to what our relations should be with Great Britain and New England... your words in your inaugural address yesterday were clear enough. I can only add that whatever influence I have in Virginia will be used to support your plans.”

Wilkinson nodded. “We must, must be in a position of strength. Another war with them now would be a disaster, but only by standing strong can we avoid another humiliation.”

Monroe said, “And if Henry Clay is given the scope he wants with the navy--”

Wilkinson held up a hand. “My measures for the army, navy and foreign policy can be discussed later.” Without Madison around, he didn’t bother to add. “We are here to listen to Mr. Madison.”

Madison said, “Thank you, sir. I would mention other matters today. One issue will surely arise in the next meeting of Congress, or perhaps the one after: relaxing the laws on the importation of slaves.”

Wilkinson said, “You think that it will arise so soon?”

“Almost certainly,” Madison said. “Enough states contain enough supporters for it to be proposed again. The Carolinas, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, West Florida. And Missouri no doubt will support it, too. Perhaps Louisiana as well. Congress may pass such a law during your first term.”

“And you think I should veto it?” Wilkinson said, keeping iron in his voice. He had no firm view for or against the importation of slaves, but he had firm views against a former president dictating what should happen after his departure from office.

Madison said, “I think that if you plan to do so, you should make careful preparations ahead of time. Preferably before it comes to a veto.”

“And if I decide to permit it?” Wilkinson said.

Madison flinched when he heard that. “Then if you do so, sir, then you will have to consider the other matter I wish to raise: our relations with the northern states.”

“That is indeed a delicate question,” Wilkinson said. “Some of them look to New England.”

“Pennsylvania most of all,” Madison said. “And Delaware, even though departing the Union would cost them their slaves. So do some people in Ohio, although they also remember the Indian Confederation on their borders. Pennsylvania and Delaware came close to leaving us before the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified.”

“Indeed, but they didn’t,” Wilkinson said. “If they try to leave now, it’s illegal. Our army can reconquer them, at need.”

“Not if the British support New England again, which they almost certainly will, Madison said. “We could defeat New England, but not New England and Britain together.” [2]

“Not yet,” Monroe said.

Wilkinson nodded. “In time, we shall have the strength. But our army, and especially our navy, is not yet ready.”

“Given that, sir, how do you think to bring the northern states closer to us?” Madison said.

“If they would tolerate slavery – suitably benevolent slavery – that would much reduce the differences between our states,” Wilkinson said. Again, he noted Madison’s discomfiture, then added, “Do you think that would work?”

Madison took some time before he answered. Eventually, he said, “The black man is here; we cannot easily remove him to Africa. Perhaps it cannot be done it all. But until it can be done, then the Negro is better off under a kind master than to be freed, for as a freeman he will lack the property or education which will permit him to make use of his freedom.” [3]

“And if the institution of slavery cannot be ended?” Wilkinson said, out of genuine curiosity. He remained unsure on the long-term question of slave holding, but he knew that attempting to free slaves would be difficult at best.

“It shall be ended someday, surely,” Madison said. “The difficulties attending it, however, mean that the United States shall have to tread warily in doing so.”

Monroe said, “What think you, sir, of the late President Jefferson’s plans to solve the slave question by diffusing them throughout the United States?”

Madison said, “To that, there may be some merit. Perhaps the slaves could even be diffused to the northern states, for a time – if they could be persuaded to do so. For, in my own experience, for slaves to be kept working on land is the worst kind of profit, for both the master and the slaves. Better for both that they should be employed in various manufactures, I think... and there are more places to manufacture in the north. If slaves could be profitably employed in manufacture in our northern states – freeing up the white race from the most onerous duties, perhaps – then this issue might perhaps not divide us. And we could gradually free the slaves afterward.” [4]

Wilkinson raised an eyebrow. “That sentiment is not one I have heard expressed before, sir. And it may, perhaps, be one we can consider.”

Monroe said, “There may be other less controversial ways to do the same. One idea I have heard, and think worth considering, is to build a canal linking the Ohio river to Lake Ontario. Let our commerce flow through there to the Mississippi, bypassing New England.”

“And the labour for building this canal?” Wilkinson said. “Could it be made using slave labour?”

“That might antagonise people in the free-soil states,” Monroe said. “But perhaps, judiciously considered, it might be.”

Wilkinson said, “These matters, too, we shall consider at another time.” He gave Madison a brief glance. “Were there any other... thoughts you wished to convey?”

“If I may ask, what measures do you plan to take against the Indian Confederation?”

“For now, none,” Wilkinson said. “The time is not yet ripe. Most of our people have moved south. I shall, of course, ensure that the Indians in the south and west do not imagine they could follow the example of their northern brethren. We shall take whatever measures are necessary there. But for now, let the Indians in the north use the British as their bulwark. We can settle accounts with them later.”

“If you are looking south, there is the question of Spanish Florida,” Madison said.

Wilkinson said, “We shall acquire that, in time. Mr. Clay wants a naval base down there. But the state of the Treasury requires that we wait a year or two, at least.” He glanced at Madison, then decided he had spent enough time discussing matters with the former president. He stood. “Thank you for your advice, Mr. Madison.”

--

Excerpts taken from a letter from President De Witt Clinton to Secretary of State Harrison Otis, sent while Otis was in Halifax negotiating the treaty there.

As to the other matters discussed in our last letter, I trust your judgment in these negotiations. Only three things are vital to us: firstly, that we secure a defensive alliance with Great Britain; secondly, that we retain at least part of the St. John valley in Maine; and thirdly, that we obtain the greatest possible concession of fishing rights. On any other issues, you may negotiate as you see fit, keeping the interests of New England uppermost.

You may have heard rumours that Maine is to become a state. These rumours are true, but do not let it concern your negotiations; we still need you to secure the best possible boundary for the new state. There is also discussion of partitioning New York State into two or perhaps three states, but I will not permit such actions to happen during my presidency. There remains too much Unionist sentiment in many regions of that state. Let it remain together until all its citizens have accepted their place as New Englanders.

(Signed) De Witt Clinton, President

--

[1] Dolly Madison’s antislavery sentiments have been claimed by some OTL authors to have had an influence on Madison’s own views of slavery. In OTL, he favoured gradual emancipation, but believed that blacks and whites could not readily live alongside each other if freed. The changing circumstances in this TL, including the early death of his wife, have given him slightly different sentiments, although he continues to regard it as a necessary evil.

[2] The Treaty of Halifax had not yet been signed at the time of this discussion.

[3] Based on Madison’s views in OTL, but modified in line with his new sentiments.

[4] Madison expressed similar views about turning slaves to manufacturing in OTL.

--

Decades of Darkness #21: Glimmers of Light

12 March 1817,

The Davis Hotel,

Washington, District of Columbia,

United States of America

The men gathered at the Davis Hotel were among the best the United States had to offer, the recent ex-President Madison reflected. The new Vice-President, James Monroe, was perhaps the most distinguished – apart from himself – but some of the other members were also noteworthy. Francis Scott Key, who had written the words to the “Star Spangled Banner”, now established as the national anthem of the United States. Andrew Jackson, a rough man in many ways, but a war hero, and a willing advocate of resettling “free people of colour” to Africa. What Jackson thought of those who were still in slavery was harder to fathom, but at least his support of the colonization movement was a start. Henry Clay, Speaker of the House of Representatives, was here to preside over the first meeting of the American Colonization Society.

Henry Clay said, “Welcome, my friends. We are here to prepare the way for a message, much as Our Lord sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for His own coming. We are here to found a society to return the free people of colour back to their true homeland in Africa.”

Clay kept on speaking, but Madison let his gaze wander around the room. The principal man who had organised this meeting was watching Clay intently: Reverend Finley, until recently a citizen of New Jersey, but he had fled that state for Pennsylvania after the end of the late war; had been loud in his suggestions for a colonization movement, but Madison suspected that Finley wanted it as a method for freeing all the slaves. That, assuredly, was something few of the men in this room would countenance.

Sure enough, Clay continued his speech: “I stand before you gentlemen, as a slaveowner without chagrin. This society we are forming is not to discuss the ownership of slaves. Rather, we are here to discuss what shall be done with that, which of all classes of our population is the most vicious: that of the free coloured.”

Madison noticed that Finley looked unhappy at that proclamation, although he hid it well. Finley had obviously learned the importance of compromise to achieve at least some of your objectives. That was a lesson which Madison which he had learned earlier himself – it would have made his political career far more successful.

Madison returned his attention to Clay’s speech.

--

31 January 1820,

New York City, New York,

Republic of New England

“Strange to see how the Americans are still willing to work with us on some matters,” Reverend Samuel Bacon murmured to himself, as the ship Elizabeth made its way slowly out of New York harbour. He half-listened to the list of supplies being inventoried beside him: wagons, wheelbarrows, plows, muskets, cannon, even a small barge. He gave more notice to the crowds who cheered the ship’s departure.

He had never expected that anything like this might happen, after all the unpleasantness of the late war. The American Colonization Society had seemed to be much more of a Unionist enterprise than a New England one, despite the active support of some influential people in the New Republic. The lingering distrust between the two nations had been hard to overcome, despite the new American president’s oft-expressed desire for reconciliation. Things only changed when President Otis took office in Hartford, and allowed something of a rapprochement with the United States. This ship sailing out of New York harbour, with a crew of settlers mostly from the United States, and escorted by an American sloop of war – itself an unimaginable sight in New York as recently as a year ago – was proof that relations were thawing.

The Treaty of Halifax had certainly seemed to be a blow to friendship, but now things were changing. Strange that the U.S. President Wilkinson was building up a strong army and navy, if he wanted peace, but then he also claimed that the best way to prevent a war was to be ready to fight one.

Bacon shook his head. The concerns of North America should be beyond him, now. There would be a long voyage to Africa, Bacon knew, as the sight of New York faded into the distance behind them. What could be done with the people here? He wanted to help them as best he could. That might be difficult, though. Most of the ninety-two passengers were former Americans, but some were New Englanders. To Bacon’s ever-growing disgust, New England was gradually turning hostile to blacks – perhaps even worse, in some ways, than the United States. And they were, truly, sailing into an unknown land.

“What will Africa hold for me?” he asked the empty sea air, but his only answer was the call of gulls.

--

21 January 1822,

The Davis Hotel,

Washington, District of Columbia,

United States of America

Madison stared at the gaunt, sickly figure of Reverend Bacon. This man had looked so hale and healthy when he set out for Africa less than two years ago. But that continent had exacted a bitter toll from him. Bacon moved slowly, as if every gesture was an effort. Perhaps it was. The fevers and other ailments of Africa had proven even more taxing than Madison would have believed.

“Is the situation as severe as that?” Madison asked. The new settlement in Africa had held such promise, but a series of letters from Bacon had been far from reassuring. And now the clergyman had come here in person, proof of how dire the situation was.

“We cannot build a place for the blacks there,” Bacon said. He paused to cough, and he sounded as if his lungs were being ripped open. “We thought they would be safe from diseases, but they are as vulnerable to them as men of the Anglo-Saxon race. Three-quarters of the colonists have died.”

Madison believed Bacon, in a way he would never have done before seeing this wreck of a man. Everyone had thought that the Africans would be protected against the illness of the tropics. But Bacon was proof that this was not so. “What do you want to do, then?”

“Move somewhere else in Africa,” Bacon said. “It’s the only way. Somewhere that we know has fewer sicknesses. Somewhere... further south. On the other side of the equator.”

Madison said, “You sound as if you have a place in mind.”

Bacon nodded, slowly. “The Portuguese lands in Angola. Somewhere along the coast. We could probably buy land off them cheaply.”

Madison raised an eyebrow. “Send freed slaves next door to a country which is still shipping slaves to Brazil – and an example which some of our own people want to reinstate?”

Bacon said, “They have no shortage of potential slaves in their own lands. They would have no need to threaten people protected by the United States. They should be willing to grant us land there, or even further south if need be.”

Madison said, “Something like that would need President Wilkinson’s support, at the very least. That might be difficult to arrange.”

Bacon shrugged. “Name the capital of the new nation as Wilkinston. That should appeal to him. And if we need further support, speak to the British. They still have quarrels with the United States, but they would still support a move like this, if it looks like limiting slavery here. They are pressuring the Portuguese very heavily to stop it, anyway.”

Madison nodded. “I understand that. I will do... what I can.”

--

Extracts from “The Rise and Fall of The Liberian Republic: Struggle, Sorrow, Triumph, Growth and Tragedy”

By Sergey Tolstoy,

Translated by Richard H. Morris,

St. Petersburg,

Russian Federation,

(c) 1974 Red Truth Publishing Company, St. Petersburg. Used with permission.

...The new land along the Angolan coast was inhospitable in many ways, but at least it was survivable. Compared to the old lands near Sierra Leone, it was a paradise. And here, the hundred-odd colonists founded Wilkinston, soon to become capital of Liberia, which would become the oldest republic in Africa, apart from Carthage...

Those who escaped to Liberia, in the initial trickle after the founding of the colony, and the great flood of refugees who arrived after the passing of the Expulsion Act of 1854, were the lucky ones. Despite the high mortality rate on the crossing, and the high death rates even in the relatively mild environment of southwestern Africa, and the myriad challenges of building a new nation from scratch, at least these emigrants had escaped. Others who remained bound within the United States, or who were sucked into the maelstrom of horror as it expanded, would not have that option...

--

Decades of Darkness #22: A Matter Of Trade

14 December 1822,

Washington, District of Columbia,

United States of America

“Thank you, sir, for your time,” John Rhea said, as he escorted the Virginian Senator toward the door. The meeting had been unsuccessful, as he had feared it would be. James Pleasants remained opposed to the reopening of the slave trade, as were virtually all the representatives from every northern and eastern state. A few voices still spoke out for its readmission in South Carolina and Georgia, but those voices had grown quieter over the last decade. The slaveowners there made too much profit selling their own slaves to the growing states in the west to want any competition from cheap imported slaves. And while some representatives from West Florida, Missouri, Mississippi and Missouri – and even Louisiana and Alabama – spoke out in favour of legalising the slave trade, they were not enough. Rhea thought there might still be a majority in West Florida and Missouri, and perhaps even Mississippi, but those three states alone would never be enough.

“Where did it all go wrong?” Rhea asked himself. As recently as four or five years ago, he had been certain he would garner enough support for the motion. There had been encouraging noises from enough representatives, and people still remember when the slave trade was legal, only a few years before that. But those noises had never been translated into action. And gradually, the slaveowners had seen the value in keeping fresh slaves out.

Rhea thought he should have been happier than he was. As one of the senior Senators – he had represented his state of West Florida since its admission in 1811 – he had had a successful political career. And for the rest of the time, his plantation down in West Florida was, by any measure, a successful venture. But it would be far more successful if he could obtain fresh labour at a cheap cost.

“It’s not as if I’m bringing fresh people into bondage,” Rhea muttered. He sought only to import slaves from Cuba and Brazil, not from Africa itself. These were people already held in bondage, and he was certain that they would be treated far better under his ownership than slaves in Cuba or, especially, Brazil. There had been strengthened ties between both of those lands and the United States over the last few years, and some of the stories from down south made him uneasy. The Brazilian planters were reported to be happy to work their slaves almost to death, content in the knowledge that they could always obtain more from Africa easily enough. Their slaves would be far better treated if they were shipped to the United States instead.

His valet appeared at the door. “Sir, Speaker Henry Clay is at the door and asks if you will see him.”

Rhea felt for a moment as if had stepped back in time more than a decade, to when he had first come to Washington, D.C., and Clay had helped him then. Both of them had improved their status since then – Clay was now perhaps the most influential man in the Legislature, and some said he had more control over affairs than President Wilkinson, while Rhea had built his own political career considerably – but they had hardly been in close contact since. Clay had made it abundantly clear that he opposed the renewal of the slave trade.

Sure enough, after Clay was escorted in, and after the usual polite formalities, Clay said, “Yes, I would like to discuss this matter of the slave trade with you.”

Rhea said, “You want me to stop pressing for it, you mean.”

Clay nodded. “You do your own cause no good. It will never be reopened in its current state. Indeed, by making it such an issue you harden opposition to it.”

“Perhaps, but you could merely be saying that because you oppose it yourself,” Rhea said.

“My main concern with slavery is with the free people of colour, not with those who are still owned,” Clay said. “I think that it would be best for both us and them if such people were returned to Africa, as our Liberian experiment is seeking to undertake. But above all, I do not want our nation divided.”

“Our nation is already divided,” Rhea said. “Between those northern states who would limit slavery to its current position, and the southern states who would expand it to the current borders of the United States.”

“Those are the two extremes of the position,” Clay said. “Many more views fall somewhere in between those. As does my own. But that is not the point I wished to make. You are aware, sir, of the current constitutional amendment being mooted?”

“That which will make slavery legal in all the territories of the United States?” Rhea nodded. “But there are many forms of that amendment being discussed; I am not familiar with all the details.” [1]

“The details do not, as yet, matter,” Clay said. “But the broad strokes do. According to the most likely form, all of our Territories will permit the ownership of slaves, with the question of further ownership to be established by a state’s legislature once it is admitted.”

Rhea nodded. “That sounds like a reasonable compromise, to me.” He didn’t bother mentioning, since Clay was surely already aware of it, that a state would find it difficult to make slavery illegal if slaves were already being held there.

“Indeed. But some of our more fervent representatives want to make slavery legal in every new state, and add rights of transit which would make it effectively legal to hold slaves even in the free-soil states.”

“The federal government has no such power,” Rhea said. Such an extreme proposal made him uneasy.

“Then would you be willing to use your influence to see that a more moderate form of the amendment is adopted?” Clay asked.

Rhea said, “I might. But how does this fit into the other matter we were discussing?”

“Because I think you would have more success if you let that matter rest, for now. It will not be adopted, especially since this recent slave revolt in Charleston. That was started by an African-born former slave. [2] If you really wish, you could raise it again at a future time when it may, perhaps, succeed.” Clay’s tone made it clear that he thought that unlikely. “But your influence would no doubt grow without it. Perhaps to the governorship of your home state, for example.”

That was an interesting point. Rhea had considered the governorship of West Florida before, but never so urgently. Clay certainly knew how to make a man think. And, Rhea was sure, Clay was looking for other matters here. He wanted to build his own influence even further. Already, the leading figures within the Democratic-Republican party were manoeuvring for the upcoming Presidential election. In the last, Wilkinson had run virtually unopposed – only a token two electors had voted against him – but the next would be a much broader contest.

Clay, for instance, had already been touted as a future presidential candidate. But then, there would be no shortage of them. All would be from the Democratic-Republican Party, of course. The two-party system, such as it was, had been broken. Tainted with the stigma of treason, the Federalist party had nearly vanished completely – although it still lingered in Delaware and South Carolina. All the important representatives belong to the same party, including Rhea himself.

That one party, however, still had active debates within it. Rhea suspected there would be a very bitter struggle soon, when the time came to choose the next president. Monroe would want a chance after waiting in Wilkinson’s shadow for so many years. So would Clay, of course. And perhaps others. Calhoun, maybe, or William Crawford. Perhaps even Andrew Jackson, whose recent campaigns against the Indians had returned him to the limelight he had held during the aftermath of the late war.

Clay said, “If it helps, you could note that the government has taken little action against smuggling of slaves. I know some have been brought in, and not much has been done against them. But that is while they are only a trickle. If more come in, that would be a different matter.”

Rhea nodded. It would be a very unusual jury who would convict someone accused of smuggling slaves. But no-one wanted to make it legal. The Virginian planters, especially, wanted to keep slave prices high, the border states wanted no slaves at all, and President Wilkinson did not care enough to do anything about it. “Let it rest, then,” he said. For now, anyway. He still hoped he could bring the issue back, at a more favourable time.

Clay said, “Excellent. Let us see what we can achieve in other matters, then.”

--

[1] Absent the issue of a Missouri crisis, this issue took longer to become important than it did in OTL.

[2] A reference to an alt-Denmark Vesey revolt. This was slightly more successful than in OTL, and increased the U.S. unease about having freed slaves kept around. The responses to the revolt, however, vary considerably. Some are using it to press for gradual emancipation, but more are arguing that slaves need to be kept as slaves forever, since it was a freed slave who organised the revolt.

--

Decades of Darkness #23a: Monarchs and Slavers

4 January 1824,

NES Argus,

Atlantic Ocean

Commander Matthew Calbraith Perry kept his gaze on the suspected slave ship as he brought his own ship alongside. The boarding party of marines – mostly Yankee, but with a few British observers – were ready to enter the boat.

Perry gave no further instructions to the Marine’s officer; he already knew his business. He did spare a moment to give his British colleague, Commander Albright, a wry glance. “Care to take a wager that the ship’s captain will only speak Spanish?”

Albright grinned. “Not much point claiming to be French these days, is there?” He had an infectious sense of humour; Perry had found himself getting along well with the other commander since he had come aboard at Halifax.

“It took King Louis long enough to outlaw the slave trade,” Perry said. Since he was speaking to an Englander, he kept to himself his opinions about the bargain which had led to the French finally condemning slavery. The British Foreign Secretary Castlereagh [1] had negotiated that permission with France, in exchange for the French banning slave trading. Independent republics in the Americas could face counter-revolutionary intervention from Europe. President Dana should have done more to persuade the British against it. Stopping the slave trade was important – Perry agreed with that, which was why he was here – but the cause of liberty was hardly served by allowing European monarchs back into the New World.

Albright gave Perry a long stare. “You worry too much about France,” he said. “And about what she might do here.”

Perry felt himself flush slightly; he was not used to being so easy to read. “I’m not sure I follow.”

Albright waved a dismissive hand. “Let the French throw away men and treasure in the former Spanish colonies. They won’t succeed.”

Perry said, “That, I definitely don’t understand.”

Albright said, “It’ll only take a couple of defeats for King Louis to ask himself why he’s shedding French blood to restore a Spanish king. Let the French weaken themselves trying to reconquer Argentina or Mexico if they like.”

“You want them to look away from Europe,” Perry said. This diatribe was most unlike the usually genial Englishman. “Much as some of our people have quietly chastised President Dana for granting recognition to the Greeks, since that takes us away from North America.”

“I want the French weak,” Albright said. “So should you, since they look to the United States more than to us.”

Perry felt like spitting over the side. If the United States bothered to enforce their own laws, he wouldn’t have needed to be patrolling the Atlantic. The importation of slaves was still illegal in the United States, but many of the slaves who were still shipped, more or less legally, into Cuba ended up in West Florida and South Carolina. “I take the point,” he said, in lieu of arguing. They still had the rest of the voyage awaiting them; no need to antagonise each other.

Albright glanced over to the other ship. Following his gaze, Perry saw that the marines had gone on board.

Perry said, “How do you think that conversation will go? ‘I am bringing these slaves into Cuba. We are allowed to do this.’ Never mind about how a ship bound for Cuba is sailing for the South Carolina coast.”

Albright laughed. “Thankfully, that isn’t our worry. Once we’ve seized the slaves, someone else can worry about offering compensation, just in case that captain turns out to be telling the truth.”

Someone British, Albright meant. Perry understood that. Although New England assisted with antislavery patrols, it remained primarily a Royal Navy operation, and any compensation for seized slaves was a British expense. “Let’s go see if we’re right about the captain,” Perry said, striding across the deck.

--

Excerpts taken from “Revolutions and Counter-Revolutions: Examples of the March of History”

(c) 1946 by Vladimir Trotsky,

Imperial Press,

Berlin: German Empire

The European interventions in the New World – mostly French and Spanish, since the Prussians quickly lost interest and the Russians and Austrians sent only token forces – became classic examples of how not to conduct a counter-revolution.

Firstly, they could only operate there with the tacit consent of the Royal Navy, and from the very beginning, informed observers believed that the British had only permitted the intervention so that they could interrupt it later and be seen as liberators and friends of the Latin American peoples. With, naturally, the expectation of commercial rights which were, then as always, the only thing the British truly cared about. Napoleon I had long ago observed, accurately, that the English were a nation of shopkeepers.

Secondly, the cost of shipping troops across the Atlantic, and of conducting extensive military operations against people who most emphatically did not want to be ruled from Europe, quickly mounted, for no realistic gain. It was one thing for the French to march into Mexico City and Buenos Aires, it was quite another to hold them.

Thirdly, there were was the United States to consider. Many historians argue that the incursions would never have taken place originally if President Wilkinson had been in firm health, and been ready to protect them. Certainly, the example of the support he gave to Brazil showed that the United States was capable of projecting power even in those days, if she chose to do so, and similar actions elsewhere would probably have assured the same.

These considerations should have been obvious to anyone who considered the march of history, but they were not. It was left to the British to announce a stop to the intervention – with New Englander backing that no-one in Europe cared about, at the time – and thus to gain the apparent advantage of being seen as friends. And, in time, as bankers. And traders.

But the interventions, although short-lived, did have considerable impact on the march of history. The renewed British influence in South and Central America might have seemed helpful to them in the short-term, but it ensured United States anger, which was a folly that should have been visible even in the 1820s. And it created a precedent for intervention in the affairs of these nations, which the United States in turn would be glad to follow...

--

[1] In TTL, Castlereagh has not committed suicide, and remains as Foreign Secretary for a few more years yet.

--



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