Made a Nation: America and the World after an alt-Trent Affair

Introduction pt. 1
  • Made a Nation: America and the World after an alt-Trent Affair

    “We may have our own opinions about slavery; we may be for or against the South, but there is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and the other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made what is more difficult than either, they have made a nation.
    William Ewart Gladstone​

    The outbreak of civil war in America was far from unnoticed in the capitals of the world’s great powers. In France, Emperor Napoleon III was intrigued at the at the possibilities for his country, and particularly for his ambition of a renewed French presence in the western hemisphere. In Prussia, the military and political leadership were not slow to appreciate the importance history’s first industrial war, and to seek to understand the implications for the future development of warfare.

    It was, however, the perception of the outbreak of war in Great Britain that was the most consequential to the way history would unfold. The British leadership had two main overlapping and conflicting impulses towards the United States. On the one hand, there was the legacy of the two previous Anglo-American conflicts of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. This was embodied by a mix of disdain towards American culture and society, along with suspicion of the United States as a possible future threat to Britain’s global pre-eminence. This disdain and suspicion had been exemplified by the reaction to the contribution of the United States to the Great Exhibition a decade earlier, which was simultaneously a dismissiveness of its lack of grandeur with a more sober reflection upon America’s growing industriousness.

    On the other hand, there was a sincere and widespread revulsion towards the institution of slavery present in all segments of British society. Whereas Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold 300,000 copies in the United States, it sold over a million in Britain and every respectable household was said to have a copy. Frederick Douglass was well received throughout Britain and Ireland during his 1845-47 speaking tour to promote the abolitionist cause.

    Viscount Palmerston - Wikipedia

    Prime Minister Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston.​

    The Prime Minister at the time, Lord Palmerston, was among the opponents of slavery. Nevertheless, he was perhaps more a representative of the first impulse of disdain towards the United States. Palmerston had a suspicion of revolutionary politics and the exercise of power by society's lower echelons. Furthermore, Palmerston could be considered as a sort of nationalist. His unrelenting and aggressive defence of Britain’s interests certainly made him fairly unpopular in Europe, to the point where the Prussians had a contemporary saying that “if the Devil has a son, surely he must be Palmerston.”

    Palmerston’s outlook would be instrumental in the ultimate outbreak of war, but it must be noted that in the years before the war some of his anti-American feeling could actually be attributed to the control of the American federal government by southern slaveowners. In 1841, he remarked upon his efforts to secure a treaty which would allow the Royal Navy to search merchant ships of the other great powers potentially engaged in slave trading that “If we succeed, we shall have enlisted in this league every state in Christendom which has a flag that sails upon the ocean, with the single exception of the United States.”

    It is perhaps partly because Palmerston seemed to embody both of these main strains of thought towards the outbreak of war that for almost the first 2 years of the conflict that Britain maintained its neutrality, despite tensions with the Lincoln administration over the granting of belligerency status to the Confederacy. This was contrary to the expectations of practically all southerners, whose overestimation of Britain’s dependence upon their cotton is best represented by a speech given by Texas Senator Louis Wigfall wherein he stated that “Cotton is King” and that even Queen Victoria would have to “bend the knee in fealty and acknowledge the allegiance to that monarch.”

    Fortunately for the South, Britain’s neutrality was fragile, and a combination of misunderstanding and recklessness would derail it towards the end of 1861. Frustrated with the ongoing blockade of their coasts by the US Navy, Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed Senators James Mason and John Slidell as commissioners to petition the British government for recognition and help. The US Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, sought to capture the two commissioners and to this end dispatched 3 warships to search for them. One of these was the USS James Adger, captained by Henry Sanford. It was Sanford’s actions that would ultimately precipitate the crisis which brought Britain into what had previously been a civil war.

    USN Ships--USS James Adger (1861-1866)

    USS James Adger, the ship which precipitated Britain's entry into what had until then been a civil war​

    The James Adger was forced to limp into Southampton after a particular harsh storm off the cost of Ireland. The vessel’s unexpected arrival coincided with the planned departure from London dockyards of the Gladiator, a Confederate blockade runner. It was at this point that Sanford concocted a scheme to seize the cargo and crew of Gladiator and depart before the British authorities could react. Sanford considered consulting the US Minister Charles Adams about his plan, but ultimately decided to proceed on his own initiative. [POD] On the 5th November the USS James Adger ran the Gladiator aground on a Thames mudbank, seizing its cargo and crew before absconding out to sea.

    It did not take long for the British authorities to react. Vice Admiral Robert Small, commander of the Royal Navy’s Channel Squadron was ordered to give chase to the James Adger, and he duly caught up to and captured the vessel off the coast of Devon. Captain Sanford was treated amicably, but he and his crew were nevertheless detained. Sandford’s actions universally outraged public opinion in Britain, and it was regarded by all as an egregious insult to Britain’s sovereignty and dignity to commit an act of naval warfare in the estuary of the Thames itself. Sanford’s action inaugurated what became known to history as the Adger Affair.

    The Cabinet unanimously agreed that a stern response was necessary. While the Chancellor Gladstone argued that any letter to President Lincoln ought not to be so strong as to leave him no option but war, the Foreign Secretary John Russell nevertheless drafted a very strongly worded response. It was at this point that a gravely ill Prince Albert intervened, attempting in a final act of service to his adopted country to moderate the language of the missive in an attempt to avert war. Unfortunately for those wishing to avoid an Anglo-American conflagration, it was at this very point that London received word of yet another incident.

    Not long after Henry Sanford had been committing his folly, the two Confederate commissioners had boarded the British mail packet the RMS Trent in Havana in order to travel to Britain. The USS San Jacinto, commanded by Charles Wilkes, boarded the Trent and detained the commissioners. The boarding was regarded by the British as a violation of their flag and the timing of word of the incident reaching Britain was perfectly timed to derail Prince Albert’s peace-making efforts. The Cabinet came down firmly on the side of a harsh ultimatum demanding an apology and restitution for both incidents, and the Prince acquiesced. Palmerston at this point seems to have regarded war as inevitable.

    In the North, the reaction to these events was quite different. The incident involving the James Adger was not yet known, and Lincoln and the general public for some weeks knew only of the seizure of the envoys by Captain Wilkes. The press and the public viewed Wilkes as a national hero, his actions being regarded as a much needed moral victory. The New York Times reported that “We do not believe the American heart ever thrilled with more genuine delight than it did yesterday at the intelligence of the capture of Messrs. Slidell and Mason.” The simultaneous news of the incident with the James Adger and the British demand for restitution dramatically escalated tensions. The press inclined toward viewing Sanford as equally a hero as Wilkes, and many Americans rejoiced in the supposed humiliation of their old enemy. Lincoln and his Cabinet, however, were very much focused on Russell’s ultimatum upon delivery by the British Minister to the United States Lord Lyons.

    Besides Secretary of State William Seward, who despite previous bluster fully understood the dire implication of war while the South remained in rebellion, no other member of the Cabinet supported accepting the demand for an apology and restitution for both incidents. The accusatory tone of the missive was also regarded with outrage by many, and there was great reluctance to be conciliatory in light of the sharp anti-British turn of public opinion. Lincoln was forced to reject the demands, and just a few days before the turn of the year Lord Lyons and the rest of the British legation departed Washington for Halifax, Nova Scotia. At this point, war was indeed inevitable.

    The consequences for the Union would be disastrous. The supremacy of the Royal Navy effectively reversed the situation at sea. Far from being able to blockade the South, now the North was itself under blockade. The implication of this was a sudden cut-off of the international trade upon which the smooth running of the war effort depended, a particularly important example being the critical military supply of saltpetre. The British government had wisely ordered a large shipment of this suspended at the beginning of the crisis. The outbreak of war was also a tremendous morale boost throughout a South that had begun to seriously struggle under the weight of war and blockade, with every soldier and citizen understanding the importance of these developments.

    Despite some success in the western theatre and in the invasion of Upper Canada, a series of key defeats as Britain brought the full force of its global power to bear in North America slowly eroded public support for the war effort and for Lincoln’s administration over the course of 1862-63. By early 1864, the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston had overrun Washington D.C. and forced the relocation of the government to Philadelphia. Much of northern Maine was under British control, an uprising in Baltimore was put down only with severe brutality and the force of the Royal Navy had been felt severely on the still sparsely populated west coast.

    That the war continued until the 1864 presidential election is largely due to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by pro-Confederate Marylander John Wilkes Booth in March of that year. The result of this was the accession of Radical Republican Hannibal Hamlin to the presidency, with the outrage of the assassination allowing him to rally his supporters enough to continue the war for the time being.

    Hamlin’s desire to continue the war was, however, subject to the results of the presidential election in November that year. While he was able to secure the nomination of the Republican Party with Major General Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts as his running mate, his chances of victory were slim. The Republican Party was widely perceived as having led the country disastrously, and a desire for peace was widespread.

    The Democratic presidential nominee was Clement Vallandigham, a resolute believer in white supremacy, an opponent of the war effort and a longstanding critic of abolitionism. Vallandigham had been convicted in an Army court martial for opposing the war, and subsequently been removed from office and imprisoned. Despite this, he won election as Governor of Ohio in 1863, which was regarded nationally as a sign of growing disillusionment with the war. Governor Vallandigham, with railway industrialist George W. Cass of Pennsylvania as his running mate, would win the 1864 presidential election fairly decisively on a platform supporting “peace with honour.”


    Clement L. Vallandigham (D-OH)/George W. Cass (D-PA) – 2,387,389 – 159 electoral votes
    Hannibal Hamlin (R-ME)/Benjamin F. Butler (R-MA) – 1,669,376 – 60 electoral votes
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    Introduction pt. 2
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    Clement L. Vallandigham, 18th President of the United States​

    The inauguration of Clement Vallandigham of Ohio as President of the United States initiated a new era of American history. He was inaugurated in Philadelphia rather than Washington D.C. due to the continued occupation of that unfortunate city. The vision of a united and prosperous republic able to stand aloof from the conflicts and alliances of Europe had been irrevocably destroyed. Instead, his Presidency would see the acceptance of the South’s secession and increasingly bitter divisions in what remained of the United States.

    The new President’s immediate priority upon taking office was securing an end to the war. Vallandigham was sympathetic to the Southern point of view, pinning blame for the war on the abolitionists and radicals he despised. He was not as sympathetic, however, towards Britain. His initial efforts at peace-making focused on securing a separate peace with the South which would allow him to direct the North’s full attention at Britain in attempt to secure more favourable peace terms. This course of action proved to be unfeasible, as President Davis rejected the idea of a separate peace without the involvement of the British.

    Vallandigham and his Cabinet ultimately conceded that the war ought to be ended regardless, and so in April of 1865 the fighting which had been waged across North America for over 4 years came to a halt. The final terms of peace would be specified by the Treaty of Brussels after many months of negotiations hosted by King Leopold I of the Belgians.

    The most vital aspect of the negotiations was what frontier between the now two republics would be. Both sides occupied territory claimed by the other, the Confederacy occupying the capital as well as most of Kentucky and a portion of Missouri. The Union occupied parts of Confederate-claimed Indian Territory and the north-western corner of Arkansas. Both sides controlled portions of the former New Mexico Territory, and the western counties of Virginia where slavery was less present had been admitted to the Union as the state of West Virginia.

    The Confederate negotiators rejected the legitimacy of West Virginia, and regarded its return as one of their top priorities. The Union negotiators placed greater emphasis on the return of their capital, as well as the occupied portions of the border states. The respective priorities of each side led to an understanding that the border settlement would be based where possible on the pre-war state boundaries. In return for acceptance that West Virginia’s counter-secession was illegitimate and the cession of Kentucky, the Confederate States agreed to restore the entirety of Missouri and Maryland to control of the United States and foreswear any future claim on them. In exchange for recognition of Confederate sovereignty over Indian Territory and the north-south divide of the New Mexico, Washington D.C. was also returned to Union control.

    The Confederate States also agreed to allow unrestricted peacetime access to the Mississippi for Northern trade, an important concession for the economy of the Union states adjacent to that great river. The most important provision relating to Britain was the now very much belated concession of the Union of fault and financial compensation for the Adger Affair which had precipitated Britain’s entry into the war. The north-western portion of Maine, which was previously ceded to the United States by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty in 1842, was ceded to New Brunswick in a small and largely symbolic territorial concession.


    The Inter-American border established by the 1865 Treaty of Brussels​

    The Treaty of Brussels restored peace to North America, and its acceptance of Southern independence was greeted with widespread jubilation throughout the South. It could not, however, satisfy everyone. That the treaty largely followed pre-war state and territorial boundaries meant that it did not exactly reflect the sentiments of the population with regards to each of the two Americas. Many Unionists, such as in the western portions of the now reunified Virginia and in the eastern region of Tennessee, were abandoned to Confederate authorities. Likewise, there were significant areas of the Union border states with widespread pro-Confederate sentiment. Many who could not stomach living under the authorities established by the Treaty of Brussels would migrate in both directions across the newly established border.

    The greatest abandonment of the treaty, however, was of the black population of the South. The enslaved population of the south had a far deeper understanding of these events than many realised. There was great dissatisfaction, and many had anticipated an end to their enslavement. Massachusetts chaplain George H. Hepworth had previously observed that “the slaves of the South are not a happy people. No one can travel from plantation to plantation, from county to county, as I have done, without being strangely impressed with the universal gloom of the negro character. You may talk of the light-hearted, merry slave as much as you will: it is all rhetoric, and has no foundation whatever in fact.”

    For the largely free black population in the North, the Treaty of Brussels represented an even greater calamity. They had largely welcomed the advent of war, with Frederick Douglass having said upon the outbreak of war that he was “for the dissolution of the Union – decidedly for a dissolution of the Union!” They hoped that the South’s secession would break or at least greatly weaken the institution of slavery. There was great enthusiasm to fight the rebellion, as typified by one petition sent to President Lincoln;

    “We are strong in numbers, in courage, and in patriotism, and in behalf of our fellow countrymen of the colored race, we offer to you and to the nation a power and will sufficient to conquer rebellion, and establish peace on a permanent basis.”

    Despite this, there had been immense reluctance on the part of the political leadership to employ blacks as soldiers. Many thought the war ought to be a “white man’s war” and worried that black soldiers would alienate the South so thoroughly as to preclude any possible reunification, and many also doubted the ability of blacks to serve effectively as soldiers. So entrenched were the prejudices that in the early stages of the war enslaved blacks who escaped to Union lines were sometimes returned to their owners by Northern officers.

    Congress did not forbid such actions and begin to organise these “contrabands” in service of the war effort until early 1862, after the outbreak of war with Britain. As the war situation became increasingly desperate, contraband slaves from the South and free black people from the North were enlisted in great numbers as soldiers and labourers. Those that doubted their ability to serve as soldiers were proven decisively wrong, with one of the first and most decorated units of black soldiers being the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. The increasingly radical turn of the administration resulted in the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all those enslaved in the states in rebellion to be free. The nature of the proclamation meant it had little immediate effect, but it was nevertheless greeted with jubilation by the black population, with one letter describing it as “one of the most memorable epochs in the history of the world. The seeds of freedom which are ever rejuvenescent in themselves, have now been scattered where despotism and tyranny ranked and ruled.”

    This reaction would ultimately prove premature. The inability of the North to secure a military victory meant that the proclamation was nullified by the Treaty of Brussels and Southern independence. This was only the beginning of the abandonment, however. Clement Vallandigham was a believer in white supremacy, with deep prejudices against black people. While an Ohio state legislature, he had opposed repeal of the state’s so called “Black Laws”, restrictions on the civil rights of black people in the state.

    While the end of the war meant that even a more invested President could do little for the enslaved population of the South, Vallandigham and his administration’s lack of regard would lead to a disaster in the border states. As the Confederate Army withdrew to the newly agreed frontiers, they made an effort to take with them as many slaves as they could. They were not at all discriminant in ensuring those they took were not in fact already free. Many thousands of free blacks were therefore forced across the border into slavery, no protection having been provided for them by the Treaty of Brussels.

    The Republican Party had been reduced to disarray by the assassination of President Lincoln, Hannibal Hamlin’s turbulent presidency and the end of the war into which they had invested so much. Many Democrats crowed that the election of 1864 represented the final defeat of “black republicanism”, which they imagined to be so discredited by the war that it would fade away. This impression would prove to be mistaken, and congressional Republicans of both moderate and radical persuasions would continue to be a thorn in the side of the Vallandigham administration. Nevertheless, even given dissatisfaction with the Treaty of Brussels in some corners and lingering unease about the President’s “treasonous” war conduct among many ex-soldiers, almost no one envisioned that the Republicans could possibly take back power in the near future. The 1868 election would surely be a shoe-in for Vallandigham, and it may have been if not for his own misjudgement.

    Over 500,000 contrabands had fled the South throughout the course of war, and after the war ended those that still escaped Confederate control and re-enslavement became a political issue. As earlier 1865, specific cases had arisen of slaveowners from the border states and even from the South seeking the return of their slaves from the North even with the acceptance of secession. Vallandigham viewed these contraband as little better than a social problem to be resolved, seeing no place for them in his vision of Northern society. He was therefore content to accede to the demands of the border state slaveowners and of newly inaugurated Confederate President Alexander H. Stephens. The result of this was Fugitive Slave Act of 1867, passed by the large Democratic majorities in Congress.

    The act not only mandated the return of fugitive slaves to owners in the border states where slavery was still legal, but also allowed slaveowners from the South to obtain the return of fugitive slaves dating from as early as 1860. This new law, much like the previous fugitive slave law, caused tremendous outrage. It practically single-handedly revived the fortunes of the demoralised Republican Party, which was reinvigorated by the movement to oppose the new law. Even many not well disposed towards black civil rights opposed it, noting that the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 had been a part of the Compromise of 1850 to preserve the Union. The South had destroyed that compromise by seceding, and so the law represented an unjustifiable concession and national humiliation.

    The last year and a half of Vallandigham’s term was nearly entirely embroiled by this controversy, and the unrest it caused. Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York saw particularly terrible rioting in 1868 between anti-black supporters of the deportations on the one hand and black people and abolitionists on the other hand who sought to resist the law.

    The man who would receive the Republican presidential nomination in these circumstances was Anson Burlingame of Massachusetts. Burlingame had first reached national prominence in 1856 to his scathing denunciation of the caning of Senator Charles Sumner by South Carolinian congressman Preston Brooks, calling Brooks the “vilest sort of coward.” Despite fading from prominence during the war and its aftermath, he re-emerged due to strident opposition to the law and the administration. He emerged from the 1868 Republican Convention as nominee over the more radical Senator Samuel C. Pomeroy of Kansas. Well-regarded former Governor Andrew G. Curtin of Pennsylvania was nominated as his running mate.

    The Burlingame/Curtin ticket, in a near-miraculous revival of Republican fortunes after the lows of the previous years, defeated President Vallandigham and his Tammany Hall running mate John T. Hoffman.


    United States presidential election, 1868
    Anson Burlingame (R-MA)/Andrew G. Curtin (R-PA) - 2,419,848 - 133 electoral votes
    Clement L. Vallandigham (D-OH)/John T. Hoffman (D-NY) - 2,174,611 - 77 electoral votes
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    Introduction pt. 3
  • The independence of the slaveholding Confederate States not only created a large new nation in North America, but also represented one of those moments where the perceived direction of history fundamentally shifts. Over the preceding decades, both the wide-ranging opponents of slavery and the increasingly concerned owners of slaves had observed from a global point of view a decline in the institution of slavery.

    Across the western hemisphere, events had played out with great similarity. Initially in jurisdictions like Chile and Vermont slavery had been outright abolished, and then in other like Pennsylvania and Peru gradual or compensated emancipation had been employed to remove what had come to be regarded as a great social ill. In 1833, abolitionists had achieved their greatest triumph to date when their long efforts to win over opinion in Britain led to the abolition of slavery by parliamentary diktat in the British West Indies.

    While Britain had collaborated extensively with the South during the war, British observers and military officers did not always come away impressed. British war correspondent William Howard Russell observed of the South that while “at first glance its ruling class was just like the English aristocracy” behind this façade was not an enlightened society but “a modern Sparta – an aristocracy resting on helotry, and with nothing else to rest upon… Their whole system rests upon slavery, and thus they defend it.”

    Therefore, the independence of the Confederate States acknowledged by the Treaty of Brussels was a great departure from this path of gradual global decline. This new republic not only permitted slavery but was established in dedication to its preservation in perpetuity. Slavery was not a necessary evil, a “wolf by the ears” as described by Thomas Jefferson, but a positive blessing or even according to some ardent Southerners the only proper way to organise a society. The Confederate Constitution mentioned the word “slave” 10 times, including to affirm the “right of property in negro slaves” and to declare that in all new territories “the institution of negro slavery shall be recognized and protected by Congress.”

    Regardless of any of this, the majority of the Southern population (excluding the enslaved) was jubilant at the independence of their new nation. President Jefferson Davies, frequently maligned in the hard year of war before the British intervention and sometimes resented by parochial state leaders for his centralisation of power in pursuit of the war effort, was universally hailed as the architect of this great revolution. Had he been able to run for re-election, none could have successfully opposed him. He was constitutionally bard from doing so, however, with the presidency limited to only a single six year term. It would therefore be his Vice President, Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia, who would contest the first popular election for the Confederate presidency as the candidate of continuity from President Davis.

    While the young republic had not yet developed a system of political parties, Senator Louis T. Wigfall of Texas emerged as Stephens’ opponent. Wigfall represented the vaguely constituted anti-administration faction in Congress. He also had “fire-eater” Southern nationalist credentials, as opposed to Stephens who was a conditional Unionist that had only supported secession with great reluctance. Despite this, the Southern electorate was generally satisfied with the administration’s leadership during the war and Wigfall struggled to find a meaningful basis for his campaign. Stephens won the election easily, taking every state except Wigfall’s home state of Texas and South Carolina, which did not select its electors by popular vote.


    Confederate States presidential election, 1867
    Alexander H. Stephens (GA)/Judah P. Benjamin (LA) – 71 electoral votes
    Louis T. Wigfall (TX)/Stephen D. Ramseur (NC) – 12 electoral votes

    The inaugural address of President Stephens made many of the same points he had made in a speech he had previously given in Savannah in 1861. He observed that while the founders of the United States had believed slavery to “wrong in principle”, the newly established Confederate States “is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.” Stephens predicted a renaissance of slavery in the western hemisphere, asking his audience if “May we not, therefore, look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which our system rests?”

    One of the most important decisions Stephens took during his presidency was very shortly after taking office, due to events transpiring south of the Rio Grande. While the South had been fighting for its independence, Mexico had been embroiled in its own conflict. French troops had enthroned Austrian archduke Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico, and along with conservative Mexican supporters were fighting a republican opposition led by Benito Juarez which was largely in the north of the country. When Maximilian appealed to Stephens for military support, he saw an opportunity for territorial expansion. The idea of Southern expansion into Latin America was hardly new. Even during the war, the Mexican governor of Coahuila and Nuevo León had proposed joining his two provinces with the Confederacy. President Davis had declined the offer out of wartime expediency.


    From left to right: Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, Benito Juarez and President Alexander H. Stephens​

    Stephens initially proposed that in return for the deployment of a Confederate expeditionary force to help suppress the Mexican republicans, Mexico should cede the states of Baja, Sonora and Chihuahua. Maximilian was unwilling to give up so much territory, rightly worrying that it would outrage his Mexican supporters and discredit his regime. Ultimately, Stephens obtained only a much smaller concession of Baja and a small part of Sonora north of the Concepción River. In return, an expeditionary force of 20,000 largely veteran Confederate volunteers crossed the Rio Grande to fight alongside the imperial Mexican forces. They would play an instrumental part in the defeat of Benito Juarez’s republicans, with Juarez himself being executed by the imperial forces.

    Stephens' Mexican adventure was important in that it provided the new republic with a small, albeit still meaningful, outlet to the Pacific Ocean. In the North, President Vallandigham’s indifference to the expansion contributed to his decline in public esteem and the revival of the Republican Party. Another consequence of the decision to intervene in Mexico would be to distract from the upsurge in raiding by the Comanche. While the Comanche had at one time been one of the most expansive and effective Native American polities north of the Rio Grande, capable not only of resisting European expansion but of themselves expanding into new territory, by 1860 their fortunes had reached a nadir. The chaos of the war, however, relieved pressure on their lands and allowed something of a revival. By the late 1860s, their raiding was once again a mortal threat to western Texas.


    The Comanche in the late 1860s​

    At one point in 1868, the situation for the settlers in western Texas became so dire that one official noted that “murders that have been Committed on our frontier are so frequent that they are only noticed by their friends and acquainted as they would notice ones dying a natural death.” Only in 1869, as local forces were reinforced by the returning volunteers from Mexico and regular troops arrived in sufficient numbers from the east did the authorities regain control of the situation. The remains of the Comanche nation were ultimately relocated to Indian Territory.

    Besides these two military conflicts, the most important factor in the early days of Confederate independence was the question of how much power should be vested in the federal government in Richmond as opposed to of the various state governments. Southern attitudes towards states’ rights and federal power while still a part of the United States had long been contradictory. Southerners were adamantly opposed to federal power where it threatened slavery or their perceived interests, and small government and constitutionalist arguments would often be brandished to oppose tariffs, western homesteads and limitations to slavery.

    Despite this, many Southerners had foreseen a need for a more powerful federal government to be activist in opposing the increased power of international abolitionism. They could often be found advanced foreign and military policy at the federal level to this end. It was observed by one Congressman that Southern slaveholders “have had the Secretaryship of State for two third of the time” and that also “four fifths of the time have the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy been from the South.”

    The archetypical Southern regionalist John C. Calhoun had been an advocate of naval expansion in the 1840s, and Jefferson Davis had been one of those mentioned Southern Secretaries of War. In light of the election of Abraham Lincoln, many worried that all these efforts to enhance American power had been wasted or even misspent. This is the context in which the Confederate Constitution was drafted to contain a number of states’ rights provisions. The preamble acknowledged each state “acting in its sovereign an independent character”, while removing the equivalent clause in the US Constitution regarding “the general welfare.” The federal government was also prohibited from sponsoring internal improvements.

    President Stephens therefore sought to assuage concerns about a federal government which would threaten slavery, in order to reconcile the states to a federal power sufficient enough to defend the South’s slaveholding society in a hostile world. With a weak federal government, South Carolina would “be a Tuscany” with Georgia “a Piedmont, with one little province… under the protection of England, and another tied to France.” Stephens would successfully argue for the retention of military forces of reasonable size to defend the Confederacy’s borders, and the establishment of auxiliary forces largely made up of war veterans to uphold the institution of slavery at a federal level by capturing fugitive slaves and preventing them fleeing across the Confederacy's newly established borders. Stephens also sought to promote settlement in the western territories in order to firmly establish slavery there.
    A New Order in Europe
  • The 1860s and 70s were a time of great change. National identities were in flux, many people and regions having conflicting loyalties which pulled them towards different forms of nationalism, regionalism and political ideology. This was just as true in Europe as it was in North America.

    In Germany, nation unification under a liberal system had appeared in reach during the Revolutions of 1848. When the conservative Austrian chancellor Schwarzenberg rejected the idea of German unification in 1849, the Frankfurt Assembly had offered the crown to Frederick William IV, King of Prussia. The King refused to accept what he regarded as a “dog collar with which they wish to lash me to the revolution of 1848.” Hereafter, it was obvious that German unification could come about only through the machinations of either Austria or Prussia.

    Austria sought to dominate the German Confederation in order protect its position as a European great power, while Prussia saw itself as the natural leader of Germany. This belief was not unreasonable, as Austria had begun to fall far behind Prussia in economic and military affairs. Even with a far smaller population, Prussia produced twice as much coal and iron ore as Austria. The crisis over Schleswig-Holstein would provide Prussian Minister-President Otto von Bismarck with an opportunity to cement Prussia’s pre-eminence over their Austrian rival.

    The two Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein were autonomous states under the sovereignty of the King of Denmark. Holstein was predominantly populated by Germans, whereas Schleswig had a more mixed German-Danish population. Both were a long running cause célèbre of German nationalism. The crisis arose in March 1863 when King Frederick VII of Denmark announced a unified constitution for Schleswig and Denmark. With Britain distracted by the ongoing war in North America, Bismarck saw an opportunity to embarrass Austria in the eyes of the other German states by acting unilaterally against Denmark. While the Austrians dithered, Prussia mobilised its Army and declared war on Denmark in August 1863, beginning the Prusso-Danish War.

    Despite an inconclusive naval engagement at the Battle of Heligoland and receiving military support only from the Kingdom of Hannover, Prussia ultimately defeated the Danes and secured the direct annexation of Schleswig-Holstein. The result of the war dramatically raised the prestige of Prussia, cementing it in the eyes of even of those more partial to Austria as the natural leader of Germany. Austria, on the other hand, was humiliated.

    These events set the stage for the War of German Unification in 1866. Prussia’s additional prestige from the war with Denmark proved advantageous, as pressure from German nationalists (even those of a liberal, previously anti-Prussian persuasion) led many rulers otherwise tempted to side with Austria to remain neutral. Most significantly, the neutrality of the Kingdom of Hannover allowed the Prussians to concentrate the great majority of their forces against Austria. Bismarck also concluded an offensive alliance with Italy in April, with Italy wishing to the annex Italian-speaking Austrian territory in Venetia.

    Prussia’s preparations for war were dealt a great blow on the 7th May by the sudden assassination of Otto von Bismarck by disillusioned anti-war student Ferdinand Cohen-Blind, who shot the Prussian Minister-President three times with a revolver. Despite this disaster, the slide towards war was already irreversible. Upon the outbreak of the war, Prussia speedily defeated the forces of the Kingdom of Saxony. Four Prussian field armies commanded by Helmuth von Molkte then advanced into Austrian Bohemia. The subsequent Battle of Sadowa decided the war, as von Molkte’s armies completely destroyed the Austrian forces. Austrian commander Ludwig von Benedek was unable to withdraw his forces across the Danube river and was left with no choice but to surrender his army.


    Prussian victory at the Battle of Sadowa, the penultimate battle of the War of German Unification​

    This traumatic Austrian defeat led to the conclusion of the war. Whereas Bismarck had reportedly been reluctant to inflict a harsh peace on Austria, King Wilhelm of Prussia and his other ministers had no such compunctions. In a peace mediated by France, Prussia annexed Saxony as well as a few smaller central German states. Bohemia, Moravia and Austrian Silesia was separated from Austria and united as a Kingdom of Bohemia-Moravia in personal union with Prussia. Austria was also ejected from the German Confederation and was made to surrender Venetia to Italy. The acquiescence of France to these terms, which amounted to nothing less than a blueprint for German unification under Prussian leadership, was bought with the annexation of Luxembourg and the Bavarian Rhineland, as well as the surrender of the Prussian Saar region.

    At this point, the only remaining impediment to full German unification was the particularism of the south German states based on their separate Catholic identity. At some points in history this separate identity had been incredibly strong and seemed an insurmountable barrier to unification, with one Catholic paper observing that there was “a vastly more profound bond between a Catholic German and a Catholic African than between the latter and a German atheist.” Nevertheless, the rise of Prussian prestige discredited these tendencies and liberal nationalists were now in ascendance across southern Germany. The accord between these liberal nationalists and Prussian conservatives in favour of unification, and a belief that with Hannover and Bohemia there could be a balance in any new German state, opened the way for a deeper German integration. This culminated in the 1868 Berlin Conference, which replaced the German Confederation with a new German Federal Empire. King Wilhelm of Prussia assumed the title of Emperor of Germany. This new entity constituted a single economic area, with a central government and unified military forces.

    In Austria, which was now excluded from this process of German unification, the defeat in the war shook the very foundations of the state and led to a new constitutional settlement designed to preserve the eclectic remains of the once vast Habsburg domains. The settlement sought to reconcile with the Hungarians by reconstituting the historic Kingdom of Hungary, now the largest part of remaining Empire. In order to prevent the Hungarians from completely dominating the new state structure, self-rule was also established in the Polish-majority Kingdom of Galicia. The compromise of 1867 between the Austrians, Hungarians and Polish Galicians established the Empire of Austria-Hungary-Galicia (which became commonly known as the Triple Monarchy).

    Italy had nominally been a victor in the War of German Unification, achieving the long-desired liberation of Venetia from Austrian rule and the final ejection of Austrian influence from the Italian peninsula. This acquisition, however, had been achieved more at the beneficence of Prussia than as a result of Italian military success. Additionally, Italian nationalists were dissatisfied by the failure to annex the remains of the Papal States. Such an annexation would allow the move of the capital of the Italian state to Rome and complete the process of Italian unification (Risorgimento).

    French Emperor Napoleon III would continue to frustrate this desire with the stationing of French troops in Rome, a presence he felt compelled to maintain as his regime increasingly relied on the support of political Catholicism. In the long run, this would lead to a deep enmity between Italy and France. For the time being, however, Italy was far too weak to seriously challenge France. Italy was the poorest nation in western Europe, afflicted by parochialism and a strong regional inequity between the north and south of the country. From 1871, Italy was also diplomatically isolated in Europe. France, Germany and the Triple Monarchy had established the League of the Three Emperors. This was a loose alliance built more on a distrustful need to maintain a balance of power than any mutual regard between the signatories.


    The New Order in Europe, 1870​

    In Britain, the Prime Minister Lord Palmerston had passed away near the end of 1865, just months after the Treaty of Brussels ended the war in North America that had dominated the end of his long political career. His death at the moment of his greatest triumph, having crippled the rising American threat to Britain’s imperial hegemony, elevated him above all the other British Prime Ministers of the 19th century.

    His worldview, dubbed “Palmerstonianism”, would influence both the Liberal and Conservative parties for the next half a century. Palmerstonianism entailed nothing less than a far-reaching vision for British global hegemony. The world would gradually move towards universal progress based upon British cultural norms and leadership. Trade, Christianity, education and constitutionalism would be advanced – with critics of the vision pointing to trade as Britain’s true motivation. Palmerstonianism also held no place for the “recalcitrant elites” of other societies, who were held to be “reliant upon privilege, corruption and superstition.” Shipping magnate Macgregor Laird dubbed Palmerston’s ideas as “the moral power of the 24 pounder.” None of this meant, of course, that Britain sought to conquer the entire world. Much of Britain’s hegemony rested on an “informal empire” of economic and political influence, with most of Latin America and the Confederate States falling into such a category.

    This conflict between idealism and pragmatism would plague British politics and Britain’s role as a global power for the foreseeable future. While the independence of the Confederate States and the humbling of the Union cemented Britain’s pre-eminence, there was much soul-searching when it became clear that the result of the war had significantly strengthened the institution of slavery in the western hemisphere.

    AN: Essentially, Britain's distraction in North America means Bismarck acts more decisively against Denmark. This in turn means German unification unfolds rather differently. Emperor Napoleon III manipulates the situation for the good of France, and Britain basks in its American triumph for the time being.
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    Back Up North

  • 1609068130759.png

    Anson Burlingame, 19th President of the United States​

    The US presidential election of 1860 was a revolution, whereas the 1864 election was a counter-revolution. The election of 1868, on the other hand, was a miracle. Anson Burlingame had pulled off a Republican victory that had seemed impossible just a short time ago. He inherited power in an increasingly fractious country, for the first time uncertain of its destiny and place in the world.

    His immediate priority was the very issue which had paved his path to the presidency – the Fugitive Slave Act of 1867. Even with a Democratic controlled Senate, Burlingame was able to secure the repeal of this act as many Democrats were cognisant of the damage the act had done to their party's standing. Burlingame, however, had broader goals than simply the repeal of this one piece of legislation.

    While the secession of the South had removed the great majority of slaves and slaveowners from the boundaries of the United States, upon Burlingame’s inauguration slavery was still legal in Missouri, Maryland and Delaware. Despite efforts during the war to abolish or restrict slavery in these states and the fact that in the latter two states free blacks now outnumbered their enslaved compatriots, no action had been taken. The Vallandigham administration had taken no action out of concern that doing so would cause unrest in states where loyalties were still divided, and also out of a reluctance to contribute further to the “social problem” of free blacks.

    Burlingame thought differently, and resolved to secure “the complete abolition of slavery in the United States by constitutional amendment, so help me God.” This was easier said than done. Congressional Democrats refused to cooperate with Burlingame without precondition. Senator George H. Pendleton of Ohio attempted to secure a compromise amendment which would simultaneously abolish slavery and permanently disbar black people from American citizenship. Even had Burlingame been inclined to accept such a deal, the Republicans in the House of Representatives would have refused to accept it. The question of the United States’ remaining slaves was therefore mired in legislative deadlock.

    One significant step taken by Burlingame was to permanently move the US capital to Philadelphia, cementing a change made out of military necessity during the war. The District of Columbia was absorbed by the state of Maryland. It is unknown what else he could have achieved with more time in office, for Anson Burlingame died quite suddenly in January 1870. He was succeeded by his Vice President Andrew G. Curtin of Pennsylvania, who became the 20th President of the United States.

    The Curtin presidency would become embroiled by the rising issue of religious and political sectarianism. This was brought into sharp focus by the devastating New York Riots of July 1870. Conditions in New York City had been declining steadily for years, with many tens of thousands living in abysmal conditions – “dank, dark and miserable basements.” The city’s politics were riven with religious strife. In an overwhelmingly Protestant nation, New York was roughly 50% Catholic with large immigrant populations. In addition, the Tammany Hall political organisation under the leadership of William M. Tweed dominated the city with Irish Catholic support.

    The riots were precipitated by the commemorations of the Battle of the Boyne (which preserved Protestant rule in Ireland in 1690) held by the city’s branch of the Protestant organisation known as the Order of Orange. The Police, backed by Tweed, had initially sought to forbid the march but had been forced to back down. The New York Tribune had charged that “the Irish, under the leadership of Mr. William M. Tweed, had taken possession of the City and State.” On the day of the march, over five thousand Protestant militia participated. Despite advocates of restraint on the part of Church leaders, they were confronted by large militias of local Catholics. The so-called “Battle of Manhattan” killed over 300 people.

    The aftermath of this was a total breakdown of order and an explosion of pent-up hatred between New York City’s various social groups. Large portions of the city burned in sectarian confrontations, and the city’s population of free black citizens was also targeted by the Irish mobs in a reflection of the worsening enmity between those two groups in the years since the war. The city’s Colored Orphan Asylum was utterly destroyed. Only after 4 days and over 2,500 deaths was some semblance of order restored with the arrival of federal troops. The reports of the violence shocked the nation.

    Besides completely destroying relations between the factions of New York City’s society for the foreseeable future, the consequence of the riots which was of the most immediate importance was the radicalising effect it had upon the Republican Party. There had long been a strain of Republican politics tied to Protestantism and nativism, even if this was not predominant. In this wake of the New York riots, this began to change with the rise of the “Christian Amendment” movement.

    After the war, one widespread strain of thought had blamed the defeat upon God’s displeasure with Northern sins. The adherents of this belief denounced the toleration of slavery and the absence of God in the Constitution as collective sins. From this arose a movement to amend the constitution to explicitly define the United States as a Christian, and specifically Protestant, nation. One supporter of the movement stated that “Our nation is Christian – the Constitution is unchristian.”

    It was largely discomfort with the new predominance of nativism in the Republican Party which led President Curtin to defect to the Democrats in 1871, effectively changing the hands of power over the federal government without an election. This quixotic decision effectively conceded the Republican Party to an alliance of radicals and nativists.

    William Tecumseh Sherman had served with distinction in the western theatre during the war under Ulysses Grant. The origin of Sherman’s middle name is the early 19th century Native American leader Tecumseh, which it brutally ironic given Sherman’s ultimate fate. After the end of the war, Sherman had struggled for a time with depression before ultimately deciding to remain in the reduced post-war army. In early 1872, he found his himself commanding the 25th Infantry Regiment, one of the few regiments of black soldiers in the post-war era which had been re-established during Burlingame’s presidency to keep order in the western territories. The Lakota referred to these soldiers as “black Wasichu”, literally meaning black white men.


    Troops of the 25th Infantry Regiment sometime before the Battle of Bighorn Lake​

    The regiment was frequently subject to discriminatory treatment from the US Army’s leadership due to its racial composition, being forced to frequently put up with substandard equipment. It was partly for this reason that Sherman and his entire regiment of 700 men would meet a gruesome end in July 1872 at the Battle of Bighorn Lake in the southern portion of Montana Territory. They were defeated and massacred by a Cheyenne-Lakota warband under the tribal leader known as Morning Star.

    The events at Bighorn Lake further discredited Curtin and Republicans would relentlessly blame him for the disaster. The Republican presidential nominee was Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts, whose membership in the short-lived nativist American Party in the 1850s and support from Radical Republicans made him the ideal candidate to unite these two factions. His running mate was Senator Samuel C. Pomeroy of Kansas, who had strong radical credentials.

    President Curtin was able to secure the Democratic nomination, with Allen G. Thurman of Ohio as his running mate. Curtin’s campaign ignored the question of slavery and black civil rights. He drew strong support from Catholic leaders, both due to opposition to Republican nativism and the fact that shorn of the South, the Catholic Church was in some ways the nation’s most conservative institution. Curtin opposed the gold standard, a “golden straightjacket” which he supposed would devastate the west and subordinate the nation to British financiers.

    He also sought to appeal to those impacted by the rise of wage labour. Whereas at one time wage labour had usually been a temporary state, regarded by Abraham Lincoln as signifying “either a dependent nature which prefers it, or improvidence, folly, or singular misfortune”, structural changes in the economy had led to the rise of permanent wage labour. This was said to be “as much a servile labor regime as slavery or serfdom.”

    Despite this, he was ultimately defeated in a landslide. The Banks/Pomeroy ticket even narrowly won Missouri, reflecting slavery’s decline in that state. Curtin won only the other two slaveholding states of Maryland and Delaware.


    United States presidential election, 1872
    Nathaniel P. Banks (R-MA)/Samuel C. Pomeroy (R-KS) – 3,014,712 – 243 electoral votes
    Andrew G. Curtin (D-PA)/Allen G. Thurman (D-OH) – 1,724,364 – 11 electoral votes
    And Further North
  • Across the northern border of the United States in the late 1860s were the disparate colonies and possessions of British North America. Upon the outbreak of war with the United States in 1861, all of these colonies had been suddenly thrust onto the frontlines of the conflict. While with British support they had all ultimately been able to eject the Americans either by force or at the peace negotiations in Brussels, and New Brunswick had even annexed a small amount of territory, the war had inflicted immense damage. The Province of Canada in the Great Lakes region had been particularly devastated by the fighting.

    Even in the 1850s the various colonies had achieved some level of self-government and were beginning to explore their own ambitions and place in the world. The war made it obvious that a greater integration of British North America was necessary, but the exact form this would take was very much undecided. There were great differences between the Province of Canada (which was composed of the mostly English-speaking Protestant Upper Canada and the mostly French Catholic Lower Canada) and the Maritime colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

    The Maritimes were orientated culturally and commercially towards Britain, with few links to “the Canadas” and the region around the Great Lakes. The activities of the Irish-American Fenian movement in Canada during the war, and suspicions about the disloyalty of the French-Canadians stemming from the 1862 Montreal Draft Riots, also fed a great reluctance towards an all-encompassing Canadian unification in the Maritime colonies. Perhaps most importantly, whereas whisky was the universal drink of the Canadas, the Maritimes were more partial to rum.

    For all these reasons, the Maritime colonies (excluding Newfoundland, which opted to remain under direct British rule for the time being) formed the United Maritime Provinces in 1866 after negotiations held at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The federation of the Maritime colonies threw the future of the Province of Canada and other British possessions in North America into doubt.

    The politics of the Province of Canada had long been prone to a certain level of instability, and the social tensions unleashed by the war did not improve matters. For one thing, the over 200,000 Irish in the Province by 1860 meant that the Orange and Green (Protestant and Catholic) sides of Irish life and politics had been exported to Canada. Sectarian fracas were far from unknown, with axe handles being the weapon of choice. In Upper Canada, there was deep dissatisfaction with the current constitutional arrangement, which gave equal representation to Upper and Lower Canada despite Upper Canada’s greater population.

    The predominately Protestant Reform Party was particularly vocal in calling for a new political arrangement, led by Scottish Presbyterian immigrant George Brown. This desire for change, and a resentment of perceived French Catholic disloyalty during the war, elevated Brown to the position of one of the province’s Joint Premiers in 1866. Conservative John A. MacDonald was ejected from office. Brown had an increasingly poor relationship with the conservative “blue party” leader Narcisse-Fortunat Belleau, the Joint Premier representing Lower Canada. The tension in their relationship, and the relationship between their constituents, would explode as a consequence of events further to the west in 1869.

    The largest single part of British North America at the time was Rupert’s Land, which was governed by the semi-political Hudson Bay Company. In the Red River region of Rupert’s Land, tensions between newly arriving colonists and the local Metis people were about to explode. The Metis were a mixed European-Native ethnic group. In the winter and spring they would live on river-lot farms in the French style, and in the summer and autumn they would hunt for buffalo. There were English-speaking and Protestant subgroups of Metis, but their name would become synonymous with the French Catholic Metis who revolted against the Company under the leadership of Louis Riel in 1869.


    Louis Riel and his followers, 1869​

    Riel and his men seized Upper Fort Garry, the main centre of the Hudson Bay Company in the Red River region. The leader of the local Anglo settlers, Thomas Scott, was killed during the rebellion. Riel’s actions were perceived as little better than savagery in Upper Canada, whereas in Lower Canada the population was sympathetic to him largely on account of their common heritage. The murder of a group of Metis in Toronto who were travelling to negotiate with Governor-General Viscount Monck inflamed tensions in the province to breaking point.

    It was at this point that the increasingly concerned British government of William Gladstone, in power since his landslide electoral victory of 1868, stepped in. The Earl Granville, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, was dispatched to North America in an unprecedented effort to leverage the prestige of the British government to bring some kind of order to the Canadas. The result was the Ottawa Conference of 1870.

    The Ottawa Conference led to the confederation of Britain’s North American possessions (besides the Maritimes and Newfoundland) as the Kingdom of Canada. The political structure of the new state was a compromise that satisfied no one and a recipe for political disfunction. The new kingdom was a federal state. Upper Canada became the province of Ontario, and Lower Canada the province of Quebec. Most of the West was partitioned between British Columbia and the newly created province of Manitoba, which was dominated by the Metis. Both of these provinces had small settled populations and would struggle to administer the great swathes of territory they had been granted.

    The Kingdom of Canada’s federal legislature consisted of a House of Commons with representation proportional to the population of the four provinces, but the legislature’s upper house was a powerful Provincial Council modelled on the US Senate. Each province was entitled to 3 representatives, giving equal power to the predominantly Anglo-Protestant provinces (Ontario and British Columbia) and the French-Catholic ones (Quebec and Manitoba). This political structure aided the “French Manitoba” movement, which sponsored migration from Quebec to bolster French-Catholic dominance. The movement would be aided by the increasing nativist turn of the United States, which removed the possibility of migration there for most French-Canadians.


    George Brown and Narcisse-Fortunat Belleau, the somewhat reluctant founding fathers of the Kingdom of Canada​

    George Brown became the new nation’s first Prime Minister under the Liberal Party, with his rival Narcisse-Fortunat Belleau’s Conservative Party in opposition. Both sought to appeal to opposition groups in one another’s home provinces, Brown to the anti-clerical rouges faction in Quebec and Belleau to Irish Catholics in Ontario, but ultimately the state structure would lead to increased deadlock and tension. The popularity of the Orange Order exploded in Ontario, expanding upon the 900 lodges it already had in 1870.
    Map of North America, 1870
  • 1609169719298.png

    North America after the formation of Canada, 1870
    Some notes on previous two chapters:
    • NYC really did see a pretty bad sectarian riot in 1870, but ITTL things are much worse. There were no Draft Riots in 1863 due to the lack of Irish "off the boats" for the previous 2 years and an increased willingness to fight in a war against Britain as opposed to just the South. Here we have all the tensions due to living conditions, local political power, religious differences and racial strife unleashed in one bloody disturbance. Some of the details about the Christian Amendment movement are also OTL, just their importance had been amplified.
    • Far from driving a new sense of national unity, the war leaves Canadian society deeply fractured. Even in OTL, the confederation of the Maritimes with the Canadas into a single state seemed pretty unlikely for a long time and was a close-run thing. Here, the Maritimes see the Canadas as a bit of a mess and far too damaged to seriously contemplate confederation with them. Additionally, John MacDonald deserves a lot of credit for making Canadian Confederation a success, and ITTL greater dissatisfaction towards his amity with French-Canadians means he's booted from office due to their perceived disloyalty/lack of enthusiasm during the war.
    Tokugawa Consolidation pt. 1
  • Since the sixteenth century, the Tokugawa Shoguns had been at the top of a feudal power structure and the effective rulers of the Japanese archipelago. The daimyos, the local magnates and feudal lords, exercised power in their local domains on the Shogun’s behalf. The Emperor and the imperial house had been reduced to a near-powerless figurehead, a quasi-religious institution dominated by a never-ending series of complicated and timeless rituals. By the mid-19th century Japan had also become increasingly isolated from the outside world, eschewing trade and interaction except in the most tightly controlled circumstances.

    The Dutch maintained a miniscule and carefully monitored trading post in the southern city of Nagasaki. Many of the Dutch traders and diplomats who had served there speculated that the only reason the Shoguns permitted the station was as a source of information about the outside world. Christian missionary work was strictly forbidden, and had been since 16th century Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi had expelled the Jesuits as a threat to the social order, declaring Japan to be the "land of the gods.” Stranded Japanese sailors and fishermen who were rescued by foreigners were often treated with great suspicion as possible sources of foreign influence upon returning home. Japan’s small remaining Christian community was one of the most persecuted on Earth, and an allegation of conversion to Christianity was often sufficient to ruin a career or even lead to torture and execution.

    Throughout the 1840s and 50s Japanese leaders became increasingly concerned with the ever closer and more frequent encroachment of western imperialism in Asia. Encounters with Russian traders and settlers in the northernmost Japanese islands became more common, and there was great shock and consternation at accounts of China’s humiliation in the First Opium War. One samurai intellectual later noted that “the English barbarians were invading the Ch’ing empire… I, greatly lamenting the events of the time, submitted a plan in a memorial.”

    The whole system of isolation abruptly collapsed as a result of the American expedition led by Commodore Perry in 1853. The motivations of the expedition, which none could have anticipated to become such a seminal part of history, were fairly trivial. The Americans sought to protect the interests of their whalers who routinely frequented the Pacific. Reports of Japanese mistreatment of shipwrecked sailors had fired great public indignation. So it was that when Perry entered Edo Bay with four ships mounting sixty-one guns, that the Japanese reluctantly acceded to his demands and Japan’s long era of national isolation had come to an end.


    Expedition of Commodore Perry to Japan, 1853​

    By 1860, the consequences of Perry’s expedition had brought Japan to a crossroads between feudalism and modernity. That the old order was on the verge of collapse was obvious to all. What the future had in store was far less so. There was great ferment against the increased influence and presence of all things foreign – traders, advisers, ideas and technology. Events in far away North America, which were of little interest or comprehension even to educated Japanese, created the conditions for this dissatisfaction to become rebellion. The outbreak of war with the United States led to a dearth of British (and to a lesser extent, French) naval assets in the Far East. When an English merchant was murdered in 1862, there was no retaliatory action. When in 1863, the daimyo of the Chōshū domain ordered the shelling of foreign ships in the Straits of Shimonoseki, only the Dutch were able to mount a largely perfunctory response.

    This lack of action by the foreigners embolden the Chōshū, who initiated the Great Rebellion against the authority of the Shogun in mid-1864. Many other daimyo of a similar anti-foreign persuasion joined, perhaps most notably the powerful Satsuma on the southern island of Kyushu. Other daimyo turned against the Chōshū, regarding their rebellion as hasty and the Chōshū themselves as a possible threat. The Tosa domain, whose daimyo had previously flirted with the idea of an anti-Shogunate alliance, ultimately reaffirmed their loyalty. Many were also mollified by the success of the Shogun’s envoys in London, where the distracted British had conceded a 5 year delay in the opening of Edo, Osaka, Kobe, and Niigata to foreign trade.

    The Great Rebellion set southern Japan on fire, as the forces of the rebelling daimyo clashed with loyalists. The rebels reached the apogee of their success towards the end of 1865 with the capture of Kyoto, the traditional seat of the Emperors of Japan. There they declared the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the restoration of the power of the imperial throne under the Emperor Kōmei. The Shogunate, however, was not so easily defeated. Their seat in the city of Edo remained unconquered, and their loyalists still controlled most of central and northern Japan. Additionally, the end of the war in North America led to a resurgence in the presence of the western powers, who universally backed the Shogun against the anti-foreign southern rebels.


    Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the first Shogun of the modern era​

    In 1866 the Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi died, and his successor Tokugawa Yoshinobu would prove to be a dynamic and reformist leader. He accepted the support of the foreigners, with a French military mission having particular success in modernising the Shogunate’s army and establishing a small but effective naval force. This new model military would inflict several key defeats on the rebels over the course of 1866-67, retaking the imperial seat in Kyoto and ejecting the rebels from the main island of Honshu. Over the course of 1868, the Shogunate isolated and defeated the rebellion’s final redoubt on Kyushu, cementing the Shogun's status as the ultimate source of power in Japan. The discredited imperial house, now after the death of Kōmei under his son the Emperor Meiji, was once more firmly subordinated to the political power of the Shogun. Tokugawa Yoshinobu would embark on a program of far-reaching reform and modernisation, subsequently dubbed the "Tokugawa Consolidation", to bring Japan into the modern era.

    AN: This is perhaps not my best work, but I wanted to try and dig into the key events that happened in the 1860s and think about what impact the British distraction in those key years would have. In this case, the more I read the more I thought the impact was rather a lot. The lack of bite to the foreigner's bark leads the pro-imperial daimyo to overplay their hand, the Shogunate is less discredited by a more conciliatory British government and by the time the westerners are paying significant attention to Japan again the Shogun is the only real option to support. The Meiji Restoration therefore becomes... the Tokugawa Consolidation.