I wonder if a military dictatorship is possible in the US. Since the Continental Army is too weak to beat the state militias, it's impossible for George Washington to become a dictator, even more because he doesn't want it. So I think an interesting era for that would be the Civil War and the Reconstruction era. These times had some characteristic traits making it easier to install an authoritarian regime: strong ideological controversies (slavery and the status of freedmen), social classes oppressed (slaves), social classes threatened by loss of power, a large number of soldiers under arms, strong social conflicts (slavery, reconstruction and the Klan) and plenty of opportunities to limit public liberties for the sake of "security", "order" or "equality".

I don't think that Lincoln could do it in the Civil War itself, but what about Grant? His administration was quite controversial, but had clear goals supported by a large part of the population: punish the south for its "treason", integrate the freedmen in the society and use their votes to secure republican dominance in the South. Now could Reconstruction went so radical that army has to restore order and can enforce a dictatorial order over the country?

Even if a Grant dictatorship would be harmful to democracy, I can see some benefits from it: reconstruction will be succesfull and Blacks' rights will be enforced; democrats in the south will have no chance to regain their position and take away voting rights from freedmen; the US will become much more centralized than OTL, so industrial growth as well as criminal and civil law will be unified; and after the end of the dictatorships, a new constitution might be enacted, so that the constitutional fetishism of the US doesn't happen as OTL. Also, even if this isn't really positive, a military dictatorship could be much more aggressive than the American democracy. I expect that once the "junta" comes under internal pressure, they'll start to look for adventures overseas (American colonies in Africa? Conquests in South America) or even in Canada. The US might become involved in international politics and conflicts earlier than OTL.

Even if I admit that this scenario isn't really plausible, do you think that it's basically possible?
 
What about aside from the Reconstruction era, like early on with no adoption of the Constitution and a very confused, unstable Articles of Confederation government, the worst possible scenario for it? Make in the United States what there was in Argentina OTL, using the Articles of Confederation as the basis. Powerful state militias but no central government. But one state ruling above others. And to establish order, one man needs to be the dictator, which I propose because of his popularity, his political skill, his military wit, and his ever-controversial figure, General Andrew Jackson become the American version of Juan Manuel de Rosas. Though a Southerner, he can have some alliance of his state, North Carolina (or Tennessee) with Pennsylvania or Virginia or New York or whichever state might be the US equivalent of Buenos Aires, and rule through a puppet governor.

I think that's the most likely pre-20th century sort of American dictatorship--a failed Articles of Confederation leading to people wanting order and accepting the military as a solution to things. Not that there wouldn't be resistance (in the form of New Englanders, no doubt).
 
Creating a scenario of mass confusion would be of immense help. Say in the early 1870's the Ku Klux Klan manages to rally enough support and destroy the Grant government. While the national guard would arrive to clean up most likely, this would also destroy the government, leading few to know what to do. Likely enough the Military takes control of a caretaker government while they wait for a government to be created, but at the same time, there are many who wouldn't accept a government such as that as legitimate, so the stage is set for Civil War. A military dictatorship could arise out of that, or just lots of death and destruction and the end of the United States... but hey, you never said it had the be the whole United States.
 
An American Cromwell does seem a plausible scenario for me provided Washington dies during the war or at the end of the war. Of course such a figure would probably lead to the splintering of the new nation into several
 
I think the real difficulty for this scenario is how little money the US generally spent on the Army in the 1800s. To make this work any attempted dictatorship would somehow have to gain control of a multitude of state militias. And the militias are under the command of the state governors, not the president. The federal government can request the militias' support but it can't actually order them to do anything.

It seems like any serious attempt at a dictatorship in the 1800s would lead to a fracturing of the Union.
 

Deleted member 97083

From the Wikipedia article for Joseph Hooker:

"Lincoln appointed Hooker to command of the Army of the Potomac on January 26, 1863. Some members of the army saw this move as inevitable, given Hooker's reputation for aggressive fighting, something sorely lacking in his predecessors. During the "Mud March" Hooker was quoted by a New York Times army correspondent as saying that "Nothing would go right until we had a dictator, and the sooner the better." Lincoln wrote a letter to the newly appointed general, part of which stated,

I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain success can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship."​
 
McClellan said he had no desire to be a dictator, but people can convince themselves of all kinds of things; he might have reacted very differently to the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and considered it a fundamental attack on the Union. He could then march on Washington at the head of a massive field army, whose loyalties were at best divided, and assume full direction of the war.
 
There was actually a very good TL done a few years ago that follows your line of thinking. Essentially, Lincoln and Johnson are assassinated and a junta is formed led by Staunton. The junta comes down hard on the south, and arrests thousands who may have been involved with Lincoln's killing or who express pro-Confederate views. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the TL.
 
An American Cromwell does seem a plausible scenario for me provided Washington dies during the war or at the end of the war. Of course such a figure would probably lead to the splintering of the new nation into several

And who might this figure be? There were a lot of capable generals who could succeed Washington. Charles Lee in particular might be interesting.

The US won't splinter unless this general fails. And if it did splinter, I think there'd be a movement to put the country back together (under different leadership, of course).
 

Skallagrim

Banned
Recycled from an earlier discussion thread: what if Washington dies in an ATL engagement that is widely perceived as a military failure, just as the OTL Conway Cabal is getting underway? At the time, Horatio Gates was a leading candidate to replace Washington (which was briefly considered by some), after the victory at Saratoga. In an ATL where Washington dies in a military failure (which Gates's supporters would present as proof that they had been right), I expect Gates would be named as Washington's replacement.

Gates is a controversial figure. I don't mean to turn him into a total caricature (he's often been unfairly demonised to a far too great extent), but if you want someone who could turn into an American dictator, he might be a fair shot at it. He was very much a political animal, always looking to advance his own cause. Following Saratoga, he did eveything to maximise his political capital, exploiting the fact that Washington wasn't having any successes at the time. Gates went so far as sending his reports directly to Congress, instead of to Washington, who was his commanding officer. That was a somewhat passive, but very clear insult. At the behest of Gates's friends and the delegates from New England, Congress made Gates President of the Board of War, a post he filled while retaining his field command. Even defenders of Gates's reputation agree that this was evidently a dire conflict of interest. His civilian position made Gates effectively Washington's superior, while in his military capacity, he was Washington's subordinate. It was a this time that some members of Congress briefly considered replacing Washington with Gates as commander-in-chief (supported by a number of military officers who were also in disagreement with Washington's leadership). It is very hard to imagine that all of this just happened to happen without Gates planning it: I'm convinced he was actively scheming to push Washington aside, and the way he did it demonstrates a political ruthlessness that would serve a would-be military strongman well...

So suppose Washington dies around this time, before the "Cabal" is outed, and Gates's supporters are vidicated. Gates is named Commander-in-Chief, and retains his position on the Board of War. Which effectively makes him his own civilian supervisor. That's the basis for something pretty worrisome right there...

Now, I'm pretty convinced that Gates would do worse than Washington did in OTL. He was also pretty hung up on using the victory at Saratoga to try for invading Quebec, which would have been disastrous. So regardless of the specifics, I can see a Revolutionary War that drags on for longer, and is more costly. In OTL, the war was already an economically horrible affair for the young USA. Inflation was terrible (made worse by large-scale British counterfeiting of the 'Continental currency' by the British). As we all know, following the war, there were severe problems with paying the veterans in OTL.

In a longer war, that is more economically damaging, this is going to be considerably worse. So then we get to a Newburgh Conspiracy-like situation. And again, in OTL, we find Gates at the periphery of that affair...! And in the ATL, there is no Washington to defuse the plot. I can imagine Gates would have made enemies by then. And his power relied on his military role. So if angry military men want to try overtrowing the current Congress and installing a military-led government (presumbably retaining sympathetic members of Congress), would Gates try to stop them? Or would he be their leader, in a bid for power? There are no certainties, but the latter option cannot be ruled out.
 
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I think the real difficulty for this scenario is how little money the US generally spent on the Army in the 1800s. To make this work any attempted dictatorship would somehow have to gain control of a multitude of state militias. And the militias are under the command of the state governors, not the president. The federal government can request the militias' support but it can't actually order them to do anything.

It seems like any serious attempt at a dictatorship in the 1800s would lead to a fracturing of the Union.

You could give the US a major threat on its doorstep (stronger Mexico? Worse relations with Britain?), necessitating the maintenance of a large standing army.
 
You could give the US a major threat on its doorstep (stronger Mexico? Worse relations with Britain?), necessitating the maintenance of a large standing army.

It would have to be Britain, which would likely necessitate more development of Canada. A stronger Mexico would be pretty distant from the US and in any case likely to only damage the frontier as opposed to what a British army in Canada could do.
 
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