Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Michigan Confederacy

North America in 1986, from the Gallatin Divergence
I just can't seem to let this piece of alternate history alone. It's been stewing in my brain after my initial objection to the childish libertopian vision of an essay or two ago . It would seem that the formation of a confederacy of American Indians smack dab in the middle of the country is improbable in the extreme, but certainly no more ridiculous than the idea that Albert Gallatin could convince Washington's militia to side with the Whiskey Rebellion farmers, or that consequently George Washington himself would be executed. and yet, here I am thinking about it.

I'd much rather write about the Vivaldi Divergence, which, let's face it, would be a much, much more interesting alternate history. That would have occurred had the brothers Vandino and Ugolino Vivaldi, in 1291, having set sail from Genoa to find a route to India, had stumbled upon North America. The brothers and their Majorcan crew, raving from starvation and thirst, barely recognizable as human, nursed back to health by Waccamaw natives. And then, of course, the Great Dying starts, as the natives succumb to smallpox, measles, influenza, bubonic and pneumonic plagues, mow down the peoples, spreading across the continent, and then southwards through South America, until finally, in mere decades 30 million people are dead. The New World depopulated, the Inadvertent Spanish Holocaust occurring 200 years earlier. And in Europe, as in our own world, the Vivaldis vanished, and forgotten, until Columbus arrives in 1491, to a renewed and resistant population of American Indians. Only this time, they do not succumb to disease. The Spaniards, the Portuguese, the English and French unable to gain a foothold in the New World. No Conquest. No colonies. Forced to trade on an equal basis, perhaps at a disadvantage, perhaps even enslaved, in their encounters with the American Indians, what a very interesting modern world that would be.

But I ramble. Libertarians are just too easy to make fun of. Not unlike Vegans, or Hippies on Self-sustaining Communes, they are rather a hypocritical and pathetic bunch. I chalk it up mostly to their prefrontal lobes never quite adequately maturing, and so they are stuck in a perpetual adolescence of self-serving aggrandizement, an overindulgence in their own peculiar infantile version of their rights and entitlements, and a tendency towards chronic masturbation. Forget the paradox of the Zero Aggression Policy they espouse. They neither live up to it, nor can they identify the impossibility of the premise, nor the ludicrous consequences.

But stay, we've enough critiques out there to savage the libertarian idiocy. Let us continue with the absurd notion of the United States of America existing under a version of the Articles of Confederation.

James Madison, no slouch when it came to political philosophy, student of history, having examined the lives of as many republics as could come to his purview, recognized two facts. That a Republic faced two existential crises: 1) Being too small, and 2) being torn asunder by factions. His solution to both was the unpalatable but necessary solution of a strong central government. Like a political Copernicus, he recognized that the states, on their own, like the planets of the solar system, would fly off upon their own orbits without the strong central pull of a federal sun. And like a political Darwin, he recognized that the majority players within the fledging union would inevitably consume or overpower the minority members. And that, again, tyranny would not come from government, but whatever tyranny of the marjority controlled that government. Again, by creating a whale bigger than all the fishes, could the squabbling states be kept in line, swimming in an orderly school, rather than preying upon each other.

But, in the Gallatin Divergence, this is not to be. Is it any great leap of insight, then, that a Union falling back upon the Articles of Confederation, would quickly be subject to the same chaos?

But back to that Indian Confederacy... Oh, I know. They never stood a chance. Despite the genius of Little Turtle, despite the support of the British, they were overmatched. It would take a series of improbable events to save them. But, given an executed George Washington, are the events all that outrageous?

Consider: in our timeline Little Turtle (Mich-i-kin-i-wa) had twice out fought and out thought superior forces - superior both in number and firepower. Given that "Mad" Anthony Wayne requires only one miscalculation, only one error in judgement, only one delay in supplies or similar logistical FUBAR, Little Turtle and the Brits sweep the field. And any subsequent dealings - given the blatant dishonesty and slimeball behavior of the Americans at the meeting for treaty at Sandusky - would have been met with no small amount of distrust on the part of the Indians.

So, "Mad" Anthony Wayne, either diverted or defeated. The Battle of Fallen Timbers either not occurring or resulting in a third defeat of the Americans. Chaos of one sort or another within the fledgling North American Confederacy. Could a Michigan Confederacy have come into existence? A vast American Indian fist with an upthrust middle finger right in the heart of continental America? And why not? (As an American, I root for the underdog, so why not indeed?) With continued support of the British. With the weakened power and resolve of a now rudderless America. Once a strong union of tribes is established, they would be hard to remove, especially with the rise of Tecumseh. So, why not?

And then what? If there is any region which might come close to continuing the traditional US expansion of our own timeline? Doubtful it is the Northeast. Despite the population boom in New  England, the stony soils are rapidly being eroded and depleted with the Medieval agricultural techniques being practiced. A population boom cannot be fueled without food, and the majority of immigrants into the Ohio territory came from New England. The Northeast, with renewed state squabbling, collapses economically. Pennsylvania is the great power in the region, although, without a federal government to promote interstate trade and exchange of science and technology, unlikely to help its neighbors. All states in the Northeast fall around the orbit of Pennsylvania, although a paltry and impoverished union compared to our own robust timeline. They fall further behind our own timelines advances with each passing decade. I would hazard that, in 1986, the North American Confederacy, attempting to live out the libertarian dream, bottled up in the Northeast surrounded by suspicious and inimical powers, might possibly be barely in the 1920s - in short, a puny, miserable, squalid country filled with a selfish, short-sighted people clinging to their guns and their religion.

Again, is there a region which might come close to our own expansionist US? Look to the South. In the 1790s Virginia (including Kentucky) is the population heavyweight for the whole US coast. Undoubtedly, the southern states, geographically and culturally separate from the Northeast,  increasingly fed up with the tariffs, lawsuits, calls from the abolitionists and universal suffragists to end slavery and allow non-propertied commoners to vote and serve in office, would quickly become fed up and secede from the Confederacy, and probably sooner rather than later, perhaps as early as 1810-20s. Recognizing the folly of a weak union, they return to a federal system of government, but on that is oligarchical in nature. With chattel slavery, the plantation system, expansion into the rich plains and prairies of the West, usurpation of French and Spanish holdings, control of the Mississippi delta and basin, migration into the Midwest from the Northeast denied, the flood of pioneers would be diverted south. The Mexican territory of Texas is quickly flooded with pioneers both Yankee and Dixie. The influx of Yankee labor and middle class merchants into the southern plain states is welcomed by the Dixie aristocracy. The textile mills for cotton are built throughout the Gulf Coast, run by steam. Something of an industrial revolution occurs in the South, provided the factories are aristocracy owned. The idea of monarchy  (constitutional, of course) is entertained from time to time.

Chattel slavery still exists in 1986. But now, formally institutionalized, more humane, more genteel, more just, with paternal traditions of welfare and social security in place for the lame, the halt, the faithful elderly servants. The South United States of America in 1986, may perhaps be only a few decades behind our timeline, perhaps in 1940s or 50s, although doubtful with any civilian or nuclear capabilities (and just as well).  A large contingent of Dixie is well established in California after the Gold Rush, and it is almost inevitable that the Southwest will eventually be purchased from an enervated and corrupted Mexican Empire.

So there you have it. History is never what you think it will be. No doubt the course I laid out, so fully opposite the intent and desire of your standard libertarian, is , by virtue of being opposed to their favored fantasy, almost guaranteed to be what happens.


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