The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Friday, July 03, 2015

The Nine Colonies: what-if

Dylan Matthews muses about a nonrevolutionary America. Ed Morrissey slaps him down.

The whole question might seem silly, because there was absolutely no way the British could have kept New England (then officially Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire and unofficially Vermont: this was during the Green Mountains' separate struggle against New Hampshire and New York both, and before Maine separated from Massachusetts); but that point might not apply, or even matter, for the rest of the continent. If the Redcoats had let the Yankees out and corralled them behind the Green Mountains and Saint Laurence, their empire might have salvaged the other nine American Colonies. Heck, they might have saved Vermont and plucked the Berkshires.

Besides that nitpick, Morrissey is more right when he speaks of those other colonies being weaker against their neighbours: officially Spain (as a commenter points out), less-officially the Civilised Tribes in the American South. I don't see the Spanish (or the French; but remember, Napoleon is not guaranteed a win in this contrafactual, either) having much more strength to the south or west than the British did. To my mind, a weaker set of Anglophone Colonies would have offered breathing-room to the First Nations.

As for the American Southwest staying within Hispanic culture under Spain or Mexico or whoever - um, good luck with that.

I am not taking sides if life would have been worse or better with an independent New England and a frontier at the mercy of Iron Jacket. But it would have been very different.

UPDATE 7/4: Razib 'GNXP' Khan agrees that the New England was going to become an industrial rival to Old England. I'd add, a trade rival too; likely by way of Salem.

Khan further points out the push of German and Irish citizens to the New World. I could see German and - especially - Irish Catholics bypassing the Anglo colonies and instead landing at New Orleans and San Jacinto, to fill in those newer and colder parts of New Spain.

The other question Khan raises is whether slavery would have been abolished as quickly as it did. The international slave-trade was going to shut down either way, simply to keep slaves' numbers down in the New World colonies. But slaveholders would have been more powerful within the UK Parliament if the South had stayed in without New England. As commenter "syon" has noted, if London wanted to keep the Nine Colonies, it would have had to make deals, and one such deal would have to involve allowing the local elites some representation. And don't forget Jamaica: their whites would have demanded the same privilege.

UPDATE 7/5: Abolitionists, most notably William Wilberforce and (maybe) also John "Amazing Grace" Newton, flee to independent New England. Salemite piracy forces an international fleet to blockade that port - 1776-1786, would probably do it. The treaty bans ships bearing the New England flag from carrying heavy cannon.

Runaway slaves meanwhile find no welcome in New England, and the Green Mountain Boys don't tolerate them. Sierra Leone and Liberia exist for slaves who buy their way out. I imagine that freedman statelets also crop up around the mountains, like in Jamaica. The Seminole take in a bunch as well, in the swamps.

posted by Zimri on 09:30 | link | 0 comments

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