Alternate End To American Revolution

14 Dec

Just a vague idea for a pure alternate history novel, based partly on Scott’s writing…

The POD is when Benedict Arnold leads an American force in an invasion of Canada. Historically, his men effectively ended his thrust by insisting on leaving when their service periods expired – right in the midst of the campaign. That was a perfectly predicable problem, so the POD is Arnold being smart enough to have his men’s enlistments extended. This means that most of Canada will likely fall to the American rebels. The main exception will be Halifax, which was supposed to be impregnable.

This probably won’t alter events in New York. Howe will still land and Washington will escape by the skin of his teeth. What this does change are attitudes in France and Spain. In OTL, they didn’t join the war until after Saratoga. Now, they join the war after Canada is effectively occupied (the French may consider hinting about having Quebec returned to their control after the war.) What this means is that any British advance from Canada (which led to Saratoga) is dead in the water. This is actually a good thing for the British, but they don’t see it that way.

Congress politics will be very different in ATL. Washington looked very good after bouncing back from New York; Arnold looked bad, even though he was (on paper) a more qualified general than Washington. In ATL, Arnold has a pretty major victory to his credit, while Washington looks like a lucky boob who almost lost the rebels their chance at victory. Most of the material written about this period is written with the benefit of hindsight – I am presuming that Arnold gets the overall command, satisfying his ambitions and therefore preventing him from turning traitor.

The British find the French entry into the war to be very satisfying, as it lets them have a second go at the French and Spanish possessions in the Caribbean. Most of them probably fall very quickly, leaving the French and Spanish a chance to rue having decided to help the Americans. They work hard on their plan to invade Britain itself, but bad luck, bad weather and poor planning torpedo the plans before the Royal Navy gets a chance to show what it can do. The Spanish in particular are pissed; the Royal Navy has managed to capture much of one of their treasure fleets, giving British finances a shot in the arm.

Eventually, the British launch an invasion of the American south (not unlike the campaign that eventually led to Yorktown). This is the sort of campaign that Britain tends to dread for historical reasons; a long drawn-out struggle on what is effectively a mainland. It also leads to a number of devil’s bargains; the British find themselves forced to turn a blind eye to slavery, rather than liberating the slaves. On the plus side, the American rebels are largely out of money, the Spanish are definitely out of money and the French invasion plans have been thwarted. Oh, and they’ve scooped up the Spanish territories in North America.

What I suspect would eventually happen will be a set of discussions between British and American representatives. Everyone wants out of the war, for different reasons. Arnold is probably savvy enough (or a pro-British American) to see a chance to mend fences while screwing France and Spain. The Americans eventually end up with the Northern Colonies and Canada (sans Halifax; the RN would refuse to give up a second Gibraltar) and independence. Britain gets the lower South, plus Spanish and French colonies in the Caribbean. This is a great bargain from the British POV – and the French have been royally buggered.

Historically, the Tories (American Loyalists) went to Canada. In ATL, they’ll go to the American South (call it the Crown Domain of Louisiana). There will also be an influx of British and former German settlers, who will be settled in the south. That’s bad news for the Native Americans, but no one really cares. Washington (or someone American) will still burn them out of the US.

Now, this probably has some significant effects on the post-war US. In OTL, the US didn’t have a significant outside threat to worry about, outside of Canada and the Native Americans. The British generally didn’t want to fight the US as it would be damaging economically even if they won. Here, the British have a much larger and far more valuable patch of land – I think the US would be pressed into forming a stronger federal government. A really bad scenario from our perspective would be a government formed by Arnold rather than Washington. On the other hand, the presence of a British army on the southern border may concentrate a few minds.

The most interesting point is that this universe’s version of the US is likely to abolish slavery. OTL’s slaves were mainly in the south even before the cotton gin made slavery profitable again. Here, the slaves are likely to be freed in the US as the votes to keep the slaves will have gone to the British.

Britain will regard the end of the war with mixed feelings. Historically, the UK regarded the sugar islands as more important than the American colonies. (In the long term, this was stupid, but few understood that at the time.) On that basis, the UK is going to be sniggering about the outcome. At the same time, they will have to keep a major force in Louisiana just in case the Americans feel like a second round. And there will be Native Americans to deal with as well. In fact, assuming that this timeline sees a version of the Napoleonic Wars, the British will be in an excellent position to take Mexico before it can declare independence from Spain.

The downside is that Britain will get the slave-keeping south. If slavery is economically important (and I suspect it will be) there will be much less antislavery campaigning in the UK (or at least it will be less effective.)

Thoughts? How might this timeline develop?

Chris

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One Response to “Alternate End To American Revolution”

  1. Paul Howard December 14, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    You’re correct that the presence of a British controlled South would cause the US to have concerns.

    One of the areas of discussion in the Federalist Papers concerned a break up of the US into seperate nations and the concern about European involvement in North American affairs.

    I’m not so sure that the British slave owning South would be a factor in preventing the British anti-slavery movement from starting.

    It would make the decision to end slavery more difficult but the evils of slavery would still be seen.

    I suspect that in our time line, what was going on in the American South was a factor even for Brits.

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