Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

If the American Revolution Hadn't Happened

It's heading into the 4th of July Weekend, which means that it's time for a couple well meaning articles on the reasons why the United States is a terrible idea. Vox serves one up with an article listing three reasons why the author thinks a world in which the American Revolution never happened would have been a better place. His reasons are:

1) Abolition would have happened faster if the colonies were still controlled by Britain. (Britain passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1834.)

2) The American Indians would have been marginally better treated if the US had been like Canada. (This seems like a bit of a reach in that Canada was pretty rough on its native peoples when they were on land they actually wanted. I also was amused when he cited Mexico being less hard on the Comanches than the US was since sane people, including other Indian tribes, generally wanted to be hard on the Comanches. The Comanches were bad news.)

3) A British America would probably have been a parliamentary democracy, and the author thinks they are superior to republican forms of government because they are less prone to deadlock and less likely to descend into dictatorships.

That last one I'll leave alone as it's just another example of the odd fixation of the American left with the idea that if only we had a parliamentary for of government they'd get their own way. What I found tantalizing about the piece was, of course, the chance to think alternative history for a bit, which is always fun.

I think my favorite scenario for how his scenario would play out is:

The Southern Colonies stage successful a late American Revolution in the 1830s to protect slavery. Without the North to restrain them, the American Republic expands into Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America in a slave economy empire. Slavery is eventually abolished in name around 1900 in the American Republic, but it's replaced with a rigorous apartheid regime.

When the Great War breaks out, Britain is able to draw on the manpower reserves of the North American Dominions, which include the northern colonies, which remained loyal to the crown but are also less populated, less industrial, and less rich than the Northeast US in our timestream.

However, Imperial Germany allies with the American Republic in order to open up a second American front against Britain. While the Western Front descends into trench warfare, the massive American Front sees freewheeling warfare along the lines of the historical Eastern Front in WW1. The Allies and Central Powers fight to exhaustion and reach an armistice, but with both Europe and America decimated. Roll the dice to decide who gets socialist revolutions, and Japan becomes the major power in the Pacific even earlier with no American counterweight.

I suppose it shows Britain really has totally lost its imperial power cred now, if people are fantasizing about how giving the Empire more land, people, and resources would have made the world a kinder and gentler place. It's fun trying to imagine the reaction to this piece around 1900.


Cminor said...

Interesting scenarios. DMinor posits that the South would have disintegrated into multple states, a la Central America; having been ready to clobber each other by the end of the Recent Unpleasantness anyway. (Come to think of it, we still have periodic water rights disputes with SC. That and the name of that lake on our border. And something about them Dawgs.)
Something about the whole concept of this speculative exercise reminds me of Thurber's "If Grant Had Been Drinking At Appomattox."

Donald R. McClarey said...

The Vox piece was unintentionally hilarious. I can see it now: John C. Calhoun gets up in the South Carolina Assembly: "Well gentlemen, since the British Parliament 3,000 miles away has decreed emancipation we will of course meekly accept their decree. God save the King!" First rule of alternate history: Make sure it is not ridiculous on its face.

The British actually dodged a bullet by the American Revolution occurring when it did. A much larger and stronger America going into revolt in 1833 might well have taken Canada and the West Indies into independence with it, not to mention that Britain was going through a period of rapid political change. The Chartist movement might well have taken a more radical course with America in Republican revolt at the same time. Europe of course was building up a revolutionary head of steam that would blow in 1848, and an American Revolution in the 1830s might have set it off much sooner.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

What would have happened in France if the American Revolution hadn't happened? Would there have been a French Revolution and a Reign of Terror? Without them would Napoleon have risen to prominence? And what would have happened with Louisiana Territory?

Darwin said...

Donald! Glad you happened by. I thought of you as soon as I read this rather pathetic attempt at alternate history because you always come up with very interesting alternate history scenarios.

Melanie, That's an interesting question, though I'm inclined to lean towards the idea that the French Englightenment was already on its own track towards revolution and the French monarchy on its track towards the financial problems which led to calling the Estates General. But that's the thing, to be remotely interesting on these kind of topics it's necessary to start digging into all those other questions.

Of course, I suppose the author's point was not actually to think through an alternative history scenario in any real way. He makes pretty much no effort to imagine how anything would have been different without the American Revolution. It's really more of an extended "I like the Brits and Canadians more" piece.

Joseph said...

Cf. The American Front by Harry Turtledove. In it, the WWI lineup is opposite to the speculations here.