A Peculiar Institution
A MORE PERFECT UNION
An Alternate History of the Land of the Free
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
--Preamble to the Declaration of Independence
"He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another."
--The Thirteenth Transgression Committed by King George III against the American Colonies
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
--Preamble to the United States Constitution
"And I say, why shall we stand for this tyranny any longer? Why do we stand by and watch as Europe plunges herself into destruction and darkness once more? England has been our enemy since the days of the Revolution, when men and boys picked up their rifles and fought for the fruits of Liberty and Freedom. And the time has come that we must do so again! And so I call upon the denizens of the United States of America, men and women alike from Alaska to Panama, New York to California, Nunavut to Yucatan, I call upon them to fight! To take up arms against the tyrannous empires of Britain, of France, of Spain, of Russia! We fight for Equality, for Freedom, for our Livelihoods! We have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat!"
--The Inauguration Speech of Winston Churchill, Twenty-Sixth President of the United States of America, January 20, 1941
"It is on this day, July 4, 1839, that the state of Mississippi, and therefore the rest of these United States, has declared the institution of slavery to be abolished, and the owners of those slaves to be reimbursed for five hundred U.S. dollars per negro."
--Mississippi Governor Arthur P. Bagby
"The color of a man's skin is as important as the mud on his boots."
--Alexander Hamilton, Fourth President of the United States of America
June 29, 1776
The sun beat down upon the Pennsylvania State House on a particularly sweltering summer's day, streaming through the windows and roasting the men inside the building to the point of boiling. They loosened their stuffy collars and shifted their uncomfortable wigs, trying anything to escape the heat.
At the front of the room stood five men. John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, and Robert Livingston of New York appeared dignified, with their powdered white wigs and crisp, clean clothing. Meanwhile, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia were quite the opposite, what with their natural hair and simple, almost disheveled jackets and shirts. These men were the Committee of Five, a group of the Colonies' greatest statesmen and political minds who had been assembled a month prior to pen the document that would officially sever the ties of the Thirteen American Colonies from Great Britain. Presently, the Congress was reviewing Thomas Jefferson's first draft of the so-called 'Declaration of Independence'. The document had to be moderate, to appease the radical New Englanders and more hesitant Southerners on many accounts. The problem was, the session had hit a snag.
"We shall not remove the passage, and that is final!" exclaimed Jefferson, slamming his fist onto the table.
"Mister Jefferson, do you not find it a bit... hypocritical that you, in this document, decry the institution of slavery, upon which you and many other men present have built your fortune?" asked Benjamin Harrison, who was presiding over the Committee of the Whole.
"I do not. Slavery is a necessary evil, something many of us here must utilize to keep our financial statuses situated. If I could go about it another way, I would, but I fear Monticello would wither on the vine if I freed my slaves from bondage. But what I have said in that passage is the whole truth. The King has captured men who committed no wrongdoings against us, he has sent them across the perilous seas in veritable deathtraps, and he has forced the institution upon us."
"With all due respect, sir," began Christoper Gadsden, a delegate from South Carolina, "You are, essentially, asking us to bring a premature end to slavery on the American continent. My state will surely not comply with that notion."
"Nor shall mine," chimed in Button Gwinnett, a delegate from Georgia.
Benjamin Franklin stepped in. "We are not asking your states to abandon slavery," he explained. "Our constitution is to be the Articles of Confederation, not this declaration. This merely lists the reasons we as a nation have decided to sever our ties with Britain. One can insult an institution without ripping it up from the roots. That is what has happened here. And I believe that almost every slaveholder in this room has, at one point in their life, questioned the morality of striving for freedoms yourself while crushing the soul of another human being under your heel."
"That is an interesting point..." mumbled Gadsden.
"You, Gadsden, should know the feeling of downtroddenness yourself, considering the design of your battle flag," accused John Adams.
"I merely request this one passage not be deleted, and wiped from the annals of history forever. Without it, we will have not taken a stance in the declaration. It will be viewed as indecisive, as weak, as a joke. We must, all together, take one side of the fence or the other. And if this passage is left in the Declaration of Independence, then I can guarantee you King George III will be afraid of what we rebels can accomplish," pleaded Jefferson.
"You do realize that if we send off this document with that passage inside, we will be seen as radicals to the rest of the world?" posited Gwinnett.
"And what's so bad about that?" asked Jefferson, raising an eyebrow.
"What's so bad is that you are building the coffin for your future livelihood out of words of abolition," he said, scowling.
"It's a chance I'm willing to take. We have pledged our lives and fortunes to setting us free from British tyranny! This is a part of that movement! What will your states do, Gadsden and Gwinnett? Will they go back to quiet submission, to being crushed underfoot by the King, simply because they could not let one paragraph go untouched?"
The hall fell to silence, absolute and deafening. Seconds, then minutes ticked by, as the Committee of Five stared down the delegates from the Deep South.
Benjamin Harrison cleared his throat. "Well, then, if there are no objections to the passage in opposition to the slave trade..."
No hands were raised to say otherwise.
"...then we shall move on. The next segment is under review because it may jeopardize our situation with what few allies we have in Parliament in London..."
--------------------------------I've had a complicated relationship with the United States and its history over the course of my seventeen years of life on this planet. As a kid, I was of course blindly patriotic. Everyone under the age of eleven is. I didn't know why America was great. It just was. Or at least, that's what I was told. As I grew up, I slowly but surely became obsessed with history, a product of my insatiable hunger to read when I was in elementary and middle school. And I started seeing other sides to (mostly American) history. The bad, dark, gloomy, offensive, throw-up-in-your-mouth disgusting sides. I learned many of my beloved Founding Fathers held slaves, that the United States was horribly racist far longer than it had any right to be, that swathes of native populations were massacred and hundreds of thousands of prospective immigrants were turned away for reasons as simple as the language they spoke or the religion they practiced. I underwent my own little Enlightenment in middle school and early high school, leaving behind the socially conservative politics that had been drilled into my head by my Catholic primary school and jumping ship to a far more tolerant, open stance.
A Note from the Author
(Added Jan 29, 2020)
A Note from the Author
(Added Jan 29, 2020)
It was then, I think, I fell out of love with America, and instead fell in love with the idea of America. A place where anyone from anywhere could do anything they set their mind to. A place that held the ideals spouted by the sometimes hypocritical Founders and other great, but flawed, people throughout American history. And then something happened. Last year, during my AP US History class, I found myself looking at every wrong turn America had taken on their path to the present and wondering, "What if it happened differently?" My interest in alternate history was but a fling then, but there's only so many times one can stomach hearing about the horrors of slavery, the hypocrisy of the Founders, the failings of the Revolution, the assassination of Reconstruction, and the death of civil rights time and time again. I needed to do something about it.
America always says it's the greatest nation in the history of the world. I decided to make it be the greatest nation in the history of the world. The United States of America would get to be the utopic beacon of liberty and hope it sees itself as in the here and now from its foundation. There's a reason why Ho Chi Minh added the preamble to the American Declaration of Independence unedited into the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, a reason why protesters around the world hoist the Stars and Stripes high as a sign of rebellion and hope, and it's not because of the American subjugation of the Philippines or the internment of innocent Japanese during WWII. It's because of what those symbols represent in the public consciousness. It's because of the idea they stand for.
And that's A More Perfect Union. Where the Revolution never died and the American Dream is a tangible reality.
The Spirit of Revolution: The Expanded Universe of AMPU
The Spirit of Revolution: The Expanded Universe of AMPU