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The Scramble for Asia: Colonialism in the Far East in the 19th Century
"...the victory in the Lang Son Valley, and holding serve at Tuyen Quang in a ferocious siege, freed up the French to press ahead towards the Chinese border, with a resounding victory against a force more than ten times their size at Bang Bo. Courbet took the opportunity to escalate his naval campaign - when several ships of the Nanyang Fleet re-emerged from Shanghai to break the blockade and occupation of Formosa, they were ambushed by the weight of Courbet's reinforced fleet near Ningbo, and all but one ship was sunk in the most devastating loss to China in the war. With only the remains of the Beiyang and Guangdong Fleets effectively blockaded in the harbors of Tientsin and Canton, respectively, France began blockades of Amoy and Shanghai to prevent rice shipments and further naval engagements from occurring, and sent further reinforcements to Formosa and Hainan now that they were sure they would be unmolested. Word reached Peking from Korea that the French were training a Korean Royal Army to march on the Yalu River by summer; chaos was starting to mount, and France getting ever closer to the most feared contingency in the Qing Court - of an attack on the Chinese mainland..."

- The Scramble for Asia: Colonialism in the Far East in the 19th Century
Maximilian of Mexico
"...Maximilian's own victory in Mexico was matched with the victory of his erstwhile ally Barrios, who with the defeat of Salvadoran Army at Chalcualpa paved the way for his Central American Union to be formally inaugurated. Despite an assassination attempt in San Salvador, to be the capital of the union of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Barrios quickly set about driving the same aggressive program he had instituted in Guatemala earlier - the forced expulsion of the clergy, the appropriation of both Church and Indian lands, and the arrest and torture of his political opponents. Neither Miramon nor Zuloaga understood Maximilian's affection for the tyrant who was so similar in his objectives to the vanquished Lerdo, but Maximilian's view remained the same as always: that Barrios, if supported by Mexico and with his ambitions pointed east, could interfere in European canal plans, then all the better for his prized Tehuantepec Railway..."

- Maximilian of Mexico
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1885 United Kingdom general election
1885 United Kingdom general election

All 652 seats in the Commons up for election; 327 seats needed for a majority


TOTAL (652):

Conservatives: 293 (+43)
Liberals: 268 (-44)
Irish Parliamentary: 87 (-3)
Social Democratic Federation: 4 (+4)


Great Britain (551):

Conservatives: 279 (+40)
Liberals: 268 (-44)
Social Democratic Federation: 4 (+4)

Ireland (101):

Liberals: 0 (-)
Conservatives: 14 (+3)
IPP: 87 (-3)
Chamberlain's Britain
"...the Tory triumph still did not earn the Conservatives more than 300 seats, let alone enough seats to be close to a majority. It re-emphasized the unpopularity of the Tory agenda in rural constituencies, and despite their penetration of some working class boroughs, the sudden emergence of the Marxist SDF still ran ahead of them even where they lost to Radical MPs. The Whig wing of the Liberals were decimated, and those who remained formed an informal alliance with the Tories on sustaining measures; Hartington and his brother stunned a number of observers when he was one of them, foregoing his ambitious agenda from earlier in the decade to now "cool passions in the Commons." Despite the losses of seats, Chamberlain saw it as nothing short of a near-triumph - NLF-backed Radicals had grown their proportion of the diminished Liberal caucus, even as Sir Stafford Northcote traveled to Buckingham Palace to kiss hands and form a government. "At least it wasn't Churchill," Chamberlain commented to Dilke after Northcote formed his Cabinet; both knew that Lord Randolph seemed particularly well-positioned to harness the aristocratic advantages of the Tories and marry them to the radical agitations of the growing English working class.

Northcote's Cabinet was a further missed opportunity for the fork in the road that presented itself to the Tories; he took the Exchequership for himself, rather than granting it to Churchill, who was outraged at the slight and despite earning the Colonial Office began to search for ways to undermine the new Prime Minister from the first day. It was in many ways a retread of the Carnarvon years; the Tory leader among the Lords, Salisbury, returned to the Foreign Office, and RA Cross was back as Home Secretary. Sir Michael Hicks Beach was made President of the Board of Trade and Arthur Balfour was brought into Cabinet as Chief Secretary of Ireland. It was clear to all that Northcote sought a caretaker Cabinet, what with no majority to speak of, one that would not unwind the clock but also not make any moves forward in British society. Chamberlain quipped in his diary that, "It is a Cabinet frozen in amber - no ambition, no new ideas." And yet, for the first time in seven years, the ambitious Radical leader found himself in the wilderness, a famed Parliamentarian more popular than his party's own leaders with the public but mistrusted within the ranks of the Commons. Chamberlain's exile from the halls of direct power had begun..."

- Chamberlain's Britain

(Note: I've revealed/teased/spoiled more than once that Chamberlain will eventually be PM, an office he never attained IOTL - everything occurring in Britain from here on out will likely occur from the perspective of placesetting for his eventual ascension, unless it has something to do with the royals, in which case I'll use The Lion of Edinburgh as the source)

(Second Note: @Curtain Jerker , we finally got to the long-awaited part where the Liberals lose to the Tories that was foreshadowed! Did this come close enough to the electorate drinking lead paint? ;) )
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The Dragon Stirs: The Qing Dynasty under the Guangxu Emperor
"...Li's plan to consolidate all four fleets into a single naval command - invariably with him at the helm - out of Tientsin would have required the remnants of the Nanyang and Guangdong fleets to break through the French forces in the Taiwan Strait (as it was known in China), but in the end his assessment that the British would not abide a French blockade of the Pearl River mouth, so close to Hongkong and Macao, was probably correct. The war party of Zhang Zidong once again outmaneuvered him, however, claiming that the fleets must be kept separate and persuading Cixi to once more ignore her most competent minister's efforts to break the French blockade of Shanghai. The Guangdong Fleet would stay in harbor the rest of the war, not so much a fleet in being but a fleet not used; the Fujian Fleet attempted to exit Foochow again and was ripped to shreds in the Battle of the Pescadores, effectively ceding French control of the Taiwan Strait for the remainder of the war. The Nanyang Fleet was able to escape Shanghai late at night in early March to rendezvous with Li's Beiyang Fleet in Tientsin, but by then France had secured enough footholds out of Korea, Formosa, and the Pescadores to have effective control of all routes through the Yellow Sea to the land campaigns in the south; campaigns that had turned decisively against China.

The Hainan Campaign had ended in disaster as the small Chinese garrison had collapsed, and the hoped-for insurgency in the rural interior never materialized; the island's home as a base for exiles out of favor with Court had ironically created a fertile ground for French collaborators, particularly translators and Foreign Legion volunteers, and the indigenous Hlai people were generally receptive to French entreaties. Courbet made his base the Bay of Sanya in Yazhou, from which he could command the Far East Squadron's exploits from Cam Ranh in Cochinchina to Keelung and further on to Busan in Korea. Chinese counterattacks in Formosa had failed to dislodge Keelung or Tamsui; with the Pescadores now under French control, there would be no resupply for the dwindling and frustrated Imperial soldiers, and savvy French commanders offered the aborigines on the island incentives to translate on their behalf and secure the highlands of the island as a backstop against Chinese guerilla attacks. The greatest blow to China came on the heels of Bang Bo, however, as the French land forces under De Negrier advanced rapidly into Guangxi, securing the Zuo and breaking the beleaugured Guangxi Army at Nanning in late March. The Sack of Nanning effectively ended the war; as French forces landed on the Leizhou Province in Guangdong, it became plain as day that it was over. China had been humiliated in Tonkin, Korea, at sea, and now not only on her island provinces of Hainan and Formosa but on the mainland. The Yunnan Army was ordered to retreat from Tonking, and Li finally had the strong hand to call for a ceasefire..."

- The Dragon Stirs: The Qing Dynasty under the Guangxu Emperor
Chessboard: The Splendid Isolation and British Foreign Policy
"...the new Tory government flexed its muscles most directly with Salisbury's plain support for Afghanistan after Russia's attack on Panjdeh; where the Great Game under Granville had largely been one of low-level intrigues, Russia had still made substantial progress in its subjugation of Central Asia up to the muddled Afghan frontier. For the most experienced Foreign Secretary in British history, only a show of force - marching 5,000 strong of the Indian Army into Afghanistan, including a detachment of elite Gurkhas - would show Russia the seriousness with which London took her treaty obligations. The stalemate persisted for months, until finally Russia withdrew from the edge of Herat and opened negotiations. In Britain, the "fist on the table" was celebrated by Tory-sympathetic press; it was the first time the government had successfully headed off another power's foreign ambitions in decades of both Liberal and Conservative rule. Russia's pullback turned attention from Afghanistan next to Persia as the subsequent theater of the Great Game..."

- Chessboard: The Splendid Isolation and British Foreign Policy
Belgique Rouge
"...the Free State of the Congo was not even a colony but a personal possession of Leopold II himself, administer through a corporate state of which he was the sole owner. The move was not popular in his home kingdom; the revolutionary upheavals of two years prior had not yet been forgotten in industrial Wallonia and the King's attention towards "African adventures" was taken dimly in poor Flanders. Labour Party politicians found their wedge issue, campaigning aggressively against the colonial project that was moderately accepted by both Catholic and Liberal Party officials, who remained more focused on the secular school wars than they did the growing importation of Marxists into Brussels as they fled France and Germany. Leopold's personalist rule in the Congo was disastrous; in Belgium, despite his proclivity for large and expensive buildings, he at least had an elected Parliament to head off his incompetence. Via direct administration in the Congo he had to seek various drastic measures to drive profits, as he could not afford it otherwise; loans from French banks ballooned in the late 1880s, secured by territory along the north of the Congo River, worrying Britain considerably over what would happen in the case of a default..."

- Belgique Rouge (Vanderbilt University, 1991)
Titan: The Life and Presidency of James G. Blaine
"...for the first time since 1833, the inauguration did not feature an outgoing President, and so Blaine broke with the tradition of a President-elect riding in a carriage to the Capitol with his outgoing predecessor. Instead, he and Logan rode in one carriage along the National Mall, while behind them in a second carriage were all the living former Presidents - Lincoln, surprisingly spry for 76 years of age, Seymour and Hoffman sitting across from him commiserating about New York and their own inaugurations, and a sickly-looking Hendricks waving meekly to the crowd. The inaugural festivities were nothing shy of opulent compared to many previous celebrations; as the 25th inaugural, and one seen widely as a confirmation of Liberal objectives, it was a celebration of American industry, innovation, expansion across the continent, and even featured designs for the "Liberty Beacon" to be built in New York Harbor [1]. The balls and parties lasted for well over a week; a Democratic Congressman later quipped that "never in the history of this Republic has so much money exchanged hands in anticipation of policy in the upcoming Congress, never has so much champagne or brandy been consumed, and never have so many bastard children been conceived."

Indeed, Blaine pivoted quickly from his inaugural in an address to the Liberal Club of New York in late March, pledging an ambitious second term agenda of expanding funding for land grant and other public universities as well as a mass subsidy for elementary education, which would enjoy a beefed up Office of Education Statistics to promote universal primary education and measure literacy (specifically English literacy); tariff reform; the admission of Dakota and Washington as states, which would be done in 1886; more funding for the Navy; and subsidization of more public improvements, such as funding for expanded canals, harbor facilities and customs and immigration facilities, and the hiring of additional civil servants to staff all these various offices. Back in Washington, the Liberal Senate majority quickly approved his nominees for Attorney General and Secretary of War - Wheeler Peckham and Robert Lincoln, respectively - after the retirement of their predecessors, and began drafting and debating in tandem with the new Speaker Warren Keifer the Blaine agenda.

It would not take long - less than a month from inauguration, in fact - for the much-debated "second term curse" to strike, and for foreign events to flare up in a way that completely consumed the attention of Blaine and would come to define his Presidency..."

- Titan: The Life and Presidency of James G. Blaine

[1] Since France won't be building the US a Statue of Liberty ITTL
It is nice to see America develop a functioning bureaucracy, but again, seeing France as a Eastern hegemon is so...weird. I guess the British dominance of the OTL 19th century has certainly obscured my view of what France was capable of doing during that same time with a better foreign policy (or more like worse foreign policy by the Brits).
It is nice to see America develop a functioning bureaucracy, but again, seeing France as a Eastern hegemon is so...weird. I guess the British dominance of the OTL 19th century has certainly obscured my view of what France was capable of doing during that same time with a better foreign policy (or more like worse foreign policy by the Brits).

Britain really had a lot of lucky coin flips go her way in the 19th century... but! It was in a position to be where it could enjoy even the chance of a coin flip by not having a peer competitor Navy from about 1805 until after WW1, as well as France being knocked out in 1871 for about a generation but then Germany needing 30 years to emerge as a tangible threat. Of course, France still could cause issues (see: Fashoda) for Britain, but they really got some fortunate breaks.

(Of course TTL Marine Imperiale is head-to-head not a full peer to the Royal Navy, but via the Jeune Ecole isn't really designed to be, anyways and is regardless the second biggest navy in the world in alt-1885)
Brothers in Arms: Trade Unionism in the United States
"...the corporation's position in the American economy had by 1885 earned a position of preeminence; railroads, holding companies and growing trusts so dominated Wall Street, as opposed to merely banks, that their aggregate value had to be computed as a measure of economic strength. Charles Dow developed his first weighted stock average that year, which included ten railroads, the most in-vogue investment available to the expanding North American bourgeoisie..."

- Brothers in Arms: Trade Unionism in the United States
The Lion of Edinburgh: Prince Arthur, the Empire and the Twilight of the Victorian Age
"...hopes at Clarence House that the new government would bring stability to Britain's volatile politics were soon dashed; not only did the Northcote ministry not bring with it the long-term strategic thinking on long-term domestic matters that Hartington and Harcourt had sadly lacked, it also aired its internal grievances much more publicly than the preceding Liberal governments had. Lord Randolph Churchill's nakedly ambitious campaign for Downing Street was waged in newspapers, pioneering the art of the inopportune leak; Northcote and his "Old Guard" similarly disparaged the young progressive Tory and his "Fourth Party" in friendly papers, particularly the Times of London. Arthur took the unprecedented step of going hunting with Churchill in June as the war of words escalated, trying to encourage him to use his National Union infrastructure for something constructive, much as Chamberlain was doing with the NLF; the intervention helped stay the "Cabinet Wars" for some months, especially thanks to Churchill's stirring victory in seizing Burma that autumn. Arthur, in truth, empathized with the brusque Colonial Secretary's point of view; it concerned him, as a Tory sympathizer, that Northcote had essentially brought back the same old hands from the dismaying Carnarvon years, its only improvement being that it was led from the Commons and had only a smattering of Lords in the Cabinet. The progressive Tory democracy espoused by Churchill seemed to be winning out from an electoral standpoint, what with the expansion of the franchise and constituency reform; but the stale old ideas of the 1870s seemed firmly at home, particularly in Northcote's overly conservative budget that was sustained with the IPP, ironically, due to its lowering of tenant rates per annum. No solution seemed at hand for trade unionism, for the modernization of the economy, and certainly not for the matter of Ireland..."

- The Lion of Edinburgh: Prince Arthur, the Empire and the Twilight of the Victorian Age
Maximilian of Mexico
"...Zocalista disquiet in industrial quarters suffered a severe blow with the death of Lerdo but a few days after the rebel leader's 63rd birthday; that he was attempting to flee Mexico from a Sinaloense fishing village only added to the scandal, as monarchist newspapers, led by Zuloaga's El Imperio daily, mocked him for "abandoning the cause and land." Rumors abounded on the street and at Court about who had betrayed Lerdo to the Rurales who caught him; whether it was a farmer who had let him stay in the barn for a night, or even one of his own escorts, remained a subject of speculation for decades in both friendly and hostile circles until memory of the man faded. Tired, aged beyond his years and thin to the point of death when captured, Lerdo requested a summary execution rather than a trial, which was controversially granted with a single shot to the head on the beach, his body weighted and thrown into the sea. A man titanic in his ideas and influence for three decades of Mexican history was gone, consigned to a past that envisioned a more utopian, liberal and republican future for Mexico rather than the monarchist, Catholic and centralist one that emerged and entrenched itself..."

- Maximilian of Mexico
"...for in Dixie those Wall Street investors found both a land of opportunity - a large and eager market for Northern goods and, more importantly, the much stronger US dollar - as well as a land of parochial concerns that often ran up against the vagaries and personal piques of local officials, powerful planters and merchants who aggressively defended their local interests. As befitted a less unitary republic, there was broad variety in the experiences of "Yankee moneymen." In New Orleans, at the mouth of the critical Mississippi and a hub of commerce even before the Union was born, it was as common to hear Ohio accents as it was Louisianan ones, and the thriving cotton brokerages that lined Canal Street and had begun binding the city's French and English-speaking quarters together thrived on New York and Boston money for their states' textile mills. Charleston, comparatively, was quieter - there investors found a hostile local paper, the Charleston Mercury of the Rhett family, that did not hesitate to viciously attack any business that employed "too many" Yankees or accepted "too many" American dollars for financing, eventually coming to dictate much of the commerce in the state, generally viewed to be done at the behest of the all-powerful Senator Wade Hampton, who between his leverage in Richmond and cohort of allies in his home state turned South Carolina into a personal fiefdom.

What difficulties Yankee investors had in penetrating Confederate markets depending on the relative friendliness of the local public extended to issues with labor. Men who were known to employ slaves in their Southern ventures were often boycotted at home; those who employed free Southern labor were often resented by the Dixie aristocracy, blamed for introducing ideas such as labor unionism, with the first miners and dockworkers organizing as early as 1885, and the State Militias responded with ugly violence that often included the confiscation of assets..."

- Dixieland
The Cornerstone: John Hay and the Foundation of American Global Prestige
" in that sense too the winter of 1884-85 became not just the highpoint of Hay's prestige as Secretary of State but also the high water mark of his dominance of Washington society. Though the affable Blaine entertained often at both his home on Pacific Circle [1] and then the renovated Executive Mansion, as the White House was known in those days, it was well understood that Hay was not only the dominant force in the Cabinet but on the social calendar as well. The Five of Hearts [2] were known to use the proceeds of their ample investments and holdings to host all manner of lavish dinners, cocktail partiers, and soirees at the adjoining houses of Hay and Adams on Lafayette Square; the oft-ill and restless President Blaine was sometimes known to cover his ears with a pillow as he tried to sleep, for the laughter and merriment at their gatherings were so loud they echoed all the way to his bedroom at the White House. Hay and Adams would compete in poetry recitals, entertaining their guests; and for those who were privileged to be invited, there could be a number of luminaries in attendance. One could come across Walt Whitman in his later years, usually many drinks in but no less witty and talented a poetic tribune of the American people; at one party he brought Robert Lincoln to tears in but five minutes. The famous Robert Ingersoll, one of the great and entertaining orators of the day, would speak on any subject free of charge, a luxury when he normally commanded great fees, and once debated religion (Ingersoll being controversially a well-known agnostic) with Whitman and James Garfield deep into the early morning. Mark Twain even appeared at the 1884 Christmas Party, a feast so legendary that Garfield later remarked, "No one should throw a Christmas observance in this city ever again, for none shall surpass what Clara and Clover presented us on that evening."

The Hay-Adams duopoly was not merely part of elite Washington society, it *was* elite Washington society. As William Taft (then only a young lawyer recruited to the Justice Department in the twilight months of Attorney General Evarts' tenure as a favor to Evarts' Yale classmate, and William's father, Alphonso) put it, "To be part of that circle, to move among John Hay and Henry Adams and Clarence King [3], was to become accepted, to be marked as someone with a future. You were going to rise in Washington if you could be at those parties." Taft indeed credited his attendance there with his ascent to the Circuit Court at the young age of 31 in 1888 and his later appointments to both Associate and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court [4]. In a city that had once been a backwater, built in a swamp to appease Southern interests, the "Princes of the Potomac" helped create an actual society culture that would continue on long after them; in patronizing artists, libraries, theater and opera, Hay and Adams helped create a cultural Washington that would further attract a growing, ambitious and upwardly mobile urban middle class to to the capital.

Hay used the the warm afterglow of Blaine's thunderous landslide reelection and the tremendous credit he was given for helping secure it to shape the Cabinet with his influence; it was he who nudged Blaine to appoint the retiring Senator Wheeler Peckham to be Attorney General and his longtime friend Lincoln to be Secretary of War after Evarts and Window retired. It was he who helped secure for fellow former private secretary to President Lincoln John Nicolay, with whom he was penning a biography of the 16th occupant of the White House, the role of Chief Archivist of the Library of Congress. The State Department's librarian, Theodore Frelinghuysen Dwight, had has career aggressively promoted by Hay, in part due to his friendship with Adams; indeed, Dwight would later serve as the Adams family archivist (it should be noted that Dwight was part of Boston's elite underground homosexual society [5] , and that his relationship with Walt Whitman grew largely out of their time in close proximity together. Dwight's homosexuality by the early 1890s was fairly open; whatever Hay's opinion of it was, positive or negative, he never once recorded his thoughts in any diary or correspondence that has been unearthed as of yet).

Hay also used his position to punish opponents. By 1885 he had largely tired to his former benefactor Whitelaw Reid of the New-York Tribune; Reid's opposition to naval expansion and aggressive lobbying for even more prestigious patronage appointments, most prominently his desire to serve as either Assistant Secretary of State (a position open due to Lincoln's move to the War Department) or to be the minister to the Court of St. James in London, both plain upgrades over his brief ambassadorship in Berlin, chafed at Hay, who thought Reid had been insufficiently helpful in the Blaine reelection effort in a critical state like New York and his open campaigning for patronage was unbecoming in an era of liberal civil service reform. "An anachronism, a fossil," he described Reid in a letter to Blaine. "A man who twists the knife, it is best we keep him arms length from diplomacy." In a maneuver that shocked Washington, Hay instead tapped US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Elihu Root, as his deputy; it was broadly understood that this was Hay's choice rather than Blaine's. It was also a way to appease the new Attorney General Peckham, who had prosecuted the Tweed Ring over a decade prior and refused to have one of Tweed's defense attorneys at his Justice Department, despite Root's longstanding Liberal loyalties. The minister to London, James Russell Lowell, was for his part kept in place having initially been expected to be cashiered. Reid was apopleptic; the break between he and Hay would be permanent, with considerable implications for the Liberal cause in future years.

Shortly after the inauguration and Root's installation as his deputy, Hay endeavored to take his victory lap in Europe, planning a grand trip to the great European courts in a tour unlike any undertaken by a Secretary of State before, to begin the process to pursuing reciprocal treaties across the continent the way he had down in the Americas and with minor states such as Korea or Madagascar. The trip was lavish, and paid half at his own expense, but nevertheless drew harsh critique in the press, even from the Tribune. Hay was undettered; he had yet to encounter any issue in nearly two decades that he could not conquer. In just four short years, at Blaine's right hand, he had helped reshape American diplomacy and foreign policy; he had even softened the once-virulently Anglophobic Blaine's stance towards London, perhaps creating an opening for a rapprochement across the Atlantic at long last. As Hay boarded his vessel in Philadelphia in late March he was seen off by a massive crowd. It would mark, in his diaries, the high point of the Blaine years, both professionally and personally. Soon thereafter, the United States would plunge into an unexpected foreign crisis; and in early April, Clover Adams' beloved father passed, plunging her into a spiral that concluded with her December suicide. The Five of Hearts, and the sunny-eyed political optimism of John Hay, would be forever changed..."

- The Cornerstone: John Hay and the Foundation of American Global Prestige

[1] OTL Dupont Circle
[2] Don't know if I've defined this term yet in the narrative, but a biography of Hay (who, I reiterate, is and will continue to be a VERY important character in this TL) would not wait until the mid-1880s to introduce them; for realism, this will go in a footnote. The Five of Hearts was the OTL/TTL intellectual social circle of tight friends consisting of Hay, his wife Clara, Henry B. Adams, his wife Marian "Clover", and explorer/geologist Clarence King. They were a pretty unique gang of writers, poets, and photographers who genuinely did dominate Washington society in the late Gilded Age. Here, with Hay as SoS and right-hand-man to Blaine, they have an even more prominent role
[3] You should Wikipedia this guy because he is, shall we say... interesting
[4] Bill Taft should get his lifelong career goal earlier, I feel, since in reading about him in my research it actually made me a bit sad how often he got passed over for numerous appointments purely out of 1) political necessity or 2) him turning it down reluctantly due to feeling that his duties lay elsewhere at the time
[5] 100% true; the part about Whitman is not, AFAIK

(Author's Note: I have to say that John Hay is one of the most interesting characters I have come across in my research which influenced my decision to feature him so prominently. Really a fascinating and largely forgotten man in American history; a political player in the Republican Party who was Lincoln's private secretary, an author, poet and dilettante, a man who was friends with all the great intellectuals, creative types and public figures of the day, and successful businessman who failed at elective politics but wound up having a seat at the table for a number of major decisions in the late 19th century and the first five years of the 20th, who was hugely influential in the elections of Garfield and McKinley (to the point that someone quipped of the latter "I wonder how much Hay paid for him," but also a man of contradictions - for all his progressivism on race relations, for instance, he was about as reactionary an opponent of labor unionism as they come (and that will feature in this TL too of course). As a writer myself I find him an elegant, interesting man. I'm going to have to buy Taliaferro's biography of him to read, I think)
The Fourth Branch: A Comprehensive History of the United States Navy
" evacuating soldiers from Panama to put down the rebellions in Cartagena and Barranquilla, the Colombian government thus left the oft-restive isthmus exposed to its own outbreak of fighting, particularly in the cities of Colon and Ciudad Panama on either end of the trans-isthmian, Franco-American Panama Railway. Protecting the railroad was generally viewed in both Washington and Paris as an American endeavor, and the United States saw itself as bound by the Mallarino-Bidlack treaty signed nearly forty years before as being bound to protect the "neutrality" of the isthmus in return for its rights to transit it. Other factors influenced the intervention of the US Navy and a detachment of Marines, too: the railroad in Panama had become more lucrative in the early 1880s as the Caudillo War in Mexico had on several occasions closed the Tehuantepec Railroad to commerce; the Pan-American foreign policy of the Blaine administration that sought to reinvigorate the Monroe Doctrine was based in large part on establishing the United States as a defender of peace and order in the hemisphere, as an alternative to Britain or France; Colombia long being one of Washington's closest allies in South America; fears of growing Confederate commercial interest in the Caribbean; and, perhaps most pertinently to the crisis that the intervention would trigger, a desire to upstage the upstart and rising Chileans in the Pacific, having watched Santiago seize Bolivia's littoral territory and a swath of Peru south of the Camarones, most crucially the port of Iquique. That Chile's formidable, technologically sophisticated, experienced and British-supplied Navy effectively controlled the Cape Horn and Magellan Strait passages around South America made American influence in Central America ever-more important; it was for this reason that Washington could under no circumstances allow Panama to leave Colombian control, in echoes of later 20th century concerns that would blossom into an even greater conflict than the brief Chilean-American War [1].

Of course, Chile had its own reasons to intervene. Control of Cape Horn and the Magellan Strait had vaulted the small country into a naval power of influence well beyond its relative size; as a close unofficial ally of Britain, bordering on being a client state or cutout that allowed the Royal Navy its "Three Cape" geostrategic design without having to commit more than a few vessels to the Falklands, its port of Valparaiso was a crucial coaling and supply station in the eastern Pacific and its control of resources seized in the Saltpeter War had in but half a decade made it a burgeoning export economy. Despite its population and industrial disadvantage compared to the United States, its Navy could project power with more modern vessels than the US could, and it viewed a US intervention in Panama - which it suspected was an antecedent to annexation or vassalization - as unacceptable. To Chile's President Domingo Santa Maria, another factor in its fear of US expansionism in the Pacific was his concerns about the Blaine administration in Washington; the American President's preference for a Peruvian victory had been public knowledge during the Saltpeter War, and Blaine and his Secretary of State John Hay were both known to have substantial investments in Peruvian guano, and the United States had attempted to lease Cavite Bay in Peru late in the Hendricks administration for a naval outpost, vetoed by Chile. Between a variety of strategic considerations and mutual suspicion, both countries barreled towards conflict as the bloodshed in Panama continued.

The Chilean ship
Esmeralda immediately was dispatched to the Pacific coast of Panama as the US intervention only inflamed the fighting, encouraged unofficially both by British interests who sought to sell Chile even more naval vessels in return for its valuable saltpeter and guano, as well as the French, who were plotting a canal in Panama and did not want an American seizure of the territory to upend their careful negotiations with the Colombian government. The Esmeralda - a vessel that on its own could sink effectively every ship in the US Navy on its own save for the brand-new USS Albany (which had been commissioned only a week earlier and was with the North Atlantic Squadron) - arrived in port just as US Marines were sent into the city, with the fighting in Cartagena having escalated to the point that Colombia could not send promised reinforcements to relieve the Marines [2]. Locals were furious and protested angrily, and after a Marine named Henry Campbell [3] was struck in the head with a brick, Campbell and several fellow Marines opened fire back on the crowd, inciting a riot that killed several of them. The USS Shenandoah, a wooden screw sloop from the early 1860s, fired its cannon twice at the city as a warning; the Esmeralda's trigger-happy captain, thinking that this was the start of an American attempt to shell the city and seize it, immediately came upon the screw sloop and sank it, under orders to prevent the "taking of Panama" by any means necessary. The Shenandoah, with a crew of 175, went down with all hands in Panama City's harbor on April 29th, 1885.

The Caribbean coast of Panama was pacified, with a Colombian National Army contingent taking Colon and punching into the interior in early May; upon arriving in Panama, the joint Colombian-American force were shocked to find that Chilean Marines had seized the city in the effort of "order," captured the US Marines and had several executed (including Campbell) for shooting civilians and were now dredging the remains of the Shenandoah from the bay as best they could. Appalled, the Marines attacked the Chilean camp at night to free American prisoners; the ensuing bloodshed left forty dead. The Esmeralda immediately steamed south for further orders after evacuating Chilean troops; the press in the United States, meanwhile, flew into a rage. It was then that fateful missives would be dispatched, ones that would forever alter the relationship of executive and legislature in Washington..."

- The Fourth Branch: A Comprehensive History of the United States Navy

[1] For those who are reading my "Bicentennial Man" TL and have guessed where I'm headed vis a vis Panama in that one, yes, I do have a thing for "Suez Crisis, but in Panama." This is one of the few things I've plotted out deep into the 20th Century in "Cinco de Mayo" (and between what I have planned here and my hyper-ASB "Napoleon's World) TL on the althistory.wikia site, I think I also have a thing for "Vietnam War analogues in South America")
[2] A butterfly/POD - in OTL, the US were really just there to help the Colombians, who supplied most of the boots on the ground
[3] Fictional person
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Charleston, comparatively, was quieter - there investors found a hostile local paper, the Charleston Mercury of the Rhett family, that did not hesitate to viciously attack any business that employed "too many" Yankees or accepted "too many" American dollars for financing, eventually coming to dictate much of the commerce in the state, generally viewed to be done at the behest of the all-powerful Senator Wade Hampton, who between his leverage in Richmond and cohort of allies in his home state turned South Carolina into a personal fiefdom.

South Carolina will do as South Carolina does. And go at it alone for as long as possible it seems.
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