Effects in the 19th Century U.S. of an enduring Napoleonic Empire

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Bernard Guerrero, Apr 4, 2019.

  1. Bernard Guerrero New Member

    Apr 8, 2018
    Grant, for the sake of argument, the survival of a Napoleonic (or at least French) Empire beyond 1814. Maybe Napoleon croaks after Tilsit. Regardless, the outlines of a Napoleonic Europe are going to be clear, with some degree of dominance over France’s “near abroad” in the Rhineland, northern Italy, the Netherlands, maybe Iberia or some subset thereof.

    Assume further that some degree of hostility will remain between the British and this French empire. I don’t think that’s a stretch, as the geography and strategic realities mean the Brits will always see a dominant Continental power as a threat.

    1) One possible economic consequence will be that a lot of territory and projects that were the target of British investment over the next 50 years are liable to be locked away behind a barrier. (Is this true? States were looser about control over incoming investment in the 19th century. Post-hostilities, it's possible that British money is as golden as anybody else’s.)

    2) Taking 1) as a given, the pattern of British investment will be radically different. By 1850, maybe a third of British external investment had gone to the near Continent. Even allowing for an isolated Britain being poorer, there is going to be a significant amount of capital looking for a home. As per the attached table ('Migration of British Capital', Jenks, p. 4I3), the distribution of British overseas investment placed perhaps 40% of the total in French, Belgian, Dutch, or Russian government securities, or French and Belgian railroads. I will assume that the relative distributuion for the period 1815-1850 is roughly similar. Even assuming a 1/3 haircut (poorer Britain, Russia still available), if we keep the rest of the pattern intact it implies a further £25MM that could flow towards the U.S.

    3) Where will it go in the U.S.? Infrastructure. Most of the OTL flows went towards infrastructure (turnpikes, canals, later railroads) and banking, generally via government (state, county, or city-issued) securities. I see no reason to think this pattern would change. (Will this hold? Are there marginal projects of a different nature that weren't funded in OTL but might draw cash in ATL?)

    4) So, a potential impact is significantly boosted British investment in state or local securities backing infrastructure projects. I think this will tend to cluster in the North, as in OTL, given the uncooperative nature of the South with regards to "internal improvements" and government spending on same. Given that most such projects were not run as money-makers in their own right, but rather were financed by the states with the expectation that they would boost commerce, I'd expect increased growth rates in the North, and an even bigger draw there to European immigrants.

    5) - What happens to slavery if the gap between the North and South expands faster, such that the relative balance we saw in 1860 holds 10 or 15 years earlier?

    - abort the Mexican-American War, or is this inevitable given the independent status of Texas and the growing (and even larger in ATL) gap between the US and Mexico as far as military potential?

    - different dynamic around the Oregon negotiations given that there's more British money in the US?

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 4, 2019
  2. John Fredrick Parker Donor

    May 22, 2010
    Los Angeles
    Well, the exact PoD is kind of important, namely in how it affects the potential for an Anglo-American War (OTL’s 1812); if Britain and France make another go of negotiated peace sometime before 1811, the lack of a concurrent conflict in Europe could well mean that America is more cautious.
    notincognit likes this.
  3. Bernard Guerrero New Member

    Apr 8, 2018
    Fair. My assumption has been that, details aside, a stable Napoleonic Empire probably comes about circa 1807. Tilsit has removed Prussia and Austria as threats, Spain hasn't become the bleeding ulcer of OTL yet, the disasters of 1812 are still in the future. Stability at this point requires a tempering of French (or at least Napoleon's) ambitions. The smart thing to do is to consolidate the regime and ignore leakage from the Continental System in Portugal, Hamburg, Russia, etc. So maybe he falls off his horse, etc.

    The thing is, I don't see the Brits getting any friendlier. This leviathan across the Channel is bound to scare the crap out of them regardless of who is in charge, simply because it carries the potential to concentrate on sea power and conduct cross-channel operations, even if that's years in the future. My guess is that, seeing no opening on the Continent, the Brits will hunker down and look for their chance. This is distinctly different from the OTL situation, where they had Portugal and then the Peninsular War as a continuing pressure point, and then 1812 as a huge opening. My gut here is that it short-circuits the War of 1812, as the Brits conserve resources and the Americans see Britain as a diminished threat.

    End result: The Empire sits on the Rhineland, northern Italy, the Netherlands (or at least Wallonia), and a bunch of allied satellite states, trying to consolidate. The Brits look for openings to lessen the implicit threat. The mutual hostility is probably not going to be a Cold War-style 100% curtain, but it will surely impact the willingness of British capital to go to the Continent, and possibly the willingness of the French to see it arrive.
    John Fredrick Parker likes this.