Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Anaxagoras, Feb 13, 2006.
I only have to say : MORE!
and: GO BRITIAN!
A French lawyer named Maximilian Robespierre pens a widely-distributed short book entitled Considerations on the Nature of the French Government. While full of praise for French nation and being quite respectful of the monarchy, Robespierre bitterly denounces the massive cronyism and nepotism within the French government, stating quite bluntly that it stifles French progress and French culture. He lays out several proposals for major reforms. Conservatives accuse Robespierre of being an Anglophile, for many of his reforms sound suspiciously English.
Talleyrand quietly reads the book and, although he personally agrees with much of Robespierre’s points, he is disturbed at the book’s popularity. He fears it might destabilize the French government.
After a year-and-a-half of hard work, the Parliamentary committee on reforming the American colonies announces its plan. The thirteen colonies shall be organized as the Dominion of America. An American Parliament shall be established, which shall meet in Philadelphia and which shall have jurisdiction over all internal matters of the colonies and shall have its own powers to raise taxes. All matters of foreign policy, defense and most matters of trade policy shall remain strictly in the hands of the British Parliament. The Dominion shall be governed by a Viceroy appointed by the King. The necessary legislation is drawn up, but numerous delays are encountered as the fine points are hammered out.
The Governor-General of New France and the Governor-General of Louisiana decide to send teams of explorers into the uncharted territory of the Trans-Mississippi, each taking different routes up the larger rivers. With the population continuing to expand, it is hoped that new territory can be opened up for settlement.
France sets up a small trading post at the mouth of the Columbia River, in the Pacific Northwest. It becomes a center for fur-trapping, with the furs being taken down to Spanish ports in Mexico for re-export to Europe. Others are taken to Canton, in the hopes that the Chinese will be interested in purchasing them and finally open up their markets to French products.
"Reforms sound suspicously English"
So England has become a byword for "Reform"?
That had probably been the case since 1688, or thereabouts.
Being an Anglophile isn't necessarily a bad thing. Voltaire had respect for the British government.
If you're having the English take the lead in navigation, shouldn't they be there first?
The French had the lead after 1775. The British are still catching up. And although the British have better navigational technology, the French have more resources to devote to such expeditions.
Remember that when Voltaire wrote Letters on the English Nation, the authorities pretty much chased him out of Paris and he had to hide out in the countryside.
A group of French bourgeoisie intellectuals, galvanized by Robespierre’s writings, begins meeting in various Parisian coffee houses to discuss and debate his ideas and consider how they might be applied to French society. Many prominent lawyers and merchants are among them. The French police are careful to keep tabs on them.
The Act Regulating the Government of the American Colonies passes through Parliament, bringing the Dominion of America into being. King George III appoints William Pitt the Younger as his first Viceroy of America. Pitt takes the position determined to redeem his family’s name, which had been soiled by Britain’s defeat in the Six Years War.
King Louis XVI, in one of his rare moments of seeking to influence policy, directs Talleyrand to inform the British that the military forces of the Dominion of America will be considered by the French to be military forces of the British Empire, so any warships built in America will be counted as part of the Royal Navy. The British cannot therefore violate the Treaty of London by building warships in American ports that might raise the strength of the British fleet to more than 2/3 of the French fleet.
Talleyrand does not like the idea, preferring to let the matter remain ambiguous. But being unable to talk Louis XVI out of it, he has his ambassador in London deliver the message. Privately, however, he assures the British ambassador in Paris that the matter can be allowed to remain murky.
The population of France itself has grown greatly in recent years, and the exodus of Frenchmen to the colonies (mostly to North America, but a growing number to French India) eases the growth only slightly.
Now that French merchants have access to Dutch colonies in Asia, competition is fierce. Although the Dutch maintain a large merchant fleet, they no longer have the resources the French have, and an increasingly large portion of the trade which had been under their control is now being taken by the French. Dutch merchants are becoming increasingly concerned and lobby the Dutch government for a revision of the Treaty of Calais.
The first elections to the American Parliament are held. The vast majority of seats are won by prominent merchants, lawyers and (in the Southern colonies) planters. John Adams is elected Speaker of the House of Commons. To create the American House of Lords, the King bestows noble titles on a number of prominent American figures.
Funds are appropriated to construct a suitable Parliament building in Philadelphia, and Thomas Jefferson is chosen as the principal architect (he had been pressured to run for Parliament himself, but he had declined).
Numerous pamphlets and small books are circulating in Paris, calling for serious reforms in the French governmental system. Nobles and the Church should have to pay taxes, say some. Others discuss means to root out corruption and nepotism. Many highly-placed officials are concerned at the growing reform movement and press the King to suppress it.
Among the firebrands writing in the Paris streets is an almost-unknown English émigré named Thomas Paine. He is among the few members of the reform movement who openly calls for the abolition of the monarchy, but his views are dismissed by the other members of the movement as utterly unrealistic and undesirable. Some people whisper that he is insane.
As steam technology gradually develops, British industrial output increases. Though still behind France, some French economists view this development with alarm. At the same time, British merchants operating from the small settlement at New Edinburgh are attempting to gain access to the East Indies trade, from which Britain has been largely excluded since 1775. Their efforts are not particularly successful, although French and Dutch smugglers are selling spices and Chinese goods at very high prices in New Edinburgh.
In response to growing British industrial production and the surprising performance of British navigators, the French Academy of Sciences launches a program to study British inventions, such as chronometers and steam engines, to see whether they might be duplicated in France.
King Louis XVI dies of tuberculosis. His fourteen-year-old son Prince Louis-Joseph-Xavier-Francois is immediately hailed as King Louis XVII, with a council of nobles (carefully selected by Talleyrand) to function as a Regency.
At the request of the British Parliament, the American Parliament appropriates money to construct warships in Philadelphia and Boston. This is not only a means for the British Empire to circumvent the restrictions of the Treaty of London, but is also seen as a means to provide jobs for the cities and to foster shipbuilding in general.
Spurned on by France and using the oppression of Christians as a pretext, the Austrians embark upon a major campaign against the Turks. Russia lies in wait, preparing to either jump on the weakened Turks themselves or prevent the Austrians from gaining too much territory. Talleyrand is delighted; thus distracted in the East, the Austrians and Russians will not be as interested in Italy, where France is gradually expanding its influence.
Really? I thought he left because he offended some nobleman.
But, a quick googling says you're right.
You're probably thinking of his exile to England, which took place ebcause he had offended a nobleman named Rohan (it wasn't enough that Rohan hired a gang of thugs to beat Voltaire up!). After three delightful years in England, he returned to Paris and wrote Letters on the English Nation, which so angered the government that Voltaire was pretty much ordered to leave Paris. He settled down in Cirey, where he lived for many years. It wasn't really an exile, though, and he visited Paris often during the Cirey period.
I really do like how you're fleshing out the *characters in this TL. I hope England comes out - they say that you only really support a nation unless it's knocked down a couple of notches. Just how big is the Dominion of America? Does it correspond with OTL's *USA about this year?
No, it's only as big as the pre-Revolution 13 colonies. The French control everything west of the Appalachians.
I'd make a map, but have no idea how.
Should that be the case, though?
The Americans and the British had already taken major positions in the Ohio region, like Ft. Duquesne (the site of modern Pittsburgh) in 1758.
I'd expect Kentucky and Ohio to be in British hands, at least.
I suspect a lot of second and third sons of british nobility are also going to be given American titles to sit in its house of lords.
Who controls Nova Scotia and Newfoundland?
Nice scenario thus far, by the way.
At the end of the Six Years War (Seven Years War IOTL) the British handed back whatever gains they made in the Ohio River region. France now controls what is now western Pennsylvania, although the area is mostly inhabited by French-allied Indian tribes, since the French don't think it's wise to have British and French colonists so close together.
As for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, the French took them in the Treaty of London in 1775 (I forgot to mention it in the actual timeline, so I'm adding it in now).
Talleyrand has himself appointed as Chief Regent, thus becoming the de facto ruler of France. While he enjoys the ability to generate wealth and attract women (not that he needed much help in that regard), he has no thought whatsoever of securing permanent political control over the country. For all his decadence and corruption, he is a French patriot and sees his rule as guiding the country wisely until Louis XVII comes of age.
In the meantime, he takes over direction of the young king’s education. Louis XVII spends most of the year traveling throughout Europe, learning languages and making connections, all while going through a rigorous course of study. To the confusion of the other members of the Regency Council, who would prefer Louis to spend his time engaging in the frivolous activities traditionally associated with the French royalty, Louis is made to learn law, economics, science and philosophy.
In a naval action against the Barbary pirates of North Africa, Royal Navy captain Horatio Nelson sinks of captures several enemy vessels, becoming a hero in Britain.
The French Reformists are getting increasing attention within France, as their writings spread throughout the middle class. Many nobles and clergy, jealous of their positions and especially their exemption from taxation, are pressuring Talleyrand to crack down on them, but he believes such an effort would only increase the Reformists’ influence and hence by counterproductive.
Austria inflicts a major defeat upon the Turks and captures much territory in the Balkans. Russia enters the war and launches a major campaign to seize territory before the Austrians can reach it.
The Republic of Venice joins the Holy Alliance.
Under pressure from other members of the Regency Council, Talleyrand issues a protest to Britain regarding the construction of warships in the Dominion of America. The British stall, citing various legal ambiguities regarding whether warships built in the Dominion of America are to be considered part of the Royal Navy. It is hoped that by the time the French force the issue, British naval strength will again be a match for French strength.
The French population explosion spurns colonization efforts. The colony in Australia continues to grow, and an effort to colonize New Zealand is also being considered. In North America, the population of New France is now nearly as large as that of the Dominion of America. Additionally, an increasingly large number of Frenchmen are immigrating to French India, which is increasing in size every year.
Austria and Russia continue to enjoy military successes against the Turks, and the Christian population in the Balkans secretly prepare for the end of Turkish rule.
In response to the British economic revival, Flanders (correctly seen as a French puppet state) passes significant tariffs on British goods passing through Antwerp. While not high enough to prevent British profits, they do siphon off a great deal of British specie into Flemish coffers and make it far easier for French goods to compete with British goods.
In response to Flemish trade barriers, the British shift their export trade almost entirely to Dutch and Baltic ports, bringing those areas greater prosperity. Furthermore, in order to hurt French trade with other European nations, the British commence “dumping” of various finished goods, which can be produced more cheaply in Britain than in France on account of superior British industrial technology.
French and Flemish merchants are outraged but rather powerless. Their economic prosperity is increasingly dependent on the re-export of luxury items from India and China. The British, for their part, are increasingly reliant on textile goods made in British factories from cotton grown in the southern states of the Dominion of America. The use of slave labor to grow the cotton is increasingly unpopular with many reformist elements in Britain, however.
In August, a petition signed by a large number of prominent Reformists, including several distinguished legal and business leaders, is printed in Paris. It calls for the creation of a “popular assembly” made up of “elected representatives” similar to the institutions in Britain and the Dominion of America. In addition, it calls for an end to the tax exemption of nobles and the Church.
Talleyrand is caught between two fires. On one hand, the conservative nobility wants the petitions arrested and tried. But Talleyrand also knows the increasing importance of the merchant classes to the prosperity of France and hesitates to move against them.
The situation is made worse when low-class citizens of Paris demonstrate in the street in favor of the Petitioners (as the signers immediately become known). The local authorities are terrified and, in breaking up the protest, several people are killed. Things quiet down shortly thereafter, but the situation is tense.
Great bit about the expansion of democratic ideals in France. Again, an excellent episode that doesn't really take the emphasis on France as uber-France, but giving some spotlight to England as well. I do like the Petition - if I can read it right - it's sort of a petition that leads to a certain action...
So what about the economic status of the Nordic countries and Germany in this tete-a-tete with England and France?
You mean the french are going to have a competent king which is interested in something else than court or his own personal glory?
That's going to be a first since Henry IV. This may well have a lot of impact on the petitioner. I see France staying a constitutional monarchy in this TL.
Since, IIRC, Flanders ( BTW, what does this cover? historically, some quite different territories have gone by that name ) his a personnal dukedom of the french king, that perception is rather obvious. BTW, what are the specific of the regency concil there while Louis is a minor? And is the majority age the same in both countries? It could be interesting if Louis is considered old enough to rule on his own in Flanders but still require a regency council in France.
Separate names with a comma.