Republican Purple
As we head into the Year Without a Summer, I'm going to try to pick up the pace a little.

To help you visualize this next update, this is Republican Purple. I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations involving hex triplet color values and the area of the various parts of the flag, and came up with this. God only knows what it would have looked like using Stabler's original dyes — probably like something you'd pull out of the lint filter of your dryer.

I should note, however, that at this point, light purple wasn't quite the same cultural signifier that it later became.

DS Republican Mauve.png
Dead Roses
This next update is dedicated to the courteous, knowledgeable and sexy staff of Gadsby's Tavern Museum.

* * *

When the War of 1812 ended, the Madison administration had a little less than two years left and no political capital to speak of.
In spite of that, it was not entirely idle. In September of 1816 the President ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin surveying northeastern Mississippi Territory and western Alabama, charting the future course of the T&T canal. In January of 1816 the President signed the bill that outlined the Second Bank of the United States, to stabilize the currency and help pay off various debts. (As early as April of 1814, Madison had acknowledged the need for a national bank, but the urgency of the need had not become clear until Bloody May and its aftermath.) On some issues, such as the Northern Louisiana Question (see Chapter 4) or the persistent land disputes with the Cherokee and Choctaw, Madison chose not to take a position, considering these matters best resolved by Congress and the states. But for the most part, he continued carrying on his duties just as he had before the war and its disastrous end…

Meanwhile, in every city and town, the talk was all of what the next president should do. Should the militias be placed under federal authority? Should the army and navy be built up? How would all this be paid for? Everyone seemed to have an idea, and as Congress spent most of the latter half of ’15 out of session, they got an earful of the ideas of their constituents. John Sergeant, then a freshman representative from Pennsylvania and a former Federalist, described the election that put him in office as “like running in front of a stampede shouting ‘Follow me!’”…

When the high officials of Congress and the Madison administration arrived in Alexandria that March, they faced a very different party than the one that had caucused four years ago — and some of them were better prepared than others to turn the situation to their advantage.

Andrea Fessler, Rise of the Dead Rose

March 14, 1816
Alexandria, D.C.
4:15 p.m.
The punch bowl was hot, and filled the air with the smell of lemon, cinnamon and rum. James Monroe pressed his chilled hands against the side of the bowl, letting its warmth soak through his palms and fingers, and looked around the room. This year, it seemed, everyone who was anyone in politics had come to the Democratic-Republican caucus in Alexandria, in spite of the appalling weather, and regardless of whether or not they were actually congressmen.

For that matter, not all of them were Republicans. Monroe had seen a lot of Federalists in town, talking to the delegates. (The Federalists had spoken against the war — in fact, if one took the Hartford Convention at all seriously they had honestly considered secession. One might expect them to feel vindicated that the war had turned out so badly. Yet from what Monroe had heard, their party had effectively disbanded.)

And if you had to be in Alexandria in what was alleged to be March but felt like January, just about the best place to be was the taproom of Gadsby’s Tavern, in front of a steaming bowl of hot rum-punch with a couple of fellow Virginians, Senator James Barbour and Representative John Randolph of Roanoke. Better still, neither of them was wearing one of those strange cockades Monroe had been seeing around town (mostly on the hats and coats of the younger men), so he wouldn’t have to show his ignorance by asking what they signified.

Men couldn’t share a bowl of rum-punch without sharing at least a little conversation, but the three had confined themselves to pleasantries and a little talk of their families. Monroe struggled to think of something to say that wouldn’t sound like "so who’s going to be the next president?" (To which the only possible answer was "if you have to ask, it probably won’t be you.")

Monroe would have been the natural successor to Madison. Unfortunately, over the past two years he had served as both Secretary of War and now Secretary of State. No one exactly blamed him for the disasters that had befallen the republic in precisely those areas, but under the circumstances it was understandable that he was under a cloud. But Will Crawford, the likeliest alternative to him, was telling everyone he did not wish to be nominated this year. Now, the caucus was like a five-act play whose plot he’d long since lost the thread of but which he still had to keep watching. At this point, anything could happen.

“It frightens me, how angry the people have become,” said Barbour at last. “From what I hear, my own constituents are less riled than most. That seems hard to believe.”

Monroe could only nod. If he’d had a Spanish real for every time someone had stopped him on the street and asked him what he was going to do about Those Dreadful British, he could have bought New Orleans back.

“It’s not as thought we were ever in any danger of subjugation,” said Randolph.

Monroe nodded again. Wellington didn’t try to conquer us outright, he thought. He knew if he did, every man who could carry a gun would rise up to fight him. Never mind our army and navy — that was our true national defense. We thought it would be enough. We were wrong. We were wrong and now we don’t know what to do.

Randolph turned. “I say, John,” he said to a man in his early thirties, younger than Randolph himself.

“Yes?” Monroe had seen this man before. He was Representative Calhoun of South Carolina.

“What are those… curious decorations?” He pointed to the cockade on the hat tucked under Calhoun’s arm. It was, to Monroe’s eye, a dismal shade of faded purple even in natural sunlight, and looked worse by the light of lamps or candles. At last, thought Monroe, who had been waiting for someone else to ask this question.

For his part, Calhoun looked as though he’d been waiting for someone to ask him.

“This color is called ‘Republican Purple,’” he said proudly. “It is a symbol of national unity — Mr. Stabler, the apothecary who invented it, says it’s made up of the colors of the flag blended together in their proper proportions. We wear them to show our solidarity in this time of national crisis.”

“To me it looks rather like a wilted rose, but each to his own,” said Randolph.

Calhoun’s nostrils flared. His already fanatical face looked… more fanatical. Monroe stood up and lifted a hand in a calm-down gesture, trying not to display any sign of agreement with Randolph’s sentiment.

“No need for a quarrel over this,” he said. “It’s almost time for the speech anyway.” John Quincy Adams, son of the former president and lately returned from London, was scheduled to deliver some sort of address upstairs. Word had gotten around that he would have something important to say. (The ballroom in the hotel next door would have held more people, but it wasn’t quite somber enough for the occasion.)

Calhoun turned his back without another word and headed for the door. This bit of unconscious rudeness, directed at Monroe as much as Randolph, was yet another clue that whatever way the vote went, it wouldn’t be his way.

By this time, everyone else in the taproom was rising to their feet. In the hall, Monroe saw so many people coming in through the front door that it never had a chance to close, letting in a steady stream of cold air. Everyone seemed to want to hear what Quincy Adams had to say. (And why not? Did anyone else have any answers?)

The stairwell was narrow, and it took a little while for everyone to get up there. Monroe found himself standing in the hall next to William Henry Harrison, who was all too recognizable — the backblast from a Congreve at Roxbury had cost him his left eye and scarred that side of his face with powder burns. The ex-general was listening to Rep. Hardin of Kentucky, who was saying something about not conceding “one millimeter more” to British demands. (Along with Republican Purple, the younger DRP members seemed to have recently developed a peculiar fondness for the new system of measurement that had come out of France. It was “modern,” it was “advanced” and “scientific”… to Monroe it seemed wholly unnatural and ahistoric, but the French liked it and the British had no use for it, and apparently that was enough.)

The assembly room on the second floor of Gadsby’s Tavern could hold as many as three hundred people if they stood crowded together tightly enough, as they were doing now. Monroe saw the former presidents Jefferson and Adams standing side by side, both quite elderly but still sharp. The former Federalist, Senator Rufus King of New York, was at Adams’ right hand, his bald head framed by tufts of gingery hair. He was wearing a purple cockade on his wrist. In fact, at least a third of the people in this room, not all of them young men, had one of those things on or about their person somewhere.

A podium had been set up in the corner near the door. Already at the podium was Dan Tompkins, the governor of New York State. He was wearing a suit he must have borrowed from somebody, as it didn’t fit properly and everyone knew he’d bankrupted himself paying bills for the state militia out of his own pocket. The left sleeve hung empty — he had lost an arm below the elbow at Third Sackett’s Harbor.

Tompkins showed no inclination to speak, but stood there waiting, a box of cockades at his feet. It occurred to Monroe, at this point, to wonder how long the former president’s son had been planning this occasion, and how many others had joined him.

After a few more minutes, two men marched up the stairs and entered the room. The first was John Quincy Adams himself, bald and grim-looking. The cockade on the collar of his black coat looked oddly festive. Apart from nodding a little in his father’s direction, he walked up to the podium without acknowledging anyone else. There was probably a Bible on his person somewhere.

The second man, to Monroe’s utter astonishment, was Henry Clay, Speaker of the House of Representatives, also with a cockade on his collar. He and Quincy Adams had famously rubbed each other the wrong way at Ghent. Yet here he was, blond hair gleaming in the light of the chandelier, catching everyone’s eye, smiling and nodding, seemingly the opposite of the stern and unsociable Adams.

Quincy Adams stood at the podium, Clay and Tompkins behind him, straight-backed and stern-faced in postures of rectitude that, in Clay’s case, suited him not at all. The political implications of all these goings-on were easy to see. Tompkins represented New York State, while Clay represented the west and some of the south. What Quincy Adams was trying to show was that support for whatever it was he was proposing extended beyond New England.

Then Adams began to speak.

“My fellow Americans,” he said. “My friends and countrymen. Before we turn to the solemn business at hand, let us in our hearts acknowledge the Universal Giver of All Good, by whose beneficence our beloved nation has passed through darker times than this.” There was a long moment of silence.

“We know that without the blessing of Divine Providence our best efforts on behalf of our people will not be adequate; yet in all cases our best efforts are required of us. This is of particular import here, in Alexandria now, where we are assembled not merely to choose a candidate for the presidency, but to chart a course for the future — a course that we pray will lead our beloved republic out of the difficult straits in which we presently find ourselves.

“We have long known that the crowned heads of the earth — in particular those who pride themselves on their lineage rather than on their accomplishments — despise our government and its democratic and republican ideals.” Monroe had to admire the way Adams exempted the late Napoleon and France’s current crew of regents from this criticism without actually mentioning them by name.

“We have seen how the Crown impressed our seamen, seizing them like enslaved Africans from their life and work and dragging them into a fight not their own. We have seen how the British chose to make war on us, sacking and burning our coastal towns like so many Barbary pirates — even destroying our very capital merely for the sake of the doing. Henry and I witnessed at Ghent how the King’s ministers of state sent their lowest underlings to treat with us, and we heard the extravagant and importunate demands they made.” Behind him, Clay nodded.

“Now we have all tasted the full measure of their contempt. Having at last signed a peace treaty negotiated in good faith, His Majesty George III and his ministers tore it into pieces the very instant they thought they could gain an advantage by doing so. Then they sent the best of their cutthroats across the seas to wring a different agreement out of us by force.”

And there it was. Quincy Adams had just put his finger on the very reason the Federalists were in town, flaunting those hideous cockades and trying to pretend they couldn’t so much as find Hartford on a map. It wasn’t the defeat that stung — it was the insult. New Englanders, Southerners and westerners alike felt it.

The British had signed the Treaty of Ghent, and then broken it right away… because they could. Wellington’s “treaty” had been less cruel than it might have been, but if the Prince Regent and Lord Liverpool decided to wipe their fundaments with that one as well and to annex a few more square miles of American soil, who was going to stop them? If they decided to return to impressing sailors, or to just steal whole ships as they had stolen the Danish fleet at Copenhagen not ten years ago, who would stand up for the people and their property?

“And why should they not?” Adams continued, twisting the knife a little. “When they can take from us what they will without fear, what check have they on their appetites, save their own dubious consciences?” He stopped and drew a breath.

“Since then, until last autumn, I served as ambassador to the Court of St. James. I shall tell you what they think of us in three words — they do not. Our French allies hold the bulk of their attention. As to us, they have not the least notion of why we ever went to war against them in the first place, nor any curiosity to learn. If they consider the matter at all, it is only to congratulate themselves on having ‘put us in our place’.

“Which in some cases is apparently the grave. In April of last year, as many of you have heard, American prisoners of war — merchant seamen, for the most part — were massacred out of hand at Dartmoor Prison. His Majesty’s government disavowed responsibility.” What is he trying to do — start a riot? Monroe thought.

“What, then, is to be done? The easiest thing to do would be to do nothing, to answer the wrath of our people by counseling them to patience, to accept the indignity as weak nations must and move on with the business of state.

“If we do this, the passage of time will ease our current sense of outrage. If we do this, we may comfort ourselves with the thought that if our government lacks the power to protect us, it also lacks the power to tyrannize over us.” This was an argument that a good many people in this room, and especially John Randolph, would have agreed with.

“But if we do this, before long we shall know a tyranny of a different sort. We shall have a government that responds to the will of its people only when it dares, one that out of sheer necessity obeys the commands of the King of England as surely as if its members had been appointed by him and drew salaries from his treasury. We shall not, in any meaningful sense, have a republic any longer.

“I say this in bitterness — no weak and helpless nation can call itself a republic. Not while it has a strong neighbor with a mind to dictate terms.” The room was silent. No one cried out in protest. No one even muttered. But Monroe was sure he could feel the rage and hate radiating off the listeners like heat from one of the late Mr. Franklin’s stoves.

“There is hope,” said Adams. “There is a way forward. By the grace of Divine Providence there is a path to true freedom, but it requires great courage. Not the courage of the battlefield, of which Americans (many in this very room) have already shown a sufficiency, but courage of another kind. We must have the courage to trust one another, to overcome our ingrained fear of the very institutions we have built to enable us to rule ourselves…”

Monroe could already see where this was headed. A bigger army and navy, with wartime conscription “if necessary.” State militias fully subordinated to the federal army. Schools to train officers for the army and navy. Canals dug across the south, to replace the lost outlet on the Mississippi. More and better roads. Tariffs and taxes to pay for all this.

Sure enough, this was the plan Quincy Adams proposed. As he spoke, Monroe admired the way he wove the Federalist advocacy of internal improvements into the Democratic-Republican agenda. And truth to tell, there were a good many of Adams’ ideas, such as support for domestic manufacture that he favored. It would mean a rise in the power of Washington at the expense of the states, but at this point there seemed to be no way to avoid that. He had some questions about the constitutionality of internal improvements at the federal level, but a carefully worded amendment should safely resolve that issue. And from the expressions and sounds of approval that the crowd in the room made, few people had even as many reservations as Monroe.

Few, but not none. Out of the corner of his eye, Monroe saw John Randolph stalk out of the room and down the stairs. What would you have us do, if not what he proposes? Monroe wished he could ask the man. How do you answer his reasoning? Adams simply went on with his speech.

“It may seem impossible, now,” Adams continued, “that our republic should ever have the strength to resent such insults as have been given to it. But let us remember that a journey of a thousand mi— kilometers begins with a single step.

“In the past generation, our territory has expanded and our population has more than doubled. With war and hunger in Europe, many more immigrants will come to our shores in search of peace and freedom. As we grow in numbers, so shall we also grow in industry and finance, which are the bone and blood that sustain any modern military force. One day — perhaps not in my lifetime, but one day — we will have the strength to defend our own against the British Empire, or any other power that cares to try us. It remains for us to make our government fit to employ such strength.

“Yes, this work must be undertaken with care and forethought. The greater the power wielded by the people’s representatives in this district, the surer must be their accountability. The rights of the people must be kept safe and secure, and they shall.

“Indeed, if we do our work correctly they shall be all the safer. We do not fear the strength of the horse that pulls our plow, nor the ferocity of the dog that guards our gate at night. Rather, we cherish these qualities, so long as these creatures are governed by our will. So shall the newfound might of our government be at the service of our will.

“What I propose, then, is not a revolutionary change by any means. It is simply the next step in the long process that began forty years ago this coming summer — the process by which we, the people of the United States, take charge of our common destiny.”

There was a long moment of silence.

Then, as one, the men in the room began to applaud.

“ADAMS FOR PRESIDENT!” someone shouted.

QUINCY ADAMS FOR PRESIDENT!” shouted someone else, more precisely. Out of the corner of his eye Monroe saw that it was Congressman Webster of New Hampshire, a young ex-Federalist who not two years before had made a name for himself with his eloquent speech denouncing the very concept of conscription. Up at the podium, Clay was lighting a cigar.

Monroe was a moderate man by nature. The emotions in the room — in the nation as a whole — frightened him a little. He knew that it was at just such a moment as this that the Israelites had forsaken the godly rule of the judges and appealed to Samuel for a king. It was in such a dark hour that the Romans had cast aside their republic and embraced the false glories of empire. What he had never understood until now was that there was a reason men made such foolish choices. If a Saul, or a Caesar, or a Napoleon came before the people right now, they would follow him and never look back, he thought. And one may yet come, if we cling too hard to the status quo. Thank God, for now, we have this man instead. He is no tyrant in the making.

The listeners were already gathering in front of the podium. Everyone who didn’t have a cockade, it seemed, was getting one now. Monroe worked his way through the crowd, summoning the will to say what he had to say. Finally, he stood in front of Adams.

“I shall withdraw my name from consideration directly, and endorse you for the presidency in my place,” he said. There. It was that easy.

“Thank you,” said Adams. “That is most gracious of you, but you needn’t withdraw entirely. It occurs to me that even now, sectional loyalties remain strong enough that it might be wise for me to have a Virginian on the ticket.”

Tompkins extended the box of cockades. Adams reached down and pinned one onto Monroe’s lapel.

Free Lancer

Wow so it begins and i got to say looking forward for the next update all ready

And I’m wondering about Adams comment on our French Allies Very interested in how that is going to Develop.

Possibly a French and US Special relationship replacing the British one if things go well.
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Wow, HUGE development!!! Quincy Adams elected in 1816? Interesting concept, and I can't wait to see how you play it out!!! Although I'm pretty sure Jackson's ghost will beat him for reelection; Jackson will always beat Adams. Its a shame what happened to Harrison, or should we call him Two-Face now? :p Its sounds like Monroe won't have much of a future, unless Adams GENUINELY values his opinion and he helps Adams run the country from the Vice Presidency. I'm surprised Webster was the one who shouted. He never laughed, rarely smiled, and its a little shocking to see him get so, whats the right word, involved as an audience member.

P.S. When Adams is done, I hope there is a cutthroat struggle between Clay and Webster to succeed him :D
The question is, can Quincy Adams ride the tiger? If he intends a long term economic and military build-up so that the the US is able to be a lot more powerful in the longer term can he get people to wait that long? Stirring up hatred and xenophobia like that he's likely to have people want to attack Britain a long sooner. If he can't hold them back then the US is likely to get a real drubbing.

Also I wonder if Monroe is right in assuming 'He is no tyrant in the making'? Its the sort of programme a Napoleon would be proud of.;)

I would guess Adams as looking to be such a figure as those named. And why not? Napoleon I died a death worthy of a hero/martyr ITTL rather than perishing a defeated exile.

Republicanism ITTL may be seen as quite different from OTL.

Though as Stevep states the question ill be how effective Adams is at controlling the masses in this new one party state.

I wonder how John Randolph and his compatriots will respond?

Might we see AntiAdams americans end up in Louisiana and Canada?
I would guess Adams as looking to be such a figure as those named. And why not? Napoleon I died a death worthy of a hero/martyr ITTL rather than perishing a defeated exile.

Republicanism ITTL may be seen as quite different from OTL.

Though as Stevep states the question ill be how effective Adams is at controlling the masses in this new one party state.

I wonder how John Randolph and his compatriots will respond?

Might we see AntiAdams americans end up in Louisiana and Canada?

Herr Frage

I was thinking of his role, in both TLs, as a pretty ruthless dictator.;) Also whether Adams could avoid following his path to relying on aggressive warfare, given the basic theorem of hostility towards its neighbours.

Herr Frage

I was thinking of his role, in both TLs, as a pretty ruthless dictator.;) Also whether Adams could avoid following his path to relying on aggressive warfare, given the basic theorem of hostility towards its neighbours.


SteveP, that was an observation of his PR ITTL, not a statement of my opinion on the Great Emperor.

I admit I know little of John Calhoun other than him being a very Southern politician of, Maryland was it? Was he a radical OTL or has he been energeized by the ITTL war?
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I admot i know little of John Calhoun other than him being a very Southern politiciaan of, Maryland was it? Was he a radical OTL or been energeized by the ITTL war?

He was from South Carolina, and during his life was a Senator, Congressman, Vice President, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State. In his younger days he was a firm nationalist and war hawk, but in the late 20s he became a spokesman of the south and he was pretty much the father of the theories of nullification and secession.
He was from South Carolina, and during his life was a Senator, Congressman, Vice President, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State. In his younger days he was a firm nationalist and war hawk, but in the late 20s he became a spokesman of the south and he was pretty much the father of the theories of nullification and secession.

Thank you. It seems he may end up being a power player in this new regime. Perhaps Adams' man in the South?
Without a Summer (1)
Thank you. It seems he may end up being a power player in this new regime. Perhaps Adams' man in the South?

Calhoun and Adams will be allies at first… but I don't think it's giving much away to say that the issue of slavery will eventually come between them.

In the meantime, let's check in on Spain, bearing in mind that nothing called "A People's History" is going to be completely unbiased.

The decision that would lead to the birth of a new and ghastly tyranny seemed at the time like a perfect compromise, and a relief to the April Crisis.

Some historians have claimed that Ferdinand VII’s decision in January of 1816 to send ten battalions of his armies to reinforce his loyalists in the New World was motivated by national interest, not by self-interest. This ignores most of what we know about the man and the state of mind he was in at this point. “Ferdinand the Desired” desperately desired to give his most competent (and therefore threatening) officers duties that carried them as far away from him as possible.

Yet it was also very much in the interest of the nation that he do so. Spain’s overseas possessions had not been so valuable since the days of the treasure ships. The grain and salted meat they provided was already a national asset, and would soon be keeping Spain alive and providing it with hard currency.

So the battalions assembled in the south of Spain, and on April 1 they made their move… against their own king. Within three weeks, this army was marching on Madrid. Only once, at Andújar, did it even face opposition, and Col. Rafael del Riego organized an attack that won that battle in less than 90 minutes. Ferdinand retreated to the Escorial, hoping that his own loyalists would put down the munity. He did not realize that for all intents and purposes, he had no loyalists left.

So it was that the Escorial Agreement was reluctantly hammered out. The Constitution would be reinstated. The Cortes General would convene. The ten battalions would remain in Madrid, making sure these things happened on schedule. Ten more battalions would be raised for the original purpose of subjugating the American rebels.

The new armies were accompanied (and, on paper, led) by Ferdinand’s brothers Charles and Francisco. Even at this stage, his writings reveal that Ferdinand was planning on the political settlement that (he hoped) would tie his American possessions more closely to the Spanish crown while at the same time keeping his brothers safe from any France-like outbreak of revolutionary violence. Before leaving, Charles famously said “I will return.”

Diego Marquez Rodriguez, A People’s History of the Virreinato
Intriguing. Not Ferdinand VII, this seems pretty much par for course on his part.

Dare I hope for a Bourbon Kingdom in the Americas though?
I should note, however, that at this point, light purple wasn't quite the same cultural signifier that it later became.
:D:D:D do you mean what I think you mean? lol also the TL is good so far
THIS IS AMAZING- if I had known this was here, I would have put off making my own thread until I had finished reading this. A plausible tl presented in an interesting story. Awesome job.
Without a Summer (2)
:D:D:D do you mean what I think you mean? lol also the TL is good so far

THIS IS AMAZING- if I had known this was here, I would have put off making my own thread until I had finished reading this. A plausible tl presented in an interesting story. Awesome job.

Thanks, everybody.

As for the "cultural signifier" remark, I just thought somebody would want an explanation for why all these guys were willing to go around wearing a badge that's basically mauve. I probably didn't need to worry.

(Republican Purple is strictly a Democratic-Republican party symbol. So I won't be putting it on the flag or in the world map.)

Now then…

What historians have come to call the “Other Peninsular War” was really several separate conflicts. The first took place from March to May of 1815, when the Kingdom of Naples, under the leadership of Napoleon’s brother-in-law, declared war on Austria. That phase of the war ended in Austrian victory and the restoration of a Bourbon king to the Neapolitan throne, although the city of Gaeta was never taken by the Austrians. (To this day, Gaeta is called “the unconquered town.”)

The second conflict ran from August of that year to August of 1816, when the people of northern Italy rose up against Austrian rule. The uprisings spread throughout Italy (relieving the siege of Gaeta). In the chaos, Gioacchino Murato returned to northern Italy at the head of a band of followers. Over the course of the next six or seven months, he succeeded mainly in forcing the Austrians to send an ever-increasing number of soldiers into the peninsula, taking them away from the fight against House Bonaparte in France. What he did not succeed in doing was driving them out.

And then the weather changed.

Historians call 1816 “the year without a summer.” We now know that the bad weather of that year was caused by a series of volcanic eruptions over the previous four years, culminating in the Mount Tambora blast of 1815. These eruptions created a tremendous accumulation of volcanic ash and aerosolized sulfides in the upper atmosphere, which drifted poleward and built up in the skies over the Northern Hemisphere, reflecting sunlight back into space and lowering temperatures from China to New England. As a result, subnormal temperatures plagued Europe and northern North America throughout the year, destroying crops, causing widespread hunger — even famine — and severely limiting the ability of the affected nations to support armies in the field.

France was particularly hard-hit, with average summer temperatures lowered by over three degrees centigrade over most of the nation’s territory. Despite the best efforts of the new government (mindful of what the bread shortage had done to the last Bourbon king) to purchase and distribute food as broadly as possible, the nation teetered on the edge of famine all that year. Two things only saved the nation from collapse — a temporary interruption in the British blockade of the French ports (so that food could be shipped to British POWs in French prison camps) and the importation of (very expensive) grain and dried meat from Spain via the New World.

The result of all this was that for most of the year, France’s logistical capacity was not even half what it had been in 1815 — and what capacity it did have was tied down around Bruxelles and Anvers, fighting the Anglo-Dutch invasion, or running around the south fighting royalist rebels. When Murato asked the Regency Council for military aid to keep the Italian rebellion alive, they could afford to send him only a few companies of artillerymen. (As Prince Joseph put it, “A cannon does not need bread.”)

To the Austrians, this looked like an opportunity to crush the rebellion once and for all. Unfortunately, they had the same problem France did — they could deploy an army, but not feed it. The sensible solution would have been to disband the army in Baden, on the east bank of the Rhine — but Baden had only recently entered into permanent alliance with the Hapsburg, and Francis I had hopes of winning their vassalage. Abandoning them would not do.

Instead, on August 20, 1816 (coincidentally the first anniversary of the death of Napoleon) Francis gave a simple order to his armies in Italy:

“Live off the land.”

It was hardly unprecedented. The armies of the various Coalitions had done it often enough before, and the late Napoleon (and his brother-in-law) had done it on almost every campaign. Perhaps someone in the Emperor’s court tried to tell him that this was no normal year, and that such an order would plunge Italy into the depths of famine and earn him the everlasing hatred of its people.

If so, it only made things worse. In what he seems to have thought was a gesture of mercy, Francis I called upon all Italian rulers (other than the pope, whom even he didn’t dare strong-arm) to contribute towards feeding the Austrian army. This was perhaps intended to spread the burden as far as possible, so that no one part of Italy would suffer too much. But as a young Guillaume Georges Elmar would say some twenty years later, “The level of corruption in any transactional relationship increases according to the cube of the number of intermediaries.” At a time when well nigh everyone was desperate for food, every petty monarch and local lord from the King of the Two Sicilies on down had just been given permission — indeed, virtually commanded — to steal all the food they could and blame it on the Austrians.

Count Nugent would later say that “no one could have predicted” what happened next…

Robert W. Derek, Great Blunders of World History
Without a Summer (3)
June 30, 1816
9:45 a.m.
Bois de la Vente, central France

Today was shaping up to be a good day for Arthur Wellesley, First Duke of Wellington. He was hungry and chilly, but he had a hard time remembering what it was like not to be. Considering that this was a prisoner-of-war camp in a country where food was desperately short, he was doing surprisingly well. It gave him a feeling of pride that the French didn’t quite dare allow British prisoners to starve to death.

More importantly, he actually had something to do right now — a rare treat in this place of soul-killing boredom. He had obtained a rag too worn and threadbare to use as clothing. He had coated it with mud. Now he was going to hunt down that damned draft in the side of his cabin, and when he found it, by God he would plug it. (Not even a year ago he had been leading armies in battle. Now his definition of excitement was… this. Being a prisoner of war greatly altered one’s perspective on life.)

The duke stooped over and rolled up his left sleeve, exposing the sensitive skin of his wrist to the air. There was a good breeze blowing outside, in almost the right direction… he moved his arm a little closer to the wall… aha! An inch above the floor, where he could barely see it from above, one of the boards had shrunk! Wellington lay down on the floor and with great care wedged the muddy cloth into the crack. One more enemy vanquished.

To celebrate, Wellington decided to read a couple of letters. To a literate man in this camp, anything with writing on it was a treasure on a par with warm, dry stockings. The guards had allowed six letters through — three of them from his wife, one from Lord Castlereagh, and one each from Sir Neil Campbell and a former aide. He went outside and wiped his fingers on the dead grass, removing every last trace of the mud, before handling any of the precious correspondence.

Campbell’s letter revealed, among other things, that he had been appointed governor of what had once been French Guiana and was now British Cayenne — or would be, as soon as the Portuguese had left. (By now they almost certainly had. The letter was a few months old.) Cayenne was something of a backwater, but it was a sign that the Crown still trusted the man.

“Whenever I have been tempted to bewail the Mistakes and Misfortunes of my life, I have reflected upon you and the Example you set in your daily life, and have cast aside self-pity,” wrote Campbell. “I pray that you may soon return to receive the Encomia of the Nation you have served so bravely.” Which was heartening, even if the first sentence was the sort of thing one said to a man if one never expected to see him again this side of Heaven.

The other letter was from James Morriset, his aide-de-camp from the American campaign and a man who Wellington thought could have taught Campbell the true meaning of misfortune. He wrote to say that he had been promoted to lieutenant colonel and reunited with the 80th Foot, which had been posted to Sicily to help the local authorities keep order. (Wellington knew little of what had passed in the outside world, but apparently the situation in Italy had completely gone to hell.) Morriset was trying to learn enough Italian to communicate with the locals, or at least enough to learn what “orco-viso” meant.

Wellington was imagining Morriset, with his impeccable clothing and his distorted nightmare of a face, terrorizing his soldiers in the midst of a sunny Mediterranean climate, when two people approached him — a guard and someone he didn’t know, carrying a large valise.

“M’sieur Wellesley,” said the guard, too much the republican to acknowledge anyone’s dukehood, let alone a British prisoner’s.

“Your Grace,” said the man with him in what was unquestionably an English voice. “Sir Richard Croft, at your service.” He had short, rumpled hair and looked well-dressed and, if not corpulent, certainly without the gauntness that Wellington saw on guards and prisoners alike. The duke’s hand went to the eleven months’ growth of beard on his face. He wished someone had warned him he would have visitors.

“You will come with us, please,” said the guard. Wellington wondered what he had done to earn a visit from the royal physician.

As they approached the guardhouse, Wellington noted the air of ingrained, well-nigh permanent sorrow that Croft had about him. The last man Wellington had seen in this state was Campbell, when they had met at Nancy. It was the look of a man who felt that he had, in some deep and profound way, failed.

“How goes the war?” said Wellington.

“It could be worse,” said Croft. “The weather held Beresford in place for most of the spring. Last month, he tried to force a crossing near the coast with the help of the Royal Navy. It was a disaster — two first-rates and five frigates lost to French fireships in the Waal. But he tried again further east, and the last I heard, he had taken Nijmegen. How far he'll go from there, given the weather… that I cannot say.”

The guardhouse had an iron stove that had recently been filled. It was warm, and growing warmer. Which was just as well, since Croft was asking Wellington to strip naked. The duke took off his shirt and trousers and then unwrapped, one by one, the strips of rags that were wrapped around his limbs like bandages — not tightly, as some poor fools had done and cut off their circulation, but with great care so as to stay in place and offer an extra layer of protection against the cold.

“You’ve gotten rather thin, of course, but there are no obvious signs of ill health,” said the doctor. “You have an excellent constitution, Your Grace.” When he got to Wellington’s left foot, and noticed that the outermost toe was gone, he turned to the guard and said “How did this happen?” as though the guard might have personally lopped it off.

“My own carelessness and nothing else,” said Wellington. “I was on a wood-chopping detail around… January or February, I believe it was… and the rag I was using for a shoe was threadbare in that place. I was quite engrossed in my work, and by the time I noticed, the damage was done.”

“I see,” said the doctor. “Well, given that all France is on short commons, I can report that you have not been ill-treated. I hope to find the rest of our men in similar fettle. I dare say you will be glad of this, however.” He opened his valise.

A new, clean greatcoat of good English wool.

A new, clean shirt. Linen.

New, clean trousers. Linen.

New, clean stockings and underdrawers. Linen.

And a pair of boots. Not just any boots, but the kind he had specially made by Hoby of St. James’.

Wellington could not remember the last time his eyes had filled with tears. With each article of clothing he put on, he felt a little of his old dignity return. The only thing that troubled him was the thought of how much better off he was than everyone else in camp.

And then he saw what was on the desk before him.

It was a parole. If he signed it, he would be bound by honor, not to mention self-preservation, not to bear arms against France or her Italian allies for the duration of the war.

“You heard what happened to Louis?” said Croft glumly.

“I heard rumors of it,” said Wellington. “I dismissed them as lies cooked up by Lanjuinais and his crew.”

“If only they were,” said Croft. “Your Grace, the King of France is dead.” Wellington remembered that Croft had been assigned to take care of the man. No wonder he was so downcast.

“It happened in Marseilles,” the doctor continued before Wellington could ask. “Lowe still holds the city… for now, at least. It’s become something of a royalist stronghold. The King was to make a speech… a great crowd of them had assembled… a cold, foggy day with heaven only knows what foul miasmas in the air… And after he spoke, he came to greet his people.”

“Was there an assassin among them?”

“No. Or at least, not a deliberate one. But so many of them were ill…” Croft shook his head.

“The King took ill,” said Wellington.

“I did everything in my power. I bled him again and again, but the humours would not come out and he became weaker and weaker…” Wellington had seen enough sick and wounded men to suspect that the attentions of doctors were more likely to kill than cure, but he had no plans to say so.

“The line has not ended — there is a brother, Charles — but…” Croft’s voice trailed off.

“But the Crown has decided to abandon the Bourbon cause and recognize this Regency Council as the legitimate government of France, so that we may give them our parole and be of use to their Lordships somewhere, if not the Low Countries.”

“Yes,” said Croft. “The war continues — for now, at least — but recognizing the French government will make peace easier, come the day.”

“And so here you are to assess our condition and arrange our freedom,” said Wellington. “I trust this means the royal family is in good health?”

“Yes. They have not dismissed me — the Prince Regent and his brothers still have some trust in me. Princess Charlotte is another story. She already favors the Prince Consort’s German doctor, Baron Stockmar. I pray no harm will come to her as a consequence.”

Wellington nodded, then signed the paper. So that was that. His sojourn here was at an end, as was his part in the war on France. Perhaps there would be work for him in India.
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Adams in 1816, with Monroe as a possibility on the ticket, or the cabinet.

The only thing i wonder now is who exactly would the opposition be? I mean, Crawford has said no, so unless he reneges to offset Adams. But i doubt he would get very far, Adams is playing off the war, playing directly to the people, (and giving them a vision of a stronger, rebuilt and restructured American society) and Crawford AFAIK, was extremly opposed to anything that Adams would be sprouting, and was an ardent states rights activist.