The Better Angels (4)
May 31, 1830
8:00 a.m.
Hôtel de la République, New Orleans

Some things had to be done publicly. These days Whitehall had a number of back channels with which to convey information to the President and the Assembly, but this was a matter which the new formal ambassador, George Henry Rose, had to deal with himself. Right now, Rose was sitting in the back seats, ignoring the inquisitive glances of nearby reporters as he went over his prepared notes. There weren’t many. This was going to be a short speech. He would have preferred to go on at much greater length, but it seemed churlish to trespass on everyone’s time when there was only one crucial fact to be conveyed.

Rose himself had reached New Orleans earlier this year — only just in time for the funeral of Jacques Villeré, the first and fourth president of this tiny republic and the man who had done more than any other to bring it into being. (The ceremony had been Papist and riddled with superstition, of course, but Rose had refrained from commenting.) He had also been present for the election, which had been another victory for the Conservatives. And as soon as news had reached New Orleans of the introduction of the Slavery Abolition Act, and the rumours had gotten started, he had asked for this opportunity to address the Assembly. Labatut and the Assembly had granted it immediately.

“Tous se lèvent pour le Président de la République de Louisiane,” said the sergeant-at-arms, standing to the right of the lectern. Everyone on the iron balconies, of course, was already standing. Rose stood. Just as the last of the legislators and reporters had gotten to his feet, the door behind the lectern opened, and Bouligny stepped through. That door led to a path through the garden, at the other end of which was the President’s mansion. It was surprising how quickly new customs and traditions could form. The building was barely four years old and the republic itself had just turned fifteen, but, although as far as Rose new it wasn’t an official rule, no one used the President’s lectern or the door behind it apart from the President himself. Up to his right hand stepped gray-haired Jean-Baptiste Labatut, the war minister who had successfully prosecuted the war against the Indians in the west with the aid of his son, and who was likely to be well rewarded for it.

President Bouligny made a sweeping gesture, and everyone sat down again. The design of the assembly hall was different from the amphitheatres the Americans favoured — more like the House of Commons, with long tables in the center and tiers of seats to either side and at the far end from the lectern. (As yet, there were not enough Assemblymen to fill the seats, so the far end was still open to the press, guests of the Assembly and ambassadors like Rose.) The overall design sent the message that the attention of the legislators should be focused less on their leader than on one another. The chamber differed from the British model only in being in the midst of a great atrium with two wrought-iron balconies that wrapped around the walls, giving room for a crowd of any size to witness the proceedings.

Although at the moment, not many people were watching, or would want to. This part of this particular morning was devoted to interminable wrangling over the division of the Unorganized Territory into three official territories, which would one day become parishes.

As the morning progressed, more and more sunlight began streaming in through the southeast and southwest windows on the upper levels. The room grew steadily warmer, until Rose’s Savile Row suit became a bit uncomfortable. (According to the notes he’d been given, during the summer the Assembly often put matters of state on hold and vacated the building between eleven in the morning and three in the afternoon. The notes specified that this was not due to foreign indolence, but simply to the heat.) Looking at the space around the Assembly seating, and the balconies, Rose saw that more and more people were coming every minute. This might be the largest crowd the Hôtel atrium had held since the day of its opening, and he suspected — no, not suspected, knew — they weren’t here out of concern for whether Fort-You lay in Sabine Est or Ichacq, or whether the future parish of Villeré would have access to the Gulf or merely the Bay. They were almost all white or nearly white (here, as in the Spanish dominions, whiteness was more a matter of degree than an absolute category) and most of them were well-to-do — planters, or the sons or near kin of planters who worked in the city.

It was at 9:30 when Bouligny halted the debate over the Unorganized Territory and announced that it was time for their distinguished guest the ambassador from London to speak. Rose nodded, and stood.

“Citizens of Louisiana,” he said, “Assemblymen, M. President, I thank you all for your courtesy in granting me the opportunity to address this government and its people, and for coming here this morning to hear what I have to say.” He spoke in English — his French was passable, but right now he wanted to be sure of clarity. And most people here seemed to understand English anyway.

“There has been much speculation and much public concern, both within these halls and in the press, about what new policies my own government might follow with regard to Louisiana. I see no reason to keep you in further suspense — her Majesty’s Government shall not seek to alter or impede the institutions of this Republic in any way whatsoever.” The sound of possibly a thousand people all sighing with relief in something close to unison was not quite like anything he’d ever heard before. There was a smattering of applause.

“Now it is true,” he continued, “that a bill has passed the Commons and, at last report, was before the Lords. Should that bill pass, Her Majesty’s Government will embark on a series of reforms within its own dominions, colonies and possessions.” And should it fail, God save us all. There were rumours that Charlotte was considering raising a great number of Radicals to the Peerage if there was no other way to pass her agenda. That would be an unprecedented step, but she was the child of the two stubbornest fools of the age and the protégé of Henry Brougham — no one was prepared to say what she wouldn’t do.

“Over the course of the next five years, these reforms will have the effect of abolishing the institution of chattel slavery forever throughout the British Empire. But Louisiana is no part of that Empire — here the Crown protects, but does not rule. Her Majesty does not presume to dictate policy here, nor do her ministers. Let me further add that whatever course this body may choose to take with regard to slavery, the Empire shall never abandon this Republic to her enemies.” “Enemies” was perhaps the wrong way of putting it. This republic had only one enemy. But under the circumstances, one was enough.

“I believe I have thus answered the question of greatest concern to the minds of those assembled here. I welcome further questions.”

A strong-featured Assemblyman in his thirties stood. “I am Andre Roman, representing Saint-Landry,” he said in French. “I should like to know what your country’s policy will be in the future regarding runaway slaves that stow away on board British vessels.”

“The status quo prevails,” said Rose, responding in the same language. “Those found on ships in port will be evicted from those ships and given to the port authorities. On British ships in international waters, British law applies.”

A man in his early twenties, who had been seated not far behind where Rose had been sitting, stood up. “I am Olym-Joseph de Roffignac, of the New Orleans Tribune,” he said. The surname rang a bell, but Rose couldn’t remember who it was.[1] “Can you tell us what precautions are being taken against servile insurrection?”

The jocular answer would have been that “servile insurrection” was an oxymoron. Instead, Rose said, “Our regiments stand ready as always to defeat any insurrection by slaves, freedmen or anyone else.”

Of course that would be their primary concern, once they knew Her Majesty did not intend to tamper with slavery here. So it had been, all over the Caribbean basin, since Santo Domingo. If the slaves lived under the shadow of the lash, their masters lived under the shadow of the cane-knife. Small wonder, then, that they thought of slaves as nettles that needed to be grasped tight lest they sting — or that so many others sought to end the institution entirely with as little bother as possible. Rose personally felt that more needed to be done to Christianize the negroes of the West Indies before they were ready to be set free[2], but it was neither his place to make policy nor to offer his own opinion of it here. This ambassadorship was also not the posting he would have chosen — he would have preferred something to do with Florida, preferably an investigation of just how far gone into idolatry and darkness that land had been allowed to slide — but this was the duty he had been given and he intended to do it to the best of his ability.

[1] Roffignac is the son of Louis-Philippe de Roffignac, IOTL and ITTL a highly successful mayor of New Orleans and, ITTL, currently headmaster of the Grande École.
[2] My impression of George Henry Rose is that he seems to have been less a politician than a minister who got lost on the way to church. In 1823 he wrote a book-length letter “on the Means and Importance of converting the Slaves of the West Indies to Christianity.” The closest he came to talking about the well-being of said slaves was in discussing the rate of marriage among them.
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Excellent work!
So the city now has a small and mostly male but growing population of Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Serbs, Croats and various others working at the geologic pace of forced labor to improve the port and build a naval base, while the Berbers watch them and think “Wow, you Austrians really abolished the shit out of slavery in these parts.”

The Alaafin of Oyeau is happy to do business, but it took a lot of talking to get across the idea that the French don’t want slaves, won’t take them and have nowhere to put them. The CCA did not go into business to try to explain to a West African king that black lives matter, but here they are.

Really, really excellent lines here!
[4] IOTL Ramana died in 1828, and Ranavolana seized the throne and had Rakotobe killed. Also, IOTL Ranavalona had a son at this point… who was born fourteen months after the king died, but everybody pretended they couldn’t do math.
Let's see, is that because Flashman didn't exist iTTL? :)
Emperor Minh Mang’s whole court is telling that he needs to start making overtures towards the French — preferably right now, while he’s still more or less in a position of strength. If war happens, Vietnam won’t be able to stand alone against a British-armed Siam and he’s going to end up begging for help and taking whatever deal he can get. Minh Mang… doesn’t want to hear it. Not right now.

I would have thought that inviting the Brits in would be the best protection against Siam. If Siam is British aligned and Vietnam French, then there's going to be less restraint imposed by the Brits on Siam attacking/raiding/pressuring them. No?
In came gray-haired Jean-Baptiste Labatut, the war minister who had successfully prosecuted the war against the Indians in the west with the aid of his son, and who had been well rewarded for it.

Will we get any further details on the war in the west?

Also what is the state of the Louisianan military? After the war I expect they have a core of veteran officers and noncoms they will be retaining to build up. Do they have a military academy of their own yet or are they using British ones? Have they invested heavily in forts? What about their own navy? Are they seeking good relations with Mexico City for a back up ally if Britain were to be preoccupied when the Dead Rose blooms?
I'm sorry I've been away so long. In addition to my kinda-sorta paying work, I'm getting close to finishing the first draft of what I thought would be a single novel but is now Part 1 of a two-part series, while still working on completing the Locksmith Trilogy. It makes me happy to know people are still interested.

I would have thought that inviting the Brits in would be the best protection against Siam. If Siam is British aligned and Vietnam French, then there's going to be less restraint imposed by the Brits on Siam attacking/raiding/pressuring them. No?

Possibly, but then the danger of a proxy war would be replaced by the danger of Britain playing off Siam and Vietnam against each other. Of course, the question is academic as long as Minh Mang keeps saying no.

Will we get any further details on the war in the west?

Also what is the state of the Louisianan military? After the war I expect they have a core of veteran officers and noncoms they will be retaining to build up. Do they have a military academy of their own yet or are they using British ones? Have they invested heavily in forts? What about their own navy? Are they seeking good relations with Mexico City for a back up ally if Britain were to be preoccupied when the Dead Rose blooms?

There’s not that much to say about the war in the west. Even considering that this was a miniature state fighting an even smaller tribe, it was a fight of skirmishes rather than major battles. The Louisiana army has indeed gained experience, but its experience is in the area of irregular warfare rather than large-scale battles. Louisiana does not yet have its own military academy — the handful of officers formally trained to be officers got their training at the Royal Military College — but they do have a fair number of forts along the border. These forts were mostly built to British plans if not by the British themselves. They're staffed by Louisianans and a few British regiments.

Louisiana does have a navy, but it’s very small and entirely brown-water except for a few dispatch boats that run to and from Galvezville, Fort-Lafitte and Fort-You. However, some companies in the army are equipped with pirogues and rafts for transportation. There is much shouting going on in the War Department over whether these soldiers should be considered part of the army or the navy. “We’re talking about rafts and pirogues here, not warships!” “And exactly how big does a ship have to get before it counts as a naval vessel?” “They only use boats for transportation! They do all their fighting on land!” “So if they’re rafting through the bayou and an enemy opens fire on them, they’re going to wait until they’re on land before they start shooting back? I don’t think so.”

And New Spain is definitely a part of Louisiana’s immediate circle of allies.
Death of a Princess (1)
August 1, 1830
Governor’s Palace (formerly Bey’s Palace), Oran

In the heat of the afternoon, even rebels had to go inside and take a nap. This made it a good time for Governor Dupuis to catch up on his correspondence.

Newspapers and letters from friends brought him slightly dated news from around the world. In France, the rebellion had been crushed at last. Many of its more prominent supporters were fleeing to South America. Those who had been caught were being given the choice of prison or resettlement in Algeria, where an entirely different rebellion had been crushed.

In London, the Slavery Abolition Act had passed the Lords, with some changes. The five-year period of apprenticeship had been stretched out to seven years, and the compensation boosted slightly. The Truck Act also seemed likely to pass. The Tories were doing everything they could to slow down the Representation Act, but it seemed very likely to pass the Commons. What the Lords would do remained to be seen.

No question what the Government would do in response to the Zulus’ mad attack on Napier. Only the presence of British artillery had saved any part of the town from destruction. That called for a war, and a war that would not stop until Shaka was dead and replaced with the brother he had attacked Napier to kill.

And Dupuis was pleased to read that the Dutch out of Temmasek were conquering the Sultanate of Sulu. Civilization is on the march, he thought, in spite of this savage Shaka. This would create an awkward situation between the Netherlands and Spain, but men of good will could sort out such things without bloodshed.

Which led his thoughts, inevitably, back to the war that was his own responsibility. The situation was a stalemate. The rebels had tried to take Oran, and been spectacularly defeated. The British Empire controlled the city and its immediate environs, and had the ability to descend upon and obliterate any place on the coast suspected of piracy. Beyond that, Her Majesty’s soldiers were monarchs of all they surveyed… which was a vainglorious way of saying they controlled nothing unless they were staring directly at it, guns in hand. Nor would they, until Whitehall decided this place was more of a priority and sent more soldiers. Which was never going to happen, because apart from the port itself, there was nothing here of any value for the Empire.

But if he could not truly win, neither could Dupuis lose. The only way the rebels were going to win was if they got a regular supply of gunpowder and artillery — and the only ones who might be inclined to give them that were the Egyptians, who had little enough to spare.

Useless thought this colony may be, we mustn’t let them drive us out by force — we can’t afford the loss of prestige. We could leave of our own accord, hand this place back to the Dey. Or better yet, to this Abd al-Qadir, who seems like not a bad sort for an enemy… no. Within a month there would be pirates and slave-takers on the Mediterranean again. Whatever manner of man he is, there’s no promise he can make that others have not made and broken a dozen times already.

Something clicked in Joseph’s brain. If one man broke a promise, that was a dishonourable man. If many men broke the same promise, perhaps the promise itself was incapable of being kept. The Barbary Coast is poor, and it is violent. Wherever poor and violent men live alongside rich shipping routes, there will surely be piracy unless a strong hand can suppress it — and precisely because this place is poor, its overlord will never have such strength. Nothing much I can do about any of that… or is there? Perhaps there is a way to make this place less poor. Not through tribute — we’re done with that — but is there some crop that will grow here, some industry besides chaos that these men may turn their hands to?

What grows well in these arid climes that the world has a use for? I must give this matter more thought.
Death of a Princess (2)
I have by no means finished citing examples of such folly. Let us consider Cuba in 1830, when Captain General Francisco Dionisio Vives resigned due to ill health. The Cortes replaced the old lion with a man who appeared to be his diametric opposite — the thirty-three-year-old idealist José Antonio Saco.

Saco was given a very specific mandate by the Cortes. He was not to abolish slavery, nor even to reform it in any legal sense. Rather, he was to enforce the Black Codes which had been on the books since 1789, but had never truly been in effect. To this end, he was given funding with which to hire inspectors and guards. Saco himself disliked slavery, not least because he dreamed of encouraging white immigration to Cuba and black emigration from it.

But whatever his sentiments, there could be no question that slavery in Cuba could no longer continue as it had for centuries. The institution depended on a constant supply of slaves from Africa, both because the slaves brought in the trade were mostly male and because the practice of slavery on Cuban plantations devoured men’s lives as a rate that would have choked the gods of Carthage.

That supply was, at long last, beginning to decline. Between Jamaica, Florida, British Honduras and the Bahamas, Cuba was as surrounded by British possessions as any island could be, and the Royal Navy was in earnest about putting an end to the slave trade. No longer would slaves freed at sea be brought to La Habana and handed over to the Cuban authorities. Now they would be brought to Trafalgar, Kingstown or Cayenne until they could be sent to Sierra Leone for resettlement.

Nor would any nation’s shipping escape the Royal Navy’s attention. As part of his agreement with the Pedrist side of the Portuguese civil war, Grey had gained the right for the Navy to search Portuguese vessels in international waters if they were suspected of carrying slaves. No such agreement existed with the United States, but at this time that scarcely mattered — the last time the Americans had gone to war over the treatment of their merchant marine, it had ended rather badly for the young republic. And even the landholding elite that dominated the American south, lost in its own self-flattering delusions of propriety and gentility, despised slavers too much to go to war on their behalf.

With the foremost power of the world, the power that ruled the very seas that surrounded their island, having committed itself to the end of slavery within its own domains; with Haiti some sixty kilometers to the east (and still fighting the invasions of Cuba’s mother country) as a perpetual reminder that servile insurrection need not always fail; with sugar prices being undercut by plantations in Africa itself, it would seem that the greatest fool alive could see the hand of angels writing the fate of Cuban slavery as it existed. It would seem that the slaveholders of Cuba would welcome Saco’s new enforcement regime with the eagerness of drowning men grasping a float.

But once again, a landholding elite would prove itself to be as blind and brainless as any other species of leech or parasitic worm. Once again, a class of men whose only claim to prominence was the legal structure that bestowed upon them the fruit of other men’s labors would astonish the world by their stupidity. When the inspectors first began going to plantations, they were driven away by gunfire, and the planters began to rise in rebellion against the man who might have been their savior…

Guillaume Georges Elmar, The Governing Elites
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It's good having this back! At a guess, Joseph Dupuis is going to try and encourage citrus fruits growing?

And Elmar minces even less his words than Marx, doesn't he?
Good to see this return. Nice update in seeing how the world's developed with the British reforms going through as well as the fight against slavery. What this might mean for Cuba is interesting. Intervention from up north if things go really bad?