The Dead Skunk

Nice chapter! Interesting, well written. Glad to see this timeline defies the "nothing ever happens in South America" trope, with style.

(Missing threadmark?)
 
Interlude: December 23, 1834 (7)
The United Kingdom
Things have changed. You can see in in the fashions people are wearing—which we’d better talk about now, because when future K-graphists create period pieces set in the earliest years of the Charlottean/Second Napoleonic era, their costume departments are going to get it wrong. Armed with magazine illustrations, but no photographs, they’re going to depict all the men in London wearing the dramatically high-collared, wide-lapelled tailcoats made popular by Prince Consort Leopold and the women wearing flowing, pleated silk confections that grace and flatter the lines of a plus-size woman[1] but make a slender woman look like she’s being eaten by the drapes. And this is how a lot of people dress, because looking like you don’t need to worry about money—especially when you do—never quite goes out of style.

But the majority of the people you see on the street are wearing old clothes, many of them dating to the 1820s, all patched up and thimmoned into something that can be mistaken for respectable. This is especially true in Dublin, where the Duke of Wellington has been serving in Dublin Castle as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for the past five years now, backed up by Chief Secretary for Ireland William Sharman Crawford and (though his duties are extremely limited and he spends the bulk of his time on schoolwork) Leopold Prince of Wales.

Once again, as with the Caroline affair and the Roman Catholic Relief Act, Wellington finds himself butting heads with people who are ideologically on his side. His biggest headache is the Tithe War, which for a moment there looked as though it really was going to become a civil war. Since Irish Catholics have stopped paying their tithes to the (Anglican) Church of Ireland, the Church enlisted the aid of the constabulary in going around seizing property by force. There were a dozen incidents of violence in 1830 and 1831, and in one of them—at Dunnamaggin in February of 1831—the constables lost. Twelve of them were killed, and the rest were injured or driven away.[2] Several people were arrested, but all the trials ended in hung juries. (It was very hard for the jurors to concentrate on the evidence with all the noise outside from the angry mobs consisting of their friends and neighbors.)

Archbishop of Canterbury William Howley has never been shy about stepping into politics, voicing opposition not only to the Roman Catholic Relief Act but (going so far out of his lane he was practically in oncoming traffic) the Great Reform Act. Having pissed off both the last PM and the current one, he decided it was time to call in all those favors he’d earned.

First he called upon the Duke of Wellington to use his famous martial prowess to enforce the Church’s rights in Ireland. Wellington—not a man who cares to admit his own helplessness in any matter—told him bluntly that the Church of Ireland has had almost three hundred years to bring the Irish around, and they shouldn’t come crying to him if they can’t get it done.

He next appealed to Queen Charlotte, reminding her of her coronation oath to defend the Church of England. Charlotte (whose grudge against him is far more personal than the Duke’s) replied, “What would you have me do, Your Grace? Abandon my other duties, take ship to Ireland and ride about the island plundering cattle in the Church’s name?”

Reluctantly, the bishops of the Church of Ireland decided to suspend collection of tithes from the unwilling until such time as Parliament would take action to guarantee their security. Parliament has had better things to do.

So has Wellington—on top of this mess, he’s been trying to encourage the railroad industry in Ireland. (If there’s another rebellion, he wants to be able to move troops in and squash it quickly.) This means dealing with a lot of landowners, many of whom of course are not in Ireland at all and aren’t good at responding to missives from Dublin Castle. But Wellington is nothing if not stubborn, and now there’s the beginnings of a railroad grid in County Dublin, northern County Down and southern County Antrim.[3]

The Duke’s other job has been preventing anything serious from happening between the Cub (a nickname which doesn’t really suit him any more, as he turned 17 a month ago and he’s over six feet tall) and Crawford’s 16-year-old daughter Mabel.[4] It will be a relief when the young prince joins the Army next year, and Wellington dares hope the young prince will prove halfway competent—certainly better than his maternal grandfather.

The UK is now five years into the reign of Queen Charlotte and the government of PM Grey. If the beginning of this era felt like Christmas morning for Radicals, the present feels more like Boxing Day—all the gifts have been given, and at least some of them are what they always wanted, but the world is starting to return to normal.

By any measure, Grey has gotten more things done in five years than Wellington did in seven. The Great Reform Act, the Municipal Corporations Act of 1834 which increased accountability and popular participation in local government, the Truck Act of 1830—these are systemic reforms whose effects people are only beginning to see. The repeal of the Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act was a blow for freedom of expression. And of course there’s the abolition of slavery in the Empire.

But the global recession is hitting Britain hard. In the 1832 elections, Grey’s government expanded its majority—you can read all about it in Charles Dickens’ articles in The Mirror of Parliament—but there’s another round coming up next year and no one’s sure they’re going to do so well. For one thing, although property requirements have been lowered, they still exist, which means some people who were able to vote in ’32 won’t be able to vote in ’35.

The biggest domestic thorn in the side of Gray’s government has been the Corn Law. Repealing it, as some Radicals and free-trade Tories want, would make life easier for the urban poor, but as it stands it makes life easier for the rural poor. Even after borough reform, there aren’t enough votes to change it.

Then there’s the New Poor Law, which was passed just last year—if it had come up this year, they might have thought twice about it.[5] This law (in accordance with the 1830s’ best economic theories, which are roughly on par with its best medical theories) was actually designed to make things worse, ensuring that workhouses will not be better than the poorest person’s house. Grey’s government may be liberal, but its constituency is middle-class. The poor are no one’s constituency, because—it bears repeating—they don’t have the vote… even though there are now more of them. Queen Charlotte can and does practice and advocate charity on their behalf, but that’s about it.

Some of the new poor are in Lancashire, where the cotton mills have been slowed down by Biddle’s cotton monopoly attempt, bringing many people who had little to begin with much closer to destitution. The Manchester Champion has been a relentless advocate for the workers, but has directed most of its editorial anger at the United States.

And so, it seems, has everybody else in Britain. Not that the U.S. is the only country they’re angry at—alleged ally Spain is raising tariffs on products from all countries, but especially on British wool—but the rage against America is immense. To get the full unpleasantness of all this, let’s look at it from the point of view of a small, frail young American student. His name is Alexander Hamilton Stephens, and there’s a million things he’d rather be doing right now. He graduated from Franklin College in Georgia in 1832 at the top of his class, and moved on to Oxford to study the sciences, especially meteorology—but the storms he’s been seeing this year are not the kind he came to learn about.

Back in January, Home Secretary Brougham gave a speech in front of the Commons commemorating the life and death of a British sailor by the name of John Glasgow. It particularly emphasized his misfortune at the hands of the American authorities, and his choice to die fighting for his freedom rather than live as a slave, and to make the entire city of Savannah his personal funeral pyre, “like Samson destroying the ungodly with his final act.” Stephens knows this because the speech was reprinted in full in The Times, which thanks to the railroad is now available in Oxford only a few hours after it hits the London streets. He gave it a hate-read, and was chilled at Brougham’s ability to elicit rage and loathing from his listeners toward his intended target without sounding angry or hateful himself.

This speech captured the attention of the British abolitionist movement, briefly drawing it away from Grey’s government. Although that government has pushed up the timetable for emancipation, the movement believes it’s still taking too long. Radical MP George Thompson has been getting impatient, and at one point the Prime Minister’s own son (serving as Undersecretary of State for War and the Colonies) threatened to resign his post if the timetable wasn’t pushed up again.[6] But since Brougham spoke, it’s harder to make the case that the problem is the government that’s trying to free enslaved people at whatever pace, rather than the government that tried to enslave a free person.

Even the Tories are angry. Black or white, they say, Glasgow was a British sailor, born on their sacred soil and serving in their semi-sacred merchant marine. He was British. How dare those arrogant little colonial slaveocrats lay hands on him? They made such a to-do over impressment of American sailors back during the war, and now they do this?

Stephens can’t believe these people actually mean what they say. Not only is he convinced in his bones of the superiority of the white race, he’s sure the British are convinced of it too. All this claiming of John Glasgow as our black brother—he’s never heard the phrases “virtue signaling” or “performative wokeness,” but he’s definitely thinking the concepts.

So winter and spring were an awkward time to be an American in Oxford. Most British don’t seem to know or care about the differences between American states, but those who do… well, Stephens’ home state is Georgia. His fellow American students tried to be sympathetic, but a lot of them were from free states and feel like Stephens and his slave-state ilk were giving them all a bad name. He got very tired of people hearing his accent and accosting him to ask how many slaves his family has. (None. They sold the last of their slaves years ago so they could buy more books. They’re that sort of people.)

Speaking of literature, the magazines which were once the bookish Stephens’ delight have become unbearable to him—most of the best poets are Radicals, and every single one of them seems to want to compose the definitive epic on Glasgow’s heroic death. Stephens has retreated to the conservative publication Fraser & Fraser’s Journal[7]. There he discovered the later parts of Sartor Resartus, a philosophical treatise thinly disguised as a novel by Thomas Carlyle[8]. This was a source of solace, or at least distraction, to Stephens, mostly because the writing was so passionate. Yes, of course, from any standpoint within time the most important historical figures and the most dramatic and traumatic events are as transitory as cloud formations, vanishing like ghosts at dawn, whereas from outside time even the least of life’s ephemera stands eternal and imperishable as if frozen in crystal. These are not new ideas. Carlyle’s gift is to write about them like a man who cares. Stephens kept getting the urge to read it out loud.[9] He’ll definitely be following this author in the future and recommending him to his friends back home.

And he can hardly wait to go back home, because it turns out the months when everybody was badgering him about slavery were the good part of the year. Now, people are angrier than ever at Americans, and this time it’s about… MONEY. Specifically it’s about all those securities that, as it turns out, weren’t. It seems like everyone in Oxford either lost a lot of money on state bonds or canal shares or knows someone who did. American bonds in particular were popular in Britain because they had a much higher rate of return than British bonds (“had” being the key word).

And the bonds are what everyone’s so bitter about. In the first place, the worst of the stock collapse was more than a year ago. (And not everyone lost out on it. Two years ago, Charles Babbage and a few of his friends got some money together and used it as collateral to borrow canal shares valued at £13,700, and then sold them as a package for an even £15,000. Six months later, they repurchased that package for £5,000 and returned the shares to the original owners—still in mint condition, gilt edges and everything. No one knows who was the brains behind this bit of short-selling, but Henry Brougham spent the next few weeks looking more than usually smug.) In the second place, wise investors know that getting mad because your stocks collapsed is like losing money at the track and blaming the horses. But a bond is a promise. America is breaking a lot of promises right now—and not just to Indians anymore.

Whitehall isn’t making any particular effort to stir the pot here. As Lord Palmerston said, people who buy foreign bonds “do so at their own risk and must suffer the consequences.”[10] But there’s a sense in Britain that the Americans are doing this just because they can, because with the aid of British loans they’ve grown big and strong enough that it isn’t worth going to war to make some investors whole. Stephens himself has not grown big and strong, and suddenly men twice his size (and women about a third again his size) are grabbing him by the patched and threadbare lapels of his one cold-weather coat and demanding to know what he personally did with their father’s pension. All he can think at times like this is if I’d gone into law, I could be in Milledgeville starting my own practice right now.[11]

Between the stress, the English weather and his own not-so-great physical constitution, Stephens has fallen ill, and his fellow students don’t want to catch whatever it is he has. So his only companion this Christmas is an American visitor, Henry Lee IV (known to those who will admit to being his friends as “Black-Horse Harry”) who’s living in Oxford working on a history book.

This is an odd pairing. Technically they’re both Southern gentlemen and men of letters, but in addition to being a full quarter of a century older, Lee is a man who grew up with everything Stephens dreams of in life—strength, health, respect, good connections, enough money to have both books and slaves—and threw a lot of it away in various scandals. That’s how he ended up in Britain. And until recently he paid his expenses by selling Virginia state bonds, so he’s one of the people who should be catching all the flak Stephens is getting.

But they can commiserate over how the British are treating Americans. Clubs in London have turned respectable American gentlemen away at the door, and they’ve also turned away Henry Lee IV. And what really makes him angry is that Virginia’s bonds are being devalued along with those of all the other states. Okay, so a few no-account places like Mississippi have defaulted, but this is Virginia we’re talking about. The home of Washington and Jefferson, of the Randolphs and Carters and his own renowned ancestors, would never repudiate a debt! Her very tobacco, wine and opium are fragrant with honor! How can the British not know this? (Stephens has little to contribute to this part of the conversation. Georgia was one of the defaulting states. Having your main port burn to the ground will do that.)

Moving away from these two privileged-but-not-feeling-it men, there’s a larger debate going on in Britain over what America’s failures mean. The Tories are saying it proves that a country really does need kings and queens and titles of nobility. To them, what’s missing from the Americans is a capacity for shame based on personal ideals, an instinctive sense among the people in charge that breaking your word and swindling others out of their money is actually bad. (As Croker put it, “The Americans have truly taken the u out of honour.”) They’re also saying it proves that a government based entirely on majority support will always choose the path of immediate gratification, no matter where it leads.

This is making life harder for Radicals, who’d gotten used to waging a war of ideas against unarmed opponents. One more thing to blame on the Americans. They’re not just crooks and slavers—as the world’s proving ground for democratic principles, they’re a disappointment.


[1] As you’ve probably guessed, the model for womanhood in this era is Charlotte herself. She happens to be on the heavy side, more because of genetics and multiple pregnancies than any excess of diet—she’s making a conscious effort not to end up like her morbidly obese father.
[2] Something similar happened at Carrickshock IOTL.
[3] This is a little further along than Irish railroads were IOTL.
[4] Not OTL’s Mabel Sharman Crawford, who was born in 1820.
[5] It did pass this year IOTL.
[6] He did resign over this issue in 1834 IOTL.
[7] Fraser’s Magazine IOTL
[8] Which was published in Fraser’s at this time IOTL
[9] IOTL and ITTL, Carlyle himself often did (very) dramatic readings of his work when he was on tour.
[10] He said this IOTL.
[11] He did set up his practice at about this time IOTL.
 
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An expanded railway network in Ireland might well alleviate the Famine, though only in comparison to OTL; the underlying issues are still there, ready to cause devastation.

It would be tempting for some to think that an easier 1840s will keep Ireland within the UK, especially with a more Radical government bringing in earlier Reform. Personally I tend to think that the Famine was a touchstone because it helped show up the scale of injustice, not just because of the injustice around it itself. In a world where liberalism has won on the continent, Irish nationalism is likelier to be stronger. I doubt that the tragedies of Ireland will happen in a way that's particularly close to our timeline, but I expect them still to happen, and I think that sooner or later you'll see Ireland separate from the UK- though whether that's as a Dominion, a Kingdom or a Republic I cannot say.
 
Good updates giving insights into the nations and their issues during this time. Brazil doesn't sound like it's doing well at all right now and there's probably going to be a running issue with that over the next few years. The problems the UK have with the US could worsen things a lot more soon as well. Stephens might have a larger fate here too, considering his experiences and was fun to see Wellington to shoot down other's nonsense as ever. The next election should probably lead to further issues between the UK and US as well.
 
Interlude: December 23, 1834 (8)
France
Like London, Paris has trendsetters such as Napoleon II and Alfred Count D’Orsay, and of course the failing economy to give people a reason to keep their old clothes mended. But here more than anywhere else, there are other forces governing fashion.

One of these is Stabler & Sons. Hardly a year has gone by since the mid-1820s that they haven’t come out with a new indigine-based dye for a new shade of blue, purple, mauve, yellow, or red. Their latest dye is fuchsine, which produces a vibrant pinkish-purple the Americans call pinkle, the British call rosolet and the French call rose-d’Adélaïde in honor of the young princess.[1] In the short term, this gives tailors and dressmakers something new to play with on a regular basis. Ironically, though, the long-term effect will be to make later eras of high fashion much less colorful than the Georgian/ancien régime era. Bright colors just aren’t a status symbol anymore.

Other things are being democratized too. France is where the Thimmonier machine was invented, and where its use is still the most widespread. Entrepreneurs in Paris, Anvers, and Bruxelles have discovered that by installing a bunch of these machines on a factory floor, they can mass-produce clothing for men, women and children. In France, the Off-the-Rack Age has begun, and within the next year Britain, the U.S., Italy, and Hannover will—forgive me—follow suit.

The good news is, this means new and affordable clothing will be coming back. The bad news is, there’s a reason it’s so affordable. The women who do this work (everyone knows this sort of thing is women’s work—plus they tend to be smaller, so you can stuff more of them into the same space) are very low-paid. Conservatives, hearing about all these lower-class women working for long hours in cramped conditions, feel that this raises an important question about French society—what if they’re all having SEX in there? Conservative members of the Assembly are demanding inquiries into the factories to make sure they aren’t dens of prostitution and that the female employees are being held to the strictest standards of personal conduct. (These factories have actually allowed some women to get out of prostitution. The pay is lower but steadier, with better long-term prospects and practically no risk of syphilis. And having a wife or daughter working in there has kept some families just barely financially afloat. Don’t tell the Conservatives any of this—they’re having too much fun wallowing in moral panic.)

Thankfully, this is pretty far down on the list of issues occupying the minds of the Peers and Representatives[2]. The big issue, of course, is the economy. The declining fortunes of cotton have led to unemployment in Mulhouse, in Bordeaux they’re finding that not many Americans can afford their wine these days, and in a hundred little ways things are sliding downhill everywhere.

Especially in the financial sector. With a slightly smaller economy, France had invested about as much into American state bonds and canal shares as Britain had—they weren’t just making money, they were strengthening an ally. Like Britain, they’re paying the price, and like Britain, they’re unhappy. Intellectually, they understand that if a state government is unable to meet its obligations, it can’t very well choose to pay off its favorite bondholders, but not the others. Still, this feels like a betrayal by a friend. In Anvers, James de Rothschild, head of the French branch of the family empire and effectively France’s other finance minister, is telling anyone who will listen that the Americans “cannot go to war, because they cannot borrow a dollar. Not a dollar.”[3] (He isn’t quite practicing what he’s preaching. He’s noticed that U.S. federal bonds, unlike their state bonds, still look quite solid. He hasn’t said so publicly, of course, because no self-respecting Rothschild is going to divulge a hot tip like that free of charge.)

But the French government is more concerned with its own finances than America’s. Currently toiling away in the Treasury is Évariste Galois. Connections he made during the civil war got him a job in the revenue department. This year he finally finished his paper on the solvability of quintic equations by radicals and submitted it to the Paris Academy of Sciences.[4] It hasn’t made the splash he intended, mostly because the Paris Academy of Sciences are still trying to understand it themselves, but Galois is hoping it will land him a position at a university. In the meantime, he’s doing this.

For a mathematician of his caliber, working to collect taxes is like a four-star chef working the grill at McDonalds. Out of sheer boredom, he’s started looking at the data he’s collecting—where the money’s coming from, types of industries, revenue per capita, revenue per hectare—in search of patterns. One day this will grow into the science of tributology, the study of taxation and public expenditure as a subset of economics, and be of great benefit to humanity. For now, it’s keeping him sane.

One of the bright spots in the French economy is the expansion of the railroad grid, but even this has created some unexpected splits in the French government. Casimir Pierre Périer, who heads the Commercial Bloc in the Chamber of Representatives, has been a big champion of the railroads, but his own bloc is divided on it—the road and canal businesses don’t want the competition. The result is that the railroad grid is, at the moment, growing in such a way as to be more or less evenly distributed over France, even though the northeast could use a bit more of it.

Like the Commercial Bloc, France itself is divided on how to handle the downturn. On the one hand, they’ve been listening to the same economic theories as the British. On the other hand, even people who weren’t born when the Revolution hit feel like they remember it personally and don’t want to make the mistakes that led to it. But on the gripping hand[5], the French government, even more than the British government, is by and for the rich and upper-middle-class.

The reason for this is simple—the Representatives weren’t directly elected by the people. They were elected by the electoral colleges of each department, which are dominated by the biggest taxpayers of each department. This is an incentive not to cheat on your taxes, even if you don’t happen to know that one of the mathematical geniuses of the age could be checking your work, but it isn’t an incentive to try to represent the poor.

(In fact, it’s right now that people are realizing how stable the French government is. Maybe too stable. President Jacques-Charles Dupont de L’Eure took office in 1822, and, after a civil war, a new emperor and economic woes, he shows no sign of being about to leave. The only real concession has been to replace Jacques Laffitte at the treasury with Jean Maximilien Lamarque.[6])

Thus, the discontent in France is manifesting as calls for electoral reform, to put the vote directly in the hands of the people. No one party has taken up this cause, but it has its advocates in all three—but especially in the Conservative and Jacobin parties, the parties least attached to the status quo.

Of course, Conservatives and Jacobins are not coordinating their efforts at all. They both feel that the Representatives should represent the masses… just not those masses. If you ask them, they’ll even make logical-sounding arguments for their positions. Conservatives will tell you that farmers are the most important people in the world because (a) they can feed themselves, and (b) without them everyone else would get very hungry, very quickly. Jacobins will tell you that yes, farmers can feed themselves—that’s the problem. Who is likely to be the truest ally of the complex web of interdependence we call civilization? The man who knows that whatever else happens out there, his family will never starve? Or the man who knows that if the city falls, he and all he loves will fall with it? In keeping with this, Jacobins—but not Conservatives—would like to see the Chamber of Representatives expanded, and more populous departments given greater representation. They cite Louisiana’s parishes as an example of how this can be done.

Another thing the Conservatives and Jacobins have in common that they would not admit to under threat of the guillotine is that since the late unpleasantness in the south and west, they’ve both been going through an identity crisis. The Conservative Party spent years building up a reputation as the safe, non-terrifying, non-bloodthirsty alternative to the dominant Liberals. Then they pissed it away in a single failed insurrection, which lasted just long enough to make it clear that many of them were just playing along with the whole concept of representative government until the king came back.

Not just in the south and west, either. Last year the National Police got hold of correspondence revealing that the Conservative Party’s man inside the Commercial Block, Henri Barbet (representing Seine-Maritime, the department that includes the city of Rouen) was a monarchist—specifically an Orléanist, which means it was probably a Legitimist that exposed him.

But what the Conservatives learned in the war was that a majority of the French actually weren’t secretly pining for the Bourbon return, and neither force nor persuasion could make it happen. Meaning, now they actually have to do the job they claimed to be doing before—speaking for rural areas and devout Catholics within the existing system.

And then there’s the Jacobin Party. If, when you read the phrase a few paragraphs up—“ally of the complex web of interdependence we call civilization”—your first thought was that that didn’t sound at all like the Jacobins we know and love, you’re not alone. No less a social observer than Honoré de Balzac has seen this. Back in ‘32 he released a novel which he called Les Épateurs de Montmartre because 19th-century French doesn’t really have a word for “edgelords.” It tells the story of a group of radical young Parisian Jacobins who sign up for the civil war, and their various adventures and misadventures along the way.

What the novel makes clear is that the Jacobin volunteers were (in their minds) defending meritocracy, religious toleration, secular schools and all that made France respected and feared among nations, against those who would destroy what they could not understand. In other words, the Jacobins’ finest hour was when they were doing something… conservative. Small-c conservative, but still conservative. They didn’t die Montagnards, so they’ve lived long enough to see themselves become the bourgeoisie.

And some of them are a little more than that. They’re the nouveau riche of Paris, Anvers and the industrial cities of the north. They love modern, secular schools that produce the engineers their industries need. They love the religious freedom given to Protestants, Jews and Orthodox immigrants (there are some). But mostly they love money, and the freedom to make more of it without having to worry that it will be taken away.

Which brings us back to those early-model sweatshops. If you happened to be hiding by the windows of a townhouse in one of the better neighborhoods of Bruxelles around dinnertime on this particular night… you’d be a strange and creepy person, but you would also overhear a loud argument over dinner, mostly in Dutch, between a father and his teenage son. The subject of the argument is the conditions in the new clothing factory of which the father is part owner. The son is protesting that no, he wasn’t visiting that factory just in the hopes of getting laid, and that forcing anybody to work in such conditions for so little is a violation of their family’s supposed Jacobin principles. The father is insisting that nobody’s being forced to work anywhere, and that the money they’re making is paying for the son’s education and will pay for the son’s planned travels overseas and eventual entry into high society, and maybe he should think about that before criticizing it.

He needn’t worry. Young Guillaume Georges Elmar is most definitely thinking about that.


[1] IOTL we all call it magenta.
[2] Previously called “Deputies” because my research is not always infallible. Sorry.
[3] James de Rothschild said this in 1842 IOTL.
[4] IOTL he submitted it in 1830, but it was rejected as incomplete and then he got killed in a duel.
[5] h/t Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
[6] As fans of Les Misérables know, IOTL he died of cholera two years earlier.
 
Huh, seems that "revolutionary" France's politics are actually becoming rather ossified. Let's hope that if/when electoral reform happens it will keep the incentive to not cheat on taxes.

Guillaume Georges Elmar has big ideas. Will he go on to be a leading figure of *Socialism?
 
The whole prostitution moral panic thing is enough to give someone a case of severe indigestion - the conservatives seem a little bit *ehem* lacking in empathy
 
So the Jacobins went and became the very thing they stood against in the first place. Rather fitting. Seems like France as a whole is going to need a jolt to get out of the current status it's in. Hopefully without too much of an upheaval this time.
 
Interlude: December 23, 1834 (9)
Spain and Portugal
Here are two countries, once great powers but no longer, looking at each other and both thinking the same thing: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Portugal is rebuilding from the civil war. Political freedom has blossomed with the defeat of the Miguelists and the ascent of Pedro—although some would call it questionable, since Miguel’s old supporters are leaving Portugal. Some of them are settling in Tangeria—we’ll get to what that means when we talk about North Africa, but for now let’s just say it’s not pretty. For those who are too hardcore to want to live under King Pedro at all, there’s always room in the Viceroyalty of South America.

Unlike Britain, France and the U.S., the economy is actually growing, but at a snail’s pace and from a very low point. Once you get away from the navigable parts of the rivers, the roads aren’t much to speak of, and with so little iron and coal, building a railroad is going to be a problem. In the short term, the government is relying on trade, but of course this isn’t the best decade to be doing that in. Not only that, the government’s free-trade policies make it hard to favor Portugal’s allies (specifically the UK) over, say, France. Cynics claim that this is Lisbon’s way of getting back at London for declaring war on the slave trade that brought Portugal so much money.

But the long-term investment Lisbon is making is in human capital—education. Portugal has had the beginnings of a modern educational system since the Marquis of Pombal’s reforms, and the current government is trying to expand it. Most of the population is completely illiterate, so there’s a lot of room for improvement.[1]

Spain is taking a different direction. One of the best places to get a look at this is Barcelona, where Henry Hungerford is in the Old Hospital de la Santa Creu. He is very ill, and won’t last the winter, but he can still read the Diario de Barcelona.[2]

At this particular moment, the news is that Spain is still in mourning. A few days ago María Isabella gave birth to a son, Carlos Fernando… who died the next morning and is currently being buried in a tiny closed casket. The resulting outpouring of national grief is not far short of what happened in France when Princess Adelaide-Louise died.

But the good news is that Isabella Luísa continues to be the healthiest child the royal family has seen in many years, right down to the tips of her fingers and her toes and the cute little dimple in the middle of her chin. This is especially impressive because she was born a mere 248 days after the wedding night. So the people call her la Infanta Milagrosa, and with good reason—calling her something else[3] would risk breaking the recently strengthened laws against slander or defamation of the royal family.

The bigger picture is, of course, the economy. The government is responding to the slowdown in trade by imposing tariffs to encourage industry in Spain. As with Portugal’s free-trade policy, this makes it hard for Spain to favor its allies. And as in the UK, the shrinking economy is shrinking the electorate with it, and making it slightly more conservative.[4] The electorate is also developing a bias in favor of the old—Article 25 of their constitution states that “From the year 1830, those who enter on the exercise of the rights of citizenship, must have learned to read and write.” The article doesn’t specify any particular language (we’ll get to that battle later), but when this article was written, it was understood that there was going to be some sort of epic educational reform to ensure universal literacy by this date. Alas, that never happened.

More importantly, the Tradition Party, now in power, is doing everything it can to stay that way, although this puts difficulties even on them. In Carlos, Spain’s conservatives finally have the strong, devout, capable king they always… thought they wanted. Only it turns out that a lot of them were hoping for positions of power in the new government, and while many of them are getting positions, right now there is only one real position of power and Carlos is sitting in it. In the new order, it pays to be good at disguising your ambitions.

And no one is better at this than Francisco Tadeo Calomarde, which is why he is now President. He’s making the most of the fact that the king of Spain, whose powers are strictly limited by the constitution, is in charge of all aspects of law enforcement. There is now a national police force which answers to him, and the laws against sedition have been strengthened—and the new judges being appointed are inclined to take a very broad view of those laws. Censorship of the press is taking place in Madrid, Valencia and Seville… but not, apparently, in Barcelona, because Henry Hungerford can read about it.

That’s the strange thing — politically, Barcelona might be the most liberal place in Spain, and it’s the one place where peaceful protests can still take place without the government making them suddenly very unpeaceful. The reason they vote solid Tradition Party with the rest of Catalonia is that the Constitution Party has consistently favored the Spanish language, as spoken in Madrid, for everything from schools to court proceedings to street signs. In doing so, it has made enemies out of those who speak other languages — Catalan, Galician, Basque, Asturian, etc. This is especially a problem because two of the economic hubs of Spain are Catalonia, where the textile industry is strong, and the Basque Country, where the good iron ore is.

If it sounds like the Constitutionists have played stupid games and won stupid prizes, it might help to understand where they’re coming from. In Spain in 1834, everyone in power is old enough to remember the Peninsular War, and all their political views are informed by the horrors of that war. To conservatives, of course, it was an invasion of left-wing foreign jackals who preached liberty, equality and fraternity while practicing tyranny, rapacity and atrocity. To liberals, the essential fact was the failure of the Spanish state and army in the face of this aggression. They want Spain to be as strong and modern as it can possibly be, and especially as united as it can possibly be, so this never happens again. The conservative love of fueros, regional dialects and local peculiarities of custom seems to them like a luxury the nation can’t afford. The youngest Constitutionists, with no memory of the war, have a different perspective, but nobody’s listening to them just yet.

And Basques and Catalonians are starting to think that at least a few of the fueros can be retired. For example, here and there, the new railroad tracks cross transhumance routes, which means that at certain times of the year the conductors are legally obligated to bring the train to a dead stop at the crossing so they can get out and check for oncoming sheep. Right now the trains in Spain are relatively small and slow, so this is just barely manageable from a physics point of view, but it’s still a hell of a way to run a railroad.


[1] IOTL Portugal had a 20 percent literacy rate—not illiteracy, literacy—in 1900.
[2] This newspaper is mostly in Spanish, not Catalan.
[3] Such as la Bastarda Real, la Hija del Violador or la Cuco Inglesa.
[4] Spain doesn’t have property minimums for voting, but Article 25 of the Spanish constitution specifies that the rights of citizenship are suspended in cases of bankruptcy and unemployment.
 
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Another update doing an excellent job of showing organic development of politics in response to how butterflies have impacted the world. In that regard, I am not sure I know of a better timeline.

Portugal in particular feels like it will be interesting to observe. Spain avoiding the dynastic wars that ravaged it throughout the 19th century will have enough ripples, but a liberalizing and less-backward Portugal that has retained its union with Brazil could well be a heavy-hitting power if it stays its course.
 
Inter-interlude: The Ghost of Crisis Yet to Come
I'm glad everyone's being so patient with how long it's taking to finish this state-of-the-world recap. The good news is that in between researching for this, I've been doing a little writing ahead. So here's a Christmas present—something from 1835 that I wasn't sure where else to put.


“What after all is a slave? A slave is a man or woman bound by law to serve a particular role. His time and labor are not his own to spend, and he is far more limited than any of us in what he may do with his few free hours. But there is law for the slave as well as for the free. Even as this law binds each day of his life to his master’s purposes, it protects his life from the excesses of cruelty and power. His master may chastise him, even with force, but must not kill, torture or mutilate him—such power belongs to the law alone. Where it proves otherwise, there we have failed.
“And what is a master? A master is a man or woman charged by law to serve a particular role. It is not merely for his own sake that he is granted rule over another, but for the sake of the slave as well, and for the society they share. The law that affirms his ownership mandates that he provide his chattels with food and clothing—and should his slaves be joined to one another by marital or paternal bonds, he may not break those bonds through sale. More than this, it is in the health and well-being of the slave that the master proves his worthiness.
“I doubt I have uttered a single word that any man in this chamber disagrees with. The time has come to commit ourselves in earnest to the enforcement of these principles.”

Andre Roman, speaking January 12, 1835 before the Louisiana General Assembly
As quoted (Eng. trans., emphasis added) in Richard Marshall’s Beyond the “Wise Men”: Social Conservatism and the Roots of Aristism


And, of course…
Christmas card 2020.jpeg
 
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Interlude: December 23, 1834 (10)
The United Kingdoms
Italy (and Sardinia!) haven’t been hit quite as hard as France or Britain, because more of their money was invested at home—but then, Italy was never as rich to begin with. So the Hiemal Period has been less a contraction than a slowdown in an economy that didn’t need a slowdown, especially since Italy needs to maintain a strong force on its northern border and a naval force in the Adriatic. Keeping these things going in an age of tight budgets is a major problem for Prime Minister Guglielmo Pepe and War Minister Annibale Santorre di Rossi.

At the moment, Pepe is focused on something a little more life-threatening. Over the last decade, cholera has become a problem in the U.S. and Europe. Nobody has a cure, nobody has a vaccine, and nobody knows how it spreads—they know it hits poor communities hardest, but they haven’t looked at the water quality. All anyone can do is quarantine the community and let it burn itself out. Lady-in-waiting Allegra Byron (not yet 18, and already a fixture of King Achille’s quirky court) reports that according to her half-sister Ada’s letters, scientists in Edinburgh have been working on a way to keep patients alive via saline injections. Unfortunately, they’re still trying to get the mineral balance right.[1] And since the sort of medical equipment they’re using in Edinburgh is harder to find in Italy, none of this is much help.

But at least with cholera and Austria, everybody agrees they’re bad. Some things—land reform, for instance—aren’t so clear-cut. The government in Terni can’t come to an agreement on it, so when it’s happening at all it’s happening on a regional level. In the case of Sardinia, giving the people a voice in government has brought the enclosure of the commons to a screeching halt, and even reversed it in places. In Sicily, it continues, but slowly, making relatively rich farmers (who can afford to buy plots of land) richer and making the rest angry. Southern Italy continues to be dominated by wealthy landowners who have no intention of giving up their land, and who are well aware that peasants need to be able to use the commons if they want to pay rent.

In keeping with the theme of looking at societies from the point of view of outsiders, let’s look at Italy from the point of view of an American music student at the Milan Conservatory[2]. One of the things he’s realized in his years of study is the extent to which he is an outsider here, even though he was born in Parma and spent the first three years of his life there. Italy has been kind to him, but it’s the kindness of a gracious host to an honored guest, not a parent to a child. And he loves Italy, but he loves it for its exotic beauty and many-layered history—nothing about it feels like home to him. The man who in another history would have been the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi is, at his core, the American composer Joseph Fortune Francis Green (Jeff to his friends).

For Green, the greatest struggle of the past five years has been just absorbing the sheer quantity of musical knowledge to be found here—while at the same time hanging on to the influences of his youth, which his tutors here see as strange tastes at best and bad habits at worst. Last year when he presented his Toccatina in G Major, a bright, cheerful piece of work perfectly in keeping with Italian musical traditions and an exemplar of modern Neo-Pastoralism, they assumed he was “cured.”

Shortly after that came the war. Everyone in a position to make decisions in Italy has personal, traumatic memories of the Other Peninsular War, so even music students are expected to train and fight if necessary. Green and Boott, as visiting Americans, weren’t asked to participate, but since all their friends were signing up, they felt the least they could do was serve as combat medics, which were mostly what we would call stretcher-bearers. (They didn’t know any medicine, which in this decade made them slightly less likely to kill people than those who did.)

The closest they got to the front line was at the Battle of Vicenza in June of ‘32, where the fighting bogged down into house-to-house combat between the Bacchiglione and the Palladian Basilica. Neither of them was physically wounded, but they both saw things they’d pay a lot to forget. Since then Green has been thinking a lot about music and narrative as forces for order and meaning in a world that desperately needs both. It’s enough to make him understand trucescuro art and music as something that takes the worst horrors imaginable and puts them in a context where they kind of make sense.

This year Queen Maria[3] asked the Milan Conservatory to recommend a music student to start off the court’s Christmas concert, so they sent their best. They said to be sure to ask Green to conduct a performance of his splendid Toccatina in G Major, not his weird and off-putting Southern Summer Sonata. They forgot this affair was being run by King Achille, who once had a live hippopotamus imported from Egypt and sent to the royal kitchens just to see what it tasted like. “Weird and off-putting” is his jam.

The journey to the Palazzo San Valentino[4] wasn’t as long as Green thought it would be. Terni (center of Italy’s steel industry as well as its capital) is at the center of a small but growing railroad network that crosses the peninsula from Civitavecchia to San Benedetto del Tronto and reaches Perugia and the outskirts of Rome. The city itself still looks raw and half-finished, but the Palazzo, on a hill just north of town, is magnificent.

The Southern Summer Sonata was a hit. The blue notes, the violins doing call-and-response—all the things that sounded like mistakes to his instructors in Milan—nobody in Terni had ever heard anything like this before. The rest of the evening was devoted to performances of traditional music by Jews and Arabs from Girba[5], while Green listened and frantically took notes on the musical styles. (Celebrating Christmas with music from non-Christian cultures is a very King Achille thing to do, and his court finds it much more tasteful than the infamous Casu Marzu Incident last year.)

Green also got to talking with Allegra Byron, who pointed out to him that he’s an awfully big fish for such a small cultural pond as the U.S. Why not stay in Italy permanently?

Tempting, but no. Partly this is because he’s tired of only being able to do half the things he wants to do in Italy’s well-established and rather conservative musical world. But mostly, when he listens to the latest works of Bellini or Donizetti, he thinks My country needs this. Why settle for success in the opera scene when I can build a new one?


[1] In particular, if they get the potassium wrong, the patient either just keeps getting sicker or dies of a heart attack.
[2] Ironically, he didn’t get to join the Conservatory IOTL.
[3] Maria Anna Luisa Borghese, b. 1812
[4] St. Valentine is the patron saint of Terni.
[5] Djerba, annexed to Italy after the Barbary Partition.
 
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Good overview of Italy at the moment and some interesting insight into the future of music right now. Also, King Achilles seems... eccentric. At least it's the harmless way right now rather than other ways it can be taken.
 
Interlude: December 23, 1834 (11)
Central Europe and the Balkans
In Austria, Emperor Francis is dying. He might make it to New Year’s Day, but he won’t see another spring.[1]

Even when he was healthy, Francis depended on his advisers, especially Metternich. His eldest son and heir, Ferdinand, is no more capable of ruling the empire than he is of understanding Galois’ paper. His younger son, Franz Karl, means well and was lucky enough not to suffer the same degree of genetic damage, but is a profoundly boring man of transcendent mediocrity. He has no aptitude for leadership and is just barely smart enough to know it.

Just to ensure stability, Francis has already let his government know what’s in his will. His brother, Archduke Louis, will be in overall command of the State Conference. Metternich will deal with matters of foreign policy and everything to do with security. Count Franz Anton von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky, a popular and capable Czech nobleman, will deal with domestic policy and everything to do with money. Franz Karl will sit in on meetings and (everyone hopes) learn enough so that if anything happens to one of the other men, he can step in and possibly not ruin everything.

Everyone agrees that after the war with Italy, Austria needs to rebuild its strength, especially at sea. In the 1820s, Austria built up its fleet the cheap and easy way—they bought up used British vessels (some of which had originally been taken from the French as prizes), crewed them with people who couldn’t get into the Army and spoke six or seven or eight different languages among themselves, and said “Now we’re a naval power.” Italy did it the hard, expensive way, building modern shipyards, building new warships in those shipyards, and training, training, training. The result was that at the start of the War of Sardinian Succession, Austria actually had a larger navy than Italy did… but not for long. In fact, by the end of the first four months they had no navy at all, and what was left of their merchant marine was huddling in Tripoli, Malta and the Oranian ports under British protection. So not only does Austria need a new navy, they need to build it the right way this time—which again, is much slower and more expensive, at a time when money is in short supply.

Of greater concern to Metternich is the alliances. Although Austria ended the war needing Britain more than ever and trusting it less than ever, its alliances with lesser powers such as Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria and Saxony are still very much intact—which is remarkable in itself. After all, the original rationale for the alliance was that (a) French belligerence was, and would remain for the foreseeable future, the greatest threat to peace in Europe, and (b) Austria would be strong enough to defend the German states against France, with their assistance. And then Austria invaded Italy for dubious reasons and was defeated while France looked on, smiling.

So Metternich is uneasy. Baden, Württemberg and Bavaria aren’t sticking with Austria out of some feudal fealty to House Hapsburg, loyalty to whatever it is Austria stands for these days (absolute monarchy with figurehead monarchs? defending Christendom from the now-fallen Turk?) or because being part of the Sudzollverein is so much better than closer trade relations with France. They’re sticking with Austria because they would rather be junior partners to a German monarch than a French one. In other words, they’re doing so out of nationalism—not a feeling he wants to encourage.

He also has his eye on the Balkan states. Wallachia is a reliable ally and Sudzollverein member, but the others—Greece, Bosnia-Rumelia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia—need watching.

Five years ago, the Greek government’s writ didn’t run outside Attica. But in 1830 King Paul’s younger daughter, Pauline, married Ioannis “the Brave” Kolokotronis, son of Theodoros Kolokotronis and a hero of the War of Independence. And just like that, the Peloponnesus came under the control of Athens… well, Athens by way of the Kolokotronis family. Since then, Athens has gotten the northwest and the islands more or less under control. Where to go from here?

Greece’s most likely enemy is their northern neighbor Bosnia-Rumelia, which includes many territories Greeks consider rightfully theirs—Thessaly, Macedonia, Thrace… not to mention Constantinople itself, of course. Athens would also like to pry Cyprus away from Egypt, and possibly Izmir/Smyrna away from Cairene vassal Turkey.

So who would be the best ally? Greece is friendly with Russia and its king is friendly with Austria, but Russia can’t get its navy into the Mediterranean (more on that in a bit) and Austria no longer has a navy. France is strong and Italy is a rising power, but there’s only one nation that would certainly be capable of coming to Greece’s aid against any opposition—or, for that matter, invading Greece as an enemy. That, of course, is the world’s foremost naval power by a large margin, Great Britain.

Whether you call it Bosnia-Rumelia or the Gradascevician Empire, Europeans see it as nothing but a lawless collection of leftover Ottoman eyalets under the nominal control of an indecently lucky bandit. They’re right, but that bandit is the one holding the Golden Horn, which means he gets to decide if Russia will or will not have a naval presence in the Mediterranean. If Tsar Alexander were pragmatic enough to ally with Sultan Husein, the world would be a different place right now. But that wouldn’t be compatible with his reinvention of himself as the great champion of Christianity in the East. As it is, the only thing stopping him from invading Bosnia-Rumelia is that Austrian ally Wallachia is in the way[2]… and if he can build up enough of a fleet in the Black Sea, that won’t matter.

The problem is that no one—not Italy, not France, and especially not Britain—wants Russia to have a naval presence in the Mediterranean. So while it’s in Greece’s interest to ally with Britain, it’s in Britain’s, France’s, and Italy’s interest to ally with Bosnia-Rumelia.

Just as Sultan Husein can keep Russian ships bottled up in the Black Sea, Sultan Muhtar of Albania can keep Austrian shipping bottled up in the Adriatic, and much more easily now. This means both Italy and Austria want Albania as an ally. Muhtar is still playing them off against each other.

There’s another nation in the Balkans that Austria itself is cutting off from the sea—tiny Montenegro. The Bay of Kotor is part of Austria’s Dalmatian territories. One of the reasons why Metternich agreed to come to the negotiating table during the war was that he found out that Italy was in talks with the young Prince-Bishop of Montenegro. If Italy had taken the Bay in an amphibious assault, they could have given it to Montenegro in exchange for an alliance and a permanent naval base there, and Italy’s control over the Adriatic would have become absolute.

Like Greece, Serbia is interested in expansion at Bosnia-Rumelia’s expense. This to Metternich is unacceptable. Yes, there are majority-Serb territories in that not-much-space-filling empire, but guess who else rules over majority-Serb territories? Austria. Metternich can’t stamp out every new idea in the world, but to him Serb irredentism is one that absolutely must be nipped in the bud, whatever else.

So Metternich has permanently shelved the idea of conquering Bosnia-Rumelia, which he only ever wanted to do in the first place just because he thought a strategic region like that should have a real country in charge. Like the other Western Powers, he finds himself needing an alliance with the Balkan monarch he most despises… and the one whose rule is most obviously built on sand.

There’s another problem in the Balkans, and it involves the Kingdom of Serbia—yes, that’s the Kingdom of Serbia, not the Principality. No sooner had Husein Gradaščević taken Constantinople than Miloš Obrenović took the bodyguard and police force he’d built up into an army and attacked the Turkish garrison just as they were decamping in search of greener paychecks. The garrison fled for the border, followed by Turkish landlords carrying all the gold they could hide on their person without it looking obvious to bandits. Now-King Miloš is embarrassed it took him this long, but Serbia is a small state sandwiched between larger ones whose closest ally is Russia, so keeping a low profile is a smart play.

Miloš is trying to rule as an absolute monarch, granting himself rich lands taken from those landlords, some lucrative monopolies, and a royal carriage so fancy he can’t even use it on what passes for roads in Serbia. But he has powerful opponents, some of whom want Serbia to be a modern constitutional monarchy, while others want to avenge family members Miloš killed in his rise to power. (It’s the Balkans. Blood feuds are literally an institution in some countries.) Speaking of family problems, Miloš’ 16-year-old son Milan[3] has taken teenage rebellion literally, fled Kragujevac[4] and is rallying his father’s enemies to his banner. Civil war is at hand. Meanwhile, in the tiny and should-be-unimportant-but-somehow-isn’t Prince-Bishopric of Montenegro, the young prince-bishop Petar II is implementing the beginnings of similar reforms without a civil war.

On the one hand, Metternich doesn’t want to see more constitutional states on the border—it might give people ideas. On the other hand, as Kolowrat never tires of pointing out, at this point that horse has been out of the barn so long its grandcolts are running free. And he really doesn’t want to step in somebody else’s civil war and antagonize Russia so he can have King Miloš as a puppet—a puppet who just got done slicing the fingers of the last people pulling his strings.

This has gotten Kolowrat suggesting that Austria needs to get with the times. Constitutional government is good for business—people will invest more readily if they know there are limits to the state’s ability to confiscate their wealth. And what’s good for business is good for revenue, which is good for the army and navy, which is good for restoring Austrian power.

And although Kolowrat is far more liberal than Metternich (it would be hard to be less so) he acknowledges that Spain and Russia are proving that constitutional rule can still leave the state with a good deal of room to act… especially if the rulers write the constitution itself instead of waiting for one to be imposed on them. But what kind of constitution would be suitable for a land as diverse as the Austrian Empire?

As it happens, there’s an example right next door of how it might be done right. Switzerland (much smaller, but also a land of multiple languages and creeds) has not one constitution but many—each canton has its own. Over the past few years they’ve been reforming them with downright stereotypical good order.[5]


[1] He died around this time IOTL as well.
[2] When Constantinople fell, King Carol had Wallachia seize bits of the coast. Austria backed him on this, since it gave the Sudzollverein an outlet on the Black Sea. Russia gave him no such permission regarding Moldavia. Being a vassal of two different foreign kings is a complicated job.
[3] Not IOTL’s Milan Obrenovic, who was born a year later.
[4] The capital of Serbia, since Belgrade is right on the border with Austria.
[5] As IOTL.
 
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Well well, so Metternich is starting to make moves however reluctantly. Let us see if the maestro can pull one more score from his hat as the rhythm of the continent changes.

Taking cues from the Swiss? I won't tell if you won't Metternich.

And a Serbian prince has gone all Lionheart it seems.
 
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