The Dead Skunk

Bravo and well done. I sense this incident will cause a war.

Maybe, reexamining this quote makes me think we will receive a brief but bloody war here followed by the troubles:

“I have seen two wars, and between them the Troubles. When actuaries tally up the number of human lives lost to violence, they find all the years of the Troubles scarcely add up to one battle, but mark me—the Troubles were the worst. The wars were titanic monsters whose roar could be heard long in advance of their approach. The Troubles were a small but deadly serpent that might strike from anywhere.” — Elizabeth Miller

My guess is that blame over a lost war will add to the slave-abolitionit feud creating the Troubles as a time of upheveal and sectarian violence; but not outright civil war.
 
Maybe, reexamining this quote makes me think we will receive a brief but bloody war here followed by the troubles:



My guess is that blame over a lost war will add to the slave-abolitionit feud creating the Troubles as a time of upheveal and sectarian violence; but not outright civil war.

So, Bleeding Kansas on a nation wide scale? That'll be unpleasant.
 
What side was Lincoln on, Dead Rose or Populist/Liberationist?
In '36, Lincoln won a seat in the Illinois state legislature as a Dead Rose. (That's two years later than OTL, but here he ran for the seat representing the state capital itself, which is much harder to do.) He might be the most pro-Populist member of the delegation—his work in bankruptcy court has convinced him that these people have legitimate complaints against the status quo. What stops him from being an actual Populist is that even while focusing his campaign on local needs and issues, he tends to think in terms of the big picture and what's best for the state and nation as a whole (like finally finishing that damn Illinois and Michigan Canal) whereas the Populist appeal in Illinois is mostly "debt relief plz." Also, Vandalia is the place where the DRP is still strongest.
 
"This is Florida. However they came here, they have set foot on our soil and breathed our air. Some of them will most likely be tried on piracy charges, but none of them will ever be slaves again. That much is settled." I love how self evident it is that "yeah your are never getting these people back into slavery" the Florida of this timeline is such a cool place.
 
"This is Florida. However they came here, they have set foot on our soil and breathed our air. Some of them will most likely be tried on piracy charges, but none of them will ever be slaves again. That much is settled." I love how self evident it is that "yeah your are never getting these people back into slavery" the Florida of this timeline is such a cool place.

Florida Man memes are going to be quite different in this TL, I suspect.
 
"This is Florida. However they came here, they have set foot on our soil and breathed our air. Some of them will most likely be tried on piracy charges, but none of them will ever be slaves again. That much is settled." I love how self evident it is that "yeah your are never getting these people back into slavery" the Florida of this timeline is such a cool place.

And that's not even getting into the Seminoles and Creeks not just doing well but thriving.
 
Last edited:
Winter Storm (2)
Posting this one a day early so people will have a chance to read it before Thanksgiving.
Also, as a Christmas present and to move the story forward a little, there'll be five posts in December.


On the surface, it appeared that the Secotan incident had briefly restored the old unity of 1816. Virtually every newspaper in the United States ran an editorial denouncing the incident and either outright demanding war or calling for Berrien to make what the Philadelphia Tribune called “an assurance of national strength.” The New York City News stated that “every captain of every American-flagged vessel awaits some signal that Congress and the incoming President are taking action for the security of our merchant marine.” The Charleston Courier proclaimed that “British Florida is the greatest pirate haven in history, and it is imperative that we stamp it out.”

In the halls of Congress, elected officials of four out of five parties demanded more ships, a larger Army, and (in the words of Populist leader William Seward) “a demonstration that our people and our commerce are not to be trifled with.” John C. Calhoun, who headed the largest delegation in the House of Representatives, was quick to denounce Florida and its “lawless and dangerous infestation of runagates, who for a second time have inflicted terror on white men and women and sheltered from justice beneath the Union Jack.” Even the Liberation Party, in a rare show of political expediency, was silent.

But underneath, one could see the division between free and slave states that had grown since then. In the slave states, the worst aspect of the incident was that slaves had rebelled, killed one white and terrorized others—including, unforgivably, a white woman. (That none of the other whites had been physically harmed was seen as incidental, or dismissed as some sort of oversight on the part of the rebels.) And, thanks to the British, they now had the freedom they sought and were unlikely ever to be punished.

In the free states, the Secotan itself was less of a concern than the Langdon and the McDougall, the two American revenue cutters that the British had fired upon and captured or forced to withdraw. The New York City News dismissed British claims that USRC Langdon defied an order in territorial waters: “It is well known that our arrogant English cousins consider every corner of Neptune’s kingdom to be their ‘territorial waters’.”

Among abolitionists, whose primary interest was not the seizure of American vessels but the slave revolt that had begun the chain of events, the question was how best to respond to it. On the one hand, as Embree noted:


In the year after the burning of Savannah, fear of a second such holocaust did more to diminish the empire of the lash than all the appeals to common humanity ever made. The slavemaster may deny the virtue and intellect of the Negro; he may delude himself that his rule is founded in Christian love and charity; but he is not so lost to reason as to sit and say ‘This is fine’ as his house burns down about his ears. And now we see that, just as innocent homes and honest businesses may be destroyed in the cataclysm of a slave revolt, so may innocent travel and honest commerce be endangered by mere proximity to the hateful traffic in men’s lives.

William Lloyd Garrison’s remarks pointed in almost the opposite direction:

The liberation of the Secotan was the most bloodless slave revolt yet seen in the annals of history, and offers a rare glimpse of hope for the future. For on the joyous day when the last chain is loosed from the last black limb, when the lie that men and women may be property is struck from the laws of the last state—what then? It is neither humane to suppose that generations of Negroes who know no more of Africa than their white neighbors should be banished thence forthwith, nor practicable to transport so many to those climes at once. No, here they are and here their descendants shall remain.
And we may see the beginnings of this future even now. In every northern city of any size, there lives a community of Negroes. And though they are often met with suspicion and hostility from their white neighbors, yet they persist, living quiet lives of dignity and independent labor. Thus we see that what Mr. Austin of Astoria calls the “Negro problem” is in truth a slave problem; for there have been revolts of slaves, but never yet a revolt of freedmen.

But in the meantime, America’s new president-elect was expressing very different sentiments…
Charles Cerniglia, 1837





March 6, 1837
Oval Office
Executive Mansion
Washington, DC

Berrien had only been sworn in two days ago, and had only learned two months ago that it would be he and not John Sergeant in this office. Most of his would-be Cabinet officers were gathering in this city and preparing to testify before the Senate on why they should be confirmed. It would be good to have a Secretary of State right now. Not to mention a Secretary of War.

The British ambassador to U.S. was 60-year-old David Montagu Erskine, 2nd Baron Erskine. Berrien remembered that Erskine had served in this position before, that he’d tried to resolve an earlier confrontation at sea between the two nations[1], and that he’d spent some time in bad odor with the government as a result. Erskine didn’t seem at all conciliatory now.

“With all due respect,” Erskine was saying, “when your captain disobeyed the order to withdraw, he challenged the might of Britannia in our territorial waters. Most who do that suffer a good deal worse than a broken mizzenmast for their pains.”

“The U.S. Revenue Cutter Service denies that the Langdon ever ventured into British waters until it was forced to surrender,” said Berrien. “Has your government any proof to the contrary?”

“Only the testimony of honorable men. And the simple fact that those who controlled the ship were known to be seeking out the safety of Floridian territory.” Erskine sighed. “Mr. President, forgive my bluntness. I have made a point of learning your curriculum vitae. You fought most gallantly at Levy’s Field in the last war. You were a militia commander and state governor, and served capably in both offices. But you have never served in any sort of national office until two days ago, and you have never had dealings in peacetime with other nations until today. You lack experience, sir.”

“I can’t deny it, but I have my advisers.”

“May I venture a guess? One of these advisers told you that it is clever to begin negotiations by demanding the moon and stars, because it makes you appear strong and ensures that when a compromise is reached it will be one more to your liking. Under other circumstances, that might have been good advice, but not here.

“Had you simply requested that the Langdon and her crew be released, we would most likely have done so. Had you requested the release of the Secotan and her inanimate cargo, that request might also have been met—Lord Brougham is a reasonable man, and Her Majesty is nothing if not gracious. But to demand—demand—not only these things, but an apology from Her Majesty’s Revenue Service? Return of the lost slaves or compensation for their value—and for every slave who has found freedom in Florida in the past twenty years? If you understand the need for the appearance of strength, understand we have that need as well. We cannot answer such cheek with anything but cold refusal.”

“It is just,” said Berrien. “Those slaves are only free because your laws declare them so.”

“And why were they ever slaves in the first place? Because your laws declared them so. They have moved beyond the reach of your laws. Ergo, they are no longer slaves.”

“That is not what you said when you freed your own slaves. Brougham, and Grey before him, understood the justice of compensation.”

“The slaveowners were British citizens. You are not. You made that choice some sixty years ago and have shown no sign of regret. Do not expect the same consideration that we show to our own people.

“I will say it again—approach Her Majesty’s government with reasonable requests in the spirit of humility, and you may have confidence in the outcome. We are your neighbors. We desire good relations.”

“I can’t do that.”

“So be it. Then I must leave you with this warning—the last time your nation and mine fought, we considered it a mere distraction from the war we were waging against the most terrible conqueror since Tamerlane. You now have our undivided attention. If you’ve any mischief in mind, think better of it.”

This would have been much more effective if Berrien hadn’t known it for a lie. John Tyler, whom he intended to be his secretary of state, had assured him that Britain was currently preoccupied with trying to keep the Russians out of the Mediterranean. Spain was fighting even more wars on even more fronts.

Still, he kept his expression innocent.


Historians agree that Berrien came into office with the intent of waging war on Britain and Spain. Before his campaign for president, he and his circle of friends had examined maps and drawn up optimistic plans for invasions of Florida, Louisiana, and Texas like an amateur general staff. The Canadas, however, fit into none of his plans.

This was because for him, the goal of strengthening the nation and erasing the sting of 1815 was secondary to the goal of strengthening the Slave Power within the United States. As of 1837, there were thirteen free states, eleven slave states, and one slave state (Missouri) where slavery was effectively moribund. If Florida, Louisiana, and Texas could be added to the Union as slave states, then the slave states would possess a majority, and would be equal in number to the free states even if Missouri abolished slavery entirely—which Missouri was apparently in no hurry to do. Perhaps with Texas secured they could force the use of the Army to subjugate Kyantine, and compel at least a few other territories to accept slavery, thereby keeping the institution alive.

Of course, even putting aside that this required the United States to win the war in question, only Congress had the power to make it happen—and in 1837, Berrien’s party not only lacked a majority, it had lost support from its high-water mark of ‘35. Would a majority in the House and Senate agree to declare war on the strongest power in the world, and one of its more capable allies, with the goal of adding three slave states to the Union? It seemed unlikely, to say the least.

To make matters worse, Berrien’s goal of conquering Florida was in conflict with one of his other goals—to destroy the Cherokee nation. The first thing he instructed his new Secretary of War, Joel Roberts Poinsett[2], to do was order the disbanding and disarming of the Cherokee regiments on the Florida border, despite the insistence of General Winfield Scott that those regiments were a crucial part of the U.S. Gulf Coast defense. Sam Houston’s denunciation of the “damnfool” measure nearly resulted in a duel between himself and President Berrien. And as George Rockingham Gilmer, who replaced Berrien as governor of Georgia, ruefully noted, “Every Indian dismissed from the ranks of our armies in Alabama is one more who comes back to Georgia.”…


…Campbell’s experience governing Cayenne (the former French Guiana), a thinly populated and often neglected colony whose purpose was to grow peppers and extract timber and butterflies[3], had done little to prepare him for Lower Canada. His closest advisor, Scottish immigrant Adam Thom (who had arrived in Montreal only two years prior to himself)[4] assured him that despite the insistence of Papineau and his Patriotes that they were loyal to the Crown, they were secretly plotting either to restore Lower Canada to France or to join the United States. Campbell, the man who had been unjustly criticized for failing to prevent Napoleon’s escape from Elba, did not wish to be seen sleeping at his post this time. In January of 1837, in response to increasingly loud and violent demonstrations by the Patriotes, he ordered Papineau’s arrest. For the next two months, the situation in Lower Canada remained tense—but it was from Upper Canada that the explosion would come.

Over the course of the previous week, William Mackenzie had been publishing a series of articles in the Colonial Observer documenting corruption in the government of Upper Canada. Lt. Gov. Robinson responded by ordering the recently-formed York Police Department[5] to shut down the Observer. The police arrived in the early hours of Sunday morning, March 19. What happened next is one of those mysteries destined never to be solved.

According to the police, Mackenzie’s 22-year-old son James, who was working at the press, drew a weapon on them. Other witnesses claim that James was holding only a tool, which the police mistook for a weapon in the bad light. What is certain is that the police arrested James Mackenzie, striking him in the head in the process. The blow proved fatal—and not just to James Mackenzie. The man who was already the most outspoken critic of the so-called “Family Compact” was now father to a murdered son. After James’ funeral, the city of York rose in rebellion. Within a week, many other towns had followed suit.

This included Montreal. Campbell, focusing his attention on the francophone inhabitants of Lower Canada, had failed to realize that dissatisfaction was not confined to them. The Nelson brothers, Wolfred and Robert, led an armed mob to the prison and freed Papineau. By the end of the month, they had control of the islands of Montreal and Laval. Both Auckland and Campbell had to flee the city by night.

This resulted in tragedy. There was heavy fog over the St. Lawrence in the early hours of March 30. During the frenetic evacuation of Auckland’s loyalists, Campbell’s boat collided with another boat and capsized. The 61-year-old Campbell himself was injured and drowned. Prime Minister Brougham, on hearing of the luckless old soldier’s fate, is reported to have said in private, “Sir Neil died as he lived—in the wrong place at the wrong time.”…


…Although by early April, William Morgan had successfully persuaded Mackenzie and the other Upper Canada rebels to declare for the United States, Papineau and the Nelson brothers in Montreal were still insisting on their loyalty to the Crown, demanding only that Brougham’s government uphold the same liberal principles in dealing with them that it espoused for Britain itself.

Despite this, the rebellions in Canada did what the Secotan incident could not—it persuaded the Dead Roses and Populists that this was the opportune moment to declare war. As Webster said in his speech, “A Tide in the Affairs of Men,” assisting this rebellion would not only diminish or perhaps eliminate the threat from the north, but help bring freedom to those who had shown they were ready to fight for it. True, Lower Canada was a majority-francophone, Catholic land—but by 1837, the same could be said of Louisiana, which it was well known that Berrien wanted. On April 19, the declaration of war passed. Part of the army would be sent north, the rest held in reserve in case of British retaliation.

And so, Berrien didn’t yet have his war. He had a war, but the war Congress had just declared was not the war he wanted…

Charles Cerniglia, 1837


[1] The Chesapeake-Leopard affair.
[2] A man who IOTL had an amazing life, but all we remember him for is his work in amateur botany—specifically, introducing the U.S. to the Mexican flower we know as the poinsettia (called the nochebuena ITTL) which has become a popular Christmas decoration.
[3] Butterflies weren’t an official export, but this colony did make some money catching them for collectors or scientists.
[4] He came in 1833 IOTL.
[5] This city got its first police department in 1835 IOTL.
 
Last edited:
In the year after the burning of Savannah, fear of a second such holocaust did more to diminish the empire of the lash than all the appeals to common humanity ever made. The slavemaster may deny the virtue and intellect of the Negro; he may delude himself that his rule is founded in Christian love and charity; but he is not so lost to reason as to sit and say ‘This is fine’ as his house burns down about his ears. And now we see that, just as innocent homes and honest businesses may be destroyed in the cataclysm of a slave revolt, so may innocent travel and honest commerce be endangered by mere proximity to the hateful traffic in men’s lives.

*raises eyebrow.*
 
But to demand—demand—not only these things, but an apology from Her Majesty’s Revenue Service? Return of the lost slaves or compensation for their value—and for every slave who has found freedom in Florida in the past twenty years?
America, I think your president may be taking LSD.
Historians agree that Berrien came into office with the intent of waging war on Britain and Spain.
Either that, or he was dangerously moronic to the point that he makes Ferdinand VII look competent and far-sighted.
Sam Houston’s denunciation of the “damnfool” measure nearly resulted in a duel between himself and President Berrien.
I wonder what would happen if that duel had actually gone ahead and Berrien had been injured/killed?
 
Huh, didn't realise that would come from Canada of all places. Neither did a fair few others, by the looks of it. A good overview of the run up into a war that could turn really nasty really soon. How are the other European powers taking this? Spain looking to help the UK in some manner, although not actually declare war I imagine. And will this mean a large split between those who want to focus on Russia vs. the focus on the US?
 
but he is not so lost to reason as to sit and say ‘This is fine’ as his house burns down about his ears
1637693957680.png


Okay no but seriously, this is a complete mistake. I am now trying to reconcile these new events with the fact that the US still exists in the 21st century.
 
Last edited:
Okay no but seriously, this is a complete mistake. I am now trying to reconcile these new events with the fact that the US still exists in the 21st century.
Plot twist: America is returned to its 1783 borders save that bit of Maine British New Brunswick already annexed. Louisiana annexes eastward to Mobile (where many of French descent live to this day) and northward to the Arkansas River (the OTL border of French Lower Louisiana) British Canada annexes Upper Louisiana, and British Florida annexes westward to Pensacola.
 
One potential difficulty the Americans don't seem to have accounted for is slave uprisings. The British will likely offer freedom to any slave that joins them.
 
Also Florida may not just sit idle. The people of Florida don't need to be geniuses to realize if Canada falls they will ne next. An incident on that border could well trigger wider war. And I wonder how much of tht proAmerican attitude would survive the invasion?
 
My guess : The US sort of wins, but in exactly the opposite way from what Berian wants. They fail to get Louisiana, Florida or Cuba... but do get Upper Canada and possibly New Brunswick, expanding the number of free territories...
 
Top