The Free Man’s Republic: A Story of Jubilation

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by manitobot, Apr 11, 2019.

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  1. Threadmarks: Chapter 1: Townhall Meeting

    manitobot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    Foreword: I read and post a lot here, and you may know me from my previous small time project “The Left and Right Eyes of India”. That for now has been ended, as I focus on this, an upcoming idea I had. This TL will be slow, as it is particularly busy in my life at the moment; and there may have to be multiple versions. But one thing is for sure is that this community can help me and support me along the way. Now without further ado.....

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    The Free Man’s Republic: A Story of Jubilation
    [​IMG]

    (London - Batson's Coffee House. June 1786 - monthly meeting of the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor)

    It was a smoky, acrid day when the Committee met for its monthly meeting. Abolitionists, businessmen, and philanthropists met in the cozy coffeehouse to deliberate over how to improve the lives of blacks in London.

    "The chair recognizes Sir Henry Smeathman. You may now address the committee." A firm voice echoed across the
    coffeehouse as Chairman Jonas Hanway recognized the botanist to speak publicly over his proposal.

    "Honorable Misters, I thank you for giving me the opportune time to speak. In April we managed to raise 896 pounds. Our two current houses have supplied 75 doles, at six pence per recipient. Adequate relief is being accounted for. But we must ask ourselves what recompense are we providing for the future? Beyond basic charitable food donations and employment....The incredible number of these poor black men in every town and village is not being abated. Lascars, West Indians, Loyalist freemen, I propose simply a brazen yet suitable policy to the plight of Marylebone. Transport the troublesome Blacks back to Africa, removing the burthen of the Blacks from the public forever."

    At this point most of the committee was alert and slowly processing the scheme Smeathman had addressed. Agreeably most British recognized the destitution that 15,000 black refugees were causing over metropolitan London. Quite possibly, a notion to be entertained.

    "Does Mister Smeathman have a location for the Freemen's colony?"

    "A place I had recently spent most of my time in my pursuits of entomological research. What the Portuguese refer to as Serra da Leoa, the Grain Coast."

    And so throughout that blessed afternoon, members would deliberate over whether Smeathman's Sierra Leone Scheme had any practicality. The famed abolitionist Grenville Sharp heralded the idea as a means of showing pro-slavery lobbies that black people could contribute to the building of a colony. Indeed, it was no surprise that most of the committee was in favor of the proposal. As benevolent as the intentions of the committee were at the time, most saw this a way to remove a burden London had faced. While certain facets were debated at length for hours, even Hanway was amiable to Smeathman's idea.

    And so it might have gone, with multiple failed attempts basically coercing British Africans to a land- riddled tempest with hostile natives, an unforgiving environment, and a plethora of disease - founding a settlement that would eventually be inducted into the British Empire. An area that post-independence would fall to the vices of tyranny and corruption, horrific civil wars, and unforgiving Ebola epidemics. But in that moment, a timeline can and did change....

    A previously silent representative from the Sons of Africa, sitting besides a bifocaled Quaker from the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade stood up to be recognized.

    "Shall the honorable members of the committee understand with clarity that the slave trade remains active along the Pepper and Grain Coasts?" A resounding 'Hear, hear' was heard from certain members in the room. "And that with no laws regarding the abolition of the international trade of men being set forth, we can not in good faith guarantee the settlers safety and security in any new colony in Western Africa?" Again, a startling cry emerged from delegates voicing their support. "And summarily the circumstances could arise that with unrelenting cruelty, men who had fought all their lives to be free, could be captured and now twice enslaved, submitting to ironic bondage in a colony destined for freedom?" The room quieted significantly. Mr. Sharp was in deep thought. "Are the delegates of the committee content with the fact that the fates of the free black British could be stuck underneath floorboards aboard the Zong?" The room was silent. Most delegates were quiet, while some were intensely whispering.

    Smeathman would rise to retort. "Sierra Leone, in all my research and findings, boasts the most amicable environment for a colony of free Negroes."

    "Really?" Equiano petered. At this point he revealed his hidden gem. "Do tell me the conducive conditions free of marauding slavers in the Guinea area. I am sure you have the upmost experience considering your lodgings with slave trader King James Cleveland. Your ample support provided by slave trader Miles Barber. The many rounds of socializing and golf you and your assistant Berlin, have with slave-trading merchants and agents. Your references to their 'gentlemanly nature', and your outward countenance as one of them. Tell me, how exactly did you find transport from Western Africa to the Caribbean? A passenger ship? I do think not." The Quaker next to Equiano smirked.


    None could hear a sound from the assembly except for buzzing flies, remarkably similar to those that Smeathman had studied in Sierra Leone. Smeathman himself, was silent - bowed out, conceded. Trounced in every possible way by the man who was captured as a child in Isseke. It would be Hanway who would address the assembly after an awkward silence.

    "Acknowledging Gustavus Vassa's remarks, henceforth motion to table Smeathman's Sierra Leone Colonization Scheme until a more suitable location can be reached."

    And thus went on the committee hearings, in Batson's Coffee House, as British men tried in vain to advance the conditions of British Africans in the 1780's.....

    Postface: POD: While in our TL the location for the African freedmen's colony is Sierra Leone, ITTL vocal criticism from anti-slavery activists will create a change in location, and huge butterflies down the line.
    Stay tuned for next time. Tell me what you guys think in the comments below. Open to any and all judgment, complements, and criticism. Feel free to let me know if there is interest in this concept most importantly.


     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
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  2. Orisha91 Well-Known Member

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    Jul 2, 2014
    Love it already. Can't have to many Freeman colony tls.
     
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  3. manitobot Well-Known Member

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    Sep 28, 2014
    Thank you. I should have another update today.
     
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  4. Neoteros Dux Mediolani

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2007
    Location:
    Duchy of Milan
    Where will the freed slaves go, if not Africa? A place far away from the trade... maybe Australia, but the likelihood of them pulling a Liberia on the Aborigines is quite high. Same with New Zealand and the Maori. I have no clue.
     
  5. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

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    Aug 4, 2018
    roughly the same as the usa if it succeds...
     
  6. Unknown Member

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    Jan 31, 2004
    Location:
    Corpus Christi, TX
    Good start; waiting for more...
     
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  7. Orisha91 Well-Known Member

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    Jul 2, 2014
    Perhaps strengthening Canada to ward off aggression from the U.S is in order? They'll just be using British Freedmen though.
     
  8. manitobot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    You guys will see the location in the upcoming updates. To some, it seems like a bizarre conclusion but keep in mind that people are finding it very hard-pressed to send free blacks anywhere without the trade. And Equiano has some tactics to get the British government involved.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2019
  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 2: Self Autonomy, Now.

    manitobot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    [​IMG]
    (Batson’s Coffee House July 1786 - subsequent meetings of the Committee)

    “Will the gentleman consider perhaps the forthright advertised location in the Mosquito Coast?" a man asked.

    “Honorable Sir, the location is harkened by unruly Miskito kings, an uncomfortable Iberian presence and most assuredly severe bouts of miasma." another man replied. A collective groaning could be heard from the assembly.

    It had been weeks since the first inklings of an idea to create a freedman’s colony as a way to ease the plight of the black poor. While attention about a freeman’s colony had been gained through local news and Granville’s circulars of interest, garnering the notice of prominent Londoners, black Loyalists, and HM’s government; the colony was nowhere near determined due to the quagmire of location. This particular spell had lasted hours without any result, not even over basic objectives.

    “One must not be so fastidious with a location!” Smeathman interrupted, “a colony among Sierra Leone provides the perfect natural environment for the African. It could have already been set up and functioning in all this time we spent idling…like we are behest in a Devil’s workshop!”

    “Rather more like a graveyard could have been set up in Sierra Leone,” a Quaker man countered, “Tell me, Mister Smeathman, have you even once set foot anywhere else in Africa besides the Pepper Coast?” Smeathman sat dejected back in his seat.

    “This argument is increasingly unhelpful.” Hanway pronounced,” It is half-past midnight and besides, we seem to have finished the proceedings on our almsgiving and charities. Good tidings, I recommend we break for recess and meet again later.” With that, the members of the Committee stood up and departed the building.

    On the walk home from that meeting that particular night, it was the notable guest Equiano, also known as Vassa, who was flagged down by an African abolitionist Ottobah Cugoano. Prominent members of the Sons of Africa had been guests in the Committee in planning out the location.

    “Vassa my dear friend, perchance a moment for some questions?”

    “My dear, Cugoano. What questions you may have?”

    “Well firstly, your insistence on a change of location from Sierra Leone amongst the Committee. I understand the place may be susceptible to the trade of men, but at a certain point, we must realize that London will run out of hospitality, and blacks must start considering our options. Smeathman has spent nearly a decade in the Guinea Coast; maybe a settlement there isn’t such a bad idea after all?”

    “My friend Cugoano, our childhood’s were spent there,” and with that Cugoano smirked,” we both know he argues for the Grain Coast, because it is the one place he has set foot on in Africa. The reality is far different than what is proclaimed here in townhouses in London. Foreign diseases would succumb many to instant death. Hostile tribes wouldn’t hesitate to destroy any settlement. And there lies a completely unfamiliar environment than any black North American would have experienced. I used the argument over prowling slavers as the one that would most appeal to the Committee to change their minds. How oppurtune it is, that my obstructions have also bought us something else.”

    “I understand, Vassa. Yet please, continue.”

    “Time. It has bought us time, my friend, to methodically plan out this project. They want to rush through this, because they see us Africans as a liability. They see us as a burden they want to unload as fast and as quick as possible. With the arguments about location, I have bought us time. To secure funding. To generate interest amongst black Londoners. To petition the government to pay war veterans their dues, for people to find steady employment in trades, to interest His Majesty and the PM in this endeavor. That is one of many things we can do with God’s resource. But even with the perfect location, and with copious amounts of time, any project planned by that committee will be a failure.”

    “I once again got you, yet by Jove, I have lost you again.”

    “Cugoano, you know they don’t have our best interests at heart. You know they see us as nothing more than a scourge of beggars and a liability regarding charities of white Londoners. But barring even that, any project they design won’t be feasible, because they don’t understand us. No blacks, nor Africans are on the Committee. Misinformed philanthropists, ignorant Londoners, and slavers are on that committee. And thus they draw conclusions that we are more well-adapted to tropics, or more able to tolerate miasma than an ordinary British man. What we need is autonomy of this project. We need to be represented and have visibility. We need this project to provide us justice, recompense, our concerns addressed-our own community to be involved. Only then does a freeman’s colony stand a chance. But until then, nothing of value will come from the committee that treats us a foreign beasts, half-devil, half child.”

    “I see Vassa. I understand now so much more clearly. And I think you have inspired my future narratives in the press. If I have your permission?”

    “You have my blessing.”
    And thus Cugoano raced off, to do what he does best. Write. Write about the injustices that plagued this project. Write about how freeman’s republic must be determined by the freeman themselves.

    Postface: Already we can see unlike OTL, that Equino’s work is paying off. The mistaken settlement is not being rushed through, and fellow abolitionists are coming to the aid to help bring some autonomy- a factor I personally found critical. Chapter 2! Tell me guys what you think! Stay tuned for next time as the journey continues!
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2019
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  10. Neoteros Dux Mediolani

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    Feb 26, 2007
    Location:
    Duchy of Milan
    Uh, that slice of central America isn't exactly the most stable place...
     
  11. manitobot Well-Known Member

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    Sep 28, 2014
    Yes but the Committee is generally just proposing any location they think will help.
     
  12. Orisha91 Well-Known Member

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    Jul 2, 2014
    Definitely a wise decision to increase interests among the Freedman population about setting up a colony, securing their own funds, and getting folks into more trades.

    Much stronger foundation to start from wherever they go now.
     
  13. manitobot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    Exactly. A lot of the issues with the original Sierra Leone measure stem from the shortsighted plans the founders had sponsored.
     
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  14. Threadmarks: Chapter 3: The Formation of a Society- Location, Location, Location

    manitobot Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2014
    All throughout August of 1786, Cugoano immediately got to work. With fellow abolitionist writers like Thomas Clarkson, they together would publish discourses about the need for a dedicated organization for the colonization of freemen. With gravitas and elegance, they argued that the Committee was simply overburdened in handling the project, careful of course to not offend the powerful and prominent men that made up the Committee. They simply honed in on the prospect of a new society that can satisfy the need for self-autonomy in the black community.

    Circulated and discussed, the issue came to a zenith around October in the midst of Committee proceedings. Though not a supermajority of the committee, most members, including Chairman Hanway, became convinced that the project was a separate interest than the cause of immediate relief for British Africans. Short-term relief was an activity that the Committee was increasingly focusing only on, anyways. The Committee thus formally endorsed a new organization for those duties, in conjunction with the Abolition Society and the Sons of Africa. Immediately men with alacrity hastened at a rapid pace, and by November of 1786 The Society for the Advancement and Colonization of Free Peoples, or the Freeman’s Colonization Society was founded. Compared to the Committee, this organization would be one where British Africans could be represented, more attuned to the concerns of the community, and made up of people with genuine intention to the cause it advocated for. No more foolish assumptions about Africans or uninformed, aloof members. Instead the assembly would be composed from all walks of life - ranging from passionate members from the Relief Committee, Black British community leaders, the Sons of Africa, the Abolition Society, social reformers, and Quakers, and interestingly enough a Lascar and a noblewoman. And moving like clockwork, the Society quickly established said goals they had to achieve.

    On December 1786, the Society met for the first time to elect their chair and outlined their agenda, and decided to split into delegations to propose and execute actions that would be voted on by the assembly as a whole. With the election of Granville Sharp as Head Chairman, the Society would create three interconnected Commissions tasked with accomplishing the agenda.

    (Dec. 1786 Freeman's Society's Proceedings)


    Continuing to petition HM’s government for property compensation for Negro freedman and pension for black Loyalists for esteemed military service,

    Approving the incorporation of the Society as an organization that can assent to a royal charter or an act of parliament for the creation of a colony,
    Securing funds and military support from the government for the protetction of the colony, especially against hostile forces and slavers,

    Pushing for the abolition of the international slave trade, and military intervention to end the trade, as well as slavery itself,
    The Crown Commission is hereby formed and tasked with said duties, as listed above, to communicate with HM’s government. The chairman of said commission will be the right, honorable William Wilberforce....

    Decreasing the unemployment rates for the black poor by procuring them steady livelihood and reducing their welfare dependence,

    Training the black poor in trades and other types of work especially preparations in agriculture and farming,
    Providing basic education for black men, women, and children,

    The Livelihood Commission is hereby formed and tasked with said duties, as listed above, improving the livelihood of the black poor. The chairman of said commission will be the right, honorable Ottobah Cugoano....


    Continuing to spread word by means of the press and speech of a fortuitous colony,
    Convince freemen to take on the colonist venture and summarily processing and approving said inquiries,
    Procuring supplies and choosing the location,

    The Colony Commission is hereby formed and tasked with said duties, as listed above, planning the colonization of free blacks. The chairman of said commission will be the right, honorable Olaudah Equiano....

    So ordered and approved unanimously by the Society,
    and approved by Chairman Granville Sharp.

    In the Year of Our Lord 1786....


    [​IMG]
    (Vassa’s Residence - Riding House Street, London. Midnight, Boxing Day 1786)


    Equiano was deep in thought. The Colony Commission was working hard to fulfill their agendas, in fact all of the commissions were. But the puzzle of the location only continued to be debated and pondered over. To improve the decision process, he had compiled a list of factors to help him with his quest. Mulling over those lines of ink, he peered at them through candlelight to find a home.

    "The colony should have an environment that is satisfactory for the agriculture, growth , and colonization that black freemen are acclimated to…"

    “Of course. We need an environment that we are used to. Any tropical areas would have too harsh a climate or have too many diseases that would inhibit our development," he summarily draws huge crosses over Africa and Latin America, "But mostly all the land that is akin to what black freeman are used to has been settled by European empires anyways."

    "The colony should be located in a safe area, away from hostile forces or nations..."

    “Any settlement needs to have a safeguard against foreign exploitation or native attacks. But the Caribbean is made up of slaveholding islands, we would truly be an ostracized community. A location would have to strategic interest for the British to offer protection; but even in the British Empire itself, reports out of Nova Scotia shows that no respectable Englishman even wants to associate with free blacks, let alone anywhere else in Upper Canada." Peering into the map he scrounges at any available locations, with dismal results.

    "By God this is infuriating!” throwing his hands in the air, a noble man seems near defeat.
    But suddenly, out of the corner of an eye, he locates a landmass. He ponders it at first, and the cogs of his mind turn slowly, then ferociously. His imagination runs wild. He peers more clearly, to the south of the map.


    “Yes, by Jove, it just might work.” A glint of excitement rushes out of his eye, as he works until dawn in a mad frenzy pouring over books, maps, anything he could get his hands on. The same words recited wistfully in his native language, over and over in his mind.

    "Ndida. Uzo nke Ezi Olileanya." South. The path of true hope.

    Or in this case, a Cape.

    Postface: Hey guys, hope you liked this update. Things finally break ground, and are heating up with Equiano's idea for a location. Stay tuned for next time!
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
  15. Sceonn Peace at a Bargain Price

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    Jun 23, 2014
    South Africa is it, a land with great development potential.
     
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  16. manitobot Well-Known Member

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    Sep 28, 2014
    Great job on being the first to guess the location. It has great potential but it has a LOT of other guests. How they navigate that tension will be interesting.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
  17. JonasResende Well-Known Member

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    Oct 13, 2012
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    Oranje Vrijstaat, Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek
    Just one problem. In 1786 Britain doesn't control the Cape. The Dutch do. And the Dutch anti-British sentiment has been riding high since the 1750s, so Britain "dumping" a bunch of ex-slaves on their coast will not go over well (Hell, even when Britain did control the Cape, and they tried to use it as a penal colony, the locals refused to let anyone aboard come ashore). Unless you plan to fiddle with the revolt in the Netherlands at the latter end of the 1780s.

    Add to that, the Cape isn't controlled by the Dutch state. It's controlled by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Which is a private company.

    I repeat: I don't see this ending well.
     
  18. SenatorChickpea Well-Known Member

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    Oct 22, 2009
    I'm going to guess that the Patriot Rebellion will be much more distracting for the Dutch in this timeline.
     
  19. manitobot Well-Known Member

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    Sep 28, 2014
    I am glad you brought this up. I have spent many days thinking about how to resolve this situation and I have a solution, though that same issue will be a focal point as a plot device in the future. In other words, stay tuned.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
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  20. Taimur500 Well-Known Member

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    Jan 24, 2019
    Now imagine if that ended up causing larger-than-OTL revolutionary movements across europe
     
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