You know how the United States has a lot of various territories that aren't states, such as "territories" and "commonwealths?" Well, I was thinking of the U.S. granting a looser, yet officially-defined, status to nations in the 19th century. Like, say Yucatan. Or Liberia. And perhaps because there was no way the South would have allowed a black-majority state in, President Grant could have granted protectorate status to the Dominican Republic instead of annexing it in most AHs.