In Kyoto Japan, Emperor Komei was found dead in his room. Officially, Komei died of completely natural causes in his sleep. Unofficially, it was generally believed that the guilt over dividing the Japanese Government and the subsequent division of the nation had brought great guilt to the Emperor and he had killed himself in shame. The role of head of state now passed to the thirteen year old Prince Take, or, as he would come to be known, the Shoori Emperor. Real power however was held by a Council of five Daimyo, the remains of the old social structure. It was clear to all however, that the old ways were no longer adequate, even to survive. The former social structures and ways of doing things needed to either be destroyed or reformed considerably, which was what the Council tried to achieve.
For a start, the social classes that had so long governed the nation were to change; the inability for one person to advance to a different class was abolished outright except in some regards. While anyone could join the Army, the bulk of the officer’s numbers still came from Samurai families and the highest ranks came from the remainder of the Daimyo. While the class lines between Merchants and Peasants were blurred beyond recognition, the class lines of the Militaristic classes remained solidly ingrained into Japan, the threat of an enemy nation separated by a mere border still making it a country heavily dependent on emphasising the role of the Military.
Economic reform and freedom was another key aspect of the reform era for Japan. No longer was foreign commerce limited to a few ports but all of what remained of the Empire. Industrialisation of Western Japan followed, allowing greater opportunities for society to expand. This was in great contrast to the Shogunate Republic which was forced by Russia to remain as it was; it was to be Russia’s puppet and anchor in the region to secure its power in Eastern Asia. The great divide between east and west in Japan was growing larger by the day and it began to tell. The stifled, static culture of the east and the mesh of the new and the old, the foreign and the familiar in the west would leave a mark on Japan that would last for a long time.
Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, found himself in a position of difficulty. With New England humbled, the US on the ascendancy and all seemingly going its way, the one issue dividing Americans more than anything else was slavery. In several Northern states, moves towards abolishing the abominable trade were being made while in the Central and Southern states, slavery was seen as the right of white men over the Negro. Abolitionists were beginning to be felt though with influences from Canada and Florida having their affect. The debate was largely in the domain of the slave owners but Abolitionism was being made into a popular movement, dividing America greatly.
In a bid to settle this argument, Lincoln decided to make a stand. Feeling little other than contempt for slavery, yet recognising he could not move against it, Lincoln decided to meet with Representatives of the slave states to discuss a plan for allowing states themselves to vote whether or not whether they would allow slavery. This was a rather large change in political thought for the US as, ever since the New England Secession, the Federal power had always outmatched the state power. It was in fact, a cop out by Lincoln who had done enough damage in the west to the National Party. It was likely that any other action would have lost it the north or south as well.
It was on the 17th of April, 1863 that after managing to gain the agreement of this measure by several major Southern representatives that the event happened. Taking the morning off to go on a walk with a small group of friends, Lincoln was enjoying the early air when a stranger crossed their paths. At first, it seemed that it was just a black man rushing to whatever business he might have. In one instant however, all that, and American history changed with the cry of “For the 76th!” And five gun shots were heard throughout the area.
Only three of the shots hit their target, one hitting Lincoln’s secretary in the shoulder and the other simply going wild. The remaining three hit Lincoln true and clear, going right into the chest, two hitting his heart, killing Lincoln on the spot. After one horrified moment, the assassin was tackled to the ground, offering no resistance after his task had been completed. The assassin was a veteran of the 76th Brigade, a black man by the name of Judah Rivers, a man who had been one of the many who felt betrayed after their efforts in the New England War had seemingly come to naught. Given his freedom after the War, he nevertheless thought that the slaves had been betrayed and wanted Lincoln to pay dearly for what had happened.
As Rivers was beaten and held in custody (Not necessarily in that order), Achilles Grant was contacted and quickly sworn in as the new President of the US as the nation went into mourning. Although some regions like the West only gave grudging admittance to feeling sympathy for their fallen leader, the rest of the United States mourned deeply for Lincoln, seeing him as their greatest President since the Founding Fathers. Messages of condolence were sent, with a personal one from King Alfred while in New England, there were reports of dancing in the streets. The toast of ‘To the fastest shooting Negro’ became widely popular up to the middle of the twentieth century for many in the Republic.
As he first sat in the Presidential seat in the Oval Office, Achilles Grant now faced a tremendously difficult problem before him. While erring towards the Abolitionist side of the slavery debate, Grant knew that such a position was nearly impossible for him to publicly maintain. Only by posting soldiers at the prison he was being held at did Grant save Rivers from a lynching before his trial. As Grant gave the eulogy at Lincoln’s funeral, he knew that he had to give way to those who wanted slavery to remain established throughout the US, hoping that an opportunity would arise where he or a successor would be able to reverse the effects of his decision. Of all people to thwart that hope, Judah Rivers was perhaps the most likely suspect.
The trial of Judah Rivers was pretty much a given. There was no way he was going to be spared the noose. Rivers pretty much knew this however and to all intent and purposes, just went on to make things worse for himself. Instantly giving a plea of guilty, Rivers went onto a full on rant, saying Lincoln deserved to die, that any other slave would do the same and all white folk will soon be dead at the hands of a slave uprising anyway. Needless to say, this all but sealed the fate of the slavery issue for an entire generation after Rivers was hung. Slaves couldn’t be trusted as free men, they were animals at the end of the day, best to have the white masters make sure they did as they were told.
But even this chain of events couldn’t hide the fact that slavery was slowly but surely becoming economically obsolete as industry was undermining its very basis. What was needed was a new system before long, one that would allow the Negro to remain subservient to the white without undermining the economy. In Missouri, a young writer and political advocate put his mind to a solution that would split the nation in twain.
As its eastern neighbour was still shaken from political ramifications of Lincoln’s death, California was going through its own transformation. Ever since the New Jersey War, all political and Military power had largely been concentrated into the hands of Josiah Norton and people directly answerable to him. He had been under the title of President since then, his behaviour becoming more exaggerated and notorious with each passing day. Looking to the ideas of the Roman Empire, Norton had started to wear the trappings of the Roman Emperors of all, gaining more than several laughs for his atrocious looking red boots.
As it soon became obvious that Norton was setting himself up to be an actual Royal figure, many wondered what this actually meant for California. Certainly, Norton’s popularity meant that he experienced no wide spread opposition to his ambitions, many seeing him as a loveable eccentric and since Juntism and Democracy had failed miserably, why not go for a Monarchy and complete the set? It was due largely to this apathy and somewhat sense of egging Norton on that he felt confidence to announce that the Government was to be reformed with a new sort of Senate and at its head, Josiah Norton, Emperor of California.
Several celebrations took place at this announcement as the vote was to be restored but also, political stability was to be gained from having a permanent political institution, the Royal Family. Norton was crowned in the Capital with people from all over the newborn Empire attending, the Mormons in particular sent out many representatives, showing the long established partnership they had with Norton. With the Coronation and establishment of the Californian Empire, the nation was to finally enter a period of political stability that it hadn’t enjoyed in years. Peace, stability and red boots that actually looked good were the only criteria for the Norton Government in its first years.
News travelled fairly slowly in between Europe and Asia. True, the telegram lines had cut the news down by several months but for some, even that wasn’t fast enough. As evidenced by Australian trader Derrick Jenkins, a man who had bought several rifles for the Japanese Army to use in its conflict only to arrive to find the Civil War had ended. Desperate to offload his stock, Jenkins scouted around for any prospective customers and found them along the Chinese coast, on a pirate ship to be precise. Offloading the rifles to a band of Chinese pirates, Jenkins made a tidy profit and stayed in China, deciding to further supply other such groups with modern weaponry.
It took five months before Jenkins was caught by the Chinese Government, by which time, the coast of the East China Sea had been plundered beyond belief and the Qing were beyond fury, they had reached breaking point. The opium trade had seriously damaged the Southern regions with many people becoming addicted to the drug, although it had lessened over the years with official interference and a general moral panic over the issue in the British Empire. With the revelation of Jenkins’s gun running operations though, the Chinese Government demanded the merchant to be handed over and face the justice of a very angry Qing China. As the Lewis Government had largely taken an ambiguous stance on trade in the area, the Commonwealth Government in Madras decided to take a hard line and say they would prosecute Jenkins in a British court and maybe give the Chinese some compensation should they feel it necessary.
Enough was enough as the Qing Government declared War on Britain and the Commonwealth with a seizure of merchants and their stores while a Navy was being brought together in order to kick Britain out of the Seas surrounding it. It was believed in the Qing Government that victory would be fairly easy. After all, had they not forced the British to compromise before? The War was believed to going to be easy, force the barbarians to submit to the Qing and then boot them out of the country in general. It would be a bloody lesson in how wrong an entire Empire could be.