Alternate History - North America 1936
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By the turn of the century, the United States was the strongest power in the Americas, having proven itself able to handle the European nations even with the loss of the southern states when the Confederates succeeded in winning their independence from the US.
The Republic of California, which had enjoyed a large influx of non-Mexican immigrants who could care less about the US’ support for Emperor Maximillian, decided to pursue the process of becoming a state of the United States of America. While many of the original settlers of California and Mexicans who had fled the French-supported coup to place were opposed to the move, the many new immigrants who had struck it rich during the gold rush and who had made their fortunes providing for the miners and now dominated the Californian legislature and for all intents and purposes controlled California felt that a union between the two would benefit them.
In 1893, California was peacefully annexed into the United States of America, which benefited both nations greatly: the US grew in power and strength while and its economy boomed with the influx of wealth from California, and this acquisition gave the US a virtual monopoly on all trade going to Asia from North America by virtue of the length of the American Atlantic coast. The political leaders of California gained large concessions from the US government, including the promise to keep the entire Republic of California as one state, giving California making California the largest state in the union and swinging the balance of power in Washington DC back in favor of the Republicans, whose laissez-faire style of governing appealed to their pocketbooks.
The Republicans had taken a beating in the polls after the American Civil War; the failure of Lincoln to defeat the Confederates had given control of the government to the Democrats with McClellan’s peace-ticket victory, which had lasted for decades. By the 1880s the Republicans had clawed back a majority in Congress due to adroit political moves and the reliable voting dedication of the colored population of the north: those that had reached the USA after the abolition of slavery were the most dedicated block of Republican voters, who still thanked Lincoln for trying to free them from bondage. The Democrats support in 1864 had come from many could care less about the situation for slaves in the CSA, and as such they were slow to pursue the black vote.
This was to prove a monumental mistake when in 1878 thousands of recently freed blacks poured across the border into the north, hoping to escape the CSA where, although the ruling whites had been forced to abolish slavery due to demands from the European nations who had supported the CSA’s bid for independence, they had been sure that the negroes were treated barely better. Chains and whips had been replaced by paper and nightsticks as the Confederate Congress had enacted a number of laws to limit the rights and freedoms of the south’s black population, and the police enforced them with ruthless brutality. The racist policies of the Confederacy would have a severe backlash across the nation as racism and xenophobia grew in equal measure. Soon the Confederacy would be enacting laws to limit the rights of any ethnic or religious group that drew the ire of the south’s white majority. Even groups like the Irish, who had fought bravely in the Confederate Army, found a number of minor laws acted against them when large groups of Irish immigrants arrived in the CSA, driven to come to the Americas by the need for labor (especially white workers for jobs that couldn’t be given to blacks) in the post-war south.
This need for labor that would cripple the CSA’s economic growth was the ironic effects of the Confederacy’s institutionalized racism, as blacks were forbidden from any skilled jobs that were deemed to be ‘whites only’ and instead were forced to be farm hands or unemployed. With only these two option to choose from, it is no wonder that many blacks traveled north or west to find better work, leaving the Confederacy’s population plummeting. By 1900, the ratio of whites to blacks was somewhere in the range of 10 or 15 to 1, which many in the CSA saw as a great achievement. But the CSA was also trying to industrialize properly, and with a population growth in the negatives for some regions due to depopulation the number of men available to work in the factories was very small, making the CSA’s growth very slow compared to other western nations, and only a fraction of the USA’s growth.
The xenophobic stance of the Confederacy, combined with its poor economic situation, managed to decrease immigration to the CSA that in 1905-1906 there were only 2000 immigrants from Europe who tried to become citizens. The cities of the North swelled gladly with the new labor, although racism in the big cities did increase as a reaction against all the blacks who were coming north and seen by some as ‘stealing jobs’.
The Confederate economy was further crushed by rapid loss in the value of cotton as Europe found other sources to fill their mills, and American businessmen were loathe to trade with the ‘rebels’, especially as the CSA had established heavy tariffs to help pay off its impressive debt to France and the UK. The Confederacy slowly began to shift to other goods instead of relying on King Cotton, but the effects were slow. Indeed, one of the few reasons the CSA economy didn’t entirely collapse in the late 1800s was the rapid growth of American cities and the increase in demand for foodstuffs to feed them, another irony of the CSA.
Deseret, like California, also sought statehood in the USA when it appeared that joining would be beneficial to the economy of the state. The influx of travelers headed to California had dwindled as the Gold Rush faded, and a railroad completed through Idaho to the west coast allowed people to avoid entering Deseret completely. In 1898 Deseret became the 34th state. This was not as widely popular as it had been in California, as many Mormons feared that with US statehood their religion would be affected. But the large non-Mormon minority and the Mormon business owners realized that this would allow them to gain the benefits of the American economic boom which included most of the later 19th century. Deseret, unlike California, was not economically or diplomatically strong enough to make its own terms for inclusion, and the US Congress were still sore over California being able to dictate the demands: both Colorado and New Mexico gained ground from Deseret as the new states borders were trimmed back in the east, a sore spot with many Deseret residents that would linger.
With both California and Deseret joining the United States, Texas was seen as the next obvious choice. The Confederacy, mindful of how strong their northern neighbor was growing, decided that they would need to try and get Texas to at least ally with them in case the US decided to fight the Civil War again. But although there were diplomatic overtures made to Texas on both sides, it had grown fiercely independent and would refuse the calls to join the USA or the Confederacy. However, Texas had taken this desire for independence to a further degree, announcing an official policy of strict neutrality unless seriously provoked. The only concessions to this would be a landmark naval treaty between Texas and Bourbon that would allow the Republic of Texas’ navy to shelter in Bourbon docks in any conflict, and vice versa. The two small nations were surprisingly close considering Texas was as dedicated a Democratic Republic as you could find while Bourbon was the creation of die-hard Monarchists.
Texas’ economy did very well post war, from the large profits from trading with the Confederacy to the later economic boom from the cattle drives to the north that would provide the meat to feed the growing eastern cities of the US. Industrialization in Texas also proceeded at a reasonable pace, but the Republics reliance on the agriculture industry would affect it later when the vast breadbasket of the US’ Midwest grew to replace long-range cattle drives. Thankfully for Texas the turn of the century would see the discovery of large oil reserves that coincided with the creation of Fords Model-T and the rise in the use of automobiles and oil-powered farming equipment in America and Europe. Texas’ European ties from before the Civil War had cooled somewhat as Europe no longer saw a need to try and weaken the US (except for the UK, who was still furious over the occupation of major swathes of Canada), but Royal Dutch Shell and other European companies would invest heavily in Texas to compete with homegrown Texan and American companies like Standard Oil, which was a creation of the worlds wealthiest man, John D. Rockefeller.
The shipbuilding industry of Texas and its neighbor Bourbon would both grow rapidly as the two became experts in the specialized industry of constructing tankers, which in turn drove a growth in the Texas steel industry to provide the materials for the ships. But both states were still dependent on American steel from the US’ growing industrial heartland, which stretched from Chicago to New York, and neither nations shipbuilding industry was ever even close to the same size as the US’.
Canada, which had been soundly defeated by the United States when the UK became involved in the American Civil War, was very bitter about its treatment in the post war period. Not strong enough to defeat the United States themselves, many Canadians feared that the US would try and annex the rest of Canada later. Quebec, which had gained its independence from Canada with US help, was very close to the US and feared that Canada, if it regained its former strength, might attempted to bring Quebec back into the Canadian fold with British help. These two fears ensured that the US found itself in a difficult position in regards to the occupied Canadian territories. In the end, the decision was made early in the 20th century when Russia, desperate for cash after failed Russian-American investments like the Russian-American telegraph line that never came to fruition. Russia had tried to sell Alaska to the US in the late 1860s, but the isolationist US government didn’t have the funds available or the political will to grab more territory when it was already dealing with an occupied Canada.
With a large peace movement in the US before and after WW1, many Americans felt that the Canadians should no longer be occupied against their will. Beginning in 1899, America enacted an official agreement with the Canadian government that would see all occupied lands returned by 1905. However, with the purchase of Alaska the US congress decided that it needed to maintain a land connection to its new territory, and amended the treaty to keep the Yukon and British Columbia in American hands. Although the territory of British Columbia, renamed with a lack of imagination ‘American Columbia’, ceded some of its territory to Alberta, the large amount of land taken was a serious blow to Canadian strength: the US now had a virtual monopoly on Pacific ports in North America, the only exception being a few smaller and less developed ones in the Empire of Mexico.
The US, feeling guilty about the annexation as it often does after taking a large portion of territory, gave Canada a large sum of money in the 1920s after the depression had hit which did help Canada deal with its economic problems and improved US-Canadian relations to a degree, but most Canadians viewed it as blood money paid to assuage American guilt.
In 1908, a small skirmish erupted between the CSA and Bourbon over the state of Arkansas when the ‘Negro Liberation Front’, a radical black separatist organization who were violently opposed to the CSA’s abusive racist policies and held desires for an independent black nation managed to shoot and kill the governor of Arkansas, George Washington Donaghey. This sparked a wider conflict between the CSA and Bourbon, which had been steadily growing for years.
Due to the large number of blacks and people of mixed-African ancestry in Bourbon like the Creoles, there was much animosity between Bourbon and the CSA. The Confederates hadn’t forgotten that Bourbon had been more than happy to help escaped slaves leave the CSA, and until the end of the Civil War the number one destination for blacks who wanted to leave the Confederacy was Bourbon due to its quite liberal policies towards blacks at the time; indeed, Bourbon was a strange mix of liberal domestic policies and outdated political ideas ever since its founding. With colored people accounted for almost 45% of the total population at the turn of the century there was plenty of outspoken hatred for the CSA’s racist policies, colloquially known as ‘Jim Crow’ laws, and many radical groups found support and security when operating from Bourbon lands.
The CSA demanded that Bourbon immediately crack down on the terrorist organizations based within Bourbon’s borders immediately and pay the Confederates reparations for the death of the governor. Louis-Philippe Albert of Orléans, Prince Royal to the French crown, refused the Confederate demands, arguing that it was an internal matter and it would be handled by Bourbon. The shooting of the governor sparked the first major conflict in North America since the Civil War when the CSA declared that it would be crossing into Bourbon territory to eradicate the terrorist groups operating there. This breach of Bourbon sovereignty sent ripples across the continent, and one could even argue it was the first true shots of the First World War. Bourbon immediately declared that its armed forces would resist any confederate moves with full force, treating them as a hostile army. Thus, the CSA was forced to declare war in the summer of 1908. The Republic of Texas, which was close to Bourbon diplomatically and economically, denounced the act and declared war on the CSA in response, its treaties with Bourbon coming into effect. Both Bourbon and Texas hoped that the USA would get directly involved, but there was a split in American government and public opinion between the isolationists and those that wanted the US to start flexing its muscle on the world stage. In the end, Congress declared that it would be sending troops into the Arkansas region in the “interest of protecting Bourbon sovereignty” to avoid actually declaring war on the CSA. The United States military, however, was not very large or well equipped. Most of the strength of the regulars was concentrated in the occupied zone of northern Virginia, which left most of the fighting to come to the many volunteer groups who rallied to the cause of defeating “Confederate Imperialism”.
The most famous of these volunteers was the future president of the United States Teddy Roosevelt, who led the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry into action at the age of 50. The large support for Bourbon from other French speaking nations like Quebec and France itself saw the tide swiftly turn against the Confederacy, who were swiftly kicked out of Arkansas in the limited war. The CSA, ever fearful of the United States marching south from the occupied portion of Virginia, was not willing to press the war to a greater degree and was soon forced to cede control over Arkansas to the United States who celebrated the return of another state to the Union, even if by force.
This defeat showed the greatest flaw in the CSA’s system of government. With a victory in a war which many contended was about states rights, the CSA’s federal government was very weak and decentralized. Indeed, many of the states in the CSA had refused to allow their state militias to get involved in the conflict, feeling that the western states had provoked a war that wasn’t their concern. The loss of Arkansas was a blow to Confederate prestige, and the Confederacy soon looked to be on the verge of its own civil war.
Roosevelt returned a hero and was swiftly elected president of the United States in 1912, becoming the first Republican president since Lincoln a half century before. Roosevelt was keen to reestablish the United States as the premier nation in North America, and desired to ensure the USA could keep European powers from interfering in the issues of the Americas. The United States Navy underwent a massive rebuilding phase in the early 20th century, with Roosevelt desiring the strength to compete with both the Royal Navy in the Atlantic and the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific. To this end, Roosevelt purchased the failed French canal efforts in Panama and ensured that the Panama canal would be an American Suez; an important asset militarily and economically by allowing US ships to avoid having to sail around South America.
The President had also been disgusted that the United States Army was considered by the European powers to be small and outdated, and began a program to modernize the army by purchasing new rifles, increasing the number of machineguns, and otherwise improving the US’ ability to wage war.
But the focus of Roosevelt’s efforts, as the former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, was improving the US’ blue water fleet. Large dreadnaughts were soon being launched, marking the United States entry into the arms race that had swept Europe. In 1913 a force of the US Navy, nicknamed the Great White Fleet because of their white painted hulls, circumnavigated the globe on a world wide tour to both demonstrate the United States growing military power and to act as a diplomatic good-will visit. In Japan, thousands of Japanese schoolchildren waved American flags in an act to demonstrate Japan’s desire for peace with the US, while in Australia many saw the fleet as reason to build their own naval force. The fleet stopped at dozens of countries along the trip, but the most notable visits were to Imperial Germany and the UK that summer.
In the UK, Roosevelt himself traveled on the ships to meet personally with the Prime Minister and Royal Family, culminating in a very celebrated speech in London where Roosevelt dedicated himself to the restoration of good relations between the UK and USA. However, the speech was also a not so subtle reminder of the growing military strength of the US, which many in the British government were vary aware of. The Royal Navy was still superior to the United States navy, especially as the US had split their navy between two oceans, but the UK was already in the midst of an arms race with Germany, while France and Japan were also involved in increasing the sizes of their navy. Russia, who had lost most of their naval power in the embarrassing Russo-Japanese war, were slowly trying to recover, while other large monarchies like Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire were both considered very minor naval powers. The speech went over well with the wider British and American populace, especially as the US had restored most of Canada’s territory which had helped diffuse a lot of the animosity between the two.
The fleets next visit was to Germany, where the US was also given a wonderful greeting. Roosevelt also accompanied the fleet on this trip, meeting with the Kaiser and the heads of the German government. This meeting was much less publicized than the first, but of much greater importance to future events. Germany was trying to build a fleet to contest the Royal Navy, but it was still behind the RN in strength. The Germans therefore wanted the US as an ally in case of war with England so that the British would be forced to divide their forces; the USN would represent a considerable threat to the trade routes which carried many essential resources to the home islands, and this worked well with Germany’s own plans of using merchant raiders and U-Boats to try and strangle the UK.
However Roosevelt was not willing to enter into any formal agreement with Germany. He was a staunch nationalist and felt that getting involved in any European war would not be in the best interests of the US, but he did work out a few minor agreements to improve relations with Germany. Barely had Roosevelt returned home than war broke out in Europe over the shooting of Prince Ferdinand’s wife. The US desired neutrality, and refused to enter into the war on either side. The Confederacy, an ally of the UK but suffering severe problems at home offered minimal support to the British, not much more than lip service to the earlier treaties. Canada followed the UK into war with Germany gladly. Bourbon and Quebec refrained from directly involving themselves the war, but many of their young men traveled to France to fight in the French military. In the US, the reactions were split: large numbers of German and central-European immigrants expressed very pro-German sentiment, which did appeal to the US’ historic animosity with the UK. But there were also vocal groups of pro-Democracy groups who felt that France and the UK were better nations than Imperial Germany, and many more who opposed involvement in the European war.
However, the change in US policy came when a telegram to the CSA from the UK was intercepted by German agents, who sent the letter to the US government. In it the UK had promised aid in a war against the US, including the return of West Virginia and Arkansas, in the event of the US allying with Germany. This caused a massive outcry against the British government, and the US Congress narrowly avoided declaring war on the UK. Instead, the US resorted to a blockade of trade from the Americas to the UK, with American warships parking themselves off of major Canadian and Confederate ports to inspect their cargoes for ammunition or other war supplies. Many young Americans traveled to Europe through neutral nations to enlist in an Amerikanische Korps, units of American soldiers fighting for Imperial Germany due to their nations refusal to get involved. Countries like Bourbon and Quebec, who were pro-France in their sentiment, were suitably upset by the US’ actions, but the US did not blockade their ports due to the feeling in the US that the United States only had a problem with the UK directly, and the governments refusal to harm relations with nations so close to the US.
The blockade, or Quarantine, was in the end a very ineffective measure. While it did ensure that most of Canada’s soldiers and equipment were kept in Canada or only arrived very slowly, both Canada and the CSA used the ‘neutral’ ships of Quebec and Bourbon to ship their support to France and the UK. But the biggest effects of the Quarantine was the inability of England to receive enough food from the Americas as American warships kept the British from receiving shipments of foodstuffs from the Americas, including nations like Brazil. By the time German troops captured Paris the citizens of the UK were on severe rationing, with France doing little better. The resulting treaty saw the borders on the worlds map drastically change, and relations in America were altered as Canada, Quebec, and Bourbon resented the US’ refusal to support their mother nations.
The post war period was booming time for the American economy, as American grain was used to feed the starving citizens of the European powers and the American economy, undamaged by war, increased rapidly. The other nations in North America who traded with America also benefited greatly, including the CSA who was finally stabilizing its economy. Canada also did well, the indirect benefit of the US keeping them from sending more of their troops to fight on the UK’s behalf ensuring that their population was not as decimated as the other combatants had been.
In the CSA a range of liberal politicians had come to power, repealing many of the Confederacy’s most racist and xenophobic policies as most Confederates realized that they were only harming themselves by keeping blacks completely uneducated and regulated to the worst jobs. While by no means equals in the eyes of the Confederate government or the vast majority of the white population, by 1922 the CSA had granted the vote to blacks and ensured that there would be a number of Colored-Only public schools for blacks to receive and education. Even though all of these measures still ensured they were only second class citizens, it did much to improve the lives of the blacks in the Confederacy, slowing the mass migration north by leaps and bounds. Terrorist groups like the KKK would grow violent due to this decision, but most in the Confederacy realized that they were necessary measures.
In Mexico the economy also began to grow before the war as Agustín de Iturbide y Green, the successor to his adoptive fathers crown and stylized as Emperor Maximilian II, also pursued a policy of liberalizing the economy. Unlike his adoptive father, Maximilian II was born in Mexico and had greater popularity amongst the Mexican populace. He also had very close ties to America due to his mother having been American, and thus was very friendly to the larger neighbor to the north. Like the US, Maximilian II felt that Mexico’s role was to ensure that the Americas were not the pawns of European powers, and during his rule Mexico had begun establishing itself as an independent state from France. With France’s crushing loss in WW1 any kind of unofficial control over Mexico faded, although there was still a very strong pro-French sentiment amongst the leaders of Mexico due to France’s key role in helping establish Maximilian I as Emperor.
But economic prosperity ended when the US Stock Market crashed, a rippling affect that would cause massive economic problems in many nations across the world as this crash combined with other economic problems to make millions worldwide unemployed. The Dustbowl of the American Midwest only added to Americas woes, but one of the ironic twists of fate was that Texas was relatively unharmed by the ecological disaster because its farmers were less industrialized than Americas, meaning less loose soil was available to be kicked up by the storms.
The years during and after the Great Depression would be hard for the Americas, causing a rise in support for more radical political ideology as socialists, communists and anarcho-syndicalists grew in strength in the bigger and more industrialized cities. But unlike in Europe, the lack of major social upheaval prevented any from gaining any true ground in the American political system. The economy soon began to recover the nations began to reform their economic system, implemented social services to restore confidence in the market, and generally rode out the worst of the storm.
In the CSA, the fight between left- and right-wing groups would soon grow bloody, a sign of what was to come in France and elsewhere as Labor Unions and other groups fought for a more centralized federal government that would exert more control over the individual states economies. This was fiercely resisted by those who felt such a move would betray the entire reason for having fought for their independence from the USA. The argument soon grew more violent as a number of more radical leftist groups began to include blacks as full members, adding that there should be no difference between the color of a persons skin. This in turn drew the racists groups like the KKK into the fight, which often resulted in massive running street battles between opposed factions.
The Confederate Patriotic Workers Party grew in strength during the confusion, espousing the kind of fascism that had risen in Italy. Their stance on a more centralized government but also being anti-Communist was very popular amongst the Confederate voters, who by 1936 had given the CPWP a majority in the Confederate Congress, but not enough to fully control the government like the fascist parties in the UK, Italy, or France had done. The majority of people in the CSA were opposed to any sweeping changes of the government, including many who were voting for the CPWP, tradition and history playing a big role in the Confederate national conscience.
In the US, there were many bumps in the road ahead: Imperial Japan had seized the Sandwich Islands from the UK when it had joined the war in the later months, also grabbing Singapore, Hong Kong, and French Indochina. This placed the Imperial Japanese Navy within easy striking distance of the US coast, which made the US unable to focus its attention on the growing crisis in Europe as it wondered about Japanese designs on the Pacific Ocean.
Canada, like most of the Commonwealth, was very troubled by the rise of Mosley and his British Union of Fascists. While King Edward VIII had been crowned as King, many in the Empire viewed him ineligible to be king due to his marriage to the American divorcee Mrs. Simpson. This caused a severe strain in relations as the Commonwealth nations claimed that Edwards brother George was the rightful king of England. By the end of 1937, there was a growing feeling amongst the Commonwealth as they began to pass resolutions condemning the coronation of someone deemed unacceptable, a rift between the commonwealth and the UK that threatened to break apart the British Empire.