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Friday, 3 July 2015

What If: The American Revolution never happened?

Around the United States on the Fourth of July Independence Day is celebrated. On the 4th July 1776 the Continental Congress ratified the American Declaration of Independence. Before then there had been much debate about whether to compromise with the British or declare independence and since then it cannot be doubted that the United States has had a major effect on world and cultural history. What if though the revolution never happened? There was an event where compromise was more desired than secession from the British Empire so that is where our divergence starts.

Point of Divergence
Before we look at the point of divergence we first have to understand the causes of the American Revolution to begin with. Since the 1500s Britain (at first England) had a series of colonies across the east coast of what is now continental America. These were called the Thirteen Colonies: Massachusetts (which also comprised of present day Maine), New York, New Hampshire, Delaware, Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut and Rhode Island. In 1763 Britain annexed the French colonies in Canada and all land east of the Mississippi but at a cost. Britain gained massive debts through the war with France and decided that they should pay the price of the new colonies by taxing the colonies. What followed were what was nicknamed the Intolerable Acts. Many of these acts, such as the 1765 Stamp Act, put large taxes on necessary products such as sugar, tea and printed items. In Massachusetts there were large protests which turned violent such as the 1770 Boston Massacre, and the famous 1773 Boston Tea Party where members of the Sons of Liberty dressed up as Native Americans and threw boxes of tea into Boston harbor in protest to the Tea Act, (this act gave the East India Company exclusive rights to sell tea). In 1774 delegations from 12 of the 13 colonies (Georgia did not send any delegates) formed the First Continental Congress in order to address the Intolerable Acts. What they decided to do was create a Petition to the King which declared loyalty to King George III and keep the trade regulations if the Intolerable Acts were removed. In our timeline the Petition was largely rejected so the colonists would form the Second Continental Congress and boycott British goods leading to the start of the Revolution. In this scenario the King pressures Parliament into fully accepting the Petition. With the Petition accepted revolutionary talk starts to be quelled and the American Revolution does not happen.

The next few years
 Following the repeal of the Intolerable Acts Anglo-American relations start to marginally improve although tensions are still there; particularly in Massachusetts where most of the discontent was. Many aspects of the taxes are still there such as tariffs to sell American goods but they are not as crippling as they once was. Like in Canada Britain would use a divide and rule tactic by using the decentralization to stop the colonies uniting against them (it took until the US Civil War for people to start believing that they were Americans and not New Yorkers, Texans etc.). Also the British Parliament allowing some form of independent Congress, with the first Governor being Peyton Randolph, for the colonists allows the 'no taxes without representation' grievances which fueled anti-British sentiment to be partially quelled. By the early 1780s the main anti-British papers would be less popular as they were ten years earlier and membership of the Sons of Liberty would be slowly dropping. This does not mean though that the colonists were entirely pro-British. Quite a few people would, possibly even icons of the Revolution like Paul Revere, would be angry that the British still had tariffs, that Congress still would have to answer to the British Parliament and that British militia still remained in the colonies. Although they would not be in the cities like Boston and New York they would largely be in the rural areas treating with the Native American tribes or protecting forts along the Mississippi with the French still being there. Resentment would also arise thanks to British policy with the Native Americans. The British had made a series of treaties with several Native American tribes, such as the Iroquois, which limited frontier settlement by Americans. Although like in our timeline the British would push the border further into Native American land there would be still large amounts of resentment from both colonists and Native Americans. The colonists seeing it as the British not favoring them and the Native Americans seeing them as expansionists. With a rise in immigration and an increase in birth rate through better medicine this could even fuel the colonists resentment.

The French Revolution
In our timeline the French intervened in the American War of Independence on the side of the Americans in a form of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'. This ran though France's excessive debt up to 12 billion livres. One of the central causes of the French Revolution was the American Revolution. However the French Revolution would still have happened anyway. The American Revolution caused a 1.066 million livre debt so France would still be millions of livre in debt anyway. Not to mention the other causes of the revolution including the king's extravagant living rising debt higher, social inequality, Enlightenment ideas going against religion and social statuses, a bread shortage, bread prices skyrocketing (especially bad as a poor French family would eat a quarter of a loaf a day) and no reforms to avoid this. However the lack of soldiers being introduced to ideas of liberty (many being inspired by the talks of liberty from their American companions) and slightly more money available would allow the Revolution to take a slightly different course. Increased army support and some money for the somewhat liked economic minister Jacques Necker to put back into the economy to reduce bread prices would cause the revolution to be slightly delayed. Of course no reforms, massive loans taken out by Necker and anger from the Third Estate (anyone who wasn't a noble or member of the clergy) would still cause widespread discontent but with the king having more of the army on his side he would help keep more control. Regardless the king and queen would still be guillotined, a republic declared and European monarchies declaring war to crush the revolution. The revolutionary wars would still ensure and likely a authoritarian regime installed by the 1800s but Napoleon would not be this figure. Like many other autocrats Napoleon gained power through a series of lucky events on his part but with an alternate revolution likely he would not come to power. With a less revolutionary army his leading of a riot in Corsica (something that happened in our timeline) he may as well have been executed by counter-revolutionaries and not made a captain.

The French Revolutionary War
In Europe Britain's involvement in the war would remain the same but in the Americas the Thirteen Colonies would play a massive part. When Britain ruled the Thirteen Colonies it easily made Britain a powerhouse in North America, the low resources and sparse population meant that Canada was not that helpful in making an American power out of Britain. The colonies eager for settlement could likely help the British by invading the French Mississippi. George Washington most likely would be made the commander of the Thirteen Colonies' militia and attack New Orleans taking it in 1795. France and Britain though would use Native Americans to help fight each other but as largely the tribes lived in British and not French borders they would side with the British. Nevertheless animosity and sometimes downright hatred towards Native Americans expressed by army leaders such as Andrew Jackson and Washington himself would lead to horrific massacres of tribes who did not fully support Britain. Unlike Napoleon though the autocratic leader would be unable to fight against the coalition of Britain, Spain, Austria and Prussia so would concede defeat. Britain would annex French lands along the Mississippi giving it to its colonies. The Thirteen Colonies would acquire more land as Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama to name a few are made into colonies. In return France would keep the land it had taken in the Low Countries and Italy with a restored Bourbon monarch.

After the war in the Americas
 The large amount of land taken from France without any people living on it would allow thousands of Americans to settle on the Great Plains. However often the British Parliament would have to intervene due to conflict between Native American tribes on the Great Plains, such as the Arapaho, and settlers. Like the US government in our time the British Parliament would create flimsy treaties with the tribes which would slowly reduce their lands over the decades. In 1807 like the rest of the Empire the Colonies' Congress would ban external slave trade. The north would remain a major industrial center using textiles, iron-works and other factories to became wealthy as well as Wall Street drawing in large amounts of revenue. The south would still be heavily reliant on agriculture with slave plantations (still in poor conditions) making money through cotton and tobacco. Meanwhile in Spanish America the weakening of the already loose Spanish control thanks to war with France would lead to revolution among the colonies. As soon as the war with France ends though the Spanish army invades to reestablish order. Through guerrilla warfare and revolutionaries relying on the support of the locals they slowly win their independence by the 1820s; East Florida though would soon join the British Empire uniting the state. Following Mexican independence settlers angry at the government for not giving up large swathes of Native American land would take up the Mexican government's offer for land in Texas although some take advantage of this to settle in Utah, Nevada and California. This does not mean though that Native Americans have a better life. Tribes west of the Appalachians would be confined to reservations as they get surrounded by settlers drastically deteriorating their lifestyle. Missionaries and forced removal of children would start to slowly remove tribal cultures and beliefs. Disease spread through settlers moving west would rapidly wipe out many Native Americans.

Like in our timeline Britain would ban slavery in 1833. In anger colonies heavily reliant on slavery such as South Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia would rise up in rebellion. This would be a short but bloody war as brothers fight against brothers. Many African-Americans would volunteer in the fighting in order to stop the uprising although it would be for different reasons than why the British fight (to preserve the empire instead of ending slavery). With the combined forces of the rest of the colonies, the British army, Canada and any other forces that Britain chooses to use the War of Slavery would end with the crushing of the rebels. A reorganizing of the southern economy would then happen although more successfully than our Reconstruction. The British were not known for letting rebels off lightly (emphasized by the atrocities committed by the British following the 1857 Indian Mutiny). African-Americans would be given citizenship and plenty of land while a constant force of regulars and dragoons would ensure that white supremacist groups would be put down. Although this was mostly due to them still punishing the former rebels and not anti-racism. It does have a positive effect though; civil rights would quickly progress in America at a faster rate than today. Years later the American settlers in Mexico would rebel declaring independence (backed by Britain) for the Texan Republic, the Californian Republic and the Republic of Deseret. Deseret would have a largely Mormon population whereas California and Texas would still have largely Mexican culture. In 1859 Britain would create a dominion of the United Provinces of America and two years later doing the same with Canada. Washington however would be called Victoria in honor of Queen Victoria seen as George Washington would be a somewhat obscure general from the Mississippi War. The capital of the dominion would be in Philadelphia although Washington D.C. would not be created. With the political power of the south destroyed there would not have to be a north-south compromise.

The rest of the world
World history would be drastically different. With no Napoleon Europe itself would be very different seen as he ended serfdom, ended feudalism, brought the metric system and emancipated Jews and other ethnic minorities in France. Although the abolition of serfdom, feudalism and the emancipation would have happened it would have happened decades later and present day Europe would only becoming industrialized with a more open society by 1910. We can look closely at Russia under Tsar Nicholas II's early reign to imagine what Europe would be like by 1914. Similarly Napoleon caused years later both the unification of Italy and Germany. Napoleon disbanded the Holy Roman Empire which made German unification possible so the economic heartland of Europe might never have come into being. Similarly no Germany, no French claims on Alsace and a more unified Austria (Napoleon helped cause the gradual fragmenting of the Austrian Empire) meant that the World War One that we knew would not happen as well as World War Two and even the Cold War. Liberia came into existence thanks to the USA so without the USA there would be no Liberia and the Meiji Restoration in Japan would happen at a much slower pace (or possibly stopped) without US intervention. For years, possibly until the 1900s, samurais would be the main dominant class still in Japan instead of economists, lawyers, politicians etc. Hawaii too would remain an independent nation and would be brought into the British commonwealth. However we cannot estimate what the world would be like due to how much speculation we would have to go through.

Lasting legacy
The American Revolution still has a major lasting impact on US politics, society and culture today. Many amendments were made to avoid more Intolerable Acts (such as the 3rd amendment which stops soldiers quartering in your house without your consent) or for necessity in case of another British invasion (such as the 2nd amendment which means that gun control arguments would be less aggressive due to it not being in the constitution). Even the USA's political system would be different. In this alternate timeline there would be no separate votes for the Senate and House of Representatives, no President, no Electoral College and a different voting system. Instead it would be closer to Canada's and Britain's system where you vote for a party and not a leader and which party has the most seats their leader gets to lead the country. Like Canada the British monarch would be Head of State while the public would vote for a Prime Minister. There would also be no 'Melting Pot' idea (where all cultures get assimilated forming one American culture) so Louisiana would be more ethnically French while no Indian Removal Act means that Georgia, Florida and other states (provinces in this timeline) would have more ethnically Cherokee and other Native American people. Just think though how much the USA has influenced culture. Many movies such as National Treasure, The Patriot, Gone with the Wind and Lincoln are all revolved American culture as well as countless plays, video game and books. 'Americanisms' would be less prevalent in many other countries. It goes to show how much the USA has influenced not only politics but culture.

Thanks for reading, please +1 and leave any comments.

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