Fringeworthy: Year Zero
History of Victorian Prime
The North American continent is divided into the following nations:
- American Commonwealth
- Empire of Mexico
- República de California
- República de Tejas
- Rossiyskaya Amerika
1812: War is averted when a fast sloop from Britain delivers news that the British Orders of Council of 1807 have been withdrawn. The Order prohibited neutral parties from trading with France and her allies during the Napoleonic Wars. This Order was the cause of much friction between United States of America and Britain, with many American ships trying to break through the British blockades to deliver goods to France.
Still, there is a movement afoot in America to conquer portions of Canada, though the New England states are against angering the British. In November, De Witt Clinton is elected President of the United States of America by the narrowest of margins.
In Europe, General Wellington is victorious over French forces in Spain. The Emperor Napoleon however was grievously wounded in Russia during the retreat from Moscow. The wound later became infected and Napoleon dies on December 7, 1812.
1813 – 1815: In Europe, the French empire is in upheaval, and quickly descends into multiple civil wars, as ally fights ally. The British forces wisely withdraw from the continent and wait to see what arises after the dust settles.
In America, frontiersmen, angry that Clinton won the election, stage a raid from Fort Detroit across the Detroit River on the city of Sandwich and on Fort Malden. They are beaten back by the well-trained British troops.
In retaliation, British troops cross the river and take Fort Detroit and the surrounding settlements. President Clinton tries to negotiate a withdrawal of British troops when more frontiersmen from Buffalo Creek attack Fort Niagara. Consequently the talks break down and the British forces mass at the border. Reluctantly, Clinton asks Congress to declare war on Britain.
Wellington is sent to “teach those brutes a lesson” with several divisions of battle harden troops. The British Navy successfully blockades the major ports, while the New England states surrender to British forces.
The war is bloody; Philadelphia is burned, as is Washington. New York City switches sides and pledges loyalty to the crown, providing a major port in America for Britain. American forces are caught between two fronts in the northern states south of New York: British troops on the Atlantic seaboard, and troops from Upper Canada streaming through the captured Michigan Territory.
The Spanish besieged New Orleans, in an attempt to recapture the southern portion of Louisiana. Andrew Jackson manages to break the siege and drives the Spanish troops into the swamps, where they died by the hundreds at the hands of the Choctaw and other denizens of the swamps. A year later the British try their hand at capturing New Orleans, but again Jackson holds them off long enough to work out a deal with the Crown. By this time, the United States of America is no more, with only pockets of resistance keeping the British troops busy.
New Orleans and a portion of Louisiana become an independent state, with a generous trade agreement with England that guarantees access to the Mississippi river. The remainder of the Louisiana territory is claimed by England, with Spain consolidating its hold on the Western portion of North America, up to the Columbia River. Above that, Russia laid claim to the land.
The former United States are divided up into small provinces, each one assigned a governor appointed by the crown. Provincial assemblies are allowed, but could be disbanded at any time by the crown.
1820 – 1860: California breaks free from Spanish rule, backed by both Russian and British interests. Mexico soon rebels, and Spain loses its major foothold in North America. The only possession they have left is Florida, a benighted land of unruly savages and mosquitoes. A few years later, they sell Florida to England, who also doesn’t know what to do with its new possession.
France settles into five separate states, divided by language and cultural lines. Kings rule two, one becomes a dictatorship, one restores the Republic in a smaller form, and the fifth attempts to create a socialist state, without a central government. It fails five years later, and is absorbed into the other four states: The New Republic of France, the Kingdom of Normandy, the Kingdom of Provençal, and the Republic of Gascony.
Gold is discovered in San Francisco, but is declared a national resource, stymieing any potential gold rush to the region. Claim jumpers are summarily shot by Californian soldiers. California becomes a major player in Pacific trade with two major ports: San Francisco and San Diego. Financed by the newly discovered gold, California becomes a trade powerhouse, with ships headed to every major port on the Pacific Rim. The Sandwich Islands are annexed by California, as are several other Pacific islands. The Sandwich Islands are renamed Isla de Patria de Hawai’i.
California is a unique blend of Spanish, Indian, Russian, and British cultures. The primary language is Spanish, though it is becoming a unique dialect thanks to the influences of the other cultures. It is a constitutional monarchy, with the Californian Dons tightly holding the reigns of government.
In 1850, Charles Babbage finishes his first Analytical Engine, demonstrating it to the Admiralty as a more efficient means to tabulate reams of data, even to calculate ranges on the fly. Later, using the work of the physicist Joseph Henry, Babbage added the ability for his engines to communicate with each other telegraphically. This spawned a special kind of Babbage engine that dealt entirely with telegraphic communications, sending information across the world at lightning speed.
Britain’s holdings in North America were consolidated into a single entity in 1855: the Commonwealth of America. The Commonwealth consists of Upper and Lower Canada, the former United States and its territories, and Florida. The seat of government is in New York City on Manhattan Island. (The city of Washington was destroyed in the War of 1813 and turned into several farms.)
However all is not well in the Commonwealth. The Sons of Liberty, the followers of Jefferson and Adams, are a constant thorn in the side of the British. They attack government offices with bombs, print treasonous tracts trying to instigate public unrest, and other terrorist style attacks. Their goal is to restore the American Republic or destroy it so the Brits can’t have it.
1860 – 1897 (present day): The Commonwealth of America is fast becoming the major economic engine in the British Empire. The Republic of Louisiana is a major benefactor of this trade, due to their ownership of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
The Great European War raged through most of Europe, starting in 1870 when Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, and Austria declared war against the New Republic of France. The Republic calls on it allies, and soon the Kingdoms of Normandy and Provençal took up arms. By 1871, Except for Britain, Europe was at war. Many new weapons and tactics were created and tested during the war, including the first military use of lighter than air airships. The Great European War ended in a muddle by 1876, with no one gaining or losing any territory.
Britain stayed neutral in Europe, but elsewhere in the world she took advantage of the conflict. First to go was the Belgian holdings in Africa, as Britain conquered the Belgian Congo and swept across the continent and added much of Central Africa to its territory. This new territory was formed into the Congolese Protectorate.
Mexico finally relents and allows the people of Tejas to secede and form the República de Tejas. Mexico still controls the lower Rocky Mountains up to the lower Colorado River, but does not do much with the territory. The region becomes a no mans land of small bandit villages. These villages raid in all directions, but have special immunity because Mexico refuses to go after them and refuses to allow California, Rossiyskaya Amerika, and the Commonwealth of America to cross the borders and go after the bandits.
Along the Commonwealth border, Britain has establish Her Majesty’s Aerial Constabulary, commonly know as the Air Marshals, to patrol the skies in massive airships, patterned on the designs created by the Bavarian-Saxon Count Von Zeppelin, along the border between the Province of Colorado and Mexico.
Slavery was more or less phased out. This most peculiar enterprise was not in favor of various British lords, so laws were passed that would start emancipating slaves on a set schedule, so as to not greatly affect the Commonwealth’s economy. A slave born in 1820, would be a free man by the 1850s. The last slave was freed in 1880, and he was already holding a job as a foreman on the plantation that had once owned him.
Plantations were encouraged to pay their slaves a wage so that when they were freed they wouldn’t be a burden on the government or the economy. Wages were around 10 pence a day, but this law had an unintended consequence. Getting paid to work the fields encourage some slaves to work harder. Some plantations upped this wage by including performance bonuses of an extra pence for additional bushels of whatever they were growing. Some plantations became so productive, they discovered that they had too many slaves getting paid and not working during the other seasons. So an accounting decision was made and whole plantations worth of slaves were set free, but only those Blacks who did year round jobs were offered positions on the plantation at slightly higher pay. The rest were told that if they wanted to stay, they had to pay rent, and they only got paid if they did work.
This lead to an early Diaspora of freedmen to the big cities of the south, but not in great numbers. It was a steady stream, not big enough to swamp local economies. Many crossed the border to Louisiana, which had abolished slavery in 1814, and found a life along the Mississippi.
Now life as a slave wasn’t all crumpets and tea, since being a slave meant that you were property, not people, so harsh treatment still occurred, sometimes at the hands of a freedman overseer. Killing slaves was illegal, but whipping them to the bone wasn’t. Many a freedman and freedwoman bore the scars of their former slavery.