As yet another Independence Day rolls around I’d like to propose a thought experiment:
It’s April 19th, 1774 and Edmund Burke gives a speech denouncing the Crown’s treatment of the American colonies:
Be content to bind America by laws of trade; you have always done it…. Do not burthen them with taxes…. But if intemperately, unwisely, fatally, you sophisticate and poison the very source of government by urging subtle deductions, and consequences odious to those you govern, from the unlimited and illimitable nature of supreme sovereignty, you will teach them by these means to call that sovereignty itself in question…. If that sovereignty and their freedom cannot be reconciled, which will they take? They will cast your sovereignty in your face.
It’s April 19th, 1775 CE. The government of his Majesty King George III of the house of Hanover has decided to grant the Colonies representation in the Houses of Parliament. John Adams of Massachusetts (whose relation Samuel Adams has been imprisoned along with the leaders of the terrorist group “The Sons of Liberty”) along with Ben Franklin of Pennsylvania and James Madison of Virginia, with other representatives from the various colonies, are on a ship bound for England. A detatchment of British regulars led by Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith patrols near the towns of Lexington and Concord in Middlesex County Massachusetts Bay Colony looking for hidden “patriot” insurrectionist weapons and supply caches. The night before a group of rabble-rousers, including a silversmith named Paul Revere, were caught and imprisoned for attempting to promote rebellion against the British crown.
As the sun rises over Lexington a ragged group of colonists gather to meet the British Regulars. They carrying arms and military supplies. There is a stand-off. And then…The colonists drop their arms and supplies in a pile in front of the regulars, salute, and go about their business. They “patriots” have been betrayed, and the loyalists to the British crown have unilaterally decided to turn in the caches without a fight. The words of Edmund Burke ring true, and peace reigns throughout the American colonies.
But it gets even WEIRDER from there
In 1800 the Parliament votes on a bill introduced by newly elected delegate from Virginia Thomas Jefferson. The measure passes and the slave trade is abolished throughout the British Empire. The following year slavery itself is outlawed by another act of parliament, and all of the colonies, save for South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, comply. In response to this gross display of disunity and disloyalty, the British Army is dispatched to the southern colonies, backed by large numbers of colonial regulars from the North-East colonies. After a brief series of battles (in which the combined British and Colonial forces easily prevail against the rag-tag militia of slave owners and their paid mercenaries) the Imperial forces capture Charleston. Savannah falls a week later under threat of bombardment by the British Navy warships docked just offshore in the bay. British military governors are installed in the rebellious states and they implement the destruction of the slave economy of the southern states. It takes another years for the tensions to cool, but by 1820 the economy of the south has stabilized and the last remnants of the slave based aristocracy has been swept away forever.
But wait, there’s MORE
It is 1812 and the American Colonial army led by Andrew Jackson invades French held Louisiana and takes the city of New Orleans. In Europe Napoleon hears of this disaster just as he is preparing to invade Russia. He is forced to rethink his plans, and instead sends half the force back to France and other half he sends to relieve Louisiana. The British Navy surprise the French flotilla at Trafalgar and hem in the ships as they dock to resupply before the trek across the Atlantic to America. Napoleon is overthrown by his officers and a republic is declared. This new government sues for peace with Great Britain. In exchange for peace, the French Navy and army are reduced in size, and the Americans take over administration of the Orleans territory along with the Mississippi territory. This area later becomes the colony of Orleans. The British cement their grip on the continent by signing an agreement with the Western Indian Tribes united Under the great native leader Tecumseh. The lands West of the Mississippi and 3oo miles south of the Canadian territory are given over to Indian Administration under the protection of the Crown. Spain and her colonies are left to deal with the “Indian Problem”.
Need a moment to take this all in…
UH UH! We ain’t done yet!
It is 1860 and the American colonies are officially granted status as an autonomous but loyal Commonwealth of the British Empire. The CWA (Commonwealth of America) grants voting rights to poor whites, women, and blacks aged 21 and older. America elects its first Prime Minister and its first Independent Parliament. Queen Victoria is proclaimed head of State and the official anthem of the new Democratic Republic is “God Save the Queen”. War rages to the West between the faltering Spanish Empire and the vibrant and growing “Confederation of Native Tribes”. Within the decade the Spanish are expelled from America and the independent republics of Mexico, Texas, California and the Confederation vote to join the Commonwealth of the British Empire as well. There is a major movement towards greater freedom and representation throughout the Empire, and the parliament of Great Britain votes to withdraw all troops from the Indian Subcontinent after a brief transition period of 5 years. The various nations of the subcontinent gain various forms of autonomy and independence, and all choose not to join the Commonwealth. The last Indian state, Kashmir, declares Independence in 1901, as Queen Victoria dies in her bed.
PLEASE! Need a deep breath
But one final thing!
It is 2012. The past century has been a trying, but successful one. Germany, Imperial Japan and France were defeated by the British Empire and the Commonwealth of America in the “Great War”, and a general Pax Britannia reigns over most of the world. The Soviet Union rises in the east, but under the leadership of Premier Leon Trotsky it slowly but surely moves towards an enlightened Democratic Socialism. This political philosophy spreads across Europe and Asia, eventually reaching the shores of America. By 1970 the British Empire is dissolved in favor of a great Commonwealth of Independent Nations. Germany, France, and the Scandinavian nations eventually join, as does Italy, much of Africa and the territories of the former Ottoman Empire. Peace reigns across most of the world, and a pact of Mutual non-aggression is signed between the Commonwealth of Independent Nations, the nations of Hindustan and Persia, the Republic of China, The Empire of Japan, and the Soviet Union. This unified world of friends begins to push forward together to combat global climate change and deforestation, and in 2025 fossil fuels are banned as destructive to the world shared by all human beings.
THERE. All speculation of course, and not nearly a fully comprehensive, or entirely accurate, view of the world had the USA never gained independence, but a view nonetheless. It can be fun to think about what could have been, or what could still be. Happy Fourth of July.