The Second Albany Congress
The American Revolution was a
comedy of errors from start to finish. The
British blundered into the war because the government did not understand America
and had paper plans that took no account of the situation on the ground. The British also suffered from having to fight the war at long
distance – often, British negotiators had to refer to London, even though that
took weeks at best. The Americans
did not understand that problem themselves and concluded that the British were
trying to destroy American freedoms.
There were, however, many
possible avenues to avert the war or to alter its outcome.
I am supposing that the British government appoints a viceroy – a
person with the authority to make decisions on the spot – to the American
colonies. This person – Amherst
would be best for the role – would then summon a congress of American
representatives to discuss the future of the continent.
It should be noted that most of
the American power structure did not want a break with Britain.
Their complaints were over taxes, the occasional corrupt royal governor,
the ban on settlement of Quebec and the Indian lands and the stationing of
British troops in the colonies. More
minor fears included the British toleration of Catholics in New France and
British impressments of American sailors. All
of these complaints can be dealt with by a sensitive royal official.
I am presuming that Amherst
makes the following decisions. The
British will grant America local government i.e. charging American officials
with the collection of taxes. The
American colonies also undertake to raise a few crack units – ‘crack’ in
the sense of being armed at trained to at least British standards – of troops
to respond to any emergency in the area. These
troops can be used anywhere in the Empire.
The colonies can also raise militia, but those can’t serve outside
their colony and receive little support from the government.
The land issue is handled in a
very under-the-table manner. The
British had claimed a high moral ground, but that was little good in practice. Essentially, the British government will ignore illegal
settlement on Indian lands, but will also provide no support unless the Indians
attack the main colonies. Settlers
are on their own until the expanding colonies catch up with them.
Quebec will be kept free of American settlers, but will be restricted to
the modern borders of the Quebec zone of Canada.
Anything beyond that is free land – apart from the Indians.
Finally, the Americans assemble
a parliament, on a similar line to the Irish or Scottish parliaments.
This body handles disputes between colonies and co-ordinates military
actions and relations with the rest of the Empire. Effectively, the American war of independence has been
What happens next probably
depends upon how important you consider the American Revolution to have been.
The French will not have spent millions of whatever money they used then
to finance the revolution and arm their forces. The extra money might just make the French king able to heal
his nation without a revolution. On
the other hand, the French system – a remnant of feudalism – was pretty much
gummed up. A revolution might well
One way that it might happen is
a second war of Spanish Succession. Spain’s
grip on her colonies was weakening by the year.
I suspect that the colonies would have risen in revolt again by 1800 at
the latest, aided, perhaps, by a flood of ‘illegal’ immigrants from America.
Spain will declare war on Britain and France will join her.
Another possible cause is the Anglo-French rivalry in India.
By 1777 the British were the clear winners, but the French had not quite
worked that out yet.
That war would see the
British/Americans conquer all of the American continent and the Spanish/French
colonies. The American armies and the British navy would cut them off
from the motherlands and pick them off one by one.
At first, they’d try to work with independence fighters in the
colonies, but probably relations would sour at some point. Brazil would probably be separated from Portugal when (if)
Spain invaded, opening it up to Anglo-American conquest and commercial
penetration. Russian entry into the
war would allow the Americans to complete the Empire by taking Alaska.
The sheer mass of power
available to the Empire would probably mean that the Empire would pick up most
of the world. South Africa,
Australia, Japan, et al, would be British.
Eventually, they’d get governing systems similar to the American one
that gave them membership in an imperial federation.
The only other power that would be able to compete would be Russia. I suspect that the two powers would divide China and the
Ottoman Empire up between them; perhaps coming to blows over vital points.