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What if Wolfe failed at Quebec?

General Wolfe launched an attack on Quebec that seemed doomed to total and inglorious failure.  Due to the incompetence of the French Commander, it succeeded; the British were able to invest and capture the city.  In turn, the French counter attack was also defeated, and the British captured Montreal.

There were so many things that could have gone wrong that it’s hard to pick a POD.  Let’s go with Wolfe – who was not on good terms with his three subordinate commanders – having an accident as the British creep up along the hidden path.  In the ensuring chaos, the French launch a counter-attack that would be very difficult to handle; the British are beaten back with heavy losses, including Wolfe.  To add insult to injury, an attempt to launch a sea borne invasion fails badly with losses.  The British force has to return to the American colonies.

Now what?

Pitt will hear of this in a month or thereabouts.  This marks yet another failure to take Canada, so he may conclude that a change of plan is required.  Instead of investing the cold lands of Canada, the British will concentrate on taking Louisiana, which is French territory at the time.  The American colonists – who are desperate for land – will join this eagerly; it is a theatre where their strengths can be applied ruthlessly.

Taking over the French (and perhaps Spanish, as the Spanish might have joined the war on news of the victory at Quebec) possessions in the Caribbean was a British strategic priority for several years prior to Quebec.  Instead of battling it out over Montreal, British sea power can be used to hack away at the French islands, taking them one by one and cutting them off from the mainland.  Conquering Cuba might well be as easy as it was in OTL, and then the Americans can concentrate on the mainland.  Taking New Orleans will be far easier than it was for the British, forty years and a different universe away.

Once the French commanders surrender, the British will have to dispose of the new territories.  American and British settlers can and will flood into the new farmlands, bringing with them slaves and taxes.  This will be encouraged as the Spanish majority will be regarded as untrustworthy; there’s enough land in the interior to keep even the Americans happy for years to come.  Interest in Canada fades as the promise of Louisiana becomes apparent.

When peace comes, there will be a very different settlement.  Britain and the British Empire will keep the Caribbean Islands, and Louisiana, which will become new dominions.  France gets to keep Quebec and perhaps that useless island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  Spain, which has suffered worst in the war, will have lost control over part of Mexico and Texas, which will be opened by force by waves of immigrants.  Spain may collapse into anarchy; the defeat will open a whole can of worms for the anti-monarchist parties.

The changes for the American colonies are almost incalculable.  With the new lands being open to settlement – and settlement being encouraged for strategic reasons – there will be no proclamation of Indian Land being sealed off.  The Indian lands will become less interesting, at least Pontic’s lands, as settlers will head south.  Without that, and without the religious concessions made to the Catholics in France, the American Revolution may well be butterfly’d away completely, along with all the troubles in Cuba as Cuba will be part of the British Empire.

Spanish control over Mexico becomes weaker and weaker as time goes on.  The British settlers are expanding into Texas and pressing against the Spanish infrastructure.  It crumbles in 1803, starting a second war with the French and Spanish.  It’s possible at this point that we will see a union of France and Spain, while the colonies become independent, or British Puppets.

Quebec remains the poor land of the American continent for years to come.  The French were never as successful as the British at attracting colonists to Canada – and not many of those who might want to go wanted to live under the strict laws – and consequently France will probably turn its attention eastward.  Without the cost of the American War in 1777, it may survive without a major explosion, perhaps even absorbing more European states.



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