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Pilot of the Storm by Steve Payne

Author says: what if the Constitution had been fixed before the USCW even broke out? Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).


In 1861, on this day the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter forced the US Congress to dismiss President James Buchanan's administration less than one month after resuming office.

The scenario that the legislative arm of government might need to fire the executive had not been foreseen by the Founding Fathers, who instead of crowning George Washington, had proclaimed that the US Constitution was King.

"No elastic element, everything is rigid, specified, dated'"But the decision to place their trust in a sacred, but rigid and unbending rule of law had proven as dangerous as reliance on a monarch because it required flexible intepretation by a strong-willed Chief Magistrate. And the trouble was, a weak succession of Presidents since Andrew Jackson had exposed major flaws in the American system of government.

"[Apart from the electing moment] has not the ballot-box before it; its virtue is gone, and it must wait till its instant of despotism again returns'"

By the mid 1850s the country was heading for Civil War, unchecked by the bold and imaginative leaders that might preserve the Union. And so Walter Bagehot was invited from England, a man of letters widely considered to be the leading expert on constitutional matters of the day. Bagehot's committee proposed a series of jaw-dropping recommendations, but the central proposal was undisputed.

Because America's fixed term system surely did embed apathy in the body politic. And the scenario foreseen by Bagehot, a national crisis in which a "pilot of the calm" would need to be quickly replaced by a "pilot of the storm" arrived soon enough.

Author says original content has been repurposed to celebrate the author's genius Frank Prochaska, "The View from Albion Bagehot and the Constitution: The English political journalist Walter Bagehot was one of the few contemporary commentators on either side of the Atlantic to grapple with the constitutional issues that lay behind the outbreak of the American Civil War", published in Today in History, February 2010.

Other Civil War Variants

Escaping History Thirteenth Amendment Gettysburg Dedication



Steve Payne

Editor of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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