Monday, October 26, 2015

October 16, 1909 - Double Tragedy in El Paso

A piece co-written with Today in Alternate History, combining stories here.

What was meant to be a historic first meeting between a U.S. president and a Mexican president (and also the first time an American president had crossed the border into Mexico) ended in a horrible double tragedy with the assassination of both William Howard Taft and Porfirio Díaz at a disputed neutral border territory.

The ill-fated summit was held without flags and considerable security forces including Texas Rangers, four thousand U.S. and Mexican troops, U.S. Secret Service agents, FBI agents and U.S. marshals. Both presidents were bilingual, and, with no need for translators, held a closed meeting to discuss matters of state. During their negotiations they readily agreed a number of bold initiatives that included the Elephant Butte dam project and also a treaty of arbitration for Chamizal a strip of land connecting El Paso to Ciudad Juárez (both of which Theodore Roosevelt would try to take credit for during his historic third-term).

With the formal business of diplomacy undertaken, the presidents set out to conduct a walking tour and greet the crowd. However, along the procession route at the El Paso Chamber stood an assassin with a concealed palm pistol. As had been seen only years before in the assassination of U.S. President William McKinley at the World’s Fair in New York, the assassin sprang from the crowd and delivered two murderous blows. Secret Service agents, who had misguidedly elbowed out other security forces, were immediately upon the killer. It was already too late.

James S. Sherman stepped up to his unexpected presidency, but calamitous reactions in Washington along with panic at the border consumed his first days as a drama of long cabinet deliberations. Sherman was already not in good health, and the strain aggravated his worsening kidney condition. Before the end of Taft's unexpired term, Sherman himself would be succeeded in the Oval Office by his Secretary of State Philander C. Knox. By 1912, the Republican Party National Convention was running out of candidates, which convinced party bosses to seek a return to better times by supporting Theodore Roosevelt in his run for a historic third term.

Roosevelt returned to the White House amid turmoil in the south. The grisly murder only foreshadowed the violence of the Mexican Revolution, which was accompanied by widespread anti-American rioting. The Tampico Affair of 1914 led to the American seizure of Veracruz as diplomatic relations collapsed. Ultimately the United States erected a series of forts, known colloquially as “the Border Fence,” for protection from the chaos, even though American forces routinely moved into Mexican territory on various military actions seeking justice for raids.

The tragedy in El Paso would also have profound unforeseen consequences for America's relations far beyond Mexico. The strong-armed American presence would also cast a long shadow to the tragedy in Sarajevo five years later. Internationally, Roosevelt argued that it set an unfortunate precedent for the Habsburg justification for sending detectives across the border into Serbia to investigate the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. By the beginning of the Great War, Roosevelt was clamoring to support the Central Powers. Their pursuit of justice was seen as fit as American incursions in pursuit of Pancho Villa, and America should defend Austrian right as their own.

The rest of America was not so certain. TR quarreled with Speaker Champ Clark as he pressed Congress for a declaration of war, which they refused to grant. In his campaign, Roosevelt alienated enough Americans already sick of violence at the border, which cost him the 1916 election to his nemesis, Clark. Adding insult to injury, a new amendment (among others for Prohibition and Women’s Suffrage) set a term limit so that Roosevelt would never return to office. The true cost of this decision would become apparent only later when Roosevelt’s Democratic cousin Franklin was precluded from running in 1940.

The Great War dragged on without American involvement as Clark focused his administration on North America: settling the turmoil in Mexico and reviving hopes of annexing Canada. The international economic boom as Europe rebuilt lured Americans out of isolationism along the Monroe Doctrine, but the global financial collapse of the Great Depression drove them back to local interest. The United States was dragged back into the world theater after the attack on Pearl Harbor, just a few months after turmoil in the Democratic Party between former vice-presidents “Cactus Jack” Garner and Henry Wallace handed the 1940 election to Republican Wendell Willkie. Conspiracy theorists hold to this day that internationalist Willkie was given advanced knowledge of the Japanese attack in the Pacific but didn’t act so that the United States would be provoked into joining the war.


Author’s Note: In reality two men, the celebrated scout Frederick Russell Burnham and Private C.R. Moore, a Texas Ranger, discovered, captured and disarmed the would be assassin within only a few feet of Taft and Díaz.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Guest Post: September 27, 1987 - Monument-builder Found Dead

Elberton, GA - the dead body of a man in his mid-sixties was discovered in Elberton, northeast Georgia, the city of that claims the title "granite capital of the world" and was founded by Samuel Elbert, a very famous historical Freemason.

Police investigations soon determined that he was R.C. (or Robert) Christian, the shadowy figure that had hired the Elberton Granite Finishing Company to build the structure of the "American Stonehenge," a monument with the "ten commandments of the new age" (or alternatively believed to be the "ten commandments of the Antichrist") that now stood at the highest point in Elbert County. The owner of the company was a thirty-second degree masoner and shriner called Joe Fendley, Sr.

This transaction was discreetly handled by Wyatt C. Martin the President of the Granite City Bank, Elberton, back in 1979. Throughout this period Martin had served as sole contact on the honest-to-goodness understanding that Christian was the pseudonym for a WW2 veteran who represented a small group of peaceful, faith-based Americans that wanted to enshrine a set of ten guidelines or principles, an "an edifice to transmit a message to mankind." It was conjectured that future generations of Americans could apply these lessons to establish an age of reason, presumably a new world order in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust ("Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court").  

Cynics suggested that the group was conspiratorial rather than benevolent in nature seeking to overthrow the Federal Government in the present day and replace it with a ruling super-elite with a global de-population agenda known as the "Great Culling." Towns folk concluded that the whole matter was a hoax concocted by Martin and Fendley and R.C. Christian wasn't a real person at all (despite Martin insistence that he knew his true identity) a get-rich quick scam to make money from visitors.

However the monument stirred controversy because of the sinister Malthusian de-population logic of its messaging ("Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature"). Of course if the Guidestone messages were crafted for a post-apocalyptic society then it was perfectly possible that the global population would be below that threshold at that future time. Nevertheless at the unveiling of the monument in March 1980, a local minister proclaimed that he believed the monument was "for sun worshipers, for cult worship and for devil worship". Others had suggested that the stones were commissioned by secret societies such as the Rosicrucians (the founder had a similar name of Christian Rosenkreuz) or even Luciferians and that maybe R.C. Christian was even an ascendant master. This particular theory gained further credence when R.C. Christian published a follow-up book called "Common Sense Renewed" some six years later making a strong case for eugenics.

Somewhat more mysteriously the engravings on the Explanatory tablet had been left incomplete ("Time Capsule Placed six feet below this spot On To Be Opened on"). Because it was conjectured that the purpose of R.C. Christian's final visit to Elberton was to engrave these dates the time capsule was disinterred. It was found to contain a series of detailed predictions for near-future events in the major cities of the continental United States including both terrorist attacks and also natural disasters. Because of this evil association the Guidestones were broken up and the material used for local construction projects by the Elberton Granite Finishing Company.

Author's Note: in reality there is no evidence of a time capsule and contact with Martin ceased around the time of 9/11, when Christian, already in his eighties, may well have passed away. Chris Pinto, founder of Adullam Films claims to have identified the real R.C. Christian in his documentary "Dark Clouds over Elberton." Whereas computer analyst William C. Van Smith had said the monument's dimensions predicted the height of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world which opened in Dubai over thirty years after the Georgia Guidestones were designed. Smith said the builders of the Guidestones were likely aware of the Burj Khalifa project which he compared to the biblical Tower of Babel.

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