Monday, November 8, 2021

Guest Post: Chief Hone Heke arrives in Washington

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

March 20, 1844 - Chief Hone Heke arrives in Washington

Captain William Mayhew, an American whaler, landed on Kapiti, an island a short distance off the New Zealand coast north of Wellington. Becoming familiar with Ngāpuhi grievances against their British overlords, Mayhew described the successful revolt of the American colonies over the issue of taxation. After many lengthy deliberations, Chief Pōmare II urged him to take Hone Heke to meet Mayhew's chief for consultations.

Mayhew realized that, despite his best intentions, he had inadvertently opened the door on a situation that could only lead to frustration and disappointment. The United States had neither the naval power in the Pacific nor the political resolve to intervene on behalf of the Māoris. Nor would American intentions necessarily be more honourable. There would never be an American Territory of New Zealand let alone an American protectorate, that was for sure. Nevertheless his abhorrence of British imperialism was sufficiently strong to motivate him to act, and Hone Heke accompanied Mayhew on the long return journey.

They arrived in Washington, D.C., in late 1844, and very briefly created intense interest and fascination across elite society. President John Tyler, a Southern slave-owner, was unsympathetic. But by way of diplomacy, and it must be said, largely for political theatre and also to annoy the British, both men were invited as guests to a demonstration cruise down the Potomac. This trip was a limited opportunity for these two instant celebrities to gather on-board the USS Princeton with President Tyler, members of his cabinet, former First Lady Dolley Madison, Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, and about four hundred guests.

Hone Heke was hugely impressed by the screw sloop warship and even more so by an experimental long gun called the Peacemaker. He emphatically shared his excitement with Swedish inventor John Ericsson. Their loud conversation drew the interest of many observers including the President who had been below deck. The Māori Chief was negotiating an exchange of land for purchasing such a fearsome weapon when Captain Stockton pulled the firing lanyard. The resulting explosion sprayed fragments of hot metal across the deck instantly killing Hone Heke, Tyler, Mayhew, Stockton and Ericsson.

Author's Note:

In reality, he obtained an American ensign from Henry Green Smith, a storekeeper at Wahapu who had succeeded Mayhew as Acting-Consul. After the flagstaff was cut down for a second time, the Stars and Stripes flew from the carved sternpost of Heke's war canoe. Mayhew later succeeded James Reddy Clendon to become Acting-Consul for the United States.

Ericsson later designed the ironclad USS Monitor so this TL would have butterflies for the American Civil War.

Double What-If Provine Addendum:

If Hone Heke had been aboard the Princeton and the explosion had only killed the six men whom it had in OTL, it may have been enough to prompt Ericsson to take up Hone Heke on his offer to built a warship for the Maori. Ericsson had moved twice already for opportunities, first to Britain in 1826 to work on designs for the Admiralty and then to the United States in 1839 after his designs were met with skepticism. Stockton had encouraged his move to the US, finding Ericsson work with the Navy for improved engines and propellers. The Princeton's guns had also been Ericsson's design, although their relationship had grown rocky and Stockton pushed Ericsson off the project after the first gun was built. The later one, which exploded, had been built without Ericsson's expertise. In the aftermath, Stockton pushed blame toward Ericsson.

With an opportunity to start fresh in the Pacific, Ericsson was encouraged by his good friend, industrialist Cornelius H. DeLamater. While Ericsson traveled with Hone Heke, DeLamater worked to gather funding and young volunteers willing to take a chance on building something all-new. Just as they had expected, the North Island of New Zealand was a primeval landscape scarcely touched by industrialization. With Ericsson's background in mining and surveying, however, deposits of coal and iron made themselves clear. In fact, much of the west coast of the North Island was covered in ironsand, a largely magnetite composition that could be collected by hand and readily smelted into different forms of iron. The gamble proved to be a surefire success when the surveying also revealed stocks of gold on both the North and South islands.

Within only a few years, New Zealand became the economic and industrial focus of the Pacific. Though officially a colony of the UK, it attracted numerous American settlers with its New York connections as well as experienced miners from across northern European nations. The explosion of population served as a strong labor base, and the chaotic early days of settlement calmed down after many of the more eager miners left for San Francisco in '49 after gold was discovered in California. Through the course of the rapid expansion, Hone Heke and his warriors were charged with keeping the peace, which they did by patrolling in the most advanced warships in the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter