Friday, June 28, 2024

Guest Post: British Argentina

This Today in Alternate History post by Yosef Robinson first appeared on Quora.

What would Argentina have looked like today if Britain had captured it in 1806-1807?

The British start their takeover of the River Plate region in early July 1807 by temporarily directly controlling all of that area thanks to a daring maneuver by Lieutenant-General John Whitelocke storming the city before Santiago de Liniers could prepare defenses. However, a few months later, for various reasons including pro-independence and anti-British/Spanish rebellions, they give up direct control of Buenos Aires - city and province - in favor of independence as a British client state. The lighter British hand, along with a small economic boom from import/exports during the occupation, prompts local tolerance for British authority.

At the same time, the British retain direct control of Montevideo and the Uruguayan coast; soon thereafter, upon the defeat of Jose Gervasio Artigas and fellow Uruguayan rebels in favor of Spanish-American independence*, also the Uruguayan interior, plus what are now Entre Rios, Corrientes, and Santa Fe provinces. The British also control those points along the Patagonian coast that had hitherto belonged to the Viceroyalty, as well as eventually the ever-strategic Strait of Magellan. Various Spanish-speaking republics also form in the interior, such as Cordoba and Tucuman.

*Artigas and the other instigators flee to Paraguay, sort of like how the instigators of the Patriotes rebellion in Quebec in 1837 flee to the USA.

Gradually, the British take over various other places in that region, ultimately including places like Buenos Aires around the late 1830s-1840s (due to the threat posed by Juan Manuel de Rosas to the British presence in the region). The British take over many spots in the interior later yet, and most of these parts become part of a federal Dominion of Argentina starting in 1875, with the exception of Paraguay (always independent) and real-life Misiones province (becoming or being a part of Paraguay). The Argentine Chaco - up to and including Formosa province - gets to be a part of Argentina in this scenario.

Furthermore, the War of the Pacific in the nitrate mining area (northern Chile, in reality) ca. 1879–80 plays out differently in that the British are more heavily influential on the “informal empire” and economic level all throughout much of South America. Thus, they indirectly influence Chile, Bolivia, and Peru on account of all their economic interests in each of those countries, including the nitrate mines, even while themselves being neutral. There’s less military combat going on overall. While Chile gains the Antofagasta area for the nitrates, Bolivia takes over much of the zone north of the Antofagasta/Tocopilla area (with Bolivia thus retaining a coast to this day), as in the Iquique area for example. Peru gets to keep the Arica area even further north. After taking over previously-independent Salta/Jujuy ca. 1900 after considerable resistance, the British take over Bolivia right to the north from 1900-1905 as a protectorate for its tin-mining boom, until a popular revolt sometime in the 1940s or early 1950s overthrows the British and restores full independence. The British would have loved to make a northern access route to the Pacific through Bolivia even as far back as the 1860s-1870s, but the very difficult geography of the Altiplano just would have made it impossible using the transportation technology of that time.

A nationalist movement arises in the late 1940s and early 1950s among the Spanish-speakers of Argentina, including the appearance of a new flag, seen below. This leads to a 1967 referendum on Argentina becoming a republic, which is defeated. There is a linguistic and constitutional crisis as a result of that. The interior, Spanish-speaking provinces gain greater autonomy, but there is no separatist movement nor anti-English language legislation like there is in Quebec. A second referendum in the mid-1980s, with the "Yes" side winning, leads to the formation of a parliamentary republic, with a president replacing the Queen of England (represented by a governor-general) as the head of state.

An Argentina in all this scenario - which includes Uruguay plus the Falklands (without dispute, albeit as an internal territory much like, say, the Northwest Territories in Canada) and the Strait of Magellan area (in Chile in real life) - becomes bilingual and bicultural (in this case, Spanish and English) just as much as Canada or white South Africa, joining the family of anglophone countries. Indeed, it is more like white South Africa than like Canada, with a 60/40 split between the Spanish and English sectors. Roman Catholics, including many of the Anglos, outnumber Protestants three to one - with Catholics comprising just over half of the entire population. Another 20-25% are religiously unaffiliated.

The capital is Rosario (rather than Buenos Aires as in real life); in actual history, there were multiple unsuccessful attempts in the 1860s and 1870s at making Rosario the federal capital.

Because of a very well-endowed geography, as well as because of the more favourable political and economic legacy left behind by the British just like in the other Anglo countries such as Canada and Australia, plus being an Ally in both World Wars, Argentina is able to leverage its natural turn-of-the-20th-century prosperity much more effectively than in reality. It is able to more effectively industrialize, and somewhat earlier, than in real life.

As such, Argentina becomes not only a developed and stable country with a modern per capita GDP of at least $50,000, unlike in real life, but also a member of the G8 of the most powerful economies alongside Canada, the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan. This alternate Argentina is a regional South American power, alongside Brazil.

Therefore, no Peronism, Dirty War, Falklands War, hyperinflation, IMF/World Bank austerity measures, etc., and further back, no interminable series of bloody 19th century independence and civil wars!

The current population of this alternate Argentina is almost 75,000,000 (as against just over 50,000,000 in real life in the territory covered by British Argentina). Not including the Argentine claim in Antarctica, its area is 3,020,849 km.² (1,166,356 miles²), making it the eighth largest country in the world by area. There are 21 provinces and two territories (the Falkland and South Atlantic Islands, and the Federal Capital Territory) in the country.

Neighbouring countries like Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay are all somewhat better off than in real life, at least economically.

Chile manages to avoid the deleterious Allende and Pinochet regimes, due to Allende narrowly losing rather than winning the 1970 election because of somewhat fewer poor people voting for him. It becomes a developed country in the 1990s, though even today it isn’t quite as developed as Argentina, more on the level of something like Greece or Portugal, or maybe Spain or Italy at best.

Brazil abolishes slavery earlier, due to a more significant British military presence in South America - the British having been instrumental even in reality to abolish the slave trade. On the other hand, it retains its monarchy longer, given the example of the British dominion of Argentina next door, such that when it does abolish its monarchy, it becomes a semi-presidential republic (along the lines of France) to this day.

Once Bolivia overthrows the British protectors sometime during or just after World War II, there is reasonably more political stability than in reality, and the elites are much more coherent and less fractured. In the 1970s and 1980s, there is a terrorist group along the lines of the Shining Path in Peru or the FARC in Colombia.

Paraguay is more populated than in real life because there is no massive population loss (especially of men) due to the War of the Triple Alliance (or Paraguayan War) in the 1860s, the British being a much more formidable foe of Paraguay than the real-life independent Argentines and Uruguayans. If anything, there might just be skirmishes between Paraguay and Brazil. Moreover, there is no full-fledged Chaco War in the 1930s, perhaps just skirmishes between Paraguay and Bolivia, and most certainly there is no proxy war between the US-owned Standard Oil and the British/Dutch-owned Royal Shell Company as in real life due to Bolivia being a British protectorate at that time (hence, the predominance of the Royal Shell Company in this scenario). Therefore, Paraguay’s northwestern border with Bolivia remains somewhat further south than what it is in reality.

Author's Note:

In reality, the British failed to take advantage of their victory over the militias on the field just west of the city on July 2, with Liniers being unharmed; that gave time for the militias to thoroughly organize themselves. On July 5, the Buenos Aires militias beat the British in urban warfare in the then-city of Buenos Aires itself. The militias' victory on July 5, without any help from Spain (their colonial master), paved the way towards the de facto independence of Buenos Aires in 1810--and the de jure independence of Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina in 1816, a process which started in earnest after the people of Buenos Aires learned of the news of Joseph Bonaparte's invasion of Spain in 1808. The Uruguayan struggle for independence, at first from Spain and later from Portugal/Brazil, initially flirted with incorporation of much of what is now northeastern Argentina before eventually becoming a buffer state between Argentina and Brazil in 1828 with British help.

Both Argentina and Uruguay were subsequently embroiled in civil wars throughout most of the remainder of the 19th century. While they enjoyed prosperity and British financial, sports, and cultural influence in the late 19th and especially early 20th century (such that Argentina was known as an "honorary dominion" within the British "informal empire"), subsequently their political and economic situations deteriorated - pockmarked by dictatorships in the later 20th century - and they have steadily become significantly impoverished compared to the early 1900s. At heart, this is because their societies and land tenure structures have been led by oligarchies and have been unequal. This has been even more apparent in Argentina than in Uruguay, for while in Uruguay a welfare state and an egalitarian political system were set up initially under the leadership of Pres. José Batlle y Ordoñez in 1903 and have been kept intact (with occasional breaches), in Argentina only Peronism turned out to be the long-lasting reform, and overall a retrograde one at that.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Guest Post: Senators for Cities in the US

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History with input from Allen W. McDonnell, Eric Oppen, Mike McIlvain, Scott Eiler, and Jeff Provine.

June 15, 1776 - Mayor Whitehead Hicks declares NYC loyal to King George III

Whitehead Hicks, the forty-second Mayor of New York City, ordered the arrest of the Third New York Provincial Congress. Standing in front of the statue of George III in Bowling Green, Hicks declared the city loyal to the King of England, welcoming the British fleet with open arms.

The loyalist sentiment in the city was fiercely challenged by farmers and small-town dwellers who openly rebelled. It also gave Benjamin Franklin more ammunition to try to gain France's allegiance with regular news of British interests being sabotaged in New York, such as the Great Fire that September. Ultimately patriotism would prevail, and the British Army finally departed on Evacuation Day, November 25, 1783. In their wake, General George Washington triumphantly led the Continental Army from his headquarters north of the city across the Harlem River and south through Manhattan to the Battery at its southern tip. It was a glorious moment of triumph that left many important lessons to be learned by the victors if they were to seize the opportunity for liberty.

The troubling loyalist rebellion of New York City would prove to be a defining moment at the birth of the Republic. Across America, the apparent division between the city and the countryside was a nation-building challenge of the first order for the Founding Fathers to confront. Fortunately, a lasting compromise was hashed out at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. It was at the suggestion of the Virginian James Madison, who was dissatisfied with the weak national government established by the Articles of Confederation. He proposed a senator for the largest metropolitan area in each state while the other two senators would be appointed by the governor with the consent of the state legislature.

This was an imaginative technical fix, an adjustment of the original idea that state legislatures elected senators to ensure state issues were seen as important to federal government. But, inevitably, Madison's visionary brilliance was inadequate to foresee the long-term growth of the Republic, which in many ways could not possibly be anticipated from an 18th century lens. In a larger sense, that dynamic was at the heart of the uncertain experiment of American democracy. One particular development was urbanization that came up in the 19th and 20th centuries with more and more major cities and fewer folks in the countryside.

While citizens in the cities as well as the rural areas complained of imbalanced representation, this was only one of many critiques. A bi-state metropolis such as St Louis and Kansas City needed to have special status unique to their geography, greatly benefitting from the Madison Compromise. In fact, it was hard to imagine how they might otherwise be governed effectively if not directly represented in the Federal Capital by their own senators. Conversely, the Wyoming city of Cheyenne (population 64,000) received its own senator whereas the city of Casper (population 58,000) in the same state did not; this was an uneven representation that drew criticism of the Madison Compromise from citizens of Casper as well as out-of-state Americans.

The first major problem arose over Detroit, once the fourth-largest city in the nation after New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Based strategically on the United States-Canada border, its population sharply diminished after the slowdown of the motor car industry, and Grand Rapids became the largest city in Michigan. The census triggered the switch of senator, causing great consternation in Detroit. Infuriated local politicians in the Big D called for a post-Madison Compromise to update the Constitution to allow representation in Washington for multiple large cities in one state over a certain population threshold. The most radical solution proposed was a Detroit-Windsor conurbation gaining special status as a Bi-State City even though Windsor was over the border in Canada. Pundits howled that this could very well let Canadians determine American policy.

Author's Note

In reality, by early 1776, the office of Mayor in British-held New York became untenable, and Hicks resigned from office. He met with a committee of nine colonials formed by the New York Provincial Congress to investigate "domestic enemies" "disaffected to the American cause." Indicating his loyalty to George III, he was subsequently put on parole. The Great Fire broke out in the early days of the military occupation by British forces destroying 20 percent of the buildings.

Provine's Addendum

The debate about "City Senators" was also particularly loud in Texas, where Houston had its senator but San Antonio (the seventh largest city in the United States), Dallas (ninth), Austin (eleventh), and Fort Worth (twelfth) had none, despite each having nearly ten times the population of Manchester, New Hampshire (population: 115,644). However, Conservatives were nervous to change the since urban populations tend to vote more liberally than rural ones. They felt their bloc could hold back the amendment required to change Madison's system, but others thought it would only be a matter of time until the change came.

Yet another opinion frequently surfaced in debate: eliminating the senate and having more direct influence on Congress through the House of Representatives. Few seemed ready to consider such a hurried step.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Guest Post: FBI Special Agent Richard Nixon

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History, inspired by the TL Special Agent Richard Nixon.

In 1972, Acting FBI Director Clyde Tolson was put in charge of the initial investigation which would eventually lead to the resignation of President Nelson Rockefeller.

Only three weeks had passed since J. Edgar Hoover died in the middle of a presidential election year. Long-time special agents L. Patrick Gray and Richard M. Nixon desperately wanted to succeed Tolson as the permanent director. First, they had to navigate internal politics at the Bureau, Senate nominations, and the wishes of the next president, whether Nelson Rockefeller or someone less predictable should he lose in the fall.

Nixon didn't fancy these long odds and his "dark" sense of paranoia convinced him that he would be overlooked for promotion. He strongly felt a sense of injustice having enjoyed some soaring moments at the epicenter of historic events. During his early years, for example, he was trusted to be put in charge of security for African American opera singer Marian Anderson's concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1939. The late J. Edgar Hoover had bitter remarks about Anderson and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped organized the concert, and said, "There is always trouble where ever these 'civil right' fighters go." The concert of course had no violent incidents. Rather than admitting he was wrong, Hoover praised Nixon for keeping the 75,000 attendees in line. From that special moment of favoritism onward, Nixon remained convinced he was destined to succeed Hoover.

But more than thirty long years past, Hoover's tainted legacy hang heavy. With Shirley Chisholm running as the first African American presidential candidate on an "unbought and unbossed" platform, it would certainly appear to segregationists that "the trouble" was growing. If a silent majority still respected Nixon, then it seemed to many liberals that he was a shadowy figure out of time, considered wholly unsuitable for the coming era. He understood the very narrow path to his dreams, but therein lie the life story of Richard M. Nixon--he needed a game-changer.

All three would-be Hoover successors were aware of Rocky's infidelities (they had also wire-tapped Martin Luther King, Jr., and had compromising records of his affairs). Whereas the indiscretions of FDR, Kennedy, Johnson, et al., had been overlooked to keep national confidence in the Oval Office, Nixon chose to go for this vulnerability for his own selfish purposes. He utterly despised the East Coast establishment as a result of childhood poverty preventing him going to Harvard. Driven by this bitter resentment, he made the fateful calculation to expose Rocky, and form a faustian pact with his Democratic rival, Ted Kennedy.

Ted K was no angel, and this calculated move would badly backfire on Nixon, however, as the reveal causing Rockefeller's scandal was traced back to Nixon, whose own shadowy actions came to the forefront. Reviews of Nixon's own shadowy actions came to the forefront, such as his effective damage-control covering up a 1969 car crash incident in Chippaquiddick for Ted Kennedy. Both men's public images were devastated.

Nixon's 36-year tenure at the Bureau ending in disgrace. In an angry resignation note he would state, "You don't have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last report."

Author's Note:

In reality, Nixon initially hoped to join the FBI after graduating from Duke. He received no response to his letter of application, and learned years later that he had been hired, but his appointment had been canceled at the last minute due to budget cuts.

Provine's Addendum:

After the shocking 1972 election year in which Rockefeller managed to win amid protests and the lowest ever record turn-out, the American public wanted a clean slate for their elected officials. Squeaky-clean Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter (who wouldn't even do an interview for Playboy) won handily in 1976 and again in 1980 over former CIA Director George Bush. A faction of neo-conservative Republicans in 1980 sought to push Ronald Reagan for the election, but his history of divorce became a major issue at the Republican National Convention.

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