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Old 09-15-2019, 12:17 AM
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Alternate history proposition


In 1707, instead of abolishing/merging the kingdoms of England and Scotland, they decide to create a new state, the Empire of the British Isles, with its own Imperial Parliament and Government -- the Parliament seating not only English, Scottish and Irish representatives, but also some from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man -- and the overseas colonies. And Queen Anne is Empress -- yeah, a Protestant Empress, why not?!

Of course the colonial vote would not matter much initially -- but it would forestall American protests about "No taxation without representation!" And possibly forestall the Revolution.

How would that have worked out? Especially as the British Empire proceeded to acquire territory in Asia and Africa -- would those colonies also have been represented in the Imperial Parliament? If so, would their MPs be elected only by white settlers, or by the natives as well?

Writing this as an American, to whom a federal solution seems obvious.
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Old 09-15-2019, 12:28 AM
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An even more interesting possibility is that the settlement would have required the overseas colonies -- from Newfoundland to Bermuda to Barbados -- to unite in a new Kingdom of British America -- and that its parliament, meeting in New York, would have been required to seat representatives of all friendly Indian nations. After all, the decisionmakers in London were not afraid of the Indians the way the colonists were. Imagine British America spreading across the continent as, essentially, a federation of Indian nations.

Last edited by kirkrapine; 09-15-2019 at 12:30 AM.
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Old 09-15-2019, 01:54 AM
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This is a serious reply. I am not being flippant.

I reject the very notion of alternate history. Because you can’t just start at an event and say "what if they’d gone the other way?" Questions of free will aside, there is a causal chain that leads to decisions. Same goes with the mechanics of inanimate objects. You can’t, for example, simply ask "what if a kilometer-wide meteor had struck North America in 1776 and incinerated the continental congress?" because to have such an event occur would require a change to physical laws and/or a change to the formation of the solar system/galaxy/universe. That rock did not appear out of nowhere. It came from somewhere. So what changed prior to the impact to send it on a collision course? Did the moon have to be in a different place/phase? If so, then that holds true all the way back to the formation of the moon, the solar system, the galaxy, etc, etc. So, in this hypothetical world with the moon in a different phase, did William the Conquerer land in England on the same time of day, or did the shift in tides with the shift in lunar phases affect his landing? Did it effect the order of battle at Hastings, with William arriving a few hours ahead of or behind his real-world time? Did that mean an arrow didn’t happen to find Harold's eye because the winds were different? For that matter, was William even born? Was any historical figure we know of ever been born? Because sperm doesn’t fertilize eggs according to our fantasies. Just because we’d like to imagine an alternate history with all the same personalities doesn’t mean it’s the least bit likely.

Even if I grant for the sake of argument that the universe-altering event happens in or around 1707, all bets are off in terms of who gets born and who doesn’t. So maybe Queen Anne has a surviving male heir and the Hanovers never come to power. See where this is going? How do you even guess how history plays out after 1707 if you can’t even count on the Hanovers to take over the throne?

Alternate history is the ultimate non sequitur because we don’t even know where to start. Nothing follows from nothing.

Last edited by ASL v2.0; 09-15-2019 at 01:58 AM. Reason: sp
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Old 09-15-2019, 06:08 AM
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Alternate histories are fun to imagine, but no more.

The 1707 Union had nothing to do with government of the colonies. England wanted the Union with Scotland to prevent the Jacobites gaining control there (which would have been a serious threat to England), and to be able to coordinate English and Scottish foreign policy.

Scotland agreed to the Union with England mainly for financial reasons. The failure of the Darien scheme had devastated the Scottish economy, and England was offering to pay off the Scottish national debt. Also, the Union meant that Scotland gained free access to trade with English colonies, and to emigration there.
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Old 09-15-2019, 06:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkrapine View Post
An even more interesting possibility is that the settlement would have required the overseas colonies -- from Newfoundland to Bermuda to Barbados -- to unite in a new Kingdom of British America -- and that its parliament, meeting in New York, would have been required to seat representatives of all friendly Indian nations. After all, the decisionmakers in London were not afraid of the Indians the way the colonists were. Imagine British America spreading across the continent as, essentially, a federation of Indian nations.
Just... no. American Indians were regarded as primitive savages, inherently and racially inferior in every way, and not capable of civilized government. The question of representation on the same basis as Europeans could never even arise.
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Old 09-15-2019, 07:23 AM
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Also, don't forget that the union of Parliaments in 1707 left Scottish law and legal system intact; and in due course, the development of public education systems differed widely either side of the border. It would have been impossible for a central Imperial Parliament to attempt the detailed supervision of government in the colonies, so sooner or later local self-government would have led to enough divergence for de facto independence to develop. Granted, the concept of "Dominion status" must have been influenced by the American experience as it was IRL, but it's hard to see any other outcome than detachment, either violent or gradual and (relatively) peaceful. It didn't take all that long in Canada, after all. Possibly, in the OP's scenario, one could imagine the Imperial Parliament actually being not too keen on the expenditure of supporting the prospect of expanding America's frontiers by force, and some sort of breach developing as a result.

Representation in the Westminster Parliament didn't forestall Irish nationalism, after all.
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Old 09-15-2019, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by GreenWyvern View Post
Scotland agreed to the Union with England mainly for financial reasons. The failure of the Darien scheme had devastated the Scottish economy, and England was offering to pay off the Scottish national debt. Also, the Union meant that Scotland gained free access to trade with English colonies, and to emigration there.
The English steel we could disdain
Secure in valour's station
But English gold has been our bane
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

-- Robert Burns
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Old 09-15-2019, 03:44 PM
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Representation in the Westminster Parliament didn't forestall Irish nationalism, after all.
ISTM the sole point of the Home Rule movement was to put things back the way they were before 1800. Was there any other?
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Old 09-15-2019, 05:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ASL v2.0 View Post
...
I reject the very notion of alternate history. ....

Alternate history is the ultimate non sequitur because we donít even know where to start. Nothing follows from nothing.
Don't fight the hypothetical. I suggest if you dont like alt-hist, then say so- in another thread.
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Old 09-15-2019, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by kirkrapine View Post

Of course the colonial vote would not matter much initially -- but it would forestall American protests about "No taxation without representation!" And possibly forestall the Revolution.
Adam Smith "The Wealth of Nations" (published in 1776 but of course written earlier)

" The distance of America from the seat of government, besides, the natives of that country might flatter themselves, with some appearance of reason too, would not be of very long continuance. Such has hitherto been the rapid progress of that country in wealth, population, and improvement, that in the course of little more than a century, perhaps, the produce of the American might exceed that of the British taxation. The seat of the empire would then naturally remove itself to that part of the empire which contributed most to the general defence and support of the whole."
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Old 09-15-2019, 06:35 PM
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While kirkrapine phased the question in terms of the development of the Americas, I think a better question would be about the development of Ireland had the hypothetical in the OP come to pass. If the "Empire of the British Isles" had Irish parliamentary representation it probably would have extended the "rights of Englishmen" to the people of the Emerald Island. Now this wouldn't mean that everything is milk and honey for the Irish, Oliver Cromwell had come and gone by 1707 and I'm fairly certain that the system of English economic exploitation was already in place. Religious tensions would still have existed but it's important to understand that religious identity was closely tied to (and to many, inseparable from) national/cultural identity, e.g. the difference between "Scots-Irish" and "Irish". If Irish Catholics had representation in parliament many of the explicit anti-Catholic laws might have never been passed which would have done wonders for religious harmony. If Ireland had come to be seen as a part of the homeland, rather than a subjugated foreign land, the cultural/national divide would have been lessened.

It's very complex and I'm not nearly as well educated on the matter as I would like, but things probably would have been better, even if it was only "less bad".
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Old 09-15-2019, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by ASL v2.0 View Post

Alternate history is the ultimate non sequitur because we donít even know where to start. Nothing follows from nothing.
Feel free to not reply if the thread doesn't suit your interests. Do not threadshit.

[/moderating]
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Old 09-16-2019, 02:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Regallag_The_Axe View Post
Religious tensions would still have existed but it's important to understand that religious identity was closely tied to (and to many, inseparable from) national/cultural identity, e.g. the difference between "Scots-Irish" and "Irish". If Irish Catholics had representation in parliament many of the explicit anti-Catholic laws might have never been passed which would have done wonders for religious harmony.
That greatly underestimates the intensity and depth of feeling against Catholics. The issues were not cultural, but religious, and to some extent political.

In the reign of Elizabeth I there were Catholic uprisings in England and serious attempts to overthrow or assassinate her. There was the Spanish Armada, and Irish Catholic uprisings.

Vicious anti-Catholic laws in England and Scotland date from the 16th century. In the later reign of Elizabeth I it was treason for a Catholic priest even to be present in England. Many Catholic priests were tortured, hung, drawn and quartered. People could be imprisoned even for knowing of the presence of a Catholic priest and failing to inform the authorities.

The excesses of Cromwell and the Puritans are well known. But we shouldn't underestimate how strongly ordinary people felt about religion.

The Act of Settlement of 1701 excluded Catholics from the English throne, and this was extended to Scotland in 1707. It's still in force today. If Prince Charles became a Catholic, he would no longer be in line for the throne.

There were major legal restrictions on Catholics in both England and Scotland up to 1829. No Catholic could
- vote
- become a member of Parliament
- hold any Government office
- serve as a mayor or town councilor
- be an attorney, judge, or justice of the peace
- serve as an army officer
- be a university professor
- be a student at any university in England or Scotland
In Ireland itself, the anti-Catholic Penal Laws were even more strict.

The idea of Catholic Ireland being represented in a unified state or unified Parliament was unthinkable in England and Scotland in 1707.
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Old 09-16-2019, 02:31 AM
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What about local Parliaments instead?

The Spanish colonies were actually not supposed to be exactly part of Castille: they were supposed to follow Castillian succesion, but to be on equal footing with the Kingdom of Castille, hence Viceroys rather than Governors. The way those Viceroys organized their governments (completely personalist, with no thought of ever calling Parliament) parallels what other Viceroys were doing in Aragon, Portugal, Two Sicilies or Navarre and what the Kings themselves were doing in Castille. But what if the Brits had decided to send Viceroys rather than Governors, to treat each colony as a separate realm united with England through the person of the Monarch (as Scotland is)? Would there have been any local Parliaments created?

Last edited by Nava; 09-16-2019 at 02:33 AM.
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Old 09-16-2019, 02:40 AM
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What about local Parliaments instead?

The Spanish colonies were actually not supposed to be exactly part of Castille: they were supposed to follow Castillian succesion, but to be on equal footing with the Kingdom of Castille, hence Viceroys rather than Governors. The way those Viceroys organized their governments (completely personalist, with no thought of ever calling Parliament) parallels what other Viceroys were doing in Aragon, Portugal, Two Sicilies or Navarre and what the Kings themselves were doing in Castille. But what if the Brits had decided to send Viceroys rather than Governors, to treat each colony as a separate realm united with England through the person of the Monarch (as Scotland is)? Would there have been any local Parliaments created?
That is pretty much how the Kingdom of Ireland was run, prior to 1800 (when it was merged into the UK). There was an Irish parliament, but the government of the country was in the hands of a Viceroy, appointed by the government in London, and reporting to and accountable to it, and the execuytive branch of the Irish government was headed by and accountable to the Viceroy, not to the Irish Parliament.

The Irish parliament was kept on a tight rein. No legislation could be introduced into parliament for debate until it had first been approved by the British government. And in any event it was very biddable. It was not remotely representative of the people, but instead of a narrow Protestant landowning class, largely descended from English settlers, who relied upon the government and the army to maintain their position. Consequently the Irish parliament could not safely oppose the positions taken by the British government, or by the Irish goverment under the British-appointed Viceroy.
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