Monday, September 15, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: September 15

On September 15, 1881, the Mexican Cabinet met for the first time since being granted full executive power by the Senate. Constabulary Commandant Benito Hermión immediately urged that the upcoming presidential election be postponed indefinitely, claiming that leading members of the Liberty Party were under the control of French revolutionaries. When Secretary of State Marco Ruíz asked for Hermión's evidence, the Commandant said that he could not reveal it, since two members of the Cabinet were also working for the French. Hermión was able to persuade six other Cabinet members to join him in voting to postpone the election. Hermión then proposed that a temporary executive office called Chief of State be created for the duration of the emergency, and again he was able to persuade a majority of the Cabinet to vote for it. The Cabinet then selected Hermión himself to be Chief of State.

On September 15, 1949, Kramer Associates President John Jackson died. Within hours, his chosen successor, Carl Salazar, had been named president in his place.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

John Mason

In Sobel, a wealthy gold prospector named John Mason appears out of nowhere in 1839 to win the Continentalist Party's presidential nomination, loses to Senator Miguel Huddleston of the Liberty Party, then disappears from the narrative. He isn't even listed in Sobel's index.

John Mason needs to get a life, and I'm just the man to give him one.

* * *



John Mason was the owner of a cotton plantation in eastern Jefferson, near the old Spanish town of Nacogdoches. He had inherited the land from his father, another John Mason, who had immigrated from the Southern Confederation in 1801. The elder Mason had purchased the land from the Jeffersonian government and built the plantation, which he named Elsinore. Elsinore was relatively modest by the standards of the Jefferson cotton barons, and John Mason was well off, but not wealthy. His neighbor, James Rutledge, was wealthy, and for some years he had been trying to persuade Mason to sell out to him. The fall in the price of cotton since the Panic of 1836 had not ended Rutledge’s offers for Elsinore, though it had reduced the price he was offering Mason. Mason’s own profits from his plantation had fallen to the point where he was beginning to seriously consider Rutledge’s offer.

Then, in May 1838, had come word of the gold discovery at Santo Tomás, California, and John Mason knew that it was time to leave Jefferson. Mason sold Elsinore to Rutledge for $800 cash, and set out for California with six men in his employ – a mining engineer, a cook, and four armed guards. Traveling via the isthmus of Panama, Mason’s party reached the gold fields in August, one of the first groups to arrive from the Atlantic coast. With great foresight, Mason was able to lay claim to a twenty-mile stretch of the Jackson River that proved to be particularly rich in gold deposits. By the end of the year, Mason and his men had gained the enormous sum of $100,000 from their prospecting. With his new-found wealth, Mason became one of the most influential men in California. His contributions to the state Continentalist Party made him a major political player at a unique moment in the party’s history. [1]

President Jackson’s health had been deteriorating since he suffered a bout with typhoid fever in 1837. Jackson had held the Continentalist Party together for twenty years by sheer force of personality. Now, as Jackson declined, so did his party. Rivalries that he had kept under control now flared up and threatened to tear the party apart. Cabinet meetings degenerated into shouting matches, and at once point a brawl broke out between Secretary of Agriculture Homer Brown and Secretary for Religions Anastasio Bustamante. [2] By the time the Continentalist caucus met in July 1839 to choose Jackson’s successor, the party had fragmented into half a dozen mutually hostile factions. The only man who could have imposed unity was Jackson himself, but by this time he was practically an invalid. Mason’s sudden rise to prominence in the party was now a virtue; since he had had no time to make any enemies, he was an ideal compromise candidate. Senator Hernán Montoya of Chiapas would later write, “In a party as full of old grudges as the Anglo party, only a man with no past could gain the nomination. That man was Mason, and so the nomination was his.” [3]

Unfortunately for Mason, the blank slate that had been a virtue at the caucus meeting became a liability on the campaign trail. The Libertarians, as expected, had nominated Senator Huddleston, who had spent the previous six years building a reputation as a reformer, and as a bridge between Mexico’s Anglo and Hispano populations. Mason now found himself regarded as an unfamiliar face with nothing to offer Mexican voters. Mason attempted to appeal to the growing Mexicano vote by distancing himself from his Jeffersonian roots, calling himself “A Californian, by God, and proud of it!” The attempt failed, and only served to alienate the Jeffersonian planters who were the closest thing Mason had to an electoral base. In desperation, Mason sought to co-opt Huddleston’s reform program, calling for less reliance on French loans and investments, and greater assistance to the impoverished Mexicano peasants of the south. Even a Continentalist candidate with an established reputation would have had a difficult time persuading the voters of his sincerity; for the “man with no past,” it was an exercise in futility.

The result was a complete route for the Continentalists. The Libertarians gained control of five of the six state legislatures, allowing them to replace eight incumbent Continentalist Senators with their own candidates, and giving them control of the Senate for the first time. When the newly-elected Senate met on September 5, the seventeen Libertarian members voted in unison for Huddleston, who was inaugurated the next day as the second President of the U.S.M. [4]

1. Lorenzo Baker. The Man With No Past: The Life of John Mason (San Francisco, 2009), pp. 130-44.

2. Pablo Cruz. The Long Twilight: The Decline of Andrew Jackson (Mexico City, 1974), p 367.

3. Hernán Montoya. Strange Places and Strong Men (Mexico City, 1857), p. 73.

4. Martin York. The Election of 1839 (Mexico City, 1970), pp 488-506. Mason’s poor showing in the elections left him disillusioned with politics, and he embarked on a career in business. A series of bad investments left him virtually penniless by 1846, when he volunteered for the California Brigades. He was killed at the Battle of San Fernando on July 6, 1850. Baker. The Man With No Past.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: September 13

On the morning of September 13, 1881, Mexican Secretary of State Marco Ruíz called the Senate into session to select a new president, following the death the previous afternoon of President George Vining. However, the Senators became deadlocked between Minority Leader Thomas Rogers and Ruíz himself. Senator Frank Hill of California, acting on orders from Kramer Associates President Bernard Kramer, suggested as a compromise that the Cabinet as a whole act as the country's executive until a new president was elected in eight days. Given the unusual circumstances, the Senate approved Hill's proposal.

Scorpions in a Bottle

Let's say you're a previously unpublished writer who wants to publish a sequel to Robert Sobel's For Want of a Nail. Who do you get to publish it?

The publisher of the original book, the Macmillan Company, is now part of an international media conglomerate based in Germany. They only accept submissions from literary agents. Del Rey Books, which has its own alternate history line, is also owned by an international media conglomerate. They too only accept submissions from literary agents.

There are some SF/F genre publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts. Tor Books requires a cover letter, three or so sample chapters totalling some 10,000 words, and a story outline, and has a turnaround time of about six months. Daw Books requires a cover letter and a complete manuscript, and has a turnaround time of three months (if you don't hear back from them by then, you're free to make a simultaneous submission to another publisher).

An additional difficulty is that FWoaN fell into a gray area between fiction and non-fiction, being a work of fiction that presented as a work of non-fiction. Thus, it may be too nonfictional for a fiction publisher, and is probably too fictional for a nonfiction publisher. Sobel was able to get away with it because he had already published half a dozen books by the time he started writing FWoaN.

Well, I suppose if I have to write some or all of my sequel before I can find a publisher, I'd better get at it. Below is another sample of what it will be like, continuing on from what I wrote yesterday. I've decided on Scorpions in a Bottle as my working title, which was Sobel's own original title for FWoaN. And so here, appropriately, is an account of the Pedro Hermión speech that produced that phrase.

* * *

The story of the Henrytown convention is a familiar one. For two days, Continentalist stalwarts such as John Berrien and Homer Brown reminisced about the glory days of the 1820s, and made vague, unconvincing predictions of their imminent return. On the third day, May 7, convention chairman Peter O’Gorman was persuaded to allow Assemblyman Hermión to give an address, largely due to the lack of any alternative speakers. O’Gorman was expecting Hermión to make a few remarks on Lafayette’s growing Hispano community. What he got was a searing critique of the Continentalist Party itself.

Hermión angered his listeners by accusing them of blindness and timidity. When the convention delegates began hurling racial slurs at him, Hermión scolded them, saying “You have just given the world another example of this blindness of which I speak.” Overriding the delegates’ howls of outrage, Hermión spoke of the party’s historic role in creating and building the U.S.M. “Our party made the U.S.M. a major world power. And now our party is in despair, not because of any failing of the party or its leadership, but because of events our party could not control: the price of cotton has fallen a few centavos.”

This was the point where previous speakers had promised that the price of cotton would rise again, and with it the fortunes of Jefferson and the Continentalists. Hermión, however, had a very different message for the delegates. He said, “Our party has not been built on cotton, but on men! And it is men, not cotton, who will bring our party to greatness once again!” And with each mention of the word men, Hermión slammed his fist on the podium, with a sound that could be heard throughout the convention hall. Here and there in the hall, the delegates who had been cursing Hermión just minutes before were shouting their approval.

The Assemblyman from Lafayette was winning over his audience, and now he was ready to bring them his vision for the future of the party of Hamilton and Jackson, and of the country they founded. “Russia looks longingly at California, Spain dreams of a new empire in the Americas. And most of all, the Confederation of North America threatens our very existence.” Hermión spoke vividly of the newly-united British dominion to the east, led by the Butcher of Michigan City and the Caesar of the Northern Confederation: “Along the Mississippi and Arkansas, in the Gulf of Mexico and the west Atlantic, we face the North Americans, who hunger for our lands and wealth.”

Hermión then concluded with the famous image that gave the speech its name, and has haunted the thoughts of two nations ever since. “In Mexico del Norte the Mexicanos have a game – some call it a sport. The peasants put two scorpions in a large bottle, and then take wagers as to which will win the struggle. Slowly, the scorpions circle each other, until one lashes out at the other, and strikes him dead.

“So it is on our continent. At first glance, it appears North America is a large place, with room enough for all. But the C.N.A. and the U.S.M. are both inhabited by aggressive and expansionist peoples. Within a few years this great expanse will seem small indeed, as we meet in the waters of the Gulf and along the Jefferson-Vandalia border.

“At this point, the scorpions will meet in combat, with only one the victor. I mean that victor to be Mexico, and I believe only the Continentalist Party, revived and restored, can lead the nation to such a destiny!”

Assemblyman Hermión then stepped down from the podium to the sound of thunderous applause. In fifteen minutes, he had won over the leadership of the Continentalist Party, and set it on a new path. [1]

The Scorpions in a Bottle speech, as it has become known, was controversial at the time, and has remained so ever since. [2] Was Hermión calling for an attack the C.N.A., or was he warning Mexico to beware of North American aggression? President Huddleston and the other leaders of the Liberty Party believed, or claimed to believe, that it was the former. When he learned of the speech, Huddleston warned that “Assemblyman Hermión should have better sense – or better scruples – than to speak so recklessly of coming war. We have troubles enough in our own land without seeking new ones abroad.” [3]

The Continentalists were electrified by Hermión’s speech, and he quickly became a leading figure in the party. When the Assembly reconvened in August, Minority Leader George Culpepper stepped down, and the Continentalist caucus chose Hermión to succeed him. Under his leadership, the Continentalists offered a new military appropriations bill that would increase the size of the Mexican army to 200,000 men and authorize an expanded naval construction program at the navy bases in Vera Cruz, Tampico, and Henrytown. Although Assembly Speaker Nathaniel Butler denounced the bill as “provocative and unnecessary,” Hermión was able to gain enough Libertarian votes to win first passage of the bill in September. In a speech afterwards, the new Minority Leader vowed to win final passage of the bill the following March. “On that day,” he claimed, “the people of Mexico will learn who is prepared to defend them, and who is not.”

1. The definitive account of the Henrytown convention and the Scorpions in a Bottle speech is Raúl Peterson’s The Henrytown Convention and the Birth of Mexican Nationalism (San Francisco, 1989).

2. The common view in the C.N.A. is exemplified by Janet Holt’s Demagogue and Dictator: The Life of Pedro Hermión (New York, 1954). Reeves points out that North Americans tend to view Pedro Hermión through the prism of his son Benito, who became dictator of the U.S.M. and launched several wars of aggression during his twenty year rule. Pedro Hermión himself was an elected republican leader who scrupulously maintained constitutional rule in spite of repeated invasions of Mexican territory by North American armies. Reeves. The Hermións, p 86. Mexican nationalists see Hermión’s speech as a prescient warning of Henry Gilpin’s determination to attack the U.S.M. See, for instance, Emiliano Vega Pérez. Una Sirena en la Noche: Los Escorpiónes en una Botella Discurso de Pedro Hermión (Mexico City, 1991).

3. Charles Pearson. Huddleston and Hermión: The Rivalry that Shaped Mexico (Jefferson City, 2007), p 229.

For Want of a Nail 2: Electric Boogaloo

As I've mentioned before, I've been given permission by the estate of Robert Sobel to publish a sequel to For Want of a Nail. So one or two of you out there may be wondering just what a FWoaN 2 will look like. Will I just pick up the story where Sobel left it off in 1971 and carry on from there?

The answer is no. Setting a work of alternate history fiction 194 years after the point of divergence is perfectly reasonable. In fact, there have been works of alternate history set millions of years after their POD. But Sobel's book is unique: instead of being a fictional narrative set in an alternate history, it's a work of non-fiction from an alternate history. Starting a work of fiction in media res is fine; starting a history book in the middle of the story is not.

So what I'll be doing is not so much a sequel as a counterpoint to the original, covering the same ground from the same starting point. This will give me the opportunity to present events from a different perspective than alt-Sobel's anti-U.S.M., pro-Kramer point of view. I'll also get the chance to fill in some of the blank spaces left by Sobel, like what happened to the Hudson's Bay Company, and how John Mason was able to come out of nowhere to get the Continentalist Party's presidential nomination in 1839. And of course, I'll be able to carry on the story past Sobel's original 1971 endpoint, into the second decade of the 21st century.

As a sample of what my reading public can expect to see in the finished book, here's a few hundred words on the origins of the Hermión family.

* * *

Although many Hispano families could trace their roots back to the conquistadors of the sixteenth century, the Hermións were not among them. Pedro Hermión's father was a Greek immigrant originally named Michael Taskasaplidis. Michael fled his native country following the disastrous Nakos Uprising, eventually reaching the Mexican port of Vera Cruz on board the S.S. Hermione in 1807. The customs clerks, finding his name both unpronounceable and unspellable, rechristened him Michael Hermione. Eight months later, when Michael volunteered for the Mexican army, he underwent a second name change, becoming Miguel Hermión. The skills Miguel had learned in the Nakos Uprising proved valuable during the long struggle to suppress the Clericalist guerrillas, and within two years he had risen to the rank of lieutenant. While stationed in Mexico City, he fell in love with Rosa Dominguez, the daughter of a prosperous mestizo shopkeeper, and the two married. [1]

Miguel's death at the Battle of Seven Forks in 1816 left Rosa Hermión with four young children to raise alone. The family's circumstances went from difficult to dire after the Clericalists and their Jeffersonian allies took Mexico City, and the Figueroa Purge began. Rosa realized, as many others with ties to the Morelos regime did, that the only place in Mexico beyond the reach of Figueroa's ruthless inquisitors was Jefferson. Fleeing Mexico City in April 1817, Rosa and her children reached the city of Lafayette after a harrowing four-month journey. Rosa found work as a housekeeper for Henry Vining, a prosperous lawyer, and her children were able to attend the local school along with her employer's children. [2]

For Pedro Hermión, Mexico City was nothing more than a dim memory from childhood; he considered himself Jeffersonian, and remained intensely loyal to his adopted homeland throughout his life. [3] Hermión excelled at school, and Vining was able to obtain a scholarship for him at Greene College in Jefferson City. At a time when the ancient classics of Greek and Latin literature were part of the university curriculum, Hermión's Greek heritage opened doors for him that remained closed to most of his fellow Hispanos. Hermión took full advantage of his opportunities, graduating from Greene with honors in 1831, and earning a place as a law clerk at Vining's practice. After reading the law under Vining for a year, Hermión passed the Jefferson Bar. [4]

Hermión was interested in public affairs, and instead of pursuing a legal career, he became involved in the local Continentalist Party, one of the few Hispanos in Lafayette to do so. With his combination of ambition and ability, along with his willingness to allow himself to be used by the Continentalist leadership as their token Hispano, Hermión was able to gain a seat on the Lafayette City Council in 1835. [5] Four years later, as the Libertarians under Miguel Huddleston gained control of Congress, Hermión became the only Hispano elected to the Assembly as a Continentalist. Although little known to the general public outside of Lafayette, Hermión gained a reputation in the Assembly as a persuasive legislator and a superb orator. He was not above using his race to gain favors from the Libertarian leadership that they would not have granted to an Anglo. [6]

Hermión was easily re-elected in the 1842 midterms, but his success was one of the few bright spots for the Continentalists, who saw their numbers in the Assembly fall from 43 seats to 41. Jefferson was still the heart of the Continentalist Party, but the state that had founded the U.S.M. was facing hard times. Jefferson cotton sales continued to suffer as the world cotton glut grew worse. The problem of cotton overproduction was exacerbated by an influx of pro-slavery fanatics from the Southern Confederation, who were fleeing the abolition of slavery under the Lloyd Bill. [7] At the same time, Jefferson's position as the political nexus of the U.S.M. was being undermined by California, which was growing rapidly in both wealth and population thanks to the ongoing gold rush. By the time the Jefferson Continentalists held their annual state convention in Henrytown in May 1843, the state's future seemed bleak, and the party's with it.

1. Esteban Reeves. The Hermións: Mexico's First Dynasty (Mexico City, 1977), pp 26-28.

2. Maria Fuentes Carter. Rosa Hermión: La Madre de Mexico (Mexico City, 1994), pp 61-79.

3. Herman Muller. Hermión of Jefferson: Patriot or Traitor? (Mexico City, 1969).

4. Jason Altmayer. Young Pedro Hermión (Jefferson City, 2003), pp 41-46.

5. Ibid. pp 160-74.

6. Robert Fisher. Assemblyman Hermión: The Legislative Career of Pedro Hermión (Mexico City, 1974).

7. Augustus Clayton. Flight from Freedom: The Slaveowners' Exodus of 1841 (New York, 1999), pp 276-83.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: September 12

On the morning of September 12, 1881, a delegation of Senators from the opposition Liberty Party met with Mexican President George Vining to protest his violations of the Constitution. Vining responded to the Senators by saying, "Have no fear for the Constitution. I have it here in the Palace, and will release it once peace returns to our land." Whether Vining honestly intended to restore constitutional government to the U.S.M. would never be learned, since he suffered a heart attack that afternoon and was dead by nightfall.

On September 12, 1949, Karen Markey of the Burgoyne Tribune wrote a column lauding North American Governor-General Bruce Hogg's decision seven years earlier to proceed as usual with the upcoming Grand Council elections, in spite of the ongoing Global War and the unity government he had formed with the opposition Liberal Party in 1940. Markey wrote, "North American republicanism was strengthened by the Global War, which showed, among other things, that a republic need not forget its heritage while under attack. Hogg never forgot this; Silva did. It is the difference between a nation that honors John Dickinson and one that honors Andrew Jackson."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: September 11

On September 11, 1845, North American Governor-General Winfield Scott called a special Cabinet meeting to review a message he had received from newly-elected Mexican President Pedro Hermión. Hermión said that he intended to continue the attempt to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis between the two nations "in the spirit of my predecessor." Scott believed that Hermión was sincere, and he was preparing to ask the Cabinet to reconsider its declaration of war when Minister of War Henry Gilpin's aide, Captain Nathan Rusher, entered the room with news of the fighting that had occurred seven days earlier. Sobel does not specifically say how Scott and the Cabinet reacted to these contradictory indications, but he does suggest that the two countries went to war without a formal declaration.

On September 11, 1937, Spanish Premier Aldo Figuroa ordered the delegates to Owen Galloway's peace conference expelled from the country after clashes between rival delegations led to rioting in Madrid.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: September 10

On September 10, 1939, the Arab Revolt suffered a major setback when the army of the Arab leader Abdul el Sallah was defeated by the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of el Khibir. The defeated Arabs were forced to flee to the Mediterranean coast and the inland mountains.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: September 8

On September 8, 1937, a global peace conference organized by North American locomobile magnate Owen Galloway opened in Madrid. The conference was attended by delegations from almost every nation in the world.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: September 7

On September 7, 1840, Northern Confederation Governor Daniel Webster died of the wounds he received three days earlier in a knife attack. The Northern Confederation Council chose Henry Gilpin of Pennsylvania to succeed Webster.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: September 6

On September 6, 1907, North American Governor-General Christopher Hemingway announced that he would not seek a second term in the upcoming 1908 Grand Council elections, choosing instead to retire to the back benches of the Grand Council "and the company of my friend and mentor, Ezra Gallivan."

Friday, September 5, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: September 5

On September 5, 1821, the newly-elected Senate of the United States of Mexico convened for the first time. The first order of business was the selection of the new government's chief executive, the president, by a secret ballot. Twenty-one of the twenty-four Senators chose Andrew Jackson, the provisional president of the Republic of Mexico and the co-Governor of Jefferson. Since six of the Senators were members of the opposition Liberty Party, at least three of them must have crossed party lines to vote for Jackson. Jackson was immediately sworn in after the Senate's vote, and this established a tradition for the President of the U.S.M. to be inaugurated on September 5th, a tradition that continued until the suspension of democracy in the U.S.M. in 1881.

Jackson himself was inaugurated for a second term on September 5, 1827, and a third on September 5, 1833. Subsequent Mexican presidents inaugurated on September 5 were Miguel Huddleston in 1839, Pedro Hermión in 1845, Hector Niles in 1851, Arthur Conroy in 1857 and 1863, and Omar Kinkaid in 1869 and 1875.

On September 5, 1900, Tsar Michael of the Russian Empire abdicated after a reign of only seven weeks, fleeing to Sweden with the remaining members of the Russian imperial family. Since no claimants to the imperial throne remained in Russia, Michael's abdication marks the end of the Russian Empire.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: September 4

On September 4, 1840, the Governor of the Northern Confederation, Daniel Webster, was stabbed while walking from the Hall of Justice to his home. His assailant was Matthew Hale, a radical labor activist and abolitionist who believed that Webster supported slavery.

On September 4, 1845, fighting broke out between troops from the United States of Mexico and the Confederation of North America, marking the opening of the Rocky Mountain War. Although Sobel states that the fighting was likely due to "a stray encounter between squads of troops," Mexican historian Frank Dana points out in his critique that "most historians today consider the aggression to have begun by the C.N.A. attack at three points along the Vandalian border."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: September 3

On September 3, 1966, Carter Monaghan was sworn in as the nineteenth Governor-General of the Confederation of North America. After the ceremony, Monaghan and his predecessor, Perry Jay, went into the governor-general's office to make their private farewells. Jay later reported that he told Monaghan, "I've left you one problem, and that can be summed up in a single word. It's Mercator."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: September 2

At nine o'clock on the morning of September 2, 1966, the People's Coalition caucus of the Grand Council of the Confederation of North America met to choose a successor to Perry Jay, who had announced his planned resignation as Governor-General the day before. The caucus adjourned at half past three that afternoon to announce that it had selected Jay's Minister of Finance, Carter Monaghan. Jay gave his last press conference as governor-general that evening, and when he was asked whether Monaghan was his selection, he revealed that before the caucus held its first vote, he had privately given his secretary a piece of paper with Monaghan's name on it. Later, Jay denied having endorsed Monaghan at the caucus meeting.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: September 1

On September 1, 1966, North American Governor-General Perry Jay gave a vitavised speech in which he announced the successful test by the C.N.A. of an atomic bomb in northern Manitoba. The bomb test coincided with Jay's 65th birthday, and he called it "the best present I could have had." Jay then went on to note the quickening pace of change in the world, saying that in his youth, "it seemed to us, growing up in what was still a quiet and peaceful world, that progress was inevitable. Later on, we learned that it wasn't progress that came with each new year, but change. And there's quite a difference between them. I came to office convinced that certain changes had to be made, and that this nation had to abandon its honeymoon with romanticism and face the facts of the atomic era. This has been done; my work is finished. It is for this reason that I will call a meeting of the caucus tomorrow, to present my resignation and help pave the way for my successor." Sobel notes that Jay had told no one of his impending resignation, and that after his speech the capital of the C.N.A. hummed with rumors of the succession.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: August 29

On August 29, 1845, North American Minister of War Henry Gilpin began preparing for war with the United States of Mexico, ordering his commanders to make final preparations for an attack on Mexico, and putting the North American Army on a war footing.

On August 29, 1914, following the defeat of the French Expeditionary Force in the Battle of Chapultepec, the new French commander, General Pierre Bordagary, surrendered unconditionally to his Mexican opposite number, General Emiliano Calles. In addition to the French troops, Calles also captured some 8,000 Negro slaves who had run away from their masters and joined the French army in its drive on Mexico City. Mexican President Victoriano Consalus ordered the slaves arrested and charged with treason.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: August 28

On August 28, 1845, North American Governor-General Winfield Scott responded to rising tensions with the United States of Mexico, and the recent electoral victory of the Continentalist Party under Senator Pedro Hermión, by calling a secret Cabinet meeting. Scott urged the Cabinet to continue negotiations with the Mexicans, but Henry Gilpin, his Minister of War, and chief rival within the Unified Liberal Party, argued against Scott, and was able to gain the support of a majority of the Cabinet for a declaration of war. Rather than resign and allow Gilpin to succeed him as governor-general, Scott chose to bow to the will of the majority and support war with Mexico.

On August 28, 1914, General Emiliano Calles defeated the French Expeditionary Force at the Battle of Chapultepec, the decisive battle of the Hundred Day War. Calles succeeded in surrounding the F.E.F. with an enclosure of barbed wire guarded by machine guns and mortars. The French commander, General Jacques Beauchamp, led three charges against the Mexicans in an attempt to break free, but was unsuccessful, losing his life during the third charge, along with two thousand of his men.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

For Want of a Nail: The Next Generation

It's been four weeks now since I was able to get a steady, albeit "temporary," office job, ensuring a steady weekly paycheck for as long as the job lasts. However, this comes after seven months of unemployment, and my financial situation remains precarious. Frankly, I'm sick and tired of being poor.

The theory of comparative advantage suggests that the best way for me to end my impoverishment is to find something that I'm relatively better at than anyone else in the world, and do it for money. So, what am I relatively better at than anyone else in the world? Regular readers of this blog will have no trouble with that one: I am relatively better than anyone else in the world at writing about Robert Sobel's For Want of a Nail.

Mind you, I can think of several people who are absolutely better than me at writing about Sobel's book (Hi Carlos! Hi Noel!), but since they are even better than me at numerous other activities, that leaves me with the comparative advantage.

So how do I make money doing that? The answer again seems clear: write and publish a sequel to FWoaN. So that's what I'm going to do.

I've been given permission by Robert Sobel's estate to produce a sequel (and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Carole Ritter Sobel and David Sobel for doing so). Now comes the first hard part -- lining up a publisher -- and the second hard part -- actually writing the book.

If any members of my vast global blogging audience have suggestions about achieving the first hard part, feel free to make them in the comments. Better yet, if any members of my vast global blogging audience are themselves book editors who are looking for the next blockbuster in the alternate history genre, feel free to suggest that in the comments.

I'll keep everyone out there up to date on my quest to find a publisher. For now, wish me luck.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: August 24

On August 24, 1957, the London Times published an article criticizing the Mason Doctrine, North American Governor-General Richard Mason's foreign aid and reconstruction program. The editorial read, in part: "Do you want to receive more Mason Plan aid? Then just kill a few North American tourists and aid officials, and call Mason a criminal. Should you do this, your North American listener will nod his agreement, and give you all he has." Sobel notes that the British government resented the Mason Doctrine aid given to its wartime enemy the German Empire.