Friday, February 28, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 28

On February 28, 1921, Mexican Secretary of State Albert Ullman responded to an earlier remark by Josephine Williams of the Jefferson Times. In the February 12 issue of the Times, Williams had compared President Emiliano Calles to a piece of petrified wood, saying that while he might outwardly appear to be the Hero of Chapultepec, he was really "the miserable professor from Kinkaid," that is, Ullman himself.

Ullman answered, "Miss Williams had better consult some good geology and chemistry texts before she pontificates so wisely!"

Ullman's remarks were reported the next day in the Mexico City Times.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 27

On February 27, 1898, California Governor Alberto Puente notified Chief of State Benito Hermión of "repeated violations of the [California-Alaska] border by Russian Imperial Forces." Puente was acting at the behest of Diego Cortez y Catalán, the President of Kramer Associates, who wished to provoke a war between the United States of Mexico and the Russian Empire in order to gain control of the gold fields in Alaska.

There is reason to believe that the violations of the border were genuine. Reading between the lines (which is often necessary where K.A. is concerned), it seems likely that Cortez obtained his border violations by bribing Captain Boris Tschakev, a Russian army officer.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Today in the Sobel Wiki: February 25

On February 25, 1936, news from the day before that Kramer Associates was moving its company headquarters from the United States of Mexico to the Philippines caused panic on the world's commodity exchanges and stock markets. In London, the price of gold jumped from £8.89 per troy ounce when markets opened to £9.56 at noon, when trading was halted. In the Confederation of North America, the New York Stock and Exchange Board saw prices fall by fifteen percent. Governor-General Douglas Watson cut short his vacation in Georgia and flew back to Burgoyne to take charge of affairs, while Finance Minister Ezra Clarkson flew to New York, where he pledged treasury support to the banks.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Today in the Sobel Wiki: February 24

On February 24, 1823, President Andrew Jackson announced his intention of embarking on a grand tour of the United States of Mexico beginning in April, with visits to every state capital, and major speeches before every state legislature.

On February 24, 1936, President John Jackson of Kramer Associates announced that he was he was moving his company's headquarters from San Francisco, California to the Philippines "to be closer to our Asian interests." News of the move, along with word that K.A. had been selling securities in the world stock exchanges for weeks and converting the funds to gold, caused a worldwide depression that lasted for the next three years.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sobel Wiki: Who Killed Cock Robin?

The United States of America has had several periods of mass panic, and has arguably been experiencing one ever since September 11, 2001. The two classic examples are the Red Scares of 1919-1921 and 1947-1954, the latter of which gave us the word McCarthyism to describe bad-faith accusations of disloyalty against political opponents.

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is the Starkist Terror, a similar period of mass panic that struck the Confederation of North America between 1898 and 1902. Like the Red Scares of our history, the Starkist Terror was a reaction to events outside the borders of the affected country. Specifically, it was a reaction to the Great Northern War between the United States of Mexico and the Russian Empire.

The Great Northern War was engineered by the Mexican supercorporation Kramer Associates after the Russian government reneged on an agreed mineral concession in Alaska after the discovery of gold there. The Russian military proved no match for that of the U.S.M., and within months of the outbreak of war in May 1898, the Mexicans had conquered all of mainland Alaska.

The result was a wave of panic sweeping across the neighboring North American confederation of Manitoba. For the first time in its history, the Manitoban legislature adopted a resolution calling for an increase in military spending. This ran counter to the policy of Ezra Gallivan, an isolationist who had just won a third term as governor-general. Gallivan became the focus of the hysteria, especially after Councilman Fritz Stark accused him of being a paid agent for K.A. Gallivan ultimately had to resign in 1901

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 20

On February 20, 1938, Councilman Bruce Hogg of Northern Vandalia was elevated to the office of Governor-General. Four days earlier, Hogg's party, the People's Coalition, won a 76-74 seat majority in the 1938 Grand Council elections. Sobel does not give the reason for the delay, though it is possible that one or more of the Grand Council elections were close enough to require recounts.

After his investiture, Hogg gave a speech in which he reiterated his commitment to isolationism: "One thing can be promised without a shadow of a doubt. Unless attacked, this country will not fight in a foreign war while I am in office."

Hogg's speech was reported the next day in the Burgoyne Times.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 19

On February 19, 1888, the newly-elected Grand Council of the Confederation of North America ended a two-day-old deadlock by elevating Ezra Gallivan of the People's Coalition to the office of Governor-General. The Coalition had gained a 73-seat plurality in the elections, but this was three short of the 76 needed for a majority in the 150-seat body.

The deadlock was broken when incumbent Governor-General John McDowell of the Liberal Party asked the twelve-member delegation from Indiana to cast their votes for Gallivan. "This is unprecedented," he told them, "but new forms may be better than indecision and uncertainty at this time." Only eight of the members went along with McDowell, but this was enough to give Gallivan a majority.

McDowell's motives for helping his rival are uncertain. As Sobel notes, there are those who believe that the eight Liberal delegate were prepared to support Gallivan in any case, and that McDowell was merely bowing to the inevitable. Others believe that McDowell was hoping to avoid the difficulties that had occurred ten years earlier when his own party had failed to win an outright majority and it took seven ballots for him to gain a majority, or that he feared that Gallivan would cut a deal with three independent pro-secession members from Quebec. A third group believes that McDowell sought to enhance his reputation for integrity. Whatever the truth, Sobel indicates that most North Americans continue to believe that McDowell was acting out of unselfish patriotism.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 18

On February 18, 1916, Howard Washburne, the head of the Friends of Black Mexico, spoke at a rally in Burgoyne to protest the arrest of hundreds of North American students for their participation in the Chapultepec Incident the month before. Washburne pledged himself to the "unceasing effort to bring freedom to our brothers in Mexico, to free not only the Negro, but the Mexicano and Indian as well." Washburne announced a boycott of all Kramer Associates products sold in the Confederation of North America, and twenty-four hour vigils outside Mexican consulates. He concluded his remarks with the words, "We shall not rest until we reach the conscience of the Mexicans, and when we do, slavery and other evils of that benighted land will come to an end."

The Burgoyne Herald reported on the rally, and Washburne's remarks, the next day.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 17

On February 17, 1914, Senator Albert Ullman of California reflected on his loss to Secretary of State Victoriano Consalus in the recent Mexican presidential election: "Not since 1857 -- over half a century ago -- has a Libertarian occupied the Presidential Palace. Our last successful candidate, Hector Niles, was elected when the public turned against the Rocky Mountain War. Perhaps it will take a similar tragedy to get us back in office." As Sobel notes, Ullman could scarcely have realized how prophetic his words would be.

The Mexico City Times reported on Ullman's statement the next day.

Sobel Wiki: Chapultepec and Tyler Too!

Considering how many wars the United States of Mexico has fought, the country has had surprisingly few military leaders running for president. In the United States of America, we've had George Washington, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower run for president and win, while Winfield Scott, George B. McClellan, and Wesley Clark have run and lost. In addition, Douglas MacArthur, Colin Powell, and David Petraeus might have run, but chose not to.

In contrast, only two military leaders in the U.S.M. have run for president: Admiral Paul Suarez, and the subject of this week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki: General Emiliano Calles, the victor of the 1914 Battle of Chapultepec and hero of the Hundred Day War. (Marshal Felix Garcia and Colonel Vincent Mercator have also served as president, but they appointed themselves following a military coup.) Calles appeared on the scene during a critical period of Mexican history, when the Chapultepec Incident of 1916 made slavery the paramount issue in Mexican politics.

The Chapultepec Incident left incumbent President Victoriano Consalus with an insoluble dilemma. The continued existence of slavery in the U.S.M. was intolerable due to international pressure and growing popular fear of a slave insurrection and/or invasion by an abolitionist Confederation of North America. However, most Mexicans were opposed to freeing the slaves, especially the majority Mexicanos, who still suffered considerable institutional prejudice themselves from the country's Anglo-Hispano ruling class. As Consalus himself put it, "If I retain the institution I will be pilloried. Should I ask for its end, I will be crushed."

In 1920, Calles ran against Consalus and won, then gave an address to Congress in which he announced his determination to abolish slavery. Sobel records that Calles cut a deal with Douglas Benedict, the President of Kramer Associates. Calles would agree not to interfere with the corporation's operations, if Benedict would agree to use K.A.'s financial power to gain passage of a manumission bill. Benedict was able to twist enough arms in the Mexican Congress to pass Calles's bill, and over the next two years, Mexico's slaves were all freed.

When Calles ran for re-election in 1926, he was decisively defeated by Assemblyman Pedro Fuentes, who rode to power on a wave of popular anger against K.A. His campaign to bring the company under control ultimately led Kramer Associates to leave Mexico in 1936.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 16

On February 16, 1778, General George Washington resigned his commission as a general in the Continental Army. Two days earlier, he had been relieved of his post as Commander-in-Chief and been reassigned to command of the Southern Theatre under the new Chairman of the Board of War, General Artemis Ward. That same day, Lord North called a secret Cabinet meeting to discuss overtures to moderate Americans, with an offer of limited autonomy based on the Galloway Plan of Proposed Union in return for the colonies returning to British rule.

On February 16, 1890, Premier Adolfo Camacho of New Granada held a meeting with the ambassadors of the Confederation of North America, Great Britain, and Spain, to warn them of an impending attack on his country by the United States of Mexico, and to seek their assistance. However, North American Governor-General Ezra Gallivan was unwilling to intervene, and without a North American commitment, neither of the other nations were willing to act.

On February 16, 1914, Victoriano Consalus was inaugurated as President of the U.S.M. In his inaugural address, Consalus limited his short speech to generalities, promising "a better life for all our people." However, when speaking of foreign policy, he spoke firmly, saying, "Our land has had more than its share of war. Its history has been written in blood. From the days of the Conquistadores, to the North American Rebellion, through the Rocky Mountain War and the bloodshed of the Hermión dictatorship, we have suffered. We want no war, and so we prepare for combat sadly, hoping it will not fall to this generation to suffer the fate of its ancestors."

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 15

On February 15, 1920, Senator Albert Ullman of California arranged to meet General Emiliano Calles at a government dinner. Calles was the most popular man in the United States of Mexico due to his brilliant victory over the French at the Battle of Chapultepec six years before, and there were indications that he was planning to run for president. The men spoke together afterwards for two hours, and although details of the discussion were never made public, it is known that the two talked about slavery and related subjects. As a result of the meeting, Ullman decided to lend his support to Calles' presidential aspirations.

For All Nails #317: The Specials

For All Nails #317: The Specials
By Johnny Pez

Nacogdoches, Jefferson, USM
7 October 1908

When Junie woke up in the middle of the night to find her father and mother fully dressed, she didn’t have to wonder what was happening. She knew that the Specials had come for them.

“Get dressed, Junie,” her mother told her. “We’re leaving.”

Without another word, Junie began to get dressed, while her parents woke Jemmie and Lily and set them to dressing as well. In spite of the darkness, they all acted quickly, and in five minutes, the whole family was dressed, and preparing to leave.

While her body was putting on her ragged clothes, Junie’s mind kept going over the secret words that every slave in Mexico knew: “The first snake goes down into the valley, and the second snake goes up into the mountains.” After she finished dressing, she let her finger trace out the signs that she knew went with the secret words: SVSM.

Her mother and father led the three children out of the shack, and into the moonless night. The light of the stars let her make out two more figures in the darkness: two men, dressed as they were in the rags of slaves. Junie knew, though, that the two men weren’t slaves. They were the Specials, and they were here to lead them across the river Jordan to freedom.

The Specials didn’t speak; they simply gestured for the slaves to follow them, and the slaves did. The Specials led Junie and the others through the plantation’s recently-harvested cotton fields, until they came to a dirt road. Stepping out onto the road felt to Junie like stepping out of her old life, and into a new one. Up until then, the slaves hadn’t been doing anything wrong. They could go where they liked around the plantation, but going out onto the road without permission from Master Henry or the overseer was forbidden.

The Specials led them down the dirt road in the starry night, farther and farther away from the plantation. To left and right, there were the same fields of cotton, looking strangely naked with the puffs of cotton gone. After they had been traveling for a time, Junie heard the sound of a wagon approaching from behind them. The Specials heard it too, and led them all into a cotton field on their right.

The wagon was just passing by, and Junie thought her heart would freeze when she saw one of the Specials stand up and let out a sharp whistle.

The wagon came to a halt. The driver, a white man, looked over at the Special and said, “That you, Cliff?”

“It ain’t President Flores,” the Special answered.

The driver let out a laugh and said, “All right, hop on up.” The Specials led the slaves out of the field and to the back of the wagon. There were half a dozen bales of cotton there, but the driver did something to one, and Junie saw that it wasn’t a real bale of cotton, just an empty barrel made up to look like one. The white man said, “Don’t worry, plenty of room for everyone.”

The Specials helped the slaves up onto the wagon, and into the false cotton bales. Junie was relieved to find that there was a bag filled with straw to lie down on inside the bale. While she lay there waiting for the rest of her family to hide themselves, one of the Specials said to the white man, “Took you long enough to find us.”

Junie held her breath while she waited for the white man to scold the Special for sassing him. Instead, the white man just laughed again and said, “All these goddamn back roads look alike. Don’t these people know about signs?”

“Signs cost money,” the Special answered. “You know what these people are like when it comes to spending money they don’t have to.”

“Don’t I just,” said the white man. The conversation left Junie completely adrift. Who was the driver, and why didn’t he act like any white man she had ever met?

Junie was in one of the false bales along with Jemmie and Lily, while her mother and father were together in the other one. In spite of the jolting of the wagon, her brother and sister were soon fast asleep, but it seemed to Junie that she was awake for hours and hours in the dark. She must have fallen asleep, though, because she was suddenly awakened by a light.

She sat up, startled, to find that the false bale had been opened up again, and daylight was pouring into it. The two Specials and the white man were standing there, and Junie was finally able to get a good look at the three of them. One of the Specials was a man of middle years, while the other looked to be little older than Junie herself. The white man looked like every other white man Junie had ever seen, and she felt a wave of fear shake her as he stood there. But the older Special was saying, “It’s all right, children. We’ve stopped for the day. You can all come out, it’s safe.”

Junie crawled out of the false bale, and the younger Special helped her down to the ground. They seemed to be in an old barn that was half falling down. There were three other people in the barn, all of them white, who were looking after the horses. They ignored the slaves emerging from the back of the wagon. When they were all out, the white man left to join the others with the horses.

“Where are we?” asked her father.

“Safe house,” said the older Special. “We need to give the horses a chance to rest. And us too, of course. Come with me.”

The two Specials led her family out of the barn, and across a yard to an old plantation house that was almost as broken-down as the barn. Inside, though, there was food and water, and a solid table surrounded by chairs. “Have a seat,” the older Special invited them. The fleeing slaves sat, and the Specials joined them at the table. The food was simple jerked beef, with some raw vegetables and two loaves of bread.

Junie’s family talked among themselves, but seemed reluctant to speak to the Specials, who ate along with them in silence. But the younger Special was sitting next to Junie, and she was bursting with questions, so she finally worked up the courage to speak to him. “Sir?” she asked.

“Call me Park,” the Special answered.

“Park,” Junie said, feeling strange as she did so. “Who’s that white man?”

“That’s Luke,” said Park. “He’s one of us.”

“A Special?” said Junie, astonished.

“That’s right.”

It had never occurred to Junie that there might be white men among the Specials. It gave her a vague sense of disappointment. “I never would have guessed it,” she finally said.

“Mighty useful having a white man along,” the older Special added. “Saves us a lot of trouble.”

Junie supposed it would. A white man driving a wagon would provoke no suspicion from passers-by, where a black man could expect to be stopped on general principles.

“Park,” she spoke again. “How many times you been across the river?”

“This is my first,” said Park.

Again, Junie was taken aback. She supposed, when you thought about it, that every Special had to have a first time going across the river to bring back escaped slaves, but it still struck her as odd.

“You afraid?” she asked him.

“Damn right I am,” the Special said. “But don’t you be. My Pa here’s an old hand at this. He’ll see us through.”

“That’s your Pa?” This seemed to be Junie’s day for being astonished.

“Sure. Makes sense, when you think about it. If we want folks to believe I’m his son, it sure helps that I really am his son.”

Junie’s mind was awhirl. This business of escaping across the river Jordan to freedom suddenly seemed a whole lot more complicated that she had been expecting.

“Your name is Cliff?” she asked Park’s father. She remembered that the white man had called him that.

“That’s right,” he said. “You’re Junie?”

“Yes, sir.”

“How old are you, Junie?”

“Fifteen, sir. Uh, Cliff.”

Cliff smiled at the slip, and Junie felt herself warming at the sight. “Cliff, how long before we reach the river Jordan?”

“Well, it’s properly called the Arkansas, but plenty of folks I know call it the Jordan. Depending on the roads, we ought to be there in ten days, give or take a couple.”

Ten days! It seemed like an eternity to Junie. Ten days on the road through Jefferson, the whole time under constant risk of discovery. “I wish we could just fly there!” she suddenly exclaimed.

“Maybe we could,” said Park with a chuckle. “Go down to Jefferson City and steal an airmobile. Assuming they have any airmobiles at Jefferson City.”

It took Junie a moment to place the word. Airmobiles were flying machines that the Tories had invented. She had been inclined to skepticism when she first heard about them, but her father had assured her that they were real.

“Park,” she said, “if the Tories can build airmobiles, and locomobiles, and all that, why can’t they march down to Mexico, and free all the slaves?”

Park shook his head. “Folks in the C.N.A. don’t like the idea of going to war, most of them. Man named Thomas Kronmiller wanted to do just that, and tried to make himself governor-general, but not enough folks went along with him. Instead we got men like Mr. Hemingway and Mr. Merriman who think we ought to leave well enough alone.” It was clear from the tone of his voice what Park thought of Mr. Hemingway and Mr. Merriman.

Cliff spoke up then. “Who do you think is paying for all this, Park?”

Junie was just as puzzled by the question as Park seemed to be when he answered, “Paying for what?

“For you, and me, and Luke, for starters,” said Cliff, “and all the rest of us here in Mexico. Paying for this house, and the wagon, and the guards we keep sweet so they let us go by. Paying to keep our farm in Dickinson County running while we’re busy down here.”

“Well, we do, I guess,” Park finally said. “The Ess Vees.”

Cliff shook his head. “This all costs much more than the Ess Vee could afford. We’ve got the whole country helping out, and that’s a fact. And it’s men like Mr. Hemingway and Mr. Merriman who keep the money coming, and Mr. Gallivan and Mr. McDowell before them.”

“Well, if it’s so expensive,” Park countered, “then why not just go to war and have it done with once and for all?”

Cliff shook his head again. “A war may sound mighty fine, if you’re just talking about it. But it’s a fact that when a war comes, nothing goes the way you think it will. Mr. Gilpin found that out the hard way, and a lot of good men paid dearly to help him learn, your great-uncle Billy included.

“What we’re doing here may not be as exciting as fighting a war, but it’s a better, quieter way to bring freedom to our people here. The Mexicans are content to turn a blind eye to what we do, and the reason they are is that they know they don’t have to worry about Mr. Hemingway or Mr. Merriman sending an army across the border.”

Cliff was silent after that, and Park and Junie were too. He had given her a lot to think about, especially the idea that the Mexicans were letting the Specials steal their slaves away.

After the meal, Cliff and Park led the slaves to another room with several beds in it, then left on some business of their own. Her parents took one, and her brother and sister took another, leaving Junie to sleep alone in hers. It was the first time in her life that she had ever been in a real bed.

Junie woke with a start several times, wondering where she was, before remembering that she was in the old plantation house. The last time she woke, it was dark in the room; she and her family had slept the day away. She lay awake after that, staring into the darkness, until she heard a sound of footsteps and a light approaching. She sat up in the bed, stricken with fear, until she saw that it was Cliff and Park carrying a lantern. “Are we leaving now?” she asked them.

Cliff nodded, and went over to wake up her parents, while Park did the same with Jemmie and Lily. They had another meal at the table before going out to the barn. As the others returned to their hiding places in the false bales, Junie asked Cliff, “Can I ride up top with you and Park?”

Cliff looked over at Luke, who shrugged. “Fine with me,” he said. And just like that, Junie found herself seated next to Park as Luke and Cliff led the horses out of the barn and down a weed-choked drive that led to the road. The two older men joined them on the seat, and with Cliff taking the reins, they resumed their journey north to the river Jordan.

Although she sometimes spoke with Cliff, and once or twice with Luke, Junie spent most of her time talking to Park. He told her about life in the Ess Vee, which for most people meant farming. When she asked him if there were many white people there, Park said that about a third of the people were white. For the most part, whites and Negroes lived apart from each other, though this was becoming less true in the major cities of Fort Lodge and Saint Louis.

“It’s also not true in the Militia, including the Special Militia,” Park said. “We couldn’t do our work if it was. Some of us think that the whole confederation would work better if we didn’t keep ourselves apart.”

Junie thought it sounded more sensible to keep things the way they were. Even knowing that Luke was a Special himself, she found it hard to be in his presence. She could imagine nothing better than living in a whole town with only other Negroes around.

One by one, the days went past, each spent at a different safe house. From time to time, Junie would ride with the Specials; other times, her mother or father or siblings would. One night, she saw a river glinting in the moonlight, and thought that their journey was over. But to her disappointment, it wasn’t the Jordan they were approaching, it was another called the Rio Colorado. They passed through a town called Hermión, then crossed a bridge over the Rio Colorado. There were two white men in the gray uniforms of the Mexican Army manning a toll gate. Junie was terrified, but Luke casually tossed a coin to one of the soldiers, and the other raised the gate. Junie remained frozen in her seat until they had trundled over the bridge and were rolling along the road on the far side.

It was raining when they set out from the last safe house south of the river Jordan, but Junie still wanted to spend the trip up on the seat with the Specials. Cliff had refused, though, saying that this close to the border all the runaway slaves would have to remain concealed in the false bales.

Lying in the false bale beside Jemmie and Lily, it seemed to Junie that they had been there for an eternity. She was too keyed up to sleep, and every minute she was certain that they would be discovered by soldiers from the army, or worse, from the Jefferson Brigades. With the army, Park had told her, you could often bribe your way out of trouble. But the Brigades were different. They were run by the Kramer Company, which Park said was bigger and richer than the government itself, and mean as a snake besides. If the Brigades caught you, they’d shoot you down on the spot, no exceptions.

When, finally, the wagon creaked to a halt, Junie felt herself go dizzy with fear. Was it the army, or the Brigades? She heard the wagon’s gate go down, and felt a rush of cold air as the false bale was opened up.

Cliff’s voice came out of the darkness. “Children, get up. We’re here!”

Within moments, Junie and her siblings had scrambled out of the wagon, and their parents soon joined them. It was still raining, and the weather had turned cold, but Junie didn’t care. She looked around, but in the darkness it was hard to make anything out. Cliff said, “Join hands and follow me,” and the runaway slaves did.

Cliff led them away from the wagon, which rolled away behind them with Luke at the reins. Junie could tell that they were in among trees, and Cliff led them carefully between them. Finally, after maybe fifteen minutes, they emerged from the trees, and Junie could hear the sound of water rolling past. They were here! They were here on the banks of the river Jordan!

“You all right?” a whispered voice asked. She could tell without looking that it was Park.

“I’m fine, Park. What happens now?”

There was the flare of a lucifer, and Junie could see Cliff lighting the wick of a lantern. Park explained, “There should be a boat on the other bank, waiting for our signal. Once they get it, they’ll row over and pick us up.” Cliff held the lantern up with the lamp covered, then uncovered it three times, paused, then three times more. Through the rain, Junie could see a distant light blink twice.

“Did you see it?” Park asked.

Junie nodded, then realized he wouldn’t be able to see her in the dark and added, “Yes. That was them?”

“It was,” Park confirmed.

And it was. Ten minutes later, a boat with six men rowing it had come up out of the darkness. Two of them, Junie couldn’t help noticing, were white. One of the men in it threw a rope, which Park caught. Junie and her parents joined him in drawing the boat to the south bank of the river Jordan. One of the rowers got out, and between them Park, Cliff, and he were able to help the slaves on board.

Junie could feel a pool of water at the bottom of the boat as she hunkered down, and she worried for a moment that it was sinking. The rowers seemed unconcerned, though, so she tried to put the thought out of her mind. One of the men was calling out time as the rowers maneuvered the boat across the river Jordan.

Looking ahead of them, Junie saw that a lantern was casting a steady light over a spot on the north bank, and the boat was making for it. As they came closer, she could make out the man who was holding it. He was wearing a black uniform with silver trim, and Junie thought her heart was going to leap from her chest when she saw the SVSM marks on his shoulder boards.

More men emerged into the lantern’s light, also in uniform. One of the rowers cast the rope out, and the uniformed Specials caught it and pulled the boat to the bank. One by one, members of Junie’s family were helped out of the boat, and onto the north bank of the river Jordan, onto the Promised Land.

Cliff and Park were the last to reach the bank, and as the rowers pulled the boat up onto the riverbank, Cliff walked up to the man with the lantern, saluted, and said, “Serjeant Clifford Monaghan, Southern Vandalia Special Militia.” There was something odd about the way he talked. Back in Jefferson, he had sounded like every other Negro Junie knew. Now his words were somehow more precise, more formal. More educated, Junie realized.

Park did the same, in the same precise manner of speech, saying, “Constable Parker Monaghan.” Then he added, “All present, sir. No losses.”

The man handed the lantern to one of the other uniformed Specials and returned their salute. “Captain George Carpenter,” he answered, also in the same style speech. “Well done, Serjeant, Constable.” Then he turned to her father and said, “Welcome to Southern Vandalia, Mister … “

“Carter,” her father answered. “Jack Carter. My wife Sara, and my children Junie, Jemmie, and Lily.”

It was the first time Junie had ever heard her father give his full name to anyone but another slave. And then it struck her like a wave: they weren’t slaves any more. They were free. She felt hot tears running down her face among the cold drops of rain.

“Mister Carter,” Captain Carpenter finished. “If you and your family would come this way, we can get you properly settled in.”

Junie reached out to take Park’s hand in hers, and together they followed Captain Carpenter through the night, into the Promised Land.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 14

On February 14, 1890, shots were fired through the windows of the homes of five members of the Mexican Senate, and bombs were found in the Presidential Palace. Mexican Chief of State Benito Hermión ordered the Mexican Fourth Army, stationed in Guatemala, to a state of readiness, and alerted elements of the Gulf Fleet and Pacific Fleet to prepare for action. Sobel states that there is good reason to believe that the Chief of State's own agents fired the shots and planted the bombs to provide an excuse for an attack on New Granada.

On February 14, 1915, Governor-General Albert Merriman apologized to Mexican President Victoriano Consalus for Howard Washburne's inflammatory statements regarding Mexican slavery. By then, Washburne was already gaining supporters throughout the Confederation of North America. Thirty-four members of the Grand Council had signed a petition supporting Washburne, and a national organization called the Friends of Black Mexico was being formed to agitate for the end of slavery in the U.S.M.

On February 14, 1965, Great Britain became the first conventional state to detonate an atomic bomb, two and a half years after the global supercorporation Kramer Associates detonated its own bomb. The bomb test took place in the Australian desert, and was the first fruit of an international atomic arms race set off by K.A.'s actions.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 12

On February 12, 1824, Mexican President Andrew Jackson gave an address to Congress on his recently-concluded "grand tour" of the United States of Mexico. Rather than the usual broad platitudes his listeners were expecting, Jackson gave specific proposals, concentrating on the economic potential of the new country, especially the states of Arizona and Mexico del Norte. He concluded his remarks by revealing that "several friendly nations have indicated interest in participating in Mexico's future." Within days, it was learned that France had agreed to loan the Mexican government $4 million.

On February 12, 1921, Josephine Williams, a columnist for the Jefferson Times, dismissed President Emiliano Calles as a figurehead for Secretary of State Albert Ullman, writing: "Mr. Calles resembles nothing more than petrified wood, not only in appearance, but in chemistry. Wood when placed in mineral solution changes gradually, as the wood molecules are replaced by those of stone. Thus, the appearance is wood, but the reality is calcium. President Calles seems the Hero of Chapultepec, but in reality he is the miserable professor from Kinkaid."

Monday, February 10, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 10

On February 10, 1890, Mexican dictator Benito Hermión informed the Mexican Senate that he had learned of a plot "hatched in Bogotá to assassinate leading members of this body, the Cabinet, and the Chief of State." It was the first step in Hermión's plan to conquer the South American nation of New Granada.

On February 10, 1915, Howard Washburne, the Governor of Southern Vandalia, spoke out on the ongoing Chapultepec Treason Trials in the U.S.M. He called for the abolition of Negro slavery there, saying, "Our brothers are in chains, and their cries never leave our ears. We can no longer tolerate it. Either Mexico will end slavery, or we will do it for her." Washburne's remarks touched off a diplomatic crisis between the two countries, and set off a social revolution in the Confederation of North America.

Sobel Wiki: Aloha!

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on Hawaii, one of the states of the United States of Mexico.

The history of the Hawaiian Islands is very similar in both the Sobel Timeline and our own. A native dynasty established its rule over the inhabited islands of the archipelago in the nineteenth century, but by the 1890s, commercial interests in the islands sought to overthrow the monarchy and bring the islands under foreign rule. In the Sobel Timeline, the commercial interests consisted of Kramer Associates, the largest corporation in the U.S.M. Diego Cortez y Catalán, the president of K.A., financed a revolution on the island in 1892, placing a puppet ruler on the Hawaiian throne. Four months later, the islands petitioned for annexation by the U.S.M., and Mexican dictator Benito Hermión obliged.

Hawaii remained a Mexican dependency under the economic control of K.A. for the next thirty years. Then, President Emiliano Calles called for plebiscites in all of Hermión's conquered territories to either gain Mexican statehood or independence. Cortez's successor, Douglas Benedict, opposed Calles, since K.A. still controlled all the territories, and he believed that any change in the status quo would be for the worse. In spite of Benedict's opposition, the Hawaiian government approved the plebiscite, and Hawaii gained Mexicban statehood in November 1923.

Hawaii was one of three Kramer satrapies that accepted Calles' plebiscite proposal, and one of two (Alaska was the other) that voted for Mexican statehood. Given K.A.'s established policy of maintaining control of its satrapies by buying elected officials, this represents a major failure on the company's part (though Sobel, typically, fails to describe it as such). In theory, all Benedict had to do to prevent a plebiscite from being held in Hawaii was to cable whichever top figures in the Hawaiian government he owned and tell them not to allow it. That the plebiscite was held anyway suggests that there was considerable opposition to Kramer's de facto rule of the islands -- enough to overcome the company's financial control, and presumably cause bought politicians to come unbought.

This makes it less surprising that in its first presidential election, three years later, the Hawaiian electorate voted against Calles by a 55% to 45% margin, in favor of Pedro Fuentes, who had made it his goal if elected to bring Kramer Associates to heel.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 9

On February 9, 1889, the Grand Council of the Confederation of North America ratified a proposal by Governor-General Ezra Gallivan to allow the people of the Confederation of Quebec to hold a plebiscite to determine whether they would remain in the C.N.A., devolve to an autonomous associated status, or become independent. The date of the plebiscite was set for July 6.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 8

On February 8, 1914, outgoing Mexican President Anthony Flores invited the two major party candidates to succeed him to his office to discuss the looming threat of war with France. One was his own Secretary of State, United Mexican Party candidate Victoriano Consalus. The other was the Liberty Party candidate, California Senator Albert Ullman.

French President Henri Fanchon was a follower of the Moral Imperative, the imperialist ideology of the Western nations at the turn of the twentieth century. Fanchon had decided that a war with the United States of Mexico and the liberation of Mexico's Negro slaves would make France the leading reformist nation, and also allow France to supplant Mexico's hegemony over Latin America.

Both Ullman and Consalus agreed that Fanchon was capable of attacking the U.S.M., but neither man thought an attack would be successful. Ullman thought a conference with Fanchon would prove beneficial, and considered some of Fanchon's criticisms of the U.S.M. partially justified. Consalus believed that the best response would be a partial mobilization of the Mexican Army, stationing elements of the Pacific Fleet in the Caribbean and outside the Kinkaid Canal, and placing guards in the large French quarter of the port of Tampico, Durango.

Details of the meeting were leaked to the Mexican press, presumably by Consalus, since Ullman was made to appear weak in the reports. The Mexico City Times carried a story on the meeting the next day.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 7

The highlight of the 1968 Grand Council elections occurred on February 7, 1968, when the three major candidates for Governor-General of the Confederation of North America participated in a vitavised debate. The People's Coalition's nominee was incumbent Governor-General Carter Monaghan; the Liberal Party's nominee was Jason Winters, the Governor of Manitoba; and the newly-formed Peace and Justice Party's nominee was political scientist and best-selling author James Volk of Burgoyne University. The next day, most North American reporters seemed to think that Volk was the most attractive speaker, Monaghan's arguments the most convincing, and Winters' the most confusing.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 6

On February 6, 1817, Colonel Andrew Jackson entered Mexico City at the head of the army of the State of Jefferson, marking the conclusion of an eight-month campaign against the government of Mexican President José María Morelos. Jackson was accompanied by an army of Mexican Clericalists led by Simón Figueroa. Figueroa was fulsome in his praise of Jackson, and rewarded him handsomely for his successful campaign. Jackson in turn supported Figueroa's claim to the Mexican presidency.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 5

On February 5, 1824, President Andrew Jackson returned to Mexico City after conducting his "grand tour" of the United States of Mexico. Starting in April 1823, Jackson visited the capital cities of all six Mexican states, and gave major speeches before their legislatures. He also visited the Indian areas of Mexico del Norte and Arizona. Sobel described Jackson's grand tour as "a resounding success."

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 4

On February 4, 1839, the newly-formed Jefferson and California Railroad Company began laying tracks in Henrytown, Jefferson as the first step in their plan to build a railroad connecting Henrytown to San Francisco, California. The formation of the railroad had been a response to the discovery of gold in California a year earlier. Although President Andrew Jackson had adamantly opposed building the "iron monsters" in the United States of Mexico, the California Gold Rush had forced him to concede the necessity for a rail link between California and the Gulf Coast.

On February 4, 1959, Governor-General Richard Mason gave a vitavised speech in which he rejected calls for increased defense spending in the Confederation of North America, in spite of the growing militarization of the Caribbean by Mexican dictator Vincent Mercator. "Nothing has ever been solved by war," he told his audience. "If we have learned one thing from the horrors of the Global War, it is that arms solve no problems, but only bring disaster."

Mason's remarks were reported the next day in the Burgoyne Times.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sobel Wiki: In the shadow of the giants

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on the Years of the Pygmies.

Historians of the United States of America have often given nicknames to various periods of American history: the Federalist Era, the Era of Good Feeling, the Gilded Age, the New Deal. This is also true of the history of the Confederation of North America, where various periods have nicknames such as the Crisis Years, the Era of Faceless Men, the Diffusion Era, and the New Day. Oddly, the history of the United States of Mexico does not seem to have such nicknames, or if they do, Sobel doesn't often use them. The exceptions are the nicknames that both countries share: the Rocky Mountain War, the War Without War, and the Years of the Pygmies.

The Years of the Pygmies refers to the period after the resignation of Governor-General Ezra Gallivan and the ouster of Chief of State/Emperor Benito Hermión in 1901, when both the C.N.A. and the U.S.M. went through a period of political calm presided over by colorless, risk-averse politicians. In the U.S.M., this was Anthony Flores, the first popularly elected President since 1875. In the C.N.A., it was the triumvirate of Clifton Burgen, Christopher Hemingway, and Albert Merriman, the former a caretaker figure who served out the remainder of Gallivan's third term, the latter two described by Sobel as "having no desire to innovate and a great love of crowds and travel." Sobel goes on to say, "All seemed cut from the same cloth. Each in his own way was a moderate, an isolationist, and a person unwilling to innovate or take risks."

If the two nations were quiet politically, the same was not true economically or socially. The Years of the Pygmies saw rapid economic growth in both countries, and the appearance of new transportation technologies and media of communication: locomobiles, airmobiles, radio, and motion pictures, all of which served to increase both social mobility and physical mobility in both countries. In the C.N.A., this gave rise to the Diffusion Era in the 1920s, while in the U.S.M. the Mexicano majority fully entered the political and economic life of the country.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 2

On February 2, 1838, Hernando Montez, a subsistence farmer in Santo Tomás, California, found small nuggets of gold in a creek that ran through his farm. This marked the beginning of the California Gold Rush, which altered the political and economic shape of the United States of Mexico.

On February 2, 1900, revolution broke out in the Russian capital of St. Petersburg. The uprising was in response to a series of military defeats suffered by Russian forces at the hands of the U.S.M. The revolution spread from the capital to the rest of European Russia, and eventually led to the collapse of the Russian Empire.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: February 1

On February 1, 1784, Sir John Dickinson was appointed the second Viceroy of the Confederation of North America. Dickinson's appointment came as a surprise, since it was generally assumed that Lord North would replace the late General John Burgoyne with Lieutenant-Viceroy Lord Charles Cornwallis. However, North recognized that Cornwallis lacked Burgoyne's popularity among the North Americans. The choice of a North American Viceroy occasioned some discussion and a measure of grumbling among the members of Parliament, but North was able to exercise his usual skill in gaining what he wanted from that body.

On February 1, 1820, followers of the late José María Morelos in Mexico City attempted to overthrow the provisional government established by Andrew Jackson three years before. Although acting provisional president Colonel Barton Kelly had no difficulty in putting down the Morelistas, the uprising led Jackson to return to Mexico City to personally oversee the situation.

On February 1, 1889, Governor-General Ezra Gallivan gave a speech before the Grand Council on the chronically restive Confederation of Quebec. He offered a plan "to determine the future of the Confederation of Quebec, its relations to the national government, and the will of its people." Gallivan proposed a plebiscite to allow Quebecois to choose between three alternatives: the status quo, an "associated" status providing a great degree of local autonomy, or independence. After Gallivan ended his speech, the Council's entire thirteen-man delegation from Quebec rose to cheer the governor-general.