Friday, June 24, 2016

Scorpions in a Bottle - Abolitionism

The writing of Scorpions in a Bottle continues. The current section -- the second part of Chapter 6 -- deals with the rise of abolitionism in the Northern Confederation in the 1780s.

* * *

In North America, too, it came as a surprise when Lord Cornwallis was passed over for Dickinson to replace Albany, not least by Dickinson himself. Along with the official notification of his appointment, Dickinson received a personal note from Lord North congratulating him on his advancement and soliciting his recommendation for his own replacement as Governor-General of the Northern Confederation. Dickinson responded by suggesting Governor Clinton, thereby further alienating Galloway, who resigned as Governor of Pennsylvania after issuing a public denunciation of Dickinson’s role in the Rebellion. [1]

Galloway was not the only prominent figure to speak up against Dickinson’s selection. Governor-General Connolly made no secret of his outrage that a reliable Loyalist like himself should be passed over in favor of a man who had taken up arms against the Crown. Connolly did everything in his power to undermine Dickinson’s authority, though thanks to Bland his power amounted to little.

Bland, for his part, remained on cordial terms with Dickinson, although he soon fell out with Governor-General Clinton. By 1785, Bland’s views on the Rebellion had changed dramatically, possibly as part of his ongoing struggle with Connolly. Despite having served himself in the Continental Army, Bland had become a committed Loyalist, and he had taken to laying blame for the Rebellion on Northerners, including Clinton himself. Matters came to a head in 1788, when Bland attacked Clinton by name during a meeting of the S.C. Council. “The Rebellion began in the north,” he declared, “and northerners remain rebels at heart. They are the vipers in our bosoms, and we will yet rue the day we allowed them to escape the hangman’s noose and insinuate themselves in our counsels.” [2] When Bland’s remarks reached him, Clinton gave as good as he got, declaring that “our friend from Virginia is a man of great sensitivity. He left the rebel cause only a month after Saratoga. Had the victory not been won by Burgoyne, today he would be toasting the health of General Gates and others of his stripe. But Burgoyne prevailed, so our friend damns the rebels of Boston and conveniently forgets the rebels of Williamsburg.” [3] Hostilities between the two confederations remained high for the remainder of the century, only dying down after the victories of the Trans-Oceanic War.

Bland’s growing intransigence, combined with Connolly’s hostility, meant that subsequent meetings of the Grand Council accomplished little. The border dispute between Quebec and the N.C. continued to hang fire, with residents of the two confederations nearly coming to blows in the District of Maine in 1788. The Grand Council’s only accomplishment of note during this period was a 1785 resolution renaming Pittsborough Burgoyne.

For the most part, Dickinson’s tenure as Viceroy saw conditions in the former rebel colonies return to their ante bellum state. Commerce between the confederations and Britain resumed, as the Southerners increased shipments of tobacco and other cash crops, while the Northerners carried on the old triangular trade between New England, West Africa, and the sugar islands of the Caribbean.

The most notable exception to this return to pre-rebellion conditions was the growing movement in the Northern Confederation for the abolition of Negro slavery. Abolitionism received a boost during the Rebellion after Lord Dunmore issued his Emancipation Proclamation in November 1775, offering freedom to any slave or servant who deserted a master in rebellion against the Crown, and who took up arms against the rebels. Although Dunmore’s initial attempt to form an Ethiopian Regiment of freedmen proved premature, the Proclamation became general British policy after the rebels declared themselves independent. After the British victories at Albany and Philadelphia, thousands of Negro slaves deserted their masters and made their way to Loyalist territory. Altogether, it is estimated that from ten to fifteen percent of the slaves in the rebellious colonies, roughly fifty thousand to seventy-five thousand, were freed under the Dunmore Proclamation between 1775 and 1778. [4] The result was the creation of a sizeable class of free Negroes throughout the Thirteen Colonies. By 1780, free Negroes in the Northern Confederation outnumbered enslaved Negroes by two to one. Pennsylvania became the first province to abolish slavery in 1784, followed by Connecticut and Massachusetts the following year. In 1790, the N.C. Council passed legislation to gradually abolish slavery by freeing children born to slave mothers after that date. [5]

This proved to be another source of friction between North and South in the C.N.A. Although the Dunmore Proclamation also created a class of free Negroes in the Southern Confederation, these always remained a relatively small minority of the Negro population, and were always subject to various restrictions. Southerners frequently accused Northern abolitionists of encouraging runaways and slave uprisings. Southern paranoia regarding abolitionism increased as the influence of Northern abolitionists led to the passage of similar legislation by the Quebec Council in 1796 and the Indiana Council in 1803. [6]

1. Michellet. Dickinson and Galloway, pp. 414-15. Galloway’s decision to resign was also doubtless affected by the death of his wife in February 1784. He later remarried, and his descendants through his second wife became one of the most prominent families in the C.N.A.

2. Percy Harcourt. The Vipers in Their Bosoms: Clinton and Bland in 1788 (London, 1956), pp. 166-67.

3. Ibid., pp. 178-79.

4. Lloyd Mason. The Emancipation Proclamation (New York, 1967), pp. 254-61.

5. Barkley Daugherty. Slavery in the Dickinson Era (New York, 1954).

6. John Harnett. A History of Slavery in the Southern Confederation (London, 1935).

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Scorpions in a Bottle: The First Grand Council

Work on Scorpions in a Bottle continues. This section, the first part of Chapter 6, recounts the reaction to Burgoyne's death, and the first meeting of the Grand Council in 1783.

* * *

The death of the Duke of Albany shocked the people of the C.N.A. At 61, Albany had been in robust health, and was widely expected to remain as Viceroy for several years.

Lord Cornwallis was in Pittsborough to attend the upcoming Grand Council meeting, and he was able to immediately step in and take up his duties as Acting Viceroy. It was Cornwallis who presided over the first meeting of the Grand Council. Since he had little interest in the issues raised by the various delegates, he mostly remained in the background after Dickinson was chosen to preside over the Council. [1]

The first question to be addressed was whether the Council had a quorum, since Manitoba had declined to send a delegation, and three of the Indiana delegates were still in transit from Fort Radisson. Dickinson urged that it would be unwise to leave the business of the Council a hostage to fortune, dependent on the uncertainties of travel, weather, and the whims of the individual confederation councils. Privately, he suspected that Legge’s recent death would keep the Manitobans from participating in the government of the C.N.A. for some time to come, and he preferred to carry on without them rather than allow their absence to delay the Council’s work. He persuaded the Council to rule that as long as delegates from at least three confederations were present, the Grand Council had a quorum to conduct business. [2]

One item before the Grand Council was the question of coordinating Indian treaties, since it was clear that it would not be in the best interests of the confederations to allow conflicting land claims to arise. It was agreed that any treaties reached by the confederation governments would have to be ratified by the Grand Council before going into effect.

The council also dealt with ongoing border disputes between the Northern Confederation and its northern and southern neighbors. The dispute with the Southern Confederation over the area south of the Ohio and Monongahela Rivers was resolved in the N.C.’s favor, with the line surveyed by Mason and Dixon in the 1760s being extended to the Ohio River. The dispute with Quebec over the northern border of the District of Maine was shelved in the absence of accurate surveys of the area. [3]

Dickinson’s report to the North ministry on the first Grand Council meeting may have influenced the ministry’s choice of a successor to Albany. It was initially assumed by North’s cabinet that Cornwallis would succeed to the post. Dickinson’s report swayed the ministry to the view that Cornwallis’s marked disinterest in civil administration meant that he should continue his current offices as Lt. Viceroy and commander-in-chief of British forces in North America. Sir Charles Jenckinson, who had succeeded Rockingham as Colonial Secretary after the latter’s death, recommended Lord Dorchester for the post. Lord North felt that Dorchester would be of more use if he remained as Governor-General of Quebec. North surprised those present by suggesting Dickinson himself as Viceroy. It had been generally assumed that the Viceroy would be British, since the post had been envisioned as a direct representative of the Crown in the North American government. However, once the idea of a North American Viceroy was broached, it was agreed that Dickinson would be the best candidate. [4]

1. George Jackson. The New Day: The First Days of the C.N.A. (New York, 1967), pp. 331-35.

2. Dickinson. My Life and Work, pp. 217-19.

3. Walter Edmunds. Origins of the Grand Council (New York, 1999), pp. 286-98.

4. North was favorably impressed with Dickinson’s dedication to the cause of Anglo-American unity during the drafting of the Design in 1780. It has been suggested that North privately preferred Dickinson over Burgoyne for the office of Viceroy at the time, but allowed himself to be persuaded to support the latter. See Poorman. Designing the Design, pp. 255-58.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Tyranny of the gun


There has been YET ANOTHER mass shooting in the United States of America. This time, the target was a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and the shooter was, apparently, a Muslim-flavored homophobic religious fanatic.

For the FOURTEENTH TIME SINCE HIS INAUGURATION the President of the United States has made a public address in the wake of a mass shooting.

Every year, at least eleven thousand Americans kill each other with guns. If America were being occupied by a foreign country whose soldiers killed eleven thousand Americans at random every year, we would rise up and drive them out of our land to put a stop to such a senseless slaughter. But we can't drive out the brutal occupying army that is shooting us down in the streets every day, because the brutal occupying army is us.

The gun nuts tell us that these deaths are the price of freedom. If a foreign army was shooting eleven thousand of us every year, and we couldn't do anything to stop them, would we call ourselves free? Of course not. Yet, as long as it's our fellow Americans who are shooting eleven thousand people every year, that means we are free. Right?

Of course not. Just because the occupying army is domestic rather than foreign does not mean it is not an occupying army. We are being tyrannized, and just because we're tyrannizing ourselves doesn't make it any less of a tyranny. If some homophobic asshole decides he wants to slaughter a bunch of LGBT people, and he can walk into a gun shop and buy the means to do so, that is tyranny. If some lunatic hears Carly Fiorina spewing bullshit about black market baby parts and decides to slaughter a bunch of Planned Parenthood employees, and he can walk into a gun shop and buy the means to do so, that is tyranny. If some white supremacist decides to slaughter a bunch of black people in a church, and he can walk into a gun shop and buy the means to do so, THAT IS TYRANNY.

But, the gun nuts say, we need guns to protect ourselves from the government. Yeah, guess what? If the government wants you dead, all it has to do is target you with a drone strike, and YOU WILL BE DEAD, and all the guns in your arsenal won't be able to stop them. If President Obama had decided to take out the Bundy militia in Nevada a couple years back, all their guns wouldn't have been able to stop him. THEY WOULD BE DEAD. You know why Obama didn't just launch a drone strike on the Bundy ranch? Because he believes in the rule of law. That's what kept Cliven Bundy and all of his fellow wackaloon guns nuts alive: not their guns, but an idea.

And do you know what would happen if the President of the United States was not constrained by a belief in the rule of law? Consider, for example, Donald Trump, who has openly boasted about his plans to use the government to revenge himself on his enemies. He won't be constrained by any silly ideas about the rule of law. If he wants to carry out a drone strike on someone, he'll just fucking well do it, and anyone who objects can expect a drone strike of their own. YOUR GUNS WILL NOT PROTECT YOU from any government ruthless enough to ignore the rule of law.

But, the guns nuts tell themselves in the secrecy of their hearts, we need guns to protect ourselves from the scary black people. Well, too bad! Your racial paranoia is not sufficient reason for the rest of us to go in fear of our lives. If you don't like living in a country with scary black people, I suggest you move to someplace that doesn't have any. I hear the Kerguelen Islands are available.

Remember, folks, the Second Amendment was not designed to let anyone who wants a gun have one. It was designed to create a well-regulated militia (ie the locally-based Army Reserve units that we now call the National Guard), as the amendment itself states in the part that the gun nuts always leave out. The "personal right to bear arms" is a modern perversion of the amendment promoted by the gun industry and created by corporate-friendly right-wing Supreme Court justices. And what the Supremes giveth, the Supremes can taketh away. The tyranny of the gun is not a permanent part of the United States of America. We can change it ... if we want to.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Scorpions in a Bottle: The First Viceroy

This section of Scorpions in a Bottle concludes chapter 5 on the establishment of the C.N.A.

* * *

In the months immediately following Saratoga-Albany, Burgoyne worked diligently to strengthen the fragile lifeline connecting his army to the main British base at New York. He was aided by the Continental Army’s leadership reshuffle, which ensured that he faced no concerted opposition from the Americans. By the time of the armistice in June 1778, Burgoyne’s position in Albany was secure, and he was free to send units to occupy the remaining rebel positions, such as Fort Stanwix, and to move his own headquarters to New York.

The reassignment of Clinton to Norfolk and Howe to Boston left Burgoyne in control of the four Middle Colonies. Unlike his two colleagues, he had no ongoing rebel insurrection to deal with. [1] Burgoyne’s most intractable problem was the Royal Governor of New Jersey, William Franklin, who shared Lord Dunmore’s vindictiveness towards the former rebels. Like Clinton, Burgoyne was eventually forced to use his own authority to replace the obstinate royal governor with a more moderate man to keep him from provoking a renewed uprising.

In addition to administering the most loyalist section of the Thirteen Colonies, Burgoyne also had a talent for gaining popular approval that stood him in good stead. Most notably, Burgoyne, a widower, enjoyed a highly-public romance with Mrs. Abigail Conrad, the widow of a soldier in the Continental Army who had died at Valley Forge. Burgoyne’s marriage to Mrs. Conrad in February 1780 was the social event of the season, and did much to win over former rebels in the Middle Colonies. Burgoyne also wrote and produced two new plays while in New York, both on American themes. The first told the story of the Indian princess Pocahontas, and the second that of Peter Stuyvesant, the tyrannical, peg-legged governor of Dutch New York in the seventeenth century.

In November, word came of Burgoyne’s elevation to the peerage, followed shortly by news of the passage of the Britannic Design, and of Burgoyne’s appointment as Viceroy of the C.N.A. Burgoyne’s satisfaction at his appointment was tempered by the news that he would be expected to move from New York City to the rough frontier town of Pittsborough.

Over the course of the next year, the Thirteen Colonies saw the return of Dickinson, Dorchester, Connolly, and the others from London, and preparations were made for the establishment of the C.N.A. Dickinson took up residence in New York, and Connolly in Norfolk, in anticipation of their appointments as governors-general of the Northern and Southern Confederations. The summer of 1781 saw the Duke of Albany and his family make a triumphant tour across the former battlefields of the Rebellion from New York to Philadelphia. He gave speeches at Princeton, Trenton, Germantown, and Brandywine, in which he praised the valor of those who fought on both sides, and spoke of the colonial rights enshrined in the Design as a victory for the colonial cause.

In the fall, Albany led his family along the long, rugged trail that Braddock had blazed 25 years before to the forks of the Ohio. In Pittsborough, Albany was hosted by Alexander McKee, a prominent Loyalist, while plans were drawn up for a permanent residence called Government House where the Viceroy would reside and oversee periodic meetings of the Grand Council.

In the spring, Albany sailed down the Ohio to Kaskaskia, to meet with Pierre Concord√©, a prominent local landowner who would serve as the first Governor-General of Indiana. From there, he took ship down the Mississippi to New Orleans, and from there sailed to Norfolk to meet with Connolly, and with Theodorick Bland, who would remain the Royal Governor of Virginia under the Design. [2] Albany returned to Pittsborough in early June, accompanied by a force of Virginia militia sent by Bland to discourage any attempt by Marion’s raiders to attack the party. He spent the remainder of the month overseeing preparations for the upcoming ceremony of investiture.

At noon on July 2, 1782, Albany was formally sworn in as Viceroy of the Confederation of North America. Lord Cornwallis, who had been appointed Lt. Viceroy, was sworn in at his headquarters in Boston the same day. Similar ceremonies were held for Dickinson in New York, Connolly in Norfolk, Dorchester in Quebec City, Concordé in Kaskaskia, and Francis Legge in York Factory. In the latter two instances, the ceremony also celebrated the renaming of the new confederation capitals to, respectively, Fort Radisson and North City. [3]

The new Viceroy of the C.N.A. divided his time between overseeing the construction of Government House in Pittsborough and traveling to the capitals of the provinces and confederations of the new colonial union. Albany found that the most troublesome of his new duties was mediating between Connolly and Bland.

Connolly was determined to assert the prerogatives of his new office as governor-general, and Bland was equally determined to minimize those prerogatives. Bland was able to prevail by arranging to have himself appointed to represent Virginia in the Southern Confederation Council, and by encouraging his fellow royal governors to do likewise, which they did. Faced with a council made up of his fellow royal appointees, each with his own patrons and supporters in Parliament, Connolly found that he could do little except bluster and complain, which he did copiously.

Dickinson, by contrast, was able to rely on his popularity among his fellow Northerners to ensure smooth relations with the delegates appointed by the N.C.’s provincial governments. In particular, the former rebel general George Clinton owed his own rehabilitation and advancement to the office of Royal Governor of New York to Dickinson’s influence, and he remained a strong supporter of the new governor-general. Dickinson received less support from Galloway in Pennsylvania, who was generally unhappy with the changes that had been made to his Plan of Proposed Union, and was particularly unhappy that Dickinson had been chosen over him to serve as Governor-General of the Northern Confederation. [4]

The Indiana Council was chosen by that conferderation’s landowners, most of whom, like Concord√©, were Frenchmen who had settled there before the Seven Years’ War. Indiana’s isolation meant that they had little to do with the eastern confederations, though the arrival of a steady stream of settlers from the British lands foretold that the confederation’s future would bring it closer to the rest of the colonial union. The Quebec Council, likewise, was drawn from French landowners of longstanding. Despite this, Lord Dorchester’s long tenure as governor, going back to the 1760s, ensured that he and the Quebecois were able to work well together. Manitoba remained what it had been before the Design, a fief of the Hudson’s Bay Company inhabited mostly by fur traders. Legge spent most of his time in Quebec City, visiting North City for only a month or so during the capital’s brief summer to attend his own investiture ceremony. [5]

By the late summer of 1783, Albany had succeeded in establishing the Britannic Design as a working system of government for Britain’s North American colonies. The first meeting of the Grand Council was scheduled to take place on September 28, and Albany was deeply involved in preparations for the event when he contracted a cold on September 3. With the upcoming meeting so close, Albany ignored his doctor’s suggestion of bed rest, and continued his work. This worsened his condition, and within a week Albany had come down with pneumonia. The Viceroy was bled several times, in line with the medical practice of the day, which of course served to weaken him further, until he finally succumbed on September 20, 1783. [6] 


1. In addition to Marion’s insurrection in the Virginia and Carolina backcountry, the Allen Brothers in the Green Mountain district of New Hampshire refused to lay down their arms after the June armistice. Repeated efforts to put down the Green Mountain insurrection were frustrated by the rugged terrain and local antipathy to British rule.

2. There is a popular legend that Albany met with Nathanael Greene as the latter was preparing to make the final leg of the journey to Jefferson. Unfortunately, the historical record shows that Greene’s party had already departed from Louisiana by the time Albany arrived. Bennet. The First Group, pp. 317-18.

3. Fort Radisson was named after Pierre-Esprit Radisson, a co-founder of the Hudson’s Bay Company. North City was of course named after the Prime Minister.

4. Bronson Michellet. Dickinson and Galloway: From Friendship to Rivalry, 1774-1804 (New York, 2003), pp. 379-86.

5. Legge fell ill in the spring of 1783 and died at Quebec City on 15 May. The office of Governor-General of Manitoba remained unfilled for five years until the Jenckinson Ministry appointed Samuel Hearne at the suggestion of the H.B.C. Paul McIlwain. Manitoba: A History (Port Superior, 1995), pp. 27-30.

 6. Philip Williamson. Albany: The First Viceroy (New York, 1988), pp. 351-55. Albany’s widow, Lady Abigail Burgoyne, chose to remain in Pittsborough after his death, raising their two sons in the country of their birth. She never remarried.