The New Eighteenth Century

Among those concerned by the incoming Trump Administration, one of the most common appellations for our time has become “The New Gilded Age”. This is quite apt, what with plutocratic interests on the verge of rolling back worker’s rights and protections across the board, supported by a subservient ruling political class. But I would argue that the situation is perhaps even worse. The clock is not just being turned back to the late 19th century, in many ways we are returning to the 18th century. This is not true in every way of course–I do not foresee the return of outright slavery or the monarchy–but the likely outcome of the various GOP assaults on the franchise is a version of ‘democracy’ in which the various reforms made to Western Democracy over the last two centuries are abolished.

More simply put, rural constituencies will have vastly more representation than urban constituencies, districts will be well-shaped so as to be dominated by a few families and businesses, the voter rolls will be well purged of People of Color, students, and anyone else who falls afoul of the increasingly restrictive laws, and an aristocratic class will dominate our political affairs. None of these concerns are new to Americans. But while we talk of gerrymandering and voter suppression, we fail to realize that these are merely new words for rotten boroughs and property requirements. Or at least, while they may differ in the technicalities, they retain virtually the same function: to maintain electoral power in the hands of the elite.

Much of the political history of the 19th century is the story of how brave reformers fought to take the inchoate democracy of the parliaments and assemblies of the 18th century and hammered it into something actually democratic. But for the sake of brevity, I’ll (mostly) restrict myself to one example: the Representation of the People Act of 1832. This was the first step in the (very, very long) process of reforming the British Parliament, and virtually everything it tried to fight against is something advocated by the modern Republican Party.

reform_act_1832

First Page of the 1832 Reform Bill

Continue reading

Advertisements

Napoleonic Victory Fragments

napolonic-europe-1815

The League of Europe, 1815

I’m currently working on a real post about Napoleon Bonaparte filled with actual history but as that has been delayed due to various reasons, I’ve decided to tide over my hordes of screaming fans with some creative writing. These are my Napoleonic Victory Fragments! The conceit is that they are excepts from history books written in a world where Napoleon won. I hope you find them amusing. 

——————————————————————————————————————————-

 

CHAPTER THREE: THE CONGRESS OF FRANKFURT (1814)

The degree to which the Continental System and associated French economic warfare brought about the British capitulation has long been debated, and this volume will not abstain from that discussion. Still, the deciding blow to British counsels certainly came on the 21st of June, 1813, at the Battle of Vitoria. When news reached London that the largest British army yet put into the field had been routed, and that the Marquess of Wellington was dead, financial markets plummeted. When, mere weeks later, word arrived that American troops had destroyed York, the capitol of Upper Canada, spirits sunk even lower. The news that Sir Thomas Graham had surrendered the remnants of the Anglo-Spanish army at Bilbo on July 11th was the final straw, and the Cabinet voted to agree to discuss the possibility of a peace settlement. It was not that British war capacity was exhausted that brought about this decision, but that it had become apparent that a British victory would take decades more. No more continental powers remained to take the field against the Corsican: Prussia was broken beyond recovery, Austria was bound to France by ties of marriage, and the Franco-Russian Alliance had proven surprisingly resilient. Finally shorn of puppets, British arms had dared take the field against the Titan—and had been cast down. Today, Britain’s concession seems foredoomed, but we should remember that even then peace negotiations could have broken down……

Continue reading