Wednesday, August 1, 2012

AFE Chapter 1: Go Ahead, Blame It on the Horse

On August 31, 1786, Alexander Hamilton's horse rolled it's front right hoof on an uneven road in northern Pennsylvania, and proceeded to collapse on the ground and break the tibia on it's front right leg. Alexander Hamilton was uninjured from the fall and only recived a few scrapes and bruises. Egbert Benson, who was traveling with him to the Annapolis Convention, helped Alexander find a place to stay while he looked for a new horse. Alexander objected to staying and said that he could at least walk some of the way. Both of them knew it would not get them to Annapolis any faster, so he agreed to stay displeased when they were. It took them and the help of many gracious citizens to find a horse at a cheap enough price that Alexander would still have enough money for food and night stays when needed. It took them two days to find a suitable one, but Alexander doubted whether or not they would still reach Annapolis in time.

On September 11, 1786, the Annapolis Convention began. Many delegates were missing, but the present delegates were most disappointed by the absence of the two delegates from New York, especially the influential Alexander Hamilton who had called for reform more than anyone else on the American political scene. The meeting would carry on without either of the New York delegates, and without one of their strongest voices, present delegates were concerned about how well their call would be received. Never the less, it produced a statement telling Congress and the States of their intent to hold a convention in Philadelphia and some proposals for what they intend to accomplish. 

Congress approved of the proposed convention, but the states were wary. The overall feeling was that some of the ideas presented were bordering on monarchist, which disgusted most Americans. Rhode Island felt that the Constitution would go against its favor no matter what, and stated it would not attempt to send delegates as it had done so in Annapolis. The biggest blow to the proposal came from Governor Patrick Henry of Virginia, one of the most ouspoken opponents of a strong centralized government. He announced that he felt the message was weak, poorly assembled and absent of the approval of Alexander Hamilton himself, which he thought rendered it nearly worthless. Many agreed with the Governor, and proclaimed that if the biggest proponent of a convention did not come, then why should anyone else come?

Alexander was very disheartened by the lack of support for the convention. By the time he got word out of his misshap with his horse as the reason he was not present, most people had moved on past the idea and stuck to the Articles. Still with hope that the states would rethink their rejections, he began to write up his own plan for a new government, which would come to be known as the Hamilton Plan.

When the March of 1787 came around, fewer delegates than expected showed up to the Philadelphia Convention. The states of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Massachussets, New Hampshire, and North Carolina were represented with a total of 21 delegates. The most notable absence was George Washignton, who wished to remain in retirement. He also felt that it would only tear the country apart for somebody as influential as he to attend it. Because of this,  Alexander Hamilton was nearly unanimously elected President of the convention. 

Hamilton was the first to propose his plan to the delegates. It consisted of a two house government, where both were determined by population size.The lower house would be elected by the people, then the upper house elected by the lower house. The upper house would then elect who would be President. Some liked the idea, but many would be angered by the plan and call it monarchist and wiping out the ability of the smaller states to have a voice. The delegates from New Hampshire presented their own plan, which consisted of each state getting three seats in the lower house and two seats in the upper. The lower would elect the upper, who would then elect the President.

By the second day, over half of the delegates were very unhappy with the plans, and proposed only an amendment to the Articles, that would most notably give the central government the ability to place tariffs and taxes to avoid the situation like the one where Rhode Island imposed taxation on traffic passing through the interstate post route and through other roads. With a completely divided house, they were finally able to get a majority to agree through the economic amendments on the Articles of Confederation. This amendment would split the power to tax and place tarrifs between the central government and the states and lower the minimum state count for ratification to 75% (state count rounded up if no exact percentage), among other things. They sent the new amendment through a number of committes to refine it, and by early June of 1787, it was ready for ratification by states. 

Alexander Hamilton and other proponents of a stronger central government were slightly dissapointed but they knew that the amendment was a step in the right  direction. He prepared speeches to travel across the country in order to get people to support ratification. However, in hindsight, the speeches had one gaping flaw: one that would come at the cost of the existence of the United States.

I hope everybody enjoyed the first chapter! This is my first alternate history timeline, so any constructive criticism would be very helpful. 

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