(The first part of my timeline is lengthier than the rest and less like a timeline than an essay.)
c. 8,000 BCE-1600 CE - The Native Maritime Tribes
It is estimated that Native tribes began to settle in the area now known as the Maritime Union around 8,000 BCE. They had completed their millennia long journey from the human race’s beginnings in Africa, through Europe and Asia, and across the Bering Strait to their permanent home in the Northeast of North America.
Naturally, due to the lack of a written language, practically nothing is known about the actual history of these tribes. Anything we know has come from stories passed down for thousands of years from father to son and tribal elder to followers. Of course, these stories are unreliable as many of them contain snippets of myths and monsters that have been mixed in throughout the countless generations. Any other information we have comes from cave paintings and other art that we can only surmise was supposed to tell a story. However, while scientists can place an approximate date on the art and speculate on what the drawings mean, there is no way to translate it into concrete history.
The earliest instance of indigenous contact with outside people came when Norse settlers from their colonies in Greenland and Iceland landed in Newfoundland around the 10th Century CE. However, according to Norse folklore, the settlers were forced to leave due to repeated violent encounters with the native peoples.
The major tribes at the advent of European exploration and colonization were the Iroquois, Algonquin, Huron, Susquehanna, and Lenape along with countless smaller tribes and divisions. These tribes generally keep to themselves, but various wars and conflicts, even civil wars within the larger, less unified, tribes, broke out sporadically.
European exploration of the MU was limited compared to that of Latin America and the Caribbean. However certain expeditions, mostly ordered by the French did take place during the 16th Century. Notably, in 1523, Giuseppe Verrazzano, financed by French King Francis I, while attempting to find a Western route to the Far East, discovered what is now New York City, and Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence River, the cradle of what would become French North America, in 1534.
1534-1770 - The Colonial Era
In 1534, French mariner Jacques Cartier set off from Brittany on an expedition to explore the St. Lawrence region. He planted the cross on the Gaspé Peninsula, marking the establishment of French North America. However, attempts at actual settlement met with failure and the crown was dissuaded from further expeditions. Nevertheless, French fishing fleets continued to cross the Atlantic and sail the Maritime coast. Many of these fleets established treaties with the Algonquin and Iroquois tribes which laid the groundwork for future, peaceful French settlement of the St. Lawrence region.
In 1608, after decades of inaction, King Henry IV of France sponsored Samuel de Champlain’s expedition to the St. Lawrence. He took one ship with 28 men, departing from Honfleur at the mouth of the Seine in Normandy, and founded the city of Quebec (La Ville de Québec). Progress was slow, with many early settlers dying during the frigid, subzero winters. In 1630, only 104 people inhabited the fledgling city, but, finally, in 1640, the population began to grow substantially, reaching 355. Only a year after his landing at Quebec, Champlain allied himself with the local Algonquin and Montagnais people who were fighting a war with the Iroquois. He even accompanied them in a trek to Lake Huron in which he fought in a decisive battle against the Iroquois. Much to the delight of his allies, Champlain killed two Iroquois chiefs with the first shot of his Arquebus (an early French musket). This treaty served to keep the French fur trade alive in the early colony. For the rest of the period of French colonization of North America, the Iroquois were their enemies and the two groups clashed frequently.
At the same time, John Smith had established the first successful English colony in the Americas at Jamestown. I will not go into huge depth about this settlement because this land was never part of what is now the MU, but, suffice to say, that it was much more populous and wealthy than the French equivalent, and led to a colonial rivalry between the two powers.
Then, the English founded the first English speaking colony now included in the MU, Massachusetts. The Puritan Pilgrims landed in 1620 at Plymouth Bay and the colony grew to encompass much of what was now called New England. New England included Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut (Maine was a part of Massachusetts until 1820). These large, wealthy colonies only served to stoke the House of Bourbon’s jealousy.
Subsequent English colonial ventures now encompassed by the Maritime Union included New York in 1624, Maryland in 1634, Delaware in 1638, New Jersey in 1664, and Pennsylvania in 1681.
In 1627, responding to the king’s requests, Cardinal Richelieu founded the Company of One Hundred Associates to invest in the New France colony. This company promised large plots of land to hundreds of new settlers in an attempt to turn the colony into an agricultural and commercial hub. However, this partly backfired when, forcing Protestants to renounce their faith and convert to Catholicism before moving to New France, most moved to the English colonies instead. While Richelieu’s effort to populate New France was mostly another in a long line of failures, it paved the way for future successes.
By 1650, New France had about 700 settlers while Montreal and Quebec had only a few dozen each. Finally, after several more violent wars with the Iroquois and the plundering of Quebec by English privateers, the French crown took over the colony from the Company of One Hundred Associates in 1663. The population quickly grew to over 3,000 in only three years. However, the males outnumbered the female settlers two to one. So, in 1666, King Louis XIV began to send young women ages 15-30 to the colony to fill out the female population and grow the population in the future.
In the period between about 1650 and 1712, New France grew uneventfully for the most part with new settlers coming from France and a new generation of the old families.
In 1712, with the Treaty of Utrecht ending the War of Spanish Succession, New France experienced its golden age. A King’s Highway was constructed between Montreal and Quebec, the fur trade and fishing flourished, and trade between the Old and New Worlds prospered with new port facilities being built throughout the colony and old ones being upgraded. By 1720, New France’s population had grown to 25,000 and become completely self-sufficient.
Finally, in 1754, the French and Indian War broke out between the French and their Native allies and the British to the south. The war was centered on the conflict for the Ohio River Valley, modern day Pittsburgh. The French built Fort Duquesne at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela Rivers and the British quickly took offense. Both sides claimed the land as their own. The war started out well for the French with decisive victories over George Washington, Edward Braddock, and William Shirley. The tide turned in 1757 and 1758 when Prime Minister William Pitt realized that winning this war and taking Canada from the French presented a massive opportunity to expand British power and opened the doors to the acquisition of more colonial possessions in the future. The fighting ended in 1760, but the war was not officially over until 1763 when all of France’s Canadian holdings were given to Britain and Florida was taken from Spain. France was allowed to retain their sugar colonies in the Caribbean but Louisiana was handed over to Spain. This effectively ended the threat of France to British colonization.
1763-1782 - The Fight for Independence
In the wake of their decisive victory against the French, the British made one of the most important blunders of their history as an empire. In 1763, the British found themselves in massive debt from the wars they had just financed in America and Europe. The solution they found was taxes. These taxes were levied not only on the British Isles but the New World. Taxes on imports, exports, tea, paper, and other commodities and commercial goods disproportionately affected the commercial heart of the British New World, the Mid-Atlantic and New England colonies as well as the newly acquired Quebec and Montreal colonies.
This region became known as the “Cradle of Revolution” for its fierce independence and fight against taxation without representation. Of course, while nobody likes to pay taxes, certainly not a disproportionate amount of them, the colonists’ real problem with these levies was that they were not represented in Parliament. In their opinion, Parliament should not have the right to tax people who do not have a say in their own governance.
In 1770, tensions finally began to boil over into violence with the Boston Massacre on 5 March. Known in the UK as the Incident on King Street, the event was sensationalized in the Maritime press and immortalized in Paul Revere’s legendary engraving. In reality, the event began when a mob of Bostonians formed around a lone British sentry (troops had been sent to enforce the unpopular Parliamentary taxes) and yelled verbal abuse. Eventually he was reinforced by eight other soldiers who were also subjected to verbal abuse and thrown objects. Finally, the soldiers fired, without orders, into the crowd, instantly killing three. Two more men later died from their injuries and six other were wounded but recovered. In other words, not quite an unprovoked massacre. However, that is how the Bostonians took it and that is how it was portrayed throughout the colonies.
This is where our point of divergence occurred. A strict royalist, John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore and colonial governor of Virginia, the most populous and powerful colony, closed the borders of his land to Maryland and Pennsylvania to the north. These colonies had been caught up in the revolutionary fervor that began in Boston on 5 March 1770. Most of the propaganda was kept from entering Virginia and the rest of the south and the people remained loyal to the crown.
Therefore, the northern states declared their independence on 4 July 1776 in Philadelphia and proceeded to war against the most powerful empire in the world, while the southern colonies stayed loyal to king and country and would assist the British regulars in the fighting.
The war began well for the British and the royalist colonies, but the tide turned in 1777 to 1778 when the Dutch recognized the Maritime Union as a sovereign nation and granted them a loan and the French declared war on the British and sent a fleet and an expeditionary force to assist the colonists.
This action taken by the French government motivated the Quebecois, under British rule since 1763, to rebel against their colonial governors and join the northern colonies in a fight for independence. This laid the groundwork for the future formation of the Maritime Union.
The war ended on 7 November, 1781 when the last combined British and loyalist force under General Cornwallis surrendered to the Maritime and French forces.
The Treaty of Amsterdam was signed on 20 December 1782.
1782-1815 - The Birth of a Nation
After the 1782 signing of the Treaty of Amsterdam, a shaky peace was concluded with the British and the loyalist colonies. Now, the Herculean task of building a nation from the ground up could begin. It was immediately clear that the largely decentralized legislature that had been governing the country during the Revolution was impractical for governing a large nation. Therefore, in 1787, in Philadelphia, a new, comprehensive constitution was written, debated, rewritten, and then debated and rewritten some more until a majority of the delegates were in agreement. This new document detailed the system of government and the basic liberties of all Maritime citizens.
This new government was to be completely democratic, with no monarch, even as a symbolic figure. However, the parliamentary system that resulted from the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was remarkably similar to the British system. Indeed, this similarity is what made many delegates feel it was not revolutionary enough and that it was not sending a strong enough statement to the world about the tyranny of monarchs. However, a majority of the delegates were agreed that it would be the best system in the long run.
The independent spirit of the MU is revealed not in the type of government, but in the first ten amendments to the Constitution which detail the basic rights of the people of the fledgling country. It is here that I will draw some notable contrasts between the American constitution in our timeline and the Maritime constitution in the alternate timeline. Two main differences immediately present themselves. First, while slavery is not outlawed in the original constitution, the institution of the slave trade is banned. This came at the chagrin of the New York delegation as New York Harbor was a key port in the Triangle Trade from West Africa. However, without the southern colonies to object to any mention of this inherent evil, the northern colonies and the Quebecois delegation were largely in agreement. The second contrast is in the second amendment. In our timeline, this amendment states “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” However, in the Maritime Constitution, the founders omitted this sentence. While the rights of gun owners were originally unfettered and no thought was given to them, the government has usually erred on the side of regulation and documentation in the recent past.
After the constitution was ratified by the delegates, their colonies formally became provinces of the newly minted Maritime Union of New England, the Middle Atlantic, and French Canada. This name was given due to the shared history of nautical prowess and exploration common to all provinces of the Union. The capital was places in Boston, being the birthplace of the revolution and construction began on an entirely new part of the city. Planned and integrated into the old city with gridded streets, wide boulevards, and grand Federal architecture (The buildings and city planning of this new Boston are roughly the same as those of modern day Washington DC and this “New Town” of Boston is the alternate equivalent of Washington in our timeline).
In 1789, the first parliamentary elections were held. The two main parties were the Central Federal Party, precursors of the modern day Social Democrats, and the Democratic Republicans, predecessors of the modern day Conservatives. The Federalist’s candidate was noted New York banker and lawyer Alexander Hamilton. He campaigned against the Democratic-Republicans’ Thomas Mifflin, a former general from Pennsylvania. As the leftist party, the Federalists supported a strong central government and relatively high tariffs as well as a nationalized banking system. As the right wing party, the Democratic-Republicans favored stronger provincial governments and less centralization and taxing. Unsurprisingly, Alexander Hamilton won a decisive victory in the elections and was swept into office with hefty majorities in both the Council and the Legislature. This allowed Hamilton to pursue his agenda without much opposition and led to him being elected to a second term in 1793.
Hamilton nationalized the banking system, strengthened the small and decentralized military as well as founding the coastguard. However, a major crisis arose when, in 1789, revolution broke out in France. Hamilton was forced to decide whether to support the French monarchy which had allied itself with the MU during the Revolution, the French revolutionaries who shared the same enlightenment philosophy as the MU, or the British who would most likely win, but would be a hard pill for the public to swallow as they had just finished a war against them. In the end, Hamilton made the difficult choice to ally the MU with Britain. However, for the most part, Hamilton was successful, effective, and popular throughout both of his terms and his Foreign Minister, John Adams succeeded him as prime minister.
Now that a precedent had been established for free and fair elections and a peaceful transition of power, we won’t go into detail about each president. From now on, we will hit on the main events and the presidents that were in office at the time as well as the decisions they made.
In 1812, Maritime anger at the British practice of boarding foreign ships and pressing the sailors into service in the Royal Navy finally boiled over. On 18 June, the Maritime Parliament, at the request of Prime Minister Aaron Burr, the first Democratic-Republican to hold the post, voted for war. The navy had been enlarged to a fleet of over a dozen large, fast frigates that were strong enough to defeat other frigates and smaller ships and fast enough to run away from larger ones. This enlargement, ordered under the Hamilton administration and not completed until the beginning of the Burr administration, would prove to be the new nation’s most valuable asset in defending itself from what was still a vastly more powerful nation.
At first, this declaration of war was supported by most of the populace, but, as the British invasion began, the first towns fell, and the local militias suffered crushing defeat after crushing defeat, public opinion began to turn. In addition to the British invasion from the southern colonies, the empire was also planning a massive invasion by sea in the Chesapeake Bay. Therefore, Maritime forces were spread thin along the southern border, along the Canadian border, and along the Atlantic coast. Morale was boosted however, when the new additions to the navy of the MUS Constitution and MUS Liberty won stunning and decisive victories over small British squadrons.
This simultaneously caused public opinion on the war in the MU to improve and to worsen in Britain. The British people saw the war as little more than a wasteful triviality that should be given up in order to fight the real war on the continent against Napoleon. In 1813, pushed back deep into Pennsylvania, fresh troops and militia from that state and the French Canadian provinces were able to win a solid victory over a tired and unreinforced British army. This battle effectively ended the war on the southern border as the British government was both unwilling and unable to send reinforcements to the New World when they were completely absorbed in the war against France. The rest of the Maritime force moved mostly to the border with British Canada and the forts on the Atlantic coast. Additionally, the British command decided to nix the plans for an invasion of the Atlantic coast and instead send a fleet to bombard ports along the Chesapeake Bay.
The fleet’s attack culminated in the Battle of Baltimore and the shelling of Fort McHenry, the inspiration for the Maritime Union’s national anthem, “Her Flag Yet Waves.” The British fleet shelled the port of Baltimore and the forts protecting it throughout the night of 13-14 September, 1814. The fleet was repulsed with minimal damage to the fort or the city.
For the most part, the war was over with only minor actions on the Canadian border. The Treaty of Ghent was signed on 18 February, 1815, ending what would come to be known as the War of 1812 or the Second War of Independence.
Now that the nation has been established and the founding has been detailed, most of the rest of this alternate history, especially the longer periods of time, will be presented in more of a concise timeline format with only the most important events with the greatest amount of detail.