Sometimes, I will get ideas for alternate history scenarios that I write short short pieces about or make maps of. Recently, I had an idea for an independent country based along the Mississippi River. While I had originally only made a map of this country, I decided to expand upon it to come up with a brief history of what I named the Republic of Mississippi.
The Republic of Mississippi arose out of the divisions of the early United States. Many early settlers who crossed the Appalachians were restless and did not want to bow to the whims of the American government in Washington. The states of Transylvania and Franklin were the first beyond the Appalachian Mountains to be admitted to the United States, but they soon clashed with the federal government. With the passage of the Virginia and Transylvania Resolutions in 1798 and 1799, the first of many major challenge to American authority west of the Appalachians began.
Tensions between the states east and west of the Appalachians and between the north and south in the early United States continued to escalate in the early 19th century. The creation of Illinois Territory with its northern border at the Mason-Dixon line cemented Illinois’ cultural ties with the Mississippi River region. With the northern United States in firm control of the presidency and Congress under presidents Aaron Burr and Dewitt Clinton, dissent against rule from Washington grew among the states along the Mississippi River. Opportunity arose to voice this dissent during the War of 1812. Under the leadership of Andrew Jackson of Tennessee and Jacques Villeré of Louisiana, the states along the lower Mississippi River declared independence as the Republic of Mississippi. With British help, the fledgeling republic gained independence in three years, finally receiving recognition by the United States in 1815 after the Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812. The Republic of Mississippi set up the basics of the parliamentary government it has today. Andrew Jackson of the Conservative Party was chosen as Mississippi’s first Prime Minister, serving from 1812 to 1817.
The 19th century was a difficult period in Mississippi’s history. For most of the century, the Republic of Mississippi was mainly agricultural, with cotton primarily being grown in the south and tobacco in the north. With these labor intensive crops providing a large portion of the economic activity of the republic, slavery was an institution in Mississippi through the 1800s. Politically, the Conservative Party controlled parliament in New Orleans for much of the century, though a few Liberal governments played a significant role in Mississippi’s development at this time. The government of Prime Minister Samuel Houston, from 1844 to 1853, saw settlers move en masse to the prairies in northwest Mississippi. It was in these years that Saint Joseph on the Missouri River became a prominent city in the republic as people passed through it on their way to what is now the states of Pawnee and Kansas. Houston’s Liberal government also passed the Recognition of Indian Nations act in 1852, which affirmed that the native Indians in Mississippi had full voting rights and citizenship. In the late 19th century, the Conservative ministries of Lucius Q. C. Lamar and Francis Cockrell came at times of upheaval, as cities on the northern half of Mississippi became more prominent. Indeed, in 1889 Francis Cockrell became the first Prime Minister of Mississippi from the northern regions of the country.
The turn of the 20th century brought further changes to the Republic of Mississippi. With the settling opportunities on the prairies becoming more limited, the burgeoning population began to concentrate itself in the cities. The trend of urbanization first started with immigrants settling along the Gulf coast in New Orleans, Mobile, and Pensacola, but soon expanded upriver to Memphis and Saint Louis. Simultaneously in the 1890s, the boll weevil and expansion of cotton production in Egypt and India dramatically lessened the importance of the plantation economy of the Republic. After a severe recession from 1893 to 1900 and a succession of short ministries, the Conservative and Liberal Parties began to splinter. The Conservative Party remained intact, but the Liberal Party divided into the Party for Progress and the more revolutionary and socialist Labor Party. It was also during this period of turmoil in government that the short-lived William O’Connell Bradley government abolished slavery in the Republic of Mississippi in 1896.
The abolition of slavery accelerated the already ongoing transition toward an industrial and service based economy. The first major wave of urbanization was concentrated along the rivers, as boats and barges continued to be the major nerves of the Republic of Mississippi’s transportation system. Major industrial zones sprang up in the bigger cities, along Saint Louis, Kaskaskia, Memphis, Vicksburg, and New Orleans on the Mississippi, and in Paducah, Louisville, Nashville, and Chattanooga in the northeast. Chattanooga and Louisville became the centers of Mississippi steel production, due to their close proximity to the coal fields of the southern Appalachians. As the industrial regions of northern Mississippi expanded and immigrants began to settle more in northern cities, the population distribution grew more evenly spread out among the country. By 1930, Saint Louis had grown to be the second largest city in Mississippi behind New Orleans.
With the growth of the cities, new parties began to enter into parliament. The socialist Labor Party merged with the Riverworkers’ Union to form the Alliance of Rivermen and Labor, a leftist party that now garners much of the support of the major Mississippian cities. With this new united party of workingmen, Huey Long became the first prime minister on a Party for Progress-Alliance of Rivermen and Labor coalition government in 1932. Huey Long led three governments during the 1930s and 1940s, and was largely behind the movement during those decades to revise the method by which the Mississippi parliament was elected. A new constitution passed during Long’s third government in 1947 making major reforms to the parliamentary system. The six largest cities of Mississippi – New Orleans, Saint Louis, Memphis, Mobile, Louisville, and Saint Joseph – gained their own seats within parliament, and the number of seats in parliament was increased from 140 to 200.
In the last half century, the Republic of Mississippi has become even more divided politically. The prairie states of Pawnee, Kansas, and West Arkansas boomed during the 1940s and 1950s as discoveries of oil in the Tejas region of neighboring Mexico prompted several oil discoveries in those states. To protect the interests of these three states, the Grand Prairie Party was founded in 1954 and has dominated the constituencies in those states for the past three decades. In 1989, Prime Minister Robert Dole of the GPP became the first prime minister of Mississippi not of the Conservative or Progress parties when the Grand Prairie Party led a minority government with the Conservatives. Additionally, the Republic of Mississippi has become more involved in world affairs in the twentieth century. Historically, Mississippi has stayed out of any international adventures aside from encouraging trade relations with Central American countries and the Caribbean. However, in the past century, Mississippi has played an increasingly prominent role in the Americas. The Mississippi-backed coups in Yucatan and Cuba in the 1910s marked the country’s first ventures into interventionism. Since then, Mississippi has become largely independent. In the past half century, tensions with Great Britain and Canada have increased and the long-standing friendship between the two countries could be coming to an end. The growing popularity of the Greater Mississippi Movement is a sign of a possible clash between Mississippi and Canada. The party’s stated platform of expanding northward to cover the entirety of the Mississippi River and gain a border on the Great Lakes has not helped relations with Canada during times when the GMM has been part of a governing coalition.
With these tensions, the future of Mississippi is constantly in flux. The leadership of the Party of Progress after the 2012 parliamentary elections and the ascendance of William Jefferson Blythe of Arkansas as prime minister has softened relations with the rest of Mississippi’s neighbors, but there are still points of contention after previous governments. Prime Minister Blythe’s first days will likely include trips to Washington and Mexico City to handle disputes over fishing rights in the Gulf of Mexico. With the Grand Prairie Party a vital part of the new coalition government, Blythe also needs to consult with economic advisors on how to deal with the sluggish growth in West Arkansas during the current recession, as the state’s dwindling oil production have put it in worse shape than any other state in Mississippi. The desires of the GPP is of special concern to the Party of Progress this cycle, as they are notorious for siding with both the Party of Progress and the Conservatives in the past depending on which will likely help the prairie states more. Clearly, these will be tough times ahead for the Republic of Mississippi, but Blythe looks like the leader who can safely guide the boat upriver, to borrow a common saying in the Republic.
Political Overview of the Republic of Mississippi
The Republic of Mississippi has a peculiar electoral system. There are 200 seats in the National Assembly. Of these, 160 seats are given ten to each state, which each state apportions according to its own laws. Sixteen seats are reserved for representation by the six principal Mississippian cities: Saint Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, Mobile, Louisville, and Saint Joseph. The 24 remaining seats are divided through the modified D’Hondt method, with a 3% threshold for inclusion.
Party of Progress: A progressive party that is popular in the more densely populated parts of Mississippi.
Conservative Party: Centre-right party supporting traditional conservatism.
Grand Prairie Party: A regional party mostly focused on agricultural issues that has in the past entered coalition governments with both the PP and the Conservatives.
Alliance of Rivermen and Labor: Formed out of a combination of the dockworkers’ alliance and urban socialists over labor issues, it’s the most leftist of the major Mississippi parties.
Greater Mississippi Movement: A right-wing nationalist party that wants to acquire the entire Mississippi River and give Mississippi territory on the Great Lakes.
Union of the Five Tribes: A party advocating Indian issues, that has a small support base in southeast Mississippi. It has long been a minor party but is now entering the legislature for the first time.