1635: The Eastern Front — Snippet 25

The real heat — the real fury, calling things by their right name — was centered on the other major issue before the nation.

Who was to be considered a citizen of the USE in the first place?

Again, there were basically four positions:

The citizenship program of Mike Stearns and his Fourth of July Party was simple. They lifted it word-for-word, in fact, from the constitution of the United States in the universe they’d left behind, as modified by what the up-timers called the Fourteenth Amendment:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Substitute “Province” for “State” and there you had, in two sentences, the position of the Fourth of July Party. Which, needless to say, was vociferously and belligerently supported by the Committees of Correspondence.

The opposing positions fell into three camps.

The far opposite position, as with the matter of an established church, was subscribed to by few people — in this case, intellectuals rather than reactionaries. These were people so addicted to regularity and precision that they insisted that whatever criteria for citizenship were decided upon needed to be applied to all provinces uniformly.

Most members of the Crown Loyalist Party considered that completely impractical. The variations in local and regional custom when it came to citizenship were simply too great. Trying to come up with any standard criteria applied across the board nationally would tie up the parliament for years.

Instead, as with the established church, most Crown Loyalists felt that each province needed to establish its own criteria for citizenship. Some of them even pointed out that that had been the stance originally taken by the United States the up-timers came from.

(To which Mike Stearns responded bluntly and crudely: “Yup, we sure did, which goes to prove Americans can fuck up like the best of ’em. As a result of which, we saddled ourselves with slavery, property qualifications to vote — you name the stupid limitation on citizenship, we did it — and it took Andy Jackson and a civil war to get rid of all that crap.”)

Within that broad camp, a division existed. The moderate wing of the Crown Loyalists, with Hesse-Kassel again in the lead, advocated that citizenship criteria should be established by the provincial governments.

That was simple enough, they argued. In private, Stearns had told them that if his back was to the wall, he’d accept that compromise also.

But most of the Crown Loyalists thought that policy would be disastrous, and for two reasons.

First, they pointed out — correctly enough — that Hesse-Kassel’s position amounted to locking the barn after the horse got out. There being as yet no established constitution for the USE, the recent election that had produced the existing provincial governments had willy-nilly been held under the terms dictated by the prime minister in power, Mike Stearns. He had simply decreed that all adult permanent residents were citizens and thus could vote.

To be sure, in many of the provinces still dominated by traditional elites there had been plenty of voter intimidation and vote fraud. Still, from the viewpoint of most Crown Loyalists, the result was hopelessly tainted. Allowing the provincial governments elected under Stearns’ dictatorial fiat to turn around and decide citizenship was preposterous. As one prominent Crown Loyalist put it, “You might as well allow a band of robbers to vote on whether their loot is legal.”

Abstractly, their position held quite a bit of merit. But Wilhelm V and Amalie Elizabeth thought that was pure folly. In the real world, sensible people — for sure, sensible rulers — had to accept that certain realities, no matter how unpleasant, were too well-established to try to overturn.

Unfortunately, their practical and moderate position was not shared by most of their party. The majority of Crown Loyalists insisted that the decision on who was and who wasn’t a citizen had to be made in each province by that province’s traditional and established authorities, not the newly-elected, bastard legislatures.

Looked at from one angle, this stance was more than a bit absurd. After all, the Crown Loyalists held state power in the USE because they’d won a majority of the seats in the existing parliament, be that parliament never so distorted and basely-born.

But that was only true nationally. The majority of the Crown Loyalists were adamant that “proper” citizenship criteria had to be established in every province as well. Left to their own devices, Magdeburg province and the State of Thuringia-Franconia would implement the Fourth of July Party’s definition of citizenship. That would give those two very prominent provinces — the SoTF was already the USE’s most populous province — even more sway in national affairs. That would be inevitable, since the voter rolls of most other provinces would drop drastically after the provincial elites re-established traditional citizenship criteria.

Without realizing it, the down-time Crown Loyalists were being sucked into the same quicksand that had trapped the slave-owners in the early up-time United States. The free states — or full-citizenship provinces, in the case of the USE — would inevitably wind up with more voters than the slave states. Or, in this case, more voters than those provinces which sharply limited citizenship.

Amalie Elizabeth and her husband were far more familiar with up-time history than most Crown Loyalists. The Landgrave had once suggested at a national gathering of Crown Loyalist leaders, quite sarcastically, that perhaps the Crown Loyalists should demand that all non-citizens in limited-citizenship provinces should be considered 3/5 of a person for the purpose of determining the size of the electorate.

The reference had passed right over the heads of most people present, of course. But it didn’t matter. The proposal that was actually adopted by that gathering and then accepted by most Crown Loyalists went beyond Hesse-Kassel’s satire: They argued that all non-citizens in a limited-citizenship province should be counted as citizens for the purpose of determining the electoral strength of that province.

That position, needless to say, infuriated the CoCs and the members of the Fourth of July Party. As one wag put it, “Why not simplify things and have just one citizen in every province who exercises all of the votes of the rest of the people who live in the province? What a novel idea! Maybe we could call it ‘tyranny.'”