Franklin and the Commonwealth is the tentative title of the eleventh planned novel in the “Alternate Universes” sub-series of the Shine Cycle, and is set in a world where the English Commonwealth survived long past the death of Oliver Cromwell. Today’s post is a brief introduction to this planned work.
In the alternate history of Franklin and the Commonwealth, in the time surrounding the removal of Charles I, Puritan (Calvinist) religious ideas became ascendant in the hearts of the people and the country’s leaders, so that they decided to govern the kingdom as those principles indicated because of a broad consensus among and beyond the victors, not merely because it was the position of the leaders who had contributed most to the victory, and others saw it as politically convenient. Similarly, this broad base of support ensured that the Commonwealth lasted far longer than the one generation it did in our world.
However, this religious unity also heightens the tensions between the Commonwealth and the Catholic kingdoms of the Continent, leading to sharper, longer, and bitterer conflicts with France and Spain. What’s more, just as in our world, Parliamentary leaders feel that the colonies, in America and elsewhere, have benefited from the British Army and Navy in the prosecution of these wars but have not paid their fair share of the costs. And since the colonists generally do not feel the same, and not all of them share the Puritan religious convictions of the Commonwealth, that conflict looms in that world too.
The Quester arrives in one of the American colonies about the time of the end of the war with France. He takes the time to get his bearings and learn the political and social context, and hear the news. As he arrives in the central city where some colonial leaders have gathered to discuss their response (probably Philadelphia), he learns of the proposed taxes, observes the debate, and volunteers to carry letters to other leaders who could not travel to that meeting.
At some length, colonial leaders appoint a delegation to present their concerns to Parliament in person, and the Quester travels with them to London, where he helps explain their arguments to Parliament, and then on the return voyage expand the Parliamentary response into one they can understand, if not agree with, and describe the few Parliamentary concessions in terms that will give their countrymen an accurate impression.
Within a few more years, with political pressures sharpening on both sides of the Atlantic, the colonists again feel themselves to have been dealt with unfairly, and after heated debate send a second delegation to London. With some pointed suggestions from the Quester among others, these envoys are commissioned with not only complaints but also some conciliatory offers of their own, and these gestures meet with greater success.
With the worst possibilities averted, the Quester takes his leave for wherever he will next be needed.
The principal characters of Franklin and the Commonwealth will likely be the Quester and the chief political figures on each side of the Atlantic, including Benjamin Franklin (thus the title) and other names I know from American History classes, but almost certainly not the same British leaders as held those positions in our world’s history.
Do you have any thoughts about my plans for Franklin and the Commonwealth?