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The US gets British Columbia

Ricardolindo

Well-known member
Location
Portugal
#1
What if the US had managed to annex British Columbia in the late 1860s? How does this affect the US and Canada? I think Canada would be poorer without access to the Pacific Ocean. In addition, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta would probably be less populated and developed as the Canadians wouldn't need a transcontinental railway. Would British Columbia become an US state immediately or would it be a territory for some time? Would it change the results of any elections?
 

d32123

פּאַרטיזאַנער
Location
Seattle
Pronouns
he/him
#6
In exchange for ending the Alabama claims. It was seriously considered in our timeline.
I don't think it was ever very likely. Not to mention that by that time the British Columbians and Canadians were pretty committed to reaching a deal of their own. For British Columbian elites, the benefit of becoming Canada's/the British Empire's North American Pacific port were always going to outweigh becoming a backwater of a backwater region of the US. If Canada decides that it's not worth it or pulls out of the deal afterwards, then I think American annexation would pick up steam.
 

d32123

פּאַרטיזאַנער
Location
Seattle
Pronouns
he/him
#7
As for American Columbia, regardless of how it enters I think it would be a lot less populated than OTL. I used to live in Bellingham, and there was a visible difference in the level of development once you crossed onto the Canadian side of the Fraser Valley. It'd be significantly smaller than Washington and Oregon, with a population more skewed towards Vancouver Island than OTL. I imagine Vancouver the city itself would be way smaller than OTL, becoming a middling industrial port closer to Tacoma instead of a global city like Seattle. The demographics of American Columbia would be very different too, with way less Chinese and Indians and significantly more African Americans and Mexican Americans.
 

Ricardolindo

Well-known member
Location
Portugal
#8
I don't think it was ever very likely. Not to mention that by that time the British Columbians and Canadians were pretty committed to reaching a deal of their own. For British Columbian elites, the benefit of becoming Canada's/the British Empire's North American Pacific port were always going to outweigh becoming a backwater of a backwater region of the US. If Canada decides that it's not worth it or pulls out of the deal afterwards, then I think American annexation would pick up steam.
There was a lot of pro-US feeling in the Vancouver Island.
 

BClick

One Million Americans
Location
Little Beirut
Pronouns
He/him
#9
As @d32123 says, 1869 is too late for this to plausibly happen, but an American Columbia isn't impossible. The negotiation of the Oregon Treaty was a process more than thirty years in the making and there were many, many ways it could have turned out differently. Diplomatic history is not really my forte but from what I understand you'd have to dampen the influence of the Hudson's Bay Company in British colonial policy. It wouldn't be hard, especially if you dragged out the resolution of the dispute for a few more years.

The HBC was steadily losing influence by the time the treaty was signed - beaver hats were going out of fashion, and British imperial power was growing to the point that they didn't need to rely on quasi-independent corporate actors anymore - and so they weren't able to push British ministers to a really hardline position on the boundary. America got the vast majority of what they wanted (control over the Snake/Columbia and Puget Sound) while the British were left basically with what they'd already occupied. Find a plausible POD to tip the scales against the HBC and you could get America up to 54°40'.

Of course, that would be even more territory above the Missouri Compromise line than OTL...

There was a lot of pro-US feeling in the Vancouver Island.
In what time period? I'd be interested in a citation (not being sarcastic) - I've never heard of pro-American attitudes on Vancouver Island; during the pioneer days Fort Victoria was the regional "capital" of the HBC.
 
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zaffre

SERVING MY COUNTRY,
Location
Massachusetts
#10
As long as you avoid the "fight" part of 54° 40' Or Fight so that DC does not get lightly toasted again, a (northern) administration that is genuinely willing to make concessions in other areas in order to get British Columbia is going to get it - Tyler (and Webster) would have been willing to settle for considerably less than the 49th parallel and even Polk really only used the issue as political cover to get northern support for his war on Mexico. This requires finding a President that is (a) not a Whig and (b) not actively pro-slavery, which is a little difficult in the 1830s and 1840s but certainly not impossible.

In terms of how it subsequently develops - someone who actually knows shipping routes correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't BC ports going to be some of the more convenient points for commerce between China and Japan and the lower 48 just on the grounds of distance alone? Most discussions of annexing random bits of Canada end in it necessarily being a backwater but this seems like it would be a potential exception.
 

Ricardolindo

Well-known member
Location
Portugal
#11
As @d32123 says, 1869 is too late for this to plausibly happen, but an American Columbia isn't impossible. The negotiation of the Oregon Treaty was a process more than thirty years in the making and there were many, many ways it could have turned out differently. Diplomatic history is not really my forte but from what I understand you'd have to dampen the influence of the Hudson's Bay Company in British colonial policy. It wouldn't be hard, especially if you dragged out the resolution of the dispute for a few more years.

The HBC was steadily losing influence by the time the treaty was signed - beaver hats were going out of fashion, and British imperial power was growing to the point that they didn't need to rely on quasi-independent corporate actors anymore - and so they weren't able to push British ministers to a really hardline position on the boundary. America got the vast majority of what they wanted (control over the Snake/Columbia and Puget Sound) while the British were left basically with what they'd already occupied. Find a plausible POD to tip the scales against the HBC and you could get America up to 54°40'.

Of course, that would be even more territory above the Missouri Compromise line than OTL...



In what time period? I'd be interested in a citation (not being sarcastic) - I've never heard of pro-American attitudes on Vancouver Island; during the pioneer days Fort Victoria was the regional "capital" of the HBC.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annexation_movements_of_Canada#British_Columbia says that all 3 Vancouver Island newspapers supported US annexation. Also, read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_British_Columbia#Annexation_debate
for a full account of the situation.
 
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