The People's Coalition is a major political party in the Confederation of North America. It was formed in 1869 in the Southern Confederation by farmers who believed that their interests were not being represented by the major parties of the time.
Origins of the People's Coalition
The People's Coalition had its origins in the People's Party of the Southern Confederation, which was formed in 1869 in Norfolk, Virginia, S.C. The collapse of the cotton market after the Rocky Mountain War and the growing industrialization in the Tennessee River area had rendered the Liberal Party irrelevant to small farmers, both Negro and white. The founding document of the People's Party, the Norfolk Resolves, called for heavy taxation of business, with the revenue used to promote agriculture; the establishment of government banks to offer low interest loans to farmers; a guaranteed minimum price for cotton; and government control of railroads, turnpikes, and canals.
Word of the new party quickly spread from the S.C. to the other confederations of the C.N.A., and soon every confederation in the country had a branch. The Northern Confederation branch was founded by William Richter of the Consolidated Laborers Federation, but the N.C. branch of the Coalition also attracted the support of small businessmen who were being squeezed by the new industrial giants and the railroads. The Indiana branch was founded by wealthy wheat farmers who felt that they were being abused by N.C.-based banks and railroads. The Manitoba branch was founded by radical intellectuals, while the Northern Vandalian branch was founded by struggling pioneers. The branches in every confederation, now knows as the People's Coalition, also attracted people from the lower classes, with the exception of immigrants, who tended to join the Conservative Party. During the 1870s, immigrants became a target of the P.C., with Matthew Ruffin claiming that "The capitalists of the Northern Confederation are controlled from the City in London, and so are the slum-dwellers, who have been sent here to aid their masters in making the C.N.A. a colony in fact as well as in theory."
In the 1873 Grand Council elections, the P.C. ran candidates for confederation and local elections, as well as a full slate of candidates for the Grand Council. The Coalition gained control of the legislatures of New Hampshire, Virginia, and North Carolina, and won ten seats in the Grand Council: one in the N.C., five in the S.C., and four in Indiana.
The P.C. held its first national convention in New York City in January 1878 in preparation for the 1878 Grand Council elections. A reporter for the New York Herald described the convention's opening day on 3 January as "a combination circus/revival meeting/German wedding/Irish wake, managed by people who are novices at this sort of thing, and attended by some of the strangest characters ever to be seen in C.N.A. politics." Nathaniel Teller of Northern Vandalia claimed that "It would scarcely be democratic to select a 'leader'. The people do not need one, since they can trust themselves to run their own affairs." The convention followed the suggestion of Edward Dietrich of the N.C. that each confederation nominate its own candidate for governor-general, and that a second convention be held after the election if it proved necessary to select one man. The convention ended with Richter making a personal appearance to pledge the support of the C.L.F.
During the 1878 campaign, several P.C. candidates for the Grand Council were physically attacked, and the party headquarters in Indiana was burned to the ground. In the N.C., Richter was kidnapped and held incommunicado until after the election, and a message was sent to the C.L.F. that "Your leader will die if the Coalition wins in the Northern Confederation." By the end of the campaign, the P.C. was retaliating against the older parties, shocking middle-class voters, who reacted by giving the Liberals a plurality of seats in the Grand Council, while the P.C. increased its representation in the Grand Council from ten to thirty-nine. The Liberal candidate, John McDowell of Manitoba, refused to form a coalition government with either the Conservatives or the P.C., and it was only after seven ballots that he gained enough votes from reformers in the opposition parties to win a majority.
Although the P.C. was not part of McDowell's government, their support enabled the Liberals to pass the Railroad Control Commission Act of 1878, the Williamson Anti-Monopoly Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1879, and the Morgan Act. However, since most of McDowell's reform legislation had no enforcement provisions, he soon lost the support of the P.C. caucus, who dismissed him as "a tool of the big banks, the big corporations, and the reactionary unions," and claimed that he, like other "politicians of the past," was offering "the form of change, but not the substance." The Coalition reacted to the outbreak of the French Revolution and the disorders of the Bloody Eighties by calling for a guaranteed wage for workers, government support for farm prices, and "solidarity with our brothers across the seas." The remainder of McDowell's legislation in his first term was passed with the cooperation of the Conservatives.
In confederation-level elections in 1879, Coalition support began to decline in every confederation except the N.C. and Quebec, which led many political analysts in Burgoyne to claim that the Coalition's popularity had reached its peak. However, the coming of the Great Depression in the early 1880s brought a renewed wave of radicalism to the C.N.A., and the P.C. was able to take advantage of it to regain momentum. In 1882, the P.C. candidate, Ezra Gallivan, was elected Mayor of Michigan City, and Gallivan became the Coalition's leading figure. Gallivan moderated the Coalition's platform, and devoted himself to party-building across the C.N.A. At the Coalition's 1883 convention in Boston, Gallivan was content to allow Scott Ruggles of the N.C. to gain the nomination for governor-general, while he worked behind the scenes to build up the party.
In the 1883 Grand Council elections, the P.C. increased its share of Council seats from thirty-nine to forty-five, replacing the Conservatives as the official opposition, and winning Ruggles the position of Minority Leader. The Liberals gained a majority of eighty-two seats, and McDowell was able to pass all of his proposed legislation. As Minority Leader, Ruggles criticized McDowell's support for big business, while Gallivan questioned his foreign policy, asking why the Govenor-General insisted on a larger armed force, "since we are not being threatened by any outside foe." He also questioned the need for an enlarged Confederation Bureau of Investigation "when the dislocations of the early part of our decade have diminished, and our nation fortunately has been spared the pains of our neighbors across the Atlantic."
Gallivan's and Ruggles' criticisms of McDowell's policies proved precient, and in the 1888 Grand Council elections, Gallivan was named the Coalition's candidate for governor-general, and the party went on to win a seventy-three seat plurality in the Grand Council. Like McDowell before him, Gallivan refused to form a coalition with either of the other major parties. Instead, McDowell arranged for eight Liberal Councilmen to vote for Gallivan in the first ballot, thus giving him a majority.
In his first term, Gallivan pursued a program of moderate reform which he called Creative Nationalism, reducing military spending and the size of the C.B.I., and arranging for the Quebec Plebiscite to determine that confederation's future relationship with the C.N.A. He replaced McDowell's activist foreign policy with an isolationist one, refusing to intervene in the War for Salvation in 1890 to prevent the conquest of New Granada by the United States of Mexico. Gallivan's moderation proved popular with voters, who gave the P.C. a 98-seat majority in the 1893 Grand Council elections. However, he also aliented the more radical members of the P.C., who organized their own caucus within the Grand Council under Thomas Kronmiller and prepared to pressure Gallivan for more radical legislation. Kronmiller also sought war with the U.S.M., which he considered "a great moral crusade" that would "liberate the enslaves peoples of Guatemala and New Granada, return Hawaii to its former free state, and most importantly, rid the world of its last vestige of slavery."
The U.S.M.'s rapid, overwhelming victories against the Russian Empire in the Great Northern War alarmed most North Americans, and Gallivan's isolationism became extremely unpopular. On 10 July 1899 Liberal Councilman Fritz Stark accused Gallivan of being in the pay of Kramer Associates, and the result was a wave of political violence across the C.N.A. directed against Gallivan and his allies. Although Stark's charges were debunked, the violence continued until Gallivan resigned on 24 July 1901.
Years of the Pygmies
Gallivan was able to prevent Kronmiller from succeeding him as governor-general; instead, the P.C. caucus chose Councilman Clifton Burgen of Northern Vandalia. Three months after Burgen's selection, Mexican dictator Benito Hermión fell from power, and the Starkist terror receded in the C.N.A. By the time of the 1903 Grand Council elections, Gallivan had regained his former popularity, and although he chose not to run for another term, he was able to secure the nomination for governor-general for his ally Christopher Hemingway.
The era after Gallivan's fall from power was known as the Years of the Pygmies from the pedestrian character of the political leaders of both the C.N.A. and the U.S.M. Domestically it was a time of prosperity and general contentment, with the gross national product rising at least six percent every year from 1900 to 1914. Hemingway continued Gallivan's isolationist foreign policy, thwarting Kronmiller's attempts to annex Cuba and Porto Rico, and declining to join the United British Commonwealth of Nations when it was formed in 1906.
Hemingway chose not to run for a second term in 1908, and he and Gallivan were able to secure the nomination of Albert Merriman of Indiana, who presided over a comfortable 90 seat majority after the 1908 Grand Council elections. Merriman was much like Hemingway, content to maintain the status quo established by Coalitionist policies. Merriman served two largely uneventful terms, and was followed in his turn in 1918 by the equally amiable and unadventurous Calvin Wagner of Indiana. Wagner was far removed from the Coalition's radical roots, declaring that "This is a business century, and we are a business country."
The Chapultepec Incident of January 1916 brought an end to the political placidity of the C.N.A. The foundation of the Friends of Black Mexico by Howard Washburne of Southern Vandalia revealed a depth of racial animosity in the C.N.A. that its political elite had been content to ignore. The summer of 1922 saw a massive protest movement sparked by a fundamental rejection of industrial civilization, and the P.C. government under Wagner proved unable to cope with the situation. Liberal Councilman Henderson Dewey of Indiana was able to take advantage of the situation to win a majority in the 1923 Grand Council elections that ended the Coalition's 35-year hold on power.
Diffusionism and Rearmament
The Coalition under Gallivan and his successors had spent thirty years making the industrialized civilization of the nineteenth century more equitable, and they had succeeded. Now that a reaction against industrialization had set in, they became the victims of their own success -- too closely identified with urbanization and centralization to adjust to the new national mood. By contrast, the Liberals under Dewey were able to put themselves at the forefront of the Diffusion Era and the Galloway Plan -- a flight from urbanization championed by Owen Galloway, the President of North American Motors. Dewey spent his first term carrying out his "dismantling program," transferring the C.N.A.'s authority and purse strings from the national government to the individual confederations.
By the time of the 1928 Grand Council elections, the Coalition seemed to be a party of old men. Although the party nominated its most attractive candidate, Councilman Frank Evans of the N.C., he appeared inept compared to Dewey, and the Coalition lost thirteen of its sixty-nine Council seats. Dewey's death in 1929, and his replacement by Minister of Home Affairs Douglas Watson, did nothing to reverse the Coalition's decline. The party suffered an even worse defeat in 1933 under nominee Harley Shaw, losing an additional ten seats to Watson.
The Coalition's 1933 national convention in Michigan City represented a battle over the future direction of the party. Councilman Shaw of the S.C. supported many of Watson's programs, including his deregulation of the N.F.A., and his tentative internationalism. Shaw's chief rival, Councilman Bruce Hogg of Northern Vandalia, was firmly opposed to both. Hogg accused the N.F.A. under Watson of irresponsibility, and Watson himself of "pandering to the basest elements of our society." He also called Watson's internationalism "an invitation to disaster." Shaw won the nomination after a bitter fight, but his disastrous showing in the Grand Council elections left him discredited, and Hogg became the Coalition's leading critic of Watson's leadership and agenda.
Two events in the mid-1930s worked in Hogg's favor. The first was an address by Galloway, the most popular man in the C.N.A., on 1 July 1934 in which he spoke out against Watson's proposed arms program. Public opinion, which had been moving in Watson's direction, turned against him overnight. Majority Leader Herbert Lee, who supported Watson, fell victim to a no-confidence vote by the Liberal caucus, and was replaced by the pacifist Charles Dorsey on 24 July. A week later, three members of Watson's Cabinet resigned. When the Liberals proved unwilling to try to unseat Watson himself, and potentially face a snap election they might lose, Hogg introduced a bill of impeachment on 10 January 1935. Watson and the Liberals were able to turn back Hogg's attempt at impeachment, and as the international arms race intensified in 1935, support for rearmament increased again.
The second event was the Panic of 1936, which was touched off when Kramer Associates announced in February 1936 that it was moving its company headquarters from San Francisco to the Philippines. All of the confederation-level branches of the N.F.A. were overextended, and news of K.A.'s move, and of its aggressive acquisition of gold reserves, caused the branches to go bankrupt in March. Business in the C.N.A. was paralyzed for weeks, and the nation's financial institutions, including the N.F.A., would not recover for years. The C.N.A. entered the worst economic slump in the nation's history, and rearmament faded in importance as Watson's government attempted to cope with the crisis.
Hogg easily won the Coalition's nomination on 17 January 1938, and in his acceptance speech said, "We have sufficient problems at home not to have to worry about the rest of the world. This February, the people will choose between the bankrupt candidate of a bankrupt party who would engage us in a war which we neither want nor need, from which we gain nothing; and the party of peace and recovery, one that is concerned with the Confederation of North America, and not the globe." Hogg also pledged to name N.C. Councilman James Billington, one of only ten Negroes in the Council, to the recently-created office of Council President. Hogg's support for Billington was sufficient to gain the Coalition an overwhelming victory in Southern Vandalia, and a narrow majority in the 1938 Grand Council elections.
The Global War
Hogg devoted most of his efforts during the first eighteen months of his administration to ending the depression, saying, "The world will not respect us if we are weak; a strong economy is the best defense against potential aggressors." He gained approval from the Grand Council for food distribution programs for the poor, grants to municipalities and townships for public works, and the establishment of an insurance affiliate of the N.F.A. which insured all financings up to N.A. £1000. At the same time, Hogg slashed the national budget and raised taxes at the urging of his chief economic advisor, Professor Lawrence French of Burgoyne University. Hogg attempted to reduce military spending and eliminate social spending such as emigrant aid, as well as curtailing Dewey's road building program and the subsidy to the merchant marine.
By the summer of 1939, the C.N.A.'s economy was still moribund. Hogg blamed the Liberals in the Grand Council for defeating his attempt to reduce military spending. Minority Leader Hugh Devenny of the N.C. responded by saying, "Mr. Hogg has gone back on every one of his campaign promises, has shown amazing ineptness in handling even the simplest problem, and has managed the extraordinary feat of keeping us in a state of near-bankruptcy while the rest of the world is recovering. And now he blames the Opposition for the failure of Majority programs!"
Hogg realized that the outbreak of the Arab Revolt in August 1939 might lead to a major war, but he was still certain that the C.N.A. could avoid involvement, and he did nothing to prepare for conflict. When the Global War broke out in early October, Hogg ordered the merchant marine to remain in coastal waters, placed the coast artillery on alert, then proclaimed North American neutrality. Both British Prime Minister George Bolingbroke and German Chancellor Karl Bruning attempted to win North American support, but Hogg rebuffed both, convinced that the war would soon become stalemated.
The fall of France on 27 November and the conquest of the Victoria Canal a month later brought about a change in Hogg's policies, and in North American opinion on the war. In January 1940, Hogg and Premier Olaf Henderson of Iceland announced a mutual defense pact, and the following month the C.N.A. began channeling covert military aid to the British through Iceland. When Bruning protested to Hogg, he replied that "there have been serious thefts at North American installations in Iceland, and we are taking all precautions to assure the safety of our base." However, the supplies continued, and for diplomatic and military as well as legal reasons, the Germans were forced to ignore it. North American arms became instrumental in helping the British stave off defeat, and providing material for anti-German guerrillas in occupied Europe. Arms production increased in the C.N.A. to meet the requirements of the British and their allies, and this brought the country out of the depression of the late 1930s, restoring full employment and prosperity to the industrial cities and the farmlands.
In July, Hogg met with Liberal leaders, including Watson and Devenny, and invited them to join a "unity government". They agreed, and Watson became Minister for Foreign Affairs, while other Liberals took lesser Cabinet posts. Devenny told reporters after the meeting that "there will be a political moratorium until the 1943 elections." The coalition government was successful enough that neither party wished to politicize the situation. On the other hand, there was no attempt to suspend the elections. At a Cabinet meeting on 18 November 1942, it was agreed that neither party would hold a national convention that year. Instead, candidates for the Grand Council would run unpledged, and whichever party won a majority would choose the next governor-general, while the remaining Cabinet members from both parties would retain their seats. The People's Coalition won 84, and Hogg and Billington retained their offices. Five years later, the same arrangement was made for the 1948 Grand Council elections, which the Coalition again won by a reduced majority of 77 seats. Watson had chosen not to run in 1948, and his place as leader of the Liberals, and the office of Foreign Minister, were assumed by Devenny.
In the months after the election, Hogg's intelligence sources informed him that the various combatant nations were on the point of exhaustion, and that none could afford another year of fighting. Peace had already come to Europe as the Germans established a series of client states among their continental conquests, and the Pacific war ended in December with unsuccessful Japanese attacks on Alaska and Hawaii. In 1949, Minister of Home Affairs William Williams began converting war based industries to civilian production, and the wartime farm subsidy was gradually ended.
The New Day
The war, and the influenza epidemic of 1946-47, left the world in ruins, and as news of the devastation reached the C.N.A., it sparked a debate on the role Hogg's isolationism played in touching off the war. The Liberal members of the unity government defended Hogg, as did Council President Billington, so it was left to Liberal back-benchers such as Chester Lang and Richard Mason to voice the growing national mood of survivors' guilt. Lang laid the blame for the war at Hogg's feet in a speech in March, and Mason followed up by proposing a massive foreign aid and reconstruction program called the Mason Doctrine. When the unity government came to an end in November, it was Mason and not Devenny who led the Liberals.
Hogg was planning to retire in the fall of 1950 and support his newly-appointed Minister of Home Affairs, Perry Jay, to succeed him. However, he died unexpectedly on 16 September, which meant that Billington automatically succeeded him as governor-general. Billington defended Hogg's pre-war policies, but he also adopted the Liberals' former policy of high defense spending, which set him at odds with Jay. Although Jay continued to serve as Billington's Minister of Home Affairs and aided his transition, he intended to challenge Billington for the party's leadership at the 1953 national convention. The convention fight between the two men left the P.C. bitterly divided, and Billington's loss to Mason in the 1953 Grand Council elections left Jay at the head of a divided party.
Under Mason, the Mason Doctrine program was greatly expanded, and Mason himself was focused on its distribution to the rest of the world, leaving the day-to-day administration of the government to his own Minister of Home Affairs, Grover Speigal. During the war years, the two parties had quietly swapped domestic policies, with the Coalition embracing diffusionism and the Liberals championing centralization, and Speigal reversed the decentralization policies of Dewey and Watson.
With Billington's departure from politics after his defeat, his faction of the Coalition came to be represented by Jeffrey Martin, the editor of the New York Herald. Martin became the most vocal of Mason's critics within the People's Coalition. At the Coalition's national convention in January 1958, there was a three-way fight for the party leadership between Martin, Jay, and S.C. Councilman Roswell James. Martin was eventually able the win over the delegates on the seventh ballot, and the election contest between him and Mason was divisive and highly emotional. By this time the country was almost evenly divided between supporters and opponents of Mason's New Day programs, and Mason's victory was a narrow one, with the Liberals winning only 77 Council seats.
Mason's second term was dominated by foreign affairs, as Mexican dictator Vincent Mercator expanded his country's military power in the course of his struggle with Kramer Associates. Mason sought unsuccessfully to convince Mercator that the C.N.A. was not a threat to the U.S.M., and he refused to align the country with K.A.'s economic empire. K.A. President Carl Salazar gave up his attempts to win over Mason, and instead initiated the Taichung Project, a program to build an atomic bomb. Salazar succeeded in detonating an atomic bomb in June 1962, touching off an international atomic arms race that Mason refused to join.
The War Without War
Mason's pacifism split the Liberals, and at the party's 1963 convention he was barely able to fend off a leadership challenge from Speigal. Realizing that he could not count on support from the Liberal caucus in the Grand Council, Mason organized a set of independent pacifist Grand Council candidates called the Justice Brigades. All of Mason's independent candidates lost, but the split in the Liberal Party allowed Jay, who had finally gained the P.C. nomination, to win an 80 seat majority in the 1963 Grand Council elections.
Jay sharply curtailed the Mason Doctrine, launched a North American atomic bomb project in Michigan City, allied the C.N.A. with the British, and re-decentralized the N.F.A. as a prelude to abolishing it. Jay also sought to amend the Second Design to allow for direct election of the governor-general, but this failed to pass the Council. After announcing the success of the North American bomb project in September 1966, Jay resigned, and was replaced by Minister of Finance Carter Monaghan.
The split in the Liberal Party between Mason and Speigal became permanent at the party's 1968 convention, when Mason and half of his supporters walked out and founded their own Peace and Justice Party. The P.C. was again the beneficiary of the divided Liberals, as Monaghan was able to maintain the Coalition's 80 seat majority in the 1968 Grand Council elections. Monaghan continued Jay's policies of abolishing the national N.F.A. and continuing to expand the country's atomic arsenal. The exposure of a Mexican spy ring within the atomic bomb program in 1969 brought a sharp increase in tensions between Mexico and the C.N.A., which was worsening as Sobel was writing in 1971.
People's Coalition Nominees for Governor-General
|1883||Scott Ruggles||Northern Confedertion||45|
|1903||Christopher Hemingway||Northern Confederation||83|
|1928||Frank Evans||Northern Confederation||56|
|1933||Harley Shaw||Southern Confederation||46|
|1938||Bruce Hogg||Northern Vandalia||76|
|1953||James Billington||Northern Confederation||68|
|1958||Jeffrey Martin||Northern Confederation||73|
|1968||Carter Monaghan||Southern Vandalia||80|
Sobel's sources for the history of the People's Coalition are Julius Carter's The People Want Bread: A History of the People's Coalition (New York, 1937) and, as editor, Voices of Reform and Bigotry: The People's Coalition Speaks (New York, 1940); Ernest Foy's The Anatomy of North American Politics: An Analysis (New York, 1956); Max Finnigan's "The Origins of the People's Party, and the Writing of the Norfolk Resolves", from The Journal of Politics, 4 December 1958; Barbara Montez's A History of the People's Coalition (London, 1960); and Hector Welles' The People's Coalition During the Great Depression (London, 1967).
This was the Featured Article for the week of 7 April 2013.