Some stuff that never actually happened, but was important anyway…

Stuff that never actually happened… but still matters.

Albany Plan of Union, 1754—Ben Franklin proposed this during the French and Indian War. It would have provided for a loose confederation of the colonies for the common defense and would have created a council to levy taxes, raise troops, regulate the Indian trade. However several colonies and the British government  rejected it because too much sovereignty would have to be given up for the plan to work. Nonetheless, it was an important if faltering step towards colonial unity.

XYZ Affair, 1798— In April 1798, President Adams sent a delegation to try to prevent war with France over numerous issues. When the US delegation arrived, it was informed by 3 unnamed French agents, known forever as X, Y, and Z, that in order to speak with Foreign Minister Talleyrand, they would have to pay a large bribe, loan France money for its own war efforts (like the French had done for us), and Adams would have to publicly apologize for supposed insulting statements about France. We never paid the bribe. The delegation returned home, and fever for war with France erupted among the public when the story leaked out. See below….

Undeclared War with France, or the Quasi-War, 1798-1800
—also called “the Half War”, this all started when the US decided not to pay its Revolutionary debts to France once the French Revolution created a change in government, and matters weren’t helped by our declaration of neutrality in the war between France and Britain. The French began to seize American ships that were engaged in trade with Britain, France’s enemy. The US had no real navy at this time, having sold them off to pay off debt, and so the French raided all along our coast throughout 1797. All we had was the Revenue-Marine, which was like an early Coast Guard meant to enforce customs policy. The signing of Jay’s Treaty was seen as a betrayal of the 1778 Treaty of Alliance with the French, and when the news of the XYZ Affair broke, Congress voided all treaties with France and authorized President Adams to rebuild our Navy. From that point, July 7, 1798, the Undeclared War was on. One US ship, the captured privateer La Croyable, was renamed the USS Retaliation.  It was forced to surrender to the French, but the USS Merrimack recaptured in a few months later, and this was the only US Navy ship lost (and then not lost) during this Non-War, although 2,000 US merchant ships were captured or destroyed. Finally the French government stabilized, and the British helped protect American shipping. So in September of 1800, the Treaty of Mortfontaine ended all hostilities and re-established trade ties.

Tallmadge Amendment, 1819
— Upon Missouri’s application to join the Union as a slave state, Representative James Tallmadge of New York suggested that, as a condition for statehood forcing Missouri to prohibit the introduction of any more slaves into that state as well as to require the manumission of any slaves born there once they reached the age of 21, leading to the eventual end of slavery within that state. Supporters of slavery were deeply offended by the precedent this might have established, and although it passed the House, the Tallmadge Amendment did not pass the senate. But it sure increased sectional tensions.

Wilmot Proviso, 1846— Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania tried to insert a poison pill into Southern plans for any land they anticipated gaining from Mexico after the war of 1845-6. He suggested that slavery be barred in any of the land acquired from Mexico, which would have rendered the War pointless from the viewpoint of the South, since it had primarily supported the War to ensure the expansion of slavery into new territory. Wilmot’s Proviso, which he attempted to attach to a funding bill requested by Polk to help fund negotiations with Mexico, was not approved by the Senate, and so was thus non-binding, but the mere suggestion of such a thing enraged Southerners and enhanced their feeling that the continued existence of their “peculiar institution” was threatened. The Proviso was repeatedly offered as an amendment to various bills until finally the Compromise of 1850 attempted to settle the matter of slavery status in the Mexican Cession.

Crittenden Compromise, December of 1860—Kentucky Senator James Crittenden proposed six amendments to the US Constitution and four Congressional resolutions in a last-ditch attempt to hold the Union together after the election of Abraham Lincoln that previous November. The main points were that the old Missouri Compromise line would be re-established all the way across the nation, that slavery would be guaranteed where it existed at that time, and that nothing in the compromise could ever be amended or repealed. Although many Southerners supported the Compromise, it was not supported by President –elect Lincoln, and so it went nowhere.

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