With cannons saluting and formerly oppressed citizens massed on the docks, Philadelphia welcomed the arrival of Lieutenant General J’ai Garnir, the gouverneur temporaire d’Amérique, as appointed by his majesty, King Louis XVI. Earlier, the statue of George III that loomed for years over the harbor had been pulled down with the help of the virile French troops, and the local populace had beaten the former king’s stone head with their buckle-shoes and unbuttoned their breeches to show him their derrières. (Apparently, shimmying your unclad buttocks is the most grievous insult in the Puritan American world.) As the assembled crowd chanted, “Non, George, non! Oui, Louis, oui!” General Garnir disembarked and addressed them,
“I bear greetings from his royal majesty, the most Christian King! His Majesty has declared Opération de Libération d’Amérique a Success. As he himself told me, Mission Accomplie! It is his most heartfelt Prayer and Desire to bring La Démocratie to the people of America. Don’t worry, be trés heureux, because I don’t rule anything. I’m the Coalition Facilitator to establish a different Environment where you people can pull Things together yourselves.” Executing the commands of Her Royal Highness, Queen Marie, the general had the troops distribute hundreds of military rations. To the delight of the hungry crowd, these meal packets included a powdered cake mix that many would have prepared and enjoyed and even eaten had they had access to potable water.
Back across the Atlantic at the palace, the Secrétaire de la Défense, Comte de Don de Rhums-Champ, “Rhummy,” was addressing the media with regard to how long France would be in America, “It depends on how this thing finissez. There are still pockets of resistance in the Northern cities of New York and Boston. We have reports of armed gangs of Tories piling into horse-drawn, flat-bed carts with fixed-mount muskets, galloping through the highways and byways and terrorizing the innocent citizens of those towns. I assure you and them, we will deliver the coup de grâce within the next several days.
“Our stay depends on how rapidly this interim government evolves. It depends on how successful external influences are in trying to change what’s going on in that country adversely. Am I talking to the Spanish in New Mexico? You bet your sweet bippies. Les amis de nos amis sont nos amis.
“What am I saying? There’s so many variables. C’est impossible. We have no desire to be there for long periods. We simply don’t. That’s just a cold, hard fact. C’est vrai.”
“I have returned home,” Benjamin Franklin declared today. This controversial septuagenarian has spent much of the last decade abroad in Paris, and many local Pilgrims disbelieve him when he claims, “I’m not a candidate for any position in America, and I don’t seek an office.” To those backers at le Départment de la Défense, Franklin is an extremely competent and useful man who has lived in France and understands the French. An advocate at a néo-conservateur groupe de réflexion, Jean-Jacques Kristol, says, “He has the potential to be one of the great American leaders of the century.” To detractors at le Départment d’État, he’s “one of those silk-suited, pocket-watch-carrying, mistress-loving guys in Paris who happens to have caught lightning in a bottle.” Few local Colonials doubt that this former Minister Plenipotentiary has the full backing of King Louis and his key advisors within the French Government.
With the sudden departure of the Monarchical Guard, the most loyal troops of the deposed King George, the rutted dirt lanes of American cities and villages are filled with chaos. Throughout New England, French troops encircled dairy farms, and throughout the South, they protected tobacco fields, but all other shops, smithies, farmsteads, and plantations were left to the mercy of the looting mobs. Much of what the Colonies consider their most precious property has been plundered. Comte Rhummy addressed the issue with fervor at le Pentagone:
“The images you are seeing on television you are seeing encore et encore et encore, and it’s the same picture of some person walking out of some plantation with a slave, and you see it twenty times, and you think, ‘My goodness, were there that many slaves? Is it possible that there were that many slaves in the whole country?’
“It’s en désordre. And freedom’s untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. It is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over and over and over again of some boy walking out with a slave and say ‘Oh mon Dieu you didn’t have a plan’-That’s nonsense. Incroyable!”
Quietly, last week the King recalled General Garnir and replaced him with Viceroy Le Paul Abréger. Versailles issued a statement acknowledging the personnel change but stating that the only reason was to help the liberation go even better than it already has-“Plus ça changeplus c’est la même chose.” In one of his first official acts, Viceroy Abréger announced the arrest of Samuel Adams, the self-proclaimed Mayor of Boston. The viceroy deemed the action necessary because Adams was obstructing the French effort to rebuild America and “was misrepresenting his authority in the aftermath of the regime’s defeat.” He also commented that Thomas Jefferson, the self-proclaimed Master of Monticello, better “regardez votre derrière.”
The boy-king emerged today from the recesses of the palace to hold his first press conference since the end of the war. He came prepared with a list of friendly reporters to call on, and media savants were atwitter about his intentional violation of tradition as he did not tender the first question to Madame Helen Thomas, the long-time royal reporter for the A.P. The conference began instead with Cardinal d’Aride praying an Ave Maria and a Pater Noster for the safety of French troops. The king, famous for his malapropos “Louisms,” was asked about the failure of French coalition forces to find the promised WMDs:
“One thing’s certainement, George the Third no longer threatens Amérique with weapons of Mass destruction. The evildoer tried to fool the Vatican and did so for many years by hiding these weapons, by secretly targeting semi-innocent priests, bishops, and cardinals, and by slipping biological agents into smoking censers. Wherever he happens to be, dead or alive, he can never threaten the Liturgy and Holy Eucharist again.”
The press conference ended with a direct address from the most Christian King to the American people: “Vous êtes libres. And liberté is belle. And, you know, it’ll take time to restore chaos and order-order out of chaos. But we will.”
Franklin, whose peripatetic ways cause his Ancien Régime supporters to call him affectionately, Ça-là-bas, made the rounds of the Saturday morning talk shows this week. Much of the questioning concerned the problem presented by the overwhelming Protestant majority in America and the role of the newly energized parsons, ministers, secularists, and agnostics. Franklin pulled no punches: “There is a role for American secular parties, for they have some constituencies. But they are not going to be forcing any agenda or forcing an ‘atheocracy’ on the American people. We do not think that an election, one election, should determine permanently the nature of l’État d’Amérique.”
Later, with a slap of his rostrum, Rhummy echoed Franklin’s sentiments, “If you’re suggesting, how would we feel about a Canadian-type government with very, very few clerics running everything in the country, the answer is: That isn’t going to happen.”
Two hundred American delegates and representatives from the French military, church, and throne gathered to begin the formal rebuilding of Amérique through the drafting of a constitution. In a spirit of openness and freedom and brotherhood, many possible ideas were suggested and debated. James Madison of Virginia proposed that the document should begin, “We the people of the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, et cetera, do ordain, declare and establish.”
“Un instant! Un instant!” Rhummy shouted, “Absent a dictator, absent the George Third regime, our goal would be first to have a single country, not have a country broken up into pieces! You can forget about this states merde, you’ll be one state and one state only.” Seeing the error of its ways, the convention unanimously concurred and scrapped Madison’s introduction, the country’s tentative name, the Senate, and Madison himself. (This notorious Virginian was later hanged for his treasonous promotion of the Federaleen movement.)
Conventioneers quickly agreed on the structure of the other two branches of government-military tribunal and royal administrative theocracy. They even found time to include a Bill of Rights beginning with the famous First Amendment, “Congress shall make a law respecting an establishment of religion.”
A grand and glorious day to begin the last decade of the 18th century! Benjamin Franklin was sworn in as the first Governor of the United State of America. After the sign of the cross and a Gloria and heartfelt thanks to the King, the Governor declared, “In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United State.” Though the remainder of the gubernatorial homily was similarly inspiring, there was one sour note: winging through the congregated was a whispered rumor involving a Paris mob, an empty palace, a fleeing most Christian king, an old jail cell, a tumbrel, and a whetted chopping blade.
DAVID SALLY teaches at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. He can be reached at: email@example.com