Bring the Jubilee
Cover of the original 1953 Ballantine Books edition
|LC Class||PS3563.O668 B75 1997|
Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore is a 1953 novel of alternate history. The point of divergence occurs in July 1863 when the Confederate States of America wins the Battle of Gettysburg and subsequently declares victory in the "War of Southron Independence" (the spelling used in the book) on July 4, 1864 after the surrender of the United States of America. The novel takes place in the impoverished United States in the mid-20th century as war looms between the Confederacy and its rival, the German Union. History takes an unexpected turn when the protagonist Hodge Backmaker, a historian, decides to travel back in time and witness the moment when the South won the war.
After the war and during the presidency of Robert E. Lee, who succeeded Jefferson Davis and became the second President of the Confederacy in 1865, the Confederate government, under the leadership of Congress, expressed increasingly imperialistic ambitions in defiance of the wishes of the anti-imperialistic President Lee, who also freed the slaves. Confederate forces first invaded Mexico, then continued south and conquered the whole of South America  before moving west to Pacific islands such as Hawaii. The Confederacy thrived as cities like Washington-Baltimore (merged from Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Alexandria) and Leesburg (formerly Mexico City) became renowned international centers of culture and learning. The Confederacy stood as one of the world's two superpowers following the German Union's decisive victory in the Emperors' War (analogous to World War I), fought in Europe from 1914 to 1916. The German Union (an apparent merger of the German Empire and Austria-Hungary) swiftly advanced across most of Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Balkans and formed an alliance with a rejuvenated Spanish Empire. To maintain the balance of power, the Confederacy purchased Alaska from Russia and allied with Great Britain. Tensions grew between the two nations up until the 1950s, and people around the world lived under constant threat of impending war, with the defenseless United States certain to be the battleground.
The Confederacy's living standards, economic growth, political influence, and military strength are reminiscent of the post-WWII United States in reality. Although slavery has been abolished, to a large extent because of the efforts of men such as Robert E. Lee, conditions are still poor for ethnic minorities. Immigration is encouraged nevertheless, with immigrants being made subjects of the Confederacy like the Latin American population. (Only the male descendants of those who were eligible Confederate voters on the Day of Southron Independence, when the final Treaty of Reading, Pennsylvania, ending the war became effective, July 4, 1864, can be full voting Confederate citizens.) Technology developed along different lines, as the internal combustion engine, incandescent light bulb, and heavier-than-air flying craft were never created. Steam-powered "minibiles" and dirigibles are the primary powered means of transportation in wealthier nations; most people still ride horses for short distances or take trains for longer trips. All communication is done by letter or telegraphs, which by this point had become a fixture in all prosperous homes much in the way that telephones had by that point in reality, and all children learned to understand telegraphy at an early age until the act became as common and as natural as reading. There is an element of steampunk (a term not coined until the 1980s) about this aspect of the novel.
In sharp contrast to the Confederacy's prosperity, the United States is depicted as a rump state trapped in perpetual recession, with unemployment and corruption rampant. The U.S. is so destitute that a transcontinental railroad is never constructed past Iowa, while the Confederacy built seven. The only community of Americans who are generally prosperous are the Mormons in the western state of Deseret (who, in this timeline, were never forced to renounce polygamy). Otherwise, only successful landowners and the few lucky winners of the highly popular national lottery are able to rise above the semi-destitute lives of average citizens; most able-bodied adults are reduced to "indenting" themselves to businesspeople in exchange for the meager economic security that such affords. U.S. citizens are more hostile to African Americans than Confederates, seeing them as a major cause of the Union's downfall and unwanted competition over the few available jobs; those blacks who have not left the U.S. for Africa are constantly derided, harassed, and threatened by whites. In the U.S., mass lynchings of blacks are still common. The parties existing prior to the war, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are gone, but a two-party system of a sort nonetheless exists. Political power in the country is divided between the Confederate-influenced Whigs and the ineffectual Populists. (The narrator lists several real-life American progressive politicians, such as William Jennings Bryan, George Norris, and Norman Thomas, as having historically been important leaders in the Populists.) Lastly, the U.S. military is practically nonexistent, apparently having been disbanded as a provision of the peace treaty with the Confederacy, with foreign powers frequently deploying troops unopposed across the U.S. in regions where their nationals have been attacked, a not-infrequent occurrence as many rural areas are poorly governed and lawlessness is rampant in them; highwaymen are a constant threat to the few travelers. Both parties back a one-child policy as a way of preventing the country's meager resources from being further stretched; this has led to a rather puritanical society in which later marriage than was typical of the actual customs of the era was strongly encouraged, resulting in a decling population.
The narrator of the novel is Hodgins "Hodge" McCormick Backmaker, who writes a diary of his life in our timeline in the year 1877. Hodge was born in 1921 in the alternate timeline of his story, in the town of Wappingers Falls in Dutchess County, New York. In 1938 at age 17, he travels to New York City, the largest city of the United States (and yet a backwater compared to some Confederate cities), in a desperate attempt to gain admittance to a college or university. After being robbed of his few possessions, he comes into contact with the "Grand Army," a nationalistic organization working to restore the United States to its former glory through acts of sabotage and terrorism. One of the Grand Army's operations involves counterfeiting Spanish currency, with the goal of provoking war between the Confederacy and the German Union in Spanish territories, sparing the U.S. from becoming the two superpowers' battlefield. Despite remaining critical of the organization's activities, Hodge accepts work and lodging with a Grand Army member working from a bookshop. Content to work for food and the opportunity to read at every waking hour, Hodge stays in the bookshop for 6 years. (Young Hodge's life is largely autobiographical of Ward Moore.) One friend he meets during this time is Consul Enfandin, an emissary of the Republic of Haiti, the only small country south of the Mason-Dixon Line that has managed to retain independence from all of the great empires. Hodge leaves New York in 1944 for rural Pennsylvania at the invitation of a mysterious woman named Barbara Haggerwells who is part of a small co-operative society.
Hodge's aspirations of becoming a historian researching the war between North and South become reality when he joins this self-sufficient collective of scholars and intellectuals called Haggershaven, founded by the children of a Confederate Major named Herbert Haggerwells, who settled after the war in the land he had defeated. Here Hodge meets Barbara Haggerwells, an emotionally-disturbed research scientist on the verge of developing time travel. Many secondary characters with their own subplots are introduced during this part of the story, including some of the last few Asian-Americans alive (there has been a series of horrifying pogroms against their kind throughout North America) and a mysterious Spanish refugee woman who forms a love triangle with Hodge and Barbara. In 1952, Hodge takes the opportunity to finally see in person the Battle of Gettysburg which was fought not far from Haggershaven. Wearing a special watch to keep track of the differences in time, he travels back in time to 1863, where he then inadvertently causes the death of Captain Herbert Haggerwells ("never to be Major now," remarks Hodge when he recognizes that the dead man was a younger version of the exalted portrait on Haggershaven's living room walls), who would have occupied Little Round Top for the South during the battle. In Hodge's timeline, Haggerwells' men held the hill so that the Confederates won the Battle of Gettysburg, paving the way for their victory over the Union in Philadelphia a year later; in the resultant timeline (our own), Union Colonel Strong Vincent's 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain's 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment occupy the hill early on and successfully repel Confederate advances. In the novel, Hodge asserts that Little Round Top is the key to the battle, and thus the war. Hodge's actions have led to Union control of the hill, so events play out as they did in our timeline, much to the surprise of Hodge, who witnesses Pickett's Charge having a different outcome than he read about. The South loses the battle, and eventually the war. With history changed to make the world we know, Hodge discovers he is unable to return to his previous reality since the circumstances which had made the development of time travel possible have been unalterably changed: technology evolves along different lines, and Haggerwells has died before siring any descendants including Barbara, so Haggershaven and the time machine will never exist. Hodge, stranded in our timeline, hires himself out as a farmhand at the estate which would have been Haggershaven but is now owned by the Thammis family. Between 1863 and 1877 (when he is writing this story), Hodge comes to realize that the changed post-war United States is in some ways superior to the equivalent timeline in his past. He also finds it fascinating that people always talk of the Civil War rather than the War of Southron Independence, since the victors' name for the war takes precedence. However, he has an ominous feeling about the inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes, suspecting that it will end the Reconstruction Era prematurely and weaken the cause of civil rights. Hodge then explains why he felt his story had to be written down, because he has considered the possibility of other timelines existing in parallel universes but has come to the conclusion that by preventing the future he was born in, he destroyed the only dimension where travel between them was possible. After he says this, the story ends abruptly in mid-sentence.
An "editorial note" following the story relates how one Frederick Winter Thammis had found Hodge's diary while remodeling his house in 1953, the year the real life book came out. Frederick's father had grown up knowing Hodge as a beloved ex-servant kept on a pension after he was too old to work. The family enjoyed listening to Hodge's stories of the world he was born in, but had not thought him fully sane. Thammis junior says the story reminds him of The Wizard of Oz. Thammis notes that he has found a watch of a unique, two-dialed design with the manuscript, and ends the book by quoting from a recent history book which asks what could possibly have caused the Confederates' failure to occupy Little Round Top, "an error with momentous consequences."
Groff Conklin characterized the novel as "an important original work . . . richly and realistically imagine[d]." Richard A. Lupoff described it as "one of the most ingenious parallel world stories ever written." Algis Budrys, however, wrote that "Bring the Jubilee has always seemed a little labored to me." P. Schuyler Miller similarly suggested the novel's appeal was limited, although he praised its mature, meticulously thought-out structure.
The Jewish Daily Forward included Bring the Jubilee among "the best literary examples of alternate history." Aldiss and Wingrove listed it as a "brilliant alternate history novel" and noted that its "wit and ingenuity" were influential in the genre.
The theme of the Confederacy winning the Civil War and becoming an independent state was not a new one, as Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill's segment of If It Had Happened Otherwise and Murray Leinster's Sidewise in Time had toyed with the idea in the 1930s. However, Moore's book was more developed and reached a slightly wider audience than those two works, and encouraged many later writers to take up the same thread. Virtually all of them, however, depicted the USA rump state as doing better than in Moore's book. MacKinlay Kantor's magazine serial novella If the South Had Won the Civil War (1960, published in book form 1961) and Harry Turtledove's The Guns of the South (1994) also include the plot element of Robert E. Lee succeeding Jefferson Davis as President of a victorious Confederacy. (Kantor's book also has Lee win at Gettysburg, while Turtledove's has him aided by time travelers the year after losing the battle.) Turtledove later depicted a very different version of Confederate independence in the Southern Victory series of 11 books which begins with Lee winning the war almost 9 months *before* the Battle of Gettysburg would have taken place, making the questions of Pickett's Charge, Little Round Top, etc., irrelevant. Newt Gingrich and some co-authors published a trilogy of books depicting in detail an alternate history in which the Confederacy wins at Gettysburg and still the Union wins the overall war (in fact, quicker than in actual history).
A shorter, novella-length version of Bring the Jubilee appeared in the November 1952 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction before publication of the novel. Boucher and McComas praised the expansion for including "a thoroughly justified increase in background detail and depth of characterization"
After the release of the original 1953 Ballantine Books edition, the novel was republished in 1965 by Four Square Science Fiction. It was reissued by Avon Books in the 1970s and by Del Rey Books in 1997. In 2001, the novella was included in the anthology The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century.
- Moore, Ward (1953). Bring the Jubilee.
- Jules Verne, in his 1895 novel Propeller Island, envisioned the (undivided) United States conquering and annexing the whole of South America
- "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1954, p.111-12
- "Lupoff's Book Week", Algol 28, 1977, p.57.
- "Books", F&SF, October 1988, pp.35
- "The Reference Library", Astounding Science Fiction, April 1954, pp.144-45
- The Appeal of Alternate History
- Aldiss & Wingrove, Trillion Year Spree, Victor Gollancz, 1986, pp.44, 315
- "Publication Listing: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November 1952". The Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- "Recommended Reading," F&SF, November 1953, p. 100.
- "Bring the Jubilee 1965 Four Square Science Fiction Cover". Flickr. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- "Publication Listing: The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century". The Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2009-08-07.