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 when the Confederate States of America wins the Battle of Gettysburg and subsequently declares victory in the "War of Southron Independence" [sic] 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. 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 victory in the Emperors' War, fought in Europe from 1914 to 1916. The German Union 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 the British Empire. 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 ending the war became effective, July 4, 1866, were 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.
In sharp contrast to the Confederacy's prosperity, the United States is depicted in a state of 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 Wappinger Falls in Dutchess County, New York. 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 six years before leaving New York for rural Pennsylvania at the invitation of a mysterious woman 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. Here he meets a research scientist on the verge of developing time travel. In 1952, Hodge takes the opportunity to finally see the Battle of Gettysburg in person. 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 the Confederate officer who occupied Little Round Top during the battle. In Hodge's timeline, the Confederates held the hill and 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), however, Colonel Strong Vincent's brigade and the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment commanded by Joshua Chamberlain 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 effectively give the hill to the Union, where events play out as they did in our own actual timeline and the South loses the battle. With history changed, 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, and he is stranded in this timeline, which he admits to being somewhat superior to the one from which he had come in several respects. The story concludes abruptly as Hodge explains why he felt his story had to be written down, and wonders if by destroying the future he was born in, he destroyed the only dimension where time travel was possible.
An "editorial note" following the story relates how one Frederick Winter Thammis had found Hodge's diary while remodeling his house in 1953. Thammis' father had known Hodge as a child on the family farm, where Hodge had served as a farmhand, and had grown up on his stories of an alternate world, but had not thought him fully sane. Thammis notes that he had found a watch of a unique, two-dialed design with the manuscript, and quotes a contemporary history book which states that the Confederates' failure to occupy Little Round Top was "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 taken up by many later writers. Virtually all of them, however, depicted the rump United States as doing better than in Moore's book. Newt Gingrich 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.