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For All Nails #69: Waiting for the Chancellor

Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
28 June 1974

Ex-Colonel Joao Pedro Vieira was a very happy man.  All the years spent
building up a coterie of like-minded officers had finally paid off the month
before, and now he gloried in the title of President of Angola.  Though
time-consuming, it hadn't been a particularly arduous process.  Vieira's
predecessor, the late Ex-President-for-Life Fernao de Almeida, had gotten
sloppy in his old age, and allowed his cronies to embezzle too much Mason
Program money.  A threat from Monaghan to cut Angola off completely had
provided the perfect flash point, and Vieira's colleagues had been able to
seize power almost without bloodshed.

Vieira's subsequent steps had been the obvious ones.  Release all the Old
Man's political prisoners and round up a new set.  Ease up on censorship of
the press a bit and promise free and fair elections in the not-too-distant
future.  Finally, his current trip to Berlin to see Chancellor Markstein,
just to let Carter Monaghan know that there were other fish in the sea.  Of
course, Vieira had no illusions about the depth of the Chancellor's pockets.
Everyone knew that the Germans were too busy trying to keep control of their
Global War conquests to bother much with foreign aid.  Still, it never hurt
to ask, and Vieira had always wanted to see Berlin anyway.

Although he was too young to have seen action himself in the Global War,
Vieira was old enough to remember the German troops landing in Luanda to
seize Angola from Britain's Portuguese allies.  Just before they left five
years later, the Germans had granted Angola independence, and the war-weary
Portuguese had been able to do no more than protest.  It hadn't taken too
long for Angola's first and only popularly elected president to alienate his
Mbundu and Kongo constituents to the point where the Old Man had been able to
overthrow him.  After that, de Almeida had kept himself afloat on a sea of
North American pounds, till the tide began to go out and the flow of funds
threatened to dry up.

And now here he was, sipping coffee in a well-appointed waiting room until
Chancellor Markstein had time to see him.  Vieira had just added two lumps of
sugar to his second cup when the door to the waiting room opened to reveal a
middle-aged European of average height with dark hair cut in an old-fashioned
scalp-lock.[1] The man was dressed very formally in tastefully expensive
morning clothes, accented with a handful of military decorations and a
red-and-white sash.

"Goodness gracious," the European said in German, "I had no idea there was
anyone in here.  I hope I'm not disturbing you."

"Not at all," Vieira answered in the same language.  "I'm waiting to see
Chancellor Markstein."

"And I as well," the European said.  "Do you mind terribly if I join you?
Misery loves company, as they say."

"Please do," said Vieira, motioning for the other man to sit.  "Would you
like some coffee?"

"What I'd like is a good stiff shot of brandy, but coffee will do.  I'm the
King of Poland, by the way.  And you are?"

"The President of Angola, your majesty," Vieira answered, still savoring the
phrase.  He poured the monarch half a cup.

"That's in, errm, Africa, isn't it?" said the King of Poland.  "And please,
call me Frederick, no need for us fellow heads of state to stand on
formality, eh?"

"Thank you very much, Frederick, and please call me Joao Pedro."  Inwardly,
Vieira was floating on cloud nine.  Only President for a month, and already
he was hobnobbing with the crowned heads of Europe.  One crowned head, at any
rate.  "Indeed, er, Frederick, we're in the south, between the Kongo Free
State and Ovamboland."

"What brings you to Berlin, then, Joao Pedro?" said Frederick.

"Ah, well, I only became President last month, and I thought I'd pay a
courtesy call on Chancellor Markstein.  He's actually the first foreign ruler
I've visited."

"I'm sure he'll be quite honored," said Frederick before draining his cup.

"Another cup?" offered Vieira.

"Thank you, Joao Pedro, but no.  I'll be nervous enough as it is.  I've come
seeking the Chancellor's advice on this edict I'm thinking of issuing."

Vieira knew quite a lot about how the German Empire functioned, so when King
Frederick said he was seeking Markstein's advice, the Angolan knew that the
King was actually seeking the Chancellor's permission.  "What sort of edict,
if you don't mind my asking?"

"Not at all," Frederick assured him.  "You see, I've been thinking lately
how, um, well I suppose you could say how unfair it is that citizens of the
Inner Empire can vote for different parties, but my own subjects can't.  I
was hoping to issue an edict legalizing political parties in Poland and
allowing for multicandidate elections."

"Ah, I can see why you're so nervous about meeting the Chancellor, then,"
said Vieira.  "After all, there's not a chance in, er, what I mean is, he'll
certainly advise against any such edict.  In the strongest possible terms."

"But why?" wondered the King.  Vieira couldn't help feeling sorry for the
poor man.

"Let's put it this way, Frederick," the Angolan explained.  "How many Poles
are there in the Inner Empire?"

"In the Inner Empire?"  Frederick frowned in concentration.  "Oh, eleven
million I think was the figure in the last census.  Most of them live in the
Kingdom of Prussia.[3] But what's that got to do with anything?"

"Everything, I'm afraid.  Given the choice, where would those Poles rather
live, in Prussia or Poland?"

"Poland, I'd imagine.  They are Poles, after all."

"Certainly," Vieira said.  "In Prussia they have to speak German, and they're
a minority among the Prussians.  In Poland they could speak Polish, and be
part of the national majority.  Yet, they are content to stay in Prussia.
And the reason they are content to stay in Prussia is that there, they are
full citizens of the Empire.  They can read what they like, say what they
like, and vote for whomever they choose to represent them in the Imperial
Diet.  If they lived in Poland, they could do none of those things.

"But if you allow your subjects in Poland to have the same rights as the
citizens of the Inner Empire, then the Poles in the Inner Empire will have no
reason to prefer being part of the Inner Empire, and every reason to prefer
being part of Poland.  They will cease to be content.

"And believe me, the last thing Chancellor Markstein wants is another group
of discontented citizens to deal with."

The King remained silent after Vieira concluded his explanation.  He was
clearly mulling over the Angolan President's words, and Vieira hated to
interrupt his thinking, but the coffee he had drunk was making certain
demands upon him, so he said, "Ah, Frederick, if you wouldn't mind, could you
direct me to the washroom?"

With a start, Frederick looked up at Vieira and said, "What?  Oh, yes,
there's one down the corridor, just off the cabinet room.  I'll show you the
way."

"Oh, no need for that," Vieira assured him.

"It's a bit tricky to find if you don't know your way around," Frederick
said.  "Anyway, I could stand to make a stop there myself."

As he led Vieira out of the waiting room, the King added, "I just hope
nobody's already using it."

Notes:

[1] The scalp-lock (usually known IOTL as the mohawk) was at the height of
style in Europe just before the Global War (Prime Minister George
Bolingbroke, with his 'lock & ponytail, was considered particularly
dashing).[2] Since then, the Bald Look (a Mexican import, of course) has been
at the cutting edge of men's tonsorial fashion.

[2] In fact, the Whigs would claim afterwards that it was Bolingbroke's
fashion sense, rather than his foreign policy programme, that led to the
Tories' electoral victory in 1937.

[3] The Inner Empire's ethnic Polish population is mostly concentrated in
those areas of Prussia that were part of the Kingdom of Poland before the
Partitions of 1772 and 1804.[4] In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the
Germanic Confederation, with its de facto control over the Hapsburg Empire,
had less need than OTL's Wilhelmine Empire of Polish immigrants to man its
growing industrial sector.  As a result, OTL's Polish immigration to the
Westphalia-Ruhr industrial area did not occur.

[4] The failures of the North American Rebellion of 1775-1778 and the Paris
Uprising of 1789 delayed, but did not prevent, the triumph of
constitutionalism in Poland.  In 1799 the Poles had adopted a constitution
similar to that adopted IOTL on 3 May 1791.  Within three years the Russian
Empire and the recently-formed Germanic Confederation, fearing the spread of
Jeffersonist ideas, invaded Poland.  By 1804 the Poles had been defeated, and
Poland was divided between Russia and Germany in the Second Partition.