Secret history

Chapter 1 - the miss america proposal

It is quite common for powerful men to quarrel over small matters. As egos and ideals clash, the most insignificant issues can be overblown into tremendous battles for supremacy and gratification, often with others being hurt in the process. Though all of history, there is no better example of this than the duel over the model for the original Miss America.

In 1790, in the early years of the Washington Administration, Benjamin Franklin had a private meeting with the president at Mount Vernon. The two men discussed a variety of things, with Franklin hoping to bestow some final bits of political wisdom upon Washington before his death. They spoke of leadership, alliances, finances; yet the most relevant subject to our discussion was Franklin's insistence on a national symbol, a mascot of sorts, to promote unity throughout the former colonies.

Washington argued that the country already had a symbol in the form of the bald eagle, but Franklin felt it wasn't enough. The people of the country would need a figure they could aspire to be like, a patron saint for the United States that all could cherish and admire. A single person who could represent what it truly meant to be an American. Washington was uncomfortable with the idea of idol worship, but the old man had never steered him wrong before, so he heard him out.

Franklin, a known womanizer, envisioned this figure to be a beautiful young girl with big...hair; one he could shape in his image into a symbol of fortune and prosperity. Due to Franklin's history and the way he went about describing it, Washington saw the proposal as being little more than the creation of a state-sponsored concubine. While he didn't trust Franklin to handle such a project in an appropriate manner, the idea stuck with him after the two parted ways that evening. If he could get the right people to head the project, then it may just work as a source of national pride and morale.

After Franklin's death, the proposal had slipped his mind. It wasn't until after the events of the Whiskey Rebellion that Washington realized just how necessary it was to unite people around the federal government. And a pretty lady dressed in red, white, and blue with nationwide appeal could be just the solution he needed.

He asked for advice on the matter from his trusted cabinet members: Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph. All four men were in favor of the idea, but couldn't agree on what the woman should signify. The push for a unifying figure had quickly turned into a political debate, with Jefferson and Randolph stating that the girl should be a southern belle with an agrarian image; symbolizing America as a state for aristocratic wealth and hospitality in the land of cotton and grain. Hamilton and Knox argued that as the country grew more prosperous through the growth of industry and investment, that the girl should be from a northern city; standing as a decree of what America would become, rather than what it was.

As the two camps bickered endlessly, Washington made the executive decision to grant each side an opportunity to prove their respective points. Each team would be allowed to pick a female of their choice and would have one year's time to develop her into the perfect embodiment of the United States. Both sides promised to groom the perfect candidate for Washington's project, all while intending to one-up their competition.

Hamilton and Knox, both men of high ambition, started their search immediately. With Hamilton being from New York and Knox being from Massachusetts, the two compromised and agreed to find a girl from Pennsylvania. They didn't have to look far. After arriving at an inn in Philadelphia, they stumbled upon a young wench tending bar. Her name was Betsy Carmichael. She was a 19 year old Scottish girl with fiery red hair and a luscious bosom that neither man could take their eyes off of.

She paid little attention to the portly, old Knox, but appeared instantly smitten with the dashing, young Hamilton. He used his charm and wit to seduce the young woman as he promised to make her life grander than anything she could possibly imagine. He promised to whisk her away from her humble life in Philadelphia and show her the possibilities that existed for a beautiful woman in New York City. His promises of fame and fortune seemed too good to be true, but when Knox laid their money on the table, she knew these guys were no joke. Having little life to leave behind in Philadelphia, Betsy decided to travel back with the two men to New York, where she could start her life anew as Miss America.

Jefferson and Randolph didn't have to look far either. As both men meticulously thought about which qualities would make for the best Miss America, there was a knock at the door of the study they were sitting in. In walked a gorgeous fair-skinned mulatto girl, carrying a tray of tea and biscuits for the two men to snack on. While conducting business in New York, it had been some time since Jefferson had last stepped foot in Monticello. In his absence, it appeared that his estate had acquired a new slave. One who would make a perfect candidate for Miss America.

Her name was Eliza Watkins. She was a 20 year old slave girl from Maryland. She had wavy brown hair, shimmering green eyes, and skin that could easily allow her to pass for white; therefore not alienating anyone who might not like the idea of a black woman being used as a symbol of American exceptionalism. She was an easy choice. Not only was she beautiful, but she also had little say in the matter. Since she was property of the Jefferson estate, there was no need for wooing like Hamilton and Knox had done with Betsy, not too mention that she already resided on the grounds. The men could simply tell her what to do, leaving all potential variables in their control.

The two informed her that she would no longer be acting as a servant, but would be groomed for the next year into Miss America, a physical embodiment of high southern society. She would be given a room within the house and would have others wait on her from now on. While apprehensive at first, from fear of it being a cruel joke, Eliza happily accepted her newly given role; glad to be free from the shackles of servitude, despite still not being entirely free.
8 chapters, created StoryListingCard.php 7 years , updated 2 years
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Comments

Eponymous 6 years
This is such a fun and brilliant little piece.
Wisconfa 7 years
Great start ! Keep growing those gals