Head of Council: James Hemming
Hemming’s Second Term
After the controversy that marred the 1820 Head of Council elections, Hemming’s first proposal to the Desten Council after his re-election was to double the budget of the Sophara Police. Worried about potential retaliations to what was generally accepted as an election blemished with fraud, Hemming also successfully fired the Chief of Police and replaced him with one of his own men, Holden Brigand. The increase in budget was approved by the Council, and with one of his own men at the head of the Sophara Police, Hemming’s attempt to consolidate power over the police was a success. Crackdowns on what he called “threats to the peace of Desten” were ruthless and numerous, but Hemming was careful to make sure no one of real power was arrested. Instead, he focused on the small players and the people that were known to do the dirty work – basically, instead of going directly for the Brickson-led opposition’s heart, he tried to cut them off at their legs. They were too powerful to go after directly, and he knew that, so he went after their stooges. “Alive but crippled”, he famously said.
Hemming’s second term in charge also saw his allies grow very wealthy, as new farms were cultivated to the north and east of Sophara. The Mulmont River still represented the unofficial border for the city, and the Desten Council was still adamant that no one was allowed to settle across the river. This forced the city to grow, along with the farms, northwards and eastwards. In fact, Head of Council James Hemming built his new personal residence on Desten Boulevard, as the road continued to expand northwards and continued to be the preferred choice for the wealthy of Desten to be build their homes in. Melborne Avenue also was expanded, as it continued to stretch eastwards, supporting both new farms and new residences.
The Head of Council’s second term, however, would be dominated by one thing – the creation of the 10% income tax code, as well as the 10% import tax code. Both codes were extremely unpopular, and it was not a decision Hemming had forced down the Desten Council’s throats. It was a heavily researched necessity – as the country got bigger, so did the burden on its coffers. The tax code was deemed the biggest need by the Desten Council, and despite an uproar from all classes – poor and rich – the codes were implemented starting at the beginning of 1823. Hemming’s first term was defined by his aggressive development of the town and support for its law enforcement – his second term was most definitely defined by the tax codes implemented.
The Sophara Docks
With 9 operational piers, Phase One of the Sophara Docks project was called complete by the Desten Council, putting an end to their most ambitious and costly endeavor since the creation of the country approximately 10 years after construction first began. The Docks were also the life of the country – all imports and exports came through ships visiting the docks, as well as all immigrants into the new nation. That is why Hemming had the Sophara Police implement strict control over the Docks, in order to reduce the amount of smuggling as well as have control over who was immigrating and emigrating from the country. The Desten Tax Authority was set up to control all imports and exports, and also to collect tax for all incoming imports into the country. The DTA and the Desten Immigration Authority (DIA) were two separate entities, but both had their head offices at the Sophara Docks since that was where all their work was.
The Sophara Docks caused a tremendous growth in the fishing industry in Desten, as all types of North Atlantic fish were found in abundance off the coast of the country. The fishing industry helped alleviate some of the pressure from the farming industry in providing food for a very fast growing city, and continued to leave Desten in a food surplus.
The 1825 Elections
Having already served two terms, James Hemming, now 61 years old, opted to run a third consecutive time, much to the dismay of his opponents. No law stated put a limit on the number of terms a Head of Council could serve, and taking full advantage of that loophole, Hemming made it so that any law to be issued on the subject would have to wait till after the elections. Having been defeated twice, the Brickson family opted to throw their weight behind a young candidate called George Carpenter, who was a self-made entrepreneur having grown his wealth from several small investments in businesses around Sophara.
With the full support of the Sophara Police behind him, Hemming once again used that power to intimidate and scare potential opposition voters away. Once again, ballots were miscounted to show that Hemming had a substantial lead over his opponent when the reality suggested otherwise. At the end, the Desten Council was confronted by allies of Carpenter and the Brickson family with actual evidence showing the irregularities that had happened on Election Day, but after much deliberation, the Council chose to dismiss the evidence and once again proclaimed James Hemming the Head of Council.
Declaring the result unacceptable and illegal, protesters led by Carpenter stormed the Independence Hall – seat of the Desten Council – while armed youth prepared for battled against the Sophara Police. With all out civil war threatening to spill into the streets, the Desten Council attempted to calm the tension by calling for dialogue between Hemming and Carpenter. Hemming accepted, but Carpenter refused, stating that first the elections must be called void and a new election day set. The refusal of Hemming and the Desten Council to meet those demands proved to be the flame that ignited the fire, and on December 19th, 1825, in response to alleged shots being targeted at them, the Sophara Police attacked the protesters and stormed the Independence Hall, which had been occupied for days by Carpenter’s followers. Upon hearing of the attack, the armed youth attacked the Sophara Police, and in two days of battle between the two sides, 126 people died with countless others injured. On December 22nd, 1825, George Carpenter agreed to a permanent cease-fire and called his supporters back on the condition that the Desten Council draw up a law limiting each Head of Council to a maximum of 3 terms, meaning this would be the last term James Hemming would serve, much to his disapproval and dismay.
The Real Reason for the Violence in the 1825 Elections
James Hemming was always quick to point out that the Brickson family led opposition were trying to undermine the democratic process and gain power by violent means, while George Carpenter used every opportunity to portray Hemming as a power hungry individual who was acting like a dictator. Both sides were trying to mass public support behind them, trying to make the residents of Desten believe that they were champions of their everyday cause and were merely trying to fight to give them a better life.
The reality was different, as it always seems to be, however. In 1825, the first modern railway began operations in England, called the Stockton-Darlington Railway, meant to carry passengers and, more importantly, coal. With the latter fast becoming the most popular natural resource in the world, Hemming had secretly sanctioned a team to find out if Desten had the resource in 1822. The results came back two years and there were quite a few potential locations for coal mines to be set up. Of course, the Desten Council would have to sanction the mines, but Hemming wanted his private companies to operate them. The case was the same for the Brickson family and their allies, and that was the reason why the 1825 elections was so hotly contested. Whoever had control over the Council would also have leverage into making the mines their own, and it was only after an agreement to share the wealth was the cease-fire called.
Hemming’s Third Term Project
As 1825 came to a close, Hemming had already drawn up the project that would consume his third – and final – term as Head of Council. A railroad was to be developed, connecting the Sophara Docks to the future coal mines in the north. It was a project that was going to take much planning, and had a great cost to it. The mines could not be developed until the railroad was up and running, and the second issue was that the Sophara Docks currently had to store the coal. The Docks would have to be expanded, or a separate pier for the coal would have to be constructed. Either way, the first step was to get the rail connection going between the Sophara and the coal mines.
The other goal behind getting the railroad tracks built was the Desten Council’s plan to open up part of the rest of the island for development. To state it simply, the rich of Sophara were getting tired of mingling with those they deemed to be of a lower class level than themselves, and thus wanted to find a way to get them out of Sophara and into their own little enclaves. Land and real estate prices were rising in the capital, and beautification projects were happening all around, especially on Desten Boulevard – whether it was downtown near the docks or further up north whre the road became double laned with trees and well maintained grass in the middle.
Aerial looking north.
A typical neighborhood in Sophara.
The Hatfield School - the first ever in Desten.
Desten Boulevard looking east.