While the fight overlapped with the Revolutionary War, it was really about a territorial dispute. Connecticut claimed the Wyoming Valley, an area around what is now Scranton, Pa., as their own territory, despite Connecticut not being anywhere near Scranton on a modern map. But back then, as the United States was being formed, such claims were common.
All of this was brought to mind by a joke made on Twitter by Stratton Kirton. Kirton was using the historical anomalies of state boundaries to make the point that an effort to grant statehood to D.C. would hardly be the strangest deviation from the country the Founding Fathers envisioned. What about, you know, Mega Virginia?
What about Georgialabamississippi? What about Disconnecticut (as various people on Twitter put it)? What about Mass a chu s etts?
This is obviously not a map that correlates to the United States as we know it. This is our United States:
But if you look at it, you see where the boundaries match. The Mississippi River as a common western border. The consistency of the boundaries of Tennessee, which in 1783 just made North Carolina longer. Rather remarkably, one can actually map the 1783 map onto our current one with only occasional wonkiness resulting from out-of-place county boundaries.
So that’s what we did. Here are the 1783 boundaries, applied to current county boundaries as accurately as possible.
Why is this useful? It isn’t, except to play around with an alternate-universe United States.
So, for example, we learn that these United States would be home to 162 million people, with Mega Virginia being home to nearly 30 million. The second-most populous state would be Massachusetts — naturally, given that it’s now home to Chicago. New York, trading its western end for Vermont, drops to sixth.
The new United States would be about a third non-White, with Maryland having the highest percentage of non-White residents. (The state’s borders didn’t change substantially; it is currently majority non-White.) The most densely White would be New Hampshire (which is again keeping its current borders).
With these new boundaries assigned, we can go further. President Biden would have won the 2020 election in the Newnited States (get it), earning 42 million votes to Donald Trump’s 37 million, a slightly narrower margin than Biden actually won nationally. Trump would have won Virginia and states south of it, with Biden taking everything else.
Figuring out electoral votes is a little trickier. We used a tool from the University of Michigan allowing us to redistribute House seats* by state to figure out the electoral vote totals for each new state. (Electoral votes for any state are the count of its congressional delegation: its House seats plus two senators.) The result was a 252-to-172 victory for Biden.
Of course, the 2020 contest wouldn’t have been Biden against Trump. It would have been Hillary Clinton against the winner of the 2020 Republican primary process. In the Newnited States, Clinton won the 2016 election by 2.2 million votes — and eight electoral votes. The only state to flip? Georgia, appropriately enough.
There is one more level at which this exercise is interesting. For the purposes of this exercise, we went ahead and included D.C. as part of Maryland. If we’re going to imagine a world in which Massachusetts extends across multiple Great Lakes, we might as well imagine a world in which D.C. gets to be part of a real state.
*The tool generated one House seat for the 37 states with no population under this framework. We just ignored those.