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The Empire of the Lakes (also called the Great Lakes Empire) is an administrative monarchy based in the Great Lake region. The Empire was founded by Emperor Joseph Harding I after the blackout and is notable as it is the only nation in North America that is not a democracy.
The Great Lakes region, while not considerably poor, was neither a wealthy area. The cold weather made it hard to grow crops and most state economies relied on cattle ranching, fishing and trading. Trade flourished in the area as the lakes provided an easy way to trade with Canada. The Eerie Canal, constructed in the 19th century, also helped trade as states could ship Mid-Western foodstuffs to the east in exchange for manufactured goods.
The state governments had never held much power in the region and so when they collapsed the people were not affected much. However the people of the cattle states, Minnesota and Wisconsin mainly, soon found themselves threatened by thousands of refugees who began stealing cattle to feed themselves. Wisconsin citizen Joseph Harding, formerly a Wallgreens cashier, had prepared for the apocalypse by storing massive amounts of weapons in his house. After the blackout he began recruiting men to "Harding's Army" and soon enough he commanded a force of nearly a thousand men. He began to offer protection to the cattle ranchers as long as they pledged fealty to him. Many accepted his offers and he began to brutally repulse the hordes of hungry refugees, most notably at the Massacre of Castle Rock Lake. Harding also began the creation of several "city-forts"; easily defensible strongholds that cattle ranchers could herd their cattle into quickly at the first sign of raiders. Soon enough however the problems of raiders disappeared all together thanks to Harding's Army.
After securing his power in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Harding began to push southward for more supplies, chiefly medical and military. Harding quickly used scare tactics to force the small communities of many states to pledge fealty, including Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. The Ohio provisional government, led by former U.S. Sergeant Ackerson attempted to resist him however was forced to submit following Ackerson's defeat at the Siege of Akron. With the victory at Akron Harding secured Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and half of Ohio. Upon receiving pledges of fealty from the leaders of the communities in these states (as well as hostages) Harding declared a new nation, the Empire of the Lakes, and crowned himself Emperor.
War of Northward Expansion
The War of Northern Expansion (called the War of Humiliation in the Ontario Republic) was a brief but highly successful war waged by the Empire. The Empire launched a surprise invasion of the Ontario Republic in three lighting quick strikes; one through the Minnesota Border, one from the Upper Peninsula, and one through South Ontario. After winning a series of victories and capturing the city of Toronto, the Ontario Republic sued for peace and signed the humiliating Treaty of Toronto, ceding all of the lake-coastline as well as Southern Ontario to the Empire.
The Preemptive War
Though the Empire had won a great victory in the North, they began to look warily eastwards at the American Union, which had just defeated the Confederate States of America and was growing in power. Additionally, they had allied with the Great Plains Republic, a major nation to the west of the Empire. Imperial advisors warned that if the American Union's power continued growing at that rate, then they would be too powerful to defeat. Emperor Harding, wishing to establish a hegemony in the North, launched a massive invasion of the American Union, hoping to defeat them quickly before focusing on the GPR. Two invasions against the AU were launched, one through the Niagra Peninsula and one across the Ohio River. Another army invaded the Dakotas from Minnesota, hoping to catch the GPR offguard and keep them out of Imperial territory. The war went sour quickly however after the GPR crushed the Imperial army in South Dakota and the Imperial Army invading across Kentucky was caught and destroyed. The army in New York attempted to withdraw, however the American Union seized the Niagra Peninsula and trapped the army in New York where, after a long pursuit, they surrendered. Peace was made through the Treaty of Detroit, which forced moderate terms on the Empire.
The Empire is an administrative monarchy, with three separate branches. The legislative branch, the Imperial Senate, is where elected officials represent the people in the government. The executive branch is the Monarchy, who has nearly unlimited power but can be stopped if another member of the royal family and the Senate votes to "remove" him from office. The judicial branch is the High Panel of Justice, which is essentially a panel of seven judges who decide on the constitutionality of a law. Despite being a monarchy there is a system of checks and balances that prevent one branch from gaining too much power, though there are not as many checks for the Monarchy.
The Empire relies mainly on trade for its economy, shipping goods across the Great Lakes to Canada and the East coast. Through the Eerie Canal food and other raw materials are shipped from the GPR to the American Union, while other raw materials are shipped down from the Empire's canadian provinces to be sold to other nations. Due to its reliance on trade the Empire maintains a large merchant fleet as well as a large navy to defend against pirates and bandits lurking on unpopulated islands.