Seceding from the Union – it only worked once

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Several of our United States are talking about seceding from the union. Unfortunately, history tells us secession hasn’t worked very well. Except once.

Back in 1982, the US Border Patrol blockaded US Highway 1 at Florida City, the gateway to the Florida Keys. The reason, the government said, was to halt the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants.

To Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow, however, it was an outrage. Residents of the Keys were being declared non-citizens and were being forced to prove their citizenship to enter the mainland.

What Wardlow did then changed the course of history in the Florida Keys for all time. While on national television, he issued a proclamation of secession from the Union, and declared himself prime minister of the newly founded Conch Republic.

To signify the start of the secession rebellion, he broke a loaf of stale Cuban bread over the head of a man dressed in the U.S. Navy uniform. One minute later, Wardlow surrendered to Union forces and demanded $1 billion in foreign aid.

He didn’t get the foreign aid, but he also got no response whatsoever from the U.S. government to his declaration of secession. Ironically, what that means under international law is that the secession stands. The Conch Republic – which includes all of the Florida Keys – is a legal entity, a nationally recognized republic.

To prove the point, the Conch Republic in Key West issues its own passport, which has long been accepted by 13 Caribbean islands, Germany, Sweden, Mexico, France, Spain, Ireland and Russia.

The Highway 1 blockade was called off shortly after the republic seceded. A 10-day celebration of independence is held every April throughout the republic.

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