Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Dominion of British West Florida and Tips for Creating an American Separatist Cause

Well, separatist fantasies never seem to go away in the USA. In past posts, I have made notes about dubious separatist causes in Alaska, Hawaii, and Texas. I have not posted on those claiming the Confederate States of America still legally exists but they are out there too. All make the same claims about violations of international law in the method the USA annexed the land and incorporated it into the USA. They use (I would argue misuse) the word "occupation" which is bandied around frequently by their followers and on their web sites.

I found a new one! It is the Dominion of West Florida. It claims to represent the people of the Republic of West Florida which existed briefly for 72 days in 1810.

Here is a brief summary of their legal claim courtesy of Wikipedia:

1) The Treaty of Versailles of 1783 granted the Territory of Florida (The British colonies of East and West Florida) to the Spanish King, who was deposed by Napoleon, leaving no rightful successor to claim the territory.

2) The Treaty of Transfer of Florida to France signed by the Spanish prohibited Third party transfer of the Territory and the territory claimed by the Dominion of British West Florida was not included in the transfer.

3) The annexation of West Florida by Presidential Proclamation, without the usual and required Congressional and Territory actions, was invalid under the United States Constitution, and international law.

Part 3 there is the interesting one. This is similar to claims by Texan and Hawaiian nationalists that their "nations" were acquired illegally by a joint resolution of the US Congress and Congress does not have the power to annex territory in that manner. Hence, the annexation is invalid under American and international law. Or so they theorize...

The United States sent the army down to secure West Florida for the United States. The government of the Republic of West Florida gave up under protest. Their partisans now claim that this constituted an invasion of the Republic of West Florida and was an act of war. The American presence in West Florida to this day then constitutes an illegal military occupation! The claim is then that the American government as represented in West Florida is de facto but not de jure.

Alas for these West Florida nationalists, the international community has recognized American sovereignty over West Florida since 1810 or shortly thereafter. As international recognition is the basis for determining sovereignty, there is nothing more to debate. I guess if a valid currently recognized sovereign nation wanted to grant the West Floridians recognition this could be reopened but I kind of doubt it.

Another wacky separatist cause pertains to the Wake Islands. There are a group of people in the Marshall Islands claiming the islands as the Kingdom of EnenKio. The Open Directory Project description of the site actually reads, "Site of the Government of the Kingdom of EnenKio. Information about the Aboriginal people, and the US occupation of the atoll." Of course, there never has been an aboriginal people of the Wake Islands. But again, I really enjoy how the word occupation is thrown about. The government of the Marshall Islands has disavowed this cause.

I guess if we get creative, every part of the USA is under illegal occupation by the USA. Here is a list of tips for creating your own American separatist cause! (These tips would work for non-American parts of the world too.)

1. Look over every treaty, agreement, document, or ruling that impacts the current legal status of the area in question. Go back as many centuries as you need to find the right dirt. Can you find even a single instance where someone forgot to dot an "i" or cross a "t"? Is there any technicality (no matter how minor) that could be highlighted? If so, congratulations! You can now claim that American sovereignty is illegal under American and international law and that all subsequent legislation by the USA is not binding.

2. Has even a single American military member been in your area since the time you can "prove" American ownership of you area is bogus? If so, you can now claim an invasion happened and can throw around the word occupation. It does not matter if shots were fired. The mere presence of American soldiers constitutes an act of war.

3. Did the people of your area actually vote to join the USA? If not, claim the annexation as illegal and undemocratic. If so, did it happen after the "occupation" began? Did people (or their descendents) who were not citizens of your area prior to American "occupation" participate in the vote? If so, dismiss the election and declare it invalid as the "occupiers" rigged the election by voting too.

4. Put up a web site bolding stating your "facts." Claim to be the legitimate representative of your nation under occupation. Be sure to put up lots of pages detailing the alleged violations of international law and showing American aggression. Be sure to get your site listed in as many places as possible. Be aggressive in search engine optimization. (Create a blog or two too!)

5. Have a forum at your site. Use it to repeat your claims over and over again and link to any website or news article which in any way could be twisted to support your arguments. Ruthlessly use ad hominem attacks on anyone who posts anything you disagree with. Calling them ignorant of international law and history or even racist should do the trick.

6. Head on over to Wikipedia, learn the ropes, and start inserting your version of history in every article you find! If you are subtle, good at edit wars, and have a lot of patience, you can make a real difference.

7. If you are brave, start up your own national bank and start issuing money and loans. You can also sell passports! When you get busted, use this as evidence of continued American aggression and attempts to silence your movement. Be sure to highlight on your site the "political prisoners" the USA puts in jail. (Go ahead and sell stamps too!)

8. Distance yourself from other separatists groups. Some Hawaiians, Texans, Alaskans, etc. may be claiming occupation but in your case it is real. You may all use the same arguments but there are important differences. Also, deny you are a separatist. Since your area was never legally American, you are not separating or seceding. You are asking to be restored. Further, make clear your area never has been and is not currently legally American.

And so on. Critical thinking skills are sorely lacking amongst a large portion of the American population. They also tend to believe in conspiracies and other crazy ideas. They also do not know much about international law or history so you can surely get many of them to accept your version as fact. You should have a lot of success in getting attention and believers!

I really should start my own separatist cause. With my knowledge of history, the Web, and how to play the separatist game, I could have a lot of fun! Or maybe not...

Update 19 July 2007: The list has been expanded to eleven at Illegally Occupy This! Miland Brown's Tips for American Separatists Updated.


elementaryhistoryteacher said...

There is an interesting true story in Georgia history regarding Elijah Clark. He wanted to annex his own little world. It was a very embarrassing moment for George Washington since he had to send out troops to "take care of" Clark who had been a Revolutionary War hero.

Jennie W said...

I love your list! So true! Being from AK I've heard the story...the current theory I think is that we should join Canada rather than the US - after all they would let us drill in ANWR!

Jennie W said...

Oh, something else...ND could at one point (maybe still...I'm not nuclear warhead savvy) be the third nuclear power in the world if they started their own country.

Miland said...


If Alaska ever successfully left the USA, I do not think it would join Canada. The taxes are too high there and Alaskans would not tolerate it!

I must admit thought that of all the American separatist groups, the Alaskans are the least obnoxious. The Texans are the most obnoxious. The Hawaiians are the most delusional. And the Confederate nationalists are the most irrelevant. Hello, the CSA lost!

Is there a North Dakota separatist movement? I had not heard of one before.

Time Bandit said...

Miland, I seem to recall at one point there was a pretty active pro-Florida secession movement. But that one might not count, as it was a movement by non-Floridians hoping that Florida could just go away.

bo said...

Minor Point: Unlike Texas and Hawaii, the Congress didn't approved the annexiation of Florida. The annexation by Presidential Proclamation isn't "valid" under the US Constitution. -- See I'm following your advice. (suggestion 8)!

Bigger Point, Sovereignty isn't based on recognition (Though we'd be glad to have it, as it SURE HELPS!!!) in the Montevideo Convention, to which the United States, and most other nations on the American Continents, is a signatroy, the first sentence of article 3 explicitly states that "The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states."

A good proof that the above is actually true is the People's Republic of China. It was certainly sovereign in the 1960s, but most of the world still recognized the Nationalist Chinese Government, not that of the Communists.

(Now all we in the Dominion need to do is get about another billion supporting citizens, a major world economy, a few world class diplomats...)

Actions under suggestion 7 are for those more dedicated to the cause than I am. 7-12 in Club Fed just doesn't appeal to me.

Actions under suggestion 6 would likely backfire.

Miland said...

"Unlike Texas and Hawaii, the Congress didn't approved the annexiation of Florida. The annexation by Presidential Proclamation isn't "valid" under the US Constitution. -- See I'm following your advice. (suggestion 8)!"

Actually, you are following suggestion #1 as well where I wrote, "Is there any technicality (no matter how minor) that could be highlighted?" But yeah, that is a good try at #8 too.

"Sovereignty isn't based on recognition (Though we'd be glad to have it, as it SURE HELPS!!!) in the Montevideo Convention, to which the United States, and most other nations on the American Continents, is a signatroy, the first sentence of article 3 explicitly states that "The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states.""

West Florida was annexed in 1810. The Montevidoe Convention is from 1933. It can not be applied retroactively to US action in West Florida as this would be an ex post de facto application of international law.

Regardless, if no one recognizes a state, and it has no actual control of any land to even have a de facto existence, it does not exist except as a web activity.

Enjoy your fun separatist hobby. :]

bo said...

OK, I'll check off both suggestions number 1 and number 8.

I wasn't trying to apply the Convention to the 1810 effort, but rather to the current 'third restoration effort'.

QUOTE Regardless, if no one recognizes a state, and it has no actual control of any land to even have a de facto existence, it does not exist except as a web activity. END QUOTE

Here we are in complete agreement.

I don't think the Dominion has a chance at recognition by anyone that has a seat at the UN. Now if they could actually get their own 'Citizens' to start calling themselves Dominion Citizens, and they developed an internal Economy, and had a recognizable government, they might have a chance. But as long as the majority of the people in the claimed territory don't consider themselves to be Dominion Citizens, all the 'loop holes, typos, and illegal actions' of the past wont matter one bit. (Even if they are "legally correct", the issue is moot with out a desire for sovereignty on the part of the people)

Actually for me the fun was in doing the research. The events listed on their history page are real. The 'Spin' they give them is 'open for debate' shall we say. But the Facts they claim, are real......

Jennie W said...

I don't think there is a ND separatist movement - North Dakotans simply don't care that much. Isolationist movement would be a better description, if anything. But I was more just joking.

What I was referring to, though, in regards to the nuclear power was in 2003 there was an article in the Onion (which is a satirical of course the article is meant to be a joke):

ND, being so small in population, was a good place during the Cold War to stick our nuclear arsenal - so they got a reputation as a "nuclear" power.

Michael said...

None of your listed steps seems to apply to one of the most successful separatist causes in history, that of Emperor Joshua Norton I. Can we point modern separatists to this other successful stratagem? As an expatriate Texan living in New Jersey, I know I would be pleased if we had an Emperor of Texas, rather than going to all the bother of throwing rigged elections every two years.

Miland said...

Emperor Norton was a hoot wasn't he? I love reading about him.

However, he was never a separatist. He claimed to be the Emperor of the United States and many people such as Queen Victoria and the people of San Fransico humored him. He never tried to separate a single piece of American soil from American control even if he believed he was the legal government of the USA.

Had Norton been a separatist in those days after the American Civil War, he probably would have had a very different fate I think. Would people in California have humored him? I doubt it.

A. J. Luxton said...

We need a better word, then, for folks like Emperor Norton. He had a power strategy of sorts, even if it was not a separatist strategy. It was ridiculous; it also worked. People were actually honoring his money.