Short-Lived Sovereignty


The Flag of the Conch Republic
The Flag of the Conch Republic

Traffic jams were responsible for the shortest-lived bid for national independence.

The United States Border Patrol established roadblock inspection points on Highway US 1 at the point of intersection of the two roads that connect the Florida Keys with the mainland. The purpose of the inspection point was to combat illegal drug trafficking and illegal immigration. The most-immediate effect was a traffic jam for those traveling to or from Key West.

Feeling that the city’s complaints were falling on deaf ears, Mayor Dennis Wardlow and the city council declared Key West’s independence from the United States on April 23, 1982 and immediately declared war against the United States in their quest to maintain their independence.

The new nation, dubbed The Conch Republic, named Wardlow as Prime Minister, giving him the authority to prosecute the war against the United States.

Exactly sixty seconds after the declaration of war, Wardlow surrendered on behalf of the new republic, and applied to the U.S. for $1 billion in foreign aid.

While the quest for independence was satiric, it seems to have accomplished the desired result; shortly after the one-minute war, the roadblock inspection points were removed, the traffic problem was solved, and Key West gained a new tourism attraction. Visitors can purchase souvenir passports and other memorabilia from the Secretary General of the Conch Republic.

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