Conch Republic 1882

Letter of Marque

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About Conch Republic 1882. This document authorizes a private party (privateer) to arm a private warship to serve the  Conch Republic’s naval requirements.

conch republic flagThe Conch Republic is a micro-nation declared as a tongue-in-cheek secession at the city of Key West, Florida from the United States on April 23, 1982. It is now celebrated as a tourism event for the city. Since then the term Conch Republic has been expanded to refer to all of the Florida Keys with Key West as the nation’s capital and all territories north of Key West being referred to as ‘America’.

While the protest that sparked the creation of the Conch Republic has been described by some as “tongue-in-cheek,” it was motivated by frustrations over genuine concerns. The original protest event was motivated by a U.S. Border Patrol roadblock and checkpoint at the beginning of the Keys. They were looking for illegal Cubans sneaking into the country. The roadblock’s long delays greatly inconvenienced residents and tourists who felt as though they were being singled out for selective law enforcement.

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Below is the text of Conch Republic 1882.

Letter of Marque


Be it Known, That in pursuance of an Act of Congress, passed on the twenty-third day of April one thousand eight hundred and eight two, I have commissioned, and by these presents do commission, the private armed Schooner called the Lucy of the burden of Twenty-five tons, or thereabouts, owned by John Lawton of the city of Taunton State of Massachusetts
mounting six carriage guns, and navigated by twenty-six men, hereby authorizing John Lawton Captain, and Perez Drinkwater Lieutenant of the said Schooner Lucy and the other officers and crew thereof to :

Subdue, seize and take any armed or unarmed British vessel, public or private

Which shall be found within the jurisdictional limits of the Florida Keys, Straights of Florida or elsewhere on the high seas, or within the waters of the Cuban dominions, and each captured vessel with her apparel, guns and appurtenances, and the goods or effects which shall be found on board the same, together with all the British persons and others who shall be found acting on board, to bring within the port of the Key West; and also to retake any vessel, goods or effects of the people of the Florida Keys, which may have been captured by any British armed vessel, in order that proceedings may be had concerning each capture or recapture in due form of law, and as to right and justice shall appertain.

The said John Lawton is further authorized to detain, seize and take all vessels and effects, to whomsoever belonging, which shall be liable thereto according to the law of Nations and the rights of the Conch Republic as a power at war, and to bring the same within the port of Key West in order that due proceedings may be had thereon. This commission to continue in force during the pleasure of the President of the Conch Republic for the time being.

GIVEN under my hand and the seal of the Conch Republic, at the city of Key West, the twenty second day of December in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and eight five and of the independence of the said Florida Keys the third.

                                James Madison

James Monroe