Integrity Legal

11th Apr 2009

Researching the history and existence of micronations has always been a bit of a hobby for me. I find the historical accidents that birthed such countries as Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, the Holy See,  and San Marino to be fascinating. However these countries owe their current existence to luck over many years. For the intrepid free spirit there is a movement to establish micronations in order to obtain a higher degree of self-government than currently offered in conventional countries.

In recent years there have been many so-called small country projects that have sprung up and been found to be either a front for fraudulent activity or simply unworkable. The few exceptions to this statement are the Republic of Minerva and the Principality of Sealand. We will briefly discuss both of these projects in order to better understand what the positive  factors were in these cases that made them more successful than other endeavors.

The Principality of Sealand

The self described Sovereign Principality of Sealand was created from the remains of a World War II gunnery outpost positioned off of the coast of the northern United Kingdom.  Its original purpose was to act as a base for transmitting a pirate radio broadcast. Eventually the founder realized the benefit of having sovereignty and declared it the Principality of Sealand.

At the time, British territorial waters had been contracted after the war so the gunnery outpost fell outside of the British zone. Later the British would expand their territorial waters and thus put the Principality back within British waters. However, the high court in Britain later ruled that because Sealand was not within British territory at the time it declared independence, the British government has no jurisdiction over Sealand. This was a major victory insofar as it granted Sealand de facto independence. Even though to this day no other government recognizes Sealand’s sovereignty.

The Republic of Minerva

The Republic of Minerva was a failed project to create a nation by building an island up from an atoll. Under international law, for a land mass to be considered an island it must stay above the water table for a specified average period of time throughout the day. The founders of the Republic of Minerva were clever in finding an atoll in the Pacific that barely fell short of the necessary amount of time above sea level to meet the internationally accepted definition of “island.” After finding this atoll, they proceeded to ship in sand and other terra firma to make Minerva a proper island. Once this task was complete, the group formally declared themselves an independent nation. However, the King of neighboring Tonga was not particularly smitten with the idea of an independent nation so close to his Kingdom. Therefore, he decided to send a regiment of troops to take the island and declare it Tongan territory. The Republic of Minerva is worth mentioning because even though it failed as a country, the reasoning behind its inception was sound and the nation could quite possibly have even obtained some measure of international recognition (which is probably why Tonga went out of its way to kill the nation in its cradle).


It would seem that one of the most plausible ways of starting a new country (assuming one does not have terra firma that is unclaimed by another nation) is through the principals of seasteading. Seasteading is the practice of living outside all other countries jurisdiction by setting up a home on the high seas.  To quote a major website regarding seasteading:

“‘Seasteading’is homesteading on the high seas. In other words, building permanent dwellings on the ocean. A seastead is a structure specifically designed for the purpose of long-term living in the marine environment.”

Obtaining International Recognition For Your New Country and Getting Someone to Foot the Bill

So, other micronation projects have come and gone and even the most successful of them have been unable to obtain international recognition. Another major issue is financing. Many small country projects also go bankrupt before they have a chance to begin realizing their purpose.

Enter the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886, which makes it illegal for foreign-flagged (Flag of Convenience) ships to transport passengers and cargo directly between 2 U.S. ports. This rule has been a thorn in the side of many cruise lines for years because it forces the cruise lines to either forego a US port-to-US port itinerary or else become a US flagged vessel and thus be subject to the strict US laws regarding maritime employment and safety regulations.

How does this act figure into setting up one’s own country? If a person sets up a seastead near enough to the US, but just outside of US territorial waters, then after setting up their seastead they declared it independent and sovereign.  They could then enlist the assistance of the major US cruise lines to lobby congress and, more particularly,  the President to recognize the newly established nation. Now why would a cruise line wish to assist a “crackpot” in setting up a country? Because the moment the new country is recognized, then the country’s ports would meet the definition of “foreign ports” under the Passenger Vessel Services Act and therefore the cruise lines could use the ports as “ports of convenience,” for offering cruises between two US destinations.

Who needs to recognize the new country under American  law? According to Article 2 section 3 of the United States Constitution the President of the United States, “shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers.” This has been interpreted to mean that a US President can basically recognize a country’s existence by simply accepting that country’s Ambassador. Therefore, if the cruise lines lobbied the President to accept an Ambassador from your newly established nation, then the nation would be federally recognized as a foreign country and because it is a foreign country its ports would be foreign as well so the Passenger Vessel Services Act would not apply to ships leaving the US and arriving in your little nation only to turn around and go back to the US immediately.  I must imagine that once United States recognition is obtained it would be rather easy to obtain international recognition.

This is in my opinion of the best method of obtaining independent sovereign status for a new nation built from scratch.

Thanks for reading and for less academic and more mainstream legal information please see Thailand Lawyer

Note: The above article is the personal opinion of the author and does not represent the views of Integrity Legal. Further one should not take anything written in this article in lieu of  advice from a competent licensed attorney. Finally, the country start-up business is not something that should be undertaken lightly, actually declaring an independent nation could be construed as treason by many nations and lead to possible civil as well as criminal penalties.

One Response to “How To Setup A New Country (And Get Someone Else to Pay For It)”

  1. [...] How To Setup A New Country (And Get Someone Else to Pay For It) Posted by admin Filed in Uncategorized [...]

Leave a Reply

The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisement. Before you decide, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience. The information presented on this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.