History of the U.S.: The Republic of Madawaska

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Our History of the World book was so popular, we decided to narrow it down a bit and concentrate on the U.S. The Mental Floss History of the United States hits bookshelves near you on October 5th, and until then, we thought we'd share some of our favorite bits of trivia from its pages. Enjoy!

Literally a husband-and-wife operation, the Republic of Madawaska resulted from the fuzzy U.S.–Canada border after the American Revolution. In 1825 an American settler, John Baker, petitioned for his area of New Brunswick to become part of Maine and the United States; his wife Sophie Rice (later the “vice-president of the Republic”) sewed an “American” ?ag which they ?ew on July 4, 1827. But Maine’s legislature dragged its feet replying to Baker, who was considered a nuisance, so in August Baker and 14 other settlers declared themselves the Republic of Madawaska, a.k.a. American Aroostook. Great Britain, which still claimed the territory, arrested and jailed Baker for sedition; they also took Sophie’s ?ag, which she promptly replaced.

Ludicrous though it was, the incident touched a raw, patriotic nerve in the United States. Maine encouraged the Madawaskans to claim about 4,300 square miles of Canadian land for their “Republic,” causing considerable alarm in Ottawa and Washington, D.C. After the Aroostook War (casualty: one pig), the U.S. and Britain divided the Republic of Madawaska in two. A version of Sophie’s ?ag still ?ies over the city hall of Edmundston, New Brunswick, and the mayor of Edmundston also holds the title of “President of the Republic of Madawaska.”

Looking for more fabulous content like this? You’re in luck - The Mental Floss History of the United States hits bookshelves near you on October 5th! If you pre-order, you’ll get three free issues of mental_floss magazine. Get all of the details over here.

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September 14, 2010 - 8:07am
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