The Three Month War of Independence
By 1811, Great Britain had been involved in the Napoleonic wars for over two decades, and the wars (particularly campaigns in India and the West Indies) had had a particularly damaging effect on the economy and morale of the south east of the country in general. By 1809, officials reported morale in Sussex and Kent as "'worst in the nation", and despite its former reputation as an 'honourary home county', there was a strong feeling of alienation among many Sussexites of the time. This feeling came to a climax on the 26th of June 1811, when the newly appointed Prince Regent - George IV - was forced from the Royal Pavilion in Brighton by a march turned riot, led by Lukas Kylle, leader of the Sussexite Nationalism Movement (SNM) founded only the year before in 1810.
Following the June Riot, there were uprisings throughout Sussex towns as well as the Sussex Weald and Downland, with few army garrisons not joining the rebels and many taking the opportunity to revolt against local aristocracy. There were even reports of Irish, Cornish and Northern English Volunteer groups taking part in the uprisings. The revolution faced expected opposition from the Government, which, despite being aware of the low morale in the County had not expected such a violent revolution from a region so close to London. However, with much of the British Army tied up in conflicts around the world, the British had little success, facing ferocious guerrilla style warfare across the North and North-West of the county, with local militia groups taking advantage of the stockpiles of gunpowder across kept in the southern ports for use on the continent.
Despite facing down opposition, the new country faced a crisis, with little or no order across the county. in October, Lukas Kylle formed a small emergency cabinet of of members of the SNM in the coastal town of Brighton, and messengers were sent to the towns of Lewes, Chichester, Midhurst, Horsham, Eastbourne, Hastings, Crowborough, Worthing, Rye, and the expanding militia camp on the outskirts of Royal Tunbridge Wells, calling for order and camaraderie and for a 'national assembly of militia leaders and representatives of towns and regions' to converge on Brighton.
It was at this assembly which lasted a week from the 10th to the 17th of October 1811, that the Federal Constitution was drafted and signed by the appointed interim governors of the newly designated six districts of (from west to east) Chichester, Arundel, Bramber, Lewes, Pevensey and Hastings, in addition to the representatives of all sixteen militias, and the Mayor of Brighton.
The major points of the Federal Constitution were
- The county borders would form the de jure border between the 'Federal Duchy of Sussex' and Great Britain.
- The division of the county into six districts based on the historical 'rapes' of Sussex, a term discarded due to the alternate meaning of the word.
- The Town of Brighton was to become the de jure and de facto capital, as well as being its own sub-district separate from the District of Lewes.
- Lukas Kylle would be appointed as the First Duke of The Federation, until democratic elections could be held.
- The role of Duke of the Federation would be strictly non-hereditary.
- All sixteen militia groups formed during the Three Month War must declare their loyalty to the new state as well as the First Duke, and in doing so either disband peacefully or unite together to form the Sussex State Militia.
- The Sussex State Militia would perform policing and military duties.
- The role of Chancellor would come into being after the first national election, and would be elected from the members of Parliament by the members of Parliament.
- Political parties were banned - all candidates must be independents and put the representation of the people before theit own politics.
- All men without exception over the age of 16 had the right to cast vote for both Duke of the Federation and the representative of their borough.
- The State Religion would be Church of England, due to an agreement made with the church leaders in Sussex. (this would be abolished in 1843).
The assembly also voted to call for a non-aggression pact with the Republic of France, due to Sussex's geographical and historical position as a county in England. This was one of the most disputed decisions made at the assembly, and caused condemnation from Britain and her allies at the time.
The first nation to officially recognise the independence and sovereignty of the Federal Duchy of Sussex was the United States of America in November 1811, a nation which had declared its independence from Great Britain only 35 years earlier.
The second was the Kingdom of Sweden later that month, followed by the Kingdom of Denmark. Both kingdoms were allied with France at the time.
Despite the non-aggression pact with France, the Republic refused to formally recognise the new state unless a permanent truce was signed.
The Troubles (October 1811 - March 1812)
Despite the jubilation felt by Sussexites at their independence - an idea unthinkable just five years previously - the interim government led by Lukas Kylle faced huge economic and political difficulties in throughout the next five months.
The immediate effect of the succession from such an economic giant left the economy of Sussex worryingly unstable. Border towns reliant on trade with former country-men across the new border found themselves cut off from trade, which led to a huge smuggling trade being set up. Fishermen also found their fishing waters limited by British auxiliary naval boats setting up a blockade off the coast. The Duchy became almost completely reliant on the inner county farms to provide food for the oncoming winter. Local historians reported that 'an atmosphere of regret was slowly creeping into the minds of the Sussexites. It is estimated that as many as 500 citizens left the Duchy.
On Boxing day, 1811, a group of 83 men and women stormed Brighton Town hall with flintlock pistols and farming equipment and barricaded themselves in, before raising a red flag alongside the flag of Sussex hanging out side. The town hall was quickly re-taken by the SSM and the flag removed. 67 of the activists were shot in a fire fight lasting 30 minutes and 16 (including 19 women) were imprisoned. It was later discovered that the activists came from a small organisation based in Lewes, and had been led by a Frenchman who called himself Charles Marques who was believed to had died in the firefight.
On New Year's Day 1812, Lukas Kylle announced the introduction of a range of measures 'to give our nation a new chapter in history', which included
- The nationalisation and expansion of 54 farms across the districts, which would provide produce for the working class, as well as providing "honest and well paid work for a thousand men and women". Kylle often put emphasis on the importance of the farmers and farm labourers of the country, describing them as 'the beating heart of Sussex'
- A housing renovation project for the most impoverished areas of Brighton, Chichester, Eastbourne, Newhaven and Hastings.
- The introduction of a 'Poverty Register', with government surveyors electing persons and families for the register based on income, residence, and general health among other variables.
- Increased taxation, with tax breaks for private farms, and those registered as being in poverty.
- The establishment of a Council for Women and Children, whose duty it was to provide the necessary assistance and care to widows, homeless women and children, orphans and women and children facing abuse.
- The establishment of six District Surgeries, and a National College Surgery in Brighton.
- Recommended National Service for men from the age of 16-18, with tax break incentives for the families.
Despite being condemned as "the criminal actions of a rogue state kissing the feet of the France" by British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, Kylle received widespread support from his government and throughout the six districts.
The government not only faced crises from within the country, but from the international community. Despite its failure to maintain its hold over Sussex in the Three Month War, Great Britain refused to recognise the new country's sovereignty. The nation was also condemned by most of Britain's allies at the time, including Prussia, Portugal, and the majority of the German states.