Plausibility check / Challenge: North American and South American city states

To be more specific, in a mostly post-Columbian timeframe (i.e. ca between 1500 AD and 1900 AD. As it is much easier to have city states created by local native cultures, I am more interested in how plausible the creation and survival of a long-lived city state (or small country that is mostly urbane) could occur if it was founded by non-native settlers (European or other).

The geographic location of the city state or microstate isn't that important, as long as you can use the surroundings/context to rationalise why they would be beneficial to the survival of the state. I'd honestly love to hear your ideas on this topic... :cool:
 
Mexico City could be turned into a city-state. It's place in a valley makes it easily defensible. Just make Mexico collapse some time soon after independence and BAM! wish granted.
 
Macondo!

In the real world, you have this:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_of_Buenos_Aires

Though its prospects of survival are not great.

In general, the bussines in most of the Americas was in either exploiting natural resources or in the control over the tariffs to the exports of those resources (and over the imports if external products) that is, an important port. So, you need either a big hinterland to feed yourself and produce exportable materials, or an important port without possible comoetitors in the nearby area, so the exports of your neighbours have to pass through your customs and you can milk the cow. Otherwise, your city state will starve. Of course, you'll have to deal with potential foreign attemps to annex it (and possibly not so foreign attemps to do so) and an actual local will to become independent, with all its problems and in an environment (at least for the spanish america) where your local elite could be independent in almost all important matters (including local taxes on trade, like the alcabala. A pain in the ass for 19th century centralists and reformers) without tge risks of becoming actually independent. Spanish policies and hard geography teamed to create thus situation of somewhat isolated combos of city + hinterland, sometimes veery big hinterlands.

So, something like Monaco is probably very unlikely.

Of course, there is third option. Perhaps a city over an important waterway vital for the interests of a great power in an istmus between the Pacific and the Atlantic could be stripped from its original country...
 
Last edited:
What about the Island of Montreal as a City-State which makes its money off trade between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic. The St. Lawrence is definitely THE best route to the Great Lakes pre-Erie canal.

However, an independent Montreal would only be able to survive in one of two scenarios:

1) Eastern North America is completely Balkanized and trade passing through Montreal is important enough that no other nation wants to conquer it.

2) Two or medium-sized countries control Eastern North America, but they are evenly balanced power-wise, and all are dependent on trade through the St. Lawrence so none is willing to let the other(s) take Montreal.

The only problem I can see with this scenario is that while Montreal can STOP trade on the St. Lawrence whenever they want, they're not well positioned to GUARANTEE that trade gets through unless they control everything from Quebec City to Kingston as well, so whoever controls the surrounding land would have to need Montreal enough or fear Montreal enough to be unwilling to cut of Laurentian trade.
 
New Orleans comes to mind as a possibility due to its position on the Mississippi. However, while the city controls access to and from the Mississippi it faces the same problem mentioned up-thread in relation to Montreal. It can't really guarantee trade along the river (or could it? By all means, please prove me wrong), only control the outlet.

My first thought for how to make a city-state of New Orleans was a United States and Mexico equal in power. Such that neither country could defeat the other and take the city. Likewise, neither could afford allowing the other nation to control New Orleans and control the Mississippian trade. They compromise on making the city, and some of the hinterland, an independent city-state. However, there are two problems with this; 1) Making Mexico consider New Orleans a vital interest and 2) maintaining such a fine equilibrium between the US and Mexico.
 
New Orleans might be a possibility. It more or less was the only city in Louisiana, surrounded by non-French colonies, so it wasn't too much unlike a city-state OTL, and it maintains a strong local culture today. Perhaps if it's freed from the Spanish sometime before 1801, or is withheld from the Louisiana Purchase in 1803? What with the French political upheaval from 1789 onwards, it seems the city could have fallen under a different leadership than France at any point. It might become the seat of some government in exile. With a large slave population, it might even fall to revolt.

Its prime location would ensure New Orleans' economic survival through trade, but it still might be conquered by a foreign power. Its location makes it almost a necessary conquest for a United States expanding to the Mississippi and beyond. The only way I see around this is diplomacy - New Orleans would need strong ties to European powers that find it profitable and would be willing to defend its independence.

Edit: ninja'd, huh? Well, we've got different ideas about it, so it works out.
 
Thanks guys, nice suggestions. :) I was kind of expecting some of the examples you chose, but as long as you elaborate on your idea, I don't mind. We might notice something interesting that we've overlooked before.
 
Well, Uruguay is basically this already - very centralised population. If you want it to be a Monaco-style city-state then just have the Uruguayan Civil War end inconclusively: Montevideo is independent while the hinterland gets conquered by Brazil or Argentina at some point in the 1860s or 70s or somehow struggles on despite not making sense as a country.
 
Well, Uruguay is basically this already - very centralised population. If you want it to be a Monaco-style city-state then just have the Uruguayan Civil War end inconclusively: Montevideo is independent while the hinterland gets conquered by Brazil or Argentina at some point in the 1860s or 70s or somehow struggles on despite not making sense as a country.
LOL, that's a bit of an odd solution. :D Maybe it could work ?

However, I don't think Uruguay has that much of a Montevideo-concentrated population. It's no modern Australia, IMHO. If anything, it has some similarities with neighbouring Argentina, with its fair few large city with higher populations and an evenly spread, but more sparsely inhabited countryside population.
 
Panama City? Or really any city in Central America that builds a railway or barge canal connecting a Caribbean port with a Pacific one. In this case the city state's small size helps its survival by ensuring the city state cannot be powerful enough, even with control over the trans-isthmian route, to threaten any of the neighboring states. The powers that be (Britain, France, Mexico, the US, etc.) would rather have such an important trade route under the control of an impotent city state than any of the other powers in the region.

Maybe La Paz could work as a city state. I believe it has mineral resources in the immediate area that could be profitable and perhaps the mountains could act as a defensive barrier to invasion? You'd have to seriously fuck with South America to get that scenario though.
 
Most of the Central American states were based around their capital city (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Etc.) so they could be a city state quite easily. The issue is the "empty" space all around it just makes it easy for those cities to claim the territory.
 
Top