(See also: Introduction)
What follows is a slightly edited version of an original commentary by Sarah Hartwell. It contains all the information we have to date and is accurate to the best of our knowledge, but we recognize there may be gaps in the story and welcome any corrections or additions.
The "Notice of Revocation of Independence" was originally posted 8th November, 2000 by Alan Baxter (Rochester, U.K.) on an internal newsgroup of a company which spans the U.K., U.S. and Australia. I work for the same company and use the same newsgroups so I got to see the early versions of the "Revocation" and find out about its history. After a few more additions, extending a four-point item to a 10-point and then a 13-point item, Peter Rieden (Farnborough, U.K.) mailed the "Revocation" to the external newsgroup sci.military.naval on 15th November to entertain American subscribers during off-topic discussion of election issues. Peter's line of work is in seaborne defense systems.
Peter expected to be flamed or email-bombed for his contribution, but the following day, the "Revocation" was sent out as a joke-of-the-day and appeared in email inboxes and newsgroups worldwide. Upon a few more refining comments (added by other individuals) it became the article which was emailed around the world.
Peter Rieden doesn't claim authorship of the various versions currently in circulation although he has been identified as a co-author of the original version. He claims that the version he mailed to sci.military.naval had 10 items in the "list of things you must do" and had been forwarded to him from a friend at Warton, U.K. (Warton is another company site, so the "Revocation" was already doing the rounds within the company). Peter subsequently posted his own revised version (to which he had added three more items in the list) elsewhere on worldwide Usenet and this second version began doing the rounds as well. As far as Peter can remember, the originator of the idea (but not the actual text) was the BBC Radio Four Today program (06:30 to 09:00 morning news program).
On Thursday 16th it appeared on the BBC News Website. On Sunday 19th November, the "Revocation of Independence" was mentioned on the 09:00 U.K. ITV News. On 20th November I received the "Notice of Annexation of the UK" by email. It seems to originate from within the same company, but was not authored by Baxter and Rieden. On Tuesday 21st , the email version of "Revocation" was read out in full on BBC Radio Merseyside and appeared on the front page of the prestigious U.K. newspaper, The Times, in the article "Who Wants to Be a President?" which read: "The latest bumper sticker reads 'Screw this I'm moving to Canada' and an internet proclamation suggests that as America's 224-year experiment with independence seems to be in chaos, it may be time for Her Majesty to take over again."
On 20th November one of the credited authors, Peter Rieden, wrote to the company newsgroup where the Revocation first appeared that the "Revocation of Independence" had proven to be something of an embarrassment. He had received some 200 emails from overseas subscribers (including Americans) to the jokes mailing list, all along the lines of "ROFLMAO." There had not been a single negative response. By this time, recipients were adding their own personal thoughts to the "Notice of Revocation," leading to multiple versions in circulation. The "Revocation" had become email lore and references (citations) and excerpts were appearing in online and hard-copy publications. It was also being discussed on Usenet, a Yahoo site and About.com's Urban Legends forum. Most versions have 10 or 12 points, though these vary between versions. The most common variant has 15 points and is a compilation of five or six different versions. In December 2004 the 15-point text resurfaced, this time attributed to former Monty Python member John Cleese. Clearly, however, he was not its author, and has said so on his website.
A spur-of-the-moment internal newsgroup posting inspired by an off-the-cuff comment by a Radio Four presenter has sparked one of the best political parodies on the Internet in recent times.
2. Notice of Revocation of Independence: 4-Point Version (Earliest)
3. Notice of Revocation of Independence: 10-Point Version
4. Notice of Revocation of Independence: 13-Point Version
5. Notice of Revocation of Independence: 15-Point Version (Most Common)
6. Response from America (#1)
7. Response from America (#2)
8. John Cleese Letter to America (Dec. 2004)
9. Commentary by Sarah Hartwell