Norton I: The Unique “Emperor of America”

  The United States, which has been a republic since its establishment, did have a little-known “emperor” in the mid-19th century, and the identity of this emperor was also recognized in some form by the United States government. The Emperor of the United States, known as “Norton I”, ordered the dissolution of the U.S. Congress and proposed the establishment of a “League of Nations”. During his lifetime, he was ups and downs and ridiculed, but after his death he was treated with respect and honor. So, what is the legendary life of this unique “American Emperor” in history?
  Norton I, formerly known as Joshua Abraham Norton, was born in England on January 17, 1811. He immigrated to South Africa with his parents when he was a child, and then immigrated to the United States in 1849, settling in San Francisco. Before proclaiming himself “Emperor of America”, Norton was a successful businessman. With the $40,000 left by his father, he started out in San Francisco as a speculative business in real estate, gold mining and rice, and was quite successful, respected locally and dubbed “the emperor” by his friends—perhaps that was him Afterwards, it will be the reason of the emperor.
  Later, in order to monopolize the rice market in San Francisco, the adventurous Norton raised a lot of money to buy all the rice on the market, trying to stock up and drive up the price of rice. However, just as he was smug about making a fortune, several cargo ships laden with rice arrived from Peru, saturating the market and causing the price of rice to plummet. Norton, who failed to speculate, went bankrupt overnight, and as a result, was deeply in debt and mired in lawsuits. In 1858, penniless, he disappeared. In early September 1859, Norton, with a slack-eyed and sluggish expression, reappeared on the streets of San Francisco in a worn-out European-style admiral’s uniform. On September 17, he walked into the office of the “San Francisco Bulletin” newspaper in tattered clothes, and handed over to the editor an edict signed “Emperor Norton I of the United States”: “At the request of the majority of the citizens of the United States of America, I – about Shua Norton… proclaimed himself Emperor of the United States of America.”
  Surprisingly, instead of throwing this ridiculous note into the wastebasket, the editor of the newspaper published it on the front page the next day with the title “An Emperor Among Us”, causing huge outcry. repercussions. For post-independence America, the emperor was both a symbol of past imperial power and a curious and exciting new term. Although the United States does not need an emperor, the humorous and generous Americans happily accept the emperor who has no real power. On the day Norton ascended the throne, people bowed in the street to salute him. Norton I, the “Emperor of the United States”, began his 21-year “rule” (later Norton I issued an edict, claiming that Mexico was not suitable for self-government and wanted to be “regent” to Mexico, so he became Mexico’s “regent” king”).
  After being proclaimed emperor, King Norton I, who was diligent in government and caring for the people, liked to wear an elaborate blue military uniform, peacock feathers and a beaver hat decorated with rosettes, and two mixed-breed dogs on a leash every afternoon. (Although he claims to be the emperor of the United States and the regent of Mexico, his actual rule is limited to the area of ​​San Francisco), supervises the construction of public facilities, police attendance and tram operation, and acts as a role in various celebrations. Guests give speeches. Though he was penniless, he could dine for free at the best restaurants in San Francisco, which also boasted a bronze plaque bearing the “Designated Restaurant of Emperor Norton I of the United States of America.” San Francisco’s theaters and concert halls will also reserve special seats for him, and every time the “Holy Drive” arrives, the audience will consciously stand and pay tribute. He has always been supported by the citizens of San Francisco, and his clothing, food, housing and transportation are all free. The rent of the apartment building he rents and the ironing fee of his uniform are paid for by someone. When the bicycle first became popular, the city council also specially allocated money to buy one for him as a “royal ride”. In addition, he issued paper money and taxed his subjects. Store owners in the San Francisco area paid 25 cents to 5 cents a week, and banks paid 3 cents a week. Although citizens think it’s funny, many people still “pay taxes according to the rules”. The banknotes issued by Norton I, with denominations ranging from 50 cents to 10 US dollars, are used as legal tender in the San Francisco area and are used in parallel with gold and silver coins, and are highly trusted by merchants and banks.
  As the “Emperor of the United States” and the “Prince Regent” of Mexico, King Norton I issued many edicts in the newspapers, with sharp words, most notably ordering the US military to dissolve Congress. On October 12, 1859, King Norton I announced the official “dissolution” of Congress on the grounds that corruption was prevalent and Congress could no longer protect citizens’ lives and property: “Universal suffrage has been abused in our country. Corruption and corruption have prevented the voice of the public. To be fair, the blatant provocation of the law by mob, partisan and some political factions continues to emerge. Citizens pay taxes for the government, but have no proper protection of personal life and property… All members of Congress are hereby ordered to meet at the San Francisco Music Hall on February 1 next year Assemble, consult the nation, and make practical and effective plans to remedy the harm done by sin.” Norton I’s order, of course, could not mobilize the army, so Congress continued to function as usual. In January 1860, Norton I had to order the army to “cleanse” Congress: “In view of the fact that there is a group of people in the city of Washington who call themselves members of Congress, in clear violation of the Royal Decree of October 12 to dissolve Congress… I now order the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces , Army Major General Scott, after receiving the order, immediately cleaned the Capitol with appropriate forces.” But the army resisted the order again, and the edict became a dead letter. The angry Norton I announced the abolition of the United States of America in July 1860. At this time, the United States was indeed in a state of disintegration, and the Civil War was on the verge of breaking out. Before the outbreak of the Civil War, in order to save the situation, King Norton I ordered President Abraham Lincoln of the Northern Commonwealth and President Jefferson Davis of the Southern Commonwealth to go to San Francisco to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the dispute, but both ignored them, and the civil war broke out. . After the failed attempt to overthrow the U.S. government by force, Norton I continued to lose and fight again and again. “In order to ease the partisan conflict in the territory”, he ordered the dissolution of the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States on August 12, 1869, but it was unsuccessful.
  In addition, Norton I also actively engaged in diplomatic activities. He wrote several letters to Queen Victoria of England, and also held formal meetings with Emperor Pedro II of Brazil. It is said that the king of Hawaii at that time greatly admired Norton I’s wisdom, and said that he would no longer deal with the US government, but would only accept Norton I’s messengers. His identity was later recognized by the U.S. government: the 1870 U.S. census records stated that Norton I lived at 624 Commercial Street in San Francisco, and his occupation was “Emperor”.
  In 1867, a newly recruited policeman arrested Norton I on vagrancy charges, and later claimed to be sending him to a mental hospital for treatment. For a while, there was a public outcry, and newspaper editorials slammed the police. The public in San Francisco was furious, and they were about to revolt. Under the pressure of public opinion, the police chief had to order the release of Norton I and solemnly apologize to him, and Norton I also graciously “amnesty” The policeman who committed the crime of treason. Since then, San Francisco police will salute Norton I when they encounter him on the street, and Norton I will lead the annual police review ceremony.
  Norton I was also a far-sighted and talented emperor. In 1869, he ordered his subjects to fund an inventor to study “air machines”, and it was not until more than thirty years later that the Wright brothers succeeded in inventing the first human plane. He also proposed to the heads of other countries to form a “League of Nations” so that people of different countries and beliefs could sit together to discuss issues and resolve international disputes peacefully. It was not until 1919 that US President Wilson put his will into practice – in Wilson The League of Nations was finally established under the Treaty of Versailles. He also explicitly banned disputes between religious sects, which is still of great practical significance to this day.
  In order to facilitate the travel of citizens, King Norton I ordered the construction of a bridge across the San Francisco Bay twice in 1869 and 1872, but his edict was not immediately executed by the government authorities, and King Norton I was furious: “In view of the fact that I have Order the subjects of San Francisco and Oakland to raise funds for the construction of a suspension bridge from Oakland to Goat Island… If I insist on ignoring my will, I will order the army to arrest the members of the Committee of the Fathers of the City.” However, the edict did not last sixty years. It was finally implemented. In 1933, the city government of San Francisco decided to build a suspension bridge on the site planned by Norton I – this is the famous Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge, which took four years to build, is now a San Francisco landmark. In honor of Norton I, a sign hangs on one of the bridges of the Golden Gate Bridge that reads: “Travelers, please stop and thank Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Regent of Mexico (reigned 1859-1880), who had the foresight to conceive and Order a bridge over the San Francisco Bay.”
  In the late reign of Norton I, there were many rumors about him in San Francisco. For example, some people said that he was the illegitimate son of the French Emperor Napoleon III and immigrated to the United States to avoid political persecution; others claimed that Norton I planned to marry Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom… Except for the rumors , and some people sent forged edicts to newspapers for printing, which forced Norton I to sue the world in 1872: “Edicts and bills without my personal signature are illegal.”
  On the evening of January 8, 1880, Norton I On the way to give a lecture at the Academy of Sciences, he suffered a stroke and fainted. The police then drove him to the municipal hospital, but he died before reaching the hospital. The next day, the major newspapers in San Francisco published his obituary under the headline “His Majesty Has Died”, in a mournful tone: “By God’s blessing, Norton I, Emperor of the United States of America and Regent of Mexico, return home. Heaven.” From government officials, celebrities to ordinary citizens, people from all walks of life attended his funeral, and as many as 30,000 people spontaneously stood on both sides of the street to pay their respects in silence, and the funeral procession was three miles long. People bought a precious rosewood coffin for Norton I and buried him in the Masonic cemetery in San Francisco. The day after the funeral, the sky over San Francisco was darkened by a total solar eclipse, a reminder of the end of a good dynasty.
  On June 30, 1934, the city of San Francisco moved his body to Woodlawn Cemetery for burial and erected a monument. On January 7, 1980, the city of San Francisco held a ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Norton I. Although he had ups and downs during his lifetime and was ridiculed after he ascended the throne, Norton I’s love for the people and enthusiasm for public service finally won the world. universal respect and affection.

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