A notable Christian of the 19th Century

His Imperial Majesty Norton I, Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico.

If you’re a Sandman reader, Discordian, or resident of San Francisco, you already know about Emperor Norton.  The first and only Emperor the USA ever had, he was a wise and benevolent monarch, a man of compassion and great spirit.

He wasn’t always an Emperor.  Once, he was a wealthy San Francisco businessman.  That life ended after a poorly timed attempt at cornering the rice market ruined him.  He declared bankruptcy, and began developing some marked eccentricities.  For a time, he left San Francisco.

When he returned, it was as a man with a purpose.  He issued a proclamation.

At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of S. F., Cal., declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these U. S.; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of Feb. next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.

NORTON I, Emperor of the United States.

His reign lasted more than two decades.

He dissolved the legislature, and both the Democratic and Republican parties, issued a decree ordering the US army to forcibly disband Congress.  Perhaps regrettably, these edicts were disregarded.

He also proclaimed:

Whoever after due and proper warning shall be heard to utter the abominable word “Frisco”, which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor, and shall pay into the Imperial Treasury as penalty the sum of twenty-five dollars.

He also commanded the formation of a league of nations, ordered the construction of a bridge across the San Francisco Bay, and forbade conflict between religious sects.

He ate for free, of course, local restaurants regarding a plaque reading “by appointment of His Imperial Majesty” to be an honor well worth having.  He issued his own imperial currency, which was widely honored throughout the city.  He frequently associated with the two celebrated street dogs Bummer and Lazarus, who received all the consideration due to loyal imperial subjects.  Theaters and concert halls kept a seat reserved for him.

Anti-Chinese sentiments ran high in those days.  Bloody riots occasionally broke out.  And on one occasion, His Imperial Majesty happened to be conducting one of his inspections of the city when a particularly ugly one was building.

The Emperor stepped between his white subjects and their intended victims, his Chinese subjects.  He bowed his head, and began to pray.  He continued, reciting the Lord’s Prayer over and over again, until the rioters gave up and went home.


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