Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Emperor Norton I and the Slippery Idea of Self -BoB

Originally published September 24, 2013 via theblogofbaphomet.com

September 17th 2013 marked the 154th anniversary of the inauguration of Emperor Norton I.

Joshua Norton was born in England in 1818 or 1819 and was raised in South Africa. He came to San Francisco in 1849 during the gold rush with a large inheritance, which he used to invest in land holdings, making him a successful businessman and respected member of the community. In the early 1850′s, China was facing famine, and enacted a ban on exporting rice. Seeing this as an opportunity to corner the market, in 1852, Norton sold all of his land holdings and used the funds to buy an incoming Peruvian ship, loaded with rice. Unfortunately, within a few days, two more rice-laden ships appeared, dropping the market value and subsequently bankrupting the budding entrepreneur. He tried to back out of his contract with the ship’s owner, but in 1857, the Supreme Court of California ruled against him. In 1858, he declared bankruptcy and disappeared.

Norton wouldn’t be seen again until September 17, 1859, when he marched into the offices of the San Francisco Daily Bulletin and demanded they publish the following decree:

“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.”

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