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Born in England, Norton spent most of his early life in South Africa. After the death of his mother in 1843 and his father in 1845, he sailed west to America. Joshua Norton arrived in San Francisco in September 1847, a part of the country relatively isolated from the war-torn areas. He had inherited an estate in California from his father, along with over a quarter million dollars. Using this initial investiment, Norton fianced a rather substantial private army of frontiersmen and mercenaries. In 1849, Norton assumed responsibility of protecting California's borders becoming the Protector of Califronia ,allying with various native American nations in the Utah and Oregon territories. With the help of the Native tribes in Utah and Oregon Norton quickly seized de facto control of most of the West Coast by 1852 . He capitalized on the rice embargo from China in order to bolster the economy of this region, and thus funding a larger military.
War of American Unification
With Joshua Norton having secured most of the West Coast , Norton began asserting his control over the region by establishing his own Warlord Faction , Greater California were he began expanding his military as he began competing with other regional warlords such as the Greater Texas and the Rocky Mountains. In 1853 Joshua Norton seized control of Kansas defeating the Kansas Warlord Faction only to be kicked out by both Greater Texas and the Rocky Mountain Faction shortly after. Dispite his defeat in Kansas , Norton's Native American Allies began launching raids against the Rocky Mountain Factions allowing Norton to invade the Rocky Mountain Faction defeating the Warlord Faction in 1855 forging an alliance with the Rocky Mountain's Factions former enemies the Midwest Faction giving Norton access to the Southeast as Norton formed alliances with more factions in 1856 allowing him to defeat the Greater Texas Faction in 1857. With the biggest and strongest American Factions out of his way Norton began expanding his influence having de facto control over the U.S territories by 1859. However Joshua Norton had become completely disgruntled with collapse of the legal and political structures of the United States and he eventually declare himself Emperor of America (though his official coronation in 1862)
"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's speech in Chicago declaring himself Emperor of America.
Shortly after his self declaration as Emperor Norton and his allies launched a final assault on the last remaining faction , the militaristic extremist New England defeating the Faction and securing Washington D.C on March 11, 1860. uniting the United States at last.
Early ReignNorton issued numerous decrees on matters of the state. After assuming absolute control over the country, he saw no further need for a legislature, and on October 12, 1859, he issued a decree formally abolishing the United States Congress, which he had maintained in symbolic form as a conference of his supporters during the Unification. In it, Norton observed:
Norton ordered all interested parties to assemble at Platt's Music Hall in San Francisco in February 1860 to "remedy the evil complained of".
...fraud and corruption prevent a fair and proper expression of the public voice; that open violation of the laws are constantly occurring, caused by mobs, parties, factions and undue influence of political sects; that the citizen has not that protection of person and property which he is entitled.
- During this time, Norton officially relocated the capital of America from Washington to San Francisco, remodeling the Platt's Music Hall into a grand capital building. Political influence over America would forever be redirected to the West Coast. At the same time, Norton instituted titles of nobility in America, although retaining an absolute monarchy, as a way of disceminating power to his military supporters.
WHEREAS, a body of men calling themselves the National Congress are now in session in Washington City, in violation of our Imperial edict of the 12th of October last, declaring the said Congress abolished;
WHEREAS, it is necessary for the repose of our Empire that the said decree should be strictly complied with;
NOW, THEREFORE, we do hereby Order and Direct Major-General Scott, the Command-in-Chief of our Armies, immediately upon receipt of this, our Decree, to proceed with a suitable force and clear the Halls of Congress.
In the face of a new Civil War that could have destroyed the Empire before it even began, Norton compromised. In 1860 he reformed congress. Neither house had any more than symbolic power. Norton's battle against the elite class of America persisted throughout his reign, as he always asserted the superiority of imperial power over wealth and privilege, but dared not over antagonize them lest they rise up in a group.
- The largest rebellion against Norton's rule would be from a collection of nobles in the southeastern region, led by the Margivate of Carolina, in December 1861. This rebellion was finally crushed and defeated by March 1862.
In 1862 Norton issued a mandate ordering both the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches to publicly ordain him as "Emperor". This began an unprecedented period of religious tolerance in the Empire, comparable with the Elizabethan era in Britain.
- Norton's offiical coronation took place in Independence Hall of Philadelphia on August 31, 1862. It was offiicated by both the Archbishop of Baltimore, the General Secretary of the World Church Council, and the Prophet-President of the Church of Latter-Day Saints.
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.
- In 1862, the American Empire intervened on the side of Mexico against the French, in continuous enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine. With the defeat of the French forces at the Battle of Puebla, Norton assumed control of the nation as an unofficial protectorate. This was the beginning of America's political invovement from Europe, although Norton would seek to normalize relations with Napoleon III in later years.
Norton was a visionary, and his Imperial Decrees exhibited profound foresight. He formed the League of Nations from the old Concert of Europe, and he explicitly forbade any form of conflict between religions or their sects within the Empire, nor did he condone it abroad.
- This League of Nations first met informally in Paris in 1869, with represntatives from the monarchies of Britain, France, America, Brazil, and Russia. Although never truley effective in their initial mission, it laid the groundwork for the stronger league of nations which was formed after Norton's death.
InfrastructureEditNorton saw fit to decree the construction of a suspension bridge and tunnel connecting Oakland and San Francisco. When the City Fathers complained that it was an unnecessary expense, he responded firmly:
Construction of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge began on July 9, 1873 and was completed on November 12, 1876. The construction of Bay Area Rapid Transit's Transbay Tube was not completed until 1909, with Transbay rail service commencing in 1914.
WHEREAS, we issued our decree ordering the citizens of San Francisco and Oakland to appropriate funds for the survey of a suspension bridge from Oakland Point via Goat Island; also for a tunnel; and to ascertain which is the best project; and whereas the said citizens have hitherto neglected to notice our said decree; and whereas we are determined our authority shall be fully respected; now, therefore, we do hereby command the arrest by the army of both the Boards of City Fathers if they persist in neglecting our decrees.
Given under our royal hand and seal at San Francisco, this 17th day of September, 1872.
Norton spent much time inspecting the American road system, trying to restore national communication to it former levels. During his inspections, Norton would examine the condition of the sidewalks and cable cars, the state of repair of public property, and the appearance of police officers. Norton would also frequently give lengthy philosophical expositions on a variety of topics to anyone within earshot.
- American technological and industrial capacities exploded under Norton's reign, and he was cosnsitently at the head of expanding their use across the realm. San Fracisco was the second most modern city in the world at the time of Norton's death.
During the 1860s and 1870s, there were occasional anti-Chinese demonstrations in the poorer districts of San Francisco. Riots, sometimes resulting in fatalities, took place. Emperor Norton publicly opposed this racial violence, personally negotiating an end to many hostilities and urging his subjects to remember they were brothers in Christ.
- Norton's decrees were instrumental for the abolution of segregation in America. Although slavary had all but dissappeared during the warlord era, many institutions for slaves continued sporatically across the country, until it was outlawed offiically by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1864.
Later Reign and Death
During the later years of Norton's reign, he formed a close alliance with Emperor Napoleon III, which he sealed with a marriage between his daughter and Prince Louis Napoléon. He visited the Empire of Brazil and personally negotiated a treaty of mutual support and cooperation with Emperor Pedro II. Norton was never miserly. Although he maintained the monarchy in a state of regal grandeur “due and appropriate” he gave vast amount of money to the poor.
- Seeing the weakness of the League of Nations, Norton kept in close alliance between both Britain and Brazil, in order to maintain his protectorate status over the Americas.
His advisors exerted more and more control over his policies later in his reign.
On the evening of January 8, 1880, Norton collapsed on the corner of California Street and Dupont Street (now Grant Avenue) in front of Old St. Mary's Church while on his way to a lecture at the California Academy of Sciences. His guards rushed him to the imperial carriage, to be taken to a hospital. He died on route. The following day the San Francisco Chronicle published his obituary on its front page under the headline "Le Roi est Mort" ("The King is Dead"). In a tone tinged with sadness, the article respectfully reported that, "[o]n the reeking pavement, in the darkness of a moon-less night under the dripping rain..., Norton I, by the grace of God, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, departed this life". The Morning Call, another leading San Francisco newspaper, published a front-page article using an almost identical sentence as a headline: "Norton the First, by the grace of God Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico, departed this life.
Persona of the Emperor
Norton was loved and revered by the citizens of the Empire. He enjoyed fine food, and regularly ate at the finest restaurants in San Francisco; restaurateurs took it upon themselves to add brass plaques in their entrances declaring "[by] Appointment to his Imperial Majesty, Emperor Norton I of the United States." No play or musical performance in San Francisco would dare to open without reserving balcony seats for Norton.
He had two dogs, Bummer and Lazarus, which were also national celebrities. Norton shared his meals with the dogs.
In 1867, a policeman named Armand Barbier attempted to assassinate Emperor Norton. The attempted assassination outraged the citizens and sparked scathing editorials in the newspapers. Barbier was arrested, but Norton magnanimously granted an Imperial Pardon to the errant policeman.
- The would-be assassin got surprisingly close to the person of the Emperor, as Norton was known to frequent the streets of San Francisco without any guard or company. His intentions were unclear, but he was no doubt mentally derranged.
Norton designed a new, Imperial seal for the Empire of the United States and issued new money. These notes came in denominations between fifty cents and ten dollars. Norton confirmed the position of those who supported him and crushed with armed force nobles who defied him.
Norton arranged a political marriage between himself and Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Beatrice. Norton wrote to the Queen on several occasions. He received telegrams from Emperor Alexander II of Russia, congratulating Norton on his forthcoming marriage to Princess Beatrice, and from the French senate’s leader of the opposition Jules Grévy, predicting that such a union would be disastrous to world peace. This marriage was particularly useful in giving the Empire easier access to the resources of the British Empire. It also resulted in the formation of the House of Norton
- The couple lived in a quiet marriage, and produced a number of daughters to the royal family .
Joshua Norton II (3 November 1886 - 23 February 1938)
Andrew Norton (
Victoria Norton ( 24 October 1887 - 15 April 1948)
Alexander Norton (21 May 1889 - 23 April 1938)
John Norton II ( 3 October 1891-27 October 1933)