He declares himself Emperor * He abolishes Congress
He Condemns Gov. Wise for Hanging John Brown * He Calls on The Army
He Establishes Absolute Monarchy * He Declines A Gift
He Asks That He Be Crowned * He Commands A Wardrobe Be Supplied
He Fires Abraham Lincoln * He Condemns an Imposter
He Declares Maxmillian a POW * He Calls for Andrew Johnson's Arrest
He Supports a Pioneer Aviator * He Gives Goat Island to Oakland
He Calls for a Bridge * He Calls for an Improved Railroad Switch
He Demands Money * He Raises Capital
He Bans the Sunday Law * He Cheers Prussian Victory
He Denounces Spring Valley Water * He Fires all Public Officials
He Scolds the Chronicle * He Banishes a Traitor
He Demands a Palace * He Punishes the Grand Hotel He Condemns the Nonword "Frisco"
He Calls Again for a Bridge * He Demands a Share of a Railroad
He Protests Mistreatment by Stanford * He Warns Against Forgers
He Calls for Safer Cablecars * He Demands that the City Fathers Heed Him
He Calls for One Religion * He Orders Rooms in the Palace
He Goes Too Far
He calls for a Webring

At the peremtory request 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 past nine years and ten months of San Francisco, California, 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 the Musical Hall of this city on the 1st day of February 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.

September 1859

His Imperial Majesty, Norton I, has issued the following edict, which he desires the Bulletin to spread before the world. Let her rip!

It is represented to us that the universal suffrage, as now existing through the Union, is abused; that 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 to by paying his pro rata of the expense of Government--in consequence of which, WE do hereby abolish Congress, and it is therefore abolished; and WE order and desire the representatives of all parties interested to appear at the Musical Hall of this city on the first of February next, and then and there take the most effective steps to remedy the evil complained of.

October 1859

DISAPPROVING of the act of Gov. Wise of Virginia in hanging Gen. Brown at Charlestown, Va., on 2nd December;
AND CONSIDERING that the said Brown was insane and that he ought to have been sent to the Insane Asylum for capturing the State of Virginia with seventeen men;
NOW KNOW ALL MEN that I do hereby discharge him, Henry A. Wise, from said office, and appoint John C. Breckenridge, of Kentucky, to said office of Governor of our province of Virginia.

December 1859

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.

January 1860

WHEREAS, it is necessary for our Peace, Prosperity and Happiness, as also to the National Advancement of the people of the United States, that they should dissolve the Republican form of government and establish in its stead an Absolute Monarchy;
NOW, THEREFORE, WE, Norton I, by the Grace of God Emperor of the Thirty-three states and the multitude of Territories of the United States of America, do hereby dissolve the Republic of the United States, and it is hereby dissolved;
And all laws made from and after this date, either by the National Congress or any State Legislature, shall be null and of no effect.
All Governors, and all other persons in authority, shall maintain order by enforcing the heretofore existing laws and regulations until the necessary alterations can be effected.
Given under our hand and seal, at Headquarters, San Francisco, this 26th day of July, 1860.

Know ye whom it may concern that We, Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, have heard serious complaints that our wardrobe is a national disgrace and even His Majesty, the King of Pain, has had his sympathy excited so far as to offer us a suit of clothing, which we have a delicacy in accepting. Therefore we warn those whose duty it is to attend to these affairs that their scalps are in danger if our said need is unheeded.

Probable forgery, circa 1862

We do hereby command the Leaders of the Hebrew, Catholic and Protestant Churches to sanctify and have us crowned Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.
Given under our hand and Seal of State this 10th day of July, 1862.

WHEREAS, avaricious persons and others are conspiring against our person, right and dignity by refusing to supply us with suitable clothing, although repeatedly requested to do so; and
WHEREAS, the national dignity and rights are thereby injured;
NOW, THEREFORE, we command that you proceed on receipt of this our decree forthwith to the tailors, Walter and Tompkins, on Montgomery Street of this city, and then and there proceed to take the rivets out of their shears and prohibit any person from repairing them or furnish them with new ones until they shall furnish us with our clothing, which they have long ago been requested to do.
Given under our hand this 11th day of September, 1862.

We, Norton I, do hereby decree that the offices of President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House of Representatives are, from and after this date, abolished.
We further decree that the Senate of the United States elect a prominent Democrat as their presiding officer, to act as President until the next election, and to reconstruct the Cabinet according to our wishes hereafter to be declared.
Done at our palace this 21st day of December, A.D. 1862.

Some say that this was a forgery - Cf. Drury, 1986, p. 89


Off with his head! So much for cooking other people's geese. The legitimate authorities of New York are hereby commanded to seize upon the person of one Stellifer, styling himself King or Prince of the House of David, and send him in chains to San Francisco, California, on trial before our Imperial Court on various charges of fraud, alleged against him in the public prints.

Probable forgery, circa 1865

To Mr. Seward:
It is my desire that, in case Maximillian will surrender, he be sent here a prisoner of war, but that in the event of his continuing the war, or refusing to surrender, then he be shot.

April 1867


So much for Andy! The Supreme Court of the United States is hereby commanded to try Andrew Johnson for usurpation of our Imperial authority and prerogatives, and if found guilty, behead him or send him here to black the Emperor's boots.

Probable forgery, circa 1868


Whereas, we Norton I, "Dei Gratia" Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, being anxious for the future fame and honor of the residents of San Francisco, do hereby command all our good and loyal subjects to furnish the means and exert their best skill and advance money to make Mr. Marriot's aerial machine a success.
Given at San Francisco, Cal., this 25th day of July, A.D. 1869, in the seventeenth year of our reign.

WHEREAS, the Oaklanders are quite a well-behaved people, and may remain so if not brought in contact with the vicious and profane, and
WHEREAS, it is our purpose and desire that Oakland and San Francisco shall be neighborly, but view each other afar off;
NOW, THEREFORE, we, Norton I, Dei Gratia Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, do order and direct the city engineers of both cities shall cause the space between Goat Island and Oakland to be filled in with dirt taken from Mount Diablo, and that suitable wharves for ocean steamers be erected along the front of the same; whereof fail not under our royal displeasure.
Given under our hand this 13th day of August, A.D. 1869, in the City of San Francisco.

A possible forgery, Cf. Drury, p. 142.

WHEREAS, it is our pleasure to acquiesce in all means of civilization and population:
NOW, THEREFORE, we, Norton I, Dei Gratia Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, do order and direct first, that Oakland shall be the coast termination of the Central Pacific Railroad; secondly, that a suspension bridge be constructed from the improvements lately ordered by our royal decree at Oakland Point to Yerba Buena, from thence to the mountain range of Sacilleto, and from thence to the Farallones, to be of sufficient strength and size for a railroad; and thirdy, the Central Pacific Railroad Company are charged with the carrying out of this work, for purposes that will hereafter appear. Whereof fail not under pain of death.
Given under our hand this 18th day of August, A.D. 1869.

Possible forgery, Cf. Drury, p. 143.

[A short preface by the Collector: Shortly after the transcontinental railroad opened, a pair of trains ran head on due to a switchman's faulty timepiece. Ambrose Bierce discovered a notice which read thusly:
Hereafter, when two trains moving in opposite directions are approaching each other on separate tracks, conductors and engineers will be required to bring their respective trains to a dead halt before the point of meeting, and will be very careful not to proceed until each train has passed the other.
Norton claimed to have invented a switch which would work itself.

The Emperor desires that there should be a thoroughly practical and mechanical Switch, and his ideas improved upon so that Europe will be glad to pay America for the patent.

October 1869

WHEREAS, the First National Bank refused to honor a small check of $100, to pay the value of a model for a Railway Switch invented by us, thereby endangering our private personal interest to a large estate:
AND, WHEREAS, it is publicly notorious that one or two of the Directors have large amounts in trust belonging to our personal estate;
NOW, THEREFORE, we, Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, do hereby decree the confiscation to the State of all interest of said Bank as security for any losses we may sustain by reason of their acts.

October 1869

We, Norton I, by Grace of God Emperor of the United States of America and Protector of Mexico, being aware of the deplorable conditions affecting finances and desiring above all to alleviate suffering and afford to all our people a sound and safe security for their savings, have caused to be issued Treasury Certificates which are secured by all property of the Empire, and will be paid out of my private fortune if necessary, and which I decree shall be accepted everywhere as of the same value as gold coin or currency of the Realm. In the name of God, Amen.


We, Norton I, Emperor of the United States of America and Protector of Mexico, do hereby decree and ordain that for the period of one week from and after the date hereof and beginning forthwith, the people shall indulge in continuous rejoicings and most fervent prayers of thanksgiving, for that the God of Hosts, in His Majesty and Wisdom, has lent great prowess to the arms of our friends and blood-cousins the Prussians and led them to immortal victory for the greater glory of God and the Universal Brotherhood of Man. In hoc signos vinces.


WHEREAS, it our intention to endeavor to obtain some alteration in the doctrine of the Church, by which the Hebrew and Christian faiths will become united; as also by which the foreign churches will become Americanized; now,
THEREFORE, we, Norton I, Emperor [etc.], do hereby prohibit the enforcement of the Sunday Law until our object is obtained and one Sunday established.


WHEREAS, the Chronicle of last Sunday, in the course of noticing the events which took place on Saturday afternoon and evening at the French Fair, then being held at the Pavilion, [referred] to us personally as "San Francisco's priveleged bummer," making false representations as to the value of our national scrip, thereby hoping to injure our person and prevent the sale of the scrip;
NOW, THEREFORE, we issue this decree to correct the erroneous impression which the Chronicle sought to create. Our scrip sold at $150 premium, which the purchaser generously donated to the Fair. As to the Chronicle calling us names, we would deem this attack too contemptible and beneath our notice, if it were not for the proscriptive policy of the press, with few honorable exceptions, which is undermining our government.



WHEREAS, one Phillipmagilder Alamagoozalum Whangdoodlum Larryum Murrayum is engaged in plotting with conspirators to usurp our prerogatives and is a traitor to our person and scepter; and
WHEREAS, all movements of such nature tend to weaken the stability of our government at home, and cause it to fall into contempt and ridicule with foreign Nations;
NOW, THEREFORE, we, Norton I, Dei Gratia Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, hereby decree that said Phillipmagilder Alamagoozalum Whangdoodlum Larryum Murrayum be appointed Chief of Police to ex-Emperor Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, and that he forthwith leave our realm to fill such an appointment.
September 13, 1870

Forged by Philip Magilder and Larry Murray

WHEREAS, our friends and adherent are dissatisfied that we are not better lodged, and hold that we ought to have a suitable palace years ago;
WHEREAS, the treasonable proscriptive acts of some of the hotel keepers of this city have kept us out of decent rooms for our accomodations, so that we have been unable to make our family arrangements in order.
NOW, THEREFORE, we do hereby command the proprietors of the Grand Hotel to forthwith furnish us with rooms, under penalty of being banished.
September 21st, 1870.


The taxpayer is now feeling the effects of universal suffrage and the American vote; and Whereas; the fraudulent system which the politicians have engendered cannot give the taxpayer his pro-rata of the spoils.
NOW THEREFORE, We Norton I, Deo Gratias, do hereby prohibit the Water Commissioners from signing the Spring Valley Water bill under penalty of decapitation until a sounder system shall have been adopted.
Given under our hand and seal.


The Public Officials having again notoriously betrayed the confidence and trust imposed in them by a trusting people; and having shamefully disregarded the public interest and the people's welfare to feather their own nests; now, therefore, We, Norton I, Emperor of America and Protector of Mexico, do hereby order all such Officials to resign forthwith, and do declare their said offices vacant from the date hereof.


Whereas, the Grand Hotel, hitherto our headquarters, is in rebellion; now, therefore, we, Norton I, do hereby command the Water Companies to close down on them, and the Gas Company to give them no light, so as to bring them to terms.

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.



The following is decreed and ordered to be carried into execution as soon as convenient:

  1. That a suspension bridge be built from Oakland Point to Goat Island, and then to Telegraph Hill; provided such bridge can be built without injury to the navigable waters of the Bay of San Francisco.
  2. That the Central Pacific Railroad Company be granted franchises to lay down tracks and run cars from Telegraph Hill and along the city front to Mission Bay.
  3. That all deeds by the Washington Government since the establishment of our Empire are hereby decreed null and void unless our Imperial signature is first obtained thereto.
March 1872

Whereas, one third interest in the Central Pacific Railroad, being held in trust for us in the name of President Leland Stanford, and whereas it is necessary in order to give credit and prestige to our Empire that we should have absolute possession of the said interest; now, therefore, we....do hereby command Mr. Stanford to forthwith grant us possession and save the trouble of legal proceedings.


WHEREAS, the directors of the Central Pacific Railroad are guilty of insurrection and rebellion against our personal prerogative and dignity by allowing their employees to tax us on making use of their road; and Mr. Stanford is guilty of fraud in illegally taking possession of our interests and refusing to account to us;
NOW, THEREFORE, we, Norton I, do hereby command our personal friend, Hon. Mr. Luttrell of Siskiyou, to forthwith bring articles of impeachment to compel him to give us our rights.


Whereas we are informed that the screw which works the Clay Street Railroad is not strong enough for that purpose, and that it is, consequently, dangerous to the lives of the passengers; also that the dummy is a useless appendage. Now, therefore, the Directors of the company are hereby ordered to see that precautions are taken to make travel on said railroad perfectly safe by using a screw with at least twenty-four inches diameter.

August 1872

WHEREAS, there is every now and then a street report that the Emperor has received a telegram, or that he has done so and so, and on investigation found to be without foundation or fact;
WHEREAS, we are anxious that there should be no deception, and also that no imposter should make use of our authority;
KNOW, THEREFORE, all whom it may concern that no act is legal unless it has our imperial signature.


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.

WHEREAS, there are great commotions in different quarters of the terrestrial globe, arising from discussing the question, "The Purification of the Bible--its True and False Lights," and fears are entertained that a war may break out at some remote point and spread all over the world, carrying in its winding course death, pestilence, famine, devastation and ruin;
WHEREAS such a state of affairs is to be deplored by all liberal-minded Christians, who oppose bigotry, charlatanism, and humbuggery, and who follow the golden maxim of the lamented Lincoln, "With malice toward none--with charity for all";
AND WHEREAS, Religion is like a beautiful garden, wherein the False Lights may be compared to the poppies, which fall to the ground, decay and are no more, the True Lights...bloom in everlasting etherealism, blessing forever the Creator and the Christian world by their Love and Truth;
NOW, THEREFORE, we, Norton I [etc.], do hereby command that all communities select delegates to a Bible Convention, to be held in the City of San Francisco, State of California, U.S.A., on the second day of January, 1873, for the purpose of eliminating all doubtful passages contained in the present printed edition of the Bible, and that measures be [adopted] towards the obliteration of all religious sects and the establishment of an Universal Religion.


Whereas, it is our intention to take an Empress, and in consideration of the visits by the Royalty abroad, we, Norton I, Dei Gratia Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, do hereby command the builders of the Palace Hotel to fit up a portion of their building for our Imperial Residence, as becoming the dignity of a great and hopeful nation.


[Collector's Note: The following proclamation got the Emperor Norton, who had previously enjoyed the patronage of the California Appeal's Peter Anderson, banned from that periodical. The issue was libel.]

WHEREAS, a person styling himself Charles R. Peters was at the time of the drawing at the Mercantile Library lottery accused of appropriating the capital prize, which was won by Norton I, and intended by the Emperor for chartitable distribution;
AND WHEREAS, the said Peters is now attempting by misrepresentation and false assertions to induce emigrants to purchase worthless land at a "town" which he calls Newark (but which has neither local habitation nor name outside of the imagination of said Peters);
NOW, THEREFORE, this is to caution all persons against being misled or deceived by the said Peters, and the Grand Jury is hereby instructed to inquire into said matters, and to bring said Peters to trial.

1875, it is possible that this was a forgery, Cf. Drury, pp. 191-192


The following is decreed and ordered to be carried into execution as soon as convenient:

  1. That a Webring be created, beginning at http://www.notfrisco.com/nortonring/index.html, and thence through any number of sites back to that same URL.
  2. That all sites with information pertaining to the history, arts, culture, news, publications, and ecetera in the City of San Francisco be granted franchises to become part of this ring.
  3. That anyone placing on a webpage the abominable word "Frisco," which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor, and shall be expelled from the Imperial Webring as penalty.
Definate forgery, February 1996

Return to the Madness of Joshua Norton
Study his obituary
Consider a Diagnosis of Joshua Norton
Read about San Francisco Eccentrics
Consult a Bibliography
Return to Tales from Colma
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