- At the pre-emptory 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.
- Letter to the editors of various San Francisco newspapers (17 September 1859)
- Being desirous of allaying the dissensions of party strife now existing within our realm, I do hereby dissolve and abolish the Democratic and Republican parties, and also do hereby decree the disfranchisement and imprisonment, for not more than 10, nor less than five, years, to all persons leading to any violation of this our imperial decree.
- "Imperial Decree" dated 12th Day of August 1869, published in The San Francisco Herald (13 August 1869)
- The following is decreed and ordered to be carried into execution as soon as convenient:
I. 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.
II. 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.
III. 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.
- "Imperial Decree" (23 March 1872)
- 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.
- Proclamation of 1872, quoted in It Happened In San Francisco (2006) by Maxine Cass, p. 44
Quotes about Norton
- Last night at 8:15, Joshua Norton, universally known, and known almost only as Emperor Norton, died suddenly in this city. The similar death of the first citizen of San Francisco, or the highest municipal officer of the city, would not have caused so general a sensation as that of the harmless old man whose monomania never distorted at least a heart which was wholesome, and hardly affected a mind which had once been of the shrewdest, other than in the method of his sovereignty of the United States and Protectorate of Mexico.
- On the reeking pavement, in the darkness of a moonless night under the dripping rain, and surrounded by a hastily gathered crowd of wondering strangers, Norton I, by the grace of God, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, departed this life. Other sovereigns have died with no more of kindly care — other sovereigns have died as they have lived with all the pomp of earthly majesty, but death having touched them, Norton I rises up the exact peer of the haughtiest King or Kaiser that ever wore a crown. Perhaps he will rise more than the peer of most of them. He had a better claim to kindly consideration than that his lot "forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne and shut the gates of mercy on mankind." Through his harmless proclamations can always be traced an innate gentleness of heat, a desire to effect uses and a courtesy, the possession of which would materially improve the bitterful living princes whose names will naturally suggest themselves.
- "Le Roi Est Mort" in The San Francisco Chronicle (9 January 1880)
- The heritage of honor and integrity that he had handed down while in his affluence, was never squandered nor dissipated, and so he bore the respect and goodwill of the best of his people to the end. The jokes played upon him had been harmless, and the merriment that he sometimes excited had been without the bitter venom of ridicule.
If sincere, his was a career of long heroic sacrifice; if an imposter, he must be ranked as one of the most extraordinary of that class who has yet lived. He left no successor. The emoluments of an unattractive throne and an empty royalty were not alluring; there was none strong enough to follow him; and finally the world was entering upon an epoch of materialism in which there is no provision for such a monarch. From that strange stage through the doors of oblivion, thus passes forever Norton I, Emperor of the United States, and Protector of Mexico. L'Empereur est mort.
- Everybody understands Mickey Mouse. Few understand Hermann Hesse. Only a handful understood Albert Einstein. And nobody understood Emperor Norton.
- His madness keeps him sane.
- They say that the world rests on the backs of 36 living saints — 36 unselfish men and women. Because of them the world continues to exist. They are the secret kings and queens of this world. ... I've met a lot of kings, and emperors and heads of state in my time, Joshua. I've met them all. And you know something? I think I liked you best.
- Of all our visitors, I believe I preferred Emperor Norton; the very mention of whose name reminds me I am doing scanty justice to the folks of San Francisco. In what other city would a harmless madman who supposed himself emperor of the two Americas have been so fostered and encouraged? Where else would even the people of the streets have respected the poor soul's illusion? Where else would bankers and merchants have received his visits, cashed his cheques, and submitted to his small assessments? Where else would he have been suffered to attend and address the exhibition days of schools and colleges? Where else, in God's green earth, have taken his pick of restaurants, ransacked the bill of fare, and departed scatheless?
- At a comparatively early date, I saw him in the exercise of his public functions. His Majesty entered the office — a portly, rather flabby man, with the face of a gentleman, rendered unspeakably pathetic and absurd by the great sabre at his side and the peacock's feather in his hat. "I have called to remind you, Mr. Pinkerton, that you are somewhat in arrear of taxes," he said, with old-fashioned, stately courtesy. "Well, your Majesty, what is the amount?" asked Jim; and when the figure was named (it was generally two or three dollars), paid upon the nail and offered a bonus in the shape of Thirteen Star. "I am always delighted to patronise native industries," said Norton the First. "San Francisco is public-spirited in what concerns its Emperor; and indeed, sir, of all my domains, it is my favourite city."
- Robert Louis Stevenson, in The Wrecker (1892)
- Emperor Norton Archives
- Museum of San Francisco
- Emperor Norton I
- The Madness of Norton I Pages 1-2 -3
- Obituary of Norton I
- Facsimile and transcript of R. E. Cowan's 1923 article from Quarterly of the California Historical Society
- America's (Last) Emperor by Tony Leather at Kudzu monthly
- Mike Knauer's bibliography on Norton (formerly on Discordia.org)