Emperor Donald: Hereby Ordered

“Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China … Also, I am ordering all carriers, including Fed Ex, Amazon, UPS and the Post Office …” Tweet-Decree from Emperor Donald, August 23, 2019

Here’s an idea. Let’s declare Donald Trump Emperor of the United States, his august personage to be known forthwith as Donald I. There’s precedent for this.

In the latter half of the 19th century, in San Francisco, a failed and stone broke former businessman named Joshua Abraham Norton, declared himself to be Emperor of the United States. His declaration, issued on September 15, 1859, was published in the San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, apparently for its comic effect.

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 San Francisco, California, declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these United States … [signed] NORTON I., Emperor of the United States

It didn’t take long for the entire city to get in on the joke, and Norton I was soon adopted as a sort of mascot for the city. As Emperor Norton walked the streets of San Francisco, he was greeted with respect and deference by the citizenry. Businessmen throughout the city covered his bar tabs and paid for his meals. Norton eventually issued his own currency, which was recognized as legal tender at the various eateries he frequented.

When Norton’s own clothing became a bit too worn and, well, ripe for the general public, soldiers at the Presidio Army Base issued him an appropriately elaborate blue uniform with gold epaulettes. When that uniform eventually wore out, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors bought him new imperial habiliments. In his gratitude, Norton issued a “patent of nobility in perpetuity” for each supervisor.

Although Norton’s many decrees were ignored in general, they were routinely published in local newspapers. Some of his decrees actually made a certain amount of sense. For example, one decree ordered the construction of a bridge and tunnel to connect San Francisco with its transbay sister city Oakland. Today we have both the bridge and tunnel.

One of his decrees might go over in a bigly way today …

It was all great fun for the people of the city. When Norton I’s reign finally came to an end with his death in January 1880, 10,000 people turned out for his city-sponsored funeral procession.

So I propose using this precedent with Donald Trump. We’ll declare him to be Emperor of the United States, dress him in proper full regalia and let him strut about the country issuing nonsensical decrees, which can be published on Twitter for all to appreciate and ignore. This would simply mean recognizing the reality of our political sphere as it currently exists. But it will place the madness in a context that can be more easily dealt with. Instead of fearing what Donald I’s decrees might mean for the economy or world peace, we’ll be at liberty to simply laugh at his insanity and go along with the joke.

When Emperor Donald is called to meet his maker (I wonder if any maker will actually claim responsibility?) we can pour into the streets and celebrate … er, mourn the passing of our mad emperor. It will all be great fun.

Long live Emperor Donald!


Photo credits: The picture of Emperor Norton is from the Bancroft Library of the University of California. It is in the public domain. Image of decree is from the Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco and is also in the public domain.

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