Monday, September 17, 2007

September 17, 1787:

Constitution Day

Today is the day in 1787 that most of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed off on the document and submitted it to the Articles of Confederation Congress, which passed it along to the states without comment for ratification. Thus it became the document that originated the presidency, which has now been in continuous existence for more than two centuries.

These days September 17 is known as "Constitution Day," an occasion most of the nation ignores.

Today is also the day in 1859 when Joshua Norton (pictured) of San Francisco proposed -- make that proclaimed -- an alternate form of government for the several states, namely an empire, with him as Emperor Norton I. In letters he distributed to various local newspapers, he said:

"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 I, Emperor of the United States."

Until his death in 1880, Norton I issued various decrees to the amusement of the public, including the abolition of the United States itself, and of the Republican and Democratic parties. He also became "Protector of Mexico" along the way. Some 10,000 people showed up at his funeral.

More on Norton I here.

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