|It was a Royalist sheet, subsidized by the Count de Chambord and
published in the interest of the Bourbons. Until 1888 Harden-Hickey was
its editor, and even by his enemies it must be said that he served his
employers with zeal. During the seven years in which the paper amused
Paris and annoyed the republican government, as its editor Harden-Hickey
was involved in forty-two lawsuits, for different editorial
indiscretions, fined three hundred thousand francs, and was a principal
in countless duels.
To his brother editors his standing interrogation was: "Would you prefer
to meet me upon the editorial page, or in the Bois de Boulogne?" Among
those who met him in the Bois were Aurelien Scholl, H. Lavenbryon, M.
Taine, M. de Cyon, Philippe Du Bois, Jean Moreas.
In 1888, either because, his patron the Count de Chambord having died,
there was no more money to pay the fines, or because the patience of
the government was exhausted, _Triboulet_ ceased to exist, and
Harden-Hickey, claiming the paper had been suppressed and he himself
exiled, crossed to London.
From there he embarked upon a voyage around the world, which lasted two
years, and in the course of which he discovered the island kingdom of
which he was to be the first and last king. Previous to his departure,
having been divorced from the Countess de Saint-Pery, he placed his boy
and girl in the care of a fellow-journalist and very dear friend, the
Count de la Boissiere, of whom later we shall hear more.
Harden-Hickey started around the world on the _Astoria_, a British
merchant vessel bound for India by way of Cape Horn, Captain Jackson
When off the coast of Brazil the ship touched at the uninhabited island
of Trinidad. Historians of James the First say that it was through
stress of weather that the _Astoria_ was driven to seek refuge there,
but as, for six months of the year, to make a landing on the island is
almost impossible, and as at any time, under stress of weather, Trinidad
would be a place to avoid, it is more likely Jackson put in to replenish
his water-casks, or to obtain a supply of turtle meat.
Or it may have been that, having told Harden-Hickey of the derelict
island, the latter persuaded the captain to allow him to land and
explore it. Of this, at least, we are certain, a boat was sent ashore,
Harden-Hickey went ashore in it, and before he left the island, as a
piece of no man's land, belonging to no country, he claimed it in his
own name, and upon the beach raised a flag of his own design.
The island of Trinidad claimed by Harden-Hickey must not be confused
with the larger Trinidad belonging to Great Britain and lying off
The English Trinidad is a smiling, peaceful spot of great tropical
beauty; it is one of the fairest places in the West Indies. At every
hour of the year the harbor of Port of Spain holds open its arms to
vessels of every draught. A governor in a pith helmet, a cricket club, a
bishop in gaiters, and a botanical garden go to make it a prosperous
and contented colony. But the little derelict Trinidad, in latitude
20 degrees 30 minutes south, and longitude 29 degrees 22 minutes west,
seven hundred miles from the coast of Brazil, is but a spot upon the
ocean. On most maps it is not even a spot. Except by birds, turtles, and
hideous land-crabs, it is uninhabited; and against the advances of man
its shores are fortified with cruel ridges of coral, jagged limestone
rocks, and a tremendous towering surf which, even in a dead calm, beats
many feet high against the coast.
In 1698 Dr. Halley visited the island, and says he found nothing living
but doves and land-crabs. "Saw many green turtles in sea, but by reason
of the great surf, could catch none."
After Halley's visit, in 1700 the island was settled by a few Portuguese
from Brazil. The ruins of their stone huts are still in evidence. But
Amaro Delano, who called in 1803, makes no mention of the Portuguese;
and when, in 1822, Commodore Owen visited Trinidad, he found nothing
living there save cormorants, petrels, gannets, man-of-war birds, and
"turtles weighing from five hundred to seven hundred pounds."
In 1889 E. F. Knight, who in the Japanese-Russian War represented the
London _Morning Post_, visited Trinidad in his yacht in search of buried
Alexander Dalrymple, in his book entitled "Collection of Voages, chiefly
in the Southern Atlantick Ocean, 1775," tells how, in 1700, he "took
possession of the island in his Majesty's name as knowing it to be
granted by the King's letter patent, leaving a Union Jack flying."
So it appears that before Harden-Hickey seized the island it already had
been claimed by Great Britain, and later, on account of the Portuguese
settlement, by Brazil. The answer Harden-Hickey made to these claims
was that the English never settled in Trinidad, and that the Portuguese
abandoned it, and, therefore, their claims lapsed. In his "prospectus"
of his island, Harden-Hickey himself describes it thus:
"Trinidad is about five miles long and three miles wide. In spite of
its rugged and uninviting appearance, the inland plateaus are rich with
"Prominent among this is a peculiar species of bean, which is not only
edible, but extremely palatable. The surrounding seas swarm with fish,
which as yet are wholly unsuspicious of the hook. Dolphins, rock-cod,
pigfish, and blackfish may be caught as quickly as they can be hauled
out. I look to the sea birds and the turtles to afford our principal
source of revenue. Trinidad is the breeding-place of almost the entire
feathery population of the South Atlantic Ocean. The exportation of
guano alone should make my little country prosperous. Turtles visit the
island to deposit eggs, and at certain seasons the beach is literally
alive with them. The only drawback to my projected kingdom is the fact
that it has no good harbor and can be approached only when the sea is
As a matter of fact sometimes months pass before it is possible to
effect a landing.
Another asset of the island held out by the prospectus was its great
store of buried treasure. Before Harden-Hickey seized the island, this
treasure had made it known. This is the legend. In 1821 a great store
of gold and silver plate plundered from Peruvian churches had been
concealed on the islands by pirates near Sugar Loaf Hill, on the shore
of what is known as the Southwest Bay. Much of this plate came from
the cathedral at Lima, having been carried from there during the war
of independence when the Spanish residents fled the country. In their
eagerness to escape they put to sea in any ship that offered, and these
unarmed and unseaworthy vessels fell an easy prey to pirates. One of
these pirates on his death-bed, in gratitude to his former captain, told
him the secret of the treasure. In 1892 this captain was still living,
in Newcastle, England, and although his story bears a family resemblance
to every other story of buried treasure, there were added to the tale of
the pirate some corroborative details. These, in twelve years, induced
five different expeditions to visit the island. The two most important
were that of E. F. Knight and one from the Tyne in the bark _Aurea_.
In his "Cruise of the _Alerte_," Knight gives a full description of the
island, and of his attempt to find the treasure. In this, a landslide
having covered the place where it was buried, he was unsuccessful.
But Knight's book is the only source of accurate information concerning
Trinidad, and in writing his prospectus it is evident that Harden-Hickey
was forced to borrow from it freely. Knight himself says that the most
minute and accurate description of Trinidad is to be found in the "Frank
Mildmay" of Captain Marryat. He found it so easy to identify each spot
mentioned in the novel that he believes the author of "Midshipman Easy"
himself touched there.
After seizing Trinidad, Harden-Hickey rounded the Cape and made north to
Japan, China, and India. In India he became interested in Buddhism, and
remained for over a year questioning the priests of that religion and
studying its tenets and history.
On his return to Paris, in 1890, he met Miss Annie Harper Flagler,
daughter of John H. Flagler. A year later, on St. Patrick's Day,
1891, at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Miss Flagler became the
Baroness Harden-Hickey. The Rev. John Hall married them.
For the next two years Harden-Hickey lived in New York, but so quietly
that, except that he lived quietly, it is difficult to find out anything
concerning him. The man who, a few years before, had delighted Paris
with his daily feuilletons, with his duels, with his forty-two lawsuits,
who had been the master of revels in the Latin Quarter, in New York
lived almost as a recluse, writing a book on Buddhism. While he was in
New York I was a reporter on the _Evening Sun_, but I cannot recall ever
having read his name in the newspapers of that day, and I heard of him
only twice; once as giving an exhibition of his water-colors at the
American Art Galleries, and again as the author of a book I found in a
store in Twenty-second Street, just east of Broadway, then the home of
the Truth Seeker Publishing Company.
It was a grewsome compilation and had just appeared in print. It was
called "Euthanasia, or the Ethics of Suicide." This book was an apology
or plea for self-destruction. In it the baron laid down those occasions
when he considered suicide pardonable, and when obligatory. To support
his arguments and to show that suicide was a noble act, he quoted Plato,
Cicero, Shakespeare, and even misquoted the Bible. He gave a list of
poisons, and the amount of each necessary to kill a human being. To show
how one can depart from life with the least pain, he illustrated the
text with most unpleasant pictures, drawn by himself.
The book showed how far Harden-Hickey had strayed from the teachings
of the Jesuit College at Namur, and of the Church that had made him
All of these two years had not been spent only in New York.
Harden-Hickey made excursions to California, to Mexico, and to Texas,
and in each of these places bought cattle ranches and mines. The money
to pay for these investments came from his father-in-law. But not
directly. Whenever he wanted money he asked his wife, or De la
Boissiere, who was a friend also of Flagler, to obtain it for him.
His attitude toward his father-in-law is difficult to explain. It is not
apparent that Flagler ever did anything which could justly offend him;
indeed, he always seems to have spoken of his son-in-law with tolerance,
and often with awe, as one would speak of a clever, wayward child. But
Harden-Hickey chose to regard Flagler as his enemy, as a sordid man
of business who could not understand the feelings and aspirations of a
genius and a gentleman.
Before Harden-Hickey married, the misunderstanding between his wife's
father and himself began. Because he thought Harden-Hickey was marrying
his daughter for her money, Flagler opposed the union. Consequently,
Harden-Hickey married Miss Flagler without "settlements," and for the
first few years supported her without aid from her father. But his
wife had been accustomed to a manner of living beyond the means of the
soldier of fortune, and soon his income, and then even his capital, was
exhausted. From her mother the baroness inherited a fortune. This was
in the hands of her father as executor. When his own money was gone,
Harden-Hickey endeavored to have the money belonging to his wife placed
to her credit, or to his. To this, it is said, Flagler, on the ground
that Harden-Hickey was not a man of business, while he was, objected,
and urged that he was, and that if it remained in his hands the money
would be better invested and better expended. It was the refusal of
Flagler to intrust Harden-Hickey with the care of his wife's money that
caused the breach between them.
As I have said, you cannot judge Harden-Hickey as you would a
contemporary. With the people among whom he was thrown, his ideas were
entirely out of joint. He should have lived in the days of "The Three
Musketeers." People who looked upon him as working for his own hand
entirely misunderstood him. He was absolutely honest, and as absolutely
without a sense of humor. To him, to pay taxes, to pay grocers' bills,
to depend for protection upon a policeman, was intolerable. He lived
in a world of his own imagining. And one day, in order to make his
imaginings real, and to escape from his father-in-law's unromantic world
of Standard Oil and Florida hotels, in a proclamation to the powers
he announced himself as King James the First of the Principality of
The proclamation failed to create a world crisis. Several of the powers
recognized his principality and his title; but, as a rule, people
laughed, wondered, and forgot. That the daughter of John Flagler was
to rule the new principality gave it a "news interest," and for a few
Sundays in the supplements she was hailed as the "American Queen."
When upon the subject of the new kingdom Flagler himself was
interviewed, he showed an open mind.
"My son-in-law is a very determined man," he said; "he will carry out
any scheme in which he is interested. Had he consulted me about this,
I would have been glad to have aided him with money or advice. My
son-in-law is an extremely well-read, refined, well-bred man. He does
not court publicity. While he was staying in my house he spent nearly
all the time in the library translating an Indian book on Buddhism. My
daughter has no ambition to be a queen or anything else than what she
is--an American girl. But my son-in-law means to carry on this Trinidad
scheme, and--he will."
From his father-in-law, at least, Harden-Hickey could not complain that
he had met with lack of sympathy.
The rest of America was amused; and after less than nine days,
indifferent. But Harden-Hickey, though unobtrusively, none the less
earnestly continued to play the part of king. His friend De la Boissiere
he appointed his Minister of Foreign Affairs, and established in a
Chancellery at 217 West Thirty-sixth Street, New York, and from there
was issued a sort of circular, or prospectus, written by the king, and
signed by "Le Grand Chancelier, Secretaire d'Etat pour les Affaires
Etrangeres, M. le Comte de la Boissiere."
The document, written in French, announced that the new state would
be governed by a military dictatorship, that the royal standard was a
yellow triangle on a red ground, and that the arms of the principality
were "d'Or chape de Gueules." It pointed out naively that those who
first settled on the island would be naturally the oldest inhabitants,
and hence would form the aristocracy. But only those who at home enjoyed
social position and some private fortune would be admitted into this
For itself the state reserved a monopoly of the guano, of the turtles,
and of the buried treasure. And both to discover the treasure and to
encourage settlers to dig and so cultivate the soil, a percentage of the
treasure was promised to the one who found it.
Any one purchasing ten $200 bonds was entitled to a free passage to the
island, and after a year, should he so desire it, a return trip. The
hard work was to be performed by Chinese coolies, the aristocracy
existing beautifully, and, according to the prospectus, to enjoy _"vie
d'un genre tout nouveau, et la recherche de sensations nouvelles."_
To reward his subjects for prominence in literature, the arts, and the
sciences, his Majesty established an order of chivalry. The official
document creating this order reads:
"We, James, Prince of Trinidad, have resolved to commemorate our
accession to the throne of Trinidad by the institution of an Order of
Chivalry, destined to reward literature, industry, science, and the
human virtues, and by these presents have established and do institute,
with cross and crown, the Order of the Insignia of the Cross of
Trinidad, of which we and our heirs and successors shall be the
"Given in our Chancellery the Eighth of the month of December, one
thousand eight hundred and ninety-three, and of our reign, the First
There were four grades: Chevalier, Commander, Grand Officer, and Grand
Cross; and the name of each member of the order was inscribed in
"The Book of Gold." A pension of one thousand francs was given to a
Chevalier, of two thousand francs to a Commander, and of three thousand
francs to a Grand Officer. Those of the grade of Grand Cross were
content with a plaque of eight diamond-studded rays, with, in the
centre, set in red enamel, the arms of Trinidad. The ribbon was red and
A rule of the order read: "The costume shall be identical with that of
the Chamberlains of the Court of Trinidad, save the buttons, which shall
bear the impress of the Crown of the Order."
For himself, King James commissioned a firm of jewelers to construct a
royal crown. In design it was similar to the one which surmounted the
cross of Trinidad. It is shown in the photograph of the insignia. Also,
the king issued a set of postage-stamps on which was a picture of
the island. They were of various colors and denominations, and among
stamp-collectors enjoyed a certain sale.
To-day, as I found when I tried to procure one to use in this book, they
are worth many times their face value.
For some time the affairs of the new kingdom progressed favorably. In
San Francisco, King James, in person, engaged four hundred coolies and
fitted out a schooner which he sent to Trinidad, where it made regular
trips between his principality and Brazil; an agent was established
on the island, and the construction of docks, wharves, and houses
was begun, while at the chancellery in West Thirty-sixth Street, the
Minister of Foreign Affairs was ready to furnish would-be settlers with
And then, out of a smiling sky, a sudden and unexpected blow was struck
at the independence of the little kingdom. It was a blow from which it
In July of 1895, while constructing a cable to Brazil, Great Britain
found the Island of Trinidad lying in the direct line she wished to
follow, and, as a cable station, seized it. Objection to this was made
by Brazil, and at Bahia a mob with stones pelted the sign of the English
By right of Halley's discovery, England claimed the island; as a
derelict from the main land, Brazil also claimed it. Between the rivals,
the world saw a chance for war, and the fact that the island really
belonged to our King James for a moment was forgotten.
But the Minister of Foreign Affairs was at his post. With promptitude
and vigor he acted. He addressed a circular note to all the powers of
Europe, and to our State Department a protest. It read as follows:
"GRANDE CHANCELLERIE DE LA PRINCIPAUTE DE
27 WEST THIRTY-SIXTH STREET,
NEW YORK CITY, U. S. A.,
"NEW YORK, _July_ 30, 1895.
_"To His Excellency Mr. the Secretary of State of the Republic of the
United States of North America, Washington, D. C.:_
"EXCELLENCY.--I have the honor to recall to your memory:
"1. That in the course of the month of September, 1893, Baron
Harden-Hickey officially notified all the Powers of his taking
possession of the uninhabited island of Trinidad; and
"2. That in course of January, 1894, he renewed to all these Powers the
official notification of the said taking of possession, and informed
them at the same time that from that date the land would be known
as 'Principality of Trinidad'; that he took the title of 'Prince of
Trinidad,' and would reign under the name of James I.
"In consequence of these official notifications several Powers have
recognized the new Principality and its Prince, and at all events none
thought it necessary at that epoch to raise objections or formulate
"The press of the entire world has, on the other hand, often acquainted
readers with these facts, thus giving to them all possible publicity. In
consequence of the accomplishment of these various formalities, and
as the law of nations prescribes that 'derelict' territories belong to
whoever will take possession of them, and as the island of Trinidad,
which has been abandoned for years, certainly belongs to the aforesaid
category, his Serene Highness Prince James I was authorized to regard
his rights on the said island as perfectly valid and indisputable.
"Nevertheless, your Excellency knows that recently, in spite of all
the legitimate rights of my august sovereign, an English war-ship
has disembarked at Trinidad a detachment of armed troops and taken
possession of the island in the name of England.
"Following this assumption of territory, the Brazilian Government,
invoking a right of ancient Portuguese occupation (long ago outlawed),
has notified the English Government to surrender the island to Brazil.
"I beg of your Excellency to ask of the Government of the United
States of North America to recognize the Principality of Trinidad as
an independent State, and to come to an understanding with the other
American Powers in order to guarantee its neutrality.
"Thus the Government of the United States of North America will once
more accord its powerful assistance to the cause of right and of
justice, misunderstood by England and Brazil, put an end to a situation
which threatens to disturb the peace, re-establish concord between two
great States ready to appeal to arms, and affirm itself, moreover, as
the faithful interpreter of the Monroe Doctrine.
"In the expectation of your reply please accept, Excellency, the
expression of my elevated consideration.
"The Grand Chancellor, Secretary for Foreign Affairs,
"COMTE DE LA BOISSIERE."
At that time Richard Olney was Secretary of State, and in his treatment
of the protest, and of the gentleman who wrote it, he fully upheld the
reputation he made while in office of lack of good manners. Saying he
was unable to read the handwriting in which the protest was written,
he disposed of it in a way that would suggest itself naturally to a