Project Gutenberg's Real Soldiers of Fortune, by Richard Harding Davis

Download 0.66 Mb.
Size0.66 Mb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   13
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

luxuriant vegetation.
"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

select circle.

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

never recovered.
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:




"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,
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

Share with your friends:
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   13

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page