Celso Caesar Moreno

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Celso Caesar Moreno

Celso Caesar Moreno (1830 – March 12, 1901) was a soldier of fortune, a controversial political figure on the world stage, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hawaii under Kalākaua. Born in Italy, he fought in the Crimean War and lived throughout Asia, Hawaii and the United States. He moved from one career to another, one grand scheme to another, usually trying to convince governments to pay huge sums of money for his proposals. His efforts at establishing a trans-Pacific telegraph cable got official government authorization, but no financial backers. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1878, and a naturalized citizen of Hawaii in 1880. Moreno spent his final years living in Washington, D. C., trying to eliminate the padrone system that created slavery conditions within the immigrant Italian labor force.

Early life[edit]

Celso Caesar Moreno, also known as Cesare Moreno and C. C. Moreno, was born into a Roman Catholic family in the Piedmont region of Italy at Dogliani. According to testimony he gave in an 1896 court trial, he was born in 1830, and became a naturalized United States citizen in California in 1878.[1] His family was financially well off enough to send him to private Catholic schools where he became fluent in multiple languages.[2][3] After furthering his education at a military academy, Moreno enlisted in the Piedmontese regular army, serving in the Crimean War. Before the war's end, he decided against a military career, and enrolled in the University of Genoa, graduating as a civil engineer in 1856.[3]

Asia[edit]

He quickly lost interest in working as a civil engineer, and became captain of his own steamship, eventually arriving in Indonesia.[3] In the Dutch East Indies territory of Sumatra, Moreno changed his occupation once again, and was in the service of the Sultan Alauddin Ibrahim Mansur Syah 1859–1862, marrying one of the sultan's daughter.[4] After running afoul of the Dutch government, he abandoned his wife and fled the Dutch East Indies, returning to Europe.[3] He began lobbying efforts in Italy and France advocating a colonization of Sumatra, first with Victor Emmanuel II and then with Napoleon III. Neither of those efforts came to fruition, but Napoleon III was sufficiently impressed by Moreno to send him as a representative to Tonquin in Vietnam.[5]

About two years after he had arrived at Tonquin, Moreno made the acquaintance of Li Hung-chang, the Viceroy of Zhili,[5] who founded the China Merchants' Steam Navigation Company with a vision towards establishling a steamship line between China and California.[6] Li Hung-chang had already begun formulating plans for a trans-Pacific telegraph line. Moreno would become a key player in both projects.[7]

The United States[edit]

Moreno showed up in Washington D. C. in 1868, as the "White Chief Mustapha Moreno", trying to sell the United States government an unnamed Malaysian island, and his services as an envoy to the island, for $500,000. The story he gave to newspapers, is that he discovered the inhabited island in February 1862, "took possession in his own name", and was elected the White Chief Mustapha by the locals. He was making the offer, he said, as a promise to the island's inhabits that in selling the island they would have the protection of the United States. A newspaper mention inferred that Secretary of State William H. Seward, who had negotiated the 1867 Alaska Purchase, was in favor of the sale; however, nobody took Moreno up on the offer.[8]

In 1869, he published American Interests in Asia, a 40-page pamphlet urging the United States to expand its sphere of influence by establishing treaties, "territorial concessions" and naval stations in Asia. He, in fact, suggested that the US team with Russia to divide up India between themselves.[9] President Ulysses S. Grant allowed Moreno an audience to expound on the subject.[10]

As a representative of the American and Asiatic Telegraph Company, Moreno promoted Li Hung-chang's idea of an undersea telegraph cable between Asia and the mainland United States. He spent time in California lobbying among influential leaders in hopes of gaining financial support for the project, then began lobbying the United States Congress. Senator Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen introduced a bill on May 18, 1874, to grant a charter to Moreno and thirteen others for the construction and maintenance of the trans-Pacific cable.[11] Moreno addressed Congress four months later on September 26, detailing the specifics of the proposal.[12] A bill was passed and signed by President Grant, for a non-exclusive charter requiring the project to begin no later than three years after the bill's August 15, 1876 passage. Subsequent fund raising efforts for the project were unsuccessful, and the deadline expired without the cable being started.[13]

Kingdom of Hawaii[edit]

King Kalākaua[edit]

When Congress was considering Moreno's telegraph cable charter in 1874, Kalākaua was in the nation's capital as head of the Kingdom of Hawaii delegation negotiating the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875. According to journalist Helen Geracimos Chapin, that is the place and time period the two first became acquainted.[14] Hawaiian historian Ralph Simpson Kuykendall pinpointed the same time frame, but placed their first meeting at San Francisco.[15] The San Francisco Chronicle report of the king's trip attests to their first meeting being during a public reception held by Kalākaua in San Francisco's Grand Hotel. Moreno first approached the king as owner of three telegraph cable charter companies, regaling Kalākaua with tales of his global adventures.[16]

Moreno arrived in Honolulu, November 14, 1879, on the Chinese steamer Ho-Chung as the official representative of the China Merchants' Steam Navigation Company, empowered to negotiate with the Kingdom of Hawaii. Among its regular line of business, the steamer ferried Chinese contract laborers to Hawaii and the United States; 451 laborers arrived with Moreno.[17] American minister to Hawaii General James M. Comly described Moreno as a gregarious personality, who ingratiated himself through frequent visits to the palace. Kalākaua believed that Moreno held similar perspectives to his own on many issues. Moreno got Kalākaua to press the legislature on June 1, 1880 for an $18,000 annual trade subsidy for the company. The proposal was sent to a committee composed of George Washington Pilipō, Minister of the Interior Samuel Gardner Wilder, Godfrey Rhodes, John L. Kaulukou, and John K. Hanuna. The committee recommended against it on the basis that there was no market in China for Hawaiian exports, and that providing a subsidy might result in the reverse effect of Chinese imports glutting the Hawaiian market. The legislature concurred with the recommendation of the committee.[18][19]

In spite of the expiration of the telegraph cable legislation, Moreno managed to convince Kalākaua and the legislature in the first week of July, to pass a resolution guaranteeing him a $1,000,000 bonus in gold coins upon completion of the cable. Trying to make himself look more influential than he was, Moreno claimed to be a close associate of James A. Garfield, who was at that time a candidate (and subsequent winner) in the United States presidential election. Comly asked Garfield directly about the alleged relation, with Garfield issuing a strong denial. It was only through legislative intervention by Wilder that the resolution was defeated.[20][21]

His efforts at overturning Hawaii's stringent opium laws, and acquiring a monopoly on the manufacture and distribution of the drug for trafficking in the Pacific area, were almost successful. It took several weeks, and three different versions of the verbiage, but the legislature passed an opium bill on July 30 that would grant a two-year $120,000 per-annum license. Added to the final version of the bill was a $24,000 subsidy for the China Merchants' Steam Navigation Company.[22] When it reached Kalākaua for his signature, he vetoed it.[23]

The king had been at odds with his ministers for some time, and dismissed his entire cabinet on August 14, 1880, the same day Moreno became a naturalized citizen of Hawaii. Moreno replaced Minister of Foreign Affairs John Mākini Kapena. Wilder was replaced by John E. Bush as Minister of the Interior. Attorney General Edward Preston was replaced by W. Claude Jones. Minister of Finance Simon Kaloa Kaai was replaced by Moses Kuaea.[24][25] The diplomatic corps stationed in Hawaii refused to acknowledge Moreno's position, and Comly privately tried to reason with the king about the inappropriateness of having Moreno in the cabinet. Mass meetings were held in Honolulu, and community leaders urged Kalākaua to remove him. On August 18, Kalākaua accepted Moreno's resignation from the cabinet.[26][27]

Robert Wilcox and John Colburn[edit]

On August 30, Moreno left Honolulu for Italy, as guardian of Robert Napuʻuako Boyd, Robert William Wilcox and James Kaneholo Booth, the first students under the new Education of Hawaiian Youths Abroad.[28] When Kalākaua visited Italy on his 1881 world tour, he learned Moreno had misrepresented the young men as Kalākaua's family. Although Moreno was immediately removed as their guardian, Wilcox maintained contact with him for years.[29][30]

When the 1887 Bayonet Constitution ended his funding, Wilcox was forced to return to Hawaii. On July 30, 1889, he led 150 insurrectionists in a failed attempt at forcing Kalākaua into reverting to the 1864 Constitution. A published letter from Moreno to Wilcox was indicative that Wilcox relied on him for political advice and reassurance.[31] After the 1891 death of Kalākaua, his sister Liliuokalani became regent and was deposed in the 1893 Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Published correspondence from Wilcox to Moreno is affirmation that Wilcox believed Moreno had enough political ties in Washington D. C. to influence the events in Honolulu.[32] Shortly before he led the failed 1895 Wilcox rebellion, he sent a letter to Moreno asking him to return to Hawaii to become Premier.[33][34]

John F. Colburn, a Hawaii business man who was appointed the Minister of Interior of the Kingdom of Hawaii under Liliuokalani, also kept in touch with Moreno after his departure from Hawaii. When Liliuokalani tried to promulgate a new constitution, Colburn and the rest of her cabinet refused to sign it, an act that helped lead to the Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. In spite of his role in those chain of events, Colburn penned a letter to Moreno in October 1893 expressing his hope for restoration of the monarchy and indemnity for the royalists who were loyal to Liliuokalani.[35]

Later years[edit]

Moreno stayed in Italy for a while after being removed as guardian of the three Hawaiian youths, and was a member of the Chamber of Deputies in the Kingdom of Italy until King Umberto I discharged all the deputies in 1882.[36]

He eventually returned to Washington, D. C. where he was active in the Italian community, trying to abolish the padrone system (a form of slavery) existent at that time in contract labor from Italy.[37][38] In 1886, he persuaded Congressman Henry B. Lovering of Massachusetts to introduce a bill to ban importation of slave contact labor from Italy into the United States.[39] On July 11, 1895, Moreno was indicted for libel against Italian minister to the United States, Baron Saverio Fava.[40] The libel case stemmed from an article written by Moreno and published in The Colored American. Therein, he referred to Fava as "Don Bassillo", the hypocrite in the Barber of Saville. Moreno accused Fava of corruption in using his position and influence to perpetuate the trafficking of slaves from Italy, while also reaping financial benefits from the practice. When the case was tried before a jury on October 29, Moreno testified that he had never had any contact with Fava or evidence upon which to base his claims, but rather wrote the article on hearsay. The jury rendered a guilty verdict the same day.[1] Moreno served 90 days jail time.[41]

Congress once again began to consider legislation on a trans-Pacific telegraph cable in 1895. Moreno unsuccessfully lobbied the United States House of Representatives for an extension of his 1876 charter for construction and maintenance of the cable.[42]

In the last year of his life, an endorsement allegedly from Moreno for the patent medicine Peruna appeared in newspapers.[43] Peruna was marketed to ease or cure catarrh, and had an alcohol content of 28%. Moreno was not the only public figure reputed to endorse the product. The manufacturer ran ads with testimonials from well-known doctors, athletes, entertainment celebrities, and members of the United States Congress. Years after Moreno's death, investigative journalist Samuel Hopkins Adams found that the endorsements were often fakes, or the results of blackmail.[44]

Death[edit]

Moreno died of a stroke on March 11, 1901, having collapsed on a Washington D. C. sidewalk the day before. He was financially destitute at the time of his death. Local Italian societies took care of the arrangements, and he was buried in a donated plot at St. Mary's Catholic Church cemetery.[45][46]

Three months after Moreno's death, Baron Fava was recalled "at his own request" to Italy. An editorial in the Barton County Democrat disdained the continuing padrone system, blaming the Italian government for encouraging it and stating that Fava ran interference whenever the United States immigration officials tried to intervene. Moreno had been correct in his accusations, just incorrect in how he had gone about it.[5]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Guilty of Libel". The Evening Star. Washington D. C. October 29, 1895. p. 2. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  2. ^ Kuykendall 1967, p. 207
  3. ^ a b c d "His Dream Not Realized". The Times. Washington D. C. March 13, 1901. p. 2. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  4. ^ "ACHEEN: (Interview with Moreno) The Sultan's Minister Sketches the Country". The New York Herald. New York. May 16, 1873. p. 5. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  5. ^ a b c Fry, Smith C. (June 21, 1901). "His Career Closed". Barton County Democrat. Great Bend, KS. p. Image 3. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  6. ^ Faure 2006, p. 50
  7. ^ Kuykendall 1967, p. 208
  8. ^ "More Real Estate Speculation". The New York Herald. New York. July 30, 1868. p. 5. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  9. ^ Moreno, Celso Cesare (1869). American Interests in Asia. New York: C. S. Westcott & Co. p. 40 – via HathiTrust.
  10. ^ "American Interests in Asia-The President Paying Attention to Them". The New York Herald. New York. May 2, 1869. p. 7. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  11. ^ "Congressional Affairs". Los Angeles Daily Herald. Los Angeles, CA. May 19, 1874. p. Image 3. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  12. ^ "SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20. ADDRESS OF CAPTAIN CELS0 CESAR MORENO". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. September 27, 1874. p. 4. hdl:10524/37535.
  13. ^ "The Trans-Pacific Telegraph". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. September 23, 1876. p. Image 3. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  14. ^ Chapin 1996, p. 76
  15. ^ Kuykendall 1967, p. 208
  16. ^ "The King Hears of a Magnificent Project (Kalakaua's first meeting with Celso Moreno)". San Francisco Chronicle at Newspapers.com. December 1, 1874. Retrieved August 9, 2018.Free to read
  17. ^ "From China". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. November 15, 1879. p. Image 2. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  18. ^ Kuykendall 1967, pp. 208–209
  19. ^ "Saturday, June 12 (general legislature news)". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. June 12, 1880. p. Image 2. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  20. ^ Kuykendall 1967, p. 210
  21. ^ "Resolutions". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. July 10, 1880. p. Image 5. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  22. ^ "Legislative Proceedings 1880". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. August 7, 1880. p. Image 5. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  23. ^ Kuykendall 1967, p. 211
  24. ^ Kuykendall 1967, pp. 213–225
  25. ^ "Editorial and etc". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. August 21, 1880. p. Image 2. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  26. ^ Kuykendall 1967, pp. 214–220
  27. ^ "Gazette Extra". The Hawaiian Gazette. Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. August 19, 1880. p. Image 1. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  28. ^ Quigg 1988, p. 174
  29. ^ Quigg 1988, p. 176
  30. ^ "Letter From Europe No. 40". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands. January 29, 1881. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  31. ^ "Hawaiian Affairs: Ex-Premier's Letter to Young Wilcox the Revolutionist". The Morning Call. San Francisco, CA. April 1, 1890. p. 8. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  32. ^ "Wilcox to Moreno". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands. June 26, 1894. p. 4. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  33. ^ "Moreno Wanted". The Hawaiian Star. Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands. January 28, 1885. p. 3. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  34. ^ Chapin 1996, p. 85, 88–89
  35. ^ "The Situation in Hawaii". The Washington Bee. Washington D. C. October 14, 1893. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  36. ^ "Miscellaneous". The Hawaiian Gazette. Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. November 15, 1882. p. Image 6. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  37. ^ "Repelling Moreno's Charge". The Evening Star. Washington D. C. March 1, 1886. p. Image 1. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  38. ^ "Death of Celso Caesar Moreno". The Pacific Commercial Advertiser. March 22, 1901. p. 3. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  39. ^ "End of Italian Slavery". National Republican. Washington D. C. July 13, 1886. p. Image 1. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  40. ^ "Moreno Gives Bond". The Evening Star. Washington D. C. July 12, 1895. p. 2. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  41. ^ "Moreno Sent to Jail". The Morning Times. Washington D. C. November 12, 1895. p. 2. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  42. ^ "This Means a Cable". The Morning Call. San Francisco, CA. February 10, 1895. p. 4. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  43. ^ "Ex-Prime Minister of Hawaiian Islands Recommends Peruna to His Friends as a Positive Catarrah Remedy". The San Francisco Call. San Francisco, CA. March 18, 1900. p. Image 14. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  44. ^ Young 2015, pp. 187–188, 220–221
  45. ^ "The Late Mr. Moreno's Funeral". The Evening Star. Washington D. C. March 15, 1901. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  46. ^ "Funeral of Celso Moreno". The Evening Times. Washington D. C. March 13, 1901. p. 2. Retrieved July 1, 2017 – via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

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