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172 After his outburst in History of a Great Wrong and the battle for Hawaii, Celso Caesar Moreno ended up on the margins of the public life that had absorbed him for so long. Hard blows had been inflicted upon his credibility . The old Captain, however bold and self-confident, had to retreat to a more subdued existence. This did not stop him from continuing to frequent places of power with a certain assiduity. A newspaper reported how the untiring figure of the “habitual visitor” was perpetually in the corridors of the Capitol during the sessions of Congress. He was busy chatting up politicians whenever the occasion presented itself, but “nobody has ever learned what object he has in view.”1 To give an idea of how far Moreno had fallen into disgrace, a 1896 article published in the Los Angeles Times recounted the Washington misadventures of an amusing Italian character, Stephen Nicoletti, who had been arrested following a scuffle on Pennsylvania Avenue. Nicoletti was blocking the street with a cart laden with freshly printed copies of an essay whose titled may sound quite familiar to our ears: A Gold Conspiracy: Or, The Worst Financial System in the World, How the Bankers Get Rich, and All the Others Get Poor. “Nice-a book, nice-a book! fifta cent; vera cheap; I c h a p t e r 1 0 The Sunset Road The Sunset Road 173 write-a myself-a,” Nicoletti yelled in his heavy Italian accent. The newspaper , considering his origins, ironically deemed him one of the two most illustrious representatives of the Italian community from California to New York, the other being Celso Caesar Moreno, “already Prime Minister of the King, a position he held for twenty-four hours,” just out of prison for defaming Baron Fava.2 Moreno therefore remained a known character, a figure whose sanity some doubted. From time to time, the newspapers continued to pay attention to him. A weekly African American newspaper dedicated two almost identical covers to him a few months apart, complete with a portrait. The first time, it sketched an enthusiastic hagiography that concluded with the hope that Italy would make him its ambassador. The second time, it referred to him, from the title, as “the next Italian ambassador.”3 The newspaper had previously celebrated Moreno’s love of liberty when he endorsed a resolution supporting the Republic of San Marino, introduced in Congress by New York Republican Representative Mahany following rumors that its ancient independence was in danger.4 Moreno’s “heroic” period was decidedly behind him. New leaders were emerging in the Italian community. The only remaining possibility for members of the old guard like him was playing the role of expert tutor for the latest arrivals. Both before and after the battle with Fava, Moreno had always known how to find time to deal with many other issues. The great geopolitical game remained his most important topic, even if he now had to settle for more modest audiences. The Gazzetta di Dogliani happily considered him its correspondent in the United States. It printed three of his long pieces about the Anglo-American controversy over seal hunting in the Bering Sea. An Italian arbiter was involved, and the Captain took the opportunity to harshly criticize the Kingdom’s foreign policy. In the same newspaper, Moreno published an expansive and pretentious article on the “social question ,” now the order of the day in Italy. It was dotted with solemn considerations (“The time will come when ignorance will be the worst offense and the ignorant man will be the worst delinquent”). Above all, Moreno intended to demonstrate the evolution of his political convictions, previously ascribed to the historic left, toward socialist sympathies: “Who is not a socialist in our day? He is to be considered a hundred times an ass he who, with his hand over his heart, he will dare say: I am not.”5 There were also much smaller issues, and even these Moreno never disdained. He suggested that the city of Washington issue an identification badge to all authorized fruit sellers. He wrote articles about the flu, the “fashionable disease” that had arrived in New York from Europe, in order 174 The Sunset Road to praise the knowledge of renowned Italian specialists, like Senator Borelli and Professor Luigi Gori, who had faced it. Moreno participated in the movement for the erection of monuments to Christopher Columbus on the eve of the four...


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MARC Record
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