A Dark Conspiracy

Ambrose Bierce

San Francisco News Letter/August 21, 1869

EDITOR NEWS LETTER—Sir: I am an ardent admirer of this Republic, and view with horror any dangers, covert or overt, which may threaten its integrity. Imagine, then, my consternation when I see it darkly hinted in the newspapers that a conspiracy is on foot to effect not only the overthrow of our glorious Constitution, but the ruin of the Anglo-Saxon race on this continent! That ferocious despot, the Emperor of China, the brother of the Sun and Moon, has, it seems, ordained our destruction, and already his emissaries are at work: every week that passes brings with it a fresh shipload of his savage Tartar hoards, and lands them upon our devoted shores.

It appears from those patriotic and far-seeing journals which have been the first to throw a ray of light on this dark conspiracy that fraud and deception are to be the first instruments employed for our destruction. These dark-skinned Myrmidons of despotism come with smiling faces and friendly words; but woe unto us if you we put our trust in them—this is a part of their system. They are gradually to insinuate themselves (after they have acquired the right to vote) into city offices and places of trust; they are to accumulate money (all the money if possible), so that when the struggle comes they can cripple their adversaries by taking from them the sinews of war; and above all they are to encourage and promote by every means in their power, the adoption of Chinese manners, and especially of the Chinese costume, by our citizens, for it is wisely argued, nine-tenths of mankind are what their tailors make them. In this instance they have at present only met with partial success among the sterner sex; but with the ladies they have succeeded only too well. One of their earliest and most noted proselytes was Miss Mary walker (it is whispered that she was bought over, but I consider this to be a base and baseless slander). compare her dress and the dress of her followers with the costume of the Chinese ladies in Dupont Street and mark the difference. Her pants are a little tighter, and her doublet is girded about her loins, as befits a lady of the energetic character—“Only that, and nothing more.”

The system of immoderate tea drinking which has obtained of late years is another innovation which, by ruining the digestion and consequently impairing the faculties of our citizens, paves the way for the coming change. Now that I am furnished with a clue, I can find an explanation to much that was before mysterious. The ignorant assumption which we see in high places, which could scarcely be surpassed by a Mandarin with three tails—the glorious impunity which is enjoyed by ermine—the arbitrary and often absurd decisions of the law courts, now appear to me as symptoms of the dark work which is being carried on among us, secretly yet surely.

But one of the chief aims of these emissaries of despotism is to buy over the editors of the newspapers, since newspapers have ever been the staunchest champions of popular liberty. I this nefarious project they have been fatally successful, as the verbose twaddle, “all sound and fury, signifying nothing,” so congenial to the Oriental mind, which drivels from the columns of the daily press, so plainly testifies.

I can write no more at present, so subscribe myself

Yours, prospectively,



(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)