Francis A. Adams.

The Transgressors Story of a Great Sin online

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A Political Novel of the Twentieth


Independence Publishing Company.




CHAPTER I. Clouds Gather at Wilkes-Barre 1
" II. Harvey Trueman, Attorney 16
" III. Conflicting Opinions 23
" IV. A Quiet Afternoon at Woodward 32
" V. An Unquiet Day at Hazleton 48
" VI. A Stand For Conscience Sake 63



CHAPTER VII. An Anti-Trust Conference 74
" VIII. A Startling Proposal 81
" IX. Arraignment of The Transgressors 89
" X. The Secret Session 110
" XI. Martha's Premonition 124
" XII. Taking the Secret Oath 135
" XIII. The List of Transgressors 150



CHAPTER XIV. Birth of a New Party 163
" XV. Choosing a Leader 169
" XVI. Two Points of View 183
" XVII. Opening the Campaign 189
" XVIII. On to New York 197
" XIX. Departure of the Committee 206
" XX. In the Enemy's Stronghold 212
" XXI. The Committee Reports Progress 224
" XXII. Millionaires Sowing the Wind 230
" XXIII. A Day Ahead of Schedule 241



CHAPTER XXIV. The Syndicate in Liquidation 256
" XXV. Big News in the Javelin Office 263
" XXVI. On to Wilkes-Barre 276
" XXVII. Sister Martha Averts a Calamity 284
" XXVIII. At the Dead Coal King's Mansion 298
" XXIX. Peace Hath Her Victories 309
" XXX. A Double Funeral 324
" XXXI. The New Era 333


Hail to the Sheriff of Luzerne!




There are few valleys to compare with that of the Susquehanna. In point
of picturesque scenery and modern alteration attained by the unceasing
labor of man, the antithesis between the natural and the artificial is
pronounced in many respects; especially at that place in the river where
it runs through the steep banks on which is situated the thriving city
of Wilkes-Barre. Here may be seen the majestic hills standing as
sentinels over the marts of men that crowd the river edge. The verdure
of these hills during the greater part of the year is the one sight that
gladdens the eyes of the miners whose lives, for the most part, are
spent in the coal pits.

The picture would be perfect were it not for the presence of the
Coal-Breakers. These sombre, grizzly structures stand in a long line on
the west bank of the river, and appear to the eye of one who knows their
purpose, as the gibbets that dotted the shores of England and France
must have loomed up before the mariners of the Channel during the
Seventeenth Century, and when the supply of pirates exceeded the number
of gibbets, large as this number was in both lands.

The breaker is a truly modern invention, which, had it existed in the
days of the Spanish inquisition, would have placed in the hands of the
malevolent fanatics an instrument of exquisite torture. It is
constructed to effect a double purpose, the achievement of the maximum
of production and the expenditure of the minimum of human effort. It is
the acme of inventive genius. To work the breakers, a man need have no
more intelligence than the tow-mule that plods a beaten path; and such a
man is the ideal laborer from the standpoint of the owners of the

But such men are not indigenous to America; they must be imported, and
that, too, from the most benighted lands of Europe.

What an incubator of warped humanity the breaker has become! It saps
even the attenuated manhood of the aliens it attracts, and when they are
rendered useless for its ends, emits them to be a scourge on the earth.

But the breakers are the monument of the civilization of the Nineteenth
Century, which esteems commercial as superior to mental advancement.

As the drama to be unfolded will be enacted largely in this spot, which
nature fashioned on its fairest pattern, and which man has seared with
his cruel tool, a description of the town of Wilkes-Barre and its
environs is essential. The town is the creation of the Mines. Coal
abounds in the valley of the Susquehanna, and from the first impetus
given the coal industry by the establishment of railroads, the mines at
this place have been worked without intermission. The population of the
town has been increasing steadily for the past thirty years, until
to-day it reaches the proportions of a populous city. There is little
variety in the citizens; but the contrast they present makes up for this
deficiency. Broadly speaking there are but two classes, the magnates and
their mercenaries. The former live in the mansions on the esplanade and
constitute the governing minority. The coal miners and the workers on
the breakers, who eke out their lives in slavery, and who sleep in
quarters that make the huts of the peasants of Europe seem actually
inviting, constitute the vast majority.

The most prosperous business of the town outside of the Coal industry,
which is, of course, monopolized by the magnates, is the Undertaking
business. There are almost as many establishments for the burial of man
as there are saloons to cater to his cheer. In contradistinction to the
custom in this country, the business has been taken up by others than
the worthy order of sextons. That this condition should be, is accounted
for by the fact that there is a paucity of churches in the town, and
that the sextons were unable to accomplish the work that devolved upon
their craft. Death is not attributable, in the main, to natural causes
in Wilkes-Barre; it is brought about by the engines of destruction which
the magnates are pleased to term, Modern Machinery.

Association makes the mind incapable of appreciating nice distinctions
in regard to familiar objects or persons. Thus to the residents of the
town there is nothing abnormal in their condition. It is only to the
observer from without that the horrors of the Pennsylvania town are
apparent. That such a spot should develop in a State high in rank, and
among the oldest of those comprising the greatest republic, seems
incomprehensible. In the very State where the Declaration of
Independence was sent to the world, proclaiming that men are created
free and equal, and that the right of the majority is the supreme law,
how comes it that a settlement can be maintained where the rights of the
majority can be ignored and suppressed at the point of the bayonet? For
an answer to this question, comes the monosyllable - Trusts!

Wilkes-Barre is a typical specimen community which may be taken as the
sample unit for a microscopic investigation of the conditions that have
created the modern institution of _voluntary slavery_. The scrutiny of
the specimen is given through the eyes of a resident of the town, and
the observations are his.

"In a month then, they will shut down three of the mines, and will close
the Jumbo Breaker. You know what that means. I have asked the men of
Shaft Fifteen if they intend to starve, and they answered to a man that
they would sooner be shot than starve like rats in their homes."

"What is that to me? Am I to look after every man who has ever blasted a
ton of coal in my pits or crushed in the breakers?

"You tell the men of Shaft Fifteen, and of every other shaft in the
valley, that if they make a single move that threatens the property of
the Paradise Coal Company I will see that they don't 'starve in their

"Then you will not arbitrate?"

"There is nothing to arbitrate. I have no more work for the men. That
settles it. The world is big, and if they can find no work in
Wilkes-Barre, let them hunt for it elsewhere."

"Mr. Purdy, I give you ample warning. The miners will declare a general
strike if you persist in locking out half of them now that the winter
weather has set in. The pits and the breakers can stand idle while the
demand for coal at an advanced price is created by an artificial coal
famine; but the miners have to be fed. They work like machines; but as
yet they have not learned the lesson of living without food."

"Metz, I have given you my final answer. The mines and breakers close on
the day I stated."

Carl Metz is the foreman of the largest of the Paradise Company's Coal
shafts, the "Big Horn." He is in consultation with Mr. Gorman Purdy, the
president of the company. Their closing remarks as just quoted are
uttered as they stand on the steps leading to the street from the
offices on the main square of Wilkes-Barre.

The men nod to each other, and separate.

"What did he say?" a man demands of Metz, in a weak voice. The
questioner is a typical miner. Death has placed its irrevocable stamp
upon him; he has served his three years in the pits; has been
transferred to the breakers when the signs of failing strength are
perceived by the mine overseer. In another year he will be in the hands
of the mortuary vulture; his last week's earnings will go to pay for the
hard earned grave that is grudgingly given "A Miner."

"He says the mines will close."

"Yes, and we will starve. Well, you can tell him that we won't."

"I told him that the men were desperate."

"And he laughed at you. Why wouldn't he? We have threatened to strike
for three years. It's getting to be an old story. This time it's our
turn to laugh."

"What do you mean, Eric?" is the anxious query of Metz. He detects a
hidden significance in the miner's words.

"Mean! Why I mean that we are _going_ to strike this time, and that it
will be the biggest fight the coal region has ever seen.

"We can't get the mine owners to arbitrate, but we can get the coal
miners to unite. If one man is shut out to starve we will all go out."

"And our places will be filled by imported miners," interjects the

"Not this time. We will have our pickets out in all directions, and
every train will be boarded. The men the mine owners bring on will be
told to keep away."

As the men speak they are unconscious of the approach of the Sheriff of
Luzerne County. He has apparently been watching the movements of Metz.
All the morning he has shadowed the mine foreman, now he steals up
behind the two and stands within earshot. He overhears their words.

"Let me tell you one thing," he calls out in a shrill voice, as he steps
up to them, "you don't want to forget that there is a Sheriff in Luzerne
County when you count on winning out in this strike."

"We will do nothing that will require your attention," sententiously
retorts the miner. "We have had one taste of Pennsylvania justice, at
Homestead, and don't want another."

"I have my eye on you two, and if there is any trouble I'll know whom to
hold responsible," continues the Sheriff. Then he walks on towards the
office of the Paradise Coal Company. He enters the building and is soon
in the private office of the President.

The miners walk on in silence towards their homes in the East End of the
town across the Bridge. It is not a time to talk. These sturdy men have
a reverence for words; they use them only when the occasion requires. At
the door of the ramshackle hut that serves as the abode of Eric Neilson,
the men halt.

"Eric!" says Metz, "I hope you will let me know of any steps that are to
be taken by the miners in your section. I have been in this region for
twenty years, and know where the rights of the miners end and the rights
of the mine owners begin. To back our rights we have nothing but our
bare fists; the mine owners have the city, state and Federal

"If there is anything to be done that will be of importance to us all,
you will hear from me," are Eric's reassuring words.

Carl Metz knows the value of a promise from his fellow-workman. He is

In the homely parlance of the mines, these men agreed "to keep tabs for
each other on the square." They will let no event of importance go by
without reporting it to each other, and in this way give each full
particulars of the movements of the miners.

Metz turns back towards the centre of the city. He is bent on seeing
Purdy again, and of appealing to him to reconsider his "shut down"

Hardly has he reached Market Street when he runs across the Attorney of
the Paradise Coal Company, a young and brilliant man who is one of the
products of the town school and academy, Harvey Trueman.

"Good day, Mr. Trueman," is his salutation.

"How now, Metz?" responds the preoccupied lawyer. "Have you some trouble
on your hands?"

"It's the same old story, sir, only this time the men are determined to
strike. I have spoken to Mr. Purdy to-day. He refuses to yield a single

"I thought it might be a wise thing to see him again and make the truth
clear to him, that the men will unquestionably resort to violence if
they are locked out at the opening of winter."

"You let this matter stand as it is. I shall see Mr. Purdy in an hour or
so, and shall make it my duty to explain the situation. I know what the
men are likely to do, and what concessions will satisfy them. Metz, I
assure you we do not want trouble. If I have any influence with the
Company, matters will be satisfactorily settled."

"When can the men have an answer?"

"Not for a day or two, I suppose."

"But they must know immediately, Mr. Trueman. You are aware that they
are dependent upon the Company Stores for their food. Well, the notice
has been posted that no more credit shall be extended after next
Saturday. This means that, for the men who are laid off, there is
nothing left but starvation."

Trueman is troubled at this statement. He has always been an opponent of
the "Company Store" system; now he sees that it is likely to be the
potent factor in exciting the miners to revolt.

"All I can promise you, is that I shall work in your interests and get
as speedy a reply as possible," he repeats. "By the by," he adds, "will
you come with me to my office now, I want you to go over some of the
details of the 'Homestead Strike' with me. I want to see what lessons I
can gather from it which will help me to advise Purdy in the present
trouble. You were in the Homestead strike, were you not?"

By a nod of his head, Metz answers in the affirmative.

They are seated in the office of the young attorney for the next hour,
during which period they review the events of the great iron strike of
'92; the reasons that led to it, and the similarity of the conditions
that exist in Wilkes-Barre.

Having given Trueman the details of the Homestead affair, Metz explains
the existing grievances of the miners of Wilkes-Barre as follows:

"The question raised by the miners is not one for advanced wages; it is
not one of reduced hours; it is not a demand for proper protection for
themselves in the mines. These things they have asked for time and
again - little enough for men who wear out their lives in the darkness
and damp of the mines. But these things they have never been able to

"A bare living is all that the mine owners would concede to the miners.
This living, meagre as it was, sufficed to keep life in the miners and
their families.

"Now the miners are to be deprived of the crust of bread. You cannot
snatch the bone from a hungry dog, without danger. Do you imagine that a
man has less spirit than a beast?

"The whole trouble, Mr. Trueman, arises from the formation of the Coal
Trust. I have all the facts in regard to this matter. And so far as that
goes, there is not a man in the labor organizations of this country who
does not keep in touch with the events of the day. The education of the
masses is a dangerous thing in a land that is ruled by force, fraud and
finesse, as the United States is to-day.

"It is the Coal Trust that has brought on this threatened strike.

"When there were independent coal companies, the condition of the miners
was better by far than it is to-day. The unrestricted operation of mines
made it impossible for any two, or even a considerable number, of the
mine owners to unite for the purpose of reducing the wages of the mine
operatives, and of increasing the price of the coal to the consumer.

"But with the Trust in operation all restraints are removed.

"The illegal traffic rates that the Trust secures, make it impossible
for any mine to be successfully worked that is out of the combine.

"The first step that the Coal Trust took was to limit the supply of coal
at the height of the summer season, when big shipments are ordinarily
made. This afforded a pretext for an advance in the retail price.

"To limit the supply, the Trust shut down work in half of the mines.

"For the past seven years this practice has been followed. Now the
simple miners know what to expect. They have been submissive, because
the suspension of work came in the summer time when they could live on
little, and did not have to withstand the rigor of a Pennsylvania

"Now the Paradise Coal Company announces that it will close down the
work on three of the mines next Saturday. This throws the men out in the
cold of November. If this plan is carried out it will bring on a long
and bitter strike."

"I quite agree with you," assents Trueman. He puffs meditatively at a

"You are too young a man to remember the days of the Molly Maguires,
those awful days when murderers lurked on every road in the anthracite
coal field of this state. It was back in 1876 that the last of the
Maguires was hunted down. Of course there is no excuse for murder; yet
the Maguires were the result of a pernicious condition of wage
depression and degradation of humanity.

"When the just demands of the miners were recognized the reign of terror

"But the Trusts have produced another organization of societies in this
state, bent on murder and arson. The Irish, English and Welsh miners,
who predominated in the region twenty years ago, are now supplanted by
Poles, Hungarians, Italians and the worst types of Lithuanians and
Slavs. These newcomers have brought with them the racial prejudices and
institutions that caused them to be enemies in their native lands; they
constitute a dangerous element in the population of this country. So
long as they are able to get food they remain passive, except for the
feuds they carry on amongst themselves. These immigrants are not
inspired to come to this land by reason of an appreciation of the
liberty that our Constitution vouchsafes to all mankind. They have been
brought here by the agents of the Trusts, because they are willing to
work for pauper wage.

"I can tell you, Mr. Trueman, that in the strike that I feel will follow
the lock-out, there will be bloodshed. It may not be at the initiative
of the miners. But the fear of the magnates is now aroused and they will
not hesitate to employ force. Once the appeal to force is made, where is
it to end?"

"All that you have told me, I shall report to Mr. Purdy," Trueman says,
as he extends his hand to grasp that of the plain, earnest miner.

Metz departs, well satisfied with the progress he has made in advancing
the cause of the miners.

Harvey Trueman goes at once to the private office of the President of
the Paradise Coal Company.

He brings the strike matter up for consideration at once; and also the
case of a widow who is bringing suit against the company for the
recovery of damages for the loss of her husband who had been killed in
the mines.

"You are to press the defence of this case for damages to a successful
termination for the company," are Mr. Purdy's last words, supplemented
by the remark, "I shall attend to the strike in person."



Harvey Trueman steps from the County Clerk's office into the corridor,
on the second floor of the Court House at Wilkes-Barre, with the
absolute knowledge that the case in hand is won.

As he pushes his way down the stairway to the first floor where the
courtroom is located, he elbows through a throng of rough dressed
miners - Polaks, Magyars, and here and there a man of half-Irish
parentage, whose Irish name is all that is left from the Molly Maguire
days to indicate the one-time ascendency of that race in the lands of
the coal region.

Certain victory within his grasp - a minor victory in the long line of
legal fights he has conducted for the Paradise Coal Company - he does not
smile. It is a cruel thing he is about to do. Cruel? He asks himself if
the sanctity of the law does not make the contemplated move right.
Harvey Trueman has a code of morals, an austere code, that has made him
enemies even among the people whose champion he has grown to be in three
years' practice of the law in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.

He is a tall, slender, square-jawed man of thirty-six. His forehead is
high and broad and his hair is worn longer than that of other young
men - parted on the side and brushed back. He has thin lips and a mouth
of unusual width. His mouth-line is as straight as a bowstring, and when
he speaks, which is often, or smiles, which is not so frequent, he shows
an even line of large white teeth.

There is something very earnest in the expression of Harvey Trueman's
face - a soberness that is seldom found in men under fifty. A straight,
strong nose, large nostrils and clean shaven upper lip that is
abnormally long; cheek bones that stand out prominently; gray eyes set
rather deep in his head for so young a man; a square chin protruding
slightly; and wearing a frock coat that falls to his knees in limp
folds, Trueman is a commanding figure, full of character.

He is an inch over six feet in height. Among the miners who look
straight into the eye to read character, Harvey Trueman has been
pronounced an unflinching tool of the coal barons - one whose unbending
will means the ultimate accomplishment of any undertaking.

Not one of the miners employed by the Paradise Coal Company has ever
known the young lawyer to take an unfair advantage. But he has upheld
the law for the proprietors of the mines when the men have made a fight
against the "company stores," where they are forced to spend the wages
made by the sweat of their brows down in the mines or on the breakers.

Trueman is looked upon by all the miners of the region as a part and
parcel of the law, and all law is regarded by them as a thing made to
oppress the poor and aggrandize the wealthy.

A simple investigation on the eve of the present battle has placed in
the hands of the young lawyer ammunition which will rout the enemy on
the first volley.

But such an enemy! Above all things, Harvey Trueman is a magnanimous
foe. Now that he has his case won, he feels half humiliated. In the
court room, occupying a front seat while she awaits the arrival of her
lawyer, sits the widow of Marcus Braun, the Magyar miner.

The miner was killed in Shaft Fifteen of the Paradise Company, which is
three miles down the river from the wagon bridge at Wilkes-Barre.
Standing at the bottom of the shaft when an elevator cage fell, upon
which were two loaded coal cars, he was crushed to a pulp. His widow is
suing for damages for the death of her husband. In the front seat with
her, in the court room, is her five-year-old boy, whom she must support,
perhaps by taking boarders at the mines, if the mine superintendent will
permit her to go in debt for the rent of a house in case her litigation
against the company is not successful.

True, the rope by which the cage had been lifted and lowered had worn
thin, and the foreman had warned the superintendent the morning of the
accident that a new one was needed. But the poor Magyar at the bottom of
the shaft did not know it. He had in no way contributed to the
negligence which brought about his death. He knew his work was perilous.
In the law, it is a question whether or not the case can be successfully
defended by the coal company.

Trueman's trip to the Clerk's office has been for the purpose of

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