Francis A. Adams.

The Transgressors Story of a Great Sin online

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The Committee of Forty has its ever watchful sentinels on guard, and
every move of the detectives is anticipated and provided against.

Thus matters progress until on the night of June tenth a startling
climax is brought about by the report of the secretary of the committee.

At this memorable meeting there is a full attendance. The chairman, in
his call for the meeting, has intimated that very important business
will be transacted. He has in mind the discussion of a plan for
awakening the interest of the wage-earners in the effete Eastern States,
and the reading of a report.

What actually transpires is a surprise to him, as it is to all but three
of the committee.

When the routine of business has been gone through with, the chairman
announces that the meeting will proceed to the consideration of new
business, if there is any.

William Nevins, the man who had carried the Stars and Stripes at
Hazleton, now a committeeman who has always taken a subordinate part in
the work, asks to be heard.

Supposing that he is to speak on the one subject uppermost in the minds
of the committee, the chair recognizes him. Rising from his seat in the
back of the room Nevins walks to the front of the hall, and standing
before the chairman, half turns so as to face the men in the assembly.

From his first words it is apparent that he has a matter of grave
concern to impart. The attention of all is engaged.

"Mr. Chairman," he begins, "I am unaccustomed to speech-making; yet on
this occasion I feel that I am capable of expressing myself in a manner
that will be clear and forceful. I am to tell you a few truths, and in
uttering the truth there is no need of depending on rhetoric or oratory.

"As you all know, I am a poor man. How I came to be reduced to a
position little better than beggary is not known by any of you, for I
have studiously avoided airing my troubles to any one. To-day I intend
to tell the story. It will cast some light on the subject that we will
be called upon to discuss later.

"We have no time to hear the life-story of any one," sententiously
observes a man in the front seat.

"But you will have to take time to hear me," retorts Nevins, and he

"I was a graduate of Yale, in the class of 1884. My name was not Nevins,
then. After a year spent in travel in Europe I returned to the United
States and began to practice my profession of a civil engineer, in the
city of New York. My father had died when I was a child and had left my
mother a fortune of about $40,000. From this sum she derived an income
of $2000 a year. She gave me an allowance of $800 up to the time that I
began to work as an engineer.

"Two years after I had entered the office of a leading railroad I
planned an extensive change in the working of the road and submitted it
to the president. He approved of the suggested changes and put the
matter before the board of directors. Shortly afterward I was informed
that I could proceed with the work. The work was accomplished and the
officials were more than pleased. They made me chief engineer of the
road and a stockholder. I soon had a considerable block of stock. Then a
great Magnate looked at the road with covetous eyes, and ruin came upon

"The stock of the road was depreciated and borne down on the Exchange
until the road became insolvent. All my money was in the road, and when
the crisis came I found myself stranded. The King of the Rail Road
Trust, Jacob L. Vosbeck, bought up the stock and then raised it to even
a higher figure than it had ever before attained.

"Ill-luck followed me and I have gone down, down, until I can scarce
make a living as a draughtsman in a shop. The curse of monopoly has
caused my ruin. I did not succumb to fair competition. I am now enlisted
in a fight against the usurpers of the free rights of the people, and I
declare to you all, that I am in this fight in dead earnest. By an
appeal to justice we can gain nothing.

"I was one of the sixty miners who were attacked on the highway at
Hazleton by the High Sheriff of Luzerne County. I witnessed the mock
trial in Wilkes-Barre. I have thought of all the possible means the
Trusts have left to us, and find that there is but one available.

"They have all the money and all the agencies of the law; they have
intimidated the humble and ignorant workingmen until these poor
creatures are no better than serfs, and to be assured of bread, they
work as voluntary slaves.

"What is there for us to do but to fight the magnates with their own
weapons? Intimidation is their deadliest method. The horrible picture of
a starving family is held up before the wage-earner, and he is asked if
he will vote to put his wife and children on the street. He is told that
if he will accept starvation wages, the Trust will let him make such
wages. In desperation he accepts the terms.

"What I propose is to intimidate the criminal aggressors so that they
will fear to make their fortunes at the expense of the honest, hard
working and credulous people.

"How shall it be done? Ah! it is a simple matter."

Here the voice of the speaker becomes husky, and he turns to face the
chairman of the committee. In almost a whisper he exclaims: "I propose
to give them an object lesson. They have given many to us." Again he
resumes his normal voice.

"Have you not seen mills closed before election time so as to coerce men
to vote as the mill owners directed? Has not this suspension of work
brought distress, starvation, death, to thousands of homes? Is it not
murder for men of wealth to resort to such means to win an election in a
free country?

"Well, I now propose to form a syndicate - a Syndicate of Annihilation!"

"Mr. Chairman," cry half a dozen voices. "Mr. Chairman, Point of order!
Point of order!"

Before the chair can recognize any of the speakers a general commotion
ensues. Men begin discussing with one another excitedly; there is a
perfect bedlam.

All the while Nevins remains standing as if awaiting an opportunity to
resume his speech.

At the expiration of some minutes order is restored so that his voice
can be heard. "Permit me to explain," he cries.

The committeemen, as if acting by a common impulse, cease to squabble,
and are attentive again.

"I propose to hear the circumstances under which each of you has been
brought to the condition that leads you to combine against the Trust;
and if there is sufficient ground for belief that you will be zealous
workers in my syndicate, I will admit you to membership. No man who has
not had a more serious grievance against the Robber Barons than I have
outlined, will be eligible. _I have told you but one incident of my

"The work that I shall outline to you after hearing your stories, will
require stout hearts to carry it into execution.

"It cannot be accomplished by fanatics. It requires the concerted
efforts of men of sound judgment; men of courage. The assassin is a
coward at heart - the political martyr must be valiant."

The novelty of the suggestion that has just been made is the first thing
that appeals to the minds of the committee. They begin to realize the
horrid character of the proposition. Much discussion follows. Men want
to know what Nevins means by a Syndicate of Annihilation. Whom does he
intend to murder? Annihilation and murder are considered synonymous.

To all questions Nevins replies that the details will be given as soon
as the men recite their grievances.

Professor Talbot and Hendrick Stahl, the two men who are in the secret
with Nevins, advise the members of the committee to comply with the

Then begins the strange, startling recital of the stories of human
distress. Of the forty men of varying professions and trades, there are
those who tell of their efforts to stand up under the weight of the yoke
of commercial despotism. Each man is of impressing character and strong

The chairman, Albert Chadwick, is the first to tell his story. It is the
prelude to the concerted cry of the oppressed - the cry which has sounded
through the ages as the one never varying note in the music of the
universe; the dread inharmonic monotone that marks the limitation of
humanity, exhibiting man's inability to convert the world into a



Standing upon the little platform which serves as a rostrum, Chadwick, a
man of fifty, seared and bent, lifts his hand to command the attention
of the committee.

He is a figure that would do credit to the brush of a great artist. His
appearance is that of a man who has been deprived of the power of
looking at the world as a place of rest; he is a bundle of nerves, and
at the slightest provocation bursts into a storm of irascibility. A
tortured spirit lurks in his soul and is visible in his stern, tense

As he begins the recital of his grievances against the Trust, it is
apparent that he means to give the audience an embittered story. So the
attention of all is centered upon him.

"Human liberty is the boon which man has sought since the dawn of
creation; it has furnished the incentive for his struggle to reclaim the
earth from the domination of brute force; it is the inherent idea that
the founders of this Republic sought to embody in the Constitution. But
Liberty must have as a complement unhampered opportunity," are his
opening words.

"The man who is dependent upon another for his livelihood is not capable
of enjoying real liberty, or of attaining happiness. When the men of a
nation are debased to a position of minor importance, where they can
only act as servants, they lose the stamina necessary to make them good
citizens. This condition now prevails in the United States.

"My own experience will exemplify this statement.

"Forty years ago I attained my majority. I was a citizen of the state of
Pennsylvania, and considered that I was a freeman. By the death of my
father I had come into a fortune of fifty thousand dollars. I lived in
the oil region, and sought to engage in the oil industry. To this end I
purchased land contiguous to a railroad. On my holdings a well was
located which yielded three hundred barrels of oil a day.

"No sooner had I begun to operate my well than the agents of the Oil
Trust, which had then but recently sprung into existence as a menace to
individual refining, came to me with a proposition to incorporate my
well in the Trust's system. The well was capable of earning a net profit
of seventy thousand dollars a year. The Trust offered me a paltry two
hundred and thirty thousand dollars for my plant. This I refused to
accept, for the actual value was one million dollars.

"Then by crafty insinuation the agents of the Trust intimated that
unless I sold my property and accepted inflated stock in the Trust and
allowed my well to be absorbed in the system, I would find myself
opposed by the mighty consolidation. Still I refused to abrogate my
right to conduct an independent business.

"Failing to allure me by their offers, which would have proved valueless
in the end; or of intimidating me by their threats, the agents reported
to the office of the Trust that I was obdurate and must be disciplined.

"Accordingly pressure was brought to bear on the railroad over which I
sent my product to a market. The railroad discriminated against me; it
gave the Trust a rebate on all oil shipped over the road and made me pay
the full schedule rates. Even against this detrimental condition I was
able to sell my oil at a small profit.

"I might have survived the unequal struggle had not the 'pipe line'
system been introduced. By this the Oil Trust transports its oil to the
sea-board at a cost that enables it to undersell all competitors. And
for a time the price of oil was reduced, and all the minor competitors
were driven into bankruptcy or forced to sell out to the Trust at a
ridiculously low figure.

"Owing to my well being centrally located I was able to hold out longer
than many others.

"John D. Savage, the Oil King, realized that some more potent means had
to be devised to crush me. This means was found in the expedient of
'Sacrifice' sales. At every depot where I sold, the agents of the Trust
offered to sell oil at figures lower than I could possibly sell it. I
lost my trade. In an effort to retrench, my fortune was consumed, and
from a position of affluence I descended to beggary, and had to join the
ranks as an employee. So bitter was the animosity of the Trust that it
sought to rob me even of the opportunity to earn a living. I have been
hounded from post to pillar; my life has been made miserable. I have
seen my family want for bread.

"And all because I withstood the assault of the Oil King.

"As an American I protest against the existence of a corporation that
can set at naught the mandates of the law; a corporation that can, with
utter impunity, resort to arson as a final means of gaining its illegal
end, as the oil Trust has done, again and again.

"I thank God that I still possess my fore-fathers' spirit of resistance
against oppression. There are few men who are in want, or in actual
dread of being thrown out of employment, however unremunerative, who
will assert their right. A nation composed of such men is not free, no
matter what its form of government may be.

"I am ready to do anything that will restore the right to the individual
citizen to engage in business; I am ready to make a stand against the
few plutocrats who now usurp the avenues of human activity; and I
believe that we will be able to enlist men in support of the idea that
the rights of the majority transcend the aggressions of the oligarchy of
American capitalists."

As Chadwick concludes his statement, Hiram Goodel, a delegate from New
Hampshire, obtains the floor.

"Coercion is the word that epitomizes my grievance against the Trusts,"
he begins. "It was by the exercise of coercion that I was driven out of
business. I conducted a retail tobacco store in Concord, in my native
state. My business sufficed to insure me a decent living, and a
comfortable margin to be husbanded as a safeguard for my declining
years. I had a wife and three sons. My sons were all under age, and I
kept them at school to provide them with good educations.

"There was competition in my business; such natural competition as is
met with in all pursuits. It did not, however, prevent my making a
success of my business.

"Then came the Tobacco Trust. It set out to control the retail trade.
This was to be effected by the inauguration of a system of "consigning"
goods to the retail stores with strict provisos that the retailer would
not handle the product of any concern out of the Tobacco Combine. In
order to ingratiate themselves with the store-keepers, the Trust
managers at first offered terms that were so far below the current
prices that a majority of the stores bound themselves to handle the
Trust goods exclusively.

"Three years passed, in which the independent tobacco manufacturers
strove to hold out against the ring. Then came a crash.

"I had opposed the innovation of binding myself to buy from one concern;
for I felt intuitively that as soon as the Trust was all-powerful it
would begin to exercise dictatorial sway over the retailer.

"My fears were soon justified.

"The Trust advanced the price of its goods to the retailer, and
compelled the trade to sell at the same retail figures.

"When this system of extortion was successfully launched the Trust
determined to reward its patrons, as a means of pacifying them for
reduced profits.

"The reward came in the shape of discriminating against the
store-keepers who still handled the goods made by the fast vanishing
opposition concerns.

"I was informed that unless I signed an agreement to use only the Trust
brands of cigarettes and tobacco no more goods would be sold to me. As
the Trust embraced all of the leading brands, that meant that I must go
out of business.

"My puritan blood boiled at the thought that I must submit to the
tyranny of a band of robbers. I determined to fight to the last. Four
years of business at a net loss, drove me into insolvency; then a
mortgage was placed upon my freehold, to be followed by foreclosure. I
still struggled on, under the delusion that I was in a free land and
that the Trust iniquities would not be permitted to crush the individual
citizen forever. The decision of the courts of the several states where
the Tobacco Trust was arraigned, upholding the Trust, disillusioned me.
But it was too late, I was a ruined man.

"My sons were forced to work in the cigar factory of the local branch of
the Trust; and I was obliged to apply for a patrimony from the
Government, as a veteran of the war for the emancipation of man from
slavery. On this slender pension I now live.

"Can anyone blame me for being a volunteer in the crusade against the
most insidious and dangerous foe that has ever assailed a land; a foe
that seeks to entrench itself by emasculating the citizens and degrading
them to a position of servants of mighty and intolerant masters?"

There is a pause. The aged speaker trembles with emotion.

"I am an old man, over seventy years of age, yet whatever vigor remains
in me will be expended in my last battle with the destroyers of free

"What right has Amos Tweed, the Tobacco King, to tax me?

"I was born a free man; I fought to free an inferior race. Alas, I have
lived to see the shackles placed upon the wrists of my own sons. So help
me God, I shall strike a blow to make them free once more."

Overcome with the exertion of delivering his fervent speech, Hiram
Goodel totters. He would fall, did not the strong arms of Carl Metz
support him.

"Where is the man who can view this picture of patriarchal devotion, and
hesitate to give significance to the prayer that freedom may again be
the inheritance of the youth of America," demands Nevins in thrilling

It is apparent that the recital of the grievances of the members of the
committee is making a deep impression on every man.

Horace Turner, a farmer from Wisconsin, who had migrated to that state
when it was in its infancy, preferring its fertile plains to the rocky
hillside homestead in Vermont, is the next to speak. He is sixty years
of age, well preserved, temperate and fairly well educated.

"I can quote no higher authority than the Holy Bible," are his opening
words. "If in that book we can find authority for complaining against
tyrants; if we can find a prayer that has come down from age to age,
shall we not be justified in uttering it?

"Are these words from the Psalms meaningless? 'Deliver me from the
oppression of Man; so will I keep thy precepts.'

"There is vitality in this cry from the oppressed; because the oppressor
exists. You and I are both victims of oppression.

"I am a producer of wheat, the great staple of this country. You are all
consumers of my product. When I cannot make a living by producing wheat,
and you cannot purchase it without paying tribute to a band of
speculators, there must be in operation a damnable system of oppression
to bring about this condition, for it is not natural.

"The Wheat Trust determines what price I shall receive for my wheat; it
sets the price at which you shall buy it in the form of bread.

"Whether there is a bounteous crop or a short one, the Trust still
controls the wheat and flour and arbitrarily fixes their price.

"When the newspapers assert that the farmers enjoy the advance of the
price of a season's crop, they state an absolute falsehood.

"By the system that prevails in this country to-day, as a result of the
Wheat Trust, crops are sold a year in advance. There are never two years
of exceptionally large crops; so the benefit of the advance of one year
does not go over to the next.

"The farmers of this country are compelled, by the present system, to
pledge their next year's crop to the local wheat factors who control the
elevators. The purchase price is determined by the factor. The farmer
receives a certain number of bushels of 'seed' wheat from the factor,
agreeing to repay him with two or two and a half bushels of the coming
crop; a large percentage of the remainder of the crop is pledged to the
local store-keeper for the goods that the farmer must have to do his
work and to live upon.

"Wheat is the medium of exchange. The Trust's price is the measure of
value. Why? Because the farmer cannot sell to any one except to an agent
of the Trusts, as the Trust has arranged traffic rates with every
railroad; and the wheat, if bought by any one outside of the Trust,
could not be transported to a market and sold at a profit. This
statement is indisputable.

"The Wheat King, David Leach, depresses the market when the crop is to
be sold, and so gives a semblance of reason for the inadequate price he
allows the farmer.

"It is the farmer who does the planting; he has to run the risk of the
loss of the crop by drought, or excessive rain; he has to do the
harvesting. Yet he does not share in the just profits of the sale of his

"And the consumer is made to pay exorbitantly for the bread that keeps
life in his body.

"If there were no Wheat Trust, no speculation in wheat and no
discriminating traffic rates, bread could be sold at a fair profit for
three cents a loaf, and the farmer would still be able to get a higher
price than he averages now.

"I have toiled as a farmer for two score years, and all I have in this
world is a farm of two hundred acres, valued at thirty-six hundred
dollars, on which there is a two thousand dollar mortgage at six per
cent. When the interest is paid and my yearly expenses are defrayed, I
am lucky to have one hundred dollars to my credit in the bank. For the
past six years I have been obliged to send whatever I had remaining to
my son, who has married and who is struggling to live in Milwaukee. He
is engaged as a brakeman on the railroad that exacts thirty per cent. of
the value of every bushel of wheat I raise.

"I am not one of the discontented, homeless vagabonds who the Plutocrats
declare are alone demanding the destruction of Monopoly. I am a citizen
who can foresee the inevitable result that will come from a perpetuation
of Commercial Despotism. I am not afraid to assert my opinions, nor will
I fear to act on any suggestion, that will insure independence to the
farmer and to all the citizens of the Republic."

Donald Harrington, a delegate accredited to Maryland, now begins his

"It will not be necessary for me to take the story of my ruin back to
the beginning; you are interested only in that part which has to do with
the effect of the Trusts upon me.

"I could say that they were the sole cause of my downfall, but in this
statement I should be doing the Trusts an injustice. I felt the first
downward impulse given me when I was a lad of sixteen. I had entered the
employ of a banking house and was a clerk in their counting room. It was
my especial duty to see that the books of the company were put in the
safes at night. This duty I faithfully performed for more than three

"One day I was tempted to steal.

"It was an easy matter for me to take a sum of money from the drawer and
make away with it. I was not detected in the first peculation; this
encouraged me to take more. So matters went on until I was guilty of
having stolen a sum aggregating ten thousand dollars. I knew that I
could not keep the game up much longer, for the annual accounting would
disclose the deficit.

"Of the sums I had taken, I had less than half saved. I did not know how
I was to get out of the position in which I was placed. Then the idea
struck me that I might make the entire sum good if I could make a
successful turn on the Exchange.

"This I determined to try.

"From the first I was successful. Soon I had three times the sum
required to make up my peculations.

"I restored the money to the safe and breathed easily.

"This was my first venture in dealing with other peoples' money.

"The experience led to my entering upon a career as a banker and broker.

"For eight years I was actively engaged in rolling up a fortune. I was
sought out by the Magnates of many of the largest Trusts, and they
extended me unlimited credit.

"When the country was precipitated into a panic in 1893, I was not one
of the sufferers; I was one of the scoundrels active in bringing the
distress upon the people. I aided in the establishment of the
all-powerful Money Trust.

"Later I was interested in a big mining scheme. It appeared to me to be

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Online LibraryFrancis A. AdamsThe Transgressors Story of a Great Sin → online text (page 5 of 17)