Francis A. Adams.

The Transgressors Story of a Great Sin online

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one of the best things in which to invest money. I put the bulk of my
fortune in the mining stocks, and lost.

"In attempting to retrieve my losses I dissipated my fortune to the last
cent.

"The whole of my career as a banker was of a criminal nature. Nearly
everything I had touched was a speculative venture. The cursed practice
of watering stocks to three and four times their actual value was the
common work of my days.

"At the end I was caught in the net which I had so often thrown out to
ensnare others. My former partner, James Golding, the Napoleon of
Finance, wrought my undoing.

"All of this leads to this conclusion:

"I am an enemy of the Trusts now, because I know their methods; I know
the results that follow the practice of fictitious speculation. Before
you all I acknowledge that my past has been of the darkest and most
disreputable nature.

"I also wish to state that I have experienced a change of heart. It has
not come upon me solely because I have lost my fortune; I have felt it
creeping upon me for the past three years. In my inmost heart I feel a
beating that will not be stilled unless I am engaged in the work of
destroying the power of the accursed Trusts.

"That there is a chance on earth for a man to redeem himself, I am
confident. I have heard the call and have responded to it. I am resolved
to use the rest of my strength in battling with the enemies of the
people. And I am the more in earnest since I can never forget that I am
personally responsible for the distress of hundreds. Widows and orphans,
young and old, all have been my victims.

"What object Nevins may have in getting us to recount our grievances, I
do not know; but if it will lead to any good result, he may depend upon
me to give my untiring aid.

"I have but a word to add. Since my ruin, I have seen my wife and only
child, a daughter of twenty, languish and die before my very eyes. This
has embittered me against the men who have worked the ruin of the masses
more than anything else. I have pledged myself to avenge the sufferings
of humanity. I shall be doing something for the good of the race;
something to atone for the evil deeds I myself have done."

There is nothing in the recital of Harrington's life's history that is
of an exceptional nature. True, no one present is aware that he had at
one time been the head of the great bond issue plot.

But the delegates are looking for something of a far different tone than
a mere recital of crime and a fall from affluence to penury. Several of
the committeemen are on their feet demanding the floor.

Cyrus Fielding, the delegate representing the federation of stone
masons, is recognized by the chair.

Fielding is a man of short stature, his eyes betray a lacklustre that
might be the result of over-indulgence in liquor or want of rest; he is
thin and poorly clad, his face is cleanly shaven. At every pause in his
speech he runs his fingers through his thick dishevelled black hair, and
finishes this mannerism with wiping his forehead with the back of his
hand. His delivery is awkward and these repeated movements intensify
this awkwardness.

"I have a grievance against the Trusts that dates back as far as my
birth. I never had a fair start. My father was a victim of the power of
gold and I inherited his misfortune.

"My first work was as a helper in the great Pennsylvania Iron Trust's
works that are owned by that old man, the self-styled philanthropist,
Ephraim Barnaby, a hypocrite of the first water, who goes about the
world asking people how he can best dispose of his fabulous fortune.

"From the rank of helper I soon rose to the position of foreman of the
moulding shop. This was a most important place and I felt proud that I
had attained it in so short a period as three years.

"It was my ambition to learn all I could relating to the work in the
iron industry. Toward this end I spent four hours every night in reading
and experimenting. At the end of another three years I had a fund of
knowledge that put me in the front rank as a constructing engineer.

"But I was not a graduate of a college of engineering, so I could not
get the degree. The opportunity of utilizing my practical knowledge by
forming a competing company was closed by the bar of traffic rates.

"My employers advanced me to the rank of superintendent of the shops in
the largest iron manufacturing city in the state. I had to be satisfied
with a position under the iron masters.

"Then came the memorable strike that led to the killing of the men by
the paid detectives of the Iron Masters.

"The claims of the men were just, and as a man I could not side against
them. I put my fortune in with them. The details of the strike are known
to you all. The story of the shooting of unarmed mill hands at the
instance of the mill owners will never be forgotten; it has marked an
era in the history of this country.

"Well, I was a conspicuous figure in those days. The strikers hailed me
as a champion; the mill owners first sought to win me over; then they
contrived to do away with me. Three times I was assaulted by murderous
men who had been hired to kill me.

"When their schemes of violence failed they resorted to the most
effective method of destroying me. They discharged me and refused to let
me return after the strike was declared off. Not satisfied with having
turned me away from their mills they dogged my every step. Since that
day I have been unable to get employment in any mill in this country.

"As I am acquainted with the methods of the iron trade I have been able
to give the trade Union many valuable points. It was upon my suggestion
that the amalgamation of the unions was effected.

"From my intimate knowledge of the manufacture of iron I know that the
item of wage is less than fifteen per cent. of the cost of the completed
casting, yet the tariff on manufactured iron is on the average thirty
per cent. Where does the additional fifteen per cent. go? To fatten the
pockets of the favored manufacturer. But that is only half the story.
The fifteen per cent. that is supposed to protect the American laborer,
does it go for this end? Not at all. All of you are familiar with the
wage schedules in the iron industry. They have not been advanced five
per cent. since the imposition of the high tariff. So the manufacturer
gobbles more than ninety per cent. of the tariff bounty.

"It is because I keep telling the iron workers this truth that I am
hounded by the minions of the Trusts.

"We have allowed ourselves to be robbed long enough. I am an American to
the back-bone, and I propose to fight the men who have disputed this
country till I die.

"Let me say that to whatever Nevins may propose I am willing to lend my
support, provided the ends he seeks to obtain are honorable and the
means reasonable.

"As I am talking I cannot keep out of my mind the home which the Iron
Masters destroyed. I had a wife and two children who loved me and were
the idols of my heart. I saw this home destroyed. I saw my children
turned adrift and their mother forced to work to support them; for
during the first three years after the strike I could get nothing to do.

"With these memories which had as a climax the deaths of two nearest and
dearest to me, I have nothing left to live for but the fulfillment of my
resolve to break the power of the Monopolists who have control of this
country."

"This meeting will be protracted to the middle of next week if we all
take a half hour or more to tell our tale of woe," observes one of the
committee who cannot foresee the end of the discussion.

The chairman asks if the members wish to limit the time of the speakers
to five minutes, and this proposition meets with the approval of all.

So the remaining stories are told in short intensive sentences which
describe the heart-breaking history of men who have been trodden down
under the heel of monopoly.

There are examples of every type that can be imagined. Men who have been
defrauded of their ideas and patents; others who have been the victims
of unjust legislation, the dupes of the speculator, the betrayed friends
of men who have ridden to fortune on the backs of those who gave them
their first start.

Under the new ruling, the first man to be recognized is Herman
Nettinger, a man known to all the assemblage as an anarchist. He had
been admitted to the councils on the supposition that the best way to
pacify and placate the Anarchistic element was to offer them full
representation in the work of regenerating the government.

Nettinger had been one of the few men who succeeded in eluding the
police during the days of the reign of anarchy in Chicago in 1885.

He is a man of gigantic build, and of imperturbable placidity. When a
soldier in the German army had provoked him to the point where he had to
fight, this modern Titan had seized his tormenter and without apparent
effort had dashed the man's brains out by butting him against the wall
of the barracks. For this episode Nettinger had been compelled to serve
eleven years in the military prison.

During these years he had familiarized himself with the teachings of the
socialists, for his companions were, many of them, students of
sociology. Upon his release he had come to this country. He invented a
compressed air motor, but the American Motor Trust robbed him of his
patents.

In the space of five minutes Nettinger strives to defend the theory of
anarchy. He denounces all government as a make-shift, and asserts that
man should accordingly dispense with the forms of government and depend
upon animal instinct to regulate the social community. He names Samuel
L. Bell, chairman of the International Patent Commission, as the man who
contrived to rob him of his patent rights.

The meeting adjourns at the conclusion of this harangue.

In the hour that has passed the elements for a political revolution have
been brought together and combined by a master mind.




CHAPTER X.

THE SECRET SESSION.


It is apparent that the views of the men who have the most serious
grievances against the Trusts are yet to be heard. Most of the members
are glad that the meeting of the previous night had adjourned so as to
afford time for them to consider the salient points of the remarkable
proposal that had been sprung by Nevins.

One of the members, who was conspicuous at all of the meetings, a man of
pinched features and diminutive form, a veritable Pope Leo, as it were,
makes a motion, as soon as the meeting opens, that three of the members
be heard, and if their stories in any way coincide with the general
views of the others, the pledge of the remaining men, that they hold
equally strong opinions, be sufficient to admit them to the standing
necessary for the exposition of the plan.

As a means of expediting matters, the committee adopts this resolution
and the three men who are to tell their life's history are chosen. The
first of these is a man of the world, a fallen idol of society, who had
lately joined the ranks of the oppressed as a consequence of dire
financial difficulties.

When he made his advent in the company of the desperate men of Chicago,
he had adopted the name of Stephen Marlow.

This name is sufficient, for the men with whom he comes in contact are
not occupied in searching genealogies. They are working for results.
Marlow is in every sense of the word a leader. He has the grace of
manner and the personal charm that at once attracts men. His physical
development makes him the envy of the male sex and the idol of the
feminine. In stature he is slightly under six feet, with broad shoulders
and a fullness of figure that impresses one with the fact that he is a
good liver, yet withall muscular.

A pale complexion, strongly marked features and high forehead, with dark
brown hair and clear brown eyes, make him a conspicuous figure in any
assemblage.

As he rises to address his fellow-committeemen on this momentous
occasion, a flush of excitement adds to his attractiveness. He is a man
of thirty-five, with the experience of a man of fifty.

"Were I to take the course pursued by those who have already spoken to
you," he begins, "I might take you back to the scenes of my childhood
and portray pictures of affluence and luxury that few of you could quite
appreciate. But the days of my childhood are gone; I am a man and have
to fight the battles of men, so I shall limit myself to the few facts
that are pertinent to the discussion before us.

"In the past six months I have made the sudden transition from the
highest stratum of society to the one in which I am to-day. We cannot,
and do not desire to pose as contented men, or as men who are looking
for mild solutions of the problems that are now pressing for settlement.
I cannot, therefore, affront you when I say that by being among you I
prove that I am a radical reformer.

"What you will be interested in learning will be the reasons that
impelled me to come here.

"There is not a single thing to be hidden from you. I am here for the
purpose of satisfying a revenge.

"My every fibre is quickened by the desire to see the men who caused my
downfall brought to my level.

"I am selfish in my purpose; so deeply rooted are my resolves to be
avenged that I here and now state to you that any thing radical that may
be proposed by this committee shall receive my full support.

"And do you blame me? Listen to my reasons:

"Six years ago I entered the employ of Stephen Steel, the New York
banker. He is a man whom the people of the city and the country at large
look upon as a paragon. His words are constantly quoted in the papers;
his advice is sought by men of affairs.

"My friends told me I was indeed fortunate to be associated with such a
prominent man.

"Well, he was a schemer. At every turn he was on the lookout for a
chance to get at the wealth of others. I had not been in his employ more
than a month when I discovered that he was at the bottom of a plot to
loot the treasuries of three of the largest banks. His scheme was
diabolical. It would have entailed the loss of the savings of thousands
of small depositors.

"With this knowledge in my possession, I did not know just what my duty
was. To shut my eyes to the affair and let it culminate in disaster to
innocent thousands, would have been a simple matter. For several days I
was in a quandary, but my conscience at length conquered. I mustered up
courage enough to speak to my employer. I chose for my time the hour
after his return from church on Sunday. He had passed the plate with the
unction of a saint. Men and women had looked at him and inwardly said:
'What a fine man Mr. Steel is; if there were only more like him.'

"At the first intimation I gave him that I looked upon his plans as
illegal and immoral, if not absolutely criminal, he attempted to prove
to me in a plausible argument that bankers have a right to look out for
themselves, no matter who it hits.

"'This plan of mine,' he said, 'is just a stroke of financiering; it is
what any man would do if put in my place.'

"This did not satisfy me, and the expression of scorn that came over my
face did not escape him.

"From attempting to prove the righteousness of the case, he then took to
berating me for interfering with his business. Had I not enough to do to
attend to my affairs in his office, without prying into his outside
dealing? Was it a matter that he must lay before his manager? These were
the questions he put to me in sharp tones.

"I saw that it would be useless to argue with him so I arose and said:

"'As you will not listen to reason, as you are a hypocrite and a
villain, I shall be compelled to quit your employ. But I wish to inform
you that I shall expose this diabolical plan. It shall not be carried
out if I can prevent it, and you know that I am in possession of the
facts.'

"At this statement his anger knew no bounds. He railed at me as a
trickster. He charged me with wishing to blackmail him. Then seeing that
this was not the way to gain his point, he adroitly shifted his lines.

"Would I not take a share in the profits that were to be made? Did I not
see that banking was a business in which every advantage was to be
seized and worked for all that was in it? At length he offered to let me
in his firm as a partner. This last offer was one that a man would have
been more than human to set aside without weighing.

"He saw me hesitate. It was not the hesitation that comes as a
forerunner of surrender; it was the pause that a man will make when he
has to confront a momentous problem that is to have an effect on his
after-life. I did not intend to accept his alluring terms; it had been
my resolve at the outset to leave his employ should he refuse to abandon
his scheme of loot.

"In the few seconds that I stood facing him, the light of lust came in
his eyes, he became the incarnation of greed. A snake that sees its
quarry edging inch by inch toward the fangs of death could not have had
a more exultant, triumphant look shoot from its treacherous eyes.

"'You will be a man,' said he; 'you will listen to reason.' He uttered
these words not as a query, but as an assertion of fact.

"'I shall do as I have said,' was my reply, and I walked toward the
door.

"'But you do not mean to say that you refuse to become a partner?' he
ejaculated in amazement.

"'That is just what I mean. I tell you once for all that I will not be a
party to such crimes as you propose to commit.' "'Then I warn you, young
man,' he thundered, losing his self control, 'that if you attempt to
thwart me in my business I shall make it uncomfortable for you in this
city.

"'Yes, I tell you now once for all, that you will find me the most
unmerciful enemy that was ever known. I have too much at stake to let a
fool of a man upset me.

"'Do you think that the world will credit the utterances of a nobody as
against mine? Why, you will be lodged in an insane asylum. I shall have
that matter fixed at once.

"'By the way, where are the bonds that I entrusted to your care last
week?'

"'What bonds?' I demanded hotly. For even then I saw the purport of the
question.

"'What bonds? Ah, that will not satisfy a jury.'

"And the banker chuckled at the thought that he had struck upon the
proper weapon with which to crush me.

"In the confidence of his own power, and no doubt as a means of avoiding
publicity, he thought that the affair had gone to a point where he might
appear magnanimous. "'I do not hold any ill will toward you,' he
continued, 'it is as a friend that I speak. You are suffering from a
sensitive conscience, which is out of place in this age and generation.

"'I can pity you, but of course it would be impossible for me to allow
sentiment to rule me in business.

"'We will let this evening pass out of our minds. You will return to
your duties, and in the future let my outside matters be distinct from
your work and concern. But remember, not a word of this to any one.'

"As the last few words were spoken we walked as if by common impulse
toward the door.

"I bade him good-night, and the next minute I found myself on the
sidewalk. It was winter, and the cold bracing air soon made me alive to
the events that had occurred in such quick succession in the banker's
parlor.

"My mind was in a flurry. What was I now to do? Did my silence at
parting indicate that I had accepted his offer to return to work as his
clerk?

"With a muddled brain I walked on and on until I found I had reached the
entrance of the Park at Fifty-ninth street and Fifth avenue. I entered
the park and sank exhausted upon a bench.

"Then I began to review the words of our interview.

"It all became clear to me. I was in the power of an unscrupulous man.
He could throw me into prison at a word; if this was not to be desired
he could have me declared insane and put in an insane asylum. My word
was as naught against his. So I determined to work in his bank until I
could get the evidence that I needed to prove my case.

"I had misjudged my man, for a week later he called me into his private
office and informed me that he had no further use for me.

"_His bank wrecking scheme was successfully carried out._

"In vain I sought to awaken the interest of the press. The story I told
was not credited. I lacked documentary proof. When the crash came the
editors realized that I had told the truth. But it was too late.

"When I began to look for employment, I found that my name had been
blacklisted. Wherever I go, from Maine to California, I am confronted by
an agent of my arch enemy. I cannot even hold a position as a day
laborer.

"The damning brand of the magnate is on me, and employers are warned
against me. And all because I possess a conscience that would not stoop
to crime. I have stood out against retaliating as long as I can. Now my
vow is given to be avenged on Steel and his ilk."

Of all the committeemen none has a more distinguished bearing than
Professor Herbert Talbot. He is a scion of an honorable New England
family; the advantages of refined home surroundings and a college
education have combined to give him a polish that should win him the
respect and admiration of all who know him.

From the day of his graduation from one of the leading universities he
had begun to teach his favorite study, political economy. At fifty years
of age he found himself the recognized authority on economics, a
professor in his alma mater, and the recipient of honors at home and
abroad.

That was in 1894. What a difference a few years has wrought. Now he is
an outcast, driven from his position in the faculty by the order of
Rufus Vanpeldt, the Woolen King, the patron of the university. Talbot is
reviled by his fellow-collegians, and ostracized from the society in
which he had always been a leader; and all because he has had the
manliness to express the truth on the political conditions of the
country.

He has advocated the reduction of the tariff to a reasonable point; he
has been a staunch supporter of the income tax; his views on the money
question are deemed heretical and he is dismissed from the circles of
learning.

From being the submissive hireling and servitor of the educational
institution, he entered the political field as their most powerful
adversary. He is one of the leaders of the Anti-Trust movement. When the
committee of Forty was organized, he had been one of the first selected.

Many of the committee await his speech with lively interest. Whatever
view he takes of the proposition they determine to adopt. He is the next
member to be called upon.

In an impressive, convincing argument he approves of the proposition.
Not that it is faultless, but because it offers the only remedy for the
vicious condition of the country's social condition.

In presenting the arguments in favor of the adoption of the proposition,
Professor Talbot demonstrates that the centralization of capital in the
hands of a few men is the gravest mistake that a republic can permit to
occur. It creates an oligarchy that is more pernicious than one of class
distinction, since such a one can be coped with, while an oligarchy of
wealth possesses so many ramifications that it is practically
unassailable except by direct and physical means.

"It is the common belief that labor-saving inventions are accountable
for much of the distress that exists in this country," he says, "but
this is not so in so far as the inventions themselves are concerned.

"The evils that have followed the introduction of labor-saving machinery
are the results of capitalists seeking to squeeze the last cent of
profit out of their enterprises.

"When an inventor produces any improvement in manufacture he does the
world a good; when the manufacturer who adopts this invention, at the
same time discharges his adult male operatives and substitutes child
labor, he vitiates the good that has been done and works a great harm to
society.

"The crying evil of to-day is _child labor_, and the labor of women in
trades and at work that is manifestly fit only for men.

"I shall make no lengthy appeal to you to adopt a direct means of
securing your rights. I shall set you an example by announcing that I
pledge my support to Mr. Nevins in anything that he may do that has for
its object the emancipation of the women, children and men of this
country from industrial slavery.

"There is a living to be had for every inhabitant on the earth if he
will work. We in America should guarantee more than subsistence to our
citizens. A life of plenty is here for all if the social conditions can


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Online LibraryFrancis A. AdamsThe Transgressors Story of a Great Sin → online text (page 6 of 17)