Francis A. Adams.

The Transgressors Story of a Great Sin online

. (page 7 of 17)
Online LibraryFrancis A. AdamsThe Transgressors Story of a Great Sin → online text (page 7 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


be readjusted."

Peter Bergen, a socialist who represents Kansas, is the last to speak.
His views are those of the radical. Nothing but instant centralization
of all the land and property of the country to be owned and operated by
the people as a whole, appear to him to offer an adequate solution of
the social problem. He is ready to aid in any movement that is
calculated to bring this condition about. He rails against the tyranny
of landlordism.

"What justification is there to the laws that will permit an alien to
hold land idle in this country until American energy improves the
surrounding property? What justification is there in permitting an alien
to withdraw rents from this country without paying a tax toward the
support of the Federal government?

"I have fought for this country; I have paid a land tax on my farm and a
tax on everything I consume. What does the alien land-holder pay?
Nothing.

"I am ready to defend my home and country now. I will ever be loyal to
it, for it is the best in the world.

"Its government is not perfect; it is our duty to make it so.

"Let us confiscate the lands of expatriated Americans as an initial
step.

"The man who will not contribute to the support of the government does
not deserve its protection." His words are uttered with vehemence.

When he concludes this recital of personal grievances against the
Trusts, the chairman announces that at the next meeting the members will
be given full particulars of the purpose of the syndicate.

The forty men separate, each carrying with him the conviction that at
length the time has come when something definite is to be decided upon
in the war against Trusts.




CHAPTER XI.

MARTHA'S PREMONITION.


Trueman remains in Chicago after the close of the Anti-Trust conference
so as to be present at the National convention of the Independence
party. He is one of the delegates at large to this convention, and hopes
to be able to exert an influence over its deliberations, now that he has
won some renown as a speaker.

In the rush of the sessions of the Anti-Trust conference he had had no
time to keep his promise to Martha. Once only had he sent her a note
telling her of his safe arrival in the city. It had not occurred to him
that she would be anxiously awaiting a letter from him containing his
views on the results of the conference. Why should a woman be interested
in such matters?

It is with unbounded surprise therefore that he receives the following
letter from her:

WILKES-BARRE, JUNE 13.
_My Dear Friend:_

It has been so long since I have heard from you that I take
the initiative and write to ask you to forward to me as soon as
possible, an article embodying your views on the recent Anti-Trust
conference. I have a special reason for wishing this
before the assembling of the Independence convention. To
be frank with you, I have a premonition that you will be
honored with the nomination for the Vice-presidency. Your
friends in Pennsylvania, and in the other Eastern states, are
working for you. I am handicapped by being a woman, yet
in some ways it has proven advantageous to me.

By my peculiar intimacy with the families of this district,
I became acquainted with the fact that your name is being
mentioned as a possible candidate for the office. As soon as I
learned this, I set to work to 'boom,' as the politicians would
say, the incipient movement. Last night I was assured by
O'Connor, the local leader, that you were sure of the support
of the delegations of Pennsylvania and New York. For this
reason I can wait no longer for a letter from you.

Let me know at once if you look favorably on the proposition
of being a candidate for the high office.

Are you a member of the Committee of Forty? And what
is this body?

As ever your friend,

MARTHA.

Here is a revelation.

Unknown to him, his friends, and especially Martha, are at work planning
for his nomination as a candidate for the office of Vice-president. The
idea of his achieving such a success has never entered his mind.

How can an unknown delegate hope to receive the support of the
convention. It seems unreasonable, and he is on the point of writing to
Martha that the effort could not help but end in a ridiculous farce,
when an interruption prevents him from doing so. A card is brought to
his room. It bears the simple inscription:

A FRIEND.

"Invite the person up," Trueman tells the servant.

The apartments he occupies are in a quiet boarding house on Lincoln
Avenue. He has been in the house six weeks, during which time no one has
ever called to see him.

A minute passes in which he ransacks his mind in an attempt to think who
can have any business with him. It is half-past eight at night.

A loud rap at the door announces the visitor.

"Come in," calls Trueman.

"Good evening, Mr. Trueman." It is William Nevins who speaks.

"O, it is you, Mr. Nevins," exclaims Trueman.

"I owe you an apology," he continues, "for being surprised at seeing
you; but the fact is I am a stranger in Chicago and have had no
visitors. When your card came I could not imagine who could wish to see
me."

"I am well aware that you are a stranger in this city," Nevins replies.
"And as I am little better off I thought that I would drop in to have a
chat with you."

"We were delegates at the Anti-Trust Conference and will have much to
discuss," says Trueman, in his most affable manner. "I certainly am glad
you thought of me. Take a seat, and make yourself as comfortable as the
quarters will permit."

They seat themselves near the table. A pipe and a jar of tobacco lie on
the table.

"Will you smoke?"

Nevins shakes his head negatively, saying as he does so:

"I cannot talk and smoke at the same time. To-night I want to talk.

"The fact is I have become interested in you since your speech at the
close of the conference.

"You will remember it was I who suggested that the committee appointed
to investigate the Trust question be increased to forty.

"When I made that motion I had an object in view. I was anxious to have
you become one of the committeemen."

"Then the full committee has been appointed?" Trueman asks.

"The forty committeemen have been named. You are not among them, and the
reason is that the chairman is jealous of you."

"He can have no reason to be jealous of me."

"The fact remains that he is. I strove to get him to appoint you. He
flatly refused to do so. I could get no reason from him. So I concluded
that he fears you would outshine him in the work that the committee
contemplates doing. Your speech was masterly. I am not given to
flattery. I say candidly that it was the best delivered at the
conference.

"Since I failed to get you on the committee of forty, I come to see if
you will aid me in a project that will make the committee superfluous; I
have an idea that the trust question, monopoly and the other social
problems can be speedily solved."

"You did not speak at the conference; that was the place to propound
such an idea," interposes Trueman.

"Quite true. But I held my peace there, because it was not a place to
bring forth the plan that I have evolved. You will agree with me if you
will hear me through.

"My plan requires in the first place the services of an honest man - one
who is proof against the blandishments of the Plutocrats - who will spurn
the offers of gold and office that will be tendered him by the men of
wealth when they perceive that he is on the eve of winning the popular
support.

"Such a man is hard to find in this age of commercialism which has all
but quenched the spark of true patriotism in the hearts of the people. I
have sought for the ideal leader in all the States and was on the point
of giving up the quest in despair when I suddenly came upon him. Once I
determined that the man had been found, I set about learning his record.
It appears that he is the product of evolution. From the servant of the
Plutocrats he has come to be their most powerful adversary. In him the
people will recognize the long-looked-for deliverer."

Here Nevins pauses for a moment to let his words sink into the mind of
his interested listener.

"Mr. Trueman," he resumes, "I have decided that you are the man to lead
the people out of their bondage."

"I certainly feel complimented at your estimate of my integrity,"
Trueman replies, "but you greatly overestimate my ability and the hold
which I have upon the people.

"It was by the merest chance that I was elected to the position of
delegate to the conference. I have really little influence with the men
of my own State. This you must know if you have made a careful
investigation."

"I know why you are not the recipient of the full support of the men of
Pennsylvania. They cannot conceive of a man changing his views so
thoroughly as you have. But this lack of perception they will overcome.

"I want you to assure me that you will become the leader of the
Independence Party. If you do this I, in turn, will assure you of the
nomination for the Presidency.

"That I am not speaking of impossibilities you will be able to
understand when I show you the proof of the power I hold to elect the
man I decide upon.

"If I am not mistaken, you are opposed to violence as a means of
rectifying the social conditions of the people of this country."

"It has been my purpose to defeat every proposition that advised force,"
comes the quick response. "I am too vividly acquainted with the horrid
results that follow an appeal to force.

"My hope is that the people will regain their rights by the proper
exercise of the ballot.

"If they discard their all-powerful weapon to take up the sword or the
torch, the end must be the destruction of popular government."

"Were you in the position of the chief executive you would follow this
view? You would be as determined in suppressing violence as you were in
preventing crime of any other sort? Your gratitude to the people for
electing you would not blind you to your duty in preventing them from
instituting a reign of anarchy? I am correct in this supposition?"

Nevins looks Trueman in the eyes with a glance that seems intent on
reading his inmost thoughts.

"I should do my full duty under the constitution," Trueman declares
emphatically.

"But, really," he adds, "I cannot appreciate this situation. It is
inexplicable why you should interest yourself in my behalf to the extent
of seeking to bring about my nomination for the Presidency."

"My reason is not hard to divine. It is not you whom I am working for;
it is the people.

"In you I find the proper agent to fulfil the mission of a leader in an
hour of grave importance.

"Older men lack the power of attracting the masses. Of the young men
whom I have studied, none has the ability, the needed environment that
you have.

"Men are creatures of circumstances only when they permit themselves to
drift. If one cannot propel himself to a given haven of success he
should at least anchor in a place of safety.

"With you it is only necessary that you give me the sign, and you will
become the master of circumstances. You will be the man to lead the
people to the plane of high civilization that their government makes it
possible for them to attain."

For three hours Nevins continues to unfold in detail the plan he has for
accomplishing the nomination of Trueman at the coming convention. He
shows his prospective candidate letters pledging the support of a
majority of the State delegations to the man whom he should designate.
In explanation of his power as a leader Nevins states that he has been
the secret agent of the Allied Unions for three years, that he has been
deputized to select a man to be presented to the convention as a
possible candidate. If the man proves acceptable the delegates
representing the unions will support him.

"The Committee of Forty is working for you," he says in conclusion.
"Their work will bring them in all sections of the country and they will
be able to influence a great number of the people."

He gives no hint of the true mission of the committee. He knows that
Trueman would repudiate the party that would resort to so drastic a
means of rescuing the people.

"Have I your consent to bring about your nomination?" he asks.

"I shall have to give this matter much thought. You shall have my
answer -

"To-morrow night," Nevins interjects. "Delays are dangerous. The
convention meets in two weeks time."

"To-morrow night, then," assents Trueman.

Nevins leaves abruptly. He does not wish to weaken the effect he has
produced on Trueman by further discussion.

When he finds himself alone Trueman walks back and forth in the cramped
room. He is weighing a question that has never before been put to a man.

There is no doubt in his mind as to the sincerity of Nevins. It is clear
that this strange man, who, in a matter-of-fact way, asserts that he
holds the power of a great convention in his grasp, could have used it
for base ends; he could have chosen a man of less inflexible character
than Trueman.

"If I can bring myself to believe that it is because of my honesty that
Nevins has selected me, I shall give him my consent."

Trueman makes this mental reservation, then turns to the table and
writes a long letter to Martha. He sets the matter before her, tells her
he will enter politics, and asks for her advice. Regarding the Committee
of Forty, he tells her all he knows, which is to the effect that it has
been appointed to investigate the work of the Trusts and to make a full
report at the next Anti-Trust Conference.

He then goes to his bed. It is daylight before his mind has exhausted
itself. He sleeps until midday. On awakening he renews the consideration
of Nevins' proposal. At eight o'clock in the evening Nevins arrives.

Where Nevins had been the one to speak the night before, Trueman now
enters upon an exhaustive interrogatory. He asks for the most minute
particulars of the events that have brought him to the notice of Nevins.
To all his questions there is an instant reply. At the conclusion of
three hours Trueman definitely makes up his mind to try for the
candidacy.

"You may work for my nomination," he says, "and be assured if I am
nominated I shall strive to be elected.

"If it is the will of the people to elect me I shall be faithful to the
high duties of the office."

Nevins bids his protege good night, assuring him that they will keep in
constant communication.

The Committee of Forty, which is in session in a hall on the outskirts
of the city in the vicinity of the stock yards, is surprised when, at
midnight, Nevins appears before them to announce that he has selected
Harvey Trueman to be the candidate for the Presidency on the
Independence ticket.




CHAPTER XII.

TAKING THE SECRET OATH.


Eternal vigilance is the policy of the Magnates in keeping their sleuths
ever on the alert for the unearthing of the plans of the anti-trust
advocates. In every city detectives are untiring in their efforts to
discover the work of the Committee of Forty. It is suspected that the
committee is to obtain damaging evidence against some of the most
oppressive of the monopolies and bring the full story of the wholesale
robbery of the people out as a climax in the coming campaign.

By diligent investigation the detectives learn the names of the
thirty-seven men who have been added to the committee by the appointive
power of the chairman. It is also ascertained that the forty men are
still in the city of Chicago.

This fact is open to several interpretations. It may indicate that the
committee has determined to work from a central office; or that the
committee is a blind, intended to mislead the detectives into watching
it while another agency is at work. The importance of discovering the
true mission of the committee is therefore most urgent.

To inspire the detectives to solve the question, the Plutocratic
National Committee secretly offers a reward of $5000 to the man who will
obtain the desired information.

In holding their daily meetings the Forty observe the greatest caution.
Each member goes to the appointed place alone, avoiding as much as
possible attracting the attention of the detectives whom they know are
on the lookout. It is not their intention to have any mystery connected
with their existence, yet they wish to work unhampered by the servants
of the Magnates.

For its semi-monthly conference the committee meets at Drover's hall.
The deliberations are not open to the public; still, no attempt is made
to conceal the fact that there is a meeting.

Nevins and the other leading members decide that the secret meeting at
which he is to develop his plan shall be held in a place where there
will be no possible way for a spy to creep in.

They select a deserted rolling mill on the edge of the river in North
Chicago. This mill was one of the most prosperous in the city prior to
the consolidation of the iron industries. Immediately following the
combine the mill had been closed and the work that should have gone to
it was transferred to the Trust's great plant in Pittsburg.

For eight years the fires in the furnaces have been extinguished; the
incompleted iron work that lies about the ground has been given over to
the ravages of rust; desolation is the master of the mill.

The spot is an ideal one for a secret meeting place. The police never
enter the grounds except at long intervals, when the inspector of the
precinct is on his rounds. This official makes a perfunctory survey of
the mausoleum of dead industry. In his report the entry, "Iron works
vacant," sufficiently describes the place.

On the night of the secret meeting the members arrive at the mill by
various routes. There are three entrances on land and a wharf extends
along the eastern limit of the enclosure. Five of the delegates cross
the river in a skiff.

At nine o'clock all the men are present. They gather on the second floor
of the storage shed, a brick structure one hundred by one hundred and
fifty feet in area, and three stories high. There are no windows in its
bleak walls. On each floor in the wall that faces the interior court of
the mill enclosure are two corrugated iron doors. These doors are
closed, and effectually exclude the light from without, as well as any
light that might be made within. On the floor where the committee meet
there is a rough plank table that was used by the machinists of the
mill.

At this improvised tribunal the Forty meet to discuss the regeneration
of the nation.

Two candles at either end of the ten foot table serve to reveal the
dense darkness rather than to dispel it. The flickering-lights fall on
the faces of the men as they sit on the floor in a semi-circle. Their
eyes are alone perceptible, and the several members are unable to
distinguish one another.

The voice of one speaker after another issues from the darkness,
producing a supernatural effect upon the assemblage. The nerves of even
the most intrepid are at a high tension.

A gust of wind rattling the iron doors causes the men to start; the
lowest whisper is intensified to what seems a sonorous shout. In this
strange theatre, the actors in what is to be the greatest world-drama,
wait to be assigned their parts and to play the first act.

Nevins is the stage manager; he has chosen the settings; has assembled
the caste. Now it is his duty to give the signal for the curtain to
rise. As with the dramatists of old, he decides to introduce his
production with a prologue.

Advancing to the centre of the semi-circle he begins the explanation of
his plan of salvation.

Is it destined to end as many thousands have done, in miserable failure?

"What I propose will strike you as the ravings of a man who has lost his
last grain of sense," he begins. "Yet I am prepared to demonstrate that
the plan is not only feasible, but that it is the only one which can be
put into execution and carried through to a successful issue. The greed
and the power of the Trust Magnates is insatiable. They will not make
the least concession to the people. The day for arbitration is at an
end; the time for the people to act is at hand.

"Every means of defence against the Trusts has been absorbed by them.
What are we to do, surrender meekly, or fight?

"History shows us how terrible a thing war is - especially revolutionary
war. Now, I have thought out a plan by which war and its attendant
calamity can be averted and the people be reinstated in their power.

"There is not a man here who would not enlist to-day at the call for
troops. Many of you have already proven yourselves patriots by your
service in the field and on the ships of the United States.

"Now, it is not always necessary to be on a battlefield in order to show
courage. Men can be heroes in the humble walks of life.

"What I want of you is a pledge that you will stand by me to put out of
existence the deadly foes of this country. I want you to swear that you
will not flinch when the moment comes for you to fight, even to the
death.

"Are any of you unwilling to swear that you would fight the foes of our
country to the bitter end?"

No one speaks. The excited condition of the speaker impresses the men
strangely. They do not know just how to take him.

"I shall at the next meeting name forty men, each of whom has been an
enemy of the United States; each of whom has seen the growth of his
private fortune built upon the ruin of homes; each of whom has opposed
every measure for the alleviation of the condition of the masses of the
people.

"Many of them are known to you as offenders of national notoriety. You
have mentioned them in your recital of grievances.

"You all know of the bloody history of the Czar of the Lakes, Anthony
Marcus. The graves of the murdered sailors and longshoremen are a
sufficient indictment against him.

"Need I tell you of the horrors that have been daily perpetrated by the
ruthless oil magnate, Savage, in my own State of Pennsylvania?

"Is the right to check competition by the use of the torch to be
conceded to him? Is murder for the sake of commercial advantage to be
sanctioned as our national policy?

"The ancients were never so free or so powerful as when their citizens
exercised the right to proscribe unworthy citizens.

"Let us constitute this meeting into a forum and issue our list of the
proscribed. When the list is read I shall be glad to substitute others
for the names I have selected.

"The people are too subservient to aid us in carrying out the edict; so
I propose that we each select a man from this list of forty, and that we
then see that the edict is enforced. _We shall thus rid the earth of its
chief transgressors_.

"When the French revolution was brought on, the world knew nothing of
the possibilities of combined wealth as an agency for the improvement of
the condition of the human race. Now we are familiar with all of the
wonders that can be accomplished by the combining of money into
corporate form.

"We also know that at the present time all of the combined capital of
the world is held in the hands of a mighty ring of magnates. The
civilized world's billion of people slave for the benefit of a few
thousands, who have usurped the prerogatives and the rights of the
whole. Nowhere is this condition more aggravated than in this country.
We were all born freemen and we find ourselves to-day at the mercy of a
few thousand plutocrats. The advantage of improved production is being
kept from the people. We are denied our heritage.

"We cannot fight the magnates in the open, for they have attained
control of the army and the judicial forces of the government. We face
the alternative of submission or revolution.

"What does it avail if we send Representatives to Congress who are tools
of the magnates? What does it avail if Congress enacts laws which the
executive refuses to enforce?

"The ballot has become a weapon to destroy those it should protect.
Elections ruled by coercion are a mockery.

"I am in favor of inaugurating a scientific revolution. There is no need
to raise a guillotine in the city's square and drag to their death those
who are living upon the life's blood of the many. This is the crude way
to reach a desired end.

"The world is never lastingly horrified and deterred from evil by the
mere letting of blood. Crime can be obliterated only by reformation of
the criminal element of society. Condemnation of individuals who are
caught is productive of little good.

"The destruction even of an army momentarily shocks; but in the one


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryFrancis A. AdamsThe Transgressors Story of a Great Sin → online text (page 7 of 17)