Francis A. Adams.

The Transgressors Story of a Great Sin online

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breath the people will cry, 'war is hell; let us have war, for peace
sake.' And when war comes it never affects the cowards, the usurers, the
rogues; they stay at a safe distance from the scenes of action, and,
with the instinct of the hyena, they profit on the nation's calamity.
Our trusts are the result of the jobbing that was started during the
Civil War, and which has never lagged since.

"The fight that I would have you make is against forty cowards and
scoundrels who are sucking the very life out of the country - the forty
who represent the high council of the magnates. Let it be a personal
fight, a tourney; you the Knights Errant who ride against the dragons.

"When the world awakens some morning and reads that at a given hour the
forty Robbers of America were sent to their eternal resting place with
their crimes on their heads, the shock will not pass away in a day. It
will be far different from reading of a battle fought six thousand miles
from Washington. Then will be the time for the men who have the good of
the people at heart to reestablish them in their rights.

"Money is the god that the Nation is asked to worship. It makes fools of
the majority and knaves of the rest.

"It will take some unprecedented occurrence to stir the masses. The
firing on Fort Sumter shook the Nation more than the carnage of
Gettysburg. The Nation has come to be apathetic on a vital question;
even more so than in the ante-bellum days. The dry-rot of Commercialism
is consuming us. We are governed by dividend worshipers. We must act, if
our manifest destiny to be a lasting republic is to be fulfilled.

"If the taking off of the forty men would do the work that I wish to see
done I would be glad; but it will require a sacrifice on our part of
more than our prejudice against taking of life. We shall each have to
kill our man, and then commit suicide."

"What!" ejaculate several.

"We shall be obliged to commit suicide. There is no other course open
for us, for if, on the announcement that the forty men have been
murdered, there is not the still more surprising statement that the
murderer of each is found dead beside the slain, the effect will be
common-place, and everyone will say it is a cowardly plot to kill forty
of the 'best citizens.' There is no way out of it. You would all gladly
fight with an enemy of the country to the death. To rescue the flag from
the enemy you would face a hail of lead.

"This flag of Freedom is defiled to-day by the Magnates. You are asked
to rescue it. It was snatched from my hands on the highway as I went to
present a petition to my fellow citizens.

"When each of us has been allotted his man we will work to the
accomplishment of the plan at the given time. On each there will be
found a letter explaining what led to the killing of the public enemy.
These forty letters will appear in the papers throughout the land; they
will be compared and found to be counterparts; then the public mind will
grasp the significance of the seeming murders. It will then be regarded
as an act of deliverance. In place of being regarded as murderers we
shall be recognized as men whose love of country impelled us to
sacrifice our lives unhesitatingly.

"By the blotting out of forty of the chief despots, and the publication
of the reasons; and by the announcement that the people are determined
to regain their rights, the road to National Ownership and Control of
Public Utilities, and the regulation of the finances and commerce by the
government, will be materially cleared.

"In fact, I am confident that the next election after this object lesson
will find the robbers ready to sell at a just price and the people eager
to come into possession of their own?"

"We will time the execution of our design so that it shall occur on the
13th of October, four weeks before the National election. The
Independence Party will have as its candidate a man who is known for his
honesty and ability; who is an avowed opponent to force either by the
magnates or the people. The people will be eager to entrust their safety
in his hands.

"The dread of a repetition of the edict of Proscription will cause even
the supporters of the Robber Barons to prefer the election of the
people's candidates, than to face the results of the election of a
Plutocrat."

The Chairman interrupts the speaker: "We will not take a vote on this
question to-night, so I should suggest that the meeting be brought to a
close. This will afford us all time to further consider the
proposition."

The meeting closes in silence. There is a stern anxious look on the
faces of many of the men; others look as if they are on the point of
fainting. They reach the court-yard and seem relieved to get a breath of
fresh air.

The two members who represent the Anarchistic element are the most
depressed. They speak to several of the men from the socialistic orders
and try to get at the reason why they shall have to commit suicide for
doing what they believe to be the best thing for the world. No one is
able to give any very good reason, so the two anarchists go to their
homes in any thing but a serene frame of mind.

At the meeting held the following night, the members discuss the
momentous proposition in all its details, the result being that they all
agree to pledge themselves to the carrying out of the edict of
annihilation.

Without unnecessary ceremony each member of the committee takes the
preliminary oath that Nevins demands. The reading of the list of the
proscribed is postponed for a week.

From the time the committee decides to take the serious step, there is a
decided change in the attitude of many of them toward William Nevins.
Some of the men have a vague notion that he is not sincere; that he is
an agent of the Magnates.

Not that he has said a word that would lend color to this belief, for,
on the contrary, it was he who expressed his views freely as originator
of the drastic plan. It comes rather as the result of his being superior
to his colleagues in many ways. His reserve of manner, his invariable
good judgment and the exhibition of his erudition, instead of endearing
him to the members, make them distrustful of him.

A free expression of the feeling that exists is not made, however, until
the evening of the allotment. This is the occasion which the men who
hold Nevins in disfavor have determined shall be made the moment for his
dismissal from the council and for a change in his plan, if not a total
rejection of it.

Before the appointed hour of the meeting, these skeptics meet in secret
conclave.

"It will be our duty to-night to decide upon the means by which the plan
we have been considering may be carried into execution, or abandoned,"
states the chairman of this impromptu meeting in a perfunctory tone. "If
there is any preliminary matter to be discussed, I am ready to entertain
it."

This brings three of the men to their feet.

Coleman, the delegate from California, is recognized.

"Mr. Chairman, I am opposed to allowing any man to take part in this
work who is not in thorough sympathy with the rest of the committee. It
would be a manifest impossibility for this very dangerous and
unprecedented undertaking to be launched with the possible danger of
there being a spy in our company.

"I am not prepared to say that there is such a spy here, yet until it is
satisfactorily demonstrated that we are all of us true friends of the
laboring men of the country, I shall be against proceeding to the
further outlining of the plan.

"It is not enough that a man profess friendship. He must be able to show
by his acts that he has done something for his fellow-men besides
theorize."

These views are quickly seconded. Then follows a talk among the men as
to what each of them has done to establish a record as a friend of the
masses. From the statements and the corroborating testimony of
dissenters, all of the members, with the exception of Nevins, pass
satisfactorily. He has no acts to his credit. No one admits knowing of
him outside of his work as a committeeman. Not one of those in
attendance at this special meeting will speak a word in his behalf.

At this juncture, when it looks as though he is to be ruled out of the
committee and his plan repudiated, Hendrick Stahl asks to be heard.

As Stahl is a member of high standing and the leader of a strong labor
party in Minnesota, he is permitted to speak. In a few forceful words he
denounces the men for their ungenerous suspicion; he tells them that he
has known Nevins as a friend and co-worker for years.

Not without a visible degree of dissatisfaction the objecting members
accept the situation and agree to attend the meeting to hear the reading
of the list of proscribed. The men present do not know that Nevins had
planned the seeming rebellion to test the sincerity of the men whom he
is to take into his full confidence; that he has Professor Talbot and
Hendrick Stahl working as his lieutenants.

Nothing now standing in the way of the plan, the men await the hour for
the night session. They are eager to hear the reading of the list.




CHAPTER XIII.

THE LIST OF TRANSGRESSORS.


At length the hour arrives in which the men are to be given the names of
the transgressors. It would be disastrous to have any knowledge of the
affair fall into the possession of the sleuths of the Trusts; so every
precaution for secrecy is observed. The loft of the deserted mill is
again chosen as the place of meeting. A thorough search of the
storehouse is made, and then the committee assembles in the narrow
semi-circle.

After the meeting is called to order, there is an apparent apathy on the
part of a number of the Eastern members. When questioned they freely
admit that they do not believe their constituents would sanction the
drastic measure.

Nevins is absent on his visit to Trueman. He has arranged with Professor
Talbot and Stahl to delay the meeting and put the members through
another test.

The proposition is argued anew.

It is explained that each man is called upon to make an equal sacrifice;
that there is no difference in declaring one's patriotism by enlisting
in the army or navy to fight a common foe, or in being one of a
numerically small and intrinsically strong army of forty. The Trusts and
Monopolies have proven a menace to the people, and can consequently be
looked upon as a foe to the government, to be dealt with accordingly.

A unanimous decision to carry out the plan is reached.

At this juncture Nevins appears.

He asks permission to proceed with the reading of the list of the
proscribed. He is recognized and begins his startling speech.

"In the lapse of years one is apt to forget the springs from which the
wells of human action are fed; it is commonly the lot of man to sink
into a state of mind that is at once unreceptive and unretentive. The
result is that at the age of thirty he finds himself incapable of
grasping new and difficult conceptions. This is the reason why so many
injustices are permitted to exist in the world. Men in their youth are
thoughtless; in their mature and old age they are neglectful or
willingly negligent.

"A degree of success or a degree of failure has a like tendency to blunt
the finer qualities of the mind. A man with a competency will not take
the troubles of his fellow man to heart. The unfortunate man who has not
the wherewithal to support his family is in no position to take the
initiative in a labor movement or in a political revolution.

"So the work devolves upon the few men who have the means and the
inclination to strive for the betterment of humanity.

"Yet even these men are not always capable of judging events by their
true proportions and relations.

"Advancement is the one thing that reformers fear. The ends they would
attain are almost always reconstructive; they are never creative."
Nevins utters these words with impressive emphasis.

"These remarks I have made by way of prelude to the matter I shall now
proceed to discuss directly and earnestly.

"We are each and all convinced that the pernicious system of fostering
monopolies that has been instituted in this country can have but one
result, the undermining of our popular institutions, and in their place
the substitution of moneyed Plutocracy. This result is abhorrent to
every true American.

"Now, there is no way to put an end to monopolies except by the people
rising in their might and reassuming their own.

"The hypocritical advice of the leaders of the great universities, that
the people ostracize the Magnates, has now ceased to satisfy the
exigencies of the case. What sort of ostracism would the President of a
University endowed by the millions of a Magnate, propose to have
enforced against his master?

"Another of the proposals emanating from the hireling counsels of the
Trusts, is that the methods of the Trusts be placed under the
searchlight of publicity. A pretty programme, indeed, were it not for
the fact that the very men who propose this method of dealing with
monopolies would be engaged by the Magnates to defend them from
exposure.

"To invoke the aid of the courts is to be brought face to face with the
servants of the Trusts. Where is the Attorney-General who can
successfully prosecute a Trust? The only one who was ever sincere in his
attempt met an insurmountable barrier in the courts before which he
arraigned the guilty.

"And the votes of the people, do they avail?

"The executives and legislators whom they elect are false to their
pledges.

"The great sin of this country is the worship of gold. Human life is
held as secondary to the dollar.

"Who then shall deliver the people from the bondage that has come upon
them?

"Unguided, they are as a flock of sheep without a shepherd. False
prophets, mercenary leaders, are an abomination. They have been and are
to this day, the clogs in the wheels of progress.

"The work of rejuvenation must be done by an intrepid few. It cannot be
entrusted to visionary men, to fanatics, to men who detest government of
any form or to men who are willing to suffer present ills rather than
face temporary discomfiture.

"To carry on a crusade one must surrender self.

"If our plan did not embrace more than the annihilation of forty of the
Transgressors it would not be raised to a higher plane than wholesale
homicide.

"But we are to follow the course which the Plutocrats have traversed.
They have destroyed individual liberty; they have entrenched themselves
in our halls of legislature by bribery; our executives are their
puppets; our courts are their final buttress. To reclaim the rights of
the people we must reach the powers in control; the actual men who
engineer the scheme of public loot. These men have sacrificed human
lives to attain their ascendency. We must demand, we must enforce an
atonement.

"Because we are to deal with the chief transgressors, who represent a
small number, our deed will be regarded in the light of murder.

"Were the magnates in the field as an open foe our assault upon them
would be hailed as an act of heroism. Shall we be deterred by
consideration of a difference in mere words?

"I propose to vindicate these so-called murders, which we are to commit.
The atonement will be frightful. Will it be more so than the conditions
which necessitate it?

"Are the lives of forty soulless men to be compared with those of
thousands who are yearly sacrificed to sordid commercialism?

"Are we to extend our commerce at the price of a life for every dollar
of foreign trade?

"Men prospered in this country before the reign of the Trust Magnates;
men grew rich through ordinate profits, and the prosperity of the
country was the prosperity of all. To-day men seek to enrich themselves
by preying on the necessities of their fellowmen.

"Can the cry of tyrants and sycophants drown the wail of the innocent
children and women who have been chained to the wildcat car of Modern
Commercialism?

"In compiling the list of Transgressors, I have selected no man merely
because he is possessed of great wealth. There are many millionaires who
have earned their fortunes by honest endeavor and in strict conformity
with the laws of the land. I have discriminated against those who have
prostituted the laws of God and man; not a man whom I shall declare
proscribed but he is known to all men as stained with the blood of
innocents.

"'The voice of the people is the voice of God.' This voice cries to us
from four million mothers' mouths for deliverance from tyrants who
compel them to work for a living even in the hours of their pregnancy.
The child laborers of this land of freedom raise a piteous plea.

"Do you wait for an actual rain of hell-fire as a sign that God's will
is not being done?

"It is our duty to strike a blow at Plutocracy that shall destroy it for
all time. We will act as sovereigns of the land. In us resides the
supreme rights of mankind. Our edict cannot be enforced by the courts,
so we will act for ourselves.

"The names I read are not given in any fixed order; each man is equally
guilty."

Here Nevins takes a slip of paper from his pocket and begins to read:

"By reason of his treasonable act in furnishing the Nation's defenders
poisonous food while they were engaged in actual war, and for continued
vending of deleterious food to the citizens at large; for his
conspicuous participation in the formation of the monopoly of the meat
products of the country, for the purpose of extorting tribute from the
masses, I name Tingwell Fang as one of the transgressors. This man has a
fortune of $200,000,000; more than the life earnings of 2,000 men
engaged in ordinary pursuits for a period of thirty years each.

"Judge if God ordained that one man should be possessed of such fabulous
wealth when His Son gave as our prayer, 'Give us this day our daily
bread.'

"As the controller of the Wheat Trust, by which the grim hand of famine
is laid on the nation, and a tax levied on our subsistence, I name David
Leach as another of the transgressors. He has collected $100,000,000, in
sums of one and two cents from the millions of men, women and children
of this country. He stands between us and our daily bread.

"I need not portray the sufferings that are inflicted on the nation by
the presence of the Coal Trust. From the miners to the consumers the
tale is one of ever-increasing awfulness. Man to-day, who must live in
the northern and temperate regions of our country, cannot endure the
cold of winter without artificial heat. He cannot go to the virgin
forests, for the land is owned by private individuals; he cannot go to
the mines, for they are the property of the coal barons. He must
purchase the coal that is needed to heat his home.

"This makes coal not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life.

"In the hands of the Trust the price is raised to the highest possible
point. The monopoly is complete; the demand perpetual.

"Every home where coal is consumed is a witness to the rapacity of the
Coal Trust. I therefore name as one of the transgressors, Gorman Purdy,
President of the Coal Trust, the man who ordered the massacre of the
miners at Hazleton; who has driven widows and orphans from the mining
towns to let them starve on the highways. He is the possessor of
$160,000,000, the equivalent of the earnings of 10,000 miners for
forty-five years.

"I name as a transgressor, Ebenezer J. Sloat, President of the Leather
Combine. His single fortune is $80,000,000. This man succeeded in
effecting a consolidation of all of the leather producers; now the
nation pays the Trust a royalty on every pair of shoes that is sold.

"He has driven the cobbler out of existence and has set children and
women at the machines which turn out completed shoes, on which not a
single part has to be made by skilled labor.

"It is not in the trades alone that the Transgressors are to be found.
They have developed in high places.

"I name as one of the proscribed, ex-Supreme Court Justice Elias M.
Turner, who, at the demand of the Magnates, recanted his judgment on the
question of constitutional taxation, and left the humble citizens to
bear the burden of taxes while the Trusts and Monopolies go practically
exempt. This act of betrayal to the public weal is the more atrocious as
it was done by a man who had been invested with the highest honor that
the nation could bestow upon the ermine.

"If the wearer of the robe of justice outrages his garment is it to
remain an invulnerable shield against our righteous condemnation? He who
doles justice, must himself be its chief exemplar.

"Another of the high servants of the people who has betrayed his fellow
countrymen, is ex-Attorney General Lax. It was his masterful policy of
inaction that permitted the trusts and monopolies to intrench themselves
during the four years that he stood as their buffer, against all efforts
of the several states to curb them.

"Entering the office as a man of moderate means he left it possessed of
a fabulous fortune - the bribe money of the Magnates. And not content to
retire from office, and cease his nefarious trade, he is to-day the
counsel for the Money Trust. It is his mind that conceives the
interminable means for forcing the Government to issue bonds for the
benefit of the Banking Syndicate?"

"It was Herbert Lax who made me a bankrupt," exclaims one of the
committee. "He caused my brother to commit suicide. If ever there was a
cold-blooded villain, Lax is the man."

"His acts were those of charity compared to some of the Transgressors,"
observes Nevins, before he continues to announce the list. "Is the
bankrupting of men to be compared with the heinous crime of enslaving
children?

"The Cotton King, Herod Butcher of Fall River, who thrives on the life's
blood of ten thousand minors - pitiable slaves of his looms, is one of
the transgressors who must atone for a life-long career as a merciless
infanticide.

"No man is so base that he would stand by and see a child ruthlessly
slain. Yet the nation stands supinely in the presence of a system of
factory labor which tolerates the inhuman employment of children. The
hazy halo of legality is between the transgressor and the people; and
men remain unmoved.

"It was for humanity's sake that our countrymen gave their life
ungrudgingly on the battle-fields of Cuba. But what of the inhumanity at
home? A word spoken against an American manufacturer is a crime in the
eyes of the Magnates, and the offender is chastised accordingly."

"I have three sons who grew to manhood, stunted and untutored, who had
to work for their daily bread in the mills of Herod Butcher," declares
Martin Stark, the Rhode Island committeeman.

"Judas D. Savage is another of the transgressors. A hundred flaming oil
wells lit by the torch of the incendiary, hired by his gold, wrote his
proscription on the scroll of high heaven.

"And Roger Q. Alger, of the defaulting Savings Bank dynasty comes to you
recommended by the cries of anguish that have been uttered by thousands
of widows, orphans, struggling husbands and provident wives, who have
awakened to find their savings distributed as booty to the Barons.

"But what need have I to recount the misdeeds of this list of men. If
the first man or woman whom you meet on the street cannot give you a
description of them that will stand as an indictment, then consider the
men I name innocent!"

He then completes the reading of the list. There is a painful silence
when he ceases to speak. The Forty seem absorbed in deep thought. The
chairman finally speaks:

"You have heard the reading of the list," he says. "If it is your desire
to substitute names for those mentioned, now is the time to propose the
change."

"I move that the list be adopted as read," Carl Metz suggests.

"I second the motion," says Professor Talbot.

Every committeeman votes for the adoption of the list.

The names are written on slips of paper and placed in a hat. As each
committeeman passes the table he draws a slip.

"You have all signified your willingness to carry out the terms of the
edict of annihilation," the chairman explains. "It now remains for you
to redeem your pledges. If there is one of you who regrets the step he
has taken it is not too late to withdraw."

There is profound silence, and the men stand immovable.

"Two months from to-day then, October 13th, our Syndicate of
Annihilation will declare its dividend; this will require the summary
taking off of the Forty Transgressors and our self-immolation." Chadwick
pronounces these words slowly, impressively:


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Online LibraryFrancis A. AdamsThe Transgressors Story of a Great Sin → online text (page 8 of 17)