HISTORY OF THE GREAT AMERICAN FORTUNESCHAPTER IV
THE PRESENT STATUS OF THE GOULD FORTUNE
What was the concrete result, the grand culmination of Goulds fifteen years of plundering ? He, himself, gave a demonstration when on March 13, 1882, he called in Sage and other associates and exhibited to them a box crammed with securities. Disparaging reports had been scattered in Wall street that he had been hard hit by recent declines in the stock market ; and it was to belie these statements that he summoned in witnesses to attest by impressive proofs that his wealth and power were unaffected. He spread out $23,000,000 of Western Union stock ; $12,000,000 of Missouri Pacific stock, and $19,000,000 of other stocks. There is not another man in America except Vanderbilt, observed Sage, who could make such a display of stock as that. But the securities thus revealed were only a part of Goulds wealth ; they did not include many other varieties. Two years later he ostentatiously made another and still larger display.
Those heaps of stocks and bonds were the legal tokens of this one mans far-reaching power. By their ownership he was vested not only with the mastery of the great inflowing revenues from numerous corporations, but the autocratic control over a vast army of wage workers. Every dollar of his fortune had been extracted by deceit, bribery, fraud and theft, yet here he was, one of the dominating magnates of the country, the owner of a ramification of properties, the dictator of the fate of tens of thousands of workingmen. Behind him, as an impregnable fortification, stood the Law, guaranteeing him the possession of that which he had seized by theft.
WARRED ON CAPITALIST AND WORKER ALIKE.
But a few years back and Gould was buying law to escape law ; and now here he was unbranded with the prison stigma, thanks to his money, and lording it over the nation. But ever there clung to him that same crass, indiscriminate brutality of method in dealing both with the powerful and the weak ; just as he struck hard at competing capitalists, without timidity or mercy, so did he openly and candidly browbeat and terrorize his legions of workingmen. Of him it could not be said that he shrank from assailing the strong, while overawing the feeble. He warred on both capitalist and on labor, organized and unorganized, and did so with equal ferocity whether by involution or frontal onslaught. Gould was not the politic sort of magnate who cut the pay of his workingmen, and then, as a solace, presented them with a toy philanthropy ; he did not polish greed with hypocrisy. When he reduced the pay of the workers on his lines, he did it with a bold aggressiveness, daring them to challenge his power.
Few magnates, while in the very process of putting through some colossal fraud, had the hardihood to incite the resentment of their employes and of the people. They preferred to wait until the agitation over their individual frauds had been tempered by a certain lapse of time. Such a cautious policy on no occasion hindered Gould. During the very times when he was defrauding and bribing, he belligerently attacked his workers and compelled them to accept lower wages. What if a public outcry should go up ? He had been menaced with many outbursts of fierce, withal futile, public indignation ; they had not interfered with his accumulations ; he viewed them with a cynical scorn.
In 1881 he and his clique were loaded down with spoils ; the people had grown exceedingly restless, stung by their poverty, on the one hand, and contemplating the gigantic wealth of the capitalists on the other. Gould went ahead as if public protest were as nothing. He added, as we have seen, $13,000,000 of watered stock to the capital of the elevated railroads in New York city, and at the same time forced the agents and gatemen on those roads to submit to new terms. They had been complaining that they had to work from twelve to fifteen hours a day for the wretched pittance of $2 and $1.75 a day. Gould listened to their grievances, and conciliated them with an order reducing their days work to twelve hours. But their visions of scanty triumph vanished when they learned that he had also cut their pay.
At the very time that he was looting the railroads in the West, he reduced the wages of the men on the Missouri Pacific and defied the labor unions, causing great strikes in 1885 and 1886, by which, however, his railroad workers gained virtually nothing. Most typical of the servility of many newspapers and politicians were the abuse and obloquy with which the labor leaders who conducted those strikes were overwhelmed. Let a man champion the cause of the oppressed, and no matter how lofty his ideals or noble his nature, he was at once subjected to an endless stream of ridicule and traducing. The servitors of the public press and the retainers of politics joined in a vicious persecution ; Martin Irons, who managed the Missouri Pacific strike, was defamed, hounded and blacklisted. It was pitiful to see this man, one of the purest, best and self-sacrificing, precariously compelled in after years to sell peanuts for a living ; and he now lies in an obscure grave, quite forgotten, while the remains of Gould, one of the master thieves of the period, repose in a spacious mausoleum, and the children of Gould are among the oligarchy of families ruling the United States.
THEFT REWARDED WITH POWER AND SPLENDOR.
At forty-five years of age Gould possessed more than a hundred million dollars. He was prematurely old ; his beard was streaked with gray, his hair thin, and his swarthy, bilious, glowering face was rigid with hard, deep lines. His form had shrunk so that he looked more insignificant than ever before. But when he traveled, no one could mistake the evidences of sovereign power. From one end of the country to the other he rode in a palatial private car, handsomely appointed, containing every comfort and luxury then devised an observation room, a parlor, a dining hall, sleeping rooms, a kitchen and porters quarters. His yacht, Atalanta, was sumptuous, indeed. His manner of life befitted that of a full-blown magnate. At Irvington-on-the-Hudson he sequestered himself in a great and costly mansion, surrounded by five hundred acres. Attached to it was one of the finest conservatories in the world. His city residence in New York city was a massive, somber brownstone house at the northeast corner of Fifth avenue and Forty-seventh street, in the very heart of the aristocratic section.
He, however, had other mighty powers not evidenced in outward display. For some years he owned a newspaper, the New York World ; a curious sight it was to see one of the great pirates, who many a time had narrowly escaped prison, instructing the public as to its duty, moral, political and otherwise. But the known fact that Gould owned this newspaper helped to discount its utterances and reduce its circulation.1
A much more successful and insidious method of influencing public opinion was by his control of the Western Union Telegraph Company, and, through that corporation, of the Associated Press, the foremost news distributing agency in the United States. Distorted, misleading or false news dispatches were manufactured or artfully colored and supplied to the public press. These not only gave Gould superior underhand facilities for influencing the course of the stock market, but they were also used in favor of capitalists and against labor and radical movements at every opportunity. The public was fed on grossly perverted news accounts of strikes and labor and political movements ; upon this fabricated news the newspaper owners, themselves capitalists or largely servile to capital, based hostile if not malevolent editorials ; and the combination of the whole was used to prejudice the mass of the public against any movement or agitation threatening the complete sway of capital.
JAY GOULDS DEATH.
Jay Goulds last years were divided between the tortures of severe indigestion and insomnia. Up and down the block fronting his New York city mansion he would nervously pace for hours during the long, shadowy vigils of the night a little, shrunken, cankered man vainly endeavoring to tire his mind and frame into an exhaustion compelling sleep. He died on the morning of December 2, 1892, and his body was interred in a classic mausoleum, costing $110,000, in Woodlawn Cemetery. Many multimillionaires, whose ways and station were akin to Goulds, and some of whose careers were interwoven with his, showed up at the funeral services. Russell Sage was there, and J. Pierpont Morgan and Collis P. Huntington and a group of others an impressive procession of money lords with appropriate visages and attired in the immaculate garb of mourning, although not a soul really mourned Gould save his own family. His will disclosed an estate of nominally $77,000,000, but this was merely the exoteric side of the testamentary document ; the estate amounted to far more. All was bequeathed in trust for his six children four sons and two daughters. Unlike the Astors and some other magnates, Gould did not transmit the bulk of his wealth to his eldest son.
Now, when Jay Gould died, many newspaper-owning scavengers, who during his lifetime had bootlicked him or kept fearfully silent, belched forth vituperation and rehearsed his odious deeds.
Their misrepresentations consisted not in exaggerating his evil that were not possible but in singling him out as an exceptional defrauder, and in detaching him from the system which produced him and which alone could be held responsible.
Gould passed away the most hated man in the United States. Social ambitions had never concerned him, but his children developed the yearning for recognition. At every step, at first, there came an outrush of the old taunt that their fathers fortune had come from pillage and wrecking. Yet all of the founders of fortunes were, without a single exception, of a stripe ; all had tricked, lied, deceived, bribed, defrauded and stolen.
With hundreds of millions of dollars, however, at their command the Goulds were able to overcome all social obstacles. When one has money enough an elect social position does not have to be accorded ; it can be taken by assault. One of the easiest routes is by buying an entree into the caste of European titled nobility, which in these business days does a lively trade huckstering names for cash. Accordingly, in 1895 Anna Gould, one of Jays daughters, was transformed into the Countess de Castellane, and the Count received the opportunity of requisitioning many of the Gould millions. During the next eleven years he right jovially availed himself of it, and squandered millions with a fine prodigality, and went through fantastic antics until a divorce cruelly put a stop to them. But Mme. Gould ascended still higher in the pages of the Almanach de Gotha. The Counts successor is the Prince de Sagan, a perceptive scion who is doing his valuable part in demonstrating how the feudal nobles, often deprived of their stolen estates at home by revolution and dissipation, can leisurely recoup by allying themselves with estates stolen in newer countries.
THE STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL.
To lay too much stress upon the social aspirations and doings of the Gould family would obscure the titanic industrial conflict in which they have been engaged. After Jay Goulds death the wealth and possessions of the family greatly increased and its conquests were extended.2
But this process has not been allowed to continue unrestricted. The last few years, as we have already pointed out, have ushered in a terrific contest for the exclusive mastery of the nations resources. Looking back fifty years, we see a large number of petty, consequential industrial bosses, each running his own little railroad or factory. A change then takes place ; great, energetic capitalists develop, who make war upon the petty bosses and by fair means or foul crush them, seize their properties and consolidate these into great systems. The petty railroad owners disappear and their places are taken by such overbearing magnates as the Vanderbilts, the Goulds, Huntington, Morgan, Hill, and the like. Ten years ago all of these men were magnates of colossal power, each heading some great system, and despotically dictating over some particular domain.
Now another stage in the process of industrial evolution is being reached which signifies the decline of overlords of the Gould type, and which foretells the approaching climax of capitalist institutions. Mighty as these magnates have been, they are gradually and inexorably being subordinated by a still mightier power, the most puissant of all. The aim of this all-pervading power is industrial absolutism ; and in the pursuance of this inevitable end it is grinding down all opposition even as the Goulds, the Vanderbilts and others have squelched lesser magnates heretofore. No longer are the Goulds able to extend their power much ; the climacteric period has arrived when they have to fight hard to retain what they have.
THE RISING AUTOCRACY.
This supreme power, clutching at every form of the production and distribution of products, is the Standard Oil Company, headed by the Rockefellers.
Thirty-five years ago it obtained a monopoly of oil products by getting secret railroad rates, and by other crushing methods. At first it ingratiatingly approached the railroad magnates as a supplicant seeking favors. Soon, as a matter of policy, it made these magnates sharers in its profits. Then it began to buy its way into the ownership of railroads. Its profits have been so fabulously vast that it has been under the constant, unescapable necessity of reinvesting its vast surplus, ever growing vaster. This surplus it has applied to buying up railroads, bank, mine, public utility and industrial stocks and securities of all descriptions. With this fixed, unchanging policy its power grew to such an extent that its members began to push themselves in as directors of a great variety of corporations. For a period it then carried on a policy of having a community of interest with the large magnates in every field ; of working in co÷peration with them in determining industrial matters. But during all of this time it was encroachingly buying more and more stocks of all kinds ; so that now it has arrived at the point where, operating through such generals as the lately-departed Harriman, it is gradually forcing the Vanderbilts, the Goulds and other first-rank magnates of a decade ago to a secondary place, and entrenching itself in autocratic authority. Several of the railroads long ruled over by the Goulds have become, to a considerable extent, Standard Oil adjuncts.
Industrial battles, such as that between George Gould and the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1902, will, as occurrences, soon be extinct. This warfare arose over Goulds project to extend the Wabash Railroad to the Atlantic seaboard. The Pennsylvania Railroad promptly objected to a competitor in its richly profitable territory. The ensuing struggle was fought out in legislatures, common councils, courts, Congress, and by actual physical force. So completely have the Pennsylvania Railroad magnates ruled that State for fifty years that it did require considerable temerity on Goulds part to war upon them.3
One of the most marked instances showing the extremes that the Pennsylvania Railroad magnates went in their rule, was the Riot Indemnity bill which they attempted in 1879 to get the Legislature of that State to pass. It is advisable to present a sketch of the circumstances of this bill, inasmuch as it gives a good idea of the methods of A.J. Cassatt, long the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was Cassatt whom George Gould had to fight in 1902 ; the methods Cassatt used in 1879 were the methods he invariably used. With all his unscrupulousness Jay Gould never had the face to do anything approaching in enormity the Riot Indemnity bill of Cassatt. Yet when Cassatt died recently the most lavish eulogies were everywhere published ; he passed away in the full attributes of superior respectability.
SELF-INFLICTED ARSON AND A $4,000,000 GRAB.
We have seen, in an earlier chapter, how the Pennsylvania Railroads officials, during the great strike of 1877, ordered their agents to set a number of worthless freight cars at Pittsburg on fire, in order to charge the strikes with being riotous, and so have a pretext for calling out the military.
That very crime of arson these magnates, two years later, made the basis for an attempt at plundering the people out of $4,000,000 at one grab. In the whole industrial history of the country no avowedly bolder scheme had ever been tried before. When, in 1879, a bill was introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature to indemnify the railroad, to the amount of about $4,000,000, for the loss of property, the news was received with general amazement. Cassatt pushed the bill, and it would have become law had not some of the legislators revolted at the brazenness of the plan. A few denounced it as a monstrous fraud ; one, in particular, Representative Wolfe, charged that bribery was being used, and demanded an investigation. Whereupon, a committee of investigation was appointed on April 9, 1879.
The report of this committee specifically stated that three members of the Legislature had been guilty of bribery. From the evidence it was clear that Cassatt and Quay the latter a corrupt politician at the head of the Pennsylvania Republican machine had leagued forces to rush the bill through ; that many members had been bribed either with money or with promises that certain bills of theirs would be passed ; that corrupt combinations existed among members to pass important legislation, and that many editors of influence throughout the State had been bought to advocate the passage of the bill.4
A WAR OF MULTIMILLIONAIRES.
Such were the ways of Cassatt, the head of the forces that George Gould had to encounter. Of all results, Gould sought most to get an entrance into Pittsburg with its stupendous annual traffic of 75,000,000 tons. The government of that city was owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad. But what of that ? If money could put in and run one set of officials, money could also put in another set. So George Gould decided, and rightly. The government of Pittsburg now became the stake ; Gould adroitly caused the question of the entry of the Wabash Railroad to be made an issue of the municipal election of 1902.
Backed by his millions, so it was said, a reform movement was generated and blown into lusty growth. Gould carried his point ; a Common Council favorable to his plans was elected.5 At the same time Gould had a bill passed by Congress allowing him to bridge the Monongahela River. The statement has been made that it cost him $12,000,000 to get an entrance into Pittsburg, but the documentary proof is wanting. After spending $35,000,000, he carried through his Wabash plans.
Now the warfare of force began. In retaliation for Goulds victory, the Pennsylvania Railroad magnates ordered all of his Western Union Telegraph poles along that railroads right of way to be cut down. If the telegraph operators had gone on a strike, the cry would have been raised that they were dangerously interrupting an essential public business, but violence when committed by magnates was held a sacred right of property, and no protests of Government officials were heard.
This transaction has been only one of many of those of corporations controlled largely or partially by the present generation of Goulds. In a work, being published serially at the present writing (1910), and written by Judge Ben B. Lindsey, a public-spirited jurist who has the most intimate knowledge of Colorado affairs, Judge Lindsey reveals in detail some extent of the corruption in that State. He tells how nearly all of the officials and judges are corporation tools ; how vast numbers of fraudulent votes are counted at elections ; and how the corporations have dictated the election or appointment of many of the very judges whose decisions have been so oppressive to the working class. In particular, he tells at length how Governor Peabody was fraudulently declared elected in 1905, and how Peabody had bargained to appoint to Supreme Court judgeships certain men named by the corporations. Lindsey goes on :
Does this seem incredible ? Read then the Colorado Supreme Court Reports, Vol. 35, page 325 and thereabouts. You will find it charged that the Colorado and Southern Railway Company, the Denver and Rio Grande Railway Company, and the public service corporations of Denver had an agreement with Governor Peabody whereby these corporations were to be allowed to select the judges to be appointed to the Supreme Bench. You will find it charged that Luther M. Goddard had been selected as a proper judge by the public utility corporations, but that the two railroad companies objected to him as too closely allied with the interests of the Denver City Tramway Company and the Denver Union Water Company. As a last resort, the statement continues, the agent and representative of the said Colorado and Southern Railway Company was induced to, and did, after midnight on Sunday, the eighth day of January, and at about one oclock in the morning on Monday, the ninth day of January, repair to the home of the said Luther M. Goddard, in a carriage, calling him out of bed, having then and there such conversation with the said Goddard that the said railway corporations, through their agents, withdrew their opposition to his confirmation, and they did on said morning at about three oclock thereof announce to the remainder of the said corporations through their said agents and representatives, that their opposition had been withdrawn, and the withdrawal of the said opposition having been announced, the said senate of the Fifteenth General Assembly did, almost immediately upon its convening on the morning of Monday, the ninth day of January, confirm the said nomination of the said Goddard.
The brief containing these charges is signed by Henry M. Teller, Ex-Cabinet member and United States Senator, and by Ex-Governor Thomas acting as counsel for Senator T.M. Patterson, who had made the charges in his paper, The Rocky Mountain News. These gentlemen offered to prove the charges before the Court, but the Court, in a most amazing decision, refused the offer, held that no matter how true such charges might be, it was contempt of court to make them, and fined Senator Patterson $1,000 ! . . .6
And so it seems, if such charges as these are true, that the present Goulds are continuing the methods of their father. It may also be well assumed that these public revelations are only indications of extensive underground practices and transactions many of which are never publicly disclosed.
Slowly sliding downward, as it is, to a relinquishing place in the ranks of wealth when compared with such fortunes and power as Rockefellers, the Gould family is nevertheless prodigiously rich. Forty years ago Jay Gould was doing his best to keep out of prison ; to-day his children and grandchildren live in gorgeous palaces.
Georgian Court at Lakewood, N.J., one of the homes of George Gould, is emblematic of their splendor. Built in the Georgian style of architecture, the main part is two hundred feet long and fifty wide. The great main hall is thirty feet wide and fifty long ; at one end is a massive elliptical staircase of marble and bronze, supported by marble columns, and at the other end a superb marble fireplace. Around three sides of the hall is a mural painting sixteen feet high and eighty feet long a depiction of the Canterbury Pilgrims from Chaucer. A hundred and fifty pendants of cut glass radiate prisms from the chandelier. The furniture in this hall is of Louis XIV. style, blazing with powdered gold and covered with deep crimson velvet. This palace contains thirty rooms for the use of George Goulds family and guests. The very bedstead in which George Gould sleeps cost $25,000. And all around this gray and white mansion, gray stucco covering brick walls, are fairy-like Italian sunken gardens filled with statuary and magnificent fountains. Connected with the mansion is a court, built at a cost of $250,000, wherein is a great tanbark hippodrome, a gymnasium, bowling alleys and lounging rooms, a shooting gallery, a large swimming pool and Turkish and Russian baths.
And this is only one of the many palaces of the members of the Gould family. Whence all of this wealth and splendor came is now an open book ; no enigma are its sources, but a prolonged tale of fraud and theft, whereof the most vital facts only have been herein brought out.
1 But when Gould sold the World to Joseph Pulitzer, that newspaper became one of the bitterest denouncers of Gould, probably with a view to disassociating itself as much as possible in the public mind from the fact of Goulds former ownership.
2 Many of the large properties of which they became owners, or partial owners, had a broad foundation of fraud. While neither Jay Gould nor his children committed these particular frauds, yet they benefited by the original frauds. The Colorado Coal and Iron Company is a case in instance. In a suit brought in 1897 to vacate the land title of this company, the Government charged that the companys coal and mineral lands had been obtained by conspiracy and fraud. The lower courts sustained the Government, but the Supreme Court of the United States decided that although undoubtedly fraud had been used, yet the proof presented was not sufficient for an adverse decision.Supreme Court Reporter, viii: 131-141.
3 As an instance of the exercise of the Pennsylvania Railroads great political power, the following account is significant. It shows how Cassatt, president of that railroad, and a few other industrial magnates and political bosses, decided that Philander Knox (at present, 1910, United States Secretary of State) should be chosen a United States Senator. Knox was long a corporation lawyer. The Governor of Pennsylvania was ordered to ratify the choice of this group of political dictators, and did so. This account was published editorially in Colliers Weekly, issue of June 8, 1907, and republished in the same periodical, issue of November 27, 1909. Its accuracy was not disputed, and no denials were made, or suits for libel brought. The account read :
Mr. Knoxs political genesis had for its setting the general offices of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Philadelphia. There met, to name a successor for the recently deceased Quay, Senator Penrose, Henry C. Frick, `Iz Durham, the Philadelphia boss, who was then at the height of his power, and the late President Cassatt. Between the politicians and the two men of business a modus was arranged. Knox should be Senator.
Then the party adjourned to dinner at President Cassatts house. To this was invited Governor Pennypacker, who had the appointing. While the rest fingered the walnuts, Penrose invited the Governor into the back yard to look at the moon. ` Its Knox, said Penrose to the Governor. And Knox it was. To this narrative some minor interest is lent by the fact that President Cassatt was a Democrat.
4 Petroff, Kemble, Salter, Rumberger and Crawford, all legislators or lobbyists, were convicted, in 1880, of bribery, and each was sentenced to a years imprisonment. In passing sentence Judge Pearson remarked that bribery had been a common occurrence in the Pennsylvania Legislature for years.
But although the corruption attending the attempted passage of this bill was exposed, the Pennsylvania Railroad finally secured, as has already been noted, approximately $22,000,000 in damages from the public treasury.
5 This reform movement was heralded as one which would regenerate Pittsburg. The increasing corruption, caused by the business interests in bribing public bodies, was evidenced recently. The conviction of one of the principal bribe takers was followed by his confession, and by the confessions, in March, 1910, of many more members of the Pittsburg Common Council. These confessions disclosed a vast system of bribery by steel magnates, banks and other business interests. At the present writing (April, 1910), forty-one councilmen are under indictment, and more than a score of others have confessed.
6 The Beast and the Jungle, Everybodys Magazine, issue of February, 1910:241-242. Moodys Truth About The Trusts, issued in 1904, describes the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad as a distinctively Gould system. (p. 435).