Read CHAPTER XXIII of Frenzied Finance Vol. 1: The Crime of Amalgamated , free online book, by Thomas W. Lawson, on ReadCentral.com.

TWO GENTLEMEN OF FRENZIED FINANCE

The enemy did not leave us long in suspense. Next day Braman and Foster arrived in New York, bursting with a noble wrath at the failure of their coup in Philadelphia. An outrage had been worked upon them, upon the public, upon the majesty of the law. To hear their ravings one might have supposed them the evangelists of Justice righteously denouncing a desecration of the sacred altar; or, that we had deprived them of an inalienable right they had possessed to our property. It would have been humorous if the conditions had been less tragic.

No defender of property right is so vociferous as the financier who, having appropriated his neighbor’s goods, argues that possession constitutes legal ownership. On a country road I once almost rode over two hoboes, who were so busy wrangling with one another that they had not heard my approach. I gathered that one of them, having filched a collection of laundry from a farmer’s backyard, had placed it in charge of his mate while he went off for a second helping, and had returned just in time to stop the latter from decamping with the swag. The talk the original purloiner was giving his ungrateful assistant was one of the best expositions of virtue and honesty I’ve ever listened to.

We met the following Monday and in reply to my request that we talk things over, Foster delivered himself of an exalted exposition of the rights of deluded stockholders, the majesty of the law, and the stern duties of Mr. Braman, who, for the time being, had departed his private self and, until further notice, existed only as a rigid arm of the court. Just as I had arrived at the conclusion that I had got into the wrong shop, Braman took up the lecture by informing me of things I already had made myself familiar with, to wit, how he had at different times occupied similar roles in other corporations’ affairs and how relentlessly he had exposed mismanagement and peculation. I suggested to him that in most such cases the receiverships seemed to have been dismissed in favor of the former managers. He waved his hands and replied that in this particular case there was absolutely no chance of control being returned to Addicks, who had outrageously abused his trust; “although, of course (this as a sort of second thought) you know, Mr. Lawson, if Mr. Foster on behalf of his client should receive the amount of his claim and the proper fee, from whatever source, I should be powerless to prevent the dismissal of the receiver.”

Braman and Foster were a delightful combination. As the talented Chimmie Fadden would say: “Dey knew dere biz from de bar to de till an’ from de till by de way of de cash register to de wine-cellar, so’s dey could do de circuit wid dere lamps blinked and dere hands tied.” With their corporation mix-up records I was familiar, and after a few minutes’ talk realized that it would be impossible to do anything with them until they had kicked up against one or two of the bricks Addicks was now with renewed energy preparing to cast into their pathway. I left with an agreement to see them the following day, and a parting reminder that all natural history showed that unpicked ripe plums were in great danger of being blown from the tree with every passing breeze.

I hurried back to Addicks. “It’s the old game,” said I; “they are on the box and have the lines, and know just how badly we need our coach, and it’s only a case of how much ‘inducement’ we can stand.”

I left him and went down to 26 Broadway. I had not wasted time, but they had been there ahead of me.

“Lawson,” said Mr. Rogers, “this time Addicks is up against a real condition, and phenomenal work will have to be done or his race is run. Braman and Foster have been here and made a strong bid for a partnership with me, but I did as agreed and sent them away with a cold ’I’m in no way interested.’”

Foster and Braman secured an order from the New York courts to take possession of all property, money, papers, and books claimed by the company, and formally laid siege to Addicks’ quarters in the Hoffman. There was considerable excitement for the guests and the newspapers. Doors were battered down, but the astute and slippery Addicks led them a merry chase until they finally caught him hiding in a freight elevator which he was using for a private staircase, only to find he had no books, papers, or money.

The week that ensued was full of trouble and incident for all concerned. Addicks led an expedition to Wilmington in an effort to get the court to call off the receivership, but had his labor and the expense of his lawyers for his pains. Braman and Foster dragged us through a weary round of special hearings and demands of various kinds in the different courts, but by Tuesday night of the second week their ardor had cooled considerably and they were as puzzled how to let go of the bull they had captured as we were to find a way to make them do so.

Bright and early Wednesday morning Braman called on me, and when he threw his coat and hat into a chair he must have dropped his receivership cloak too, for after he had carefully closed the door and made sure we were without witness he said:

“If there’s any business to be done in this matter it must be done quick.”

I admitted no one could possibly appreciate this more than I but what could be done? After bluffing for an hour and exchanging honest views for fifteen minutes we agreed that the situation stood thus:

If nothing were done before the coming Sunday, the 1st, the receivership would be permanent; the stock, which had fallen to $3 per share, would remain at that figure or go lower; my friends, the public, and myself would be tremendous losers; all the past of Bay State, the doings of Addicks and Rogers, and the appointment of the receiver would come in for thorough investigation; an awful scandal would be aired in public; every one would be covered more or less with mud; and no one could possibly be the gainer but “Standard Oil,” for Braman agreed with me that the deal we had made with Rogers would probably stand in the courts.

On the other hand, if an arrangement could be arrived at by which we could have the receivership discharged, the company returned to its officers, or our equities preserved, all would be gainers by the move, for it would be proof positive that whatever the obstacles, we could overcome them, and the stock would go flying upward again.

After we had set out all the advantages, disadvantages, and possibilities of the situation, I bluntly plumped Braman with that inevitable question of all such “sit-downs”: “What’s the price?” And Braman as plumply and bluntly answered: “Buchanan, Foster’s client, must have the face of his bonds and interest, $150,000, and we must have at least $150,000 for our trouble and expense.”

My long experience in corporation affairs, and my intimate knowledge of the practices which the “System” with its votaries has made habitual was such that I was proof against shock from anything that could possibly turn up in even extraordinary financial deals, but I was just a bit staggered by the business-like way Braman demanded for himself and Foster $150,000 and the coolness with which he further explained that they must divide their share with certain influential persons without whose hearty cooperation the tangling-up which had been so cleverly accomplished would have been impossible. He made no bones of showing me that once “we gave up” it would only be a matter of the number of minutes required to get details fixed before everything would be as it was before he had interfered. I dwelt upon the possibilities of the judge not following orders to the letter and the minute, but he only smiled and answered: “Leave all that to us; if we don’t make good as agreed, we get no pay.” He was fully alive to the dangers of the game, and he impressed upon me he would take nobody’s word for anything. With him and Foster nothing but money talked, and it must not be of the marked-bill kind either, meaning he would not take anything which could be tied up by injunctions and lawsuits after the receiver had been dismissed. However, he would play fair. He would not ask us to pay on anything but the actual delivery of the goods. He also frankly told me that he had named the very low figure, $150,000, because he expected to invest what he received in Bay State Gas stock at $3 and, upon its jumping to $10 or $20, to make half a million.

But this is outrageous, you say. You call the performance I have described by hard names! Surely our courts are not also the creatures of “frenzied finance”? you ask. I warn my readers that this narrative is no more than a record of events occurring within my own knowledge, and that dark and vicious as the pictures seem they are photographs of actual happenings. Nor should the public conclude that the dishonor and dishonesty revealed in connection with Bay State Gas are exceptional. On the contrary, such doings are the rule in the affairs of great financial corporations. Into the rigging and launching of almost every big financial operation in the United States during the last twenty years, double-dealing, sharp practice, and jobbery have entered; and, what is more, the men interested have participated in and profited thereby. To correct a popular fallacy I want to say that I am not referring here simply to moral dérélictions but to actual legal crimes. If the details of the great reorganization and trustification deals put through since 1885 could be laid bare, eight out of ten of our most successful stock-jobbing financiers would be in a fair way to get into State or federal prisons. They do such things better in England. During the past ten years three “frenzied financiers” have practised their legerdemain in London Ernest Hooley, Barney Barnato, and Whitaker Wright. The first is bankrupt and discredited; Barney Barnato jumped into the ocean at the height of his career, and Whitaker Wright, after numerous attempts to escape, was hauled up before an English judge and jury, promptly convicted and sentenced, and committed suicide by poison before leaving the court-room. I will agree at any time to set down from memory the names of a score of eminent American financiers, at this writing in full enjoyment of the envy and respect of their countrymen and the luxury purchased by their many millions, whose crimes, moral and legal, committed in the accumulation of these millions, would, if fully exposed, make the performances of Wright and Barnato seem like petty larceny in comparison. But freedom and equality, as guaranteed us by the Declaration of Independence, have recently been capitalized, and “freedom” now means immunity from legal interference for financiers, while the latest acceptance of “equality” is that all victims of special privilege are treated alike by those who control and exercise such privilege. If the judges and the public prosecutors of these United States were equal to the sworn duties of their sacred offices, this “freedom” would have been confined long ago, and throughout this broad land there would be jails full of “frenzied financiers” who had imagined themselves licensed to rob the public.

But to return to Bay State Gas: “Braman,” I said, “we see the situation through the same glasses, but before deciding as to prices let us see where the coin required is to come from. Until the receivership is dismissed not a cent can come from the Bay State treasury, so that eliminates Addicks. I, personally, am in such shape because of this same receivership that I can do nothing. So, as usual, it comes down to the man with unlimited money Rogers. The question is, how to get Rogers to advance so large a sum in such a ticklish business? He does not want to get mixed up in a matter in which any one man’s treachery might mean State’s prison.”

“Somebody’s word ought to be good,” he commented.

“Only two men’s words would be of any avail,” I interrupted “yours and Addicks’, and you have just made it clear that in this case neither would be worth the breath expended in pledging it.”