CHAPTER XX

THE SEEMING TRIUMPH OF EVIL

The five million dollar bond sale in Paris had been blocked, as the president of one of New York's great banks predicted of one of New York's great banks predicted it would be to one of our directors a few months before.

As our contract with these French bankers had provided that we were not in any way to attempt to sell ours securities in Europe, I had dropped numerous negotiations under way, confident that our faithful London friends had the needed money from this contract. Had it not been for this clause in the contract that prevented our attempting to sell bonds elsewhere, I would have been able to close one of the other arrangements under way.

But we were all positive that this five million dollar sale was practically closed and so did not look elsewhere. Often, I will admit, doubts came to my mind, as I knew better than anyone else the power for evil of the directors of this bank, whose president had predicted we would not get the money. The nation is finding out now some of the evil these men can do who are or were directors of this bank. But at last our good friends in London, who had worked so faithfully on this bond matter, cabled that it was useless to expect to close it, that the pressure was so great from New York that nothing could be done, and only receivership awaited our road. Then, a few days later, we received word that a committee composed of members of our London brokers, would sail for the United States to attend the funeral. They arrived; the receivership was asked for at their request; it was granted, and our general manager, Mr. Dickinson, was made one of the general manager, Mr. Dickinson, was made one of the receivers. Then came the daily wrangle over the members of the Reorganization Committee.

I insisted that it was a crime to go outside of our stock and bondholders for members of this committee. Why on earth, with such a great list of good men, should we get outside men, who, if they accepted the position, were only doing it for the fee, or else to serve interests that wished to make the ruin complete? My experience with the committees on the Kansas City Southern had made me an expert in such matters. My idea was that the Committees of Bondholders should have been chosen, as far as the United States is concerned, from the following gentlemen: J. T. Odell, H. H. Westinghouse, F. W. Roebling, Charles F. Ayer, John W. Wallace, F. W. Roebling, Charles F. Ayer, John W. Wallace, H. C. Baldwin, Theodore Shonts and myself. There should be only one committee for Bond and Construction Shares, as their interests were so interwoven that it was impossible for two committees to act. Moreover our properties should have been kept in the owners' hands, and not given to others to destroy, if they should wish to.

But my English friends were new at this kind of work, and influenced as they no doubt were, thought otherwise, and as they were reliable men it was no doubt an honest conviction. I was assured time after time that if I attempted to for a committee that my trust company would be ruined, I was assured time after time that my presentiments that this was the only means to save the road were wrong and that there was money in sight to finish the road and serve all interests. After consulting with friends in whom I had great confidence, men like Messrs. Wallace, Eastbrook, and others, who advised me to acquiesce to my English friends' request, I agreed, but I am still convinced that I made a mistake, still convinced that my English friends made a still greater mistake, but I hope to see it proved that my fears were groundless. Mr. Shonts is the only man on the Bondholders' Committee in the United States who should have been there, when we were so rich in good names among our own people.

Then as the great load of daily worry was for a time taken from me, my thoughts turned to the building up of the United States & Mexican Trust Company, bringing to this company the great future that I was positive I could bring to it in a very few months by the carrying out of ideas which I had had in mind for five or six years. Although the earning had been over two hundred thousand dollars per year net for the last two years, I was positive that certain plans which I had in view would increase this, and I still feel that I am correct in this idea. As I had been assured that the Trust Company would be left me, I withdrew from any idea of helping the Reorganization Committee. I supposed that I had a perfect right to commence laying out a great future for the Trust Company.

I needed extra help in the company. A committee of our directors annually went over our assets, and made their own appraisals of the value of the property. This year on that committee was a banker of Washington, one of our directors, who had been of great help to me in the past. When he saw the possibilities of the company, he suggested, to our surprise, that he was willing to resign from the bank of which he was president, and come with us as vice-president to help me carry out the work of reorganization. We were delighted at this addition to our official force, and elected him vice-president. Shortly after his election he was in Washington, where he was called before the officers of one of the banks with which we had a small piece of paper with my name as one of the endorsers. There he met the bank examiner, who stated to the officers of the bank that my name was unfit for any bank to have on its paper. God and the Money Trust only know why.

Never has any of my paper, in all my business life, defaulted or gone to protest. I should be good at this bank or any bank for the small amount of the note, but this poor examiner must obey indirectly the orders of the financial masters of our land, and this note must be taken up. So this bank examiner in Washington had such influence that our Vice-President now assured me that I must resign the few positions I still held in this land where I had built railroads equal in length from New York to San Francisco, where twenty thousand people were at work in companies I had formed, with a thirty million dollar payroll. I must now give up my last position, my last means of livelihood. The Money Trust, through the United States Comptroller, was taking away from me my last position, as the president of the National Reserve Bank had said they would two years before, and I felt like poor Dreyfus, when all of his regiment were called out to see him stripped of his honors and even the military buttons cut from his clothes. It was a victorious day for his enemies.

But he came back, and perhaps I will. Did Dreyfus ever fight for his people as I have fought? Yet his fight was made the nation's fight. Perhaps mine will be.

The most remarkable thing in the writing of this book is the receipt of a letter this morning, after dictating this chapter, from a friend of mine in England, a man of high standing in London, who has holding in the road:

"I do hope you are feeling stronger and better again. You have had an awful time with this terrible money octopus against you. It would have broken up any ordinary man altogether to see the great work that you initiated, and as it grew, so grew the machinations of those who were jealous of your success, and who saw the enormous profits that must accrue to the K.C. M. & O. when completed, and they are still working tooth and nail to get control or else divide up the parts already built so that no outside group shall have control of a transcontinental line. I cannot see how the English group can allow themselves to be fooled, how they could agree to a committee being formed of people who had no interest whatever in conserving the property for the bond and shareholders but only to break it up and make profits for themselves out of the wreckage. But I can see plainly that they are trying to push out the only remaining props, i. e., Messrs. ------ and ---------, so they will be able to ride rough shod over everything, and wipe the floor with the stockholders and bondholders too, if they make it worth the Court's while. It is a wicked state of things to think that all the money found and put into the building of the road in good faith should be confiscated, though we all know the profits when the road is finished would soon grow into something immense."

 

Arthur Edward Stilwell, Visionary

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