-Caveat Lector-

an excerpt from:
The Treason of the Senate
David Graham Phillips
academic reprints
p.o. box 3003
Stanford, California
Cosmopolitian Magazine
Vol. XL - March, 1906 - No.5

This book consists of nine articles and an Editorial Foreword which appeared
in Cosmopolitan between March and November 1906. The author was one of the
group of so-called muckrakers, a contemporary of Lincoln Steffens, Ida M.
Tarbell and Ray Stannard Baker.

Phillips' principal medium, however, was fictional criticism of events and
persons whom he considered worthy of public examination. His novels, among
the best known of which were The Plum Tree, The Deluge and Susan Lenox,
attained considerable popularity. Yet after publication of The Treason of the
Senate, Phillips was all but excluded from the magazines, and his books were
neglected by the critics. He died in 1911 at the age of forty-four, victim of
gunshot wounds inflicted by a paranoid who believed Phillips had maligned
American women.


The Treason of the Senate

An Editorial Foreword

  A PLAIN, honest Californian lived on an island in the mouth of the San
Joaquin river. He was a good citizen, a man of family, a hard-working
rancher, not without ideas of his own, and excessively proud of the fact that
he was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic. He was also proud of his
Americanism—so proud, in fact, that when he read in the papers of the corrupt
doings of legislators who betrayed their country by assisting the ignoble
money power in its predatory plans, he would wince and shake his head and set
his teeth. These things preyed upon the mind of the islander. He could hardly
talk of anything else.

One day, only a few years ago, the telegraph flashed the news across the
continent that a notoriously corrupt politician—a tool of the trusts-—had
bought a seat in the United States Senate. Our simple-minded ranchman
immediately arose in his wrath, went and took pen and paper and laboriously
wrote a declaration of independence in which he withdrew himself, his family
and his island from the jurisdiction and the protection of the United States.
He sent a copy of his declaration to Congress.

Of course, the crude document created a smile at Washington. No reply was
ever made to it. The sum total of practical result was that the Grand Army
post to which our righteous islander belonged gravely adopted a set of
resolutions chiding and deriding him.

The sum total? Well, hardly the sum total, for, as the sturdy rancher still
persisted in the idea that his island was no longer under the control of the
United States, although he still paid tribute in the form of taxes, the
notion went around among his neighbors, up and down the river-men who had
always respected him as a good citizen—that in some way his act really did
reflect upon the government, or at least, upon the corrupt element in it. So
the declaration of one man's independence made an impression. Queer and
quixotical as it was, it was still an "object lesson."

Now, of course, we cannot all secede from the Union because of the corruption
of our national Senate. It would be obviously visionary and foolish for us to
do so on that or on any other account. Besides, there are not islands enough
to go around. Our part as citizens of the republic is plain enough. We must
stand our ground. We must fight the good fight. Heartsick and depressed as we
may be at times because of the spread of graft in high places and its
frightfully contaminating influence, we must still hold up our heads.

We must never lose an opportunity to show that as private citizens we are
opposed to public plunderers. We should interest ourselves in every scrap of
information as to official treason that comes our way. We must be as patient
in the study of corruption as we are impatient of its creatures and their

For example, it should be the duty of every citizen of this republic—every
mail, woman, schoolboy and schoolgirl—every person who can understand facts
as presented in print—to read "The Treason of the Senate" by David Graham
Phillips, a series of tremendously important ariticles[sic] to be commenced
in the March number of the COSMOPOLITAN.

 A searching and unsparing spot-light, directed by the masterly hand of Mr.
Phillips, will be turned upon each of the iniquitous figures that walk the
Senate stage at the national Capitol. This convincing story of revelation, to
be told in several chapters, and to run well through the magazine year, has
been called "The Treason of the Senate" for the reason that that is a fit and
logical title for this terrible arraignment of those who, sitting in the
seats of the mighty at Washington, have betrayed the public to that cruel and
vicious Spirit of Mammon which has come to dominate the nation.

The truth told in the courts and in public print about the senators now under
indictment, as well as the facts collected by Mr. Phillips against many of
their corrupt colleagues, proves beyond a doubt that these men of the toga,
selected by their state legislatures to represent the people, are really the
retainers of the money power. What American is there so simple-minded, so
innocent in his patriotic faith, who does not believe that a petition signed
by a million of the common people would not have half as much influence in
the Senate as the mere nod of a Havemeyer, an Armour or a Morgan?

Who, then, do these public misrepresentatives really represent?

>From exhaustive statistics made by the late Charles B. Spahr, the conclusion
is reached by Robert Hunter in his "Poverty" that one per cent. of the
families living in the United States hold more property than the remaining
ninety-nine per cent.

If we grant the truth of these deductions it is easy to see, by observation
of the known policy and settled attitude of the Senate, that it is not the
ninety-nine, but merely the one per cent, that is really represented by that
sedate and decorous body, so often referred to as the "Rich Man's Club," and
which Mr. Ernest Crosby has dubbed "The House of Dollars."

Obstructive though it has been toward nearly all corrective legislation aimed
at the further usurpation of power by the lawless plutocrats, the Senate has
always cheerfully voted money for the building of warships, for coast-defense
works and heavy armament for the protection of the people of the nation
against foreign aggression. But the question now arises: Who is to protect us
from the Senate? This question comes with peculiar force while five senators
are under indictment, others are publicly charged with betraying their trusts
and at least one has been permitted to draw a regular salary from the
government while under conviction for flagrant violation of the federal laws.

Who, then, is to protect the people but the press?

The COSMOPOLITAN is ready to do its share, and by the presentation of Mr.
Phillips' "Treason of the Senate," it will probably do a more conspicuous act
of exposure of corruption than has ever before been attempted. For in all the
literature of exposure no such series of articles has ever been presented to
the public. Well-meaning and amazingly industrious persons, writing without
inspiration and without that gift of selection which is half the art of the
great author, have been able to pile before magazine readers indiscriminate
masses of and facts, of little interest save to the technical mind. Some of
them are, indeed, so dry as almost to cause one to embrace the flagon. But
Mr. Phi lips, from the wealth of material at hand, and to be dug up out of
the dark, will be able to select such picturesque, arrestive and
interest-compelling matter as will make this series the most vascular and
virile, as well as the most notable of all thus far printed.

When, four months ago, our intention of engaging the author of "The Cost,"
"The Plum Tree" and "The Deluge" to write this series was made known to a
famous modern thinker and writer, he said with enthusiasm:

"No better selection could have been made. Mr. Phillips writes in a most
interesting and convincing manner. His subject is far bigger than Lawson's.
It is, in fact, the biggest of any before the public to-day. His work will be
a tremendous reform stroke."

The COSMOPOLITAN had hoped to present Mr. Phillips' opening chapter in this
February number, but the work of preparation and revision of this exhaustive
series has been such that, at the last moment, it has been found impossible
to (to so. It was also necessary, in order to make an elaborate and
convincing presentation, that the first chapter should be illustrated in a
striking manner, with whatever of facsimiles of letters and public documents
might be secured. This has also occasioned delay.

The editor trusts that the impatience of the COSMOPOLITAN's readers—evidenced
by the letters of inquiry sent in from day to day—will not lessen in any
degree the ultimate gratification of the outraged public in seeing its
misrepresentatives scotched by the hand of that artist in exposure who has
undertaken the worthy task of writing this, the most remarkable story of
political corruption ever told in print.

Our readers may rest assured that Mr. Phillips' widely announced opening
chapter, on Chauncey M. Depew, will be well worth waiting for. Senator
Depew's possible resignation before February 15th, the date of the
publication of the March COSMOPOLITAN, will not affect our determination of
printing this slashing review of the misdeeds of one of the most conspicuous
of our undesirable statesmen. For though Mr. Depew may leave the Senate
Chamber forever, his odor will remain.

pps. 1-4



New York's Misrepresentatives

Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against
them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.

ONE morning, during this session of the Congress, the Senate blundered into a
discussion of two of its minor disreputables, Burton and Mitchell, who had
been caught with their fingers sliding about in the change pocket of the
people. The discussion on these change-pocket thieves was a fine exhibition
of "senatorial dignity and courtesy," which means, nowadays, regard for the
honor and dignity of the American people smugly sacrificed to -the Senate's
craftily convenient worship of the Mumbo-Jumbo, mask and mantle of its own
high respectability. In closing the brief debate over his fellow-senators who
had been so unluckily caught, Senator Lodge said,

"There is too much tendency to remember the senators, and to forget the

A profound criticism—profounder far than was intended, or realized, by the
senator from the "interests" that center in Massachusetts.

Let us take Mr. Lodge's hint. Let us disregard the senators as individuals;
let us for the moment "remember the Senate."

The treason of the Senate!

Politics does not determine prosperity. But in this day of concentrations,
politics does determine the distribution of prosperity. Because the people
have neglected politics, have not educated themselves out of credulity to
flimsily plausible political lies and liars, because they will not realize
that it is not enough to work, it is also necessary to think, they remain
poor, or deprived of their fair share of the products, though they have
produced an incredible prosperity. The people have been careless and unwise
enough in electing every kind of public administrator. When it comes to the
election of the Senate, how describe their stupidity, how measure its
melancholy consequences? The Senate is the most powerful part of our public
administration. It has vast power in the making of laws. It has still vaster
power through its ability to forbid the making of laws and in its control
over the appointment of the judges who say what the laws mean. It is, in
fact, the final arbiter of the sharing of prosperity. The laws it permits or
compels, the laws it refuses to permit, the interpreters of laws it permits
to be appointed-these factors determine whether the great forces which modem
concentration has produced shall operate to distribute prosperity equally or
with shameful inequality and cruel and destructive injustice. The United
States Senate is a larger factor than your labor or your intelligence, you
average American, in determining your income. And the Senate is a traitor to

The treason of the Senate! Treason is a strong word, but not too strong,
rather too weak, to characterize the situation in which the Senate is the
eager, resourceful, indefatigable agent of interests as hostile to the
American people as any invading army could be, and vastly more dangerous;
interests that manipulate the prosperity produced by all, so that it heaps up
riches for the few; interests whose growth and power can only mean the
&gradation of the people, of the educated into sycophants, of the masses
toward serfdom.

A man cannot serve two masters. The senators are not elected by the people;
they are elected by the "interests." A servant obeys him who can punish and
dismiss. Except in extreme and rare and negligible instances, can the people
either elect or dismiss a senator? The senator, in the dilemma which the
careless ignorance of the people thrusts upon him, chooses to be comfortable,
placed and honored, and a traitor to oath and people rather than to be true
to his oath and poor and ejected into private life.


New Yorks Misrepresentatives

Let us begin with the state which is first in population, in wealth, in
organization of industries. As we shall presently see, the nine states that
contain more than half the whole American people send to the Senate eighteen
men, no less than ten of whom are notorious characters, frankly the servants
of the interests the American people have decided must be destroyed, unless
they themselves are to be crushed down. And of these servants of the
plutocracy none is more candid in obsequiousness, in treachery to the people,
than are the two senators from the state which contains one-tenth of our
population and the strong financial citadel-capital of the plutocracy.

Thomas Collier Platt! Chauncey Mitchell Depew!

Probably Platt's—last conspicuous appearance will have been that on the
witness stand in the insurance investigation, where he testified that he had
knowingly received thousands of dollars of the stolen goods of the insurance
thieves. He confessed this with obvious unconsciousness of his own shame. We
shall come across this phenomenon frequently in our course through the
Senate—this shamelessness that has lost all sense of moral distinctions. Our
Platts and Burtons have no more moral sense than an ossified man has feeling.
Then, there are those of our public men who, through fear or lack of
opportunity or some instinct of personal self-respect, sit inactive, silent
or only vaguely murmurous spectators, while the treasons are plotted and
executed. These men have been corrupted by association. The public man meets
the people only in masses, at political gatherings. His associations are
altogether with other public men and with the class that is either fattening
on the people or quite cynical about corruption of that kind. Hence, his
sense of shame becomes paralyzed, atrophied. The very "interests" that are
ruining the people come to stand in his mind for the people themselves, and
in his confused mind prostitution becomes a sort of patriotism.

Platt cannot livelong. His mind is already a mere shadow. The other day a
friend found him crying like a child because Roosevelt was unable to appoint
for him to a federal district attorneyship a man who had been caught stealing
trust  funds, and, insisted that he must select some henchman wearing the
brand less conspicuously.

"Platt was like an unreasonable child," said his friend.

Just before the holidays, Platt called Chauncey Depew, his junior, over to
his seat, and said, "Chauncey, I hear you are thinking of resigning." Depew
began to shift and fumble and hem and haw-to act as he has been acting ever
since he was publicly disgraced. Platt looked him coldly in the eye.
"Chauncey," he said," whenever are you going to grow up and stop being

It was one of those rare moments of "supreme courage" when Platt gives way to
profanity. His colleague's shame excited the contempt of his brass-plated
soul. And well, it might; for, Depew's shame was not shame for his
dishonorable and dishonest acts; nor was it even so little erect a feeling as
the shame that follows the shock of being found out; it was that basest of
all the base kinds of shame-the shrinking fear of the steady, pointing finger
of public scorn and contempt. And from that finger Depew is not secure
anywhere but in the Senate itself-when the galleries are cleared and only his
colleagues are there.

        But let us not linger upon Platt-—Platt, with his long, his unbroken
record of treachery to the people in legislation of privilege and plunder
promoted and in decent legislation pre-vented. Let us leave him, not because
he is sick and feeble; for death itself without re-pentance or restitution
de-serves no con-sideration; but because he needs no ex-tended exam-ination
to be understood and entered under his proper head-ing in the rec-ord. Wher-
ever Platt is known, to speak of him as a patriot would cause wonder if not
open derision. The most that could be said of him is that, wherever the
interests of the people do not conflict with the interests of the "interests"
or with his own pocket, which includes that of his family, Platt has been
either inactive or not positively in opposition.

Depew, the Courtier

Let us turn to the other of the two representatives whom the people of New
York suffer to sit and cast the other of their two votes in the body that
arbitrates the division of the prosperity of the country, the wages and the
prices. At this writing Depew has just given out a flat refusal to resign.
"Why should I resign?" he cried out hysterically. "Has anybody put forward
any good reason why I should resign?" And he added, "As soon as I have
completed my resignation from certain companies, I shall give all my time to
my senatorial duties."

What are his senatorial duties? What does he do in the body that is now as
much an official part of the plutocracy as the executive council of a
Rockefeller or a Ryan? No one would pretend for an instant that he sits in
the Senate for the people. Indeed, why should he, except because he took an
oath to do so-and among such eminent respectabilities as he an oath is a mere
formality, a mere technicality. Did the people send him to the Senate? No!
The Vanderbilt interests ordered Platt to send him the first time; and when
he came up for a second term the Vanderbilt-Morgan interests got, not without
difficulty, Harriman's O.K. on an order to Odell to give it to him. Since he
became a large public figure, the only time he has presented himself to the
people, he was overwhelmingly beaten. In no part of the state of New York,
these thirty-five years, would the people have elected him to any office of
trust, great or small. Except, then, for the negligible reason of his oath,
he has no reason to represent the people. His "senatorial duties" are like
the duties of more than twothirds of his colleagues-to serve his master, the
plutocracy, in his old age as he has served it from his earliest youth. He
has or has borrowed enough of the "statesman's supreme courage" to act upon
the theory that, if he should resign from the Senate, he would be ejected
from his seventy and odd directorships which bring him in upward of fifty
thousand dollars a year in attendance fees alone; whereas if he resigns the
directorships and clings to his senatorial seat, his plutocratic associates,
needing his vote there, will treat him with what he regards as consideration.

To show what he represents in the Senate, in whose service his vote and his
talents are entirely enlisted, we must look at his past. For, a man is his
past-not its pretenses and palaverings but its performances.

In January, 1862—forty-four years ago—there appeared at Albany among the new
members of the Assembly a young man of unusual opportunities, gifts and
promise. His name was C. M. Depew, and soon everybody was calling him
Chauncey, and was liking him. He was twenty-seven years old, was a graduate
of Yale—and in that day a degree from a college, while it perhaps meant less
as to attainments, certainly meant more in the ears and imaginations of men.
He was a young lawyer from Peekskill, good as a lawyer, better as a mixer,
best of all as a jollier; for nature had given him that dangerous flexibility
which tempts a man to seek success by the sideling, cringing, crawling way of
the courtier.

It was the day of big enthusiasm for country, and so the politicians were
even more offensive with their shallow shoutings of patriotism than now. The
Depew youth developed a fine talent for "tall talk," for "making the proud
bird soar." And he laid well the foundations of the public reputation behind
which he has so industriously plied his cowardly trade these forty years. In
those days the big "interests" had not yet appeared, and graft was not
consolidated and glozed slimy with respectability, as now. But the
politicians were for the most part grafters, as now; and very bold and coarse
they were about it. Graft wasn't "campaign contributions 'I and "retainers"
and such smooth and delicate evasions; it was plain bribery, plain passing of
money from briber to bribed. The legislative bodies of to-day are no more
corrupt than then; the corruption is simply more subtle, more "gentlemanly,"
more respectable. The vast difference, the vast excess of peril in the now
over the then, lies in the fact that the corrupting force is to-day the
national dispenser of the sharings in prosperity where then it was simply
small corporations and individuals stealing a relatively small part of the
people's abundance.

Depew Finds a Master

Young Depew was looking about for a master. Nature has made him the kind of
man who, whether good or bad, cannot be self-owned. Soon his glib tongue and
fertile brain had ingratiated him into favor with Thurlow Weed, the boss of
the Republican party in that day and a corruptionist who will never get his
dues in history because so many men so much more skilled at his specialty,
rotten politics, have lived since and have eclipsed his fame. Depew, at
twenty-nine, was nominated for secretary of state by a trick: the boss was
beaten in convention; but the nominated candidate declined to run and Depew,
whom the convention had rejected, was put on the ticket by the boss' state
committee. Depew was elected, and proceeded publicly to parade his

He took a boss' census of the state and, to cut down New York city's
Democratic representation, gave it a population smaller than the federal
census of five years before, 1860,had given it. "Depopulator Depew" was
denounced by the Democrats and despised by the Republicans; for, while the
rank and file of as partisan a party as was the Republican in those war times
will accept the fruits of the shameful acts of the politicians, it will not
thereafter respect or trust them. Thus, when Depew became a conspicuous
public figure, his characteristics were fully developed. His first distinct
public appearance was as a traitor to the people; for, his treachery of
procuring fraudulent representation is of that same kind of fundamental and
unmitigated treason as the ballot box stuffer's or the vote buyer's. At
twenty-nine Depew was definitely launched upon his career of treason. Round
and round the press in the mid-sixties went this "suggestion for the next
edition of the dictionary:"

"Depewism"—any inexplicable depopulation of a town or village; sudden
desertion of a neighborhood; falling off in the inhabitants of any locality."

Depew was not renominated. The Republican organization had to drop him from
its list of figureheads available for submission to the people. Several
attempts otherwise to "take care of him" miscarried. He finished his term as
secretary of state at the end of 1865 and became a "lawyer" for corporate and
other seekers of favors from the legislatures. His acquaintance, his
knowledge of the wheels of political machinery, his intimacy with the
leaders, gave him peculiar fitness for the work of a lobbyist. At that time
the Vanderbilt fortune was being stolen from the people of the state. The
"old commodore" had discovered that millions could be made by bribing
legislatures where scant thousands would be the reward of honest industry;
and he was acting upon the discovery with all the energy of a cutpurse at a
county fair, and no police about. His son and chief "Pal," William H., first
employed Depew; Depew's successes, combined with his personal qualities which
seemed capable of great development, attracted the commodore to him. Depew,
in his "Retrospect of Twenty-five Years with the New York Central," has given
his version of how he got the bit and saddle he was to wear proudly and
docilely for forty years:

"William H. Vanderbilt said to me, 'We want your services,' and the commodore
remarked, 'Chauncey, politics don't pay. The business of the future in this
country is railroading."'

It is impossible to say whether the commodore indulged in that bit of
persiflage, or whether Depew's memory, as flexible as his tongue, his knees,
his brain and his conscience, has here bent for him. The commodore never was
and hardly professed to be a railroad man, any more than Ryan is an insurance
man or Morgan a steel man; he was, almost frankly, a purchaser of stolen
franchises, a procurer of profitable legislation, a bond and stockjobber and
swindler, a parasite upon production; he founded and entailed the policy
which has made the New York Central about the most corrupt and about the
least progressive railroad in the world in proportion to its opportunities.
So, he must have meant by that remark to Depew, if he made it, "railroading
legislation"; must have meant that while politics as an honorable pursuit did
not "pay," politics as a criminal industry was the future business of the
country; for, not out of business but out of politics have the vast fortunes
been made, except the few real estate and mining accumulations.

A Railroad Lawyer

Depew became a "lawyer" for the New York Central, with headquarters at
Albany, of course. In view of the true nature of old Commodore Vanderbilt's
"business" activities, Depew's fairly accurate description of his own
position becomes interesting. "My duties," says he, "covered everything
official or personal in which the commodore was interested. For the last
eleven years of his life I was in daily consultation with this remarkable
man." Further: "Vanderbilt cared little for details and speedily wearied of
them. He stated in general terms the results he desired, and then expected
the officers of the companies to work them out. It was impossible to explain
to him a failure."

Read aright, this last is a wonderful picture of the first typical
plutocrat-ignorant of business, indifferent to it, rich and growing ever
richer by hoarding the property of the people which his agents stole for him,
and treating those agents as a Fagin treats the clever boys he sends out to
pick pockets. Depew's picture of old Vanderbilt belongs beside Rockefeller's
self-painted portrait in his famous sentence, "I don't know anything about
those matters; I am a clamorer for dividends." But, incidentally, Depew
presents a picture of himself-the sly courtier-agent, with the greasy
conscience and the greasy tongue and the greasy backbone and the greasy
hinges of the knees.

It would be a mistake to suppose that Depew had not a good brain. On the
contary, his brain was, and perhaps still is, far superior to the first
Vanderbilt's, or to any of the first, Vanderbilt's successors as chief
custodian of the millions he got by robbing the people and by "milking" the
New York Central system. Why, then, should superior serve inferior? For the
same reason that the great lawyers of to-day, with their splendid brains, are
yet mere fetchers and carriers to the plutocrats who are like huge, soft
grubs-mere feeders. Depew lacked that courage which never goes with such
adaptability, such timidity of soul as his. He would do anything, and do it
thoroughly, as a lieutenant; but as an initiator, he was always worthless. He
had to have a man behind him, some one to stiffen him to the execution of the
clevernesses his brain devised. His nature was essentially servile,
parasitic, typical of the truckler and the procurer. Brains without courage
will serve, to the furthest extremity of sycophancy, courage, even though it
has no brains.

It was, therefore, when Depew was but thirty-two years old that he took
"personal and official" service with the Vanderbilt family. And ever since
then they have owned him, mentally and morally; they have used him, or
rather, he, in his eagerness to please them, has made himself useful to them
to an extent which he does not realize nor do they. So great is his reverence
for wealth and the possessors of wealth, so humble is he before them, that he
probably does not appreciate how much of the Vanderbilt fortune his brain got
for that family. The successive heads of the family have been, like the old
commodore, typical plutocrats. The plutocrat sees something he wants-, he has
not the brains to get it, only the appetite for it and the determination to
gratify that appetite. He hires a brain, a lawyer, to tell him how to get
what he wants. Depew's public front of lighthearted, superficial jester and
buffoon, and his private reputation, and character, of spineless sycophant
have combined to make him mentally underestimated both by others and by
himself. Probably the old commodore, and perhaps William H., did dimly
realize that without their Chauncey to think for them and to cloak them, they
would have been unable to steal so largely or with so little outcry. But even
they, shrewder though they were than the later heads of the family, must have
been prejudiced by Depew's utter lack of self-assertiveness, and by his
extreme and sordid parsimony, a quality to which we must return later, as it
was the immediate cause of his final downfall.

The Vanderbilt Lobbyist

The Vanderbilts, when he entered their service, were engaged in stealing a
series of franchises and existing railroads, and in getting upon the statute
books laws legalizing the thefts and other laws making them absolute masters
of the railway situation in the richest territory between New York and
Buffalo. Their object was twofold-to rob the people and to rob the
capitalists whom they had induced to invest in the stolen railways. It may be
said in passing that while the investors whom they cheated may possibly
deserve a little sympathy-not much, as investors all knew the whole
enterprise was a swindle and went in because they thought they were on the
"ground floor"—the people deserve no sympathy. Year after year they sent back
the same old thieves to the legislature. Indeed, are they not still sending
notorious rascals there by the score? However, Depew became an ideal
lieutenant for a plutocrat, incomparably the best, take him all round, this
country has yet been foozled by. A few years after he had hired out to the
Vanderbilts, Roscoe Conkling, being asked one day what he thought of him,
said, "Depew? You mean the fellow Vanderbilt sends to Albany every winter to
say 'gee' and 'haw' to his cattle there." Depew understood the " cattle
business"; Vanderbilt did not; but he did not need to understand it, as he
owned Depew.

Before Vanderbilt got control of the New York and Harlem and New York
Central, the New York Central had been one of the most industrious and
extensive corruptors of the legislature. In the fourteen years up to 1867, it
had spent upward of half a million dollars, a big sum for those Spartan days,
in buying laws at Albany and to "protect its stockholders against injurious
legislation "—which phrase always means to prevent just laws from being
enacted, since an unjust law would be unconstitutional and would be upset by
the courts. Not long after Depew became "junior counsel," there was put
through the first of the series of stupendous swindles that netted the
Vanderbilts the cash, the franchises, the vested rights to levy upon the
people in perpetuity which have enabled them to reach out and out until now
they control twenty-two thousand miles of railway and have in the total a
wholly owned fortune of nearly half a thousand millions. On May 20, 1869, the
Vanderbilts got, in one bill, the right to consolidate several railways, and
a free grant of franchises worth hundreds of millions, and the right to water
stocks and bonds practically as freely as they might choose. Of the immediate
plunder-the watered stocksthe Vanderbilts put in their pockets no less than
forty million dollars which cost them nothing whatsoever and to which they
had no title and as to which they could never give any pretense of
explanation. According to Charles Francis Adams, the distinguished railway
man, the first douche of water into the stock was about fifty thousand
dollars per mile for every mile between New York and Buffalo.

Here is just one instance of the effrontery of the Vanderbilt lobby in those
days: An innocent looking bill, which freed the railroad from payment of
heavy judgments in suits pending against it and gave it the right to raise
the passenger fare from two to three cents a mile. was introduced in the
closing days of the session of 1872. The bill's true nature was exposed and
it was defeated.

Immediately, it was hidden away in the depths of another bill and was passed.
"During that hour," said the Buffalo "Express," "Depew was the busiest man in
the lobby."

Another Buffalo newspaper the "Commercial," said, "Depew stands convicted of
being a corrupter of the lawmakers of the commonwealth," and that he "had the
audacity to cajole or bribe the chief magistrate of the state into endorsing
one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated."

In that same year when the press was describing Depew as a "regular
attendant" at the sessions of the "third house," the lobby of the
legislature, the bill was put through that presented Fourth Avenue, New York
city, to the New York Central, and compelled the city to spend millions of
dollars in improving the railway!

A Political Change of Heart

Depew left the Republican party with the Greeley movement which looked very
promising until election day. He took, with his owner's hearty consent, the
nomination for lieutenant governor. In those days the lieutenant governor was
ex-officio the chief power in control of the Erie Canal. It has been a fixed
part of the Vanderbilt policy to inflict upon the canal, the one restraint
upon—its monopoly, all possible damage. If Depew had been elected, he would
have had the chance to "depopulate" it. But he was overwhelmingly beaten. His
reputation at that time would alone have been enough to wreck the ticket.

In no one of Depew's own accounts of his career will you find mention that he
was a commissioner of the state capitol from 1871 to 1875. It was during this
period that the plans were adopted and the works undertaken which have made
the capitol the most expensive building for its size in the world. it ought
to have cost about four million dollars. It has cost more than twenty-five
million and is not yet finished. The scandal over the doings of Depew and his
colleagues was so great that the legislature was forced to appoint a
committee to "whitewash" them. The commission in its report complied to the
extent of saying that it had "found nothing involving the personal integrity
of the commissioners." But it went on to say of one part of the work that "if
it had been honestly done, the commission would have saved at least a million
dollars." It cited one building "made entirely of brick, stone and iron," yet
against which bills Of $59,129.64 were charged for lumber and $100,215.25 for
carpenter work! Depew and his colleagues were kicked out of office.

The Vanderbilts' Creature

Now followed a quarter of a century of arduous and most adroit lobbying, as
counsel and then as figurehead president of the Vanderbilt road, and finally
as "honorary" chairman of it. He got for the Vanderbilts, with ever
increasing facility and ever decreasing public clamor, free franchises large
and small, large free grants of land, immensely valuable shore rights and
rights to land under water, authorizations of more consolidations and of more
issues of watered stock, exemptions from taxation, etc., etc.,etc. Also he
was always on hand to cover the operations of the bribe-brigade with speeches
full of catching sophistries against any and all legislation seeking to
lessen the oppressive burdens imposed by the Vanderbilts upon the people. He
managed it all most ably. He grew more and more respected. By generous, even
wholesale, distribution of passes, by cultivating editors and reporters, by
ingratiating himself with small politicians and the influential men of little
towns and villages, by making popular addresses and after-dinner speeches, by
the thousand and one devices which his ingenious mind and his expansive
temperament and his passion for public applause suggested, he made himself a
popular figure. Everyone knew he was the Vanderbilts' creature. Those who saw
him in the presence of the members of the family to which he was soul-vassal,
whether the elder members or the little children, half-pityingly despised him
for his truckling, despised him the more that he was beyond question a man of
unusual ability and mentality. The wife of one of the younger Vanderbilts
refused to have him at her table.

"I do not let my butler sit down with me," said she to the head of the house;
"Why should I let yours?"

But in general he was liked. The contempt for him was tolerant. He was
regarded as a "good fellow, for the kind." And so he got what he sought. His
persistent and good-humored and clever pushing of himself in public produced
valuable results to him and invaluable results to the Vanderbilts.

It would be a moderate statement that the geniality of Depew has cost the
people of New York State a thousand million dollars, besides the infamous
grants of the rights to tax the public in perpetuity. The Vanderbilts and
their clique kept much; but it is characteristic of plutocracy that it
damages and destroys much more than it carries away, like a bear in a
beehive. "Our Chauncey's" geniality is responsible, to cite one of a graver
kind of instances, for the tunnel exit from New York city, a criminal
nuisance which the Vanderbilts have maintained all these years in brutish
disregard of the comfort of the people, and at an appalling sacrifice of
human lives.

Depew's popularity with the public so loth to believe that "one may smile and
smile, and be a villain," his "pull" with the too good-natured editors and
reporters throughout the state have gracefully cloaked the ignorant and
greedy and criminal policy which the Vanderbilts have always pursued, and
which, by the way, has cost them many more millions than they put in the bag.
Our history offers no more striking instance of one- man power than the wide
paralyzing effect and the vast and sinister economic results of the studied
and shallow geniality of this sycophant to a plutocratic family.

And, for reward, the Vanderbilts have given him scant and contemptuous
crumbs. After forty years of industrious, faithful, and, to his masters,
enormously profitable self-degradation he has not more than five millions,
avaricious and saving though he has been. And they tossed him the senatorship
as if it had been a charity. Of all the creatures of the Vanderbilts, none
has been more versatile, more willing or more profitable to his users than
Depew. Yet he has only five million dollars and a blasted name to console his
old age, while his users are in honor and count their millions by the score.

The Insurance Iniquity

Besides the Vanderbilts, he has served one other member of the plutocracy-the
famous, the curious, the posthumously exposed and disgraced Henry B. Hyde.
Hyde discovered Depew's genius for giving "good" advice away back in the late
seventies—in 1877. Depew, on the witness stand last December, told the
shameful story. He said,

"I came in close touch with Mr. Hyde because a revolution was taking place in
life insurance largely through the instrumentality of Mr. Hyde."

This revolution was, he went on to explain, the "deferred dividend plan,"
which means, though he did not admit it, a scheme by which the managers of a
life insurance company accumulate in their own hands an enormous sum to be
used in gambling and stockjobbing and in a variety of ingenious ways for
adding vastly to their own personal fortunes, while the owners of the risked
wealth get only the meagerest, if any, interest on their money.

Depew, without shame or consciousness of the necessity for it, testified that
Hyde and he and their associates in the insurance (!) company roped in the
public by the familiar device of the "get-rich-quick jail birds. Revolution,

It was this "revolution" that made Hyde rich, and also the heads of such of
the Equitable's rivals as adopted Hyde's methods, which, by the way, he did
not invent but imported from abroad, where they had been practiced until the
law forbade.

Depew testified that he advised with Hyde only about investing the huge sums;
for, to use Depew's own language, "from the moment when the Equitable entered
into that plan of Mr. Hyde's, their business began to grow by leaps and
bounds, and money came in with great rapidity." Depew swore he advised only
as to the storage of those huge masses of loot for Hyde and his gang,
including Director and Trustee Depew, to graft upon. He denied on oath all
knowledge of the infamous laws which Hyde bought-laws to make the policy
holders defenseless. He denied on oath that he knew anything whatever as to
the Equitable's traffic with the lobby and the legislature. Later, this
following letter was shown him by Mr. Hughes:

"NEW YORK, Dec. 19, 1896.


"My friend who usually gets around at this time of the year has written me
several letters to which I have not replied. He now writes that he will be
here Monday or Tuesday, and desires to have me help him as usual. What shall
I do?

Faithfully yours,


To show Depew's notion of the obligation of his oath, he, after admitting
that he received the letter, gave this testimony:

"Do you know to whom the letter refers? asked Mr. Hughes.

I do not," replied Depew on oath.

Reference is made to some one who 'usually gets around at this time of the
year.' Does that refresh your recollection?"

And Depew swore, "It does not refresh my recollection as to his name."

Mr. Hughes then handed him this second letter:

"NEW YORK, December 24th, 1900. MY DEAR SENATOR:

"Our friend up the River has been very rantankerous of late and wants to
know, you know. Don't care a hang, etc., and etc. As soon as you can
conveniently say, will you kindly do so?

"Wishing you all the good things of life in this holiday season, I am,

As ever yours,


To Honorable Chauncey M. Depew, "New York City."

New York, Dec. 19, 1896. My dear Depew:

My friend who usually gets around at this time of the year has written me
several letters to which I have not replied. He now writes that he will be
here Monday or Tuesday and desires to have me help him as usual. What shall I
do? Faithfully yours,

John A. Nichols

Again Depew admitted having received a letter he dared not repudiate. Then
came this astounding "lapse of memory":

"To what does that refer?" inquired Mr. Hughes.

"It refers to the same person," replied Depew.

"Do you now recall who he is?"

"I do not recall his name, no"

" Do you recall the subject-matter?"

"It was some claim he had against the company, which I never understood, and
why I should have been written to on the subject I do not know."

"Was it anyone connected with the New York legislature?"

"No, not at all," was Depew's hasty and eager and significantly positive

"Or connected with New York politics?"

"I think not,"

"Or with—the legislature or politics of any jurisdiction?"

"I think not."

This testimony on oath! It is explainable only on one of three theories-that
Depew has had dealings with so many queer fish that he could not remember
this one; or that he perjured himself; or that he both perjured himself and
has had dealings with a multitude of queer fish.

New York, December 24th, 1900

My dear Senator: Our friend up the River has been very rantankerous of late
and wants to know, you know. Don't care a hang, etc., and etc.

As soon as you can conveniently say, will you kindly do so.

Wishing you all the good things of life in this holiday season, I am,

As ever yours,
John A. Nichols.

To Honorable Chauncey M. Depew

New York City

Depew was a director of the Equitable from 1877, and an enthusiastic and even
noisy public advocate of insurance. Yet he had no insurance himself, seeker
of safe, conservative investments though he was. From 1888 he drew twenty
thousand dollars a year as counsel—to give the Hydes and Alexanders advice on
the "vast and intricate problems" which the Hyde "revolution" of life
insurance, from an honorable and even public-spirited business to a swindling
scheme, had created. And he took this salary graft-though the law forbids
life-insurance directors to make money for themselves- out of their trust
funds. He did more and worse. As a member of the executive committee he voted
to authorize a loan of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to the Depew
Improvement Company, an enterprise in which he was interested to the extent
of one hundred thousand dollars of stock and whose total properties were
appraised by the insurance department at one hundred and fifty thousand
dollars. He went still further and did still worse. When the enterprise went
smash, he promisedbut let us quote the exact words of the testimony of Gerald
H. Brown, the superintendent of the Equitable's bond and mortgage department:

Q. "What did you say to him (Depew) on that subject?"

A. "At that time he led me to believe that he was going to see the Equitable

without any losses."

Q. "What did he say in substance?"

A. "He said in substance that he had been dragged into this matter by Walter
Webb, who is now deceased, I believe a brother of Dr. Seward Webb; that the
place had been named after him without his consent, and that he had sunk one
hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and fifty thousand dollars of his own
money in it, which he was willing to lose if necessary or put in more to help
the Equitable out and get it out without loss."

Q. "Did he say in substance that he would save the Equitable harmless for the

A. "Yes, he did."

Q. "Do you know if Mr. Depew made the same statement to any other person in
your presence?"

A. "He made the statement to the comptroller of the society in 'my presence."

Q. "To Mr. Jordan?

A. "Yes, sir."

His Predominant Trait

Last spring, before the quarrel which is still raging in Wall Street over the
great life insurance bone, Depew was urged to 49 pay up" by friends of his,
who knew what was coming. He was warned that disgrace was imminent for him.
But he has one further characteristic which his mask of geniality has hid. He
is stingy. To quote one of his intimates, "Chauncey is as stingy as Russell
Sage. The only difference between them in that respect is that Chauncey keeps
up his personal appearance." It is his stinginess that has prevented him from
getting enormously rich, despite the niggardliness of the Vanderbilts—his
stinginess and that utter lack of courage to act for himself which is best
revealed in his adoring admiration of very rich men who have the courage to
risk real money. This admiration seems the quainter when it is considered
that no one knows better than he that those "bold captains of industry" put
their money down only when they have marked the cards and loaded the dice;
and that, if by some strange chance they should lose in an enterprise, they
make the people, as passengers or freight shippers or policy holders, bear
the loss. Depew's stinginess made it impossible for him to settle up his
Equitable "loan" loot, which, as he was forced to admit on the stand, he had,
as a member of the executive committee, voted to himself and his associates.
He went away to Europe-and the blow fell. And now he is back where he was
thirty years ago in the matter of reputation. With this difference-the world
judges youth leniently, but not maturity, especially not such experienced
maturity as Depew's.

As the financial result of Depew's shortsighted stinginess in failing to get
himself off the black list of the insurance investigating committee, suits
for seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars are now pending against
him-seven hundred and fifty thousand. dollars of the money of the Equitable
policy holders whose trustee he was for twenty-eight years.

pps. 5-20


Next: Aldrich, the Head of It All

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