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- Great Fortunes from Railroads - 20/57 -

price for a part of them. Justice then brought suit. (See Court of Claims Reports, viii: 37-54.) In the court records, these statements are included:

William H. Harris, Second Lieutenant of Ordnance, under orders visited Camp Hamilton, Va., and inspected the arms of the Fifty- Eighth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, stationed there. He reported: "This regiment is armed with rifle muskets, marked on the barrel, 'P. S. Justice, Philadelphia,' and vary in calibre from .65 to .70. I find many of them unserviceable and irreparable, from the fact that the principal parts are defective. Many of them are made up of parts of muskets to which the stamp of condemnation has been affixed by an inspecting officer. None of the stocks have ever been approved by an officer, nor do they bear the initials of any inspector. They are made up of soft, unseasoned wood, and are defective in construction. ... The sights are merely soldered on to the barrel, and come off with the gentlest handling. Imitative screw- heads are cut on their bases. The bayonets are made up of soft iron, and, of course, when once bent remain 'set,'" etc., etc. (p. 43).

Col. (later General) Thomas D. Doubleday reported of his inspection: "The arms which were manufactured at Philadelphia, Penn., are of the most worthless kind, and have every appearance of having been manufactured from old condemned muskets. Many of them burst; hammers break off; sights fall off when discharged; the barrels are very light, not one-twentieth of an inch thick, and the stocks are made of green wood which have shrunk so as to leave the bands and trimmings loose. The bayonets are of such frail texture that they bend like lead, and many of them break off when going through the bayonet exercise. You could hardly conceive of such a worthless lot of arms, totally unfit for service, and dangerous to those using them" (p. 44).

Assistant Inspector-General of Ordnance John Buford reported: "Many had burst; many cones were blown out; many locks were defective; many barrels were rough inside from imperfect boring; and many had different diameters of bore in the same barrel. ... _At target practice so many burst that the men became afraid to fire them_" (p. 45).

The Court of Claims, on strict technical grounds, decided in favor of Justice, but the Supreme Court of the United States reversed that decision and dismissed the case. The Supreme Court found true the Government's contention that "the arms were unserviceable and unsafe for troops to handle."

Many other such specific examples are given in subsequent chapters of this work.] These capitalists passed, and were hailed, as eminent merchants, manufacturers and bankers; they were mighty in the marts and in politics; and their praise as "enterprising" and "self-made" and "patriotic" men was lavishly diffused.

It was the period of periods when there was a kind of adoration of the capitalist taught in press, college and pulpit. Nothing is so effective, as was remarked of old, to divert attention from scoundrelism as to make a brilliant show of patriotism. In the very act of looting Government and people and devastating the army and navy, the capitalists did the most ghastly business under the mask of the purest patriotism. Incredible as it may seem, this pretension was invoked and has been successfully maintained to this very day. You can scarcely pick up a volume on the Civil War, or a biography of the statesmen or rich men of the era, without wading in fulsome accounts of the untiring patriotism of the capitalists.


But, while lustily indulging in patriotic palaver, the propertied classes took excellent care that their own bodies should not be imperilled. Inspired by enthusiasm or principle, a great array of the working class, including the farming and the professional elements, volunteered for military service. It was not long before they experienced the disappointment and demoralization of camp life. The letters written by many of these soldiers show that they did not falter at active campaigning. The prospect, however, of remaining in camp with insufficient rations, and (to use a modern expressive word) graft on every hand, completely disheartened and disgusted many of them. Many having influence with members of Congress, contrived to get discharges; others lacking this influence deserted. To fill the constantly diminishing ranks caused by deaths, resignations and desertions, it became necessary to pass a conscription act.

With few exceptions, the propertied classes of the North loved comfort and power too well to look tranquilly upon any move to force them to enlist. Once more, the Government revealed that it was but a register of the interests of the ruling classes. The Draft Act was so amended that it allowed men of property to escape being conscripted into the army by permitting them to buy substitutes. The poor man who could not raise the necessary amount had to submit to the consequences of the draft. With a few of the many dollars wrung, filched or plundered in some way or other, the capitalists could purchase immunity from military service.

As one of the foremost capitalists of the time, Cornelius Vanderbilt has been constantly exhibited as a great and shining patriot. Precisely in the same way as Croffut makes no mention of Vanderbilt's share in the mail subsidy frauds, but, on the contrary, ascribes to Vanderbilt the most splendid patriotism in his mail carrying operations, so do Croffut and other writers unctuously dilate upon the old magnate's patriotic services during the Civil War. Such is the sort of romancing that has long gone unquestioned, although the genuine facts have been within reach. These facts show that Vanderbilt was continuing during the Civil War the prodigious frauds he had long been carrying on.

When Lincoln's administration decided in 1862 to send a large military and naval force to New Orleans under General Banks, one of the first considerations was to get in haste the required number of ships to be used as transports. To whom did the Government turn in this exigency? To the very merchant class which, since the foundation of the United States, had continuously defrauded the public treasury. The owners of the ships had been eagerly awaiting a chance to sell or lease them to the Government at exorbitant prices. And to whom was the business of buying, equipping and supervising them intrusted? To none other than Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Every public man had opportunities for knowing that Vanderbilt had pocketed millions of dollars in his fraudulent hold-up arrangement with various mail subsidy lines. He was known to be mercenary and unscrupulous. Yet he was selected by Secretary of War Stanton to act as the agent for the Government. At this time Vanderbilt was posing as a glorious patriot. With much ostentation he had loaned to the Government for naval purposes one of his ships--a ship that he could not put to use himself and which, in fact, had been built with stolen public funds. By this gift he had cheaply attained the reputation of being a fervent patriot. Subsequently, it may be added, Congress turned a trick on him by assuming that he gave this ship to the Government, and, to his great astonishment, kept the ship and solemnly thanked him for the present.


The outfitting of the Banks expedition was of such a rank character that it provoked a grave public scandal. If the matter had been simply one of swindling the United States Treasury out of millions of dollars, it might have been passed over by Congress. On all sides gigantic frauds were being committed by the capitalists. But in this particular case the protests of the thousands of soldiers on board the transports were too numerous and effective to be silenced or ignored. These soldiers were not regulars without influence or connections; they were volunteers who everywhere had relatives and friends to demand an inquiry. Their complaints of overcrowding and of insecure, broken-down ships poured in, and aroused the whole country. A great stir resulted. Congress appointed an investigating committee.

The testimony was extremely illuminative. It showed that in buying the vessels Vanderbilt had employed one T. J. Southard to act as his handy man. Vanderbilt, it was testified by numerous ship owners, refused to charter any vessels unless the business were transacted through Southard, who demanded a share of the purchase money before he would consent to do business. Any ship owner who wanted to get rid of a superannuated steamer or sailing vessel found no difficulty if he acceded to Southard's terms.

The vessels accepted by Vanderbilt, and contracted to be paid for at high prices, were in shockingly bad condition. Vanderbilt was one of the few men in the secret of the destination of Banks' expedition; he knew that the ships had to make an ocean trip. Yet he bought for $10,000 the Niagara, an old boat that had been built nearly a score of years before for trade on Lake Ontario. "In perfectly smooth weather," reported Senator Grimes, of Iowa, "with a calm sea, the planks were ripped out of her, and exhibited to the gaze of the indignant soldiers on board, showing that her timbers were rotten. The committee have in their committee room a large sample of one of the beams of this vessel to show that it has not the slightest capacity to hold a nail." [Footnote: The Congressional Globe, Thirty- seventh Congress, Third Session, 1862-63, Part 1: 610.] Senator Grimes continued:

If Senators will refer to page 18 of this report, they will see that for the steamer Eastern Queen he (Vanderbilt) paid $900 a day for the first thirty days, and $800 for the residue of the days; while she (the Eastern Queen) had been chartered by the Government, for the Burnside expedition at $500 a day, making a difference of three or four hundred dollars a day. He paid for the Quinebang $250 a day, while she had been chartered to the Government at one time for $130 a day. For the Shetucket he paid $250 a day, while she had formerly been in our employ for $150 a day. He paid for the Charles Osgood $250 a day, while we had chartered her for $150. He paid $250 a day for the James S. Green, while we had once had a charter of her for $200. He paid $450 a day for the Salvor, while she had been chartered to the Government for $300. He paid $250 a day for the Albany, while she had been chartered to the Government for $150. He paid $250 a day for the Jersey Blue, while she had been chartered to the Government for $150. [Footnote: The Congressional Globe, etc., 1862-63, Part i:610.]

There were a few of the many vessels chartered by Vanderbilt through Southard for the Government. For vessels bought outright, extravagant sums were paid. Ambrose Snow, a well-known shipping merchant, testified that "when we got to Commodore Vanderbilt we were referred to Mr. Southard; when we went to Mr. Southard, we were told that we should have to pay him a commission of five per cent." [Footnote: Ibid. See also Senate Report No. 84, 1863, embracing the full testimony.]

Other shipping merchants corroborated this testimony. The methods and extent of these great frauds were clear. If the ship owners agreed to pay Southard five--and very often he exacted ten per cent. [Footnote:

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