Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Four - The Church of the Slaves

The Industral Shelley

Such was the fate of an editor who opposed the "New Haven." And now, what of those editors who supported it? Turn to "The Outlook, a Weekly Journal of Current Events," edited by Lyman Abbott - the issue of Dec. 25th, 1909 years after Christ came down to bring peace on earth and good-will toward Wall Street. You will there find an article by Sylvester Baxter entitled "The Upbuilding of a Great Railroad." It is the familiar "slush" article which we professional writers learn to know at a glance. "Prodigious," Mr. Baxter tells us, has been the progress of the New Haven; this was "a masterstroke," that was "characteristically sagacious." The road had made "Prodigious expenditures," and to a noble end: "Transportation efficiency epitomizes the broad aim that animated these expenditures and other constructive activities." There are photographs of bridges and stations - "vast terminal improvements," "a masterpiece of modern engineering," "the highest, greatest and most architectural of bridges." Of the official under whom these miracles were being wrought - President Mellen - we read: "Nervously organized, of delicate sensibility, impulsive in utterance yet with an extraordinarily convincing power for vividly logical presentation." An industrial Shelley, or a Milton, you perceive; and all this prodigious genius poured out for the general welfare! "To study out the sort of transportation service best adapted to these ends, and then to provide it in the most efficient form possible, that is the life-task that President Mellen has set himself."

There was no less than 16 pages of these raptures - quite a section of a small magazine like the "Outlook." "The New Haven ramifies to every spot where industry flourishes, where business thrives." "As a purveyor of transportation it supplies the public with just the sort desired." "Here we have the new efficiency in a nutshell." In short, here we have what Dr. Lyman Abbott means when he glorifies "the great mass of American wealth." "It is serving the community; it is building a railway to open a new country to settlement by the homeless; it is operating a railway to carry grain from the harvests of the West to the unfed millions of the, east," etc. The unfed millions - my typewriter started to write "underfed millions" - are humbly grateful for these services, and hasten to buy copies of the pious weekly which tells about them.

The "Outlook" runs a column of "current events" in which it tells what is happening in the world; and sometimes it is compelled to tell of happenings against the interests of "the great mass of American wealth." The cynical reader will find amusement in following its narrative of the affairs of the New Haven during the five years subsequent to the publication of the Baxter article.

First came the collapse of the road's service; a series of accidents so frightful that they roused even clergymen and chambers of commerce to protest. A number of the "Outlook's" subscribers are New Haven "commuters," and the magazine could not fail to refer to their troubles. In the issue of Jan. 4, 1913, three years and 10 days after the Baxter rhapsody, we read:

The most numerous accidents on a single road since the last fiscal year have been, we believe, those on the New Haven. In the opinion of the Connecticut Commission, the Westport wreck would not have occurred if the railway company had followed the recommendation of the Chief Inspector of Safety Appliances of the Interstate Commerce Commission in its report on a similar accident at Bridgeport a year ago.

And by June 28, matters had gone farther yet; we find the "Outlook" reporting:

Within a few hours of the collision at Stamford, the wrecked Pullman car was taken away and burned. Is this criminal destruction of evidence?

This collapse of the railroad service started a clamor for investigation by the Interstate Commerce Commission, which of course brought terror to the bosoms of the plunderers. On Dec. 20, 1913, we find the "Outlook" "putting the soft pedal" on the public indignation. "It must not be forgotten that such a road as the New Haven is, in fact if not in terms, a National possession, and as it goes down or up, public interests go down or up with it." But in spite of all pious admonitions, the Interstate Commerce Commission yielded to the public clamor, and an investigation was made - revealing such conditions of rottenness as to shock even the clerical retainers of Privilege. "Securities were inflated, debt was heaped upon debt," reports the horrified "Outlook;" and when its hero, Mr. Mellen - its industrial Shelley, "nervously organized" - admitted that he had no authority as to the finances of the road and no understanding of them, but had taken all his orders from Morgan, the "Outlook" remarks, deeply wounded: "A pitiable position for the president of a great railway to assume." A little later, when things got hotter yet, we read:

In the search for truth the Commissioners had to overcome many obstacles, such as the burning of books, letters and documents, and the obstinacy of witnesses, who declined to testify until criminal proceedings were begun. The New Haven system has more than 300 subsidiary corporations in a web of entangling alliances, many of which were seemingly planned, created and manipulated by lawyers expressly retained for the purpose of concealment or deception.

But do you imagine even that would sicken the pious jackals of their offal? If so, you do not know the sturdiness of the pious stomach. A compromise was patched up between the government and the thieves who were too big to be prosecuted; this bargain was not kept by the thieves, and President Wilson declared in a public statement that the New Haven administration had "broken an agreement deliberately and solemnly entered into," in a manner to the President "inexplicable and entirely without justification." Which, of course, seemed to the "Outlook" dreadfully impolite language to be used concerning a "National possession"; it hastened to rebuke President Wilson, whose statement was "too severe and drastic."

A new compromise was made between the government and the thieves who were too big to be prosecuted, and the stealing went on. Now, as I work over my book, the President takes the railroads for was use, and reads tom Congress a message proposing that the securities based upon the New Haven swindles, together with all the mess of other railroad swindles shall be sanctified and secured by dividends paid out of the Public purse. New Haven securities take a big jump; and the "Outlook," needless to say, is enthusiastic for the President's policy. Here is a chance for the big thieves to baptize themselves - or shall we say to have the water in their stocks made "holy"? Says our pious editor, for the government to take property without full compensation "would be contrary to the whole spirit of America."

back Contents next page
Raven's Bookshelf at www.corax.com