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is both simple and safe. It consists in giving contracts as a trustee to one's self as an individual, or in speculating in the property of one's cestui que trust, or in using the funds confided to one's charge, as treasurer or otherwise, to gamble with the real owners of those funds for their own property, and that with cards packed in advance. These proceedings are looked upon as hardly reprehensible. The wards themselves expect their guardians to throw the dice against them for their own property, and are surprised, as well as gratified, if the dice are not loaded.
No acute moral sensibility has, however, for some years troubled either Wall Street or the country at large. As a result of the transaction of 1866, Mr. Drew was looked upon as having effected a surprisingly clever operation, and he retired from the field hated, feared, wealthy, and admired. This episode of Wall Street history took its place as a brilliant success beside the famous Prairie du Chien and Harlem "corners," and, but for subsequent events, would soon have been forgotten. Its close connection, however, with more important though later incidents of Erie history seems likely to preserve its memory. Great events were impending; a new man was looming up in the railroad world, introducing novel ideas and principles, and it could hardly be that the new and old would not come in conflict. Cornelius Vanderbilt, commonly known
. as Commodore Vanderbilt, was now developing his theory of the management of railroads.
Born in the year 1794, Vanderbilt is a somewhat older man than Drew. There are several points of resemblance in the early lives of the two men, and many points of curious contrast in their characters. Vanderbilt, like Drew, was born in very humble circumstances in the State of New York, and received as little education. He began life by ferrying over passengers and produce from Staten Island to New York. Subsequently, he too laid the foundation of his great fortune in the growing steamboat navigation, and likewise, in due course of time, transferred himself to the railroad interest. When at last, in 1868, the two came into collision as representatives of the old system of railroad management and of the new, they were each of them threescore and ten years of age, and had
both been successful in the accumulation of millions, - Vanderbilt even more so than Drew. They were probably equally unscrupulous and equally selfish ; but, while the cast of Drew's mind was sombre and bearish, Vanderbilt was gay and buoyant of temperament, little given to thoughts other than of this world, a lover of horses and of the good things of this life. The first affects prayer-meetings, and the last is a devotee of whist. Drew, in Wall Street, is by temperament a bear, while Vanderbilt could hardly be other than a bull. Vanderbilt must be allowed to be by far the superior man of the two. Drew is astute and full of resources, and at all times a dangerous opponent; but Vanderbilt takes larger, more comprehensive views, and his mind has a vigorous grasp which that of Drew seems to want. While, in short, in a wider field, the one might have made himself a great and successful despot, the other would hardly have aspired to be more than the head of the jobbing department of some corrupt government. Accordingly, while in Drew's connection with the railroad system his operations and manipulations evince no qualities calculated to excite even a vulgar admiration or respect, it is impossible to regard Vanderbilt's methods or aims without recognizing the magnitude of the man's ideas and conceding his abilities. He involuntarily excites feelings of admiration for himself and alarm for the public. His ambition is a great one. It seems to be nothing less than to make himself master in his own right of the great channels of communication which connect the city of New York with the interior of the continent, and to control them as his private property. While Drew has sought only to carry to perfection the old system of operating successfully from the confidential position of director, neither knowing anything nor caring anything for the railroad system except in its connection with the movements of the stock exchange, Vanderbilt has seen the full magnitude of the system, and through it has sought to make himself a dictator in modern civilization, moving forward to this end step by step with a sort of pitiless energy which has seemed to have in it an element of fatality. As trade now dominates the world, and the railways dominate trade, his object has been to make himself the virtual master of all by making himself absolute lord
of the railways. Had he begun his railroad operations with this end in view, complete failure would have been almost certainly his reward. Commencing as he did, however, with a comparatively insignificant objective point, — the cheap purchase of a bankrupt stock, - and developing his ideas as he advanced, his power and his reputation grew, until an end which it would have seemed madness to entertain at first became at last both natural and feasible.
Two great lines of railway traverse the State of New York and connect it with the West, — the Erie and the New York Central. The latter communicates with the city by a great river and by two railroads. To get these two roads — the Harlem and the Hudson River – under his own absolute control, and then, so far as the connection with the Central was concerned, to abolish the river, was Vanderbilt's immediate object. First making himself master of the Harlem Road, he there learned his early lessons in railroad management, and picked up a fortune by the way. A few years ago Harlem had no value. As late as 1860 it sold for 8 or 9 dollars per share; and in January, 1863, when Vanderbilt had got the control, it had risen only to 30. By July of that year it stood at 92, and in August was suddenly raised by a “corner” to 179. The next year witnessed a similar operation. The stock, which sold in January at less than 90, was settled for in June in the neighborhood of 285. On one of these occasions Mr. Drew is reported to have contributed a sum approaching half a million to his rival's wealth. Of late the stock has been floated at about 130. It was in the successful conduct of this first experiment that Vanderbilt showed his very manifest superiority over previous railroad managers. The Harlem was, after all, only a competing line, and competition was proverbially the rock ahead in all railroad enterprise. The success of Vanderbilt with the Harlem depended upon his getting rid of the competition of the Hudson River Railroad. An ordinary manager would have resorted to contracts, which are never carried out, or to opposition, which is apt to be ruinous. Vanderbilt, on the contrary, put an end to competition by buying up the competing line. This he did in the neighborhood of par, and, in due course of time, the stock was sent up to 180. Thus his plans had developed by another step, while, through a judicious course of financiering and watering
and dividing, a new fortune had been secured by him. By this time Vanderbilt's reputation as a railroad manager - as one who earned dividends, invented stock, and created wealth – had become very great, and the managers of the Central brought that road to him, and asked him to do with it as he had done with the Harlem and Hudson River. He accepted the proffered charge, and now, probably, the possibilities of his position and the magnitude of the prize within his grasp at last dawned on his mind. Unconsciously to himself, working more wisely than he knew, he had brought to its logical conclusion the development of one potent element of modern civilization.
Gravitation is the rule, and centralization the natural consequence, in society no less than in physics. Physically, morally, intellectually, in population, wealth, and intelligence, all things tend to consolidation. One singular illustration of this law is almost entirely the growth of this century. Formerly, either governments, or individuals, or, at most, small combinations of individuals, were the originators of all great works of public utility. Within the present century only has democracy found its way into the combinations of capital, small shareholders combining to carry out the most extensive enterprises. And yet already our great corporations are fast emancipating themselves from the state, or rather subjecting the state to their own control, while individual capitalists, who long ago abandoned the attempt to compete with them, will next seek to control them. In this dangerous path of centralization Vanderbilt has taken the latest step in advance. He has combined the natural power of the individual with the factitious power of the corporation. The famous “L'état, c'est moi” of Louis XIV. represents Vanderbilt's position in regard to his railroads. Unconsciously he has introduced Cæsarism into corporate life. He has, however, but pointed out the way whịch others will tread. The individual will hereafter be engrafted on the corporation,-democracy running its course, and resulting in imperialism; and Vanderbilt is but the precursor of a class of men who will wield within the state a power created by it, but too great for its control. He is the founder of a dynasty.
From the moment Vanderbilt stepped into the management of the Central, but a single effort seemed necessary to give
the new railroad king absolute control over the railroad system, and consequently over the commerce, of New York. By advancing only one step he could securely levy his tolls on the traffic of a continent. Nor could this step have seemed difficult to take. It was but to repeat with the Erie his successful operation with the Hudson River Road. Not only was it a step easy to take, but here again, as so many times before, a new fortune seemed ready to drop into his hand. The Erie might well yield a not less golden harvest than the Central, Hudson River, or Harlem Road; there was indeed but one obstacle in
the plan might not meet the views of the one man who at that time possessed the wealth, cunning, and combination of qualities which could defeat it, that man being the Speculative Director of the Erie,- Mr. Daniel Drew.
The New York Central passed into Vanderbilt's hands in the winter of 1866 - 67, and he marked the Erie for his own in the succeeding autumn. As the annual meeting of the corporation approached, three parties were found in the field contending for control of the road. One party was represented by Drew, and might be called the party in possession, — that which had long ruled the Erie, and made it what it was, — the Scarlet Woman of Wall Street. Next came Vanderbilt, flushed with success, and bent upon his great idea of developing imperialism in corporate life. Lastly a faction made its appearance composed of some shrewd and ambitious Wall Street operators and of certain persons from Boston, who sustained for the occasion the novel character of railroad reformers. This party, it is needless to say, was as unscrupulous and, as the result proved, as able as either of the others; it represented nothing but a raid made upon the Erie treasury in the interest of a thoroughly bankrupt New England corporation of which its members had the control. The history of this corporation, known as the Boston, Hartford, and Erie Railroad, - a projected feeder and connection of the Erie, — would be one curious to read, though very difficult to write. Its name was synonymous with bankruptcy, litigation, fraud, and failure. If the Erie was of doubtful repute in Wall Street, the Boston, Hartford, and Erie had long been of worse than doubtful repute in State Street. Of late years, under able and persevering, if not scrupulous