Erie station in Jersey City, and disappeared in the darkness. The detectives met and consulted; the carriage and the empty car were put together, and the inference, announced in every New York paper the succeeding day, was that Messrs. Fisk and Gould had absconded with millions of money to Canada.

That such a ridiculous story should have been published, much less believed, simply shows how utterly demoralized the public mind had become, and how prepared for any act of highhanded fraud or outrage. The libel did not long remain uncontradicted. The next day a card from Mr. Fisk was telegraphed to the newspapers, denying the calumny in indignant terms. The eternal steel rails were again made to do duty, and the midnight flitting became a harmless visit to Binghamton on business connected with a rolling-mill. Judge Balcom, however, of injunction memory in the earlier records of the Erie suits, resided at Binghamton, and a leading New York paper not inaptly made the timid inquiry of Mr. Fisk, “ If he really thought that Judge Balcom was running a rollingmill of the Erie Company, what did he think of Judge Barnard?” However, Mr. Fisk, as became him in his character of the Maecenas of the bar, instituted suits claiming damages in fabulous sums, for defamation of character, against some half-dozen of the leading papers, and nothing further was heard of the matter, nor indeed of the suits either. Not so of the trip to Binghamton. On Tuesday, the 1st of December, while one set of lawyers were arguing an appeal in the Whelpley case before Judge Nelson in the Federal courts, and another set were procuring orders from Judge Cardozo staying proceedings authorized by Judge Sutherland, a third set were aiding Judge Balcom in certain new proceedings instituted in the name of the Attorney-General against the Erie Road. The result arrived at was, of course, that Judge Balcom declared his to be the only shop where a regular, reliable article in the way of law was retailed, and then proceeded forth with to restrain and shut up the opposition establishments. The action was brought to terminate the existence of the defendant as a corporation, and, by way of preliminary, application was made for an injunction and the appointment of a receiver. His honor held that, as only three receivers had as yet been appointed,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

he was certainly entitled to appoint another. It was perfectly clear to him that it was his duty to enjoin the defendant corporation from delivering the possession of its road, or of any of its assets, to either of the receivers already appointed; it was equally clear that the corporation would be obliged to deliver them to any receiver he might appoint. However, he was not prepared to name a receiver just then, though he intimated that he should not hesitate to do so if necessary. So he contented himself with the appointment of a referee to look into matters, and, generally, enjoined the directors from omitting to operate the road themselves, or from delivering the possession of it to “any person claiming to be a receiver."

This raiding upon the agricultural judges was not peculiar to the Erie party. On the contrary, in this proceeding they rather followed than set an example ; for, a day or two previous to Mr. Fisk's hurried journey, Judge Peckham of Albany had, upon papers identical with those in the Belmont suit, issued divers orders, similar to those of Judge Balcom, but on the other side, tying up the Erie directors in a most astonishing manner, and clearly hinting at the expediency of an additional receiver to be appointed at Albany. The amazing part of these Peckham and Balcom proceedings is that they seem to have been initiated with perfect gravity, and neither to have been looked upon as jests nor intended by their originators to bring the courts and the laws of New York into ridicule and contempt. Of course the several orders in these cases were of no more importance than so much waste paper, unless, indeed, some very cautious counsel may have considered an extra injunction or two very convenient things to have in his house ; and yet, curiously enough from a legal point of view, those in Judge Balcom's court seem to have been about the only properly and regularly initiated proceedings in the whole case.

These little rural episodes in no way interfered with a renewal of vigorous hostilities in New York. While Judge Balcom was appointing his referee, Judge Cardozo granted an order for a reargument in the Belmont suit, - which brought up again the appointment of Judge Davies as receiver, - and assigned the hearing for the 6th of December. This step on his part reminds one of certain performances in the no

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

torious case of the Wood leases, and made the plan of operations perfectly clear. The period during which Judge Sutherland was to sit in chambers was to expire on the 4th of December, and Cardozo himself was to succeed him ; he now, therefore, proposed to signalize his associate's departure from chambers by reviewing his orders. No sooner had he granted the motion, than the opposing counsel applied to Judge Sutherland, who forthwith issued an order to show cause why the reargument ordered by Judge Cardozo should not take place before him at once. Upon which the counsel of the Erie Road instantly ran over to Judge Cardozo, who vacated Judge Sutherland's order out of hand. The lawyers then left him and ran back to Judge Sutherland with a motion to vacate this last order. The contest was now becoming altogether too ludicrous. Somebody must yield, and, when it was reduced to that, the honest Sutherland was pretty sure to give way to the subtle Cardozo. Accordingly the hearing on this last motion was postponed until the next morning, when Judge Sutherland made a not undignified statement as to his position, and closed by remitting the whole subject to the succeeding Monday, at which time Judge Cardozo was to succeed him in chambers. Cardozo, therefore, was now in undisputed possession of the field. In his closing explanation Judge Sutherland did not quote, as he might have done, the following excellent passage from the opinion of the court of which both he and Cardozo were justices, delivered in the Schell case as recently as the last day of the previous June : “ The idea that a cause by such manquvres as have been resorted to here can be withdrawn from one judge of this court and taken possession of by another; that thus one judge of the same and no other powers can practically prevent his associate from exercising his judicial functions; that thus a case may be taken from judge to judge whenever one of the parties fears that an unfavorable decision is about to be rendered by the judge who, up to that time, had sat in the case, and that thus a decision in the suit may be constantly and indefinitely postponed at the will of one of the litigants only, deserves to be noticed as being a curiosity in legal tactics; - a remarkable exhibition of inventive genius and fertility of expedient to embarrass suits which - NO. 224.


[ocr errors]


this extraordinarily conducted litigation has developed. Such a practice as that disclosed by this litigation, sanctioning the attempt to counteract the orders of each other in the progress of the suit, I confess is new and shocking to me, . ... and I trust that we have seen the last in this high tribunal of such practices as this case has exhibited. No apprehension, real or fancied, that any judge is about, either wilfully or innocently, to do a wrong can palliate, much less justify it." Neither did Judge Sutherland state, as he might have stated, that this admirable expression of the sentiments of the full bench was written and delivered by Judge Albert Cardozo. However, it was now very clear that Receiver Davies might abandon all hope of operating the Erie Railway, and that Messrs. Gould and Fisk were borne upon the swelling tide of victory.

The prosperous aspect of their affairs now encouraged these last-named gentlemen to yet more vigorous offensive operations. The next attack was upon Vanderbilt in person. On Saturday, the 5th of December, only two days after Judge Sutherland and Receiver Davies were disposed of, the indefatigable Fisk waited on Commodore Vanderbilt, and, in the name of the Erie Company, tendered him fifty thousand shares of Erie common stock at 70. As the stock was then selling in Wall Street at 40, the Commodore naturally declined to avail himself of this liberal offer. He even went further, and, disregarding his usual wise policy of silence, wrote to the New York Times a short communication, in which he referred to the alleged terms of settlement of the previous July, so far as they concerned himself, and denied them in the following explicit language: “I have had no dealings with the Erie Railway Company, nor have I ever sold that company any stock or received from them any bonus. As to the suits instituted by Mr. Schell and others, I had nothing to do with them, nor was I in any way concerned in their settlement." This was certainly an announcement calculated to confuse the public ; but the confusion became confounded, when, upon the 10th, Mr. Fisk followed him in a card in which he reiterated the alleged terms of settlement, and reproduced two checks of the Erie Company, of July 11, 1868, made payable to the treasurer and by him indorsed to C. Van

derbilt, upon whose order they had been paid. These two checks were for the sum of a million of dollars. He further said that the company had a paper in Mr. Vanderbilt's own handwriting, stating that he had placed fifty thousand shares of Erie stock in the hands of certain persons, to be delivered on payment of $3,500,000, which sum he declared had been paid. Undoubtedly these apparent discrepancies of statement admitted of an explanation ; and some thin veil of equivocation, such as the transaction of the business through third parties, justified Vanderbilt's statements to his own conscience. Comment, however, is wholly superfluous, except to call attention to the amount of weight which is to be given to the statements and denials, apparently the most general and explicit, which from time to time were made by the parties to these proceedings. This short controversy merely added a little more discredit to what was already not deficient in that respect. On the 10th of December the Erie Company sued Commodore Vanderbilt for $3,500,000, specially alleging in their complaint the particulars of that settlement all knowledge of or connection with which the defendant had so emphatically denied.

None of the multifarious suits which had been brought as yet were aimed at Mr. Drew. The quondam treasurer had apparently wholly disappeared from the scene on the 19th of November. Mr. Fisk took advantage, however, of a leisure day to remedy this oversight, and a suit was commenced against Drew, on the ground of certain transactions between him, as treasurer, and the railway company, in relation to some steamboats concerned in the trade of Lake Erie. The usual allegations of fraud, breach of trust, and other trifling and, technically, not State prison offences, were made, and damages were set at a million of dollars.

Upon the 8th, the argument in Belmont's case had been reopened before Judge Cardozo in New York, and upon the same day, in Oneida County, Judge Boardman, another justice of the Supreme Court, had proceeded to contribute his share to the existing complications. Counsel in behalf of Receiver Davies had appeared before him, and, upon their application, the Cardozo injunction, which restrained the receiver from taking

« VorigeDoorgaan »