CHAPTER XV

THE OBSTRUCTIVE TACTICS

     If there was one thing on earth I would like more than any other, it would be a glance over the cost incurred by the people opposing us. It would total up into the hundreds of thousands. I know the detective work, the repeated trips to Mexico to see President Diaz and have him cancel our concessions, the attorneys' fees in the Guardian Trust Company case that perhaps were guaranteed the Southern by these people, the hundreds and hundreds of cables; all this must have made a great bill they might never have been willing to assume had they thought Mr. Dickinson and I were such good fighters.

     The persecution started with the deluge of letters to President Diaz when the concession was granted. This was followed by attempts by one of the leading railroads to get Dr. Woods to call my personal loans, also by its sending the treasurer of the Bank of Commerce and telling Dr. Woods that unless he and Mr. Rule at once resigned as directors of the Orient road, this railroad would remove their large account which the bank had had for years. It was no pleasant thing for the bank to give up this account; but it did. Telegrams from the officers and directors of this railroad did not move Dr. Woods. He knew that I was a live asset for Kansas City and he was going to stand back of me, and he always did. What a staunch friend he was! Had I been his own son he could not have done more for me, and I love to think of his kindness and friendship.

     In a few days I was amazed to find the difficulties that had surrounded me in the Southern were now being put in my way in this new road. We paralleled no other road. We could feed all roads. It is needless to take up the reader's time with the small details of this persecution. I read in a New York paper that Harriman had been delegated by the Wall Street interests to see that I was once for all removed from the railroad world. I could not quite understand this, as he was at that time chairman of my old road, but as I had not one mile of the new road graded, it looked as if he had me quite removed. Now, as I have told you in a preceding chapter, I was re-elected president of the Guardian Trust Company, but I did not then know what Untermeyer has since told us, "That in times of panic it destroyed a number of solvent banks." That they were heartless and merciless enough to destroy my trust company never entered my head. But you have read the history of all this devilish work in the chapter, "The First Step to Block the Orient Road."

     When I went to London the first time in connection with this road, day after day people told me that I was being followed, and whenever I called on a friend to enlist him in the work, he would later be reached and warned that he had better not invest. When Mr. Taylor and I went to Scotland every move of ours was known and blocked.

     Bankers and brokers were reached by Thalmann and Harriman connections and warned not to touch the investment. Mr. Thalmann told the manager of one of London's leading banks that I wrote him each week asking him to help me but he threw the letters in the waste basket.

     Later, when Mr. Dickinson came with us in 1902, the late president of the American Smelter & Refining Company advised us to leave New York for a few days, as he said, "You are followed every place you go, and the people you see, like myself, warned not to invest in your road." That same day I called on a gentlemen on upper Broadway. I had nothing to say regarding the road. It was a personal matter entirely, but he told me that within one hour he was called up by two banking houses and told not to invest with me.

     When Mr. Dickinson and I went to close our steamship contract with The Hamburg-American Line, Mr. Ballin told us that he had within a day or two received two cables warning him not to deal with us. At last the obstacles were so great that we saw it was useless to try to interest people in the road unless to try to interest people in the road unless we could take them over the property. We must counteract statements made by different prominent people, such as that made by the president of a leading Western road to one of our stockholders, that the first third of the road was in competitive territory, that on the second third there was no business, and that the last third was all rocks. So, to combat these false statements we started the trips to Mexico, a needless expense, but necessary if we were to continue our work of building the road. By this plan we could interest people in our work so that this outside influence was less potent. Every one who saw the territory the road was to serve became a convert. It was not so easy for these "respectable scoundrels" to convince people by argument that we could never cross the continental divide of Mexico after we had taken them in trains over this part of the road. But soon after we started these trips, the system found ways of reaching even these people. On one trip nine men were thus reached by telegrams, en route or in Mexico. We gave up stopping at Kansas City, on account of so many of our guests being reached at this point. We often changed our itinerary and reversed our trip to throw these people off the track. No volume could recount the difficulties we had to encounter. A partner in a leading house of New York, a man whose name in connection with a lawsuit has often been in the newspapers, requested the privilege of going on one of the trips, I asked him if he intended to help me or did he want to take the trip only to get acquainted with my English friends. He assured me his sole desire was to help Mr. Dickinson and me in our work. He was taken, and every kindness was shown him, but inside of a few months this man was in London meeting members of our London board and offering to subscribe for fifteen million notes, of which he said J. P. Morgan would take five million, provided I was eliminated from the road. This man, who had invited himself and promised to aid us!

Time after time we found malicious falsehoods were used. A director of the Liberty National Bank, a director in numerous trust companies and insurance companies, wrote to a director of our road advising him to sell his bonds, and stating he had owned a bond in our road, but he was making a great impression on our friends. I learned of the statement he had made and wrote and offered to pay personally ten thousand dollars to any charity he would name if would prove he had ever owned one bond. He never answered the letter. This man was in reality a kindly man. Great pressure must have been brought to bear to have forced him to do such a thing. 

This is only one example. All I can say is that every obstacle was put in out path that the cunning of unprincipled man could devise. This malicious work increased the cost of building the road and made half our time of no avail. No doubt had it not been for this warfare, the road would at least be connected at Chihuahua, and operating, if not finished, into Kansas City.
Before I close this chapter, I wish to show how detectives and telephones were used. Two years ago I was invited one day at twelve o'clock to take lunch with one of New York's great merchants. At one o'clock we sat down, and as we were about to start on our oysters, a messenger brought my host a note which, after reading tearing off the signature, he handed to me, saying it was from a leading banking house. The note advised him not to invest in any securities of the Orient road. Can you imagine a quicker work than this?

One day this year I had lunch with a prominent manufacturer of New York. He was very much interested in our fight and agreed to find me a million dollars. At three o'clock his banker called him to the bank and told him if he had anything to do with me in a business way or socially his loans would be called.

Detectives and tapped telephones were continually used in this game of destruction.

 

Arthur Edward Stilwell, Visionary

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