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Title: The Looting Of Alaska Author: Rex Beach * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1900161h.html Language: English Date first posted: February 2019 Most recent update: February 2019 This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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Chapter 1. - The Golden Opportunity
Chapter 2. - A Suborned Judiciary
Chapter 3. - The Receivership Business
Chapter 4. - The Reign Of Terror
Chapter 5. - Aftermath and Retrospect
*This is the first of a series of articles, which will run through five or six numbers. The author was on the ground during the occurrences of which he writes, a fact which gives peculiar force to the narrative.—The Editor.
Copyright, 1905, by D. Appleton & Co. All rights reserved.
ALASKA is the galley slave of the Union. Her chains were forged by some very vile politics. She has been ruined, rifled, and degraded by such practices as have seldom blackened the pages of American corruption.
To accomplish her debauch, our judiciary has been capitalized, and American courts of law exploited as a commercial investment. She writhes to-day under the same conditions at which our forefathers rebelled in King George’s time, being our only possession—State, territorial, or foreign—to suffer taxation without representation.
She has been licensed directly from Washington as a mistress for the politically unclean, has presented the unique spectacle of her court officials in jail yet drawing salaries through the bars, of high government servants retained in office long after conviction in their own court of heinous offenses, of others defiled yet protected in their defilement, and she will show for years the print of the boldest political steal ever consummated in this country. Such an unbroken catalogue of disreputable officeholders has been saddled upon her that she now feels, when a man accepts a position in her government, he is, by virtue of his acceptance, a blackleg.
What are we to think of the conspiracy of 1900 wherein a coterie of exalted political pets stole the resources of a realm as large as Great Britain, France, and Germany, set up their marionettes in control, and took the richest gold mines since ’49?
We haven’t heard about it! Of course not. When the scandal came out, it was smothered and the public kept in ignorance. Criminals were pardoned, records expunged, thieves exalted to new honors. Your Alaskan remembers it, though—remembers when he was bound, gagged, and gone through by the basest officials that ever disgraced an appointment. He remembers how at headquarters the wheels of justice were mysteriously clogged, and how, when judgment of a feeble kind overtook the gang, they squirmed out of punishment. When he sees these men higher in office and more powerful now than then, with Russian fatalism he shrugs his shoulders and says:
“God is far off, and it’s a long way to Washington.”
The tale is worth the telling if for no other reason than to show what abuses are possible under our much-touted systems where we are supposedly equal in the eye of God and the law. What was done here to Americans close at home can be done more easily to those distant foreigners we are coming to rule, and to whom our doctrines are as darkness.
The outsider who knows Alaska not as a glacier-riven barren but as the greatest mineral possession we have, with centuries of undeveloped resource before it, will be interested in the story of its shame. It is a recital of intrigue and pillage originating in the fertile brains of statesmen beneath the shadow of Washington Monument, stretching out to the westward and ending among the gold-bottomed placers of Nome. There is in it the contrast of the extra old and the ultra new, the foyer and the frontier, the white vest and the blue shirt. It has a backing of long toms and gold pans, writs and riots.
In order properly to understand what led to and aroused the lusts of the titled conspirators, it is necessary to go back through the early romance of a great gold strike and sketch the history of its development; to show how, out of a forbidding and unknown land peopled by Lap deer-drivers and shanghaied sailors, was wrought a wonderful country; how these aliens and a wandering crew of penniless adventurers solved the mystery of a rock-girt coast and gave to the world such tidings that in a night there sprang up a city of twenty thousand, with hotels, theaters, brass bands, and tables d’hôte; how a sick man dug into the beach sands where he lay and found such treasure that his fellow-argonauts swarmed out of the hills, tore down their houses, ripped up their streets, and burrowed under the city of their making; how, when they had done this, a crew of political pirates made them walk the plank.
In 1865-66, before the Atlantic cable was completed and when Alaska was but a blank space upon the map, the Western Union Telegraph Company conceived the notion of establishing overland telegraphic communication with Europe, and sent expeditions to Siberia and Alaska to determine the feasibility of two transcontinental lines connected at Bering Strait by a short cable.
These labors were interrupted by news of the perfect success of the Atlantic cable, and both expeditions were recalled. In 1897, when the Klondike discovery electrified the world, a member of this forgotten expedition—one Libby—remembered that he had found gold in Alaska while surveying near Bering Strait thirty years before, and although this spot was many hundreds of miles west of Dawson City, he determined to return on a hunt for the stream. He took with him three others—Mordaunt, Melsing, and Blake, of whom only the last was a miner.
Libby and his friends landed about eighty miles east of the present Nome district, or a full two thousand miles from Dawson, being the first prospectors to invade the great Seward gold fields. At this point was a crippled trader and squaw man by the name of Dexter, as strong hearted a pioneer as ever blazed a trail; also two Swedes, one a missionary named Hultberg, the other a schoolteacher, Anderson.
Some distance west, close under Bering Straits, is the harbor of Port Clarence where in summer the whaling fleets used to refit, ship their catch, and make ready to disappear again into the Arctics. When the Yukon steamers brought down the first gold-burdened Klondikers, their marvelous stories fired these whalers, as they had fired Libby, the surveyor, and, although distant two thousand miles from the Klondike mines, all, from master to galley boy, were for deserting on the spot. Many did, among whom was a Swedish tailor by the name of Lindbloom, who, while drunk in ‘Frisco, had been shanghaied and carried north as a deck hand.
In addition to Libby’s party and the whalers, there were also near here certain Laplanders imported from the old country and employed by the United States Government. The presence of a number of them is explained as follows:
During the first days of the Klondike, 1897, the cry of famine horrified the country and a certain missionary convinced our Government that American miners were famishing in Dawson. He conceived the scheme of driving a herd of reindeer into the Yukon valley for succor, these being the only beasts which could live and find forage on the journey. Accordingly, a herd was imported from Lapland and with it were brought native herders. At great expense the outfit was rushed across the continent, but not until its arrival at the Pacific coast was it learned that the starving Yukoners had enough to eat and indigestion besides.
This is a tender spot in official circles, and although the reindeer is a melancholy creature, wanting in humor as befits a beast reared in darkness, yet his dewlap shakes and quivers to this day at sight of a missionary.
It became necessary to put these deer somewhere, and, as others had been introduced into Alaska to benefit the Eskimos, these were sent there also, and the herder went along.
From such strange quarters did Destiny draw the men she had chosen, and by token of her paradoxical whims it was not the palsied trader whose years had been spent in hardship, the observant surveyor whose quick eye had seen the Sign, the hard-handed miner, nor any of their kind to whom the goddess bared her treasures—but to the runaway tailor with a thirst, the missionary consecrated to an unselfish life, and the Lapland deer herder.
During the summer of ’98, Blake, the American miner, and Hultberg, the preacher, together with two Laps, went prospecting along the coast of Bering Sea out toward the straits. A storm arose, driving their sailboat into a strange river. This is the town site of Nome. It was a desolate outlook. A bleak, open shore, pounded by surf and backed by sodden miles of tundra, rising to low rolling hills barren of all but the ever-present moss, with here and there gnarled willows groveling in the creek bottoms. It was nearing fall and the nights were chill, hinting of the long winter close at hand. Although the summers are hot at this latitude, reaching a temperature of 110° F. in the sun, they are short—barely four months long. In June it is daylight always, the sun dipping shallowly below the southern sea for a brief hour, its heat during the rest of the day causing vegetation to grow riotously. Perpetual daylight is quickly succeeded by lengthening nights of inky blackness, however, and when September comes the frosts are back again, the creeks are clogging, and the prospector lays aside his pan and shovel.
Taking their tools they went back to the hills, testing the gravel of the stream beds. The first creek wound past a mountain upon whose crest a great rock was balanced in the shape of an anvil, but Blake, the “experienced,” noted how the willows grew, the quarter of the wind, and other things as essential, then stated that no gold was here and they should go on. Hultberg wished to stay, so, the others refusing to listen, he quit them and went back to his station, eighty miles. Taking Lindbloom, the ex-tailor, and a Norwegian deer herder, Linderberg—names to conjure with in the North now—these three returned to the creek with the anvil rock above it.
It seems strange that this man of God who had never seen a placer mine should choose this spot so stubbornly, and it is said in explanation that while digging with the first party, he found such prospects that he modestly refrained from divulging them, preferring to share his discovery with his own countrymen. No one knows this, of course, except Hultberg. At any rate, the three hurried back with two Indian boys as helpers, and although not one in the party knew a placer from a potato patch, not only did they discover every rich part of Anvil Creek, but every rich stream in that whole vicinity.
Staking out some claims, they went back to the Mission at Golovin Bay, and made known their doings to a few friends—among others, Anderson, the school-teacher. As none of the crowd knew much about Uncle Sam’s mining laws, they felt it incumbent to take in with them the wisest man in the village—so chose Dr. Kittleson, a Government employee—also a man named Price. These they swore to secrecy, and the party returned to the new creek for the third time, and amended their locations to conform to the laws, organized a mining district, and elected from among their number a recorder with whom to file their notices.
The process of acquiring Government mineral land is simple. Every man may stake one claim of twenty acres on each creek, and to do so he marks the boundaries of his land with stakes, blazed trees, or monuments so that the next comer may observe his priority and not encroach. Upon one of these monuments he posts his location notice describing the ground he claims. A copy he files with the nearest mining recorder, who places it on record. If the district is new, isolated, or without courts, the miners elect some one to act as recorder. These steps were taken by the discoverers.
When the little party of American miners heard of this strike, they swore that they had been dealt to from the bottom of the deck and were entitled to a share of the riches, because Blake had been with Hultberg when he found gold. This hugely amused the lucky ones, who reminded them that Blake, from his wide experience, had refused to stay, while the simple-minded missionary had returned and made his discovery. Seeing that this would not work, the honest prospectors recalled a provision of the law to the effect that none but citizens of the United States, or foreigners who have declared their intention to become such, are permitted to hold mining claims. The Swedes were not naturalized. This opened a loophole through which an American might squirm, so they jumped such claims as they figured could be held.
To jump a mining claim is even a simpler process than to stake one. The jumper posts notices on the monuments, stating that he has relocated the premises, then files a copy of his relocation notice with the recorder. He either takes possession and forces the original staker to bring suit and oust him, or brings suit himself to eject the other. In those days, before law came into the land, such matters were argued before miners’ meetings and a popular vote was taken on the merits of each case. Here was a question of citizenship, a complicated and purely technical one, so these jumpers lay back awaiting the arrival of courts and taking no immediate action.
Meanwhile, as winter settled, the news spread in those mysterious ways of desolate lands, and men materialized out of the uninhabited hills as the armed warriors leaped from the earth when Jason sowed the dragon’s teeth.
The Laps were first on the ground, for they used the Government reindeer, while the miners, scattered up and down the coast for many miles, dragged their sleds by muscle, sweat, and profanity. Men stampeded from Saint Michaels, the nearest trading post, slipping away under cover of darkness, and racing madly to outstrip their friends. The news fled up along the reaches of the silent Yukon to the other camps, to Circle City, to Forty Mile, to Dawson, and bearded men loaded their sleds in the night time, tightened their snowshoe thongs, and began the long race down the winding river. The price of dog teams trebled in a day, men sold their holdings to join the rush, and there was talk of nothing but the new strike away out near Bering Strait.
The adventuresome ones came wearily in from all sides during the winter, gaunt, ragged, and travel worn, arriving to find the land from sea beach to sky line plastered with unpronounceable names of Laplanders, Finlanders, and Swedes, written in hieroglyphic. These late comers swore that no skin-clad barbarians should euchre them out of their birthrights and proceeded to jump every claim whose location notice bore a name ending in “son,” “berg,” or had three consonants in a row.
One Government employee stationed at Saint Michaels used Uncle Sam’s reindeer on a sledge trip to Nome and staked a claim which he sold for seventy-five thousand dollars the next summer, after taking out some twenty thousand dollars.
Now, when the alienship question arose, it created consternation among the discoverers, but few of whom had declared their intention to become citizens. Although none of them dreamed what riches the future held for them, yet they were panic-stricken at thought of losing their rights to whatever it might be.
Linderberg, the deer driver, was of these. At Saint Michaels, near by, was a court official with powers approximating those of a justice of the peace, and before him the new-born millionaire made declaration of his intention to become a citizen of the United States. He was followed by all the others. Everything being grist that came to this commissioner’s mill, he hatched out American citizens like an incubator, although by law he had no more power to do so than he had to appoint a minister to the Court of Saint James. Be it said that he had ambition to break into this good thing in a capacity more active than that of the oil stove in the machine, and it came. He secured a one-quarter interest in two claims, which made him rich.
With the spring of 1899 came a horde of strangers. These were the less adventurous ones, who had not risked the long winter trip by dog team. The first spring steamers, loaded to the gunwales, brought them down the Yukon, while the rickety fleet of stern-wheel, side-wheel, gasoline, and steam craft, which had been knocked together overnight for the Klondike rush two years before, brought back the crowds they had taken into the Canadian fields. The news of the Nome strike had reached the States, and some few came up by ocean steamer from Seattle and San Francisco, but not many. It was too new as yet. Some Swedes had rocked out a few thousand dollars in the late fall—that was all. There was nothing definite. Not so with Alaskans. They knew what those scanty yellow ounces meant and they came by steamer, by skiff, by skin boat and kyak. No man walks here in the summer—the distances are too magnificent. A city grew between dawns, a city of gleaming white canvas which hardened to frame and zinc as the weeks passed. Although the land was as barren of timber, the beach was piled high with driftwood, and as the days grew long and the nights warm, life was pleasant.
Gamblers and women were close upon the heels of the first comers, as is ever the case. Saloons and dance halls appeared. Music and the rattle of dice sounded through canvas walls. The workers swarmed over the hills, and although the signs of gold were everywhere, there was no vacant ground left. The Swedes had taken it all. Now began the trouble which led to the great conspiracy at Washington.
The Swedes had hustled onto their mines early in the spring, ahead of the jumpers, and found the richness so startling that they lost their heads, played roulette with stacks of double eagles, and ran to such excesses that the cupidity of the newcomers was inflamed.
So many claims had been jumped, and the rich claims had been jumped so repeatedly, that the tangle was frightful. As there was no law in the land to straighten it out nor hold the greedy ones in check, the newcomers got together, deciding to sponge off the whole slate, start over again, and grab a piece in the scramble. A miners’ meeting was called for July 8th, and although the original discoverers were in possession of their mines, knowing nothing of the plan, it was arranged to introduce a resolution to overthrow the laws of the entire district, and make void all existing locations. Accomplices of the ringleaders stationed themselves on the distant mountain crests above the rich creeks, to watch for signal fires. When these were lighted, in sign that the motion had carried, they were to swarm down upon the placers and throw off the Swedes.
An army lieutenant named Spaulding, with a few soldiers from the new military post at Saint Michaels, had been sent to preserve order. One might wonder how enlisted men drawing thirteen dollars a month could be held under authority where common labor brought ten dollars a day and where rumor had painted the hills yellow with gold, but not one deserted or forgot his obligation. A splendid example.
This miners’ meeting was held in a saloon, the largest building in the camp, and comprised as desperate and disappointed a crew of adventurers as may well be pictured: strong, rough men who felt that they were the law of this land and that there was no other, that in their might lay the right to do as they chose. They had grown to rely on themselves and to despise restraint, true products of the frontier, many of them, and dangerous to balk.
When the resolution to abrogate the existing titles of the district was offered, Lieutenant Spaulding marched his three men through the crowd and up to the chairman’s platform. The soldiers wore side arms and had fixed bayonets.
“Gentlemen, withdraw that resolution!” he cried.
“What for?” they shouted. “We make our own laws. What do we care for you and your soldiers!”
They argued and some one yelled:
“Don’t let him bluff you.” The proposers refused to do as he directed. At that he opened his watch and said:
“I will give you two minutes to withdraw that motion. Then I’ll clear the hall.”
At the end of the time he prodded the mob forth with his three bayonets and all that afternoon broke up the angry groups as they gathered.
Bonfires did not burn that night.
At this meeting was present a lawyer by the name of Hubbard, a man who had been private secretary to Attorney-General Miller under President Harrison’s administration. He was of some ability and had considerable familiarity with the methods of the Department of Justice and officialdom in general. As the summer advanced, the property owners became alarmed at the amount of litigation threatening, so employed him as counsel, in which way he learned many of their secrets and the marvelous richness of their holdings.
With him originated the germ of the Great Steal. Now appears the intellectual man in place of the horny-handed miner. Following the latter’s failure comes the graft of the high-class politician, Italian in its ingenuity, American in its daring.
A judge was hurried from Nome to Sitka, two thousand miles away, in time to hear a few cases founded on the citizenship proposition. He laid down the law against jumpers, for although the statutes state that none but citizens or those having declared their intention to become such, before proper officials designated, can hold title to mining claims, yet it has been firmly established by courts of different States and by the Supreme Court of the United States that the question of alien ownership cannot be raised against the claimant by any one except the United States Government. In other words, paradoxical as it may seem, no mere citizen can raise the issue, this being a prerogative of the Government. This meant that the Swedes and the Laps would hold their mines, but Hubbard snapped his fingers! He knew a trick or two. If the United States laws, as applied to Alaska, could be changed on this one point, ownership would revert to the jumpers! He knew that Congress intended drafting a civil code for Alaska. He had friends in Washington. Therefore he acquired jumpers’ titles in any way he could. He formed a partnership with two other lawyers of like caliber to himself—Beaman and Hume—in whose hands many of the plaintiffs had placed their suits for prosecution, thus securing contingent interests in the titles which Judge Johnson had just declared null and void. When he had done this, Hubbard went to Washington.
It has been necessary to go back thus far to get an understanding of the conditions which made possible the crime. Here were many marvelous mines held by men not only ignorant of our laws, but wanting in education, their claims smothered under a confusion of lawsuits. Here was a Congress about to draught a code for Alaska, ignorant of the country, the conditions, and the wealth involved. Here was a lawyer who knew.
His work was made easier by the fact that Philippine matters took much time just then, and, in straining their eyes to the Orient, our legislators looked clear past Alaska—all but a few who had meanwhile met O. P. Hubbard.
New characters now enter—United States senators, judges, and that twentieth-century product—the political boss. Not the common municipal vote getter, the manipulator of primaries, but the man of riches, respectability, and standing, who plays the game for gold, not glory. Such a man is the “Senator Maker” of the Dakotas, Alexander McKenzie. Inasmuch as he fills a prominent part in this story—is to-day the political czar of the Northwest, as well as the most heartily hated man who ever crossed the fifty-third degree of latitude—he is worthy of note.
He is a giant in build, and, although of no great education, has the shrewd, well-balanced common sense of the Scotch-Irish. A pioneer of the Dakotas, he has played an important part in their development, is a friend of President Roosevelt, as he was of McKinley, Mark Hanna, and others in high places. In the early days he worked on the grade of the Northern Pacific Railway and later became receiver of a part of the road he had helped to build. He is a natural politician and has been for years the lobbyist for the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern railways, while, aided by their influence, he boasts the ability to deliver whatever is needed in his country from United States senators down. He has the indispensable power of binding men to him with bonds unbreakable—has been a banker, is a man of means, stands high in Bismarck socially, holds in his hands the politics of North Dakota, and, although honors are his for the asking, prefers to play with the men who crave them.
He is in many ways the most remarkable man of the Northwest, and it is problematical whether he would have succeeded better in his career had he been equipped with an education, or whether his combination of natural genius and acumen was not precisely adapted to his environment. He is generous, and big in the wider sense of the word. He never turns down a comrade in trouble, is a firm friend, and an implacable enemy. While sheriff and deputy marshal he earned the title of a good officer. He was without fear and always got his man—traits which make for popularity in any land.
“You can’t get enough money together in one spot to bribe him,” his friends assure you loyally. “He’s absolutely honest.” They are ready to back this claim by wager of battle.
“How is he in politics?” you ask.
“Oh, he’s honest there, too—but—he can think of more ways to gain his end than anybody you ever saw.”
To-day he is in fact the Republican Party of North Dakota. There is no one in his class up there. Nor does this prestige apply to his own State alone—he is the biggest “hidden” politician in the whole Northwest, meaning by the adjective that he seeks no honors for himself. He is a member of the Republican National Committee, also of the Republican Advisory and Republican Executive committees, smaller bodies which really do the work and mold our political destinies.
Such a person as this Scotch-Irishman was eminently fitted to take in hand the Alaskan matter, and when Hubbard presented it to him, he grasped its possibilities. Together they went to Washington, D. C., along with one Robert Chipps, a man from Nome who had jumped the mine of Linderberg, the deer herder. They incorporated the Alaska Gold Mining Company, capitalized at fifteen millions of dollars under the laws of Arizona, forty-nine per cent of the stock being set aside to pay for jumpers’ titles, while the remaining fifty-one per cent was to be distributed among McKenzie’s moneyed and political friends to secure their financial and legislative backing. Chipps was paid seven hundred and fifty dollars in cash and three hundred thousand dollars in stock for his supposed title to one claim, while Hubbard made a similar deal for his holdings.
McKenzie introduced both Alaskans to his political friends—among others Senator H. C. Hansborough of North Dakota and Senator Carter of Montana, whereupon these lawmakers became most aggressively active in Alaskan legislation.
It appears, in the light of later developments, that the scheme, as worked out, was to seize and operate the rich Nome mines for the Alaska Gold Mining Company, bring back the bullion obtained in this way, place it on exhibition in New York City and elsewhere, then sell the fifteen million dollars of capital stock. This could be done by showing a vast profit for the first season’s work and ownership of the marvelous property. The originators of the scheme purposed obtaining title to the mines either by act of Congress or by decisions of their own courts to be established in Alaska. In case the real owners contested their action, there would be a long delay pending settlement in the higher courts and meanwhile they could take the profits of the first season’s work, sell their stock, then step out, leaving the public to bear the fight.
To do this it was of course essential to control the Alaskan courts absolutely, so they cast about for a facile judge who would pledge himself to do their bidding. This man was obtained in Arthur H. Noyes, of Minneapolis. With laws of their own draughting, administered by courts of their own making, Alec McKenzie and his astute friends did not see where they could lose.
Having traced the history of those events which incited the cupidity of the conspirators, having shown the conditions which made possible their plans, and having mapped their method of accomplishing it, I propose next to show how they undertook, through the Congress of the United States, to legislate into their own hands the riches they coveted. To me it seems as daring a thing as was ever conceived.
I shall show how they failed in this by a “fluke,” yet how they stole the treasure anyhow, regardless of authority, law, or precedent; and how it is possible in this enlightened day for a band of determined and unscrupulous men, with political backing, to rape a whole country—not a country of ignorant blacks under martial law, but a land peopled by independent, progressive Americans. It is of interest to learn how, sheltered by influence and the law, one may steal the wealth of a Solomon and escape punishment.
An American traveling in Russia in 1832 was asked upon what America prided herself. He said, “Upon the purity of our women and our judiciary.” As to the latter, O tempora! O mores!
The ability of our politicians to do in times of peace what was done here is a menace to our national integrity, and the story should form an interesting commentary on the methods employed in at least one branch of our public affairs.
IN our first chapter we sketched the discovery and development of the Nome gold fields, showed the chaotic conditions existing there regarding property rights, and closed with O. P. Hubbard, the Alaskan lawyer, Robert Chipps, the claim jumper, and Alexander McKenzie, the Czar of North Dakota, in consultation with Senators Hansbrough and Carter at Washington, D. C., during the winter of 1899-1900.
Congress was about to establish civil government in Alaska. The fifteen-million-dollar Alaska Gold Mining Company had been incorporated to exploit the worthless mining titles of the claim jumpers, and a plastic tool, Arthur H. Noyes, of Minneapolis, had been picked as a judge to administer the laws for the Nome district.
As we stated before, Mr. McKenzie being the most prominent and fascinating character in this story, he deserves more than passing note. The following episode, for which there was no space in the preceding chapter, throws light on his personality and his ability to handle large projects.
When the charter of the Louisiana Lottery was nearing expiration, about 1890, there arose a question regarding its renewal, and the backers of this nefarious enterprise cast about for another State to play against Louisiana. It is well to keep down the price of legislatures, else they grow presumptuous and grasping.
Hearing of this proposed change, Alexander McKenzie made a quiet trip from Bismarck to New Orleans, and later, when the convention was being held for the purpose of drafting a State constitution for North Dakota, he arranged that the anti-lottery clause, common in other States, be laid on the table. In place of this an adroitly worded bill, so fashioned as to admit the Louisiana Lottery into North Dakota, was introduced, and, strange to say, not a word concerning it reached any of the newspapers of the country, all of whom had reporters on the ground. The correspondents were “fixed” so effectively that even the slightest news concerning the matter was suppressed.
A woman in Bismarck wrote to a friend in Minneapolis and in her letter told of the affair. She said:
“Has the Louisiana Lottery bought the newspapers of the Twin Cities as well as of Bismarck, that nothing is heard of this?” The recipient sent this letter to the Pioneer Press of St. Paul, although that paper had a representative at Bismarck; this was the first intimation of the affair that reached the office.
The editor called in a young man of the staff, Mr. Conde Hamlin, now risen to prominence and to the executive head of the organ, and sent him post haste to the North Dakota capitol. Upon his arrival there, Mr. Hamlin found the half had not been told. Apparently Alexander McKenzie had enough of the Territorial officials and legislators so completely in hand as to make opposition futile.
One Spencer, a Senator from Alabama, was there, working hand in hand with him while the Governor waged a fight on the side of morals, single-handed. So absolutely were affairs under the gang’s control, and so set were they upon success, that when Conde Hamlin made known his errand, his life was threatened and he was forced to remain in hiding.
There followed a sensational fight, waged by this young man alone against Alexander McKenzie’s corrupt and desperate band. He was spied upon, assaulted, and his life attempted, yet he completed his investigation, turning on the affair such a glaring light of publicity that the lawmakers took to cover, and the bill which would have disgraced North Dakota for thirty years was finally killed once and for all.
This shows the caliber and ability of the man who now turned his attention to Alaska, the newest, the richest, and the weakest of our possessions. To one who had moved a capitol, handled a railroad, smothered a legislature, and done other things on a like scale, the plunder of a province was but a step.
A bill providing civil government for Alaska was passed through Congress during the winter of 1899-1900. Then, under the supervision of Senator Carter, a code of laws was prepared. Among other things, it gave unusual political and judicial powers to the United States judges. It was argued that the country was wild, hence the necessity to clothe officials with extraordinary authority. The country was divided into three judicial districts, the second embracing the region in dispute, which included by far the richest placers. It is concerning this district the story is written.
Inasmuch as the code, in effect, applied the established mining laws to Alaska, plainly some means of knocking out the citizenship clause was necessary in order to give value to the jumpers’ titles held by the Alaska Gold Mining Company; so Senator Hansbrough introduced into the Senate a remarkable amendment, known later in both houses as the “Hansbrough Amendment.”
The original section of the code read:
“The title to any lands heretofore conveyed shall not be questioned nor in any manner affected by reason of the alienage of any person from or through whom such title may have been derived.”
It was proposed to insert in lieu thereof the following:
“Aliens shall not be permitted to locate, hold, or convey mining claims in said District of Alaska; nor shall any title to a mining claim acquired by location or purchase through an alien be legal. In any civil action, suit, or proceeding to recover the possession of a mining claim, or for the appointment of a receiver, or for an injunction to restrain the working or operation of a mining claim, it shall be the duty of the court to inquire into and determine the question of the citizenship of the locator, etc.”
By these provisions it will be seen litigants or their assignees in a private lawsuit might exercise the great governmental power of raising the question of alien ownership. In this way the conspirators aimed to bring to issue this point before a court of their own making. The amendment was retroactive to a further extent in declaring null and void the title to those mines which had been located by an agent or attorney in fact. Also, it prohibited future locations of that character. Not content with this, Mr. Hansbrough thoughtfully provided that no title to claims so located could be conveyed or sold, declaring illegal all such as had been already transferred. In other words, he destroyed the rights of the innocent purchaser. This was done because certain of the mines had been bought by Charles D. Lane, a California operator, and it was planned to vitiate his titles.
Although the amendment would have been unconstitutional, still, if passed, it would have given the conspirators a peg to hang upon until it had been repealed or reviewed by the Supreme Court. Before action could be taken, they would have gutted the mines, floated the big company, and sold out.
Hearing of this amendment, certain claimants whose holdings were thus threatened hurried to Washington from the Pacific coast and laid their cases before Senator Hansbrough, explaining the injustice he proposed working, but he spoke in vague and sounding phrases of patriotism and the American flag, stating that the original locators were foreigners who had taken what rightfully belonged to American miners, and he proposed to remedy the wrong.
It is inane to imagine he did not know the effect his amendment would have or that he was not familiar with the conditions existing in Alaska.
Fortunately there were some few men in Congress who realized dimly what this boded. Senator Stewart of Nevada, known as the Father of the Mining Laws, opposed the amendment bitterly in his branch, as did John F. Lacey, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands in the House, both arguing that its effect was retroactive and calculated to rob those people who had complied with the law in opening their land, as well as their assignees who had paid value for the mines.
Under its terms there was no proposal to change the settled rule of law in any locality save Alaska, and no one arguing against the matter in either House dreamed that a corporate organization had been effected to capitalize the jumpers’ claims, but the amendment was voted down on its demerits. So stubbornly did Hansbrough and others fight for their point, however, that debate lasted nearly a month.
When the bill had passed the upper House and had gone to the lower, the amendment was again introduced there, showing the remarkable determination of its backers to work it through. After more debate it was killed, leaving the mining laws for Alaska the same as those in Colorado, Montana, the Dakotas, and other States.
In our whole history there has been nothing more daring than this attack upon the constitutional rights of property holders.
During all this time Hansbrough, Carter, McKenzie, Chipps, and Hubbard were hobnobbing together, the last named spending most of his time in and about Senator Hansbrough’s committee rooms. With their defeat, it now became a question of the administration of existing laws, as modified by Senator Carter’s code, so the next step was to make sure of a judge who, with the extreme power vested in him, would override the decisions of the Supreme Court and the precepts substantiated by Congress; one who would so construe the law as to give the placers to the Alaska Gold Mining Company anyhow. They chose, as we have said, Arthur H. Noyes of Minneapolis.
Although these men above mentioned were seen frequently together at this time, when trouble subsequently arose Senator Carter denied knowing or ever having met Noyes. The last named had been Hansbrough’s fellow-townsman when he ran a paper in Bamboo, Wisconsin. Both had moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota, about 1883, and there became intimate with Alexander McKenzie. Noyes had been practicing law in Minneapolis of late, although still a crony of the old timers in the Northwest. That he was in many ways a good choice for the clique is evidenced by the fact that his Alaskan record is too extraordinary for belief.
The United States Constitution, the code under which he held office, the laws of ordinary honor and decency, were to him as dead as the Sanskrit and as unsanctified as a soap advertisement. First he gained general hatred until his weakness and vacillation appeared, and although there is still cherished in Alaska the bitterest enmity for McKenzie, yet for Arthur H. Noyes, his miserable, liquor-sodden accomplice, there remains nothing but contempt.
An illuminating incident anent his appointment and showing the character of men behind the plot, is that Senator Bard, of California, who had just taken his seat, was promised the Alaskan judgeship for a friend who had helped in his election. It was so well settled that his friend was to receive the position that his fellow-Senators congratulated him upon obtaining such a good appointment so early in the game. Just before confirmation, however, President McKinley called him in, stating that such pressure had been brought to bear that he was forced to break his word and give to Mr. Noyes the position he had promised the Senator’s friend. An influence, indeed, to make William McKinley break a promise!
Now, late in the previous summer, gold had been found in the beach sands at Nome, the news of which caused a great excitement to spread over the United States. A large number of disappointed miners had accumulated in the camp, most of whom were poor. Many had been lured thither by exaggerated stories and had used their last dollars to reach the new strike, only to find no room for them. Development was only starting, so there was no employment for them on the rich claims, and they were facing another long winter without funds. To add to the misery a plague of typhoid, scurvy, and smallpox struck them till they died like sheep. Altogether it was a bleak and hopeless outlook for the many, until in one day all was changed.
During all the season the sea beach had been lined with tents, for here was driftwood to burn and dry sand to sleep upon. The city had been laid out with its front street barely above high-tide line, but it was left to a sick man to find that a few inches under it all was a stratum yellow with the metal; that the surf-pounded sands bore millions of dollars, untouched and inviting; and that all summer the eager hordes had streamed over wealth untold.
As the story runs, this man was too ill with scurvy to travel into the hills, so his partners left him in his tent while they prospected. He began to test the beach sands idly with his gold pan, and, finding “colors,” was tempted to dig deeper. Weak and helpless as he was, it took him no time to uncover the pay streak which lay so near the surface. When he told his partners, they knocked together a rocker out of goods boxes and set to work skeptically. It was but a few hours, however, till the news had spread and men were rushing back out of the gulches more eagerly than they went in. The disconsolate cheered up, the idle grew industrious, the sick crawled forth into the light. Men working for wages at the mines quit. Women built rockers and went out with the men. Everyone worked for himself and there was no one to hire, for the sea beach was common property.
It is provided by our land laws that a wide strip along the shore of navigable waters shall be held for a highway and not subject to location under the mineral regulations. This prevented the discoverers from acquiring large tracts of the beach sands and meant that he or she who came would be served, one equally with the other. They swarmed upon the coast in hundreds, and each man took as many square feet of ground as he could work. Finishing this, he moved on to another spot.
A graveyard had been made on the edge of the tundra where the dead were buried shallowly in the frozen muck overlooking the southward sea that stretched so far away toward home and God’s country. As though in grim irony of their fruitless quest, the sands at the dead men’s feet proved the richest of all. Here the gold lay nearer the sunlight than the worn-out bodies of the seekers themselves. Nature had toyed with these men till she tired, then spilled her treasure lavishly and wrapped them in a royal shroud.
These grisly sentinels did not deter the living. They traced the streak back into the bank and tunneled under the graves. Even as there had been no respite for these weary ones in their lifelong search, now they were tumbled about in their sleep. Likewise the miners followed the “pay” up into the streets of the city, ripping them up as they went and tearing down the houses they were still building. Within a night they leaped from black despair to hope, and attained to the glory of a city whose streets were paved with gold.
There has been no stranger sight in mining history than this weird Arctic coast crowded for miles with eager men working peaceably, shoulder to shoulder. The line stretched east and west till the jutting headlands hid it. Fortunes were taken in a day with pick and shovel and rocker.
The story of these magic sands appealed to the men in Washington. If miners prospered with such primitive methods of extraction, what immense profit could be reaped by working the ground on a large scale with machinery? Inasmuch as it was decided to juggle the mining law’s so as to gain title to the claims in the hills, the grafters determined to secure the beach sands also, throw off the men at work, and install their own plants.
During the pendency of the Alaskan code, and while waiting for Congress to vote to his company title to these mines through passage of the Hansbrough Amendment, Alexander McKenzie was not idle. Using his prestige and political connection, he floated a five-million-dollar corporation on the side and, whereas the Alaska Gold Mining Company was founded upon feasible lines, this latter—known as the Golden Sands Mining Company—was a barefaced swindle in every particular, projected apparently for the sole purpose of betraying the investors.
The organization was effected to develop certain alleged mines in the Nome district, and McKenzie acted as trustee for the owners, receiving about twenty-five thousand dollars in this capacity from the stockholders, forty thousand dollars more being paid in for machinery.
At one time, when the backers evinced a weakness, he bolstered their confidence by assuring them that the deal was a “cinch,” and under no condition could they lose because “he had the Nome courts in his vest pocket”; and to show what a bargain they had driven, he offered them thirty thousand dollars for one certain claim in the group. Bluff!
Not one of these titles was good, and many of them were utter forgeries, even the deeds being fraudulently stamped and recorded. In other instances, no property of the description existed upon the map. Although the scheme worked beautifully to the extent of getting a “piece of money,” the politician thereby laid the corner stone for considerable trouble to himself, as it later developed. The subscribers were men of means and consequent influence, men who did not have to grin and lie still under an indignity; therefore, when an unexpected opportunity arose, they arose with it. They held their betrayer to ransom, as truly as Perdicarus was held, the story of which is most amusing and comes later.
A huge plant of specially designed machinery for the Alaska Gold Mining Company was sent forward to work the beach sand and, taking with him his judge and retinue, McKenzie went to Seattle, herded together what helpers he needed, and sailed north to steal a nation. Inasmuch as the United States Judge was now in his employ, he paid his expenses. It is further stated that he lifted a mortgage from the Noyes house in Minnesota.
Of course the political appointments were distributed among the friends of those most active in the legislation. Senator Carter placed one, Joseph K. Wood, as United States District Attorney, and handed the office of United States Marshal to Mr. C. L. Vawter, both of his State. His brother-in-law, one Galen, was given a United States Commissionership, although in reality his duties consisted of keeping an eye upon the affairs of the fifteen-million-dollar corporation.
This precious party landed at Nome on July 19th. I had arrived some thirty days earlier with the first great rush, to find that a wondrous change had been wrought in the camp during the winter. In place of the naked little town clinging forlornly to the edge of the Northland, there was now a city of gleaming white tents curving along the coast and peopled by the landing thousands. The roadstead was black with ships, some scarred and battered by the ice they had fought, while day and night beneath the midnight sun they belched forth freight and men and every kind of thing to help in conquering this new realm. Within a week the town grew from three to thirty thousand, for at last the news had come to the world at large. Ramparts of freight were stacked along the beach, the streets were blocked with traffic. We slept, when we got too tired to work, on floors—if we had friends—if not, on the ground or a borrowed board. There were no hotels, few restaurants, and we paid two dollars for ham and eggs.
Every hour brought to the shore new lighter loads of machinery. The ships were laden with it; the water front became a bewildering mass of iron and steel. When the sea rose, scow loads of it were swamped in the surf. Apparently every man had brought some mechanical device with which to work the beach sands. They ranged in variety with the man’s means and ingenuity, from windmills to a great spiderlike monster which walked out into the ocean on three legs and dug in the sands with steel buckets.
In a surprisingly short time these contrivances were established. They stretched along the coast till the blue distances swallowed them up. In place of the primitive rocker of the year before, there was now a line of dredges, pumping plants, and curious devices. There were huge cranes which reached out into the surf, there were gasoline pumping plants, and there were treadmills upon which men tramped wearily, lifting water by leg power, like coolies in the rice fields. They were strewn so thickly that one might step from one to the other.
In Nome, buildings were rising as rapidly as the price of town lots. Hotels, French restaurants, steam laundries, Turkish baths, and telephones were installed. Pack trains of supplies were loading for the mines, where a year before food had been carried on the backs of men and dogs. Work was pushed on a railroad reaching from the coast to the placers to such good effect that in a few short weeks trains were lurching uncertainly across the swampy tundra to the foothills, bearing machinery and freight. The cross-ties were laid on planks which now and then disappeared in the mud. Prices were high, men were busy, the country was developing like magic. A State was building here more rapidly than one ever built before, and although the men were rough and had much to learn, if left alone they would have evolved a creditable system of self-government.
Upon this scene of vigor and progress the new court officials appeared late in July. Four days later Alexander McKenzie was in possession of the mines he coveted, the owners had been thrown off, and in two days more he had taken everything the unfortunates owned, even to personal property, such as tents, houses, horses, books, clothes, and gold which had been mined elsewhere. Within a week his system was running smoothly, his court was grinding out orders unheard of in law, in decency, or in dreams; and the stream of gold dust had been diverted from the Swedes into the pockets whose bottoms reached to Washington.
His beach mining outfit was established and waiting when he arrived, so one of his first acts was to instruct Judge Noyes to issue orders ejecting the miners along the shore. Although Congress had just fixed a strip of sand which should ever remain open and free to all, nevertheless, in direct disregard of this, soldiers were sent out to arrest the poor men hunting for a winter’s grubstake. Noyes construed the law in such a manner as to limit them to a tiny strip only a few feet wide at the water’s edge.
On the afternoon of his arrival, McKenzie entered the law offices of Hubbard, Beaman & Hume, demanding of them a half interest in the jumpers’ titles which they owned, stating that he controlled the judge and district attorney, and that if they desired their cases to reach a hearing at all they must “dig up.” The lawyers consented, receiving, in lieu of the supposed titles, stock in the Alaska Gold Mining Company. The politician further demanded that a one-quarter interest in their entire law business be given to his district attorney, Joseph K. Woods, promising in return to appoint Hume as Wood’s assistant. On the following day he came to them again, demanding an additional one-quarter interest in their general business for himself. After demurring, the partners did this also. Inasmuch as the firm had most of the contested title cases of the district, in this way McKenzie and his coterie became interested in both sides of the resultant litigation, contingent interest being demanded from both litigants.
The lawyers did not give up one-half of their business without a struggle, but they were threatened with utter ruin, both to themselves and clients, so, rather than be crushed, they acceded. Straightway an extra corps of stenographers was employed preparing documents asking for the appointment of a receiver in five suits. The papers were presented to Judge Noyes at six o’clock in the evening at his hotel, and he acted on them without even reading the affidavits. McKenzie was appointed receiver in each case with instructions to take immediate possession, work the mines, and preserve the proceeds subject to the court’s orders. The defendants were ordered to deliver possession and were enjoined from in any manner interfering with his management. In each case the receiver’s bond was fixed at five thousand dollars, although the output from each mine was known to be from five thousand to fifteen thousand dollars per day. He was appointed during the evening, before any bonds had been filed, before the necessary papers were filed by the clerk, and even before the summons had been issued. At midnight he had ejected the rightful owners and was in possession.
All this was done in absolute disregard of law, coming as a total surprise to the defendants, who were not only ignorant of any action taken, but were not even cited to appear in their own defense and argue why such orders should not be entered in court. To analyze the turpitude of this action further, the simple holding of court in Nome was directly in disregard of and contrary to the terms of the Alaskan Code, which provided that the judge should reside at Saint Michaels, one hundred and twenty miles distant, and should hold court elsewhere only upon thirty days’ notice. Added to this, Noyes had assured the claim owners that his shop would be open for no business until his return from Saint Michaels.
In granting these injunctions without sufficient bond, he again violated the Alaskan Code, which provides that before allowing an injunction in any case the plaintiff must give a suitable and sufficient bond to pay all costs and resultant damages to the defendant if the injunction prove wrongful or without sufficient cause. In the face of this, for the protection of mines earning as high as fifteen thousand dollars daily, Noyes required a surety of five thousand dollars.
Comment is unnecessary upon his disregard for a well-established principle of law in appointing the receiver ex parte; that is, without notice to the opposing faction.
Bearing in mind that the jumpers’ titles were now largely vested in McKenzie, neither is comment necessary upon the unique situation of his appointment as receiver for his own property, something ridiculous in law.
The appointment of a receiver for a placer was something unheard of in our entire mining history, being manifestly unjust and dangerous, for the law aims only at protection. A receiver was not needed to protect this property. The gold lay safely stored in the ground; it could not get away nor deteriorate. All that could have been justly asked was an injunction to keep the claims in statu quo, until the title had been determined. McKenzie was not a miner, was not competent to run a mine in a practical manner, yet he was put in charge of his own property to conserve the interests of his contestants.
The very question of alienship upon which the suits were brought had been declared of no avail by the Congress which gave this court life, and although the defendants appeared with exemplified copies of their naturalization papers in proof that the actions should fall of their own weight, the judge refused to heed them.
Fearful of complications, the Swedes, or Pioneers, as they were called, had imported from San Francisco some good lawyers a few weeks before, as had Charles D. Lane, the man who had bought certain of the original titles. These attorneys immediately got busy. They undertook to have Noyes rescind his arbitrary rule.
On the day following McKenzie’s appointment, they tried to get an order setting it aside, appearing before the judge with properly prepared papers, praying that a hearing be granted at once. The value of haste may be appreciated. He refused. They argued the matter twice within a few days, but he delayed his opinion until August 10th, over two weeks, then decided adversely to them. Later they prayed for an appeal from the decisions of Noyes’s court. He refused to allow it. Meanwhile the receiver had hired all the available men, and was working day and night to gut the mines.
On July 25th, two days after the first move, Noyes issued a further order which was so much worse than his previous ones as to elicit the following criticism from the Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco:
“The order was so arbitrary and unwarranted in law as to baffle the mind in its effort to comprehend how it could have issued from a court of justice.”
Its history is this: When the posse of hirelings ousted the owners, they found large quantities of supplies, tools, tents, horses, and other things, among which were considerable sums of gold, part of which had been taken from the claims in dispute and part of which had come from other mines not in controversy at all. This was too good to lose. Also, it is well to leave an opponent the least possible means with which to fight. Through his judge, McKenzie issued an order enlarging his own powers to take in all of this. He was directed to grab everything on and about the mines as follows:
“—take possession of all sluice boxes, pumps, excavations, machinery, pipe, plant, boarding houses, tents, buildings, safes, scales, and all personal property fixed and movable, gold, gold dust, and precious metals, money boxes or coin, and all personal property upon said claims.”
He did so, even taking the tents and beds of the men, their own personal property, their boxes of gold dust, gold taken from other claims in which he could have no interest, time books of these and other claims which the defendants were working. There was no redress. Criticism of such action is futile.
Before doing this, Noyes boasted that he would tie up the defendants all around so that if they wanted anything they would have to apply to Mr. McKenzie.
In the case of Chipps vs. Linderberg, the receiver was ordered to take possession thus of about one hundred thousand dollars’ worth of personal property, without even an averment in the complaint, or in any other pleading, that the property belonged to the complainant. McKenzie took possession and held it without bond or any other authority than the arbitrary order of the court, which order was made without pleading, petition, or written application from any person whatever.
One naturally says, “Surely there must have been some redress.” What was it? Alaska was not even a territory. Laws had been fixed for her, and there was no higher authority in the land than the Federal judge who applied them. He was ruler of the land, appointed directly from the nation’s head. The military were here to preserve order and enforce his mandates. Where could relief come from?
We see the scheme working now, a perfect piece of political jobbery, backed by the weight of United States courts and enforced by the troops in blue. Mines wrested from their owners, laws construed to suit the gang, personal property purloined to cripple the victims, the right of appeal denied—! Yes, Alexander McKenzie, though “absolutely honest,” as his Dakota friends aver, “could think of more ways to gain his end than anyone you ever saw.”
WE have now shown how and why the Alaska Gold Mining Company was formed, the attempt to vest in it title to the rich Nome mines through the Hansbrough amendment to the Alaskan Code, and how this was avoided by the efforts of a few clear-sighted men in the Senate and House. Our story then detailed how a facile judge was appointed to administer the laws of Alaska for the benefit of his backers, how Alexander McKenzie took him and the other court officials north and, upon papers hastily drawn and improperly served, under orders illegally issued, without notice to the defendants and without sufficient bond, ejected the mine owners from their premises and grabbed their claims himself. We told how he forced the members of the leading law firm of Nome to give him a one-half interest in their business under threats of ruining them, thus gaining a further hold on the litigation over the disputed property. We also described the futile efforts of the victims to set aside the wrongful orders and how their right of appeal was denied, leaving them baffled and confused at the enormity of the wrong done.
Perhaps you said on beginning this story that the writer assumed an attitude too aggressive, that he used too many superlatives? The facts stated and to come are more superlative than any language in his vocabulary.
The story of Graft is old. We are growing to realize dimly that our nation is permeated with it, that our body politic is built upon corruption. There was a time when we looked with reverence and respect upon the makers and givers of our law, but it is so no longer. Honors bestowed do not purge the recipient. A senator may be a rogue, a judge a charlatan. Graft was in the land before our time—we have merely seen it grow and reach out. But few of us have seen its birth. This is a tale of its beginnings in a virgin land. Upon perusal it appears an extraordinary affair by reason of its ingenuity, its invention, its daring—but it is not! It is extraordinary because it is so ordinary, so very ordinary, because it has happened before, because the trail is so well trodden, because here, in our own time, is brought up the spectacle of corruption in its early stages, as it must have existed in our boyhood or in our fathers’ times.
Had the abuses we detailed in the preceding chapter occurred in any other Western mining camp, or been directed at ordinary American citizens, blood would have run at once, even in the face of military protection; and it speaks volumes for the law-abiding character of Alaskans that no more drastic measures were taken. Many of the defendants were Scandinavians, easy going and slow to wrath, their actions approving a saying of McKenzie:
“Give me a barnyard of Swedes and I’ll drive them like sheep.”
Moreover, the scheme was so bold, so efficient, so undreamed of in its prostitution of the whole sacred machinery of government, that the victims were confused and required time to shape their campaigns. This suited the clique precisely. Delay was all they asked. Every sun meant thousands to them. Added to this, the nearest Court of Appeals was at San Francisco, three thousand miles away by water, with no telegraph. This had all been counted upon, as has before been said; the plan being to tie up the mines, then strip them during the pendency of the suits.
Let it be said there was no waste of manners incident to these actions. On Discovery Claim the party sent forth to oust the owners from their premises found Linderberg in bed. They ran him out into the night, half clothed. At another time the owners of Claim Number Ten had, locked up in their safe, a large amount of gold taken from one of their other claims not in dispute. Even though shown an order of court directing them to turn this over to McKenzie’s hirelings, they refused to obey. Instead, they telephoned to McKenzie himself that this was their own money and they proposed to keep it. The wily politician said no doubt they were right, but a telephone was a poor medium for such an argument, and if they would bring the gold into town he would talk it over with them and do what was proper. Recognizing in this a ruse, one of the men, Price, eluded the posse long enough to telephone a friend to meet him at the depot when the train came in. Placing the treasure in a satchel, he and the deputy went to town, but as the train pulled into the station he tossed his burden to a friend, shouting:
“Put that in the depot safe, quick!”
Before McKenzie’s henchman could prevent, it was done and the combination turned. At this the deputy stormed and raved, but the others remained deaf to his threats, and when he tried to summon his principal on the depot telephone, they interfered, forcing him to go clear across town after him. When the two returned, the gold was not in the safe and they never laid hands upon it thereafter.
Of course, when orders to set aside the receiver were denied, the attorneys for the defense prayed for an appeal, accompanying their applications with bonds and assignments of error and presenting bills of exception. This Judge Noyes denied them.
Quoting again the language of the aforementioned Appellate Court:
“The record and the evidence of these proceedings show from first to last upon the part of Judge Noyes an apparent disregard of the legal rights of the defendants in the cases in which McKenzie was appointed as receiver. The proceedings upon which the receiver was appointed were extraordinary in the extreme. Immediately after his arrival at Nome in company with the man who, it seems, had gone to Nome for the express purpose of entering into the receivership business, and who boasted to others that he had secured the appointment of the judge, and that he controlled the court and its officers, upon papers which had not as yet been filed, before the issuance of summons and before the execution of receiver’s bond, without notice to the defendants, without affording them an opportunity to be heard, Judge Noyes wrested from them their mining claims, of which they were in full possession, the sole value of which consisted of the gold dust which they contained and which lay safely stored in the ground, and placed the claims in the hands of a receiver with instructions to mine and operate the same, and this without any showing of an equitable nature to indicate the necessity or propriety of the receivership or the necessity for the operation of the mines by a receiver, in order to protect the property or to prevent its injury or waste.
“When the defendants undertook to appeal from these orders, their right of appeal was denied them. The receiver so appointed was permitted to go on and mine these claims on an extensive scale and extract from them their value.”
Within a very short time other injunctions were granted in about twenty suits, and either the Scotchman was named as receiver or one of his tools who did his bidding. Such ones reported frequently, turning over to him the spoils. In many cases the owners were denied the privilege of taking a hand in the clean-ups or even being present at such times, which meant a total reliance upon the statements of McKenzie, inasmuch as there was no other method of checking up the output. The danger of this is apparent, for the moment placer gold is taken from the sluice, it is money. There are no smelter records to go by, as when ore is treated.
One mine was jumped and a receiver appointed simply because it was alleged that the owner was an alien. As a matter of fact, he was born in Ohio, and had never been out of the United States until coming to Alaska.
McKenzie often expressed absolute confidence in the ability of his backers to force a favorable decision from the superior courts in case of an appeal, and during the first flush of success, when the whole district lay helpless under his heel, he made the mistake of talking too much. A serious mistake for one of his accomplishments. He spoke of those who backed him, the strongest in public life, and it became a matter of gossip that here was a combination too huge to break, that the Alaska Gold Mining Company had been organized with governmental backing for the sole and avowed purpose of looting the land it was named for, that its stock was distributed through Washington circles wherever it would do the most good.
I propose to show evidence strongly confirming this startling theory, to show that others even more exalted than those I have mentioned were entangled in this plot. Whether they were the innocent dupes of more designing men, or whether they hoped to share in the spoils, I shall not discuss. The facts should tell the story without extraneous comment. The finger should point where the blame belongs. It leads to Washington.
After Noyes had appointed a receiver in the Anvil Creek cases, something unheard of and utterly vicious in its possibilities, and after he had further denied the defendants an appeal which would have carried with it a stay, certified copies of the court record were filed with United States Attorney-General Griggs, and the removal of Noyes was asked on the ground of incompetency. Griggs refused! Indeed, Noyes boasted that the Attorney-General had in a personal letter approved his action.
If such a procedure as the mere appointment of a placer mine receiver was unprecedented, what then is to be said of the action of the Attorney-General of the United States in publicly praising such a step and, worse yet, of his meddling with a case at law during its trial? It was the same in effect as though a justice of the Supreme Court had indorsed the decisions of an inferior court judge during the trial of a suit which was later to be appealed to his own. This action of Griggs was one of the most remarkable ever known in the judiciary of this or any other civilized country. His conduct went far toward proving that McKenzie’s was no idle boast when he said:
“To hell with them all! Nobody can hurt me! I am too strong at headquarters!”
Evidently there was no hope of relief from this quarter. One other incident illustrating the attitude assumed by the Attorney-General: He gave to a New York lawyer who was going north a letter of introduction to Judge Noyes. Later in the season this man was sent out from Nome on behalf of the defendants in the lawsuits, and came to Washington for the purpose of presenting to the Department of Justice the terrible condition of affairs existing in the Second Judicial District of Alaska. It was hoped that when the facts were given directly to the Attorney-General by a lawyer personally known to him, he would take immediate action to at least investigate and verify the statements made, which would undoubtedly have led to the removal of Noyes. This was the quickest and most natural way to gain relief. The attorney was granted an interview with Attorney-General Griggs, to be sure; but when he came to speak of Alaskan affairs, Mr. Griggs indicated by his conduct that he was not interested in them and did not care to hear them discussed. When his visitor kept reverting to the tale of indignity and the necessity for immediate action, Mr. Griggs interrupted him with inquiries concerning his relatives’ health, and finally dismissed him without the slightest satisfaction. He paid no heed to the petitions presented to his department, and no steps for relief were taken. Are we wrong in saying the finger of blame points to Washington?
As an example of the shameless measures adopted at Nome, the story of Archie Wheeler shows what primal motives of robbery actuated this band. He was one of the gang first imported on the steamship Senator—a name, by the way, strangely fitting—occupying the position of court stenographer and clerk at a yearly govermental salary of three thousand dollars and expenses.
Upon arrival he began the independent practice of law before Judge Noyes, for whom he had also been hired as private secretary, renting offices adjoining the judge’s and separated therefrom by a screen. Noyes proceeded to turn all possible law business into his secretary’s hands.
Now, early in the spring another beach discovery had been made at Topkuk, a point about sixty miles east of Nome. The village consisted of a few Indian huts in a sheltered sandy cove. Some miners found gold in the beach even before the snow had gone, and proceeded to thaw the frozen sands with driftwood fires, then to wash it in their tent. It was very rich, richer even than the beach at Nome had been, and in some places the stratum of gold lay not six inches beneath the surface. The poverty-stricken Eskimos had lived for generations here battling with the sea and the desolation for a miserable living, while under their feet was enough of the white man’s wealth to enrich an army. Their fathers and their grandfathers, as children, had played in these yellow sands. Each time they had dragged their skin boats from the surf after a fruitless, hungry seal hunt, they had disturbed a carpet of golden grains.
A white man found it. Others came, while the natives sat on the dirt roofs of their squalid igloos and coughed and watched round eyed, as from beneath their fish traps was taken the wherewithal to build palaces. Before long the white men found that the pay streak led under the bank on which the village sat, as another streak at Nome had led beneath a village of graves. They dug till the houses toppled in. They caved them down onto the beach, while from others the dirt floors dropped through onto the heads of the workers beneath, and yet the Indians stayed, though from them a plaintive howl arose. It reached the ears of the authorities at Nome, and soldiers were dispatched to drive the “snipers” out. They blocked up the entrance to the tunnels and stood guard before them with rifle and bayonet, while overhead the Eskimo went back to his seal oil and his slumbers.
So rich was the dirt here that men went to any lengths to get it. They hung about the entrance to the drifts, night after night, awaiting a moment when the sentinel’s back was turned to worm through the board barriers, dash in, and grab a hatful of the sand, then scurry away to wash it.
Naturally the men who owned the claims lying near this began to open up their ground and operate. They proved very rich. One day while in Nome some of them accosted Noyes on the street, stating that they feared trouble about their title and would like some action taken to protect their interests.
“My private secretary, Mr. Wheeler, is practicing law. See him about it,” said the judge.
Accordingly they called upon Wheeler, to whom they explained that all they desired was protection with the right to work their own property. He answered:
“Why, I can fix that in twenty-four hours.”
“Good,” said they.
“In case I do this, I shall of course expect the customary interest in the mine.”
“What is that?”
“One-half! The same as the lawyers got in the Anvil Creek cases.”
“This is a different situation,” they protested. “The receiver there represents the jumpers’ titles. We have no jumpers here. We are the lawful and undisputed owners and merely want to work without interference. All you have to do is to keep off jumpers and receivers. You ask too much.”
After some haggling, Wheeler consulted Noyes in the next room, returning with the statement that he would do the job for a three-tenths interest. Eventually an agreement was drawn up giving him one-eighth of the mine, but, before execution of the deed, the richness of this spot caught the eye of the ambitious McKenzie and negotiations ceased.
It is necessary to digress briefly here to show what prompted this.
After the ejection of the Nome beach miners, the machinery of the Alaska Gold Mining Company was installed in their places; but alas! the sands had been worked out, and it did not pay to operate. Here was a nice pickle. A huge new plant with no gold under it. Manifestly, another location was needed. Inasmuch as pumping machinery was used to lift water onto the Topkuk mines, sixty miles away, where the new strike had been made, it was evident that here were two fat birds awaiting one stone. Why should Wheeler and Noyes blackmail a measly one-eighth interest from the owners when the whole thing could be stolen, and more besides? Without stopping to enjoin the owners or appoint himself receiver, Alec loaded his plant onto scows and sent it down coast; then having got it safely off, he attended to the minor legal details.
Time was the essence of this business and the season passing. While the lighters were en route, he completed the trivialities of ousting the owners. Instead of taking the receivership himself, as customary, however, he placed a tool in the position for the reason that he intended selling to the mine the pumping machinery he had just dispatched. On the face of things, it would be a shade too raw for McKenzie as owner to sell to McKenzie as receiver this plant of machinery, so a departure from the established course was taken.
The fact that the owners already had good and sufficient machinery at work on the ground was nothing. That was ripped out and discarded, representing a total loss to the purchasers, while the junk of the Alaska Gold Mining Company was bought at an exorbitant price and installed in its stead. The new receiver was put under ten thousand dollars bond, an amount nearly equal to a day’s output of the mine. As a safeguard there was sent with him, in the position of superintendent, Captain Mike McCormack, of Saint Paul, one of McKenzie’s friends, an old-time Dakota politician and a director and stockholder in the Alaska Gold Mining Company. Later on Wheeler, who had unwisely tendered his services to the defendants in the case, appeared as attorney for Cameron, the receiver, McKenzie’s alter ego.
Straightway the defendants presented to the court the strongest possible affidavits showing cause why a receiver should not be put in, but their efforts were unavailing. Why should they be otherwise? Hadn’t the mines proved very rich?
Is anything other than this one brazen action needed to show the wholesale robbery contemplated by the organizers of the Alaska Gold Mining Company! Even before a decision was rendered, the pumping plant destined to replace one which needed no replacing, together with the hirelings to operate it, was shipped to this mine. Having gained possession of it, McKenzie’s highwaymen proceeded to plunder, refusing the owners access and even denying them the privilege of watching the cleanups. This created such a furor that an order was entered allowing one of them to witness this operation in company with a certain member of the gang designated by name. This one thereafter arranged to absent himself from the mine at such times, so that, to all effect, the owners were prevented from checking up the receiver’s figures just as effectually as though forbidden ingress to the premises. Failing in this, the victims challenged the sufficiency of the receiver’s ten-thousand-dollar bond, alleging that money largely in excess of that amount was being produced daily. They also challenged the ability of the sureties on his bond to make good, but ineffectually.
They offered next to qualify in double the amount required of the receiver, or to any extent Noyes wished, to work the property and turn into the court the gold so extracted, allowing it to go to the jumpers without charge for mining, in case a decision was rendered in their favor. This was vehemently objected to, the judge stating with great show of indignation that the suggestion was “impertinent, being a reflection upon an officer of the court, and having no foundation in law or precedent.” The motion was denied.
What was the result?
When the defendants, months later, established title by verdict of a jury and the receiver was discharged, his accounts showed a mine production of thirty thousand dollars with expenses greatly in excess thereof. This was so grossly erroneous and so bold a steal that the owners rose up in added wrath, alleging more than two hundred thousand dollars to have been mined at less incident expenses than claimed. Judge Noyes at last referred Cameron’s accounts to a referee of his own choosing, yet even with this “edge” to start with, the report showed a production of at least one hundred thousand dollars with expenses not to exceed thirty-five thousand dollars. Then, as the owners had predicted, neither Cameron nor his bondsmen had property to apply on this sixty-five thousand dollars deficit.
If, upon going over the receiver’s own figures with a man of their own choosing, such facts were shown, what must have been the true amounts! How much was stolen from this single mine! From all indications, twice the amount reported by the referee. The owners were absolutely ruined financially, some being left in debt to the extent of many thousands through this plot.
Naturally the question arises, who got this gold? While speculating on this point it is well to bear in mind that, although some of the mines when taken were producing from five thousand to fifteen thousand dollars each per diem, and although McKenzie put at work all the men he could hire, washing only the richest spots, yet, after operating most of the season, when forced to disgorge, he turned back only four hundred thousand dollars. In view of such figures, as well as the manifest turpitude of the entire conspiracy from inception to finish, is it unreasonable to believe that these men stole some of the wealth that lay in their hands? Were they ones to safeguard a sacred trust and to render up a strict account?
In spite of all these and other facts, when the removal of Noyes was requested and the affair received an airing later on, certain of our worthy United States Senators rose up on the Capitol floors and fought bitterly for him, for McKenzie, and for their accomplices. Chief of these was Mr. McCumber, the junior Senator from North Dakota. In the course of an eloquent harangue on February 5, 1902, wherein he attempted fruitlessly to quicklime the whole rotten affair and disinfect the honor of the man who, rumor has it, keeps him in his job as a figurehead, he spoke of Alec McKenzie as follows:
“I have known this man, Mr. President, for twenty years. . . . I know him to be a noble-hearted, generous, impulsive, sympathetic individual . . . He is a man who is so true to his own principles of manhood that he would give his very life’s blood for any friend and ask for no remuneration on earth except the fidelity of a friend to a friend.”
It is to be hoped, for the good of North Dakota, that the Hon. Mr. McCumber’s zeal in entering the lists was prompted solely by his friendship. Far be it from one even to suggest, without better proof, that his name was upon that roll of infamy, the stock book of the Alaska Gold Mining Company.
Although baffled at first and repulsed on every hand in their efforts for relief, the ousted defendants’ attorneys were not beaten. When their clients’ mines were jerked from under them, their personal effects taken, and their appeals from the monstrous decisions of the court denied, they realized that this was to be a fight—long, bitter, and without quarter. Steps were taken to bring the affair before the next higher tribunal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, located at San Francisco, three thousand miles distant. They fled to the south, armed with affidavits, their valises bursting with documents.
Meanwhile affairs at Nome grew quiet awaiting results, but the calm was skin deep. Each faction hired detectives to spy upon its enemies, then hired detectives to spy upon the detectives. Day and night they were busied in the effort to collect or, if necessary, to create incriminating evidence.
Illustrating the suspicion that settled over the city, McKenzie hired the rooms next to his offices and bored holes through the partitions at which he stationed eavesdroppers. Every one entering was subjected to espionage. The offices adjoining those of the lawyers for the defense were peopled by his men, also their ceilings perforated with peepholes and cracks opened up. One sleuth crawled into a loft and, his accomplice forgetting to bring him food, he was forced to lie there for two days until an opportunity came to escape undiscovered. He returned with a lunch basket.
One particularly active attorney became so obnoxious to the gang that they arranged to cite him for contempt and jail him on some ground or other. Hearing this, and realizing what he was facing, he decided to get out of the country, but found spies stationed at all the landings to arrest him if he took ship. A strict watch was kept, but he escaped in a mysterious manner, and for a time it was thought that he had slipped through the cordon disguised as a woman. In reality he was put aboard Mr. Lane’s small tug and sent to sea under cover of darkness, where, out of sight of land, he lay in wait for the first outgoing liner. To this young man, Mr. Samuel Knight, of San Francisco, is due a large share of the credit for bringing down McKenzie’s carefully erected structure. He fought untiringly, aggressively, and with every weapon at his command, both in and out of court.
Although we have noted only the politician and his miserable judicial puppet, these two were not alone. Joseph K. Wood, the district attorney, was as maleficent in his department as the others, while they were aided also by the United States marshal and a corps of attorneys. In fact, the entire machinery became so rotten as to beggar description.
The Department of Justice sent forth one C. A. S. Frost, a young man twenty-six years old, as special examiner, to advise and instruct certain of the officials concerning their duties and to report conditions to headquarters. His capacity, in short, was that of a confidential man for the Government. He fell early in the game and allied himself with the cabal, hired secret-service men with his government funds, to spy upon the pioneers and their counsel, and was rewarded by the position of assistant district attorney under Wood. When the clerk of the court objected to paying the bills engendered by these spies, Noyes ordered him to do so or be in contempt of court.
Things reached such a pass that miners dared not open their diggings for fear McKenzie’s agents would hear of it, jump the claim on some pretext, and have the boss established as receiver. Development work throughout the entire district ceased and Alaskan progress marked time.
AFTER detailing a series of unprecedented abuses on the part of Judge Noyes, Alexander McKenzie, and the members of their staff, we left them in absolute control of the Second Judicial District of Alaska, with the property owners helpless, dazed, and panic-stricken. Things had been carried with such a high hand as to institute a reign of terror. Miners feared to exploit rich diggings because of the certainty that the court would seize them. Unlucky was he who discovered good pay, for his claim was sure to be jumped and a receiver appointed forthwith. There was a common belief that a force of men was employed for the especial purpose of discovering such instances and bringing the titles before the court on some pretext.
As pointing the attitude adopted by the public throughout the district, I give this story:
I was awakened one midnight by a friend who entered my tent weary and wet and travel worn. It was evident that he had come far and was driven by some excitement.
“Are you alone?” he questioned.
“Sure! Can’t you see I am?”
He poked his head out of the tent fly, took a cautious look about, then coming close to me, said:
“I’ve struck it!”
We were in Alaska—it was unnecessary to ask what he had struck.
“Tell me about it,” said I—which he did. It seemed he had found some miners on a creek near Topkuk, the seat of the rich beach strike which was sketched before, who had sunk a shaft on their claim, become discouraged, and were ready to abandon it or sell for a few hundred dollars. My friend had panned the dirt from the bottom of the hole and found surprising quantities of gold. He had “refrained” from proclaiming this, but had immediately filled up the shaft with rocks and earth to prevent any curious-minded ones who chanced to pass from sharing his discovery, secured an option to buy, and come to me. He had walked sixty miles, had swam a river, his heels were blistered from his gum boots, and he needed sleep.
Together we boarded a little coastwise steamer the next day for Topkuk. We were miserably seasick on the way down, but were put ashore in a dory at midnight, capsized in the surf, finally gaining the land with our ardor neither chilled nor dampened.
“We daren’t go near the place in daylight,” my friend cautioned. “McKenzie’s outfit is in charge of the claim below, and if they saw us working they’d get curious and spy on us. The minute we struck pay they’d run in on us. Old Noyes would throw us off and they’d work it themselves. The best we can do is to satisfy ourselves, buy the ground, then let it lie for a year or two till they leave the country.”
I realized the force of this, so, for the next few days, we idled about the village and did our prospecting on the claim at night.
We escaped a clash with the receiver’s men, not through our extreme caution, but because we found that the discouraged owners of the property were not so hopelessly discouraged as we thought. Every morning after we quit work they stole out to the premises and carefully “salted” it for our benefit.
Signs of the slow-growing public indignation reached Noyes, who became alarmed and called upon the military for protection, alleging that news of proposed riots had come to him and praying that the soldiers preserve peace. He was drunk most of the time, however, his excesses causing much comment. Naturally a weak man, when subjected to the domination of McKenzie it is not wonderful that he sought oblivion and strove to free his mind from images of the trouble he must have seen accumulating.
The most rabid enemy of the combination was the Californian, Charles D. Lane, at whom Hansbrough’s amendment was partly aimed. Had the schemers let alone this old Forty-niner, they would have succeeded to even greater lengths than they did, for he fought bitterly, like an old pack-wise wolf, and to his efforts their downfall was largely due. Hearing that this man had threatened his life, it is reported that on one occasion McKenzie called at his house to see about it. Here were two strong men, of utterly diverse types, yet products of the same frontier, each able, aggressive, fearless. Lane had tasted success after a life of battle with the wilderness, the mountains,, and the elements, from Mexico to the Circle; the Scotchman had come to wealth and power through handling that most difficult yet facile tool, his fellow man.
“I think I shall like you, Mr. Lane, if I see more of you,” the politician remarked suavely.
“Well,” answered the old miner, “I’ve seen all I want to of you and I don’t like you a—bit.”
Thenceforth it was to fight.
When the evidence of the legal transpirings in the Second Judicial District reached the United States Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco, Judge W. W. Morrow granted the appeal which Judge Noyes had denied and issued a writ of supersedeas by the terms of which McKenzie was commanded to cease all action in the suits and turn back to the defendants their mines and all other property in his possession. It directed Noyes to stay all proceedings in his court and removed the matter from his hands in toto.
The lawyers, armed with these writs and orders, scurried aboard ship and fled back the three thousand miles to Nome, arriving on September 14th, two months after the invasion of the mines by their enemies.
A storm was raging so that it was impossible to land when their ship arrived. Apparendy Washington influence had corrupted even the weather man, and Nature had leagued herself with the bandits.
At last “Charley” Lane, the old Californian, could wait no longer. Bribing the most daring boatmen, he put off through the surf at risk of life and brought back the documents.
In the meantime, as the ship lay storm bound, McKenzie heard the rumor of processes which had been granted and were about to be served, so he hastened to the Alaska Banking & Safety Deposit Company preparing to get his gold out. Events were happening quickly now, however. His every move had been watched day and night for weeks, and before he could accomplish anything his enemies had divined his purpose and hastened to the bank, jamming their way in toward the vault. They smelt victory already, were armed, excited, vicious. Violence threatened and it looked bad for the Czar of the Dakotas, for he was hemmed into a room by the men he had betrayed. Riot calls were frantically turned in, but no local authority could cope with determination such as these people displayed. Virtually they had the Dakotan’s back to the wall at last. He faced them—one wily and determined man against fifty wronged and angry ones. He made oily excuses, declaring that he had come merely for the purpose of turning over to Mr. Cameron the Topkuk gold in which they had no interest He did not dream of removing the Anvil Creek dust. How ridiculous! Perish the thought!
The mob was loath to believe this and would not let him leave the bank—at which righteous indignation flamed up within him. Who were they to stop a peaceful, honest person? He turned on them like a great bear, crying dramatically:
“I am an American citizen. I have committed no crime and I am going out of here. Stand aside!”
He raised his empty hands above his head and walked out through the press, glaring at them, eye to eye. One man dropped a gun in his excitement, but no one stopped him. The man’s physical daring excites admiration. What a superb villain he is!
When the papers were finally brought ashore and served, not only did he refuse to deliver the gold, but Judge Noyes declined to take any action whatever in accordance with the directions of his upper court and, instead, called soldiers to guard the bullion in bank for fear the writs would be enforced by the plaintiffs. He directed them upon no condition to allow the Lane crowd to lay hands upon the treasure. Frost, the Government representative, also interposed. He instructed the United States marshal to swear in a posse comitatus and at all hazards prevent the execution of the writs.
Here was a knock-down for the defendants. Their experience during the past sixty days had prepared them for almost anything except the unparalleled action of a court employing the United States Army to prevent the enforcement of the commands of its superior. Truly the mask had fallen off, and the iron hand was closing steadily.
This completes the first stages of the affair. How easy it is to mark the superiority of trained political graft over the crudely obvious methods of those horny-handed men who first fought for possession of these virgin fields. The latter failed utterly, even during the days of chaos when conditions were favorable. The former succeeded swiftly, utterly, inexorably, when the country stood out under the calcium of publicity and after the victims had taken pains to intrench themselves behind the best legal talent.
Summing it up, we find that although Congress had refused to be hoodwinked at the start into turning over to them these riches by means of the Hansbrough Amendment, nevertheless, the conspirators ran directly counter to its dictates, contrary to the findings of the Supreme Court, and put into effect the laws they had failed to pass.
We see a judge seizing the property of private individuals in direct violation of statute, common law, and precedent; transferring it to the possession of an old friend who owns or represents the complainant’s title, When it is found that this friend cannot act as receiver with safety, a tool is appointed in his stead who turns over to his principal the proceeds of his infamy. We see a judge soliciting lawsuits for his private secretary to be tried before himself, his secretary being paid meanwhile as a public official from Government funds and receiving approval of his accounts at the hands of this judge. We see the progress of a great and growing country paralyzed under the poisoned touch of rogues so secure in their power as to brazenly defy the edicts of their superior courts, relying implicitly upon the ability of their politically titled backers to strangle the sounds of uproar.
So far all had worked with the regularity of clockwork, or politics of the fourth dimension. Now it is to be shown how these men, emboldened to recklessness, overreached; how they fought for their spoils, yet at last were brought up standing by something to them unheard of—an incorruptible court—a body of men who could not be contaminated by the slime of Washington politics.
After the writs of the Circuit Court of Appeals had proven unavailing, the defendants were forced to return again to San Francisco for relief, which meant another month’s delay. Their efforts had not been wholly wasted, however, for despite the conspirators’ show of confidence, they were worried. When Noyes was asked if he did not dread the results of his resistance, he replied:
“Don’t you think it. If worse comes to worst, the United States Supreme Court will knock out this matter when it gets up there.”
Nevertheless, he was frightened, and here developed the weak link in McKenzie’s chain. Had the judge been cut from stuff like his leader, the affair would have succeeded to the end, but he weakened and became difficult to handle.
“He’s getting like the Irishman’s flea,” complained McKenzie one day. “When you think you have him, he isn’t there.”
Had he been an able man or a good enough lawyer to cover up his tracks and lend an air of justice and regularity to his court proceedings, it would have been well-nigh impossible for the Circuit Court of Appeals to interfere, but he was not. He overplayed. He lacked ingenuity and the courage to go with it. He rendered no written opinions, while his tactics were such as to lay him open to attack. His own court records convicted him. A transcript of them, reënforced by affidavits, was sufficient to give the higher court a hold.
A strong man may gain virulent hatred, but he merits a certain respect. One who befouls himself with villainy, then squeals at the gaff, is worthy only of contempt. In the light of his actions, Noyes’s words to Senator Hansbrough are amusing. He wrote:
“The golden opinions of my fellow men are treasures far too rich to be swapped for gold dust,” then, after stating that his enemies had sought to buy him, he continued: “If not honest, I am at least high priced . . . nothing short of a Gatling gun or an order from the Government would take me off this bench. . . . If I am not pulled off by the Government or shot off the bench by these cowards, I am going to assist in establishing the fact that I am fairly strong and tolerably certain.”
Lovely words which look well in the Congressional Record, as quoted by his backer, almost as well as the Hon. Mr. Hansbrough’s earnest encomiums of him and McKenzie.
The above reference to attempts at buying alludes to the following: Senator Carter’s appointee, Vawter, proved sadly lacking in adaptability as marshal, getting his fingers caught in the machinery. In order to find the effect of his actions on the public mind, Judge Noyes frequently questioned him as to what the Nome people said regarding his policy of receiverships.
One day, in a jocular spirit, Vawter stated: “I was told to-day that it would be worth twenty thousand dollars to have McKenzie removed.” This Noyes repeated to his boss, and therein the quicker intellect saw a chance to get this marshal out of the way. Some days later, having secreted Joe Wood and C. A. S. Frost, the Government examiner, in a room, Noyes called in Vawter, then adroitly brought up the previous interview. Not considering it seriously, the marshal made allusion to his previous conversation, while Frost, where he was hidden, made stenographic report of it, sending a copy to the Department of Justice. An altogether foreign construction was put upon these remarks. Hearing it reported that he had tried to bribe the judge, Vawter wrote to Senator Carter, telling him his version of the story and inclosing his resignation, to be acted upon if the Senator did not believe him. For a long time it lay in abeyance, but was eventually accepted. Upon finding how he had been tricked, Vawter called for an investigation repeatedly, but it was never accorded.
After the unforeseen interference of the Circuit Court of Appeals, Noyes’s vacillation became more pronounced. Afraid to do as commanded, he was yet more fearful to disobey, so he compromised. The claims were reluctantly turned back to the owners, but the gold dust was left with McKenzie. The latter’s chagrin may be imagined, but he was not beaten by any means. Forthwith he had another injunction issued, restraining the owners from removing out of the district the gold they were mining, hoping thus to hold it available until he regained control. This injunction was granted without suggestion of bond, a proceeding typical of Noyes.
“Aren’t you afraid the ’Frisco courts will take some drastic action against you?” the boss was asked.
The idea caused McKenzie to laugh. “What can they do?”
“They might arrest you.”
“Arrest me? Bah! I can’t be arrested.”
He was wrong. On October 15th two deputies, sent by Judge Morrow, landed from a steamer with instructions to produce the body of this man on a charge of contempt. They were men the judge had tried before, and McKenzie went. Previous to yielding, however, he made a last fight for his gold, refusing to open the vaults. His attorneys hurried to the defendants.
“My God, you mustn’t try to take that money,” they said.
“Why not? It’s ours.”
“McKenzie will never give it up. If you try force you must take the consequences.”
“What are they?”
“A fight! Half a dozen men will be killed, and you among the first.”
“Very well,” said the lawyers. “We lay down once with a writ behind us, but we’ll never do so again. If McKenzie wants to fight, we’ll get ready.”
Even though this bluff was “called,” still he was not beaten. Seeing that intimidation was unavailing, the boss tried to force an agreement from the opposing faction to ship the treasure out to the States and hold it subject to the decisions of the Circuit Court with the understanding that it was to be delivered to him, if so ordered. Again failing, he refused to unlock the vaults. It was his last stand. He gave the keys to Joe Wood, the district attorney, and that one held them. He, too, was a man of courage. The deputy marshals had been sent to produce McKenzie—his remains, if necessary—and to turn over to the rightful owners the gold he was holding. Less determined men might have hesitated, might have temporized, might have returned to San Francisco with their duty half done. Not these. Judge Morrow had chosen for the duty men who were men. They secured sledges and broke down the vault doors, returning to the owners what gold they found. They sailed back to ’Frisco with their prisoner.
McKenzie was arrested while at breakfast. Although his office was situated beneath the chambers of Judge Noyes, and although these two men had been lifelong friends, and were banded together by a series of joint and unprecedented villainies, yet the judge refused his pal not only support but sympathy. He did not go near him even, but sent a formal letter downstairs, stating that he regretted the trouble that had arisen, but saw no way of rendering assistance.
McKenzie’s nerve was unshaken, however.
“They can’t do anything to me,” he bragged. “I won’t go to jail.”
Again he was wrong. On February 11, 1901, he was sentenced to a term of one year in prison, six months each in two cases. By the “wise ones” back East this trial of the Boss of the Northwest for a little grafting was considered something of a joke. As well try to salt the tail of a bald eagle as to jail Alec McKenzie. It was a political impossibility.
In sooth it was a joke, observed in its true light. Here was the head of a conscienceless conspiracy, a corrupter of men, as true a pirate as Morgan, LaFitte, or Kidd, brought to the bar at last, being tried, not for his real infamies, but on a pitiful charge of contempt of court.
Be it known, by the way, that he did not surrender all the gold as called for in the writs. Far from it. In one lot, which proved traceable, was some thirteen thousand dollars he shipped to Seattle and held with despairing grip even during his trial. Eventually he was forced to return this.
Of course his case was appealed to the Supreme Court and he was admitted to bail pending further proceedings. After hearing the evidence, the court denied his petition for a writ of certiorari and he was committed to the Alameda County Jail. When his actual plight became known, great indignation was roused in public circles. The mails became choked with letters, telegrams, and protests. The judges were beset with offers of a million dollars bail for this man. Such steps were taken to secure his pardon as to cause President McKinley to remark that he had never before seen as much influence brought to bear for an individual.
Investigation was made and Judge Morrow presented a résumé of the case to Attorney-General Knox, who had succeeded Griggs, in which he stated that in view of the evidence he could not recommend a pardon. Nevertheless, agitation increased until Mr. McKinley yielded. He was about to make a Western trip at this time, and it is reported upon credible authority that, before leaving, he instructed the Attorney-General to make out two pardons for McKenzie—one based on the ground of extenuating circumstances, the other alleging the prisoner’s health to be so shattered that to save his life clemency was necessary. Instructions were left for the first pardon to be sent upon receipt of a certain telegram, the second if the wire read differently.
Upon reaching San Francisco, Mr. McKinley spoke to one of the judges:
“I never had such pressure exerted on me before. Are there no extenuating circumstances—no reasons why a pardon should issue to my old friend McKenzie?”
“Mr. President,” replied the judge, “in going over the evidence, I find twenty reasons why his punishment should have been more severe, but not one why he should be freed.”
“But he is a very sick man,” Mr. McKinley urged.
“Of course he is. It makes anyone sick to be caught red-handed with the spoils.” Nevertheless, in the face of these judges, a few days later came a pardon issued on the ground of ill health.
Before leaving the Alameda County Jail, where he reposed some weeks, McKenzie reaped the fruits of that little forgotten New York swindle wherein was born the Golden Sands Mining Company, of which we spoke earlier. He was held to ransom by the men he had fooled, the manner of which is unique.
It will be recalled that he inveigled certain men into a fake enterprise to the extent of about sixty-five thousand dollars. Great was their indignation upon finding how they had been buncoed, and greater yet was their interest in following the trial of the man they blamed for their loss. Hearing that he would be pardoned on some ground or other, they rose up and said, one to another:
“Either that scoundrel must serve his time or make us whole.”
One of them hastened forthwith to Canton, Ohio, and laid the matter before his friend Mark Hanna, who was also a friend of the prisoner.
“If McKenzie leaves the Alameda prison without paying that money back, we will arrest him at the door and send him over the road for swindling. You can’t work enough pull to save him, either.”
They meant business and were able to make good their threat—so the wires began to glow. Messages smoked westward adding troubles to the worried boss. If he could be jailed once, why not again? For the first time in his career he had found that law existed—that it was concrete. This time the results might be far more serious because his new enemies were not miners, so distant as to be nebulous, but big men, close to headquarters, aflame with vengeance.
Realizing that the cards were “put up” on him, like a good gambler he laid down his hand and pushed his chair back. He wired the New Yorkers that his representative would start East at once to make settlement. On the day of his release, to make doubly sure of eluding their agents, those people state that he dressed up a dummy to represent himself and sent him out of the prison gates to fall into the hands of their detectives, if such were watching. He himself sneaked out later and remained in hiding.
This pardon is as remarkable from its unusual pathological effect as from its phenomenal cause, for although released because he lay at death’s door, so wonderful was its medicinal stimulus that he was seen sprinting for the first train out of Oakland a few hours later.
Meanwhile his agent reached New York, and when the men of the Golden Sands found he had but eighteen thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars, they made him disgorge that much, feeling that half a ransom was better than no gold. Ever since then they have kicked themselves for compromising on anything short of the full sum.
At these negotiations Senator Hansbrough was present.
In this way was the master rogue punished for his thievery, to wit: by a brief imprisonment and the restoration of a slender part of the money he had taken. His reputation was not damaged, however. While in jail he was, as he is to-day, a member of the Republican National Committee—that body which shapes our political destinies. He has been one of the Republican National Advisory Committee as well as one of the Republican Executive Committee, and is politically more powerful now than ever! His is a familiar figure in Republican politics, State and National, from Bismarck to Washington, and he is reputed to be operating heavily in Wall Street by means of his senatorial backing.
This disposed of one of the gang. The rest were still in power. Winter had come, cutting off communication between Nome and the outside world as cleanly as though a cord were clipped, Their power was absolute now and subject to no review. There was no human means of checking them. The complaints of their victims would not carry across the countless leagues of desolation. They were lost in the great white silence of the Arctics.
IN the foregoing chapters I have recounted a story of official intrigue so unique in its daring, so complete in its debauchery, that the reader may question its correctness. He may say: These things cannot occur in this day.
In this article I shall quote at some length from the Congressional Record and from the decisions of the United States Court which reviewed the affair. The opinions are based upon sworn testimony, thousands of pages of it. After following them, let the reader judge whether I have rendered injustice to any man.
One would expect affairs in Alaska to have improved after the salutary example afforded by McKenzie’s punishment. But far from it. With the head and directing genius gone, a weathercock judge on the bench, veering at every breath of a corrupt environment, matters grew hopeless. Instead of working along a clearly defined policy of graft, everyone turned out for himself now, and it became a question of who could whisper sweetest into the judicial ear. Injunctions continued, mines were tied up, progress stopped, while Corruption perched upon the house tops. Noyes followed no fixed course, but became more drunken, more hopelessly vacillating each day. He rendered no written opinions, took many cases under advisement for weeks together, thus blocking the course of justice, and doing the country irreparable harm, even when the matters involved were of no interest to his accomplices. In one case he reversed himself three times within an hour. The long arctic winter came and went, and there was no help.
For a whole year the Nomites stood for this, stubborn in their belief that if the true story were told to the Department of Justice they would gain relief. It was presented and nothing done. It was presented again and nothing done. Action was withheld at headquarters and complaints smothered. Then one day the judge announced that he would not obey an order which had come from the Circuit Court of Appeals citing him to appear at San Francisco in answer to a charge of contempt, but would hold his place all winter. Cold weather was coming on again. The second winter was near when, for eight months, navigation would be closed and succor impossible. If the community was not to fatten these vultures for another season, it must act, and act quickly.
Vigilantes were formed and preparations made to hang the judge, Joe Wood, and all the rest who needed it. This organization consisted not of the spawn of the slums, as Noyes and his exalted friends claimed later, but of business and professional men, many without mining interests of any kind, public-spirited men who were building a State for our Union. This assertion may be doubted, yet a man who loves the law may still have red blood in his veins. He may be a good citizen and yet retain sufficient self-respect to revolt at a reign of reprobates.
Just as the plans for violence were completed, Noyes characteristically changed his mind and decided to answer the accusations against him. Before going aboard ship, he did a remarkable thing. He issued an order turning over to the rightful owners a claim on Glacier Creek which his friends had been working. This act would be worthy of lasting enshrinement were it not for the fact that the jumpers followed him out to the steamer, got him drunk, and, as the anchor was weighed, induced him to sign other orders, revoking his previous ones, and putting them back in possession. These they served, ejected the owners, hired a crew of desperadoes and prize fighters, fortified the mine, and resumed operations.
It was time to act.
Sixty-three armed vigilantes left the city one rainy night, held up a railroad train, and forced the engineer to haul them to the end of the line. They surrounded the disputed mine and, at a signal, closed in. The night was so black that the guards were late in giving the alarm, and, with a rush, the garrison was overwhelmed, disarmed, and lined up in the rain. Shots were fired during the encounter, and one man wounded. Tents were torn down, outfits destroyed, and the jumpers sent out into the night barefooted and shirtless, under the threat of death if they returned.
Judge Noyes had left his office in terrible shape, winter was near, the country tied up under a mass of injunctions with no apparent hope of action for eight months, when the Department of Justice, hitherto so sluggish, notified Judge James Wickersham, who was within reach, to assume the vacant place. This he did, straightway dissolving injunctions right and left, and starting the rusty wheels of justice. In his wholesale cleaning up, action was taken against the vigilantes, and certain men suspected of the Glacier Creek episode were indicted for riot To further private ends, some of his court officials told him that efforts were on foot to pack the jury for acquittal. Meanwhile they themselves proceeded to pack it for conviction.
Becoming alarmed, Judge Wickersham selected a man he had known elsewhere, in whose honesty he trusted, as jury commissioner. This party walked down the main street of the city, selecting his panel from the business signs on both sides. To bear out the statement that these rioters were not hoodlums, three of the vigilantes were so impaneled and found themselves on the jury which tried their fellows. There was no conviction.
Judge Noyes appeared before the San Francisco courts and, after an interminable hearing, was adjudged guilty of contempt, but, owing to his office, was fined one thousand dollars in lieu of imprisonment.
Wood, the district attorney, was likewise convicted and received four months. Frost, his assistant, the ex-Govemment examiner, was imprisoned for twelve months. One Thomas J. Geary, who had acted as legal adviser to Noyes, McKenzie, el al., was discharged as there was not sufficient proof to convict him in the contempt proceedings, but Judge Dudley DuBose, acting in a similar capacity, served a brief sentence.
In his opinion of these cases, Judge Ross said:
“I am of the opinion that the records and evidence in the cases show beyond any reasonable doubt that the circumstances under which and the purposes for which each of these persons committed the contempt alleged and so found, were far graver than is indicated in the opinion of the court, and that the punishment awarded by the court is wholly inadequate to the gravity of the offenses.
“I think the records and evidence show very clearly that the contempts of Judge Noyes and Frost were committed in pursuance of a corrupt conspiracy with Alexander McKenzie and with others not before the court, and therefore not necessary to be named, by which the properties involved in the suits mentioned in the opinion were to be wrongfully taken, under the forms of law, from the possession of those engaged in mining them, and the proceeds thereof appropriated by the conspirators. For those shocking offenses, it is apparent that no punishment that can be lawfully imposed in a contempt proceeding is adequate.”
Judge Morrow likewise remarked:
“In my judgment the evidence establishes the fact that there was a conspiracy between the respondent, Noyes, McKenzie, and others to secure possession of certain valuable mining claims at Nome, Alaska, under proceedings involving the appointment of a receiver, for the purpose of working the properties and obtaining the gold deposited in the claims. To carry these proceedings to a supposed successful conclusion, Noyes, McKenzie, and others found it a necessary part of their scheme to resist the process of this court. In pursuance of this conspiracy, the contempt charge against Noyes was committed; but I agree with Judge Gilbert that this conspiracy is outside the charge of contempt, and in view of the fact that the respondent, Noyes, holds a judicial position, I concur in his judgment that the respondent be required to pay a fine of one thousand dollars.”
It is well to note both allusions to a conspiracy “with others not before the court, and therefore not necessary to be named.” We wonder who they were and if this reads interestingly to Senators H. C. Hansbrough, Porter J. McCumber, Thomas H. Carter, and others.
The conviction and sentence of these men, though pitifully insufficient to punish them for what they had done, established thoroughly that they were guilty of official malfeasance and should be stricken from the list of Government employees—yet what was done? Nothing! What action was taken at Washington? None! They remained on the pay rolls and continued to draw their salaries, though the vouchers were handed through their jail bars. The salary of Noyes, still Judge Noyes, during the time he sought delay from the execution of his sentence was nearly enough to cover his fine. He was the judge; Joe Wood was still the district attorney, and Frost was yet the assistant district attorney for the Second Judicial District of Alaska. Who was behind them? Did they, together with Alexander McKenzie, venture to rob Alaska alone and unsupported, or does the finger still point to Washington City?
After Senator Carter had received the resignation of Vawter, the United States marshal who proved unruly, a more plastic tool was selected in the person of Frank H. Richards, of Washington State. This man took up the duties of Mr. Vawter and, after a series of manipulations quite unheard of, was convicted in his own court of jury packing. His methods, though time worn and honored, were efficient and consisted of filling the court room with “available men,” who were called upon after the venire had been exhausted. On one occasion it was so generally known what he was up to, that the United States attorney asked Judge Wickersham to issue an order directing the marshal to draw a jury from the body of the district and not from the court room. This made it necessary for Richards to rush the proposed jurors out of the building and into a near-by saloon where they could be served. The judge’s surprise may be imagined when he saw upon the jury list the names of the very men he had sought to avoid. A defaulting postmaster was being tried, and after his acquittal the case was investigated and Richards cited. He confessed and was convicted.
A certified copy of the record was sent to the Department of Justice without criticism, but, as usual, nothing was done. No one was more astonished than the marshal himself when he did not receive his dismissal by return mail. The matter was later investigated by Assistant Attorney-General Russell, who reported to his superior that the evidence did not warrant conviction—this in view of Richards’s confession of the crime. So that man continued in office more than a year longer, the while he stood convicted on the record of his own court of about the worst deed that can be laid to a marshal’s door.
Representation was made to the powers in Washington, but no action resulted, and the people of Nome had to submit to this, as they had submitted to worse things.
After Wood’s removal, Colonel Melvin Griggsby was appointed United States District Attorney. Colonel Griggsby was a pioneer of the Dakotas like McKenzie and Noyes, had been Attorney-General of his Territory, was an ex-member of the Legislature, and the originator of the Rough Rider idea, serving in command of a regiment named for him during the Spanish War. It was meet that he be rewarded.
Sizing up the Nome situation, he observed the wonderful opportunities for an ambitious man provided such a one was careful. In addition to his official and salaried duties, he assumed the independent practice of law. He appeared before the court in behalf of a jumper seeking an injunction, and intimated to the Swedes who comprised the Pioneer Mining Company that he intended beginning their immediate prosecution on certain old indictments which had held over.
Manifestly, here was another kink which had to be unraveled quickly by the mine owners. They had been taught a lesson under the Noyes-McKenzie régime, so Jafet Linderberg called upon the colonel to fix up the matter. Now, with the advent of his wealth, there had come to the ex-reindeer herder much of the guile of his adopted country. Although the Pioneer Mining Company employed a competent and extravagantly high-priced force of attorneys, Colonel Griggsby was added to the number as counsel, being paid a retainer of ten thousand dollars. The next day their new lawyer came into court for them, thus appearing on both sides of the case in two days.
Linderberg recounted to his companions this shrewd stroke of business in estopping the United States District Attorney from prosecuting them, for of course he would not proceed against his own clients, and, albeit the retainer was considered a hold-up, he expressed great glee at his Machiavelianism.
“Say, Lindy,” one of them remarked, “weren’t you indicted for riot last fall in that Glacier Creek episode?”
“Well, you’ve hired Griggsby for the company, of course, but there’s nothing to keep him from getting after you personally.”
“Gee! I never thought of that.” Whereupon he hurried back and hired the Rough Rider as his own attorney, paying him a further retainer.
The dealings of this gallant soldier partook of his personal bluffness. He secured bonds for his clients by going to the saloon keepers and threatening to close up their joints unless they furnished the desired security. Finally he went out to San Francisco, appearing before the Circuit Court of Appeals as counsel for Frank Richards, the jury-bribing marshal, and under the effect of his endeavors that case was reversed. While there, however, he was brought face to face with charges of accepting bribes himself and of being absent from his post without leave.
Things Alaskan had by now assumed such a disreputable phase that the stench reached to Washington. This, coupled with frantic appeals for action, influenced President Roosevelt to direct a thorough investigation of that country’s affairs. Assistant Attorney-General Day went north, and his report proved that they were worse than they had ever been painted. He sustained the charges against Richards and Griggsby, resulting in their summary removal, the former for an offense committed two years before.
Reverting to the efforts at protection launched by the conspirators’ friends at home, and showing what is possible in the face of a victim’s desperation, the first charges preferred against Noyes were made soon after his earliest judicial outrage and about the time when, according to his boast, Attomey-General Griggs wrote him, commending his action. The accusations were referred to a clerk in the department who, after a delay of many months, reported that there was nothing in them to warrant an investigation. Subsequent to the resignation of Griggs and the appointment of General Knox to succeed him, pressure was again brought to bear and a second synopsis of the evidence prepared by order of the new Attorney-General. Whatever was the mysterious influence, it sufficed to produce a report that the evidence was a mass of generalities, not only indefinite, but quite lacking in seriousness. This, remember, after the reign of terror had lasted two years, after it had scandalized the public press, after McKenzie had been bitterly scored by the San Francisco courts, after Alaska had exhausted every effort to make known her distress.
Failing all else against this pull at headquarters, on February 3,1902, the Washington Post printed the shameful story in its entirety, calling attention to the most unique condition ever found in the records of the American judiciary, characterizing it as the most disgraceful affair that had darkened the history of the Federal courts. It showed how these men had betrayed their trusts, how they had been fined and sentenced to jail, but were still drawing their salaries, and how political influence at Washington was more potent than the rulings of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco. It is said that Judge Noyes, who had been fined one thousand dollars for participation in the conspiracy, was reputed to be on his deathbed at a San Francisco hospital, albeit those who knew denied his illness, calling attention to McKenzie’s reputed sick spell when sentenced similarly, and his immediate recovery upon pardon.
The paper further stated that, instead of being cut off from governmental support after the scathing censure of the courts, this judge was still drawing five thousand dollars a year and an additional daily sum during his absence from Nome. While seeking delay from a sentence considered woefully inadequate by the judges, his salary had nearly equaled his fine.
The Post pointed out that United States District Attorney Wood, who was serving a sentence made light purposely because of his turning State’s evidence, was on the pay roll at the rate of five thousand dollars a year; and that C. A. S. Frost, who had gone forth as special agent to ferret out the Nome situation and had joined forces with the gang, was at liberty in that city drawing a salary of twenty-five hundred a year, although under sentence of one year in jail.
While these moneys were being paid, the business interests of Nome, amounting to millions, were clamoring for an honest judge before whom litigation could be taken with confidence.
The newspaper openly alleged that an influential coterie of quiet-working, Western politicians were wielding such power as to block progress at every turn and that each contemplated move of the Government had been delayed by the interposition of these men. It was cited how the San Francisco judges were amazed that this notorious case should be treated with such leniency.
This article had its effect. Senator Tillman, of South Carolina, rose before the Senate that morning, calling for an investigation. He asked why the President had not removed this judge.
Senator Teller, of Colorado, also said of Noyes: “I wish to state that more than a year ago the Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit administered to this man a rebuke that was unequaled in the history of judges of courts of the United States, and did it unanimously. The tool of this judge, into whose hands he had put all the property practically in the vicinity of Nome, without bond in many cases, taking property from the owners that was not described or named in the bills, they put in jail for a failure to comply with the mandates of that court. That was as well known to the Senate then as it is now, and there never has been and could not be any question of the power of the Executive to remove him at any time.
“I know at least one senator, and more, too, for that matter, who repeatedly urged on the then, not the present, Attorney-General [meaning Griggs] to remove this man. I know that the governor urged his removal and said: ‘If you cannot remove him, for Heaven’s sake send him to some other district.’ Men have told me of the outrages of this judge and have said to me in the most positive terms that if it had not been for the United States army there they would have hung him to one of the trees of that district.
“Now, this has been a crying shame. The people of that country have been without judicial law for more than fifteen months, and the recital of the outrages that that man has committed under the power conferred upon him would startle the American people, for I declare there has been no instance like it in the history of American jurisprudence from the very earliest settlement of the country to the present time.”
Of course Mr. Hansbrough spoke in defense. The next day he denominated the Hon. Alexander McKenzie as “a reputable man, an honest man, a man who in point of integrity is the peer of any man in this body.” He upheld the acts committed in Alaska, championed Judge Noyes as a long-suffering, much-maligned victim of a conspiracy, and arraigned the three Circuit Court judges at San Francisco, attacking their record as a travesty on justice, and indefensible from any standpoint. He attempted to besmirch the ermine of these men, whose reputations are second to no judges on the United States bench, and implied that they had been corrupted and had endeavored to incite public passion against the honest, earnest, Christian gentlemen who had gone to Nome.
Mr. McCumber, his junior colleague, also objected strenuously, particularly to Senator Tillman’s request that the opinions of the court be embodied in the Congressional Record, so that members might read a synopsis of the events which had influenced the decision. On the 5th of February he made the most elaborate defense of the conspirators which had been attempted, some extracts of which have been given in a preceding article. His defense eulogized the much-traduced McKenzie and the unfortunate Noyes, and was replete with false statements.
The only effect of both his and Hansbrough’s arguments was to bring to issue the honesty of three United States judges of unsullied reputation. Either McKenzie, Noyes, and the rest were guilty and merited punishment, or these Western court officials were utterly corrupt, and deserving of impeachment.
Again did Senator Tillman attack the Department of Justice and President Roosevelt as neglectful of their duty, and again was an effort made to smother the affair and prevent the incorporation of the judge’s opinions into the Congressional Record.
At last Senator Stewart, the old man whose efforts two years before had defeated the Hansbrough amendment, arose. So clear, complete, and masterful was his exposure of the whole amazing affair that no intelligent man could have had the audacity to raise a dissenting voice.
This speech and the evidence introduced therein showed up the transaction in such a merciless light that, upon request, a large part of it was expunged from the Congressional Record. It was not good politics to circulate literature of this character through the home districts of the men behind the plot. It would not be proper reading for the Republican voters of North Dakota, and in Montana it was likewise of no benefit to Senator Carter. Through courtesy it was stricken out
After General Knox had made his report to the attorneys attacking Judge Noyes, he was plainly told that the evidence was there, but that his assistants did not want to find it. Upon this he looked into the affair himself, and two days later notified Noyes’s attorney to appear at the Department of Justice to defend his client from the charges preferred against him. Thus, eighteen months after they were filed, the charges came to a hearing. The judge was dismissed, the sole evidence against him being the record of his own court, which had lain in the Department of Justice for a year and a half.
Some one has said, “Conspiracy among the clerks”! Department clerks do not conspire to save the heads of strangers. Incompetency then! Perhaps, but why were no clerks removed? Not only was criticism withheld from the men who handled this case, but one of them has been promoted.
This does not mark the end of Alaskan corruption—that has continued and will continue as long as men are appointed to office because of favor rather than fitness; but it marked the death of the Alaskan Gold Mining Company, the most brazen, high-born, daring political robbery that has come to light in years. As final and conclusive evidence that the whole wretched plot from the Hansbrough amendment to the dismissal of Noyes had but the one motive in view, viz., to gain control of the rich mines by hook or crook, is the fact that not one of the cases wherein this company alleged title ever came to final hearing. They were appealed with great ostentation but never tried. It would be interesting to scan the stock subscription lists of this fifteen-million-dollar dummy had they not been so carefully destroyed. No doubt there were other names thereon as prominent as those of the men who defended it so persistently.
In looking back it is alarming to think how narrowly they missed complete success. Had Noyes been another McKenzie with the strength and resource of that one, had he possessed the ability to disguise his rulings with the semblance of law or technicality, they would have realized, despite the efforts of an honest superior court. Had those three ’Frisco judges partaken ever so slightly of the dilatory Washington spirit, where would it have ended? Perhaps, on appeal to the United States Supreme Court, justice would have been rendered, but the owners would have found their mines exhausted, the money gone, and some of us would own stock in a bankrupt mining company for which we had paid par.
The policy regarding Alaskan appointments is wrong. Following Noyes, an obscure Pennsylvania lawyer by the name of Alfred S. Moore was appointed at the behest of Matt Quay. The man was not fitted for the position in any way. A weak or inexperienced judge has it in his power to stunt the growth and development of a new country as effectively as one who is corrupt.
In another district a judge has been appointed from Binghamton, N. Y., at the instance of the chairman of the New York Republican State Committee, so it is said. The appointee was but thirty years old and, in addition to lacking judicial experience, he was possessed of absolutely no practical knowledge of mining litigation. He is reputed to be a good man, but why should Alaska be forced to educate judges in mining law at the cost of her own resources?
An Eastern man is unfitted for the Alaskan bench by geographical reasons. Lawyers who know the West, who have lived among mines and are familiar with the intricacies of the laws and decisions governing them, should be sent there. It is a great country and men of ripe experience are required to meet its manifold and unusual conditions, physical, financial, and political.
Men are building cities around its borders, are laboring fretfully up its waterways, and, at the cost of strife and struggle, are uncovering wealth to startle the world—but still the country is unknown. Alaska sits alone—silent, waiting, stupendous, alluring—and stronger men are needed to govern her than those who assist in her conquest.
What worked once will work again. As Senator Tillman said, “If this great American Government, with its machinery, cannot provide honest judges and honest district attorneys and other officers in Alaska, where our language is spoken, and you are entering upon a programme which involves sending to the Pacific judges who have full sway to tyrannize over and rob and oppress people who do not speak our language, is it not a commentary on the situation which should give you gentlemen who are hell bent on your programme a little pause?
“If we cannot protect American miners; if we cannot get honest judges in Alaska; if we cannot send, even from the Department of Justice, a trusted agent, but what as soon as he gets in that atmosphere he becomes debauched and is bribed and bought to lend himself to schemes of this so-called syndicate—what will we do when syndicate after syndicate has been turned loose, as you propose to do in the Philippines?”
Are such conditions as we have recounted made possible by our territorial policy, by our system of official appointments, by the moral degradation of our professional politicians, or by an indifferent, calloused public sentiment? We don’t know. We do know, however, that away out yonder, “where northern lights come down o’ nights to dance with the houseless snow,” brave and hardy men are building out of Seward’s Folly a great country. They are strong men who have given over comfort and love and home to blaze a trail in the land where hardship is a heritage. They are poor men, else they would not be there. They work unstintingly at a thankless task—failing, failing, failing, yet fighting on. They pay ungrudgingly their tribute to a Government in which they have no say; and although Nature has guarded her secrets well and lays a heavy hand upon the seekers, yet it is not so heavy as the hand of the politician.
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