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needed in my stock-market operations the money which this new bond issue was raising. And inasmuch as I had put in a good deal of valuable time as treasurer of the Erie Railroad, I felt I had a right now to sluice off some of her revenues into my own pocket. When you own a cow, you own her milk also. As to legal objections, by getting one of the judges on my side as will be seen later got
the law courts so jummixed up that they didn't know where they stood; and so the law couldn't touch me.
Whilst in the midst of these busy preparations, I had to cease operations for a couple of days and go out to the formal opening of my theological seminary at Madison, N. J. It was an occasion of
great spiritual refreshment, and I'll write about it later. Just now I must finish telling about this Erie Railroad affair.
Supplied with ammunition in the shape of this fine, big issue of stock, I was now prepared for war. And I wasn't a moment too soon, either. Vanderbilt was already at work. He was out in the open market buying Erie with the boldness of a lion. I
guess he was figuring that I was on his side, or he might never have been so bold and confident. Anyhow, he was going ahead as though there was nothing now that could
him. I didn't say anything. I thought I'd let him go ahead, and sort of take him by surprise when the time came.
Vanderbilt wanted to buy Erie shares. All right. I was willing he should buy all he wanted. In fact, I thought I would help him in the matter. So I went onto the market, and sold Erie short in enormous quantities. My friends thought I was going it wild.
“What in the world, Uncle, are you up to?” they said to me. “Don't you remember those luckless Bears that went short of Harlem and got their feet caught in the trap? That's just what you're doing now.
The Commodore is going to corner you tight as a fly in a tar-barrel.” But I only smiled.
The Commodore now learned that I was against him, and got very much het up. His crowd taunted me.
"You're already beginning to count your profits?” said I to them. “Don't boil the pap till the child is born, that's all.” And I went on selling the stock short.
Vanderbilt now made a move which he hadn't tried before. He went to the law courts and got out an injunction forbidding me and my crowd to issue any more shares of Erie stock. This last was a proceeding I was not willing to stand for. As chief director of Erie, I had a right to operate her as I saw fit. But here was Vanderbilt going to the law courts and putting a higher power over Erie's affairs than I was.
He was tying my hands. So I went into the law-court business, too. I called a council
of Gould and Fisk. We decided, since Vanderbilt had got a judge of the Supreme Court on his side to issue injunctions for him, that we'd get a judge
So we went out to Binghamton, and got a judge there. Vanderbilt's judge had enjoined us from issuing any more Erie stock. This new judge of ours now got out an injunction commanding us to issue" more stock. He wasn't a New York City judge. But he had as much power, so far as his legal standing was concerned. Because these Circuit Court judges work side by side. Any one judge has power extending over the entire state. Ordinarily they are supposed to stand by each other; but this was just after the Civil War, when things were topsy-turvy. Johnson was being impeached. The legal machinery of the country was that unsettled, we could do with it 'most anything we wanted.
When Vanderbilt had got out his injunction, restraining us from manufacturing any new certificates of Erie stock, he thought that he had all the leaks corked up at last good and tight. He supposed, therefore, that in issuing orders to his brokers to take all the Erie that was offered, he wasn't in any possible danger. I went onto the Exchange as though nothing had happened, and proceeded to sell more Erie. I sold all that I could didn't set any limits agreed to deliver all the stock I could find buyers for. Of course, in the Commodore I found a ready buyer.
People now thought me plumb crazy. “Uncle Daniel has gone clean off his head,” said they. “It's got to be second nature with him to sell stock short. He goes onto the Bear side by force of habit. In this deal he hasn't any more chance than a grasshopper in January. The Commodore has got him this time. He's fixed it so that Drew and his crowd can't manufacture any new stock, and he has roped in all the floating supply that is still on the market. And yet here is Uncle Daniel still offering to deliver the stock in unlimited amounts. Where's he going to get it when these contracts mature ? Drew is daft. He's going it blind, and will run his head against a post.” Thus they talked. I let them. I was still able to find my way around in a Wall Street transaction — as they soon found out.
By and by the time drew near when these short contracts of mine would mature.
“mine." Of course, Fisk and Gould were with me. But I was the leader of the party, so I speak of it in my own name.) Jimmy came to me and said: “Guess it's about time to play our ace of trumps, don't you think so? We'll make Rome howl.” I said I guessed he was right. So we called in Jay. We held a council of war. We decided that the time had come to set off the gunpowder.
. Accordingly, we went to a printing-house and got them to print a hundred thousand shares of Erie. (It was those convertible bonds now being turned
into stock.) Of course, the printer could turn out only the blank forms; but since we were the officers of the road, or controlled the officers, such as the Secretary and such-like, 'we could get any amount of printed blanks signed in legal manner and made thus into good financial paper.
helpful sight to see that printing press work so smooth and fast. For we had only a few days more in which to make our deliveries. All the Street thought we were cornered. In fact, , Vanderbilt himself was beginning to tell around that he was going now to clean up the Erie stable inside and out — wasn't going to leave so much as a grease spot of us behind. It was an exciting time. The Street knew that big things were about to happen. For this was a battle of the giants. Vanderbilt and I were the two biggest men in Wall Street. When the two big roosters on the dung-pile cross spurs, there's going to be some feathers Aying.
, Gould and Fisk stood with me watching the printing press as she turned out for us the bright, new stock certificates. Each one of those sheets of paper was of enormous value to us. Not just because of the amount of money it would bring in dollars. But this was a war, and each of these crisp certificates was a cannon ball, so to speak. If we could pound the Commodore hard enough that he wouldn't have time to recover between the blows but would be forced to knuckle under, then we'd have him at our