小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 英文短篇小说 » The Abounding American » CHAPTER II Millionaires
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
CHAPTER II Millionaires
The population of the United States, according to the last census returns, is about a hundred millions. Names in American directories invariably begin with Aarons and end with Zaccharia, and millionaires are marked with a star—thus *. In a town, or—as the puffed up merchant in stars and stripes would call it a city—of fifty thousand inhabitants you will find that the local directory stars quite twenty-five thousand as millionaires.

It is pretty certain that fully ninety-nine per cent. of these bloated plutocrats do not know where the next dollar is coming from. I have it on the authority of an American that “in introducing a man in high American society the introducer thinks it proper to say, ‘This is Obadiah S. Bluggs of Squedunk, Wis.—one of the richest men in the city. He’s worth his million dollars—ain’t you, Obadiah? And he’s president of a National Bank and owns a block of buildings on the main street. His wife has the largest diamonds in the northern part of the State, and his daughter, Miss Mamie Bluggs, gets her[20] gowns in Paris, and uses lorgnettes.’ Such words of recommendation, I am told, move Mr. Bluggs to a profound delight. Within five minutes half the men present—this is true even of the most exclusive circles—will cluster around Mr. Bluggs to sell things to him; champagne, a horse, shares in a bogus mining company, or to ask him if Miss Bluggs is engaged, whether she is a blonde or a brunette, and whether he, Bluggs, thinks it is worth the questioner’s while to run up to Squedunk, Wis., take Miss Bluggs out buggy riding and size her up one afternoon.”

It is highly probable that Mr. Millionaire Bluggs possesses no ready cash whatever, though he is prepared to discuss five-million dollar propositions in the loudest tones and in any quantity, and it is probable, too, that Miss Bluggs is neither a blonde nor a brunette that matters, but an ordinary good strong country girl whose principal diet is pumpkin pie and chewing gum, and whose single go-to-party gown was bought in Paris truly but fell to the lot of Miss Mamie Bluggs at third hand and at bed-rock bargain-day price, at the corner store in Squedunk, Wis.

I have no desire to suggest that the millionaires of America as a body are in straitened or difficult circumstances,[21] or that an American here and there has not succeeded in amassing vast sums of money. But I assert flatly that the great majority of them are not within a mile of being anything like so rich as they pretend to be, and that, taking millionaire for millionaire, they are an entirely Brummagem and specious company. They maintain all the appearances of riches, not on solid bullion or property, but on a little paper. They come like water and like wind they go. Since millionairedom became fashionable, New York State alone must have produced, literally, thousands of them.

Of the real authentic untraversable American millionaire, one is inclined to speak with bated breath and whispered humbleness. There are three men of means in America at the time of writing who will probably be remembered for the wealth they possess as long as this weary world holds together. The virginal chaste names of them, need one say, are John D. Rockefeller, J. Pierpont Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie. No doubt there are others, such as the Vanderbilts and the Goulds, and Mr. Astor and Mr. Harriman, and that great patron of the drama, Mr. John Cory, whose wealth transcends the wealth of Ormuz and of Ind coming in together.[22] But it is on Messrs. Rockefeller, Morgan and Carnegie that the brunt and burden and glitter and glory of real unlimited and omnipotent millionairedom has fallen. Mr. Rockefeller, indeed, is commonly credited with being the richest and most powerful capitalist in the world. So rich is he, and so enormous are his accumulations of earned and unearned increment, that he is rapidly becoming the overlord of all the other millionaires, who even now are, to a great extent, playing with his money and must, to a corresponding extent, do his bidding.

Of Mr. Rockefeller the world knows next to nothing, excepting that he is fabulously and pitifully rich, that he has absolutely no hirsute covering for his stupendous brains, that he suffers from indigestion, and that he plays golf and teaches a Sunday school in a Nonconformist place of worship. Every other morning he appears to present to this or that American city a few odd millions “for educational purposes,” the which millions are promptly spurned by the local authority as “tainted money,” but ultimately accepted “in the interests of the industrial class.”

Probably Mr. Rockefeller is the best abused man on this footstool. He has been variously described as a thief,[23] a ghoul, a bloodsucker, a murderer, a miser, a cannibal, a wrecker, a tiger, a devastator, a jackal, and a wolf. All the notice he takes is blandly to play golf and unobtrusively to dodge the lawyers and officers of the law who desire to bring him to book for the alleged malpractices of the Standard Oil Trust. Yet you have to remember that this placid, smiling, hairless old gentleman of sixty-five, “with a glad hand for everyone,” takes out of the United States an income greater than the incomes of all the Royal Families of all Europe, and that, in addition to his controlling interest in the Standard Oil Trust, which last year paid dividends to the tune of fifty million dollars, he owns the entire Electric Light and Gas Plants of New York City, controls the American iron industry, has almost complete control of the railways and copper mines, and of the largest banks in New York and throughout the country. The which sad data go to show that he is at once a wicked man and a foolish, and that the American people are even wickeder and more foolish. You can never bring an American to see that there is no conceivable advantage in possessing too much money; and in spite of his “shattered nerves,” “enfeebled mind,” and “unenviable reputation,”[24] there is not a man in America who would not jump at the chance of standing in the shoes of Jawn D.

As for Mr. Pierpont Morgan, he is chiefly noted as the head and front of a Steel Trust that is making money at the rate of one hundred and forty million dollars per year, and as a gentleman who has a pretty taste in pictures and objects of art. Mr. Morgan is a man with a large and poetic imagination. It was he who conceived the noble idea of Americanising the British Transatlantic carrying trade by buying up the principal fleets engaged in it. In this deal, as in most other American-English deals, the American came forth to shear and got shorn. The woolly, bleating, unsuspicious Britisher sold his vessels at inflated figures, snickered in his sleeve, and built new ones with some of the money. Mr. Morgan is a frequent and welcome visitor to these shores, and the London picture dealers and their touts no doubt do very well out of him. But if you say “Liverpool” to him he goes hot all over.

For a bonne-bouche I have kept Mr. Andrew Carnegie, of Skibo Castle and sundry other addresses. Mr. Carnegie has the misfortune to be a Scotch American—surely the least admirable of the less admirable types of humanity. He[25] will live in men’s memories as the sturdy, forthright Scot who managed one of the most desperate strikes that ever took place in America from the safe vantage ground of his native heath. It must be remembered that in spite of his ridiculous possessions Mr. Carnegie is an avowed democrat, and the author of a book that makes him out to be quite a benevolently minded philosopher. But during all the terrors of the Homestead lock-out, he lay snug at his shooting box of Rannoch, N.B., and refused to say a word that would tend to still the storm, although he knew that blood was being shed at Homestead, and that his own partner, Mr. Frick, had been seriously wounded.

Being a Scotchman it is impossible that Mr. Carnegie should have been a coward. Let me say rather that he was cautious and canny, and indisposed to take unnecessary risks. When the row was more or less over he told a representative of the Associated Press that “the deplorable events at Homestead had burst upon him like a thunderbolt from a clear sky. They had such a depressing effect upon him that he had to lay his book aside and resort to the lochs and moors, fishing from morning to night.” Which, on the face of it, is pawky Scots, and as who should[26] say “the deplorable news of the death of my wife had such a depressing effect upon me that I had to go to a fancy dress ball and dance and dance till cock-crow.”

It will be seen, therefore, that in the main the American millionaires do not shine with any startling or blinding effulgence. With here and there an exception, they are common, vulgar, snobbish, undistinguished men who happen to have come out top-dog in a series of financial bruising matches in which few persons above the quality of a savage would have cared to engage. For the possession and administration of even reasonable wealth their qualification would seem to be of the meagrest. Outside the dull mechanical reduplication of their mammoth fortunes, their stunted intellects permit them only two very doubtful joys, namely, sensational house building and sensational charity. Mr. Morgan may be taken as the type of the house-proud money-snatcher. Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Carnegie are the charity-proud; and they have reaped the reward of the charity-proud—the colleges of the one being a by-word and a mockery in America, just as the “Free Libraries” of the other are a by-word and a nuisance in England.

I do not believe that in their heart of hearts the Americans themselves—that[27] is, the great mass of the people—have any feeling of admiration for the gigantic money-grabbers who rule them. The American has just perception enough to discern that millionaires are not altogether the best possible kind of man. On the other hand, if you take away the country’s millionaires you have robbed her male population of one of its chief objects of envy and its chief subject of blurring conversation.

The shadow of each of the fascinating trinity that I have mentioned is as the shadow of a Colossus, and is so enormous that it is almost impossible to pick up an American newspaper or other publication in which they do not figure and figure prominently. Especially is this the case with respect to Mr. Rockefeller, upon whose doings or misdoings every scribbler in America has some comment to offer or some theory to base. The other day I came across a book of essays published in Boston, which contained a review of Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace’s “Man’s Place in the Universe.” And right in the middle of it I found this passage: “When a little child looks out on the Earth he at first thinks it infinite. He looks upon it as unorganised and unrelated. Only with increasing age and understanding can he realise that it is finite[28] and organised. So when Rockefeller as a lad went into the oil business it seemed to him that there was infinite scope for the extension of the oil business,” and so on and so forth. Clearly it is a mighty business to be Rockefeller!


欢迎访问英文小说网http://novel.tingroom.com

©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533

鲁ICP备05031204号