Theodore Dreiser >> The Financier (page 48)

Thus on and on he went, answering all of Steger's and Shannon's searching questions with the most engaging frankness, and you could have sworn from the solemnity with which he took it allЦ the serious business attention-that he was the soul of so-called commercial honor. And to say truly, he did believe in the justice as well as the necessity and the importance of all that he had done and now described. He wanted the jury to see it as he saw it-put itself in his place and sympathize with him.

He was through finally, and the effect on the jury of his testimony and his personality was peculiar. Philip Moultrie, juror No. 1, decided that Cowperwood was lying. He could not see how it was possible that he could not know the day before that he was going to fail. He must have known, he thought. Anyhow, the whole series of transactions between him and Stener seemed deserving of some punishment, and all during this testimony he was thinking how, when he got in the jury-room, he would vote guilty. He even thought of some of the arguments he would use to convince the others that Cowperwood was guilty. Juror No. 2, on the contrary, Simon Glassberg, a clothier, thought he understood how it all came about, and decided to vote for acquittal. He did not think Cowperwood was innocent, but he did not think he deserved to be punished. Juror No. 3, Fletcher Norton, an architect, thought Cowperwood was guilty, but at the same time that he was too talented to be sent to prison. Juror No. 4, Charles Hillegan, an Irishman, a contractor, and a somewhat religious-minded person, thought Cowperwood was guilty and ought to be punished. Juror No. 5, Philip Lukash, a coal merchant, thought he was guilty. Juror No. 6, Benjamin Fraser, a mining expert, thought he was probably guilty, but he could not be sure. Uncertain what he would do, juror No. 7, J. J. Bridges, a broker in Third Street, small, practical, narrow, thought Cowperwood was shrewd and guilty and deserved to be punished. He would vote for his punishment. Juror No. 8, Guy E. Tripp, general manager of a small steamboat company, was uncertain. Juror No. 9, Joseph Tisdale, a retired glue manufacturer, thought Cowperwood was probably guilty as charged, but to Tisdale it was no crime. Cowperwood was entitled to do as he had done under the circumstances. Tisdale would vote for his acquittal. Juror No. 10, Richard Marsh, a young florist, was for Cowperwood in a sentimental way. He had, as a matter of fact, no real convictions. Juror No. 11, Richard Webber, a grocer, small financially, but heavy physically, was for Cowperwood's conviction. He thought him guilty. Juror No. 12, Washington B. Thomas, a wholesale flour merchant, thought Cowperwood was guilty, but believed in a recommendation to mercy after pronouncing him so. Men ought to be reformed, was his slogan.

So they stood, and so Cowperwood left them, wondering whether any of his testimony had had a favorable effect.

Chapter XLIII
Since it is the privilege of the lawyer for the defense to address the jury first, Steger bowed politely to his colleague and came forward. Putting his hands on the jury-box rail, he began in a very quiet, modest, but impressive way:

"Gentlemen of the jury, my client, Mr. Frank Algernon Cowperwood,

a well-known banker and financier of this city, doing business in

Third Street, is charged by the State of Pennsylvania, represented

by the district attorney of this district, with fraudulently

transferring from the treasury of the city of Philadelphia to his

own purse the sum of sixty thousand dollars, in the form of a check

made out to his order, dated October 9, 1871, and by him received

from one Albert Stires, the private secretary and head bookkeeper

of the treasurer of this city, at the time in question. Now,

gentlemen, what are the facts in this connection? You have heard

the various witnesses and know the general outlines of the story.

Take the testimony of George W. Stener, to begin with. He tells

you that sometime back in the year 1866 he was greatly in need of

some one, some banker or broker, who would tell him how to bring

city loan, which was selling very low at the time, to par-who

would not only tell him this, but proceed to demonstrate that his

knowledge was accurate by doing it. Mr. Stener was an

inexperienced man at the time in the matter of finance. Mr.

Cowperwood was an active young man with an enviable record as a

broker and a trader on 'change. He proceeded to demonstrate to

Mr. Stener not only in theory, but in fact, how this thing of

bringing city loan to par could be done. He made an arrangement

at that time with Mr. Stener, the details of which you have

heard from Mr. Stener himself, the result of which was that a

large amount of city loan was turned over to Mr. Cowperwood by

Mr. Stener for sale, and by adroit manipulation-methods of

buying and selling which need not be gone into here, but which

are perfectly sane and legitimate in the world in which Mr.

Cowperwood operated, did bring that loan to par, and kept it

there year after year as you have all heard here testified to.

"Now what is the bone of contention here, gentlemen, the

significant fact which brings Mr. Stener into this court at

this time charging his old-time agent and broker with larceny

and embezzlement, and alleging that he has transferred to his

own use without a shadow of return sixty thousand dollars of

the money which belongs to the city treasury? What is it? Is

it that Mr. Cowperwood secretly, with great stealth, as it were,

at some time or other, unknown to Mr. Stener or to his assistants,

entered the office of the treasurer and forcibly, and with

criminal intent, carried away sixty thousand dollars' worth of

the city's money? Not at all. The charge is, as you have heard

the district attorney explain, that Mr. Cowperwood came in

broad daylight at between four and five o'clock of the afternoon

preceeding the day of his assignment; was closeted with Mr.

Stener for a half or three-quarters of an hour; came out;

explained to Mr. Albert Stires that he had recently bought sixty

thousand dollars' worth of city loan for the city sinking-fund,

for which he had not been paid; asked that the amount be

credited on the city's books to him, and that he be given a

check, which was his due, and walked out. Anything very

remarkable about that, gentlemen? Anything very strange? Has

it been testified here to-day that Mr. Cowperwood was not the

agent of the city for the transaction of just such business as

he said on that occasion that he had transacted? Did any one say

here on the witness-stand that he had not bought city loan as

he said he had?

"Why is it then that Mr. Stener charges Mr. Cowperwood with

larcenously securing and feloniously disposing of a check for

sixty thousand dollars for certificates which he had a right to

buy, and which it has not been contested here that he did buy?

The reason lies just here-listen-just here. At the time my

client asked for the check and took it away with him and

deposited it in his own bank to his own account, he failed,

so the prosecution insists, to put the sixty thousand dollars'

worth of certificates for which he had received the check, in

the sinking-fund; and having failed to do that, and being

compelled by the pressure of financial events the same day to

suspend payment generally, he thereby, according to the

prosecution and the anxious leaders of the Republican party in

the city, became an embezzler, a thief, a this or that-anything

you please so long as you find a substitute for George W. Stener

and the indifferent leaders of the Republican party in the eyes

of the people."

And here Mr. Steger proceeded boldly and defiantly to outline the entire political situation as it had manifested itself in connection with the Chicago fire, the subsequent panic and its political consequences, and to picture Cowperwood as the unjustly maligned agent, who before the fire was valuable and honorable enough to suit any of the political leaders of Philadelphia, but afterward, and when political defeat threatened, was picked upon as the most available scapegoat anywhere within reach.

And it took him a half hour to do that. And afterward but only after he had pointed to Stener as the true henchman and stalking horse, who had, in turn, been used by political forces above him to accomplish certain financial results, which they were not willing to have ascribed to themselves, he continued with:

"But now, in the light of all this, only see how ridiculous all

this is! How silly! Frank A. Cowperwood had always been the

agent of the city in these matters for years and years. He

worked under certain rules which he and Mr. Stener had agreed

upon in the first place, and which obviously came from others,

who were above Mr. Stener, since they were hold-over customs

and rules from administrations, which had been long before Mr.

Stener ever appeared on the scene as city treasurer. One of

them was that he could carry all transactions over until the

first of the month following before he struck a balance. That

is, he need not pay any money over for anything to the city

treasurer, need not send him any checks or deposit any money or

certificates in the sinking-fund until the first of the month

because-now listen to this carefully, gentlemen; it is

important-because his transactions in connection with city

loan and everything else that he dealt in for the city treasurer

were so numerous, so swift, so uncalculated beforehand, that

he had to have a loose, easy system of this kind in order to do

his work properly-to do business at all. Otherwise he could

not very well have worked to the best advantage for Mr. Stener,

or for any one else. It would have meant too much bookkeeping

for him-too much for the city treasurer. Mr. Stener has

testified to that in the early part of his story. Albert Stires

has indicated that that was his understanding of it. Well, then

what? Why, just this. Would any jury suppose, would any sane

business man believe that if such were the case Mr. Cowperwood

would be running personally with all these items of deposit,

to the different banks or the sinking-fund or the city treasurer's

office, or would be saying to his head bookkeeper, 'Here, Stapley,

here is a check for sixty thousand dollars. See that the

certificates of loan which this represents are put in the

sinking-fund to-day'? And why not? What a ridiculous supposition

any other supposition is! As a matter of course and as had

always been the case, Mr. Cowperwood had a system. When the

time came, this check and these certificates would be

automatically taken care of. He handed his bookkeeper the

check and forgot all about it. Would you imagine a banker with

a vast business of this kind doing anything else?"

Mr. Steger paused for breath and inquiry, and then, having satisfied himself that his point had been sufficiently made, he continued:

"Of course the answer is that he knew he was going to fail.

Well, Mr. Cowperwood's reply is that he didn't know anything of

the sort. He has personally testified here that it was only at

the last moment before it actually happened that he either

thought or knew of such an occurrence. Why, then, this alleged

refusal to let him have the check to which he was legally entitled?

I think I know. I think I can give a reason if you will hear me


Steger shifted his position and came at the jury from another intellectual angle:

"It was simply because Mr. George W. Stener at that time, owing

to a recent notable fire and a panic, imagined for some reason-

perhaps because Mr. Cowperwood cautioned him not to become

frightened over local developments generally-that Mr. Cowperwood

was going to close his doors; and having considerable money on

deposit with him at a low rate of interest, Mr. Stener decided

that Mr. Cowperwood must not have any more money-not even the

money that was actually due him for services rendered, and that

had nothing whatsoever to do with the money loaned him by Mr.

Stener at two and one-half per cent. Now isn't that a ridiculous

situation? But it was because Mr. George W. Stener was filled

with his own fears, based on a fire and a panic which had

absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Cowperwood's solvency in the

beginning that he decided not to let Frank A. Cowperwood have

the money that was actually due him, because he, Stener, was

criminally using the city's money to further his own private

interests (through Mr. Cowperwood as a broker), and in danger

of being exposed and possibly punished. Now where, I ask you,

does the good sense of that decision come in? Is it apparent to

you, gentlemen? Was Mr. Cowperwood still an agent for the city

at the time he bought the loan certificates as here testified?

He certainly was. If so, was he entitled to that money? Who is

going to stand up here and deny it? Where is the question then,

as to his right or his honesty in this matter? How does it come

in here at all? I can tell you. It sprang solely from one source

and from nowhere else, and that is the desire of the politicians

of this city to find a scapegoat for the Republican party.

"Now you may think I am going rather far afield for an explanation

of this very peculiar decision to prosecute Mr. Cowperwood, an

agent of the city, for demanding and receiving what actually

belonged to him. But I'm not. Consider the position of the

Republican party at that time. Consider the fact that an exposure

of the truth in regard to the details of a large defalcation in

the city treasury would have a very unsatisfactory effect on the

election about to be held. The Republican party had a new city

treasurer to elect, a new district attorney. It had been in the

habit of allowing its city treasurers the privilege of investing

the funds in their possession at a low rate of interest for the

benefit of themselves and their friends. Their salaries were

small. They had to have some way of eking out a reasonable

existence. Was Mr. George Stener responsible for this custom of

loaning out the city money? Not at all. Was Mr. Cowperwood? Not

at all. The custom had been in vogue long before either Mr.

Cowperwood or Mr. Stener came on the scene. Why, then, this

great hue and cry about it now? The entire uproar sprang solely

from the fear of Mr. Stener at this juncture, the fear of the

politicians at this juncture, of public exposure. No city

Title: The Financier
Author: Theodore Dreiser
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