The Oligarchs — Part III

Kangze Huang
Aug 6, 2018 · 13 min read
“The Haymarket Affair” by Unknown Artist (1886)

Continued from Part II

In a town far away, Uncle Joshua was doing “big business”.

“So do we have a deal?” asked Sir Gregory Jurgens, the Railway Tycoon.

“Yes we do,” replied Joshua. “20% for 20%, no dilution.”

The businessmen signed the contract, binding their companies together in separate but shared ownership. The Jurgens Railway Company had expanded aggressively into the Southern United States, but profits were not enough to cover the heavy capital investments the railroads required, which was largely funded by borrowed money. A partnership with the profit heavy telegram companies would help cover the rail’s operating costs, and in exchange, Joshua would secure exclusive telegram rights on all railroad settlements.

At the same time, both businessmen were personally buying up real estate in select towns, months before publically announcing plans to connect them to the railroads. It was risk-free profit, and all was making them even wealthier.

“Did you speak with Count Barson?” asked Sir Jurgens, inquiring about his rival Oligarch.

“I did. He told me I was a greedy pig and if I didn’t hold my tongue, there would be consequences to pay.” Replied Joshua.

Sir Jurgens let out a booming laugh. “And what did you do?”

Joshua smiled. “I had one of my men meet with his lumberjacks. They want to unionize.”

Sir Jurgens smile was quickly replaced by a serious scowl. “And what did you do?” he questioned.

“I funded their union.” Said Joshua. But before he could continue, he was interrupted by the furious Railroad Tycoon.

“You fool!” roared Sir Jurgens. “Do you know what you have done? Return the money immediately!”

Joshua calmly reassured his new business partner.

“Do not be alarmed, they will not get far. I have another group ready to suppress the uprising… of course under Count Barson’s commands. The unions will not spread past the forest.”

Sir Jurgens clenched his jaw, veins visibly popping from the sides of his forehead.

“You are playing with fire, and we are all standing in dry grass.” he warned.

“I know what I’m doing.” Replied Joshua. “Now, if you may excuse me, I have a Prussian beauty to attend to.”

The meeting ended, but after Joshua left, Sir Jurgens called forth his spymaster.

“Keep an eye out on the Malliar estate.” Said the Tycoon. “I want to know the habitual schedules of every person in that family.”

“The Haymaker Riot” by Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (1886)

When the timber unions protested, Count Barson did not hesitate to take action. He hired hundreds of armed thugs to encircle the protesting lumberjacks, pushing in on the crowd. The thugs left an opening so that the cowards could have an option to flee, preventing them from fighting with full vigor.

The Count watched as his hired goons brutally beat his own employees, certain that the lesson would not be forgotten. But his smile soon disappeared as he noticed his thugs did not relent. They were supposed to lightly beat the protestors and leave an exit, but instead of easing up, the thugs attacked with greater force. Suddenly there were blades drawn and men were being cut down remorselessly. Sounds of gunshots soon filled the air.

“Stop! What are you doing??” screamed Count Barson. “Stop!!”

But the thugs would not stop their assault. Count Barson was beginning to feel the grip of fear take over him, seeing that his hired thugs would not listen. He did not have enough loyal men to ensure his own protection, and feeling in danger, he ordered his guards to escort him away. Minutes after, he was locked inside his own mountainside estate, a prisoner in his own castle.

News of the massacre quickly spread across the mountain towns, but despite the masses of fleeing lumberjacks, word could not reach the main cities. The railroads were shut down, and so were the telegrams. When the trains did come, they are filled with more armed men — a private military employed by the powerful Oligarchs.

Fear ran through the disorganized crowds of lumberjacks. Even the train-line employees begin to worry as they saw innocent people get beaten into submission, many bleeding from their wounds or sprawled on the train station floors, shaking from concussions.

A few workers manage to escape into the mountains, where they aimlessly ran in search of refuge. Many weeks pass and nothing was heard from the timber regions, until a few lumberjacks manage to make it to the cities.

“Harkness Park Eolia” by Tom Jennerwein

“What can we do??” asked Jacob to his Uncle. “How could Count Barson do such a thing??”

Uncle Joshua took Jacob and Amelia’s hands and comforted them.

“Count Barson comes from old money,” he said. “It is in his blood to think of the poor as lesser humans. I am not surprised.”

Amelia sobbed through her handkerchief and whimpered.

“It’s the same thing happening again! The brutality of European monarchs, arriving in America. The Oligarchs, they are just the same!”

Jacob pushed her face into his chest and held the back of her head, stroking her gently. He too was gravely saddened by the news, but even more so, he felt betrayed.

In his head, he thought, “How could Count Barson do this after all the discussions we had?”

There would be nights where the Lumber Baron would passionately agree with Jacob on the struggles of the working class, and how the wealthy had a responsibility to take care of their employees. Did the Baron see it all as just frivolous talk to please a naïve young boy?

“I will send a relief force,” said Joshua. “And nurses to help the wounded.”

“I will come too,” said Jacob.

“No!” snapped Uncle Joshua.

“It is too dangerous. I need you here to ensure the smooth operations of our company. And no matter what, do not let our own workers talk of unionization. We can treat them well without their organized representation.”

Jacob froze in place, not knowing what to do. Never had he thought he would be in this position, stuck between liberator and villain. When he and Amelia talked of changing the world with the telegram so many years ago, they imagined a free society with families talking to their loved ones across long distances. But the artificially set telegram prices had never dropped, and stricter controls of what information could be delivered were enforced. This was not the world that they dreamed of creating.

“Stay here and maintain the peace,” ordered Joshua. “I will fix the situation in the mountains.”

After Joshua left the room, Amelia let out the full volume of her crying. Jacob could do nothing but comfort her shaking body, the vibrations running down his own still standing figure. In that moment in their mansion, they felt very scared and lonely.

“A Dream For Two” by Gogalniceanu Carolina

Later that week, Jacob and Amelia discussed their thoughts in bed.

“I so shook, my love.” cried Amelia. “All this new technology… trains, steam ships… even our own telegram. Despite their goodness, I fear they will be used to oppress people.”

Jacob breathed heavily, calming his nerves.

“I heard from the staff that the telegrams were silenced during the union beatings. I can see Count Barson shutting off his own lines, but what I found suspicious was that our lines were ordered silent too.”

Amelia’s face dropped into despair. “What are you saying?”

Jacob looked down, as if he was embarrassed. “I think Malliar Telegram had something to do with the incident… I think Uncle Joshua may have been involved. He’s the only one who could order a silence.”

They could not sleep that night, pondering the possibilities and how they wound up in such a situation.

They talked about the French Revolution and all that it stood for. They talked about America’s fight for independence, the struggle of the people, and the winds of change.

“Liberty Leading the People” by Eugène Delacroix (1830)

There was a sense of duty felt between the young couple, as if destiny had brought them together to make the world a better place, but they had failed to live up to their responsibility.

Looking back, they realized that the promises of lower telegram prices never materialized. New lines were being built every week, but still the price remained the same. Still the people toiled for bread, only to return to sleep on serf land and wake again the next day to make their landlords wealthier.

They discussed the writings of dead philosophers like Voltaire and his descriptive writings on sugar and slavery. They pondered Adam Smith and his magnum opus, “The Wealth of Nations” and whether it would ultimately lead to a new form of monarchy in the form of Oligarchs.

They spoke in depth about the importance of thought-freedom. How necessary it was for ideas to flow without suppression. How absolute power corrupts absolutely.

They discussed Thomas Jefferson’s famous quote - “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Finally, they talked about the telegram.

“The numbers are not hard to calculate.” Said Amelia. “We co-own Malliar Telegram, but somehow, Uncle Joshua is 100x wealthier than us. How do you explain that?”

Jacob stared into the fireplace. “My uncle is a different man now. Last month I saw Joshua whip a man for trying to stop him from taking his wife. He has become drunk with power.”

“Oh darling, this is not us.” Pleaded Amelia. “I never came from wealth, and I don’t feel comfortable in this skin. There are liars and enemies all around us.”

Jacob held her hand tightly.

“My love, I will not let any harm come to you. Let’s run away from this evil place. We were never meant to be Oligarchs, we should not dine and sleep amongst them.”

“But we cannot leave,” she cried. “They will not let us leave with all this wealth. But if we don’t bring at least some of it with us, how can we change the world? They will hunt us down.”

“You are right, we cannot leave with all of it.” replied Jacob. “But perhaps if Uncle Joshua could believe it was his own idea, we could get away safely. I can plant the seed.”

“Couple Holding Hands” by Helga McLeod

When Uncle Joshua returned from the mountains, he was welcomed as a hero. The lumberjacks were praising his kindness and dedication, and not a single person mentioned the possibility of unionization. All the ringleaders had been killed, and those who survived were just glad they were alive.

Joshua was hailed a “Liberator of the People”, and the next day the front page featured him as a “Model Businessman of the Future”. It was no surprise that none dared stop him when he claimed the rights to Count Barson’s timber empire — not even the Barson family. In fact, the Barson family was nowhere to be found, and this one fact scared Jacob more than anything.

Unable to wait any longer, Jacob approached his Uncle later than week, after another day of public celebrations.

“Uncle, there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”

Uncle Joshua raised an eyebrow in a mix of curiosity and suspicion. “What is it nephew?”

“It’s been a crazy five years. Never did I think we would get so far in business.”

Uncle Joshua nodded in agreeance.

“But recently I’ve been shaken by past events. I feel like all this stuff about unionization, and the speed that we’re expanding… it’s just too much for me. I just want to do research. Particularly around aluminum; I see a lot of potential in it.”

Joshua’s eyes narrowed, sensing where his nephew was going with the conversation.

“You want to exit, Jacob?” he asked.

“Yes. I would like to sell my shares.”

Joshua sharpened his brow in anticipation.

“My nephew, you have been by my side for the past 5 years and I could not imagine running this business without you. But as you know, the company has been expanding rapidly, and I do not have the cash to buy your shares at the price you want.”

Jacob smiled kindly. “That’s alright Uncle. I do not want full price, just enough to fund my next venture and for Amelia and I to live comfortably. The accountants say the shares are worth $4.09 each, but $3.20 per share will suffice.”

Joshua looked at Jacob and faked a frown.

“I would if I could Nephew, but the best I can do is $2.95 per share. If you are okay with this, say so now. Otherwise I will continue to use these funds towards my original plans.”

Jacob faked a moment of thought, then said, “Yes. I accept your offer.”

That night, Jacob signed away his hundreds of thousands of dollars of Malliar Telegram shares and all rights to control. His uncle was absolutely ecstatic, astounded by his good fortune which he credited to himself.

Joshua was now in full control of the entire South Carolina telegram industry, as well as vast swaths of North Carolina timber. Plus his 20% stake in the railroads and endless real estate investments, he was now the most powerful man in the South. Nothing could take him down.

Just in case, he had his spys watching Jacob and Amelia. After all, he reasoned, to get to his level of power, he could trust no one. It had become habitual.

“Portrait Of A Man In Top Hat” by Greta Corens

Jacob and Amelia packed their bags, along with those of 7 loyal engineer families. They were moving North to start a new company focused on the refinement of Aluminum, the world’s newest wonder material. All 8 families would share ownership equally, with Jacob and Amelia funding the initial setup of the venture.

Sensing that they would not escape so easily, Jacob and Amelia had a secret plan. One that would secure their own safety, as well as liberate the masses. It was a crazy plan, but they figured it would cause enough havoc to work. They just needed to be as far away from the chaos as possible when the moment came.

Learning from the union beating incident, they realized how important the democratization of communication was. Unable to have a say in the collusion of the Telegram Oligarchs, the couple would instead disrupt the entire industry with something that could not be contained — free information.

Together with a sympathetic printing press owner, Jacob and Amelia printed 10,000 copies of their grand scheme: a step by step guide on the manufacturing of telegram copper, the telegram infrastructure building process, and the maintenance of telegram lines.

They planned to mail the recipe to every newspaper, mayor, small business, and ironically, Oligarchs, they could find in the American North. Eventually the recipe would spread by word of mouth to the South — it was all part of the plan.

By the end of the week, Jacob and Amelia and the 7 engineer families had disappeared from America entirely, nowhere to be found.

Untitled Piece by Taylor Norton

The information leak was devastating. Across America, citizens began to build their own copper telegrams with no regard for what the Oligarchs might say or do. It was a grassroots uprising that the industry could not stop, and soon the telegram giants were in a panic. The Oligarchs were furious and scrambling to discover who the snitch was. It did not take long to pinpoint the recipe to Malliar Telegram.

When the news reached South Carolina, Joshua immediately suspected betrayal from his nephew. In a fury, he ordered private investigators to track down their location and have them assassinated, but before he could execute those plans, three armed gunmen ambushed his horse carriage on his ride home.

*Boom* *Boom*

With just two bullet shots, Joshua was dead.

But he was not the only Oligarch to die that month. Many other Southern Telegram companies were attacked, although none were as big as Malliar Telegram. In a rush to seize the free-falling telegram assets, Oligarchs from other industries collided head on in angry disputes. The railroad tycoons fought with steel titans, who fought with the real estate magnates. Lumber barons fought with media moguls, and by the end of the month, over a dozen wealthy millionaires had been killed in their greedy frenzy.

“The Death of Sardanapalus” by Eugène Delacroix

It finally took the American Government to step in and put an end to the madness. But it did not matter, the Tree of Liberty had been refreshed. Despite that, Jacob and Amelia’s grand plan did not accomplish the one thing they wanted to accomplish most of all — to liberate the masses.

New Oligarchs took the place of the old, and America did not stop its hypergrowth of prosperity. Vanderbilt would build his steamboat and railway empire alongside the petroleum boom sweeping the nation. That decade, three people were born who would go on to change the landscape of American business forever — John D Rockefeller, JP Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie. While the nation grew exponentially, the common folk grew poorer.

Hidden far north in Canada, Jacob and Amelia continued their research on Aluminum, while funding causes all over the world. Into the late 1840s, the two took great interest in the emerging thought leaders of Europe and America.

Most interesting was this radical fellow in Germany who had written a powerful paper echoing the sentiments of Jacob and Amelia. It was a sensational piece, and after reading “The Communist Manifesto”, the wealthy couple sent Karl Marx a donation of $20,000 to fund his New World Order. Despite being an ocean away, the two believed that they could make a sweeping difference by supporting the young fanatics of freedom.

“Lenin speaking to the workers of the Putilov factory in Petrograd” by Isaak Brodsky (1917)

Unfortunately, they could not escape their past forever, and in 1852 at the young age of 42, Jacob was assassinated while riding his horse. Amelia could not bear to live without her lifetime lover, and that month she took her own life too. But not before donating the rest of their fortune to the causes they supported all around the globe.

A ceremony was held for them in their now empty, auctioned mansion. Only a few families attended the mourning, and even fewer knew of the Malliar’s mysterious past. As the reverend gave his closing prayers, a light shined through the stained glass windows of the family mansion. Inscribed above the heavy oaken doors was a phrase that captured the Malliar couple’s lifetime efforts to change the world for the better.

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”.

Kangze Huang

Written by

Finance, Code and Entrepreneurship. Founder of RentHero AI

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