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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great War Syndicate - Web page 2
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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 2 Post by :theoldgringo Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :1592

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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 2

In the States bordering upon Canada a reactionary
feeling became evident. Unless the United States navy
could prevent England from rapidly pouring into Canada,
not only her own troops, but perhaps those of allied
nations, these Northern States might become the scene
of warfare, and whatever the issue of the contest,
their lands might be ravished, their people suffer.

From many quarters urgent demands were now pressed
upon the Government. From the interior there were
clamours for troops to be massed on the Northern
frontier, and from the seaboard cities there came a cry
for ships that were worthy to be called men-of-war,--
ships to defend the harbours and bays, ships to repel
an invasion by sea. Suggestions were innumerable.
There was no time to build, it was urged; the
Government could call upon friendly nations. But wise
men smiled sadly at these suggestions; it was difficult
to find a nation desirous of a war with England.

In the midst of the enthusiasms, the fears, and the
suggestions, came reports of the capture of
American merchantmen by fast British cruisers. These
reports made the American people more furious, the
American Government more anxious.

Almost from the beginning of this period of
national turmoil, a party of gentlemen met daily in one
of the large rooms in a hotel in New York. At first
there were eleven of these men, all from the great
Atlantic cities, but their number increased by arrivals
from other parts of the country, until at last they,
numbered twenty-three. These gentlemen were all great
capitalists, and accustomed to occupying themselves
with great enterprises. By day and by night they met
together with closed doors, until they had matured the
scheme which they had been considering. As soon as
this work was done, a committee was sent to Washington,
to submit a plan to the Government.

These twenty-three men had formed themselves into a
Syndicate, with the object of taking entire charge of
the war between the United States and Great Britain.

This proposition was an astounding one, but the
Government was obliged to treat it with respectful
consideration. The men who offered it were a power
in the land,--a power which no government could afford
to disregard.

The plan of the Syndicate was comprehensive,
direct, and simple. It offered to assume the entire
control and expense of the war, and to effect a
satisfactory peace within one year. As a guarantee
that this contract would be properly performed, an
immense sum of money would be deposited in the Treasury
at Washington. Should the Syndicate be unsuccessful,
this sum would be forfeited, and it would receive no
pay for anything it had done.

The sum to be paid by the Government to the
Syndicate, should it bring the war to a satisfactory
conclusion, would depend upon the duration of
hostilities. That is to say, that as the shorter the
duration of the war, the greater would be the benefit
to the country, therefore, the larger must be the pay
to the Syndicate. According to the proposed contract,
the Syndicate would receive, if the war should continue
for a year, one-quarter the sum stipulated to be paid
if peace should be declared in three months.

If at any time during the conduct of the war by the
Syndicate an American seaport should be taken by
the enemy, or a British force landed on any point of
the seacoast, the contract should be considered at an
end, and security and payment forfeited. If any point
on the northern boundary of the United States should be
taken and occupied by the enemy, one million dollars of
the deposited security should be forfeited for every
such occupation, but the contract should continue.

It was stipulated that the land and naval forces of
the United States should remain under the entire
control of the Government, but should be maintained as
a defensive force, and not brought into action unless
any failure on the part of the Syndicate should render
such action necessary.

The state of feeling in governmental circles, and
the evidences of alarm and distrust which were becoming
apparent in Congress and among the people, exerted an
important influence in favour of the Syndicate. The
Government caught at its proposition, not as if it were
a straw, but as if it were a life-raft. The men who
offered to relieve the executive departments of their
perilous responsibilities were men of great ability,
prominent positions, and vast resources, whose
vast enterprises had already made them known all over
the globe. Such men were not likely to jeopardize
their reputations and fortunes in a case like this,
unless they had well-founded reasons for believing that
they would be successful. Even the largest amount
stipulated to be paid them in case of success would be
less than the ordinary estimates for the military and
naval operations which had been anticipated; and in
case of failure, the amount forfeited would go far to
repair the losses which might be sustained by the
citizens of the various States.

At all events, should the Syndicate be allowed to
take immediate control of the war, there would be time
to put the army and navy, especially the latter, in
better condition to carry on the contest in case of the
failure of the Syndicate. Organization and
construction might still go on, and, should it be
necessary, the army and navy could step into the
contest fresh and well prepared.

All branches of the Government united in accepting
the offer of the Syndicate. The contract was signed,
and the world waited to see what would happen next.

The influence which for years had been exerted by
the interests controlled by the men composing the
Syndicate, had its effect in producing a popular
confidence in the power of the members of the Syndicate
to conduct a war as successfully as they had conducted
other gigantic enterprises. Therefore, although
predictions of disaster came from many quarters, the
American public appeared willing to wait with but
moderate impatience for the result of this novel
undertaking.

The Government now proceeded to mass troops at
important points on the northern frontier; forts were
supplied with men and armaments, all coast defences
were put in the best possible condition, the navy was
stationed at important ports, and work at the ship-
yards went on. But without reference to all this, the
work of the Syndicate immediately began.

This body of men were of various politics and of
various pursuits in life. But politics were no more
regarded in the work they had undertaken than they
would have been in the purchase of land or of railroad
iron. No manifestoes of motives and intentions were
issued to the public. The Syndicate simply went to
work. There could be no doubt that early success
would be a direct profit to it, but there could also be
no doubt that its success would be a vast benefit and
profit, not only to the business enterprises in which
these men were severally engaged, but to the business
of the whole country. To save the United States from a
dragging war, and to save themselves from the effects
of it, were the prompting motives for the formation of
the Syndicate.

Without hesitation, the Syndicate determined that
the war in which it was about to engage should be one
of defence by means of offence. Such a war must
necessarily be quick and effective; and with all the
force of their fortunes, their minds, and their bodies,
its members went to work to wage this war quickly and
effectively.

All known inventions and improvements in the art of
war had been thoroughly considered by the Syndicate,
and by the eminent specialists whom it had enlisted in
its service. Certain recently perfected engines of
war, novel in nature, were the exclusive property of
the Syndicate. It was known, or surmised, in certain
quarters that the Syndicate had secured possession of
important warlike inventions; but what they were
and how they acted was a secret carefully guarded and
protected.

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