The Angel of the Revolution, by George Griffith

Chapter 37.

The Capture of a Continent.

Within an hour after the execution of Michael Roburoff the Ithuriel was winging her way back to Aeria, and at least two of her company were anticipating their return to the valley with feelings very different to those with which they had contemplated their departure.

When the last farewells and congratulations had been spoken, and the air-ship rose from the earth, Tremayne returned to the house to commence forthwith the great task which now developed upon him; for in addition to being Chief of the Central Executive, he now assumed the direct command of the American Section, which, after long consideration, had been selected as the nucleus of the Federation of the English-speaking peoples of the world.

For a fortnight he worked almost night and day, attending to every detail with the utmost care, and bringing into play all those rare powers of mind which in the first instance had led Natas to select him as the visible head of the Executive. In this way the chief consequence of the love-madness of Roburoff had been to place at the head of affairs in America the one man of all others most fitted by descent and ability to carry out such a work, and to this fact its complete success must in a great measure be attributed.

So perfectly were his plans laid and executed, that right up to the moment when the signal was given and the plans became actions, American society went about its daily business without the remotest suspicion that it was living on the slope of a slumbering volcano whose fires were so soon to burst forth and finally consume the social fabric which, despite its splendid exterior, was inwardly as rotten as were the social fabrics of Rome and Byzantium on the eve of their fall.

On the 1st of October the cables brought the news of the fall of the Quadrilateral, the storming of Hamburg, and the retreat of the British forces on Antwerp. Four days later came the tidings of a great battle under the walls of Antwerp, in which the British and German forces, outnumbered ten to one by the innumerable hosts of the League, had suffered a decisive defeat, which rendered it imperative for them to fall back upon the Allied fleets in the Scheldt, and to leave the Netherlands to the mercy of the Tsar and his allies, who were thus left undisputed masters of the continent of Europe.

This last and crowning victory had been achieved by exactly the same means which had accomplished all the other triumphs of the campaign, and therefore there will be no need to enter into any detailed description of it. Indeed, the fall of the Quadrilateral and the defeat of the last army of the Alliance round Antwerp would have been accomplished much more easily and speedily than it had been but for the fact that the weather, which had been fine up to the end of July, had suddenly broken, and a succession of violent storms and gales from the north and north-west had made it impossible for the war-balloons to be brought into action with any degree of effectiveness.

During the last week of September the storms had ceased, and then the work of destruction began. Not even the hitherto impregnable fortresses of Tournay, Mons, Namur, and Liége had been able to withstand the assault from the air any better than the forts of Berlin or the walls of Constantinople. A day’s bombardment had sufficed to reduce them to ruins, and, the chain once broken, the armies of the League swept in wave after wave across the plains which they had guarded.

The loss of life had been unparalleled even in this the greatest of all wars, for the British and Germans had fought with a dogged resolution which, but for the vastly superior numbers and the irresistible means of destruction employed against them, must infallibly have triumphed. As it was, it was only when valour had achieved its last sacrifice, and further resistance became rather madness than devotion, that the retreat was finally sounded in time to embark the remnants of the armies of the Alliance on board the warships. Happily at the very hour when this was being done the weather broke again, and the ships of the Allied fleets were therefore able to make their way to sea through storm and darkness, unmolested by the war-balloons.

While the American press was teeming with columns of description telegraphed at enormous cost from the seat of war, and with absolutely misleading articles as to the policy of the League and the attitude of studious neutrality that was to be observed by the United States Government, the dockyards, controlled directly and indirectly by the American Ring, were working night and day putting the finishing touches to the flotilla of dynamite cruisers and other war-vessels intended to carry out the plan revealed by Michael Roburoff on board the Ithuriel, after he had been taken off the Aurania in the Mid–Atlantic.

Briefly described, this was as follows:— Representative government in America had by this time become a complete sham. The whole political machinery and internal resources of the United States were now virtually at the command of a great Ring of capitalists who, through the medium of the huge monopolies which they controlled, and the enormous sums of money at their command, held the country in the hollow of their hand. These men were as totally devoid of all human feeling or public sentiment as it was possible for human beings to be. They had grown rich in virtue of their contempt of every principle of justice and mercy, and they had no other object in life than to still further increase their gigantic hoards of wealth, and to multiply the enormous powers which they already wielded. The then condition of affairs in Europe had presented them with such an opportunity as no other combination of circumstances could have given them, and ignoring, as such wretches would naturally do, all ties of blood and kindred speech, they had determined to take advantage of the situation to the utmost.

In the guise of the United States Government the Ring had concluded a secret treaty with the commanders of the League, in virtue of which, at a stipulated point in the struggle, America was to declare war on Britain, invade Canada by land, and send to sea an immense flotilla of swift dynamite cruisers of tremendously destructive power, which had been constructed openly in the Government dockyards, ostensibly for coast defence, and secretly in private yards belonging to the various Corporations composing the Ring.

This flotilla was to cooperate with the fleet of the League as soon as England had been invaded, and complete the blockade of the British ports. Were this once accomplished nothing could save Britain from starvation into surrender, and the British Empire from disintegration and partition between the Ring and the Commanders of the League, who would then practically divide the mastery of the world among them.

On the night of the 4th of October the five words: “The hour and the man,” went flying over the wires from Washington throughout the length and breadth of the North American Continent. The next morning half the industries of the United States were paralysed; all the lines of communication by telegraph and rail between the east and west were severed, the shore ends of the Atlantic cables were cut, no newspapers appeared, and every dockyard on the eastern coast was in the hands of the Terrorists.

To complete the stupor produced by this swift succession of astounding events, when the sun rose an air-ship was seen floating high in the air over the ten arsenals of the United States — that is to say, over Portsmouth, Charlestown, Brooklyn, League Island, New London, Washington, Norfolk, Pensacola, Mare Island, and Port Royal, while two others held Chicago and St. Louis, the great railway centres for the west and south, at their mercy, and the Ithuriel, with a broad red flag flying from her stern, swept like a meteor along the eastern coast from Maine to Florida.

To attempt to describe the condition of frenzied panic into which the inhabitants of the threatened cities, and even the whole of the Eastern States were thrown by the events of that ever-memorable morning, would be to essay an utterly hopeless task. From the millionaire in his palace to the outcasts who swarmed in the slums, not a man or a woman kept a cool head save those who were in the councils of the Terrorists. The blow had fallen with such stupefying suddenness that as far as America was concerned the Revolution was practically accomplished before any one very well knew what had happened.

Out of the midst of an apparently peaceful and industrious population five millions of armed men had sprung in a single night. Factories and workshops had opened their doors, but none entered them; ships lay idle by the wharves, offices were deserted, and the great reels of paper hung motionless beside the paralysed machines which should have converted them into newspapers.

It was not a strike, for no mere trade organisation could have accomplished such a miracle. It was the force born of the accumulation of twenty years of untiring labour striking one mighty blow which shattered the commercial fabric of a continent in a single instant. Those who had been clerks or labourers yesterday, patient, peaceful, and law-abiding, were today soldiers, armed and disciplined, and obeying with automatic regularity the unheard command of some unknown chief.

This of itself would have been enough to throw the United States into a panic; but, worse than all, the presence of the air-ships, holding at their mercy the arsenals and the richest cities in the Eastern States, proved that tremendous and all as it was, this was only a phase of some vast and mysterious cataclysm which might as easily involve the whole civilised world as it could overwhelm the United States of America.

By noon, almost without striking a blow, every dynamite cruiser and warship on the eastern coast had been seized and manned by the Terrorists. To the dismay of the authorities, it was found that more than half the army and navy, officers and men alike, had obeyed the mysterious summons that had gone throughout the land the night before; and matters reached a climax when, as the clocks of Washington were striking twelve, the President himself was arrested in the White House.

All the streets of Washington were in the hands of the Terrorists, and at one o’clock Tremayne, after posting guards at all the approaches, entered the Senate, and in the name of Natas proclaimed the Constitution of the United States null and void, and the Government dissolved.

Then with a copy of the Constitution in his hand he proceeded to the steps of the Capitol, and, in the presence of a vast throng of the armed members of the American Section, he proclaimed the Federation of the English-speaking races of the world, in virtue of their bonds of kindred blood and speech and common interests; and amidst a scene of the wildest enthusiasm called upon all who owned those bonds to forget the artificial divisions that had separated them into hostile nations and communities, and to follow the leadership of the Brotherhood to the conquest of the earth.

Then in a few strong and simple phrases he exposed the subservience of the Government to the capitalist Ring, and described the inhuman compact that it had entered into with the arch-enemies of national freedom and personal liberty to crush the motherland of the Anglo–Saxon nations, and for the sake of sordid gain to rivet the fetters of oppression upon the limbs of the race which for a thousand years had stood in the forefront of the battle for freedom.

As he concluded his appeal, one mighty shout of wrath and execration rose up to heaven from a million throats. He waited until this died away into silence, then, raising the copy of the Constitution above his head, he cried in clear ringing tones —

“For a hundred and fifty years this has been boasted as the bulwark of liberty, and used as the instrument of social and commercial oppression. The Republic of America has been governed, not by patriots and statesmen, but by millionaires and their hired political puppets. It is therefore a fraud and a sham, and deserves no longer to exist!”

So saying, he tore the paper into fragments and cast them into the air amidst a storm of cheers and volley after volley of musketry. While the enthusiasm was at its height the Ithuriel suddenly swept downwards from the sky in full view of the mighty assemblage that swarmed round the Capitol. She was greeted with a roar of wondering welcome, for her appearance was the fulfilment of a promise upon which the success of the Revolution in America had largely depended.

This was the promise, issued by Tremayne several days previously through the commanders of the various divisions of the Section, that as soon as the Anglo–Saxon Federation was proclaimed and accepted in America, the whole Brotherhood throughout the world would fall into line with it, and place its aërial navy at the disposal of its leaders. Practically this was giving the empire of the world in exchange for a money-despotism, of which every one save the millionaires and their servants had become heartily sick.

There were few who in their hearts did not believe the Republic to be a colossal fraud, and therefore there were few who regretted it.

The Ithuriel passed slowly over the heads of the wondering crowd, and came to a standstill alongside the steps on which Tremayne was standing. The crowd saw a man on her deck shake hands with Tremayne and give him a folded paper. Then the air-ship swept gracefully upward again in a spiral curve until she hung motionless over the dome of the Capitol.

Amidst a silence born of breathless interest to know the import of this message from the sky, Tremayne opened the paper, glanced at its contents, and handed it to the senior officer in command of the brigades, who stood beside him. This man, a veteran who had grown grey in the service of the Brotherhood, advanced with the open paper in his hand, and read out in a loud voice —

Natas sends greeting to the Brotherhood in America. The work has been well done, and the reward of patient labour is at hand. This is to name Alan Tremayne, Chief of the Central Executive, first President of the Anglo–Saxon Federation throughout the world, and to invest him with the supreme authority for the ordering of its affairs. The aërial navy of the Brotherhood is placed at his disposal to cooperate with the armies and fleets of the Federation.

NATAS.

When the mighty shout of acclamation which greeted the reading of this commission had died away, Tremayne stepped forward again and spoke the few words that now remained to be said —

“I accept the office and all that it implies. The fate of the world lies in our hands, and as we decide it so will the future lot of humanity be good or evil. The armies of the Franco–Slavonian League are now masters of the continent of Europe, and are preparing for the invasion of Britain. The first use that I shall make of the authority now vested in me will be to summon the Tsar in the name of the Federation to sheathe the sword at once, and relinquish his designs on Britain. The moment that one of his soldiers sets foot on the sacred soil of our motherland I shall declare war upon him, and it shall be a war, not of conquest, but of extermination, and we will make an end of tyranny on earth for ever.

“Now let those who are not on guard-duty go to their homes, and remember that they are now citizens of a greater realm than the United States, and endowed with more than national duties and responsibilities. Let every man’s person and property be respected, and let the penalty of all violence be death. Those who have plotted against the public welfare will be dealt with in due course, and yonder air-ship will be despatched with our message to the Tsar at sundown. Long live the Federation!”

Millions of throats took up the cry as the last words left his lips until it rolled away from the Capitol in mighty waves of sound, flowing along the crowded streets and overrunning the utmost confines of the capital.

Thus, without the loss of a hundred lives, and in a space of less than twelve hours, was the Revolution in America accomplished. The triumph of the Terrorists was as complete as it had been unexpected. Menaced by air and sea and land, the great centres of population made no resistance, and, when they learnt the true object of the Revolution, wanted to make none. No one really believed in the late Government, and every one in his soul hated and despised the millionaires.

There was no bond between them and their fellow-men but money, and the moment that was snapped they were looked upon in their true nature as criminals and outcasts from the pale of humanity. By sundown, when the Ithuriel left for the seat of war, the members of the Ring and those of the late Government who refused to acknowledge the Federation were lodged in prison, and news had been received from Montreal that the simultaneous rising of the Canadian Section had been completely successful, and that all the railways and arsenals and ships of war were in the hands of the Terrorists, so completing the capture of the North American continent.

The President of the Federation and his faithful subordinates went to work, without losing an hour, to reorganise as far as was necessary the internal affairs of the continent of which they had so suddenly become the undisputed masters. There was some trouble with the British authorities in Canada, who, from mistaken motives of duty to the mother country, at first refused to recognise the Federation.

The consequence of this was that Tremayne went north the next day and had an interview with the Governor–General at Montreal. At the same time he ordered six air-ships and twenty-five dynamite cruisers to blockade the St. Lawrence and the eastern ports. The Canadian Pacific Railway and the telegraph lines to the west were already in the hands of the Terrorists, and a million men were under arms waiting his commands.

A very brief explanation, therefore, sufficed to show the Governor that forcible resistance would not only be the purest madness, but that it would also seriously interfere with the working of the great scheme of Federation, the object of which was, not merely to place Britain in the first place among the nations, but to make the Anglo–Saxon race the one dominant power in the whole world.

To all the Governor’s objections on the score of loyalty to the British Crown, Tremayne, who heard him to the end without interruption, simply replied in a tone that precluded all further argument —

“The day of states and empires, and therefore of loyalty to sovereigns, has gone by. The history of nations is the history of intrigue, quarrelling, and bloodshed, and we are determined to put a stop to warfare for good and all. We hold in our hands the only power that can thwart the designs of the League and avert an era of tyranny and retrogression. That power we intend to use whether the British Government likes it or not.

“We shall save Britain, if necessary, in spite of her rulers. If they stand in the way, so much the worse for them. They will be called upon to resign in favour of the Federation and its Executive within the next seven days. If they consent, the forces of the League will never cross the Straits of Dover. If they refuse we shall allow Britain to taste the results of their choice, and then settle the matter in our own way.”

The next day the Governor dissolved the Canadian Legislatures “under protest,” and retired into private life for the present. He felt that it was no time to argue with a man who had millions of men behind him, to say nothing of an aërial fleet which alone could reduce Montreal to ruins in twelve hours.

After arranging matters in Canada the President returned to Washington in the Ariel, which he had taken into his personal service for the present, and set about disposing of the Ring and those members of the late Government who were most deeply implicated in the secret alliance with the leaders of the League. When the facts of this scheme were made public they raised such a storm of popular indignation, that if those responsible for it had been turned loose in the streets of Washington they would have been torn to pieces like vermin.

As it was, however, they were placed upon their trial before a Commission of seven members of the Inner Circle of the American Section, presided over by the President. Their guilt was speedily proved beyond the shadow of a doubt. Documents, memoranda, and telegrams were produced by men who had seemed their most trusted servants, but had been in reality members of the Brotherhood told off to unearth their schemes.

Cyphers were translated which showed that they had practically sold the resources of the country in advance to the Tsar and his allies, and that they were only waiting the signal to declare war without warning and without cause upon Britain, blockade her ports, and starve her into surrender and acceptance of any terms that the victors might choose to impose. Last of all, the terms of the bargain between the League and the Ring were produced, signed by the late President and the Secretary of State, and countersigned by the Russian Minister at Washington.

The Court sat for three days, and reassembled on the fourth to deliver its verdict and sentence. Fifteen members of the late Government, including the President, the Vice–President, and the Secretary of State, and twenty-four great capitalists composing the Ring, were found guilty of giving and receiving bribes, directly and indirectly, and of betraying and conspiring to betray the confidence of the American people in its elected representatives, and also of conspiring to make war without due cause on a friendly Power for purely commercial reasons.

At eleven o’clock on the morning of the 9th of October the President of the Federation rose in the Senate House, amidst breathless silence, to pronounce the sentence of the Court.

“All the accused,” he said, speaking in slow, deliberate tones, “have been proved guilty of such treason against their own race and the welfare of humanity as no men ever were guilty of before in all the disreputable history of state-craft. In view of the suffering and misery to millions of individuals, and the irreparable injury to the cause of civilisation that would have resulted from the success of their schemes, it would be impossible for human wit to devise any punishment which in itself would be adequate. The sentence of the Court is the extreme penalty known to human justice — Death!”

A shudder passed through the vast assembly as he pronounced the ominous word, and the accused, who but a few days before had looked upon the world as their footstool, gazed with blanched faces and terror-stricken eyes upon each other. He paused for a moment, and looked sternly upon them. Then he went on —

“But the Federation does not seek a punishment of revenge, but of justice; nor shall its first act of government be the shedding of blood, however guilty. Therefore, as President I override the sentence of death, and instead condemn you, who have been proved guilty of this unspeakable crime, to confiscation of the wealth that you have acquired so unscrupulously and used so mercilessly, and to perpetual banishment with your wives and families, who have shared the profits of your infamous traffic.

“You will be at once conveyed to Kodiak Island, off the south coast of Alaska, and landed there. Once every six months you will be visited by a steamer, which will supply you with the necessaries of life, and the original penalty of death will be the immediate punishment of any one of you who attempts to return to a world of which you from this moment cease to be citizens.”

The sentence was carried out without an hour’s delay. The exiles, with their wives and families, were placed under a strong guard in a special train, which conveyed them from Washington viâ St. Louis to San Francisco, where they were transferred to a steamer which took them to the lonely and desolate island in the frozen North which was to be their home for the rest of their lives. They were followed by the execrations of a whole people and the regrets of none save the money-worshippers who had respected them, not as men, but as incarnations of the purchasing power of wealth.

The huge fortunes which they had amassed, amounting in the aggregate to more than three hundred millions in English money, were placed in the public treasury for the immediate purposes of the war which the Federation was about to wage for the empire of the world. All their real estate property was transferred to the various municipalities in which it was situated, and their rents devoted to the relief of taxation, while the railways and other enterprises which they had controlled were declared public property, and placed in the hands of boards of management composed of their own officials.

Within a week everything was working as smoothly as though no Revolution had ever taken place. All officials whose honesty there was no reason to suspect were retained in their offices, while those who were dismissed were replaced without any friction. All the affairs of government were conducted upon purely business principles, just as though the country had been a huge commercial concern, save for the fact that the chief object was efficiency and not profit-making.

Money was abundantly plentiful, and the necessaries of life were cheaper than they had ever been before. Perhaps the principal reason for this happy state of affairs was the fact that law and politics had suddenly ceased to be trades at which money could be made. People were amazed at the rapidity with which public business was transacted.

The President and his Council had at one stroke abrogated every civil and criminal law known to the old Constitution, and proclaimed in their place a simple, comprehensive code which was practically identical with the Decalogue. To this a final clause was added, stating that those who could not live without breaking any of these laws would not be considered as fit to live in civilised society, and would therefore be effectively removed from the companionship of their fellows.

While the internal affairs of the Federation in America were being thus set in order, events had been moving rapidly in other parts of the world. The Tsar, the King of Italy, and General le Gallifet, who was now Dictator of France in all but name, were masters of the continent of Europe. The Anglo–Teutonic Alliance was a thing of the past. Germany, Austria, and Turkey were completely crushed, and the minor Powers had succumbed.

Britain, crippled by the terrible cost in ships and men of the victory of the Nile, had evacuated the Mediterranean after dismantling the fortifications of Gibraltar and Malta, and had concentrated the remains of her fleets in the home waters, to prepare for the invasion which was now inevitable as soon as fair winds and fine weather made it possible for the war-balloons of the League to cross the water and cooperate with the invading forces.

The Tsar, as had been expected, had not even deigned to reply to Tremayne’s summons to disarm, and so the last arrangements for bringing the forces of the Federation into action at the proper time were pushed on with the utmost speed. The blockade of the American and Canadian coasts was rigidly maintained, and no vessels allowed to enter or leave any of the ports. All the warships of the League had been withdrawn from the Atlantic, and the great ocean highway remained unploughed by a single keel.

On the 10th of October the Ithuriel had returned from her second trip to the West, with the refusal of the British Government to recognise the Federation as a duly constituted Power, or to have any dealings with its leaders. “Great Britain,” the reply concluded, “will stand or fall alone; and even in the event of ultimate defeat, the King of England will prefer to make terms with the sovereigns opposed to him rather than with those whose acts have proved them to be beyond the pale of the law of nations.”

“Ah!” said Tremayne to Arnold, as he read the royal words, “the policy which lost the American Colonies for the sake of an idea still rules at Westminster, it seems. But I’m not going to let the old Lion be strangled in his den for all that.

“Natas was right when he said that Britain would have to pass through the fire before she would accept the Federation, and so I suppose she must, more’s the pity. Still, perhaps it will be all for the best in the long run. You can’t expect to root up a thousand-year-old oak as easily as a mushroom that only came up the day before yesterday.”

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37