Mr. Sargent to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Berlin , March 19, 1883. (Received April 4.)
Sir: The recent dynamite outrages at the Government buildings at London have provoked theremark that the British Government will probably now apply to other countries for the establishment of an international league, by which crimes that partake of the nature of warfare against mankind, even if accompanying, or intended to be aids to, political agitation, may be more severely punished. A proposition coming from the English Government might have much readier assent thus if emanating from Russia or Germany; but I cannot doubt that every European Government is sufficiently startled by the dreadful developments and crimes going forward, and which have occurred during a twelvemonth, to be ready to form a league for the general protection. The recent developments in Ireland, England, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria and Belgium, the shadow of nihilism on Russia, the struggle against socialism in Germany, show a species of national epidemic of agrarian crime, with the dagger and dynamite for tools. These demonstrations are not merely “against throne and altar,” but also against capital and industry. They occur not merely in despotic Russia or repressive Germany, but in free France and liberal England. A parliament, universal suffrage, free press, written constitution, do not act as a panacea for discontent. Political agitation was never so free as it has been for several years in France, yet there are banded anarchists at Lyons, Paris and elsewhere. Italy has a constitutional system, and [Page 362] Spain a liberal monarch and a free parliament, yet the former has been witness of murderous outrages and the latter of the organization of the secret society of the “Black Hand,” that has declared death to all landowners. Belgium suffers from the plague of banded cut-throats with free working institutions. It is not true that freedom is a cure for popular discontent. The startling fact is becoming forced on public notice that there is a fanaticism for an equality of goods, a creed that property is robbery, that the employer is the natural enemy of the employed, that the state is unjust because it keeps the rich in possession of ill-gotten wealth, which should be divided with the multitude, and hence the latter must be suppressed as the first step toward the redemption of the people from thralldom. The advocates of these theories hate the government of the majority as much as that of the Kaiser, perhaps more, for it is more difficult to secure the belief of the masses that free speech and vote accompany tyranny. These extreme views are held by an inferior minority in every community, but that minority works much in the dark, and resorts to the most desperate crimes to terrify the authorities and excite the imaginations of the people. I may be allowed to glance at the developments of this socialistic drama on the crowded European theater.
The phases of the English-Irish disorders are entirely familiar to you, and need no remark. I will merely say that in Ireland anarcby has not extended beyond the soil, and capitalists are not warred on as such, perhaps because the landlords represent the existing wealth.
In France the recent demonstrations were aimed at the bourgeoisie. This was the burden of the cries of those who gathered at the Esplanade des Invalides on the 9th instant, and the rush for the Elysée was for the purpose of presenting a petition showing the sufferings of the people because the wealtby classes locked up their money, and would not continue building in Paris that artisans might live. These were open and public manifestations, in which there was more or less sympathy by the real artisan class, suffering from a pinching season, and Bonapartist and Bourbon agitators rejoiced in the incipient riots, and tried to make them disastrous, to add to the troubles of the Bepub-lic. But there was under all disguises the spirit that dictated the dynamite outrages at Monceau-les-Mines and at Lyons, viz, the purpose to bring about a community of worldly possessions, by destroying the present holders of all kinds of property, and all institutions which have the possession of property as their basis.
In Spain and Portugal the Governments are attempting to suppress the Mano Negro, (Black Hand) secret society, which proclaims merciless war against officials and landlords. This band is spreading terror in some of the fairest provinces of Spain. The newspapers speak of threatening letters to Spanish authorities, and of abominable outrages on farmers and their families. The origin of the name is variously accounted for. Some say that one of the assassins of General Prim struck his powder-begrimed hand on the white wall, and that the mark is indelible. Others that the police found, on one occasion when they surprised a meeting of the sinister brotherhood, a carbonized human hand suspended from the ceiling, and that on this frightful object the conspirators were accustomed to swear fidelity to their engagements. The ramifications of this society extend through Southern Spain, and the Spanish peasantry are said to sympathize with it as the Irish peasantry do with the Fenians. The revolution which the Black Hand seeks to create is both social and political, its doctrines being a mixture of French [Page 363] socialism and Russian nihilism. It advocates making the state the sole possessor of property and capital, on the condition that it deals it out to all in equal and fixed proportions. Such doctrines find favor among a poor and ignorant peasantry. The Spanish Government is fully aroused, and is acting with great energy to suppress this murderous association.
In Austria a single circumstance may be cited as symptomatic. On the 4th of July last, at noon, in a frequented street of Vienna, a shoe dealer was assailed in his own house by two persons, who chloroformed him, and then robbed his till. This apparently vulgar though daring crime was traced by the police to a socialist society, and recently nineteen persons, of the artisan and tradesman class, were arrested on the charge of being participators in the crime. It seems that small associations, consisting of from five to eight members each, are formed among workmen, each member being bound to establish another similar circle. A pamphlet found in the possession of the accused declares the resolution of the masses to do away with the throne, altar and money bags, and to establish the Red Republic, which can alone save mankind. In consequence of these agitations secret meetings were held as far back as 1881, one of which the police interrupted and a riot ensued, The object of the crime first above named was to procure funds for the use of the society, and the immediate actors in it were designated for the purpose. It is said that there is an intimate connection between these societies and the revolutionary party in London, led by the Freiheit, and copies of this paper were also found in the possession of the accused.
In Russia there is a lull in the operations of the nihilists, either because the vigorous measures of the Government have extirpated the sect or made their operations too dangerous, or because they await the coronation of the Czar for a renewed manifestation of their power and implacable spirit. The wonderful duel between an autocratic Government and its secret foes has gone on for several years, and attracted the attention of the world to its details, and I need not further refer to it, except to say that it is reported that Hartman and other nihilists in New York have said that the ceremony shall not take place.
In relation to Germany, I will confine myself to the Government’s statement, contained in the statutory annual memorial in the execution of the socialist law, which was submitted at the last session of the Reichstag, which is, in substance, that the state of the “social democratic” movement in Germany is by no means such as to warrant the conclusion that it is being extinguished or even worn out. The discomfiture caused in the ranks of the anarchists, immediately after the issue of the penal enactments against them, is beginning to disappear; and the last imperial general election was marked by an outburst of the flames of the revolutionary organization. The moderate party among the social democrats is outvoiced by the extremists, and the agitation of the latter continues by speech and writing. The fugitive sheets issued by the anarchists are, perhaps, less numerous than before, but periodicals like the Freiheit and Social Democrat, are smuggled into the Empire on as great a scale as ever, no fewer than 13,000 copies of the latter print having been confiscated in Germany in the space of three months. The followers of Herr Most, in Germany, are rapidly waxing in numbers, and the Polish inhabitants of Prussia are being worked upon by well-known agencies in London. In Hamburg and Altona the socialists have been particularly busy and successful, [Page 364] despite all the efforts of the police, and notwithstanding the minor state of siege, which had therefore to be prolonged for another year. In Berlin the agitation has fluctuated, owing to the detection and expulsion of some of its ringleaders, the removal of whom, it is found, invariably paralyzes, for a time, anarchical efforts. Means were found, however, to disseminate about 20,000 copies of a forbidden address “to the work-ingmen of Berlin,” printed probably in Saxony, which violently assailed the “quackery of state socialism,” and denounced the injustice of “exploitation.” At present there is a deceptive calm on the sea of socialist agitation in Berlin; but there are certain sure signs that the current is still moving. Leipsic, too, as the center of the book-trade, and for other obvious reasons (its university?) continues to maintain its evil reputation as a nest of social democrats, of whom no fewer than eighty had to be expelled the city in less than a year, apart from societies dissolved and publications confiscated. The only effect of these measures, however, is that the organization against which they were directed is less compact than before, though just as active.
It cannot be asserted that the social democratic movement has hitherto lost in internal strength and importance. The conviction, on the other hand, is irresistibly forced upon the Government, that the remedial results already achieved can only be preserved by continuing its repressive measures.
This epitome of the Government report gives an official view of the present condition of the socialistic movement in this Empire. The repressive laws referred to have been in force for four years.
From this rapid glance at the evidences of agrarian upheaval in Europe, it may be assumed that the European Governments will be prepared to make concerted efforts to bring to punishment those who war against government and property by the perpetration of crime and outrages, and to abolish the frontier of crime. If such concert of action is to take place, there is no doubt that the United States will be asked to consent to such modification or interpretation of its extradition treaties that its soil cannot be a refuge for the perpetrators of such acts as the Dublin assassinations, the dynamite outrage in London or Monceau-les-Mines, or the abettors of the murder of the Czar of Russia. It is quite probable that any overtures will contain a proposition for the prohibition of the publication of matter inciting to criminal acts against Government and society and its circulation in the mails.
I have, &c.,