Tragheim and the Nihilists (part 1)

If this story does concern a member of the family, and not someone employing a pseudonym, then it’s most likely to concern Samuel Tragheim (b. 1838). In another article, which I’ll post separately, Leo Hartmann, who was a famous anarchist involved in a plot to blow up the Czar, describes “Tragheim” as about 45, Jewish, owning several properties in New York, and with the familiarity of the city that came with several years of living there. We know that Samuel married in 1877 in Manhattan (and so would have lived there at least four years before these events), and would have been 43 years old at the time this article was written.

The Evening Post, New York, Friday, August 12, 1881.

Some Startling Facts About the Czar

Leo Hartmann, Russian Anarchist

Hartmann is continuing his revelations in the columns of the Herald, and today he gives a highly interesting account of a somewhat important feature in the war between the nihilists and the Czar. It seems that not only are the revolutionists getting dynamite ready for him, but he is at work to in the same field. On August 13, 1880, on the Northwestern Railway, at some distance from London, he says there was found a cylinder charged with dynamite and provided with a percussion cap. It was placed in such a way that, had it not been discovered, it would have blown up a train. Now who put this dynamite there? The London police went to work and came to a conclusion that greatly startled the English government, as well it might. It was that the cylinder had been made not by the nihilists, but by the “secret agents of the Russian Czar.” The motive was obvious enough. He was “seeking for a chance to bring odium on the nihilists who had emigrated to England, in the hope of barring them as from the last safe asylum they could find in Europe.” The curious part of the affair is that the British Government have shown so little spirit about it. They have apparently taken no notice of it at all, though it is evident that a government which allows a nominally friendly sovereign to put dynamite under its railroads to blow up its citizens, and thus “bring odium” upon other people whom he dislikes, cannot long maintain a leading position in the affairs of the world.

Hartmann has been followed for a long time by Russian spies, and particularly by a man named Tragheim. The allusion to this gentleman as his “Judas” shows that his short visit to the United States has not been thrown away on him. Tragheim, it appears, had some forged paper with them which he tried to “work off” upon Hartman in such a way as to implicate the latter in the forgery, but the nihilist was too astute to be caught in this way. Then Tragheim tried to kidnap him, but failed in this too. Finally he came to Hartmann with a frank offer of £10,000 for the murder of the Czar. Hartman closed with him at once, but naturally insisted on having the money paid in advance. On this Tragheim, who seems to have been a foolish sort of person for the Czar to select for any serious work, offered £500 down, and promised to draw the remaining £9,500 at Odessa and hand it to Hartmann when the job was done. The astute nihilist, however, pointed out to Tragheim that, as his death would in all probability immediately follow that of the Czar, he would only net £500 by the operation and be dead at that, while Tragheim would pocket £9500. That answer “cut Tragheim deeply, and he changed the subject.”

Hartmann is at his best when he is dealing with plain facts such as these. His legal conclusions are interesting, but, as he himself seems to admit, somewhat in advance of the times. The Czar has, he shows, committed two grave common law crimes: First, by means of an agent, he has forged Russian banknotes at Paris; and second he has engaged in dynamite conspiracy in England. That he ought to be held responsible for these crimes no one familiar with the elementary maxim Qui facit per allium facit per se can dispute. If things were as they ought to be “both the English Government and the French Government could request the Executive Committee to extradite the Czar.” But Hartmann adds, thoughtfully, “that request has not been made, I presume, for the reason that the committee, Bill being the government de facto as it is not recognized de jure as the Czar is.”

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