Andrew Carnegie Perhaps the Story Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

There would be other incidents of violence, and it is that part of Carnegie's history where we are able in retrospect to see him as a businessman in retrospect.

There are some historians and researchers who believe that Carnegie and other wealthy men of the industrial era were not just men focused on building their industrial empires, but who were also focused on building world empires (Jenkins, Dominick, 2005, p. 223). To that end, they have been deemed internationalists by some researchers who hold that Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford used justice acquire wealth (p. 223). It is what historian and researcher Dominick Jenkins (2005) calls "accumulation by dispossession (p. 223)." This is the philosophy that holds that these men, whose roots and origins were close to Europe, were not just ushering in an age of industrialization, but also a move towards global superiority and imperialism (p. 223).

There are signs that Jenkins and others are right, and that the United States is more than a democratic nation-state; it is an imperial bound super power whose own goal has long been world domination and control. What is now being touted as the global community is in fact a movement at the head of which we find the United States. Jenkins brings up the interesting fact that many Americans oppose neoliberal economic globalization, and that as the United States takes the lead in that endeavor, no one has sought the input of the American taxpayer (p. 223). It is an aspect of American government for which lawmakers, encouraged and incentivized by capitalists and business leaders need no concurrence from the American taxpayer. Jenkins says:

Carnegie's lockout and use of Pinkerton men is likened to the pirate Captain William Kidd's use of violence on the high seas; his representation of himself as a philanthropist and his magnificent gifts are likened to the acts of the Pharisees who prayed in the streets of Jerusalem while they were "devouring widows' houses and binding burdens on the backs of men." Carnegie's treatment of his workers is likened to the Brahmins' treatment of pariahs in India or the Southern plantation owners' treatment of their slaves. The workers, by contrast, are like the men of 1776 who overthrew George III's absolute despotism and established the Republic (Jenkins, Dominick, p. 223)."

Carnegie and his business friends like Rockefeller and help to set into motion that which we are experiencing today. What, then, was the impetus that Carnegie experienced to cause him to look to the future and set into motion what might solidify into a global economy in a global community? What did Carnegie envision? Jenkins says that World War I was a turning point, or, moreover, that point in time which can be pin-pointed as the beginning of American imperialism ushered in by the robber barons. Indeed, as we look to Carnegie's own account of that time, we find that Carnegie references in his autobiography his meeting with the German Emperor (Carnegie, p. 366).

Carnegie, the self-made American success story, was clearly in his own words impressed that he was being received by the German Emperor. Not only was he being received by the German emperor, his presence in a meeting with the Emperor was requested by the Emperor his self following the Emperor's reading Carnegie's book (p. 366). Did Carnegie perhaps give in to the susceptibility of imperialism and see for his accumulated wealth, and for the nation, a future as an imperialistic power monger?

Carnegie's own words would suggest not. In fact, in his autobiography, Carnegie comments on the annexation of the Philippines, and how the Taft Administration was fearful that if the United States did not annex the Philippines, then Germany would (p. 366). In his autobiography, Carnegie expresses grave concerns about this, and says:

It was urged that if we did not occupy the Philippines, Germany would. It never occurred to the urgers that this would mean Britain agreeing that Germany should establish a naval base at Macao, a short sail from Britain's naval base in the East. Britain would as soon permit her to establish a base at Kingston, Ireland, eighty miles from Liverpool. I was surprised to hear men -- men like Judge Taft, although he was opposed at first to the annexation -- give this reason when we were discussing the question after the fatal step had been taken. But we know little of foreign relations. We have hitherto been a consolidated country. It will be a sad day if we ever become anything otherwise (Carnegie, 365)."

In lieu of this expression, it seems that perhaps Carnegie's excitement about being received by the German Emperor was more that of the self-made man arising out of immigrant poverty to the heights of the American dream; but that Carnegie had a clear understanding of how he got to where he was, and wanted to preserve that for those who would aspire to the American dream long after he was gone.

The Philanthropic Carnegie

The historian Professor Louis Morton Hacker focused on Andrew Carnegie as his final research for a book prior to retiring from Columbia University (Zeman, Scott, 1998, p. 85). Hacker appreciated the fact that Carnegie was a self-made man, an entrepreneur who found success during the industrialization of America (p. 85). More importantly, however, Hacker recognized the fact that Carnegie was an entrepreneur, and that men like him were relevant in their time, and that their skills and business acumen allowed them to not only join, but in many ways to surpass the established families of inherited wealth in America (p. 85).

It was, Hacker believed, the fact that Carnegie and other self-made men like him, were entrepreneurs, and self-made, that helped them to illuminate the better side of the capitalistic system in America, because they became men of great and generous philanthropic proportions (p. 85). Without philanthropy, Hacker believed, and without men who arose from the detritus of abject poverty, that, in Carnegie's era, created philanthropic foundations for future generations to build upon and to endow the less fortunate (p. 85).

Unfortunately, Hacker also recognized that while entrepreneurial philanthropy was a manifestation of the best qualities of capitalism, so, too was the lack of entrepreneurial acceptance in the corners of capitalism that he observed near the end of his teaching career (p. 85). Hacker made what is now a haunting prediction: without men like Andrew Carnegie, whose own philanthropy arose out of their own modest beginnings, America.

That our industrial leadership today is hobbled and spiritless is the direct consequence of those years when the middle-class intellectuals were having a Roman holiday." In apocalyptic terms, he predicted that the United States would "drift into the long twilight of our decline" if entrepreneurs continued to be condemned.(43)...Again, Hacker placed his subject within American economic development: Carnegie perfectly personified the zeitgeist of the age of laissez-faire, and his philanthropy was evidence of capitalism's better nature.(44) (Hacker, p. 85)."

The "robber barons," like John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford were amongst some of the wealthy entrepreneurial self-made men that helped to create philanthropic organizations less focused on financial bottom lines than on the nature of the organization's focus on the social good or improvement for which the organization stood (Peebles, Laura, 2001, p. 22). Their philanthropy in many ways remains an obscure for the economics student to fathom, because Carnegie was an astute businessman, who could not have amassed the amount of wealth and influence that he did without being a hardliner, especially to survive the Great Depression and remain financially in tact.


Carnegie was a man of exact business acumen. It would probably be accurate to say that Carnegie probably knew about Frick's use of the Pinkertons in Pennsylvania, but that as a businessman Carnegie backed Frick's decisions to use Pinkertons. That Frick, and not Carnegie, would bear the responsibility for the violence and loss of life that happened during that event, is evidence not of Carnegie's lack of knowledge or decision to do otherwise, but perhaps more accurately reflects Frick's loyalty to Carnegie, and Frick's own financial interest in the site.

Carnegie was a man always aware of his humble beginnings, but he embraced his success, and he would not be apologetic for his fortune and hard work. The era during which Carnegie and others like Ford and Rockefeller came into their wealth was one that facilitated the acumen and goals of self-mad, self-motivated men like Carnegie. He continued to be impressed by European imperialism, but it is doubtful that Carnegie was part of any great establishment or conspiracy to direct the United States along a course of imperialism and world domination by taking over other countries. Rather, it is in Carnegie's own words, that we understand that should events take the United States in that direction, and place it in that position; then it would indeed be a sad day for American and Americans.

Carnegie, at the end of his life,…

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