Industrial Leaders – Robber barons or Industrial Statesmen? The late 19th century industrial leaders have often been called “industrial statesmen” for the great economic power they brought to America. However, they have also been called “robber barons” since they built this great wealth by abusing the system, their employees, and destroying their competitors. These kings of industry displayed characteristics of both industrial statesmen and robber barons. But which would better describe them?
They had their faults, but overall these leaders should be respected for all they have done. The Gilded Age was a century known for having capitalism, corruption, and crude displays of wealth. Business leaders thought too much of their own money to notice the negative effect they had on the business market. Mark Twain named the Gilded Age – ‘gilded’ meaning ‘covered with gold’. He was one of the many people who believed that these business owners were robber barons and lived only for the making of their own money.
Twain had said that the main goal for a man was to get rich – preferably in the most dishonest way. He strongly believed that millionaires like Rockefeller and Carnegie dishonestly received their high income. Likewise, William Sumner wrote “The captains of industry… if they are successful, win great fortunes in a short time. ” There was a huge difference – The captains of industry were well liked, while the millionaire robber barons. Andrew Carnegie, one of the top millionaires, was actually quite concerned for the public and their income.
In fact, he wrote that the lucky wealthy should lead a simple life. Truth be told, he himself owned 40,000 acres of land and it was difficult to keep his moneymaking life modest. However, he was still one of the most humble of his fellow millionaire friends. He believed that civilization has greatly advanced and changed life conditions, yet he encouraged industrial and commercial competition. On the other hand, John D. Rockefeller, also known as the owner of Standard Oil Co. did not care much for modesty. His oil company proudly took over 90 percent of all oil businesses.
Rockefeller spent a lot of time focusing on how his money could help humanity and how his business could profit. Before his death in 1937 and after making such a mind-blowing amount of money, he was generous enough to donate much of it to medical use, schools, and Baptist projects. These acts of total integrity put him in the spot right between “industrial statesmen” and “robber baron. ” One would hope that the owner of railroads would be gracious toward humanity as well, but William Vanderbilt had no plans of being gracious whatsoever.
His railroads did improve services, but in an interview with the Chicago Daily News in 1882 he would say, “Public be damned… I don’t take any stock in this silly nonsense about working for anyone’s good but our own” In respect to Rockefeller and Vanderbilt’s doings, Russell H. Conwell agreed that being rich was the best way to live. In his speech ‘Acres of Diamonds’, he declared that the majority of the rich were the most honest men you could find in the community. The rich became rich because they were the ones trusted with money, and therefore deserved it.
Conwell and many others lived by the statement that it is one’s duty to get rich. Obviously, this helped them all think a little more of their money and did not help in the realization of how they were corrupting the government. Overall, the “industrial statesmen” prototype tended to protrude more than the “robber barons”. One could tell by their work that their efforts towards society were for the people and not at all for the money. For example, Tomas Edison; in a letter, he wrote that he would soon have the best and largest Laboratory. He was also sure that his company would make anything “from a ladys watch to a Locomotive. Edison showed great dedication for his work and the skilled workers he had. He knew the correct way to run a business and to pick the workers. He strove for better results, because it would help humanity. James Weaver can be labeled as an industrial statesman since his main desire was a good, capable business. In his novel “A Call to Action”, Walker discussed that trusts are in conflict with the common law. He stood behind his opinion that the main weapons of trusts are threats, intimidation, bribery, fraud, wreck, and pillage; all those in favor of trusts are robber barons.
In conclusion, the Captains of Industry tried to organize new industries and provide better services as well. They also provided good jobs for the workers and gave much of their money to various charities. The Robber Barons, on the other hand, made millions of dollars without noticing their workers’ small incomes or donating a cent to a deserving cause. They were too busy checking the inflating prices, destroying competitors, and corrupting the government. However, characterizing the industrialists as a whole is completely uncalled-for, but an only be measured by an extent. Did they influenced Mark Twain in the naming of the Gilded Age or did they really did help out the U. S financially? The U. S had many factories and businesses that ran well, but they did not have unity. The economic world fell since there were constant wars between businesses and strikes between the people and the business. Like everyone else on this planet, they had flaws. However, the industrial leaders of the 19th century should be admired for their input into U. S.