Industrial Leaders Controversy

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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...
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