The First Tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt

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“If he had been able to liquidate his $100 million estate to American purchasers at full market value, he would have received about $1 out of every $9 in existence.” (569) Cornelius Vanderbilt lived an “epic life” by fighting through unthinkable adversity to rise from basically rags to unimaginable riches. In the First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, by T.J. Stiles, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s attitude towards competitiveness in the American business enterprise slowly transformed in the different stages of his life as he shaped American business. Stiles did a great job of breaking up Vanderbilt’s life in to three stages in his life: Captain, Commodore, and King. All three were equally important parts of his life, and during each stage his attitude towards a competitive business enterprise changed. In the early years of Vanderbilt’s life he was not properly educated in the field of business, or anything for that matter. However, he began to gain exposure to business practices and techniques as he ferried passengers and cargo in the Manhattan area. Then when Vanderbilt began to work as business manager under Thomas Gibbons, his first outlook on competitive business enterprise started to become apparent. When the New York Legislature granted Livingston and Fulton the charter of exclusive steamboat navigation between New York and New Jersey, the business of Gibbons and Vanderbilt was threatened. The decision to continue business on these exclusive waters spurred a controversy that became the landmark Supreme Court decision, Gibbons v Ogden. Gibbons and Vanderbilt, who also had a similar appeal to the Supreme Court, both had the attitude that Congress had the right “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;” (Article 1, Section 8, United States Constitution). Because Congress had the control over interstate commerce, they believed that they were justified in competing against the Livingston...
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