The Rhetoric of Reform

Topics: John D. Rockefeller, Business terms, Robber barons Pages: 2 (1203 words) Published: October 28, 2014

Ciarra McGee
Professor Frawley
U.S. History 1302
6 November 2013
Robber Baron or Captain of Industry
In the 1880’s, American industry grew due to many factors including “the emergence of a talented and often ruthless group of entrepreneurs” (Brinkley 396). According to those in favor of these entrepreneurs, these men worked hard, innovated technology and strategized competitively to transform the American economy; these “Captains of Industry,” such as Andrew Carnegie, Cornelius Vanderbilt, J Pierpoint Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, used their wealth to help their communities and should be honored for their philanthropy. An advocate for these entrepreneurs is John S. Gordon. As a specialist of business and financial history, Gordon claims these Captains of Industry improved the American lifestyle in his book An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power. Believing in a laissez-faire government, Gordon remained skeptical of government restrictions on any competition (John S. Gordon). To the contrary, those against these entrepreneurs believed that these men were cruel and self-centered “Robber Barons” who took advantage of their workers (Captains of Industry). As a Socialist advocate for the underclass and a Marxist, Howard Zinn condemned capitalism; he believed that the corporate ruling class only benefited the rich. Both Zinn and Gordon categorized these big businessmen differently based on their beliefs. Although two people can look at the same pieces of information, those two people may have different perspectives, and therefore, see the same argument from two different sides. According to Howard Zinn, the year 1877 became the turn of the century: a line between the masses and the corporate elite was drawn with backing from the government. New technology had revolutionized the industry, the demand for labor had increased along with an increase in supply of workers, and new corporations had been created with big businessmen heading...

Cited: Calnan, J. A. "Captains of Industry or Robber Barons." CAPTAINS OF INDUSTRY OR ROBBER BARONS. N.p., 2006. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <http://www.newbedford.k12.ma.us/srhigh/calnan/Industrialists.htm>.
"John Steele Gordon." John Steele Gordon. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <http://www.johnsteelegordon.com/bio.html>.
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