19th Century's Industrialists: Robber Barons or Industrial Statesmen? Essay example

19th Century's Industrialists: Robber Barons or Industrial Statesmen? Essay example

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Industrial development of the late 18th century (around 1865-1900) is often characterized by it’s affluent, aggressive and monopolistic industrial leaders of the likes of men such as Andrew Carnegie, William H. Vanderbilt, and John D. Rockefeller. Due to their ruthless strategies, utilization of trusts, and exploitation of cheap labor in order to garner nearly unbreakable monopolies and massive sums of wealth, these men are often labelled as “robber barons”. At the same time, they are also often referred to as “industrial statements” for their organization, and catalyst of, industrial development; not to forget their generous contributions to the betterment of American society. Therefore, whether or not their aforementioned advances in industry were undertaken for their own personal benefits, one cannot ignore their positive effects on America. Thus, one can conclude that not only were the captains of industry both “robber barons” and “industrial statements”, but that that these two labels, in fact, go hand-in-hand.
As mentioned, it is accurate to allot the title of “robber baron” to the industrial leaders of the time in that they employed various, considerably unethical, methods in order to obtain untold riches. Such a notion is quite evident in William H. Vanderbilt’s own words, that, “[t]he railroads are not run for the benefit of the ‘dear public’-that cry is all nonsense they are built by men who invest their money”. (Document A) Vanderbilt even goes so far as to say something such as, “[t]he public be damned”, so to demonstrate he does not care for the opinion and state of the public, but rather only of his own and of his fellow financiers. Such statements prove that Vanderbilt sought to further his wealth, whether or not ...


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...interpretations of their assumption of millions of dollars. Due to their appropriation of godlike fortunes, and numerous contributions to American society, they simultaneously displayed qualities of both aforementioned labels. Therefore, whether it be Vanderbilt’s greed, Rockefeller’s philanthropy, or Carnegie’s social Darwinist world view, such men were, quite unarguably, concurrently forces of immense good and evil: building up the modern American economy, through monopolistic trusts and exploitative measures, all the while developing unprecedented affluence. Simply, the captains of late 19th century industry were neither wholly “robber barons” or “industrial statesmen”, but rather both, as they proved to be indifferent to their “lesser man” in their quests for profit, while also helping to organize industry and ultimately, greatly improve modern American society.

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