AP US History
ESSAY: Robber Baron or Industrial Statesman
The 19th Century, people are living in an industrializing America. Individuals view the industrial leader’s changes for the place they live in for better and for worse with mixed feelings. Characterizing these leaders as “industrial statesmen” and “robber barons” depending on the leader’s actions and reputation. This is not entirely justifiable, because some of the wealthy and politically active can be considered both industrial statesmen, and robber barons. A “robber baron” is an active person in investing in trade and economy who made their fortune by ruthless or immoral means. An “industrial statesman” is a leader in an industry who is highly respected, skilled, employed people under reasonable conditions and practiced ethical business practices. This is where justifying whether one was a robber baron or industrial statesmen this is where things get complicated to justify but things that could help categorize them included the tactics one used and the way they spoke in the documents.
To further explain, one of the industrialists that can be characterized justifiably is Thomas Edison. By reading Edison’s letter, (Document B) it is reasonable to conclude that he isn’t corrupt and takes the public interest in mind because of statements such as “ I do not fly any financial Kites”. Another example of a case that is characterized justifiably is William Vanderbilt. In the interview (Document A) Vanderbilt is obviously putting himself before the public, and is corrupt, as seen by his statement of “The public be damned.” Characterizing of industrialists as a whole isn’t justified at all and in some cases results in unfair generalizations. For example, in his book titled “Acres of Diamonds”, Russell H Conwell (Document E) states “ninety-eight out of one hundred of the rich men in America are honest”. It is known that for this time period, many of the industrialists were greatly dishonest. So, while specific cases might fall under one characterization, not all of them will.
Next, there are some industrialists for whom complete characterization is not justified at all. One of these cases is Andrew Carnegie. If one were to read his article in “The North American Review”, entitled “Wealth” they would see from statements such as “competition between these, as being not only beneficial, but essential for the future progress of the race.” that Carnegie, although not believing in putting all stock helping the community, but in helping it by creating competition. Some try to characterize Carnegie albeit unsuccessfully. In cases such as these it is difficult to justify whether one is an industrial statesmen or robber…