Robber Barons vs. Captains of Industry - Essay Sample

2021-06-28 10:23:35
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George Washington University
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America has had philosophers and business persons who have made it successful. In most cases, the country has been undergoing changes which are catalyzed by the most influential individuals all the same. For one to be able to succeed in business while in a country like America, the people must recognize your efforts and they should also appreciate the kind of work or achievement that you have done. These results are obtained by different means. There are those who get them legally and equitably using means that everyone can second. While there are those, who get the achievements by deceitful means.

It all depends on the channel that one follows to make the country flourish and be declared a superpower. This idea brings us to a thesis statement which says, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller were wealthy business leaders in the late 1800's. Many questioned whether these three men should be viewed as Robber Barons or Captains of Industry in America." This essay strives to find out the truth and prove the group and section where the three belonged.

The term Robber Barons is derogatory as it was used regarding the powerful people and industrialists perceived to be wealthy. These groups of people controlled the economy by means which everyone kept questioning as they were not clear in their deeds. They took part in monopolizing most of the industries such as the tobacco industry, the steel industry, and the oil industry. They also controlled some of the commonly known banks where they took part in business practices which were unfair. The Robber Barons existed at a time when the United States was undergoing an industrial revolution in the 1800's (Stiles, 2). They made the lives of Americans to change immensely by making the social nature of the people to become complicated and also caused them to engage in economic riots and the establishment of unions. The Robber Barons obtained the name in that they were greedy and ruthless regarding the unethical business that they involved themselves.

On the other hand, there were still a group of people referred to as the Captains of Industry. They were individuals who engaged in entrepreneurial activates during the 1800's (Stiles, 5). They also acquired a lot of success and wealth from the business activities that they handled. These people were the complete opposite of the Robber Barons as they were compassionate and their endeavors were all ethical. They went ahead to use the wealth that they had accumulated to influence people positively and lure them into taking part in contributions that were geared towards the development of the nation and also increasing the living standards of the Americans. Thomas Carlyle was the first person to coin the term Captains of Industry in a book that he wrote in the year 1843. In this book, he was availing the impact of industrial revolution during the Victorian era.

The people who bore the name Captains of America were taking part in activities that entailed opening up the business markets, providing people with more jobs, increasing productivity, and increasing trade. The Captains of Industry were so optimistic that they promoted the new inventions that existed and also embraced the use of technology to open up and expand the industrial facilities in America (Stiles, 7). They were a hard working group such that they were praised for earning money fairly. They were men with lots of vision in that they supported the building of industries and contributed to the tremendous change in the United States' economy.

Some controversial cases and debates exist regarding the Americans who were deemed to be Robber Barons and those who were Captains of Industry. Some of the Americans lie in both the groups but the peoples' perceptions have landed them in only one. The line between the two groups is fine as most of the ordinary American workers were perceived to be Robber Barons for taking part in unfair forms of business. One of the prime examples of Robber Barons was George Mortimer Pullman of 1831 to 1897 (Stiles, 2). His fortune came at a time when he designed the Pullman Sleeping car. Whether one was a captain of industry of a Robber Barron, it depended on the perspective under which the term was used. The three wealthy and prosperous individuals in the 1800's were Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and Cornelius Vanderbilt.

From the actions and activities that Andrew Carnegie took part in, he came out as a Captain of Industry and not a Robber Baron. He was born in the year 1835 and died in 1919 at a time when the First World War had just come to an end. He was a self-made tycoon who majorly focused in the business of steel. He acted as Philanthropist and took part in the growth and development of New York Public Library (Scranton, 34). He wanted a nation of educated people so that everyone could become self-made and be able to help in the growth of American Economy. In the year 1889, Carnegie took part in the softening of the philosophy which at that time was somehow intensive. He did this by publishing an article which he titled the Gospel of Wealth' (Josephson, 18)

In his article, he made a description of the responsibility that philanthropist should bear by coming up with a new feature in the upper-class group of people. He wanted to experience a time when the upper-class groups of individuals could become equal to the lower class. He implemented this idea by making huge donations of dollars to the charitable causes. Carnegie was so compassionate that he wanted to find a way in which he could offer employment to almost all the jobless people in America, but it was not possible (Scranton, 34). He was one of the commonly known Captains of Industry as he had a helpful and sympathetic character. His actions were in most cases opposed by the Robber Barons as they had a feeling of being exposed in the long run.

John D. Rockefeller was also a Captain of Industry and not a Robber Baron. He was born in the year 1839 and died in the year 1937. He was the head and captain of an oil company which was the greatest in U.S. At this time, oil was a precious resource, and it led to a better maximization of profits and improved standards of living. Rockefeller was a philanthropist who used his fortune to fund the charitable causes (Purdy, 5). He wanted to ensure that the actions of Carnegie did not fade away as he made lots of improvement when it came to funding the unfortunate societies in America. Even though Carnegie was a Captain of Industry, he at times used ruthless means and unethical methods to have things done. A tiny part of him leaned on the Robber Barons side as he engaged in unethical business. He covered this up by promoting and funding the poor and the small businesses in America.

The other controversial in this case is Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877). He was commonly known as being an industrialist who concatenated in the construction of railroads and steamboats. He flourished in this business as the railroads and steamboats were newly invented, and people wanted to invest in them immensely. As one of the practitioners in this field, Vanderbilt succeeded. Vanderbilt had a breakthrough in business such that he accumulated the largest fortune in America when compared to others who took part in different kinds of activities. He was known as a great philanthropist at the time of his death. Most people in the United States got employment opportunities for working in some of his companies. From the fact that he was self-made, he knew what people go through before they get to platforms of being successful. Being referred to as a Captain of Industry, Vanderbilt was somehow a Robber Baron. During his time, he made some of his workers to undergo depression as he was slightly ruthless. He also made other people in the steamboat industry go out of the business as he forced the cutting of shipping rates (Purdy, 9).

In conclusion, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller were entirely Captains of Industry as there good and philanthropic deeds overpowered their negative and Robber Barons deeds. They were accepted and welcome in the business industries as they helped people to develop and get to favorable levels. Drifting away from individual and personal development of Americans, they contributed to the economic awakening of the country. Their business activities were beneficial nationally as they raised awareness and the Gross Domestic Product of United States.

Works Cited

Stiles T.J. The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. 2009 Web 5 May. 2017

Scranton, Philip. Fine Line between Thief and Entrepreneur. 2011

Purdy, Jacqueline. 5 things you may not know about the men who built America. History Lists. 2012 Web. 5 May. 2017

Josephson, Mathew. The Robber Barons: The Great American Capitalists, 1861-1901, New York Harcourt, Brace and Company. 1934

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