Few Scots have rivaled Carnegie’s impact on business, peace, philanthropy, and the human race more broadly.
Born in the Scottish town of Dunfermline in 1935, the young Andrew Carnegie emigrated to the United States of America with his family at the age of 12. Having left education in his teenage years to work as a ‘bobbin boy’, Carnegie subsequently became a telegraph operator and rail road supervisor before starting his own business ventures.
His corporation, Carnegie Steel, was sold to JP Morgan in 1901 for a staggering $303,450,000 (worth an estimated $350 billion in today’s money) and was the backbone of America’s industrial revolution and provided the steel by which railroads, buildings, ships, bridges, and other infrastructure projects were built with.
Having become the world’s wealthiest man, and one of the wealthiest people of all time, Carnegie gave away his fortune in history’s greatest act of philanthropy. The following clip is the only known recording on Andrew Carnegie speaking, in which he shares his “Gospel of Wealth” philosophy.
A written transcript has been provided below.
My quotes from the Gospel, published twenty-five years ago. This, then, is held to be the duty of the man of wealth:
First, to set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and after doing so to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is strictly bound as a matter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community – the man of wealth thus becoming the mere trustee and agent for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience and ability to administer.
Those who would administer wisely must, indeed, be wise, for one of the serious obstacles to the improvement of our race is indiscriminate charity. It were better for mankind that the millions of the rich were thrown in to the sea than so spent as to encourage the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy. In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help those who help themselves; to provide part of the means by which those who desire to improve may do so; to give to those who (rightly?) desire to rise the aids by which they may rise; to assist, but rarely or never [unintelligble] to do all.
He is the only true reformer who is careful and as anxious not to aid the unworthy as he is to aid the worthy, and, perhaps, even more so, for in alms-giving more injury may done by promoting vice than by relieving virtue. Thus is the problem of the rich and poor to be solved. The laws of accumulation will be left free; the laws of distribution free. Individualism will continue, but the millionaire will be but a trustee for the poor; entrusted for a season with a part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could or would have done of itself.
The best minds will thus have reached a stage in the development of the race in which it is clearly seen that there is no mode of disposing of surplus wealth creditable to thoughtful and earnest men into whose hands it flows save by using it year by year for the general good. This day already dawns. Men may die without incurring the pity of their fellows, [unintellible] sharers in great business enterprises from which their capital cannot be or has not been withdrawn, which is left entirely at death for public uses.
Yet the day is not far distant when the man who dies leaving behind him millions of available wealth, which was free for him to administer during life, will pass away “unwept, unhonored, and unsung”, no matter to what use he leaves the dross which he cannot take with him.
Of such as these the public verdict will then be: “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.” Such, in my opinion, is the true Gospel concerning Wealth, obedience to which is destined some day to solve the problem of the rich and the poor, to hasten the coming brotherhood of man, and at last to make our earth a heaven.