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The Gospel of Wealth Previous Next
Digital History ID 3170

 

Andrew Carnegie did not believe that men of great wealth were robber barons, but trustees whose duty it was to devote their talents to the common good. This, he wrote, is "the true Gospel concerning Wealth, obedience to which is destined some day to solve the problem of the Rich and the Poor, and to bring 'Peace on earth, among men of Good-Will.'"

Drawing on the doctrine of St. Paul, that the rich had to be stewards of wealth, defenders of the Gospel of Wealth, like the Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, argued that it was God's will that some men attained great wealth, and "in the long run, it is only to the man of morality that wealth comes." He concluded: "Material prosperity is helping to make the national character sweeter, more joyous, more unselfish, more Christ like."

In an 1889 essay, steel magnate Carnegie told his fellow business leaders, "The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced." Carnegie believed that the wealthy should repay their debt to society. True to his beliefs, by his death in 1919 he had divested himself of more than 95 percent of his fortune. He built a library building for any town that would provide a site, stock the building with books, and guarantee maintenance expenses. He provided pensions for professors at universities that agreed to meet strict academic standards. In addition to funding music halls, outdoor swimming pools, and church organs, he also set up endowments to promote teaching and world peace.

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