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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