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Andrew Carnegie, Eugene V. Debs, and Horatio Alger

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During the late nineteenth century rapid industrialization paved the way for extreme economical wealth of many business. In accordance with the overflowing wealth in the nineteenth century many individuals held similar but yet contrasting views toward the wealth that was created in the United States. Among these individuals were Andrew Carnegie, Eugene V. Debs, and Horatio Alger.

One of the best-known philanthropists was the American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who devoted the latter part of his life to giving away most of the huge fortune he had amassed in the steel industry. Following the principles laid down in his essay “Gospel of Wealth” , Carnegie returned over $300 million to society, primarily through foundations and trusts. Debs believed that wealth is predestined and that god gave him his wealth. Although different in ideas Carnegie perform what Eugene V. Debs believed in: the distribution of wealth.

Eugene Debs began working on the railroads at age 14, and in 1893, at age 38, he founded the American Railway Union. The union dissolved after a violent strike in 1894. Debs served a six-month jail sentence for his participation in the strike and turned to radical politics soon after being released. Despite persecution for his political beliefs, Debs ran as the Socialist candidate for president five times. He collected 6 percent of the vote in 1912. The socialist doctrine demands state ownership and control of the fundamental means of production and distribution of wealth, to be achieved by reconstruction of the existing capitalist or other political system of a country through peaceful, democratic, and parliamentary means. The doctrine specifically advocates nationalization of natural resources, basic industries, banking and credit facilities, and public utilities. It places special emphasis on the nationalization of monopolized branches of industry and trade, viewing monopolies as inimical to the public welfare. Debs attitudes toward the wealth that was create was that the government should redistribute it, so that everyone could be equal economically. Even though this idea may seem absurd it can be looked upon as an action of Andrew Carnegie in a less radical form.

Washington differed from both Carnegie and Debs but yet still held one similar aspect that ties him with them. On September 18, 1895, in Atlanta, Georgia, Washington made his famous compromise speech. In this address he urged blacks to accept their inferior social position for the present and to strive to raise themselves through vocational training and economic self-reliance. This attitude of able to achieve economically through hard work contrasts the idea of both Carnegie and Debs. Carnegie believed in predestined wealth. However Washington’s attitude was if one works hard, one can become rich. It also contrasts Debs attitude because Debs believed in the redistribution of wealth. However despite theses differences there is one thing that ties them together: the redistribution of wealth. Washington founded several organizations, including the National Negro Business League, to further black advancement. Because he donated to organizations or society he was redistributing his wealth.

Andrew Carnegie, known for his great contributions to sociality; Debs for his radical socialism beliefs; Washington for beliefs in working towards wealth all played a key role in shaping nineteenth century history. Their ideas were very contrasting, but however they each overlapped each other in a unique way which led to the belief or action of redistribution of wealth.

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