Robber Barons The Great American Capitalists 1861-1901 By Matthew Josephson

Robber Barons The Great American Capitalists 1861-1901 By Matthew Josephson

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Robber Barons The Great American Capitalists 1861-1901 By Matthew Josephson
The Robber Barons The Great American Capitalists 1861-1901 By Matthew Josephson Hard Cover 1934 FIRST Edition  474 Pages
Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, Erie, railroad grants, national plan for railways to the pacific, Golden Spike, Jay Cooke, PRR, much more.
THIS book attempts the history of a small class of men who arose at the time of our Civil War and suddenly swept into power.
The members of this new ruling class were generally, and quite aptly, called "barons," "kings," "empire-builders," or even "emperors." They were aggressive men, as were the first feudal barons; sometimes they were lawless; in important crises, nearly all of them tended to act without those established moral principles which fixed more or less the conduct of the common people of the community. At the same time, it has been noted, many of them showed volcanic energy and qualities of courage which, under another economic clime, might have fitted them for immensely useful social constructions, and rendered them glorious rather than hateful to their people. These men were robber barons as were their medieval counterparts, the dominating. figures of an aggressive economic age.
In any case, "to draw the American scene as it unfolded between the Civil War and the end of the nineteenth century, without these dominant figures looming in the foreground, is to make a shadow picture," as the Beards have written. "To put in the presidents and the leading senators . . . and leave out such prime actors in the drama is to show scant respect for the substance of life. Why, moreover, should anyone be interested in the beginnings of the House of a Howard or Burleigh and indifferent to the rise of a House of Morgan or Rockefeller?"
When the group of men who form the subject of this history arrived upon the scene, the United States was a mercantile-agrarian democracy. When they departed or retired from active life, it was something else: a unified industrial society, the effective economic control of which was lodged in the hands of a hierarchy.
In short, these men more or less knowingly played the leading roles in an age of industrial revolution. Even their quarrels, intrigues and misadventures (too often treated as merely diverting or picturesque) are part of the mechanism of our history. Under their hands the renovation of our economic life proceeded relentlessly: large-scale production replaced the scattered, decentralized mode of production; industrial enterprises became more concentrated, more "efficient" technically, and essentially "cooperative," where they had been purely individualistic and lamentably wasteful. But all this revolutionizing effort is branded with the motive of private gain on the part of the new captains of industry. To organize and exploit the resources of a nation upon a gigantic scale, to regiment its farmers and workers into harmonious corps of producers, and to do this only in the name of an uncontrolled appetite for private profit-here surely is the great inherent contradiction whence so much disaster, outrage and misery has flowed.
This paradox, the germ of many future plagues, illuminates the story of industrial concentration in the United States, which is here pursued through the study of the major financial events and personalities between 1861 and 1901. Our inquiry is also directed incidentally to establishing the manner in which the country's natural resources and arteries of trade were preempted, its political institutions conquered, its social philosophy turned into a pecuniary one, by the new barons. Who were the men who seized supreme economic power and "built up the country" while enriching themselves? How did they build, how did they use their power, and how did they have it sanctified by tribunes and magistrates, churches and schools? How much did they further progress? And how much catastrophe?
Their deeds, in the last analysis, were determined by economic forces, we must remember. Hence we have tried in so far as possible to write of them without anger, to paint them as no more "wicked" than they or their contemporaries actually were, though we are aware now of living in another moral climate and in the midst of a new generation which carries the vast and onerous social responsibilities bequeathed to it.

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