Real American Heroes Who Created Modern America

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In this essay, I will provide an explanation for America’s problems and how Andrew Carnegie and Thomas O’Donnell’s perspective of their respective situations during the rapid growth of the 1800s exemplify them.. Andrew Carnegie although a wealthy businessman was mindful of how his company came to be and how his employees aided him through the expansion of his steel manufacturing business. Thomas O’Donnell is a mule spinner who is giving an interview on his day to day life as a part of the labor force of the 1800s. These two vastly different perspectives give us insight on what these times were like and what the general mindset about the “other side” was like for the most part.

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Carnegie was mindful of the industrial and economical change which America had undergone at the time. As he states “The contrast between the palace of the millionaire and the cottage of the laborer with us to­day measures the change which has come with civilization.” The visualization of these complete opposites, being the “grand palace” in comparison to the “modest cottage” gives the audience a visual representation example of comparison Andrew Carnegie was trying to exemplify concerning the wealth gap at the time. Thomas O’Donnell, on the other hand, stated “ I earn $1.50 a day and can’t afford to pay a very big house rent. I pay $1.50 a week for rent, which comes to about $6 a month. ” O’Donnell states that his circumstances have suffered due to unfair work conditions and worker strikes. This gives the audience a clear picture of what O’Donnell’s financial struggles were like as well as other laborers at the time and even manages to relate to the modern person who has experienced economic struggles first hand.

Carnegie knew how valuable education would be for the general public in the long term but also believed that redistributing lump sums of money would be a burden to those who received it. Carnegie argued that “ Even the poorest can be made to see this, and to agree that great sums gathered by some of their fellow citizens and spent for public purposes, from which the masses reap the principal benefit, are more valuable to them than if scattered among them through the course of many years in trifling amounts. This works as a synopsis for the Gospel of Wealth as Carnegie’s long term goal was to establish his libraries, music halls, universities and hospitals among other things to benefit underprivileged youth. Mr. O’Donnell also expressed his concern for the youth of the time stating that “Our children, of course, are very often sickly from one cause or another, on account of not having sufficient clothes, or shoes, or food, or something”. Apart from sickness and general poverty, these kids would be put to work long hours along with their parents. This meant that most children did not receive a formal education which would promote this lifestyle to become a cycle for generations to come.

This practice of hiring men with a family created a dependency for the job by the laborer as well as assured the next generation of laborers for that respective company. Andrew Carnegie, unlike many others, took the spotlight willfully to express his concerns about the lower economic class. Calling upon other wealthy Americans to aid the needs of the citizens through his detailed method. “First, to set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance; 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 called upon to administer, and strictly bound as a matter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial result for the community-the man of wealth thus becoming the sole agent and trustee for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer-doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves,” Carnegie states that being more fortunate must also come with the responsibility to help those who are in a poor financial situations. Stating that the surplus amount of money received can be used toward this however that it is up to their judgment on how to administer this aid accordingly.

The metamorphosis that America experienced in the 1880s left a sour taste for the common laborer and a good memory for moguls like Carnegie and Vanderbilt. Ultimately, the second industrial revolution and other significant events lead to the passing of child labor laws and made the United States of America an even bigger economic power, both of which are beneficial for the public today. Moguls like Carnegie and laborers like O’Donnell are part of why America is where it is today.  

29 April 2022

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