I congratulate poor young men upon being born to that ancient and honorable degree which renders it necessary that they should devote themselves to hard work.
The fact that Andrew Carnegie is a Scotsman has, so far as I know, never been refuted nor denied. Scotland is a wonderful country in which to slip the human product. Then when this product is transplanted to a more sunshiny soil we sometimes get a world-beater.
Scotland is a good country to be born in; and it is a good country to get out of; and at times it may be a good country to go back to.
I once attended a dinner given to James Barrie in London. One of the speakers sprung the usual joke about how when the Scotch leave Scotland they never go back. When Barrie arose to reply he said: "Perhaps it is true that the Scotch, when they leave their native land, seldom return. If so, there is surely precedent. In truth, Englishmen have been known to go to Scotland, and never return. Once there was quite a company of Englishmen went to Scotland and they never returned. The place where they went was Bannockburn." In literature Scotland has exceeded her quota. From Adam Smith, with his deathless "Wealth of Nations," and Tammas, the Techy Titan, with his "French Revolution," to Bobbie Burns and Robert Louis, the Well-Beloved, we have a people who have been saying things and doing things since John Knox made pastoral calls on Mary Queen of Scots, and saw the devil's tail behind her chair.
Doctor Johnson pretended to hate the Scotch, but he lives for us only because he was well Boswellized by a Scotchman. And now nobody knows just how much of Boswell is Doctor Johnson and how much is Boswell.
What Connecticut has done for New England, Scotland did for Great Britain. The Scotch gave us the iron ship, the lamp-chimney, the telephone. Also, they supplied us Presbyterianism. And this being true, they also supplied the antidote in David Hume.
We have been told that it is necessary to agree with a Scotsman or else kill him. But this is a left-handed libel, like unto the statement that the reason the Scotch cling to breeks is because the breeks have no pockets, and when the drinks are mentioned Sandy fumbles for siller, but is never able to find the price, and so lets some one else foot the bill. Another bit of classic persiflage is to the effect that there are no Jews in Scotland, because they could no more exist there than they could in New Hampshire, and this for a like reason: they find competition too severe.
The canny Scot with his beautiful "nearness" lives in legend and story in a thousand forms. The pain a Scotsman suffers on having to part with a shilling is pictured by Ian MacLaren and Sir Walter. Then came Christopher North and Doctor John Brown with deathless Scotch stories of sacrifice and unselfishness that shame the world, and secure the tribute of our tears.
To speak of the Scotch as having certain exclusive characteristics is to be a mental mollycoddle. As a people they have all the characteristics that make strong men and women, and they have them, plus. The Scotch supply us the eternal paradox. Against the tales of money meanness and miserly instincts, we have Andrew Carnegie, who has given away more money in noble causes than any other man who has ever lived since history began.
The Scotch stand in popular estimate for religious bigotry, yet the offense of Andrew Carnegie to a vast number of people is his liberal attitude of mind in all matters pertaining to religion. Then the Scotch are supposed to be a pugnacious, quarrelsome and fighting people, but here is a man who has made his name known as the symbol of disarmament and international peace.
Those three great and good Scotsmen, leaders in the world of business--James Oliver, Philip D. Armour and Andrew Carnegie--were each the very antithesis of dogmatists and sectarians. They respected all religions, but had implicit faith in none. All were learners; all were men of peace; all had a firm hold on the plain, old, simple virtues which can not be waived when you make up your formula for a man. They were industrious, systematic, economical, persistent and physically sound. If there is any secret in the success of the Scotch it lies in the fact that they are such good animals. The basis of life is physical. The climate of Scotland makes for a sturdy manhood that pays cash and seldom apologizes for being on earth.
Unlike James Oliver and Philip Armour, Andrew Carnegie is small in stature. He belongs to the type of big little men, of which Napoleon, Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton and General Grant are examples--deep-chested, strong-jawed, well-poised, big little men who wear the crowns of their heads high and their chins in. These are good men to agree with. They carry no excess baggage. They travel light. They can change their minds and plans easily. Such men take charge of things by a sort of divine right.
* * * * * * *
Now, be it known that Andrew Carnegie was born in decent poverty at Dunfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland, in the year Eighteen Hundred Thirty-seven.
His father was a weaver by trade. This was in the day of the hand-loom. There were four damask-looms in the Carnegie house, worked by the family and apprentices. There was no ring-up clock, and no walking delegates were in evidence. When business was good these looms sang their merry tunes far into the night. When business was dull, perhaps one loom echoed its tired solo. Then there came a time when there was no work; hopeless melancholy settled on the little household, and drawn, anxious faces looked into other faces from which hope had fled.
Steam was coming in, and the factories were starving out the roycrofters. It is hard to change--in order to change your mind, you must change your environment.
The merchants used to buy their materials and take them to the weaver, and tell him how they wanted the cloth made. The weaver never thought that he could get up a new pattern, buy materials and devise a scheme whereby one man could tend four looms--or fourteen--and advertise his product so the consumer would demand it, and thus force the merchant to buy.
Aye, and if that didn't work, the whole blooming bunch of middlemen who batten and fatten between the factory and the family could be eliminated, and the arrogant retailer, wholesaler, factor and agent be placed on the retired list through the Mail-Order Plan. Or, aye again, the consumers' wants could be anticipated as they are by The Standard Oil Company, and the gentlemanly salesman, psychic in his instincts, would be at the door in answer to your sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed.
When the times changed, Carnegie the Elder was undone. A few years later and his son Andy could have shown him fifty-seven ways by which the consumer could be reached. Andy would have known only one defeat, and that would have come when all the consumers were dead and ceased to consume. When Carnegie the Elder quit the loom, the consumers were using more cloth than ever, but the goods were being made in a new way. "Hunger is the first incentive to migration," says Adam Smith.
Hunger and danger in right proportion are good things. It is a great idea for a woman who would give to the world superior sons, to marry a man without too much ambition. If too much is done for a woman she will never do much for herself. This proves that she is a human being, whether she can vote or not.
Hunger, hardship, deprivation breed big virtues. Before deeds are born they are merely thoughts or aspirations. The desire to better her condition, and the struggle with unkind fate on behalf of her children, often is the heritage of mother to son. The mother endows the child with a tendency--a great moral tendency--a reaching out towards a success which she has never seen, as planet responds to the attraction of planet. And the things she dreamed, her child grown to manhood makes come true. Temperance fanatics are often the offspring of drunken parents. Shiftless fathers breed financiers. We are taught by antithesis.
Andrew Carnegie is the son of his mother. When the looms stopped and the piteous voice of the father said, "Andy, we have no work," the mother lifted up her voice and sang one of the songs of Zion. There were always morning prayers. When there was no work, the father would have forgotten the prayers, because there was nothing to be thankful for, and prayer wouldn't stop the steam-factory. "What's the use!" was the motto of Carnegie the Elder.
The mother led the prayers just the same. There was a reading from the Bible. Then each one present responded with a verse of Scripture. Legend says that little Andy, once, at seven years of age, when it came his turn to give a verse from the Bible, handed in this: "Let every tub stand on its own bottom." But as the quotation was not exactly acceptable, he tried again with this: "Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves." Thus do we see that the orphic habit was already beginning to germinate.
Before Andrew Carnegie was ten years old he had evolved a beautiful hatred of kings, princes and all hereditary titles. There was only one nobility for him, and that was the nobility of honest effort. To live off another's labor was to him a sin. To eat and not earn was a crime. These sterling truths were the inheritance of mother to son. And these convictions Andrew Carnegie still holds and has firmly held since childhood's days.
The other day, in reading a book on military tactics, I came across this: "An army has but two duties to perform: one is to fight the enemy and the other is to evade the enemy." Which duty is the more important the writer did not say. So let that pass. There are two ways of dealing with misery. One is to stay and fight the demon to a finish, and the other way is to beat a hasty and honorable retreat.
"There is no work."
"Then we will go where work is," said the mother of a multimillionaire-to-be. The furniture went to pay the grocer. The looms were sold for a song. The debts were paid, and there was enough, with the contribution of a ten-pound note by a fond uncle, to buy passage to New York for the father, mother, Thomas and Andrew. It was the year Eighteen Hundred Forty-eight. Thomas was sixteen, and Andrew was eleven. Tom was more handsome than Andy, but Andy had the most to say. The Carnegies came to Pittsburgh, because the mother's two sisters from Dunfermline were in Pittsburgh, and they had always gotten enough to eat. Then the sound of the name was good, and to this day Andrew Carnegie spells the final syllable "burgh," and pronounces it with a loving oatmeal burr.
It was seven weeks in a sailing-ship to New York, and one week to Pittsburgh by rail and raging canal.
The land of promise proved all that had been promised. The Carnegies wanted jobs--they did not wait to accept situations. The father found a place in a cotton-mill at a dollar and a half a day. Andy slipped in as bobbin-boy and got one dollar and twenty cents a week. Five shillings a week, all his own--to be laid in his mother's lap each Saturday night--spelled paradise. He was helping to support the household! To know you are useful, and realize that you are needed, is a great stimulus to growth. Never again did the Carnegies hear that muffled groan, "There is no work!" The synonym of the word "Carnegie" is work.
In a year little Andy had graduated to the boiler-room at two dollars a week. It was twelve hours a day, a constant watching of water-gauges, and a feeling of bearings for hotboxes.
Andy used to awaken the family in the dead of the night by roaring out in hot-mush accents, "The boiler, it ha' busted!" And being shaken into wakefulness the boy was much relieved to know that it was only a horrid dream, and the factory had not been blown into kingdom come because a wee laddie, red-headed and freckled, had nodded at his work.
"A rolling stone gathers no moss." This is true. However, it is also true that if it does not gather moss, it may acquire polish.
Andrew Carnegie from boyhood had the habit of using his head as well as his hands. The two years in the boiler and engine room of a little factory did him a lot of good.
But when fourteen he firmly felt that he had to get out towards the sunlight, just as potatoes in a dark cellar will in the Spring send their sprouts reaching out towards the windows.
In Pittsburgh at this time was a young man by the name of Douglass Reid, who was born in Edinburgh. On Sunday afternoon Reid used to visit the Carnegies and talk about old times and new. Reid was an expert telegraph-operator, and afterwards wrote "A History of the Telegraph." The more he saw of Andy the more sure he was that the lad could learn the dot and dash, and be an honor to the profession.
The Carnegies had never had a telegraph-message come to them, and didn't want one, for folks only get messages when some one is dead.
The way you learned "the key" then was to start in as messenger, and when there were no messages, to hang around the office and pick up the mystery by induction. One great drawback to acting as messenger was that Andy did not know the streets. So he started in memorizing the names of all the business firms on Penn Avenue, up one side and down the other. Then he tackled Liberty Street, Smithfield Street and Fifth Avenue. At home nights, he would shut his eyes and call the names until the household cried for mercy and shrieked, "Hold, enough!"
Before the operators got around in the morning, the boys used the keys, calling up other boys up and down the line. Needless to say, young Andy didn't spend all of his time on the streets. A substitute operator was needed one day, and Andy volunteered to fill the place. He filled it so well that the regular man, who was a bit irregular in his habits, was given a permanent vacation. At this time all of the telegraph business was taken care of from the railroad-offices, just as it is now in most villages.
"Who is the sandy, freckled one?" once asked Thomas A. Scott, Superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad. "He's a Scot from Scotland, and his name is Carnegie," was the answer.
The play on words pleased Mr. Scott. He got into the habit of sending his messages by young Carnegie. And when one day he discovered that the Scotch lad had spoken of him as "Tomscot" over the wire, the economy of the proceeding so pleased him that he took Andy into his personal service at a raise of ten dollars a month.
About this time there came a sleet-storm which carried down the wires. Volunteers who could climb were in demand. Young Carnegie's work indoors had reduced his physical powers, so climbing was beyond his ability. It was a pivotal point. Had he been able to climb he might have evolved into a construction boss. As it was he stuck to his desk, and eventually owned the line.
Thus did he prove Darwin's dictum that we are evolved by our weakness quite as much as through our strength.
Daniel Webster once said that the great disadvantage in the practise of law is that the better you do your work, the more difficult are the cases that come to you. It is the same in railroading--or anything else, for that matter. Cheap men can take care of the cheap jobs. The reward for all good work is not rest, but more work, and harder work. Thomas A. Scott was a man of immense initiative--his was the restless, tireless, ambitious nature which makes up the composite that we call the American Spirit.
Andrew Carnegie very early in life developed the same characteristics. He never made hasty and ill-digested suggestions and then left them to others to carry out. When young Carnegie, just turned into his twenties, became private secretary to Thomas A. Scott, he was getting along as well, I thank you, as could be expected. And nobody was more delighted than Andy's mother--not even Andy himself. And most of Andy's joy in his promotions came from the pleasure which his mother found in his advancement.
* * * * * * *
When Thomas A. Scott became President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Andrew Carnegie became Superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division, as a matter of course. His salary was fifteen hundred dollars a year. And this was the topmost turret of the tower: it was as far as the ambition of either the mother or the young man could fly. But the end was not yet.
Thomas Alexander Scott was born at the forgotten hamlet of London, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. London, Pennsylvania, did not flourish as its founders had expected. Behold the folly of giving big names to little things. Cæsar Augustus Jones used to be the town fool of East Aurora, until he was crowded to the wall by Oliver Cromwell Robinson.
Scott walked out of his native village--a lad of ten who warmed his feet on October mornings where the cows had lain down. Later he came back and bought the county. Scott was a graduate of the University of Hard Knocks, and he also took several post-graduate courses. He received knocks all his life--and gave them. His parents had come from bonny Scotland, and it was a joke along the whole line of the Pennsylvania Railroad that a man with red hair and a hot-mush brogue could always get a job by shouting "Hoot, mon!" at "Tomscot."
Scott loved Andy as well, probably, as he ever loved any one outside of his own family. He loved him because he was Scotch, and he loved him because he rounded up every task he attempted. He loved him because he smiled at difficulty; and he loved him because he never talked back and said, "We never did it that way before."
In Eighteen Hundred Sixty-one, President Lincoln made Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, Secretary of War.
Cameron was awfully Scotch, although I believe he was accidentally born in America. Cameron in time made Thomas A. Scott Assistant Secretary of War. And Thomas A. Scott made Andrew Carnegie Superintendent of United States Railways and Telegraphs. Lincoln once said that it was the most difficult and exacting position in the whole government service.
The bent of the minds of both Scott and Carnegie was towards construction and peace. They were builders, financiers and diplomats. They accepted government position as a duty and they did their work nobly and well. But if these men had had their way there would have been no war. They would have bought the slaves and paid for them, and at a price which we have paid out for pensions and interest on the war debt every year since. They would have organized the South on an industrial basis and made it blossom like the rose, instead of stripping it and starving it into a dogged submission.
The lessons Carnegie learned in war-time burned deep into his soul, and helped to make him as he is today, the foremost exponent of international disarmament in the world. The game of finance Carnegie learned from Scott, his foster-father. When but a salaried clerk Carnegie was once called into Scott's office. "Andy, I know where you can buy ten shares of Adams' Express stock--you had better get it!" "But I have no money," said Andy. "Then go out and borrow some!" And Andy did, the mother mortgaging their little home to raise the money--she never failed her Andy. He bought the stock at par. It was worth a third more, and paid dividends "every few minutes," to use the phrase of Scott. There is a suspicion that Scott threw this little block of stock in the way of Andy on purpose.
It was an object-lesson in finance. Scott taught by indirection and did good by stealth.
When Carnegie helped to organize the Woodruff Sleeping-Car Company, which later was absorbed by the Pullman Company, he was well out on the highway to fortune. Next came investments in oil-lands, and Andrew Carnegie, twenty-seven years of age, sold his oil interests for a decently few hundred thousand dollars.
At this time all the bridges on the Pennsylvania Railroad were made of wood. It was a wooded country, and the natural thing was to use the material at hand. But there were fires, accidents, washouts, and the prophetic vision of Andrew Carnegie foresaw a time when all railroad-bridges would be made of iron. He organized the Keystone Bridge Works, and took a contract to build a railroad-bridge across the Ohio River. The work was a success, and practically the Keystone Bridge Works was without a competitor in America. But America was buying most of her iron in Birmingham.
In Eighteen Hundred Sixty-eight, Andrew Carnegie made a trip to Europe, taking his mother with him. He was then thirty-one years old and a man of recognized worth and power. The pride of the mother in her son was modest yet profound, and his regard for her judgment, even in bridge-building and railroad affairs, was sincere and earnest. Besides, she was a good listener, and by explaining his plans to his mother, Andy got them straight in his own mind.
The trip to Europe was for the double purpose of seeing whether old Dunfermline was really the delightful spot that memory pictured, and of getting the latest points in bridge-building and iron-making. Timber was scarce in England, and iron bridges and iron boats were coming as an actual necessity.
Sir Henry Bessemer had invented his process of blowing a blast of cold air through the molten metal and thus converting iron into steel. The plan was simple, easy and effective. The distinguishing feature of Andrew Carnegie's mind has always been his ability to put salt on the tail of an idea. He came back from England with the Bessemer process well outlined in his square red head. Others had put the invention through the experimental stage--he waited. That shows your good railroadman. Let your inventors invent--most of their inventions are worthless--when the thing is right we will take it on.
The Carnegie fortune owes its secret to the Bessemer steel rail. The fishplate instead of the frog, and the steel rail in place of the good old snakehead! "The song of the rail" died out to a low continuous hum when Carnegie began making steel rails and showed the section-hands how to bolt them together as one.
Andrew Carnegie was a practical railroadman. He knew the buyers of supplies and he knew how to convince them that they needed his product. Manufacturing is a matter of formula, but salesmanship is genius. Moreover, to get the money to equip great factories is genius, and up to the Nineties the Carnegie Mills were immense borrowers of capital.
Our socialistic friends sometimes criticize Andrew Carnegie for making the vast amount of money that he has. We can't swear a halibi for him, and so my excuse for the man is this: He never knew it was loaded--it was largely accidental. In truth he couldn't help making the money. Fate forced it on him. He has played this game of business for all there was in him. And he has played it according to the rules. Carnegie has never been a speculator. He is no gambler. He never bought a share of stock on margin in his life. The only thing he has ever bet on has been his ability to execute. He has been a creator and a builder. That his efforts should have brought him this tremendous harvest of dolodocci is a surprise to him. He knew there would be a return, but the size of the return no living man was able to foresee or foretell.
Andrew Carnegie has acted on the times, and the times have acted on him. He is a product--a child, if you please--of Opportunity and Divine Energy.
* * * * * * *
When James Anderson, of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, stagecoach boss and ironmaster, about the year Eighteen Hundred Fifty threw open his library to the public, he did a great thing.
Anderson owned four or five hundred books. Any one who wanted to read these books was welcome to do so. Especially were the boys made welcome. Anderson did not know what a portentous thing he was doing--nobody does when he does a big thing. Actions bear fruit--sometimes.
And into Anderson's library, one Sunday afternoon, walked a diffident, wee Scotch laddie, who worked in a boiler-room all the week. "Where would you like to begin?" asked Mr. Anderson, kindly. And the boy answered, as another boy by the name of Thomas A. Edison answered on a like occasion, "If you please, I'll begin here." And he pointed to the end of a shelf. And he read through that library, a shelf at a time. He got the library habit.
Andrew Carnegie has given away two thousand libraries. The first library built by Mr. Carnegie was in Eighteen Hundred Eighty-seven, at Braddock, Pennsylvania. This was for the benefit, primarily, of the employees of the Carnegie Steel Works.
In Eighteen Hundred Eighty-nine, it was suggested that the city of Allegheny was in need of a library, quite as much as was Braddock. Mr. Carnegie proposed to build a library, art-gallery and music-hall combined, at a cost of three hundred thousand dollars, provided the city would supply the site, and agree to raise fifteen thousand dollars a year for maintenance. The offer was accepted and the building built, but at a cost of nearly one hundred thousand dollars more than was expected.
Yet Mr. Carnegie did not complain. To show that his heart was with the venture, he also presented a ten-thousand-dollar organ for the hall. It was a first attempt, but the "North Side Library" is a model of beauty and convenience today.
The way in which the people of Allegheny awakened, responded and availed themselves of the benefits to be obtained from the Carnegie Library at Allegheny was most gratifying. The place was formally dedicated on February Thirteenth, Eighteen Hundred Ninety. President Harrison was present and made an address. The music for the occasion was supplied by "Young Damrosch" and his orchestra. Leopold Damrosch, the noted leader, had died only a few years before, and his son Walter had taken up his work. The manly ways of "Young Damrosch" and his superb skill as a conductor made an impression on Mr. Carnegie then and there that bore speedy fruit.
In Eighteen Hundred Ninety-one, Mr. Carnegie built the Carnegie Music-Hall at the corner of Fifty-seventh Street and Seventh Avenue in New York City, especially with Walter Damrosch and the Damrosch needs in mind. I have spoken in this hall a score or more of times, and I never stand upon its spacious platform but that I think with admiration of the ironmaster who had the courage to back with two million dollars his faith in the musical appreciation of New York City.
It is good to know that the prophetic business instincts of Mr. Carnegie did not here play him false. The various offices and studios connected with the splendid auditorium were quickly rented, and the investment has paid a fair return from the first. When it was built it was the noblest auditorium in America. One of its chief benefits has been to show the people of America that such a building will pay. For one thing, it gave certain Western capitalists heart to erect the Fine Arts Building in Chicago. And now in a dozen cities of the United States there are great auditoriums where big events, musical and oratorical, bring the people together in a way that enlarges their spiritual horizon. Andrew Carnegie has ever had a passion for music. At Skibo Castle the meals are announced by bagpipe. Of course I admit that whether the bagpipe is a musical instrument or not is a matter of argument, for just what constitutes music my Irish friend, George Bernard Shaw, says is a point of view.
Andrew Carnegie has given the musical interests of America an immense impulse. His presentation of pipe-organs to churches, schools and halls bids fair to revive the age of Sebastian Bach. "Music helps us to get rid of our whims, prejudices and petty notions," says Andrew Carnegie. The famous Pittsburgh Orchestra was first made possible by his encouragement, and without Carnegie we would have had no Damrosch, or at least a different Damrosch.
From almost its inauguration, Mr. Carnegie has been President of the New York Oratorio, and for many years President of the Philharmonic Society.
I was once present at a meeting of this Society when a memorial volume of thanks from "The Philharmonic" was presented to Mr. Carnegie. The book contained the autographs of every member, working and honorary, of the association. Among the rest I added my name to the list. Shortly after the presentation exercises I met Mr. Carnegie on the stairs. He had the book under his arm. He graciously thanked me for adding my name, and spoke of how he prized my autograph. I replied somewhat loftily, "Oh, don't mention it--it is nothing--it is nothing!" And then I felt how feeble my attempted pleasantry was. To Mr. Carnegie it was no joke. In fact, he was as tickled with his book of names, and its assurance of affection, as a girl who has just been presented by her lover with a volume of Ella Wheeler Wilcox's poems. Then I saw how sensitive and tender is the heart of this most busy man, and how precious to him is human fellowship. This is a side of his nature that was new to me.
Shakespeare says, "Sad is the lot of princes." They are pushed out and away from the common heart of humanity. Most of the men they meet want something, and as these folks want the thing they want awful bad, they never tell the prince the truth. In his presence they are like brass monkeys, or, more properly, like monkeys filled with monkey desires. They are shorn of all human attributes. Pity the lot of the multimillionaire who has most incautiously allowed it to become known that he considers it "a disgrace for any man to die rich."
Five hundred letters a day are sent to Andrew Carnegie, with suggestions concerning the best way in which he can escape disgrace. The lazzaroni of America are as bad as the same tribe in Italy, only they play for bigger stakes. The altruistic graft is as greedy as the grab of commercialism, that much-berated thing.
Mr. Carnegie can not walk a block on Broadway without being beset by would-be philanthropists who offer to pit their time against his money, and thereby redeem the world from its sin and folly. And these philanthropists do not realize for a moment that they are, for the most part, plain grabheimers from Grabville. And all of their pious plans for human betterment have their root in a selfish desire for personal aggrandizement. Mr. Carnegie's plan of giving only where the parties themselves also agree to give is a most wise and prudent move.
The town that accepts thirty thousand dollars for a library and agrees to raise three thousand a year to maintain it, is neither pamperized, patronized nor pauperized. In ten years the town has put as much money into the venture as did Mr. Carnegie. Like Nature, Andrew Carnegie is a good deal of a schemer. Ask a town to start in and raise three thousand dollars a year for library purposes, and the whole Common Council, His Honor the Mayor, and the Board of Education will throw a cataleptic fit. But get them fired with a desire to secure thirty thousand dollars from Mr. Carnegie, and they make the promise to love, honor, obey--and maintain--and strangely enough, they do. An action for non-support is a mighty disgraceful thing. It is a wonderful bit of psychology--this giving with an obligation--and Andrew Carnegie is not only the Prince of Ironmasters, but he is a pedagogic prestidigitator, and an artistic financial hypnotist. Not only does he give the library, but he sets half the town hustling to maintain it. The actual good comes, not from the library building, but from the human impulses set in motion--the direction given to thousands of lives. The library is merely an excuse--a rallying-point--and around it swings and centers the best life of the town.
This working for a common cause dilutes the sectarian ego, dissolves village caste, makes neighbor acquainted with neighbor, and liberates a vast amount of human love which otherwise would remain hermetically sealed. Gossip is only the lack of a worthy theme. A town library supplies topics for talk, and the books there supply ten thousand more. To accept a Carnegie library means to take on an obligation. Achievement always stands for responsibility. "Is it possible that you are nervous?" asked the man of Abraham Lincoln when the orator was about to appear before an audience. "Young man," was the reply, "young man, I have spoken well." To have done well and then live up to your record is a serious matter. Responsibility is ballast. A town that has taken on a Carnegie Library is one big committee intent on making the thing a success. There is furniture needed, pictures to secure, statuary to select, books to buy. A Carnegie Library is usually an annex to the High School.
O most clever, cunning and canny Carnegie! did you know how great and wise was your scheme? Not at all, any more than when you were a bobbin-boy you could have guessed that one day you would own two hundred fifty million dollars in five-per-cent bonds. You are as much astonished as any one to see the perfection of your plan. Like all great men, you sail under sealed orders.
As you "worked" the people by allowing them to "work" you for a gift, which once secured turns out to be not gift but a responsibility, so has a Supreme Something been using you for a purpose you wist and wot not of. And the end, it seems, is not yet.
* * * * * * *
The only time I ever heard Mr. Carnegie relate one of my pleasing stories was at a banquet of railroad officials, some months ago, in New York. Be it said, as a matter of truth, that Mr. Carnegie gave me due credit, although if he had not mentioned my name I would have been complimented to know that he had read the Good Stuff closely and pondered it well. As brother authors, you will please take notice that we observe the amenities.
So here is the story: One lowering Fall day I was walking along the road that leads from the village to my farm, two miles out of town. And as I trudged along I saw a horseshoe in the middle of the road. Now, I never go by a horseshoe--it means good luck!
So I picked up the horseshoe, and instantly my psychic sky seemed to brighten. And as I walked along with the horseshoe in my hand I saw another horseshoe in the road. "Everything is coming my way," I said. I picked up the second horseshoe, and then I had one in each hand.
I had gone about a quarter of a mile when I saw two more horseshoes right together in the road. "It seems as if some one is working me," I said. I looked around and could see no one. "And anyway, I accept the bluff," I said to myself, as I picked up the two horseshoes. Then I had two horseshoes in each hand, but I wasn't four times as happy as when I had one.
I had gone about a quarter of a mile when I saw a pile of horseshoes in the road. "I've got 'em, I fear!" I said to myself. But I braced up and walking up to the pile of horseshoes I kicked into them. They were horseshoes all right.
And just then I saw a man coming down the street picking up horseshoes in a bag. I watched him with dazed eyes and swallowed hard as I tried to comprehend the meaning of this strange combination. Just then I saw the man's horse and wagon ahead.
He was a junk gentleman and had lost the tailboard out of his wagon and been strewing horseshoes all along the way. He called to me and said, "Hey, ol' man, dem's my horseshoes!" "I know," said I; "I've been picking them up for you." And the moral is: While it is true that one horseshoe brings you good luck, a load of horseshoes is junk.
* * * * * * *
In way of personal endowments, Mr. Carnegie has favored two individuals: Booker T. Washington and Luther Burbank. And so far as I know, these are the only men in America who should be endowed. Even the closest search, as well as a careful scrutiny in the mirror, fails to find any one else whom it would be wise or safe to make immune from the struggle.
To make a man secure against the exigencies of life is to kill his ambition and destroy his incentive. To transform a man into a jellyfish, give him a fixed allowance, regardless of what he does. This truth also applies to women. Women will never be free until they are economically free.
The fifteen million dollars which Mr. Carnegie has given for a pension-fund for superannuated college professors is quite another thing from pensioning a man so he will be free to work out his ideal. The only people who have ideals are those in the fight.
But even this beneficent pension-fund for teachers turned out to grass requires the most delicate and skilful handling. Several instances have already arisen where colleges have retired men well able to work, in order that these men might secure the pensions and the college could put in younger men at half-price. There has even been a suspicion that the pensioner "divvied" with the college.
To supply an incentive or temptation for a man in middle life to quit work in order that he may secure a pension is a danger which the donor mildly anticipated, but which he finds it very hard to guard against. What is "middle life"? Ah, it depends upon the man. Some men are young at seventy, and Professor Mommsen at eighty was at the very height of his power. Some teachers want to "retire," others don't. Nature knows nothing of pensions. Let each man be paid for his labor and let him understand that economy of expenditure is the true and only insurance against want in old age.
The pensioning of the youth is really more dangerous than to pension age. The youth should ask for nothing but opportunity. To make him immune from work and economy is to supply him a ticket--one way--to Matteawan.
In order to educate a boy for life, we should not lift him out of life. The training for life should slide into life at an unknown and unrecognizable point. The boy born into poverty, who fetches in wood for his mother and goes after the cows, has already entered upon a career. His brown bare feet are carrying messages, and his hands are taking on the habit of helpfulness. He is getting under the burden; and such a one will never be a parasite on society.
In East Aurora there used to live a noted horseman. He bred, raised, trained and drove several trotters that made world's records. Then behold another man comes on the scene--and a good man, too--and says, "Go to, I will raise and train horses that will go so fast that Pa Hamlin's horses will do only for the plow."
So he built a covered and enclosed track, a mile around. It cost nearly a hundred thousand dollars. And here the wise one was to train his colts all Winter, while the other man's horses ran barefoot, and with long woolly coats plowed through snowdrifts waiting for Spring to come with chirrup of birds and good roads.
Result--the man with the covered track had his horses "fit" in April, but in July and August, when the races begin, they had "gone past." Moreover, it was discovered that horses trained on a covered track could not be raced with safety on an open course. The roofed track had shut the horse in, giving him a feeling of protection and safety; but when he got on an open track, the sun, the sky, the crowds, the moving vehicles, sent him into a nervous dance. A bird flying overhead would stampede him. He lost his head and wore out his nerve.
But the horses that had been woolly in February grew sleek in May, and being trained in the open grew used to the sights, and for them every day was a race-day. In August they were hard and cool and level-headed, and always had one link left when called upon at the home-stretch.
The covered track was all right in theory, but false in practise. It ruined a thousand colts, and never produced a single trotter. Don't train either horses or children indoors, and out of season, and expect a world-beater.
Next, make your teaching and training, life, not an indoor make-believe. The school that approximates life will be the school whose pupils make records. What is needed now is a line of colleges in the North that will do for white folks what Booker T. Washington does for the colored. And the reason we do not have such schools is because we have not yet evolved men big enough as teachers to couple business and books.
The men who can make money can't teach, and those who can teach can't make money. The man of the future will do both. Tuskegee has no servants, no menials, and employs no laborers. The work of housing and feeding two thousand persons is all student labor. This is a great achievement. But the university that is to come will go beyond Tuskegee in this: it will supply commodities to supply to the world what the world wants.
Three or four hours of manual labor a day will not harm either the body or the brain of a growing youth. On the other hand, such a course will give steadiness to life. This labor will be paid for, so the student will be independent of all outside help at all times. Thus will it make for manhood and self-reliance.
* * * * * * *
Mr. Carnegie's success, like that of every master businessman, has turned on his selection of men. He has always been on the lookout for young men who could carry the Message.
His success proves his ability to judge humanity. Whenever he was sure he had the genuine article he would tender the young man an interest in the business, often a percentage on sales or output. This was the plan of Marshall Field.
By this method he transformed a good man into a master, and bound the man to him in a way that no outside influence could lend a lure. The only disadvantage in this, Mr. Carnegie says, is that when the young man becomes a millionaire you may have him for a competitor, but even with this risk, it is much wiser than to try to carry all the burden yourself. A multimillionaire should raise a goodly brood of millionaires, and of necessity does. Wise is the man who sees to it that he has an understudy.
Once upon a time, along in the Eighties, Mr. Carnegie got somewhat overworked and took a trip to Europe. Just before going, he went around and bade good-by to each of the Big Boys who ran the mills. One of these was Captain William Jones, more familiarly known to fame as plain Bill Jones. "Bill," said Mr. Carnegie, "I'm a bit weary and I feel I must get away, and the only place for me to go is Europe. I have to place an ocean between me and this mighty hum of industry before I can get rest. And do you know, Bill, no matter how oppressed I am, just as soon as I round Sandy Hook and get out of sight of land, I get perfect relief." And Bill answered, "And, O Lord, just think of the relief we all get," and everybody roared, Andy loudest of all. And the last thing that Andy did before sailing was to raise Bill's salary just ten thousand dollars a year.
Mr. Carnegie has always liked men who are not afraid of him; and when one of his workers could convince him that he--the worker--knew more about some particular phase of the business than Mr. Carnegie, that man was richly rewarded. Mr. Carnegie has ever been on friendly terms with his men.
And had he been in America when the Homestead labor trouble arose, there would have been no strike. He is firm when he should be, but he is always friendly. He is wise enough and big enough to give in a point. Like Lincoln, he likes to let people have their own way. He manages them, if need be, by indirection, rather than by formal edict, order and injunction.
* * * * * * *
Barbaric folk prize gold and make much use of silver. But the consumption of iron is the badge of civilization. Iron rails, iron steamboats, iron buildings! And who was there thirty years ago who foresaw the modern sky-scraper, any more than a hundred years ago men foretold the iron steamship!
The business of Andrew Carnegie has been to couple the iron-mines of Lake Superior with the coal-fields of Pennsylvania. And to load the ore at Duluth and transport it to Pittsburgh, a thousand miles away, and transform it into steel rails, was a matter of ten days. When the Carnegie Steel Company was reconstructed in Nineteen Hundred, it was with no intention of selling out. It was the biggest, best-organized business concern in America, with possibly one exception. Its capital was one hundred million dollars. It owned the Homestead, the Edgar Thomson and the Duquesne Mills. Besides these, it owned seven other smaller mills.
It owned thousands of acres of ore-land in the Lake Superior country. It owned a line of iron steamships that carried the ore to the Pittsburgh railroad connections. It owned the railroads that brought the ore from the mines to the docks, and it owned the docks. It owned vast coalmines in Pennsylvania, and it owned a controlling interest in the Connellville coke-ovens, whence five miles of freight-cars, in fair times, were daily sent to the mills, loaded with coke.
These properties were practically owned by Mr. Carnegie personally, and his was the controlling hand. He had a daily report from every mill, which in a few lines told just what the concern was doing. There was also a daily report from each branch office, and a report from the head cashier, where one line of figures presaged the financial weather. When "the billion-dollar trust"--the United States Steel Corporation--was formed, Mr. Carnegie sold his interests in the Carnegie plants to the new concern for two hundred fifty million dollars, and took his pay in five-per-cent bonds.
It was the biggest and cleanest clean-up ever consummated in the business world. As a financial get-away it has no rival in history.
There were many wise ones who said, "Oh, he will foreclose and have the works back in a few years." But not so--the United States Steel Corporation has made money and is making money, because it is being managed by men who, for the most part, were trained by Carnegie in the financial way they should go.
As far as money is concerned, Mr. Carnegie could have made much more by staying in business than by selling out, but Andrew Carnegie quit one job to take up a harder one. "To die a millionaire will yet be a disgrace," he said. To give away money is easy, but to give it away wisely, so it will benefit the world for generations to come--that is a most difficult and exacting task.
The quarter of a thousand million in Steel Bonds did not constitute Mr. Carnegie's whole wealth. He had several little investments outside of that. In fact, that clever saying, "Put all your eggs in one basket," is exoteric, not esoteric. What Mr. Carnegie really meant was, if you are only big enough to watch one basket, to have two were folly. Mr. Carnegie himself has always had his eggs in a dozen or so baskets, but he never has had any more baskets than he could watch. His baskets were usually coupled together like the "grasshopper," which pumps several oil-wells with one engine. Wealth is good for those who can use it; power the same; but when you cease to manage a thing and the thing begins to manage you, it may eat you up.
In East Aurora there used to be a good friend of mine who had a peanut-stand at the station. The business flourished and some one advised my friend that he should put in popcorn as a sideline. He did so, and got nervous prostration. You see, he was a peanut man, and when he got outside of his specialty he was lost. One realizes the herculean task of dying poor which confronts Mr. Carnegie, when you think that he is worth, say, five hundred million dollars. This is invested so that it brings an income of five per cent, or twenty-five million dollars a year.
So far, Mr. Carnegie has been barely able to give away his income, to say nothing of the principal. His total benefactions up to the present time amount to about two hundred millions. He has nearly worked the territory with libraries. You can't give two libraries to a town, except in the big cities--people protest and will not have them. There is a limit to pipe-organs.
Heroes are so plentiful that it is more or less absurd to distinguish them with medals. Dunfermline is almost done for by a liberality that would damn any American town.
To give faster than people grow is to run the grave risk of arresting development. A benefaction must bestow a benefit. Give to most people and they will quit work and get a job with George Arliss, for the devil still finds mischief for idle hands to do.
To relieve the average man from work would simply increase the trade in cigarettes, cocaine, bromide and strong drink, and supply candidates for Sing Sing. To make a vast fortune and then lose the tailboard out of your hearse and dump your wealth on a lazy world merely causes the growler to circulate rapidly. And so we sympathize with Andrew Carnegie in his endeavor to live up to his dictum to die poor, and yet not pauperize the world by his wealth. But let us not despond. The man is only seventy-eight. His eyes are bright; his teeth are firm; his form is erect; his limbs are agile; and his brain is at its best. Most hopeful sign of all, he can laugh. He can even laugh at himself. If this counts for anything at all, it means sanity and length of days.