Andrew Carnegie – Gospel of Wealth

Andrew Carnegie, “The Gospel of Wealth” (1889)

Andrew Carnegie was a poor Scottish immigrant turned
millionaire who came to symbolize the opportunity for social mobility
that some call the American Dream. He formed the Carnegie Steel
Corporation and his profits from the steel industry made him one of
the wealthiest men in the United States. Also a noted philanthropist,
Carnegie gave away some $350 million mostly to build public libraries
and endow universities.
In “Wealth” how does Carnegie depict
the wealthy and the responsibilities of being wealthy? How does he
depict the poor, and charity for the poor? Why?

This, then, is held to be the duty of the man of wealth: first, to
set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or
extravagance;… and after doing so to consider all surplus revenues
which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is… strictly
bound as a matter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his
judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results
for the community ­ the man of wealth thus becoming the mere
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….

Those who would administer wisely, must, indeed, be wise, for one
of the serious obstacles to the improvement of our race is
indiscriminate charity. It were better for mankind that the millions
of the rich were thrown into the sea than so spent as to encourage
the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy. Of every thousand dollars
spent in so-called charity today, it is probable that $950 is
unwisely spent; so spent, indeed, as to produce the very evils which
it proposes to mitigate or cure….

A well-known writer… admitted the other day that he had given a
quarter of a dollar to a man who approached him…. He knew nothing
of the habits of this beggar; knew not the use that would be made of
this money, although he had every reason to suspect that it would be
spent improperly…. The quarter-dollar given that night will
probably [injure more than it will help]…. [The donor] only
gratified his own feelings, saved himself from annoyance ­ and
this was probably one of the most selfish and very worst actions of
his life….

In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help
those who will help themselves; to provide part of the means by which
those who desire to improve may do so; to give those who desire to
rise the aids by which they may rise; to assist…. Neither the
individual nor the race is improved by almsgiving. Those worthy of
assistance… seldom require assistance. The really valuable men of
the race never do…. He is the only true reformer who is as careful
and as anxious not to aid the unworthy as he is to aid the worthy…
in almsgiving more injury is probably done by rewarding vice than by
relieving virtue….

The best means of benefiting the community is to place within its
reach the ladders upon which the aspiring can rise ­ parks… by
which men are helped in body and mind; works of art, certain to give
pleasure and improve the public taste… ­ in this manner
returning their surplus wealth to the mass of their fellows in the
form best calculated to do them lasting good….

The man who dies leaving behind him millions of available wealth,
which was his to administer during life, will pass away “unwept,
unhonored and unsung”…. Of such of these the public verdict will
then be: “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.”

Such in my opinion 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 good will.”


1. According to Andrew Carnegie, what are the duties of the man of

2. How does Carnegie view charity? In what instances does Carnegie
believe that charity is most beneficial?

3. Why, according to Carnegie, are some people “worthy” of
charity and others “unworthy”?

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