The Robber Barons Of America

We had done it! We had thrown off the yoke of British imperialism, declared ourselves a free and sovereign nation and declared our independence….We had seceded from Britain and wrote our own Constitution, elected our own president and representatives….No longer would we be a tributary colony to the British Empire, no longer just one more colony to squeeze to death with unfair monetary demands and supercilious, arrogant government…No taxation without representation was one of the clarion calls of the Revolution, as exemplified in the Boston Tea Party where we dumped British tea into the Boston harbor rather than pay their usurious taxes…

For many years, the new United States of America did well, expanding ever westward…That there were gross injustices perpetrated on the native American Indian is indisputably a true and shameful byproduct of this westward expansion, and the subject of another blog, but on the grand scale, the historical overview was that we colonized the entire country, from the East coast to the West….There was a major bump in the road with the Civil War too, and coming to terms with the racial inequities and fundementally immoral issue of slavery, but again that will be the subject of another blog…

In fact everything was going quite well, America was mostly a peaceful, agrarian society….Most people lived on farms, raised their own food, and supported themselves quite nicely until the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the appearance on the scene of the real villains in American history, the Robber Barons!

These men were true criminals, they made real life Mafia gangsters like Al Capone and the Teflon Don, John Gotti and even literary composites like Don Corleone, the Godfather look like fellow travelers..The advent of the Industrial Revolution gave them their opening, and they ruthlessly and shamelessly grabbed it, exploited their opportunity, put their boots to our neck and they and their descendants, the infamous 1% are still shaking us down to this day…..

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According to my Google sources: “Robber barons were accused of eliminating competition through predatory pricing and then overcharging when they had a monopoly. The term combines the concept of a criminal robber with an illegitimate aristocrat barons.The term “robber baron” contrasted with the term “captain of industry,” which described industrialists who also benefited society.

Nineteenth century Robber Barons included J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Andrew W. Mellon, and John D. Rockefeller.

Robber baron were economic predators. It is a term used for a powerful 19th century American businessman. By the 1890s, the term was typically applied to businessmen who were viewed as having used questionable practices to amass their wealth. These “questionable practices” usually included a perception that they offered their products at extremely low prices (and paid their workers very poorly in order to do so), buying out the competitors that couldn’t keep up. Once there was no competition, they would hike prices far above the original level. It combines the sense of criminal (“robber”) and illegitimate aristocracy (“baron”).

Robber barons were compared to “captains of industry,” a term originally used in the United Kingdom during the Industrial Revolution describing a business leader whose means of amassing a personal fortune contributes positively to the country in some way. This may have been through increased productivity, expansion of markets, providing more jobs, or acts of philanthropy. Some nineteenth-century industrialists who were called “captains of industry” overlap with those called “robber barons”. These include people such as J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Andrew W. Mellon, and John D. Rockefeller.”

But make no mistake, these so called acts of philanthropy were done as an afterthought, as a means of cleaning up their image after the blood had stopped running in the streets from the labor union riots and the smoke had cleared after the vicious, violent imposition of their power had been well established….It was only after the dust had settled on the new industrial age America that these robber barons began to feel guilty and reflect on their ruthless rise to power…..

With these home grown American criminals, getting to the top was the prime directive, the law of the jungle, and they coldbloodedly ordered murders of their key opponents, brutal suppression of labor unions, and forced millions of underpaid Americans, men, women and children to work in sweatshops and live in tenements so they could amass their own private personal fortunes…They had no compunctions about gaining and consolidating their power base, and they only eased off once they felt secure and inviolate....Once they had bought off the legal system, they were then themselves above the law…

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Again, according to my Google sources: “John D. Rockefeller was America’s first billionaire. In a pure sense, the goal of any capitalist is to make money. And John D. Rockefeller could serve as the poster child for capitalism. Overcoming humble beginnings, Rockefeller had the vision and the drive to get in on the bottom floor of the oil industry and become the richest person in America. At the turn of the century, when the average worker earned $8 to $10 per week, Rockefeller was worth millions…..

John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) was one of the most powerful bankers of his era. He financed railroads and helped organize U.S. Steel, General Electric and other major corporations. . J.P Morgan would later become one of the most famous financiers in business history.

In the early 1870s, Andrew Carnegie co-founded his first steel company, near Pittsburgh. Over the next few decades, he created a steel empire, maximizing profits and minimizing inefficiencies through ownership of factories, raw materials and transportation infrastructure involved in steel-making. In 1892, his primary holdings were consolidated to form Carnegie Steel Company. The steel magnate considered himself a champion of the working man; however, his reputation was marred by a violent labor strike in 1892 at his Homestead, Pennsylvania, steel mill.

Andrew Mellon took over his father’s bank and built up a financial-industrial empire. He founded Alcoa, Gulf Oil and Union Steel and by the early 1920s was one of the richest men in the US. Andrew Mellon, from his great investments in aluminum and corner gas stations, knew that capital fled from taxes and ran toward freedom. Therefore, when appointed Secretary of the Treasury by President Harding in 1921, he slashed top tax rates to 25%, thus protecting the rich and inventing the “trickle down” theory of economics…Which Republicans today are still devoutly invoking….Because it makes THEM richer!

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As they rose to wealth, power and prominence, these ruthless robber barons profited immensely from the Industrial Age in America, a time of sweatshops, steel mills, factories and child labor…They had no compunction about cracking the heads of anybody who opposed them and forcing millions of Americans to live in poverty in tenements…Their legacy of brutality, violence and cold bloodedness as they amassed their fortunes can never be covered up by their later belated guilty acts of philanthropy to assuage their conscience…..

After all, their contemporaries didn’t call them the “Robber Barons” for nothing!

For more information on Robber barons, see: Source: Boundless. “Robber Barons and the Captains of Industry.” Boundless U.S. History. Boundless, 21 Jul. 2015. Retrieved 25 Sep. 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/u-s-history/textbooks/boundless-u-s-history-textbook/the-gilded-age-1870-1900-20/the-rise-of-big-business-146/robber-barons-and-the-captains-of-industry-771-2148/

AND: http://www.ushistory.org/us/36b.asp

For more articles by John Whye, see http://www.johnwhye.com

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