Original Document
Original Document
Terence Powderly, on the death of Andrew Carnegie in 1919.

With the death of slavery at the stroke of Lincoln's pen, a system began to take on life and grow to such proportions that it became possible for one man to die poor in 1919 holding fifty millions of dollars in his cold, dead hand, after giving away over three hundred and fifty millions of dollars. He never earned one million of that vast sum; it was not and is not possible for one man alone and unaided to do such a thing through honest labor of hand or brain. Utilizing the brains of other men, taking advantage of competitors, shrewd manipulation of stocks, and the fusing into dollars of the labor of many men in that crucible called the steel industry laid that vast sum in his shrewd, cunning hand. When he passed on, he was eulogized and canonized by public men and in the press, but the means by which he acquired these millions were not dwelt on in sermon, eulogy, or panegyric. My acquaintance with him dated back to Homestead in 1892. I did not know him intimately, but I knew him well. I knew him as one who was personally a good man, a man who liked to do a good thing, but wanted the world to know he did it. I speak of him only because he represented in life and activity a system that must give way, a system that cannot live and thrive, if free government is to survive, and I am sure it will.

... I read in a morning paper that this man "made millionaires of forty of the men he brought up in the steel business." To make millionaires of forty men, the voice of manly independence was stifled in ten thousand other men. . . . To make forty millionaires and gather together four hundred millions of dollars, the sweat and blood of thousands were poured freely forth in steel mill and blast furnace.

Stand just a little to one side and watch Harry McAleer as he acts as hooker-up before the rail rolls in a Bessemer steel mill. When the eye of the expert steel maker detects the changing colors of the flame spitting from the converter, he shuts off the blast; the huge vessel with its content of seething, molten metal slowly turns on its gudgeons, and the large ingot molds are filled from the mouth of the converter. The ingots are later on run through rolls, reduced in thickness though enlarged as to length. These are cut into pieces, each of which is sufficient to make a steel rail. Harry McAleer inserted one of these reduced ingots between the jaws of the swift revolving rail rolls; it was red hot of course; it went through, becoming larger and thinner as it passed on. Another man, on the other side caught it with his tongs, shoved it to the next and a smaller aperture between the rolls as they were reversed, and it went back longer than before for Harry to hook up and start back on its fiery return journey. It began to take on the form of a steel rail. When it had been started back on its final passage between the rolls, somebody or something distracted Harry's attention, his foot slipped, he stumbled forward, the fiery, jagged end of the rail struck his body, passed through it, carried him forward and left him with his warm life blood pouring out on that heated instrument of torture and death.

They carried him home. A wife suddenly changed to widow met his corpse at the garden gate. Children there were, and these became orphans. Shortly after the funeral the company had need for the house in which that family lived. They were required to move to make room for the family of the man who took Harry's place at the rolls. Fellow workmen paid Harry's funeral expenses; fellow workmen took up a collection for the temporary relief of the widow and orphans; fellow workmen cared for his children for a time, and then the world forgot Harry McAleer and his family. Not one dollar came from that four hundred million fund to erect a home over the heads of Harry McAleer's widow and orphaned children. Millions were devoted to the erection of libraries all over this country and part of Europe, and this one poor, rich man took credit for every dollar so expended. But the names of the Harry McAleers whose labor created every honest dollar of these millions were never mentioned and never remembered.

As you snuggle comfortably back in your seat in the parlor car which conveys you from starting point to destination, turn to the stock quotations in the paper in your hand and note the fluctuations of steel as men juggle with it on the exchange. Ponder for a moment over what you are riding, and, if it does not occur to you, let me tell you that you are traveling safely over the blood and sweat of the Harry McAleers of the steel mills. Let me tell you that the cost in sweat and blood of these men is never reckoned in fixing the price of steel; but forget it if you will, overlook it how you may, evade as you please, the steel rail they use in their mock trading passed, in the making, through a crucible tempered with the blood, the bone, and sinew of Harry McAleer.

I am not talking of or for organized or unorganized labor, but [it] is just because labor has not received its fair . . . share of recognition in the making of the wealth and necessities of this country that we have a condition confronting us which approximates insanity. . . .

Such an unhealthy condition of affairs cannot safely continue. It will end when women and men begin to realize that upon each one depends, in a measure, a restoration of the balance necessary to successful cooperation with one another. It will end when we look out on the world from a less selfish standpoint than we now occupy. It will end when we begin in earnest to catch sight of the great truth that we are all of one family, composed of faults and virtues, and that we must be tolerant of faults if we would give the virtues full play. Here we are of all races, we come from everywhere to make a family that has no family tree, a family with no common ancestor, and yet a family that may be traced back to the greatest of all common ancestors-God the Father. We are all children of Him who gave us birth and everything following it to make us happy, contented, prosperous, if we but use His gifts wisely and intelligently. It is because we allowed some to monopolize all the gifts, that there is dissatisfaction, distrust and want in the land. We affect reverence for and belief in God, yet sneer at him who tells us that God gave this earth to all His children, to be used for the benefit of all.

Credit: Terence Powderly, The Path I Trod: The Autobiography of Terence Powderly, ed. Harry J. Carman. New York: Columbia University Press, 1940.
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