Big Businessmen: Robber Barons

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Significant controversy over the question if the big business men of the late nineteenth century were “robber barons” has been widely debated by historians. Notably, Howard Zinn (yes) and John S. Gordon (no) have documented their reasonings behind their opinions on if the big business men truly were “robber barons” or simply “captains of industry”. Most significant was Howard Zinn’s argument that they were robber barons based on how they treated workers, as well as the issues of scandals, bribery, and corruption. The workers were met with terrible conditions and treatment from the impersonal business men they worked for. Scandals, bribery, and corruption put more money into the pockets of these big business men in an unjust manner. On …show more content…
The infamous Credit Mobiler Scandal is a prime example mentioned in Zinn’s argument that shows the corruption of big businesses and the bribery that allowed this to occur. The robber barons willingly took the $94 million they were given for construction. However, the construction was only valued at $44 million. With an abundance of un-used money, Oakes Ames came up with the idea of paying off certain government officials to keep the scandal a private affair (Zinn 54). This bribery led to the corruption between the government and big businesses, which was against the impoverished workers, the majority. The Credit Mobiler still had an excessive amount of money, but they didn’t use it to raise wages for the laborers who barely made anything. Scandals of big businesses thrived on bribery which led to corruption. It proved the big business men to be robber barons. They warmly welcomes money that was more than needed because a common goal of inventors was to get rich. With the beginning of a millionaire class, robber barons of big business became more common because of the desire to win great …show more content…
Gordon believed that the so-called robber barons were not at all robber barons. Their great industrial contributions to America were so significant that their lust for money couldn’t possibly be seen as a bad thing. Inventions including wrought iron, the Bessemer Process, the Standard Oil Company, and many more brought a new industrialized America. According to Gordon, the big businesses who led and organized these industries could barely fall under the classification of robber barons. He refutes the claims made by Zinn that make up a robber baron. He uses the example of the Standard Oil Company’s process for gaining more money and control over their refinery processes. They used rebates, even through the railroads, to help their monopoly of the oil industry. This seemed rather harmless compared to the detriments to workers that Zinn mentioned. Therefore, Gordon was able to say that they weren’t truly robber barons (Gordon 71). Their vast contribution outshined any slightest bit of corruption. Gordon’s argument that there were not big business men that were robber barons is proven insignificant in comparison to Zinn’s claims because of the consequences of industrialization that he mentions. He furthers his argument by stating that what the robber barons did can’t be proven wrong because it wasn’t illegal. However, he mentions that as a problem, so he is refuting his own ideas in a sense (Gordon 71). The evidence for Gordon’s argument doesn’t

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