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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Andrew Carnegie - The Author

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 16, 2007

 

 

Andrew Carnegie and public libraries go hand-in-hand in our society.

 

He was the benefactor for the construction of 1,679 libraries in the United States spanning 1886-1919.

 

A generally unknown part of Carnegie's life involves his authorship of books in the 1800s.

 

One book in particular has been read and studied by many people over the years; its title is, "Triumphant Democracy, or Fifty Years' March of the Republic."

 

Published in 1886 as his library program was just beginning, this book became the reason that 300 communities across the nation refused Carnegie's free library buildings.

 

He dedicates the book to his "Beloved Republic under whose equal laws I am made the peer of any man."

 

That statement shows his love for America, and the difference between it and his Scottish homeland in Great Britain.

 

He still loved Scotland, and he often spent his summers and retirement in his homeland.

 

The preface of the book said that he was "born a subject of the Monarchy and adopted a citizen of the Republic."

 

Carnegie writes the book for his countrymen on both sides of the ocean, so that one can understand the Republic, and the other can realize their potential in that Republic.

 

The book acts as a text for Americans in the 1880s.

 

His chapter on "Education" opens with a quote from Confucius, "There being education, there will be no distinction of classes."

 

Carnegie used his educational opportunities to advance himself and become one of the leading industrialists of the 19th century.

 

As a boy, he availed himself books that his fathers' co-workers had purchased in Scotland.  In 1850, he used Colonel Anderson's library in Allegheny City to further his education.

 

Carnegie was critical of any community that did not offer schools and education to its people, particularly the youth.  His public library funding was his way of expanding that possibility.

 

He was particularly critical of local government officials, which led to communities refusing the free libraries.

 

He detested corruption in government, and said that those "having control too long" have become corrupt.  Yet he loved the existing laws of the nation.

 

Carnegie favored the Civil Service Reforms of the 1880s, and suggested changes that could be made in Britain.

 

Relating to democracy, Carnegie states that the population must be literate, must agree to discuss differences, and remain at peace under one flag.

 

He urged the nation to spend the most on education, and the least on war.

 

He ended the work with, "the future of my native and adopted lands may fulfill the hope of the staunchest, ablest, and most powerful friend of this land."

 

As one reads the book, you will be taken by the high level of intelligence of Andrew Carnegie, as he writes what he preaches in the text.