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History of the Great American Fortunes, Vol. I

Produced by Annie McGuire

THE HISTORY OF THE GREAT AMERICAN FORTUNES

BY THE SAME AUTHOR

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THE HISTORY OF TAMMANY HALL

HISTORY OF THE PUBLIC FRANCHISES IN NEW YORK CITY

HISTORY OF THE GREAT AMERICAN FORTUNES

BY GUSTAVUS MYERS

AUTHOR OF "THE HISTORY OF TAMMANY HALL," "HISTORY OF PUBLIC FRANCHISES IN NEW YORK CITY," ETC.

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VOL. I.

PART I: CONDITIONS IN SETTLEMENT AND COLONIAL TIMES

PART II: THE GREAT LAND FORTUNES

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CHICAGO CHARLES H. KERR & COMPANY 1910

Copyright 1907, 1908 and 1909 By GUSTAVUS MYERS

PREFACE

In writing this work my aim has been to give the exact facts as far as the available material allows. Necessarily it is impossible, from the very nature of the case, to obtain all the facts. It is obvious that in both past and present times the chief beneficiaries of our social and industrial system have found it to their interest to represent their accumulations as the rewards of industry and ability, and have likewise had the strongest motives for concealing the circumstances of all those complex and devious methods which have been used in building up great fortunes. In this they have been assisted by a society so constituted that the means by which these great fortunes have been amassed have been generally lauded as legitimate and exemplary.

The possessors of towering fortunes have hitherto been described in two ways. On the one hand, they have been held up as marvels of success, as preeminent examples of thrift, enterprise and extraordinary ability. More recently, however, the tendency in certain quarters has been diametrically the opposite. This latter class of writers, intent upon pandering to a supposed popular appetite for sensation, pile exposure upon exposure, and hold up the objects of their diatribes as monsters of commercial and political crime. Neither of these classes has sought to establish definitely the relation of the great fortunes to the social and industrial system which has propagated them. Consequently, these superficial effusions and tirades--based upon a lack of understanding of the propelling forces of society--have little value other than as reflections of a certain aimless and disordered spirit of the times. With all their volumes of print, they leave us in possession of a scattered array of assertions, bearing some resemblance to facts, which, however, fail to be facts inasmuch as they are either distorted to take shape as fulsome eulogies or as wild, meaningless onslaughts.

They give no explanation of the fundamental laws and movements of the present system, which have resulted in these vast fortunes; nor is there the least glimmering of a scientific interpretation of a succession of states and tendencies from which these men of great wealth have emerged. With an entire absence of comprehension, they portray our multimillionaires as a phenomenal group whose sudden rise to their sinister and overshadowing position is a matter of wonder and surprise. They do not seem to realize for a moment--what is clear to every real student of economics--that the great fortunes are the natural, logical outcome of a system based upon factors the inevitable result of which is the utter despoilment of the many for the benefit of a few.


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