By Dr. Frank J. Collazo
December 26, 2007
Carnegie's birthplace, Dunfermline
Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835, in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. He was the son of a hand loom weaver, William T. Carnegie. His mother, Margaret Morrison, was a daughter of Thomas Morrison, a tanner and shoemaker. Although his family was impoverished, he grew up in a cultured, political home.
Many of Carnegie's closest relatives were self-educated tradesmen and class activists. William Carnegie, although poor, had educated himself and, as far as his resources would permit, ensured that his children received an education. William Carnegie was politically active and was involved with those organizing demonstrations against the corn Laws.
He was also a Chartist. He wrote frequently to newspapers and contributed articles in the radical pamphlet, Cobbett's Register edited by William Cobbett. Among other things, he argued for abolition of the rotten boroughs and reform of the British House of Commons, Catholic Emancipation, and laws governing safety at work, which were passed many years later in the Factory Acts. He promoted the abolition of all forms of hereditary privilege, including all monarchies.
Another great influence on the young Carnegie was his uncle, George Lauder, a proprietor of a small grocer's shop in Dunfermline High Street. This uncle introduced the young Carnegie to such historical Scottish heroes as Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, and Rob Roy. He was introduced to the writings of Robert Burns and Shakespeare. Lauder had Carnegie commit to memory many pages of Burns' writings.
George Lauder was interested in the United States of America. To Lauder the U.S. was a country with "democratic institutions". Lauder's influence on the young Carnegie would be later reflected in Carnegie's views of America. Carnegie was known later in life to consider the U.S. as the role model for democratic government.
Another uncle, his mother's brother, Tom Kennedy, was also a radical political firebrand. A fervent nonconformist, the chief objects of his tirades were the Church of england and the Church of Scotland. In 1842, the young Carnegie's radical sentiments were stirred further at the news of "Ballie" being imprisoned for his part in a "Cessation of Labour" (strike). At the time, withdrawal of labour by a hireling was a criminal offense. Carnegie emmigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1848 at the age of 13.
Carnegie's direct descendants still live in Scotland today. William Thomson CBE, his great grandson, is Chairman of the Carnegie Trust Dunfermline, a trust which maintains Carnegie's legacy.
Andrew Carnegie’s Early Years Environment
Corn Laws: The Corn Laws were import tariffs designed to support domestic British corn prices against competition from less expensive foreign-grain imports between 1815 and 1846. The tariffs were introduced by the Importation Act 1815 (55 Geo. 3 c. 26) and repealed by the Importation Act 1846 (9 & 10 Vict. c. 22). These laws are often viewed as examples of British mercantilism. According to David Cody, they:
Were designed to protect English landholders by encouraging the export and limiting the import of corn when prices fell below a fixed point. They were eventually abolished in the face of militant agitation by the Anti-Corn Law League, formed in Manchester in 1839, which maintained that the laws, which amounted to a subsidy, increased industrial costs. After a lengthy campaign, opponents of the law finally got their way in 1846—a significant triumph that was indicative of the new political power of the English middle class.
The Corn Laws enhanced these profits as well as the political power associated with land ownership.
Chartism: Chartism was a movement for political and social reform in the United Kingdom during the mid-19th century between 1838 and 1848. It takes its name from the People's Charter of 1838, which stipulated the six main aims of the movement as:
Universal suffrage for all men over the age of 21
Equal-sized electoral districts
Voting by secret ballot
An end to the need for a property qualification for Parliament
Pay for members of Parliament
Annual election of Parliament
Chartism was possibly the first mass working class movement in the world. Its leaders have often been described as either "physical" or "moral-force" leaders, depending upon their attitudes to violent protest.
Boroughs: The term "rotten borough" referred to a parliamentary borough or constituency in Great Britain and Ireland, which, due to size and population, was "controlled" and used by a patron to exercise undue and unrepresentative influence within parliament. Rotten boroughs existed for centuries, although the term rotten borough only came into usage in the 18th century. Typically rotten boroughs were boroughs which once had been flourishing cities with remarkable population, but which had deteriorated, declined and become deserted during the centuries (see abandoned village).
The true rotten borough was a borough of an extraordinarily small electorate. A similar type of corrupt constituency was the pocket borough — a borough constituency with a small enough electorate to be under the effective control (or in the pocket) of a major landowner.
Catholic Emancipation: Emancipation, or Catholic Relief, was a process in Great Britain and Ireland in the late 18th century and early 19th century, which involved reducing and removing many of the restrictions on Roman Catholics which had been introduced by the Act of Uniformity, the Test Acts and the Penal Laws. Requirements to abjure the spiritual authority of the Pope and transubstantiation placed major burdens on Roman Catholics.
From the death of James Francis Edward Stuart in January 1766, the Papacy recognized the Hanoverian dynasty as lawful rulers of England, Scotland and Ireland, after a gap of 70 years, and thereafter the Penal Laws started to be dismantled.
Factory Acts: The Factory Acts were a series of Acts passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to limit the number of hours worked by women and children first in the textile industry, then later in all industries.
George Lauder's Influence on Andrew Carnegie: George Lauder was interested in the United States of America. To Lauder the U.S. was a country with "democratic institutions". Lauder's influence on the young Carnegie would be later reflected in Carnegie's views of America. Carnegie was known later in life to consider the U.S. as the role model for democratic government.
Church of England: The Church of England logo since 1996.The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England, the "mother church" of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the oldest among the communion's nearly forty independent national churches.
The Church of England considers itself to stand both in a reformed tradition and in a catholic one (as in Greek: καθολικός, meaning "pertaining to the whole"): Reformed insofar as many of the principles of the early Protestant reformers as well as the subsequent Protestant Reformation have influenced it and also insofar as it does not accept Papal authority. Catholic in that it views itself as being an unbroken continuation of both the early apostolic and later medieval universal church, rather than as a new formation. In its customs and liturgy it has retained more of that tradition than most other reformed churches.