Andrew Carnegie's ''Best Fields for Philanthropy'' Essay, 1889
THE BEST FIELDS FOR PHILANTHROPY
''The individual withers, and the world is more and more.''
Before entering upon the question which you have proposed, it may be advantageous to restate the
positions taken in the former paper, for the benefit of those who may not have read it, or who cannot
conveniently refer to it. It was assumed that the present laws of competition, accumulation, and
distribution are the best obtainable conditions; that through these the race receives its most valuable
fruits; and, therefore, that they should be accepted and upheld. Under these it was held that great wealth
must inevitably flow into the hands of the few exceptional managers of men. The question then arose,
What should these do with their surplus wealth? and the ''Gospel of Wealth'' contended that surplus
wealth should be considered as a sacred trust, to be administered during the lives of its owners, by them
as trustees, for the best good of the community in which and from which it had been acquired.
It was pointed out that there were but three modes of disposing of surplus wealth, and two of these were
held to be improper. First, it was held that to leave great fortunes to children did not prove true affection
for them or interest in their genuine good, regarded either as individuals or as members of the state; that
it was not the welfare of the children, but the pride of the parents, which inspired enormous legacies, and
that, looking to the usual results of vast sums conferred upon children, the thoughtful man must be forced
to say, if the good of the child only were considered: ''I would as soon leave to my son a curse as to leave
to him the almighty dollar.''
The second mode open to men is to hoard their surplus wealth during life, and leave it at death for
public uses. It was pointed out that in many cases these bequests become merely monuments of the
testator's folly; that the amount of real good done by posthumous gifts was ridiculously disproportionate
to the sums thus left. The recent decision upon Mr. Tilden's will, which is said to have been drawn by the
ablest of lawyers, and the partial failure of Mr. Williamson's purposes in regard to the great technical
school which that millionaire intended to establish in Philadelphia, are lessons indeed for the rich who
The aim of the first article was thus to lead up to the conclusion that there is but one right mode of
using enormous fortunes—namely, that the possessors from time to time during their own lives should so
administer them as to promote the permanent good of the communities from which they have been
gathered. It was held that public sentiment would soon say of one who died possessed of millions of
available wealth which he might have administered: ''The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.''
The purpose of this article is to present some of the best methods of performing this duty of
administering surplus wealth for the good of the people. The first requisite for a really good use of