And finally…Make money, not war

Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie

Scots philanthropist Andrew Carnegie attempted to use his vast fortune to buy peace for the world prior to the Great War, a new film has revealed.

The new documentary, shown for the first time at the Edinburgh Film Festival this week, reveals how the steel magnate from Dunfermline, who was one of the world’s richest men, offered Germany Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II millions of pounds of his vast fortune to step back from the brink of war.

As the storm clouds gathered over Europe, and accustomed to every other type of success, the film claims Carnegie was moved to make the ambitious attempt, only to have his plans blocked by US President Teddy Roosevelt.

The film explains that the failure left the businessman, who left Scotland in with his impoverished family in the mid 19th century in search of the American dream, “broken” and plunged him into a deep depression and ill-health.

The film’s producer, Sonita Gale, said: “Carnegie really thought he could stop the war.

“He was used to getting his own way and did not give up.

“He was the richest man in the world who got his own way in almost everything he put himself to but as soon as the war broke out he gave up.

“He fell silent, stopped talking to friends and moved back from Scotland to America after falling into a serious depression.

“He died a broken man.”

Featuring in the documentary is Sports Division founder and entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter, who gave the key Carnegie Day address last year in the philanthropist’s hometown.

He said: “He was a man used to getting his own way, and he would have given away his entire fortune to stop the First World War,” he added.

Despite his business being a key part of the manufacture of arms and warships for the US Navy, Carnegie was later seized with a determination to avert war.

His huge influence in business convinced him he could persuade the German Emperor to stop the carnage before it began.

After attempting to woo the US President to negotiate Anglo-German peace talks with the Kaiser in Germany and his cousin, King Edward VII in Britain, Carnegie banked on brokering compulsory arbitration between nations.

Carnegie’s Peace Palace, established in the Hague in 1913 was where international leaders came and met to arbitrate, and is still standing.

But Roosevelt believed Carnegie’s utopian plan was flawed and refused to deliver Carnegie’s script and what he felt were absurd peace plans.

As he died, Carnegie wrote in his diary: “I may daily grow frail in my body but my hopes remain that one day war will be banished by an international court for peace.

“That day will mark the moment when man stops killing man the deepest and bleakest of crimes.”

Biographer David Nasaw said: “If Andrew Carnegie were alive today, he would use every ounce of his energy, every dollar of his money, all his wit, his charisma, his intelligence, to create international peace movements that would stop the scourge of war.”

The film, Andrew Carnegie: Rags to Riches, Power to Peace, chronicles Carnegie’s life, from his birth in a weaving shed in Dunfermline, Fife to America and fantastic wealth.

Narrated by Dundee-born Holywood actor Brian Cox, it is scheduled to be aired on BBC Scotland next month.