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That day, Andrew Carnegie-or Andra as his relatives would call him-was born into a large family of political activists, radicals, and eccentrics. These blood relations, with all their passions and idiosyncrasies, would inspire and haunt Andra; they would infuse him with proletarian social and political convictions that would create merciless internal conflict as he came to embody the quintessential American rags-to-riches story.
A shadowy figure in family lore, James had settled in Pattiemuir, just north of Edinburgh, where he leased land for farming and took up weaving. The village encompassed about a dozen cottages with red-tiled or thatched roofs nestled among softly rolling pastureland.
During the Meal Riots of , which followed a bad harvest, he was arrested for sedition against the local gentry who controlled the land and bore the blame for the food shortages. While he was in prison, a mysterious lady visited him and gave him a jewel-encrusted snuffbox, which prompted rumors thatthe Carnegie lineage was of a more exulted rank than mere peasant weaver. The earls of Northesk and of Southesk both bore the name Carnegie, but the family proudly denied any connection.
Although James escaped conviction and quietly returned to his family, the name Carnegie, a Gaelic compound word meaning "fort at the gap," would be forever associated with the radical element. In order to instigate political and social debate, he founded Pattiemuir College, which was no more than a single-room cottage in the village center were the men gathered weekly to argue over the important issues of the day.
Grandfather Carnegie was dubbed the Professor, as were most of his cohorts, and considering that the so-called professors far outnumbered the students, whispers in town that rumored the college to be "a drinking place" were not unfounded.
Although the temperance movement was actively attempting to put an end to public and private drinking, the ability to imbibe, otherwise known as "quaffing the goblet" or "chasing the rosy hours," said a good deal about a man, and these men had much to say. After a benedictory toast, he would instigate heated debate by reading the news from either the London Times or the Edinburgh Scotsman. Topics ranged from theological matters to corruption in Parliament to factory reform.
Regardless of the issue, whether national or foreign, Professor Andrew proved to be the expert. He was celebrated for his power of persuasion, his passion for debate, his skilled storytelling, his devotion to democratic ideals, and his righteous indignation particularly true after a few drams at the college -all traits that later manifested themselves in Andra, who would become renowned for his grandiloquence and derive exceptional pleasure from startling people with his wild stories and radical ideals.
As a second-generation weaver, Grandpa Carnegie accompanied his father, James, to cities such as Dunfermline and Edinburgh to sell their linens. During one such excursion to the nearby coastal town of Limekilns, he became smitten with Elizabeth Thom, the daughter of a customer. The flaxen-haired boy with blue eyes bright against his milk-pale skin became a third-generation weaver and eventually specialized in damask, a craft involving the use of a lustrous fabric such as cotton, linen, or silk to create flat patterns in a satin weave.
The patterns were intricate and beautiful, and William produced spectacular tablecloths as his feet worked the treadles and his hands deftly moved the shuttle from side to side. At that time, Dunfermline, two miles north, was the center for the damask trade. William, realizing an independent life in Pattiemuir would put few shillings in his pocket, journeyed there circa , his father to follow.
It was a brave act moving from a mere hamlet to a burgh of more than ten thousand people, but William was young and ambitious. It stood on high ground overlooking the Firth of Forth, a long, narrow bay backed by the silhouette of the Pentland Hills beyond, and had once been the capital of Scotland. On his death in , King Robert the Bruce was buried in the center of the abbey, surrounded by past kings and queens, including Queen Margaret, the patron saint of Scotland.
But in the mids, the capital was relocated to Edinburgh, a far more powerful military seat, with its imposing fortress and ability to protect the royal family.
When William Carnegie made his way to Dunfermline, the majestic monastery and royal palace were but ruins, though the air of nobility and pride remained, the noble ghosts of William Wallace and the Robert the Bruce alive in the streets. He shared the stairs with the other renters, along with the privy out back. Recognized as a sober and skilled weaver, William Carnegie quickly made friends, including the Morrison family, who lived up the street. He became smitten with Margaret Morrison, who was born on June 19, , the third of six children.
Her father, Thomas, was a political activist, reminding William of his own radical heritage. Like all Morrison women, Margaret had a stout body and strong, dark facial features, her square chin and high cheekbones prominent in what was otherwise a plain face.
Considering her mother died when Margaret was just four, she had little choice but to become strong-willed, and it was her penetrating eyes with heavy, almost seductive lids that first captivated William. No fool, he recognized an efficient woman of good stock, and in December he took her hand in marriage. The bellicose Morrison spirit was due to their Norse blood, their Viking ancestors having invaded northern Scotland and conquered the people there in the ninth and tenth centuries.
They then migrated south. He moved the family to Dunfermline to begin anew, to rebuild his life. There he became a respectable cobbler, a trade he had learned as a boy. Although a widower since , Thomas found the time to pursue political activities, and derived great satisfaction in haranguing audiences about his favorite topic, land reform. It was time for the monarchy, the lords, and the privileged few to relinquish the land they had controlled since the beginning of the feudal system.
His extravagant use of body language-a thrown-out chest, rollicking lips, violent hand motions-were so identically reproduced in Andra that it unnerved his relatives.
To further his political agenda, Morrison organized a Dunfermline political union of fellow radicals in the s, which had the adopted battle cry "Agitation is the order of the day-the night of monastic ignorance is passed. Whether it was a readership too timid to buy the paper or the cost of sending each manuscript the sixteen miles to Edinburgh via horse-drawn carriage, the newspaper was declared defunct after just three issues. A land reform evangelist until the end, Thomas Morrison died on the road in , haranguing the public and collecting money to continue his mission.
While Andra was yet too young to comprehend his immediate world, he was a creature of his environment, and these threads of history would be woven into the fabric of his soul.
Social conditions, now and in the future, would shape his moral convictions. Another thorn was the Corn Laws, which artificially supported the price of corn and wheat to benefit the farmers. It became difficult to earn a living wage and conditions continued to deteriorate, a situation described so depressingly well by Charles Dickens in such classics as Oliver Twist These problems were not just political; they were also the side effects of the Industrial Revolution, a revolution that was beyond the control of politicians.
Great Britain had taken an early lead in the Industrial Revolution. The isles, with rich coalfields to provide fuel for steam engines, many natural waterways for cheap transportation, and a booming international trade with its colonies, was ideally suited for a transformation from an agricultural-based economy to a manufacturing-based economy, from a handicraft system to a factory system.
As country folk, in search of steady jobs, migrated to the cities in increasing numbers, the transition proved painful because already poor living conditions in urban centers were exacerbated by a population explosion. Contributing to this unprecedented growth were the Irish, who, seeking work, arrived in waves.
Thus, employers had such a large labor pool to select from that they were able to dictate low wages and long hours, further suppressing the working poor. Disillusioned and embittered, the working class formed both trade and political unions to exert pressure, and activism increased dramatically. Nationalistic-minded Scotland raised a collective cry of protest as industrial towns such as Dunfermline, Glasgow, and the mining towns that sprang up around the expansive central coalfields suffered more than most.
The police superintendent of Glasgow, reporting on his own city streets, observed, "There is concentrated everything that is wretched, dissolute, loathsome, and pestilential. Excerpted from Carnegie by Peter Krass Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc.
CARNEGIE PETER KRASS PDF
Peter Krass - There were two sources of trepidation in reading and reviewing this book. I found a congested cemetery bordered by busy streets. There was no peace there. Carnegie has a spacious corner lot, nestled among evergreens and fern.
0471386308 - Carnegie by Peter Krass
Here at Pajwood Farm the days are full with thinking, writing, and physical labor. My latest project is The Existential Entrepreneur. Books, articles, poems, fiction, nonfiction. The creative juices always flowing.