Leland Stanford - Robber Barron or Captain of Industry

Essay by wong2kHigh School, 11th gradeA+, March 2003

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James Wong

Robber Baron's are Captains of Industry who are looked down upon for succeeding at the expense of others and at the expense of moral integrity. To firmly attach a label to any given person or people is difficult because the distinction between a robber baron and a captain of industry alternates with the point of view from which you hold. Leland Stanford and the Big Four of the Central Pacific Railroad are perfect examples of how there are contrasting arguments about their proper titles in history. Leland Stanford was the president of the Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR or CP) with Collis Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker as his main colleagues. These four men are looked at in history as both dignified captains of industry who main true the rags to riches stories of America, and unethical robber barons who stopped at no cost, monetary or human, to attain their goals.

Leland Stanford was born to a family of seven children, before himself. He himself was not particularly bright in his early schooling and worked as a farm boy with very minor business ventures involving selling chestnuts in Albany. He was involved early on in the gold rush but with little success, he changed from mining to business. "He then entered into business with two of his brothers who had gone to California in 1849 when the gold rush began. He had become sufficiently wealthy within four years to be regarded as one of the leading citizens of the mining region." With success behind him he moved to California and pursued a political career which was largely unsuccessful in terms of winning offices, but victorious in spreading his name. He lost the Free Soil Party treasurer position and the governors office early on. However, inside five years he...