In those years after the Civil War, a man named Russell Conwell, a graduate of Yale Law school, a minister, and author of best-selling books, gave the same lecture, “Acres of Diamonds,” more than five thousand times to audiences across the country, reaching several million people in all. His message was that anyone could get rich of he tried hard enough, that everywhere, if people looked closely enough, were “acres of diamonds.” A sampling:
I say that you ought to get rich, and it is your duty to get rich… The men who get rich may be the most honest men you find in the community. Let me say here clearly … ninety-eight out of one hundred of the rich men of America are honest. That is why they are rich. That is why they are trusted with money. The is why they carry on great enterprises and find plenty of people to work with them. It is because they are honest men… . I sympathize with the poor, but the number of poor who are to be sympathized with is very small. To sympathize with a man whom God has punished for his sins … is to do wrong… . let us remember there is not a poor person in the United Stated who was not made poor by his own shortcomings. .
Conwell was a founder of Temple University. Rockefeller was a donor colleges all over the country and helped found the University of chicago. Huntington, of the Central Pacific, gave money to two Negro colleges, Hampton Institute and Tuskegee Institute. Carnegie gave money to colleges and to libraries. Johns Hopkins wan founded by a millionaire. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Ezra Cornell, James Duke, and Leland Stanford created universities in their own names.
The rich, giving part of their enormous earnings in this way, became known as philanthropists. These educational institutions did not encourage dissent; they trained the middlemen in America system-the teachers, doctors, lawyers, administrators, engineers, technicians, politicians-those who would be paid to keep the system going, to be loyal buffers against trouble.