The life story of Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) is a classic example of ‘The American Dream’. Carnegie was born in a simple working class family in Scotland, but migrated to the United States with his family in search of a better life. There he worked his way up from bobbin boy to successful entrepreneur. He soon started his own steel company and eventually managed to create an enormous imperium. In 1901 he sold Carnegie Steel Company for the then astounding amount of 480 million dollars. Carnegie wished to spend the remainder of his life working towards his vision, by responsibly spending his capital. He felt he had an obligation to the society that had offered him so many chances. He saw many opportunities to advance society. According to the philanthropist, science, education and peace were the most important conditions for progress.
Andrew Carnegie's quest for peace led to the founding of a wide range of funds and trusts. In the period 1904-1919, he donated over $25 million top this end. Carnegie's aim was 'to hasten the abolition of international war, the foulest blot upon our civilization'. His peace endowments were to be directed towards the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, towards the peaceful settlement of international disputes, the increase of international understanding and the acceptance by all nations of international law as their guiding principle. Shortly after the 1899 Hague Peace Conference had ended, William T. Stead, a highly energetic and respected British journalist and pacifist who had followed the peace conference as an observer, and Andrew D. White, the American head of delegation and ambassador in Germany, convinced the Scottish-born American steel magnate and philanthropist to finance the ‘Temple for Peace’ that was to become the Peace Palace in The Hague.
Carnegie offered a donation of no less than 1.5 million dollars. He made his donation under the condition that the Peace Palace would not only house the Permanent Court of Arbitration, but also a public legal library of the highest standard. In 1904 the Carnegie Foundation was founded to administer the funds and manage the construction of the Peace Palace. This foundation today still is owner and manager of the building, a recognized national monument. The foundation also stimulates the organization of seminars and other initiatives that foster the peace ideal and is a member of the international philanthropic network of Carnegie-institutes.
[Video: In the presence of Her Majesty Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands, Andrew Carnegie and an international group of jurists, politicians and pacifists attended the official opening ceremony of the Peace Palace on the 28 August 1913][number of readers: 540]