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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas

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Philanthropy. The term “philanthropy,” which
entered the English language in the seventeenth cen-
tury as a translation of the Greek φιλανθροπία and the
Latin philanthropia (“the love of mankind”), has
denoted various values and institutions. It has been
related to many ethical and religious systems, move-
ments of thought, and social contexts. Associated with
charity, civic spirit, humanitarianism, social control,
and social work, it has come in the twentieth century
to mean, in the main, private and voluntary giving,
individually and collectively, for public purposes. Its
complex history can best be understood in terms of
the related ideas that have characterized its evolution
in time and place.

Pre-Greek Foundations. In the nineteenth century,
when travelers and early ethnologists reported exam-
ples of mutual helpfulness among pre-literate peoples,
the widening spectrum of thought about philanthropy
was extended backward into prehistoric time. These
reports gave support to Peter Kropotkin's contention
in Mutual Aid (1890-96) that such behavior, whether
innate or acquired, had been an indispensable factor
in the evolution and survival of the human race and
in the development of civilization. Without ignoring
this movement in thought, the discussion of the ideas
associated with philanthropy in the broadest sense may
properly be confined to religious, ethical, and other
firsthand written evidences. These, to be sure, can be
understood only in relation to changing social, cultural,
and institutional (and thus often nonverbal) contexts.

Chinese classical thought exhibited some sophis-
tication and some differences in points of view toward
philanthropy. Confucius and Mencius exalted univer-
sal benevolence as a personal virtue (Legge, I, 405;
II, 485). Hsüntze in his Essay on Human Nature,
regarded spontaneous sympathy with others as an
acquired, rather than as an innate, human quality, but
seemed to imply that this trait is within the capacity
of all human beings (Dubs, p. 312). On the other hand,
the Taoist Chuang-Tzŭ denounced philanthropy as a
false outgrowth of human nature that disturbed human
well-being (Giles, pp. 165-67). In practice, the maxim
“love mankind” seems to have been largely operative
in the extended family and in the institution of friend-
ship until the early nineteenth century.

Personal generosity to those in need, especially to
strangers, widows, and orphans, was commended or
enjoined in the sacred writings and ethical teachings
of pre-Greek civilizations. In some instances the prac-
tice of charity was advocated as a personal virtue, in
others it was enjoined as a religious duty pleasing in


the eyes of the gods. In some cases, notably in the
Hindu scriptures, giving to the needy, especially to
holy men dependent on alms, was an imperative duty,
the fulfillment of which also rewarded the donor in
a future state of existence. The general tone of
admonition suggested that the emphasis was on the
effect of giving on the donor, rather than on the recipi-
ent, except insofar as poverty was often identified with
holiness. The teachings of Gautama, the Buddha (ca.
450 B.C.) not only sanctioned giving as a personal virtue
but associated it with self-restraint as an evidence of
rectitude. Buddhist institutionalization of philanthropy
was evident in the establishment of hospitals, and in
the example of King Aśoka in generous giving for the
sake of spreading Buddhist truth. References, in more
or less general terms, to a concern for the unfortunate
appear in the Hammurabic Code (ca. 2000? B.C.), and
in the Egyptian Book of the Dead in which a good
man is identified as one who had given bread to the
hungry, water to the thirsty, raiment to the naked, and
a boat to one who had none. Egyptian inscriptions
indicate that pharaohs regarded acts of benevolence
and tomb-building as means of propitiating the gods
in the interest of immortality and of insuring their own
identity in the minds of succeeding generations.

Greek and Roman Philanthropy. Mercy, regard for
others, hospitality and kindness beyond the limits of
family, friends, and ethnocentric bounds found some
expression in Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus, Thucydides,
and the Attic orators, but the word “philanthropy,”
destined to have so long a history, makes almost its
first appearance in Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound.
Broadly speaking, in Greek thought the word connoted
good citizenship and democratic, humanitarian in-
clinations. Xenophon called Socrates “democratic and
philanthropic,” that is to say, a friend of mankind.
Demosthenes declared that “the laws ordain nothing
that is cruel or violent or oligarchic, but on the con-
trary, all their provisions are made in a democratic
and philanthropic spirit” (Macurdy, p. 98). With the
Stoics the concept clearly transcended the dominant,
ethnocentric emphasis on the rights and privileges of
citizenship by emphasizing a kind and compassionate
behavior toward all fellow human beings as a necessary
corollary of a common humanity. In concrete terms
and in an institutional implementation, however, the
idea of love of mankind did not take among the Greeks
the form of private charitable giving to the needy poor;
guiding policy preferred the idea of public respon-
sibility in the form of work relief projects or doles.
When a man of wealth gave of his substance for public
purposes, the objective was largely civic and cultural,
as Alexander's gift of the library in Egypt, and as the
endowment of the Academy and Lyceum indicate.

Roman concepts and practices did not greatly differ
from Greek precedents although institutions for the
sick and needy sometimes enjoyed private as well as
public support. The custom of subsidies (sportula) by
the wealthy and powerful to clients for political and
personal reasons was not truly philanthropic in the
original sense of the term, love of mankind.

Jewish Philanthropy. The age-old and possibly
ubiquitous compassionate impulse to relieve suffering
through personal service and the giving of personal
substance to the needy, whenever a society developed
marked inequality in possessions, found its most notable
exemplification among the ancient Hebrews. In marked
contrast with the permissiveness of charity in most
early religious and ethical systems, and with the
relegation to the state of responsibility for the poor
in Greco-Roman civilization, Judaism made charity a
central and imperative duty for each believer. In the
fifth book of Moses (Deuteronomy 14:22) tithing was
made a compulsory obligation: “For the poor shall
never cease out of the land; therefore I command thee,
saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy
brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”
Similarly, it was an obligation to give one's bread to
the hungry, to take the outcast into one's home, to
clothe the naked (Isaiah 58:7). In making charity to
all needy Jews an obligation (however gladly it was
executed), Judaism identified charity and justice
(Zedakah). Amos, Isaiah, and Micah severely attacked
the exploitation of the weak by the strong, thus taking
an innovating stand in attacking the problem of pov-
erty at its root: a sense of social justice as well as
humanitarian feeling is especially evident in the Psalms
and in the Wisdom Literature of the Bible. Although
the sense of justice was the animating note in the
concept of charity, love of one's fellow men as the
children of God was a fervent and even passionately
expressed value—contrary to the contention of some
Christian writers, such as Gehrhard Uhlhorn (Christian
Charity in the Ancient World,
New York [1883], Ch.
2). The idea of righteousness in the interest of ultimate
salvation figured only in later Jewish thought. In addi-
tion to emphasizing duty, obligation, and ethical love,
Judaism very early stressed the organization of charity
as a principal institution of the synagogue. Jewish
adherence to the religious duty of charity was rein-
forced by historical experience as an “out-group” in
need of social cohesion, a need that was to continue
through the Middle Ages and modern times.

The ethical and emotional distinctions in giving were
explicated in a voluminous post-biblical, rabbinical
literature. The best known medieval writer was Moses


Maimonides, who in 1201 codified the Talmudic rules
in the Eight Degrees of Charity. The highest sanction
was that given to the kind of helpfulness that antici-
pated charity by preventing poverty: “He who aids
the poor to support himself by advancing funds or by
helping him to some lucrative occupation” fulfilled a
high degree of charity, “than which there is no higher.”
Charity in which the donor did not know the recipient
or the recipient the donor, was more meritorious than
types of giving in which the donor could take satis-
faction from the appreciation of the recipient. Giving
before being asked, was preferable to giving after being
asked; and he who gave inadequately but with good
grace, was less blameworthy than he who gave with
bad grace (Frisch, pp. 62-63). Maimonides as well as
other writers were aware of the complexity of motives
in giving and, while recognizing utilitarianism and
enlightened self-interest, attached supreme importance
to religious, ethical, and humanitarian considerations.

The institutionalization of these ideas reflected the
problems of the Jews in specific historical contexts.
Thus in the Middle Ages particular attention was given
to the care of orphans and the ransoming of captives.
Jewish philanthropy was adapted to concrete needs by
mass-scale efforts and constructive thinking. The far-
reaching program of the Baron de Hirsch Fund (1885)
in reducing the incidence of persecution of the Jews
in Russia by assisted emigration is only one example
of the preventive and resourceful quality of modern
Jewish philanthropic thought and activity. Another
example is the response of worldwide Jewry to the
tragedy of coreligionists in Germany and German-
controlled areas during the Nazi persecutions. Most
striking of all examples is the creative role of philan-
thropy in the making of the state of Israel with its
distinctive civilization.

Semitic influences may in part explain Muslim
admonitions to charity in the Koran and, possibly, the
establishment of hospitals at Bagdad and other centers.
Nevertheless philanthropy in Muslim cultures did not
develop an ideology and an institutionalization com-
parable in any sense to that in Judaic culture.

Christianity. The influence of Judaism on early
Christian concepts and practices in philanthropy was
positive and direct. Saint Paul developed the Hebrew
idea of stewardship, which assumed that the rich man
was not the owner but merely the steward of the
wealth in his hand, and must therefore use it in accord-
ance with God's commands (I Corinthians 13; II
Corinthians 8, 9). Many of the ideas in one of the
passages in the New Testament (Matthew 25:35-46)
most relevant to Christian philanthropy are closely
related to if not identical with Hebrew antecedents.
Certain ideas in this passage and in others in the New
Testament may, however, be regarded as striking a
somewhat new emphasis. One is the idea of reward
and punishment in future life for the fulfillment of,
or for the failure to fulfil, charitable commands. At
the same time Christianity emphasizes the idea that
charity enhances life in this world by bringing the giver
into closer spiritual relationship with God. If acts of
charity, including personal service, were not executed
for the most lowly and for those in greatest need, then
they were not being executed for God the King.

It might seem that the millennial expectations of the
early Christians and the resulting emphasis on the
imperative need of readiness for the Coming, would
de-emphasize the Jewish tradition of charity as a duty
to those in immediate physical distress and need. But
such was not the case. The bias of Jesus toward the
poor and disinherited, as those most apt to receive the
message of God's kingdom, and the feeling that wealth
endangers the soul provided an undertone for early
Christian precepts and practices in the sphere of
charity. The early commitments to those in need, to
the equalization of wealth, and to enhancing the sense
of fellowship in the community of believers were
regarded as expressions of Christian love. At the same
time the emphasis on the sanctity and dignity of each
individual encouraged the development of the fraternal
implications of the doctrine of Christian love. The early
appearance of Christian hostels for wayfarers and the
incapacitated, and arrangements for mutual aid and
group security indicate that the idea of the supreme
importance of the care of souls was not entirely dis-
associated from the care and cure of bodies. This idea
was further implemented in A.D. 321 when the emperor
Constantine recognized the validity of gifts and
bequests for Christian institutions, including charities.

Thus as early as the fourth century the concept of
philanthropia was well established in Christendom. In
the Eastern or Byzantine empire public philanthropy,
which owed something to Greek classical tradition, and
private charity, largely Christian in inspiration,
achieved a notable record in charitable institutions,
including monasteries. Yet the Byzantine concept did
not include concern for the prevention of poverty;
constant almsgiving perpetuated poverty and tended
to maintain the status quo in the social structure
(Constantelos, p. 284).

In the West the disappearance of the state in the
Greek and Roman sense left a vacuum in which no
purely secular feudal agency was equipped to provide
relief for poverty and disability. Thus the Church found
ample scope for institutionalizing the doctrine of love
of fellow men by encouraging and sponsoring gifts for
charitable hospitals, colleges, and monasteries with
well-defined functions for the care of the poor.


The dominance of theology and casuistry as intellec-
tual interests, together with the magnitude of medieval
philanthropy, insured the probing of its ethical as-
sumptions and implications. It was undeniable that
certain scriptural texts, indicating that generous
bestowal of alms is a Christian duty the fulfilment of
which would insure heavenly reward, opened the door
to self-regard in acts of pious charity. Theologians and
canonists held, however, that giving, in order to be
pleasing to God, must be an outward manifestation of
a genuine feeling of justice and a true act of love.
Despite this emphasis, much giving was impulsive,
indiscriminate, and perfunctory. Some was motivated
by mechanically measured considerations of self-
interest: this gift was equal to so much merit, that gift,
to so much more or less. It was against all this that
Saint Francis of Assisi protested, insisting on the
importance, indeed the necessity, of sacrifice, dis-
interested love, and the dignity and worth of poverty.

According to Church canon, giving was also qualified
by consideration of how the donor came by that which
he gave. In the thirteenth century, canonists held it
meritorious to give property even if it had been
improperly acquired, provided that legal title had
passed to the donor and that no party was left to claim
restitution. Long after the Reformation the ethical
criterion of the ways in which wealth flowing into
charity had been obtained continued to be a thorny
matter. In the twentieth century, Washington Gladden,
a Protestant theologian of the Social Gospel, argued,
in regard to Rockefeller gifts to Church missions and
other charities, that the Church could not properly
accept ill-gotten gains or “tainted wealth” no matter
how pious the donor nor how worthy the object of
donation. This, however, was a minority view.

Finally, contrary to later contentions, medieval
canonists considered the effects of charity on recipients.
In general, it is true that canonists favored generosity
in the execution of the command, “feed the hungry,
clothe the naked.” But Gratian's Decretum (1471), the
great summing up of pros and cons on disputed theo-
logical points, noted that Saint Ambrose had suggested
an order of preference among applicants for charity
and that Saint Augustine had opposed donations to
able-bodied beggars and vagrants. Thus in theory, if
not in practice, medieval charity struck a balance
between the interests and spiritual well-being of all
concerned—donor, recipient, and community (Tierney,
pp. 57-58).

The Transition to Modern Philanthropic Ideas.
While Christianity continued to exert great influence
during and after the transition from medieval to mod-
ern times, secular conditions altered and finally trans-
formed traditional ideas about charity and philan
thropy. What may be regarded as the beginnings of
modern philanthropic ideas can be explained in large
part by the interlocking of traditional attitudes and
values with new social, economic, political, and reli-
gious conditions. These included the decline of feudal-
ism, the rise of cities and the middle class, the disloca-
tion of populations resulting from the enclosure
movement and other economic changes, and the Ref-
ormation itself, related, as it was, to the emergence
of national states. The religious foundations, especially
after the dissolution of the monasteries in Tudor
England, were no longer able to perform their older
functions or to meet newer social, economic, and vo-
cational needs. All these changes account in part for
the extraordinary development of private philanthropy
in Tudor and Stuart England. The merchant and gentry
classes poured wealth into charitable and educational
institutions, in effect accepting the Tudor policy of
shifting to localities and to private donors responsibility
for poor relief, and the development of schools and
other charitable agencies.

Among the ideas that intermeshed with changing
conditions, special importance is to be given to the
Protestant rejection, or at least de-emphasis on the
doctrine of salvation by good works or individual acts
of charity, and the emphasis rather on salvation by
faith—the reception of the holy spirit suffusing the
entire personality of those worthy of it in God's eyes.
This de-emphasized traditional medieval charity. It is
true that Calvin, in Reformation Geneva, found biblical
warrant for voluntary gifts to the laicized and ration-
alized welfare agencies previously controlled by the
Catholic Church; he also involved himself in the oper-
ation of the Bourse française, a private fund for helping
French refugees. The Calvinistic re-emphasis on the
stewardship of riches encouraged giving to needy per-
sons and to Christian charities. Thus Thomas Fuller's
History of the Worthies of England (1662) provided
a special category for donors to public causes. The
reliance in England, and to some extent in other
Protestant countries, on philanthropy to meet major
new social and economic needs was accompanied by
the idea of public control over private charitable do-
nations, other current bequests and gifts, and trusts.
The Elizabethan Statute of Charitable Uses (1601)
summed up much earlier experiment with public su-
pervision. While in England and other Protestant
countries the new idea of private responsibility under
public supervision for social and economic needs was
developing, in Catholic countries the Church in general
continued to function in charitable and educational
roles with minimal state supervision.

The social as distinct from the personal and religious
character of the new philanthropy was exemplified in


its nationalistic and class overtones. Fear of the effects
of an apparently declining population on the supply
of cheap labor inspired greater attention to the estab-
lishment of orphanages for foundlings and hospitals (in
the modern sense) for the poor. The need of the Royal
Navy for personnel was met in part by greater concern
for waifs who were salvaged from the dregs of society
and given proprietary care and training for national
service. To reduce tax costs and to accord with the
idea of self-help, philanthropy encompassed a wide
spectrum of innovations designed to maintain the class
structure. These included various schemes for putting
the poor to work rather than permitting them to re-
ceive relief for which they rendered no service.

The idea of voluntary organization in charity devel-
oped with new social and economic forces associated
with overseas commercial expansion, including the
slave trade, the industrial revolution, and the need for
a cheap but stable and reliable labor force. The pre-
vailing idea that poverty is the result, not of social
and economic dislocations, but of a failure of character,
the vogue of classical economics with its emphasis on
laissez-faire, and the rise of evangelical Christianity
with its strong impulse toward social reform, all con-
tributed to the dominance of the idea of voluntary
association in philanthropy which, perhaps, was also
suggested by the joint stock company. Contributions
to voluntary societies that were addressed to specific
social problems were now often made in small sums
and anonymously. These, together with larger gifts and
bequests, were directed to the relief of distress, to
hospitals, orphanages, schools for poor scholars, and
agencies for training apprentices. The Society for the
Promotion of Christian Knowledge, founded in 1698,
which established over two thousand charity schools
in the first century of its existence, was typical of the
new emphasis on organized, voluntary philanthropy.
So was the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel
in Foreign Parts. Toward the end of the eighteenth
century, with a mounting tide of conservative reaction
against the French Revolution, new charity schools,
organized by Robert Raikes and Hannah More and
supported by voluntary, organized efforts, emphasized
moral instruction as a means of reducing crime, and
promoted religious teaching as a means of combatting
radical innovation and “atheistic” Jacobinism.

Yet social control in associated, voluntary philan-
thropy was not the only idea underlying the prolifera-
tion of eighteenth-century philanthropy. Robert Eden,
in The Harmony of Benevolence: a Sermon on Psalm
(London, 1755), expounded the idea that
benevolence is largely instinctive and emotional and
that the satisfaction of this instinct is pleasurable.
Oliver Goldsmith wrote that “the luxury of doing
good” enhanced self-esteem. And the traditional idea
of humanitarian compassion was sometimes expressed
with an ironical twist, as in William Blake's poems
entitled “Holy Thursday” and “The Human Abstract”:

Is this a holy thing to see,
In a rich and fruitful land
Babes reduced to misery,
Fed with cold and usurous hand?

(“Holy Thursday”).

Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody poor,
And mercy no more could be
If all were as happy as we

(“The Human Abstract”).

Modern philanthropic ideas were given worldwide
connotations when the Catholic religious orders
undertook to Christianize and civilize indigenous peo-
ples overseas, and to support French, Portuguese, and
Spanish colonial empires. The Anglican, Lutheran,
Moravian, and Quaker efforts to Christianize Indians
and African slaves was the Protestant counterpart. Yet
these and other overseas philanthropic interests were
not always self-consciously “imperialistic” or even
religious. Such considerations, while present in Ogle-
thorpe's venture in founding Georgia, were subordi-
nated to his humanitarian aim of rehabilitating unfor-
tunates who had been imprisoned for debt. Another
example of the impact of the new philanthropic spirit
on overseas expansion was the comment of Benjamin
Franklin, on learning in 1771 of the proposed coloniz-
ation of New Zealand, that “a voyage is now proposed,
to visit a distant people on the other side of the globe;
not to cheat them, not to rob them... but merely
to do them good, and make them, as far as in our power
lies, to live as comfortably as ourselves” (Writings, ed.
A. H. Smyth, V, 342).

The secular and civic tone of Franklin's remarks
characterized the newer ideas of philanthropy which
he brought to fruit in Philadelphia. In organizing vol-
untary associations for promoting self-help, such as
libraries and discussion groups, in furthering the for-
tunes of the College of Philadelphia (the University
of Pennsylvania) and the Pennsylvania Hospital,
Franklin devoted both his means and his services to
philanthropy. He also developed practical techniques
for fund-raising. These included the listing of prospec-
tive donors, personally visiting them and presenting
persuasive arguments, following up the visits when
results were not forthcoming, and using the new media
of communication, especially the public press. In effect
he was secularizing and democratizing the Christian
concept of the stewardship of wealth, to which his
attention had been drawn in his youth in Boston by
Cotton Mather's Essays to do Good (1710). Franklin's
innovating ideas for fund-raising were used throughout


the nineteenth century, especially for enlisting support
for colleges, and provided the basis for further amplifi-
cation and refinement by the new professional fund-
raising organizations of twentieth-century America.

Humanitarian Reform. While the pecuniary ele-
ment in philanthropy, both in concept and practice,
was always an essential and sometimes the central
emphasis, the term philanthropy was used in the late
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in both
England and America as a synonym for social and
humanitarian reform. This identification was in part
explicable by reason of the supporting pillars of social
reform: evangelicism, humanitarianism, the idea of
progress, and a middle-class awareness of the need for
the maintenance of social order. No idea, however, was
as important as the conviction that society has no right
to advance its own aims and well-being at the expense
of the disadvantaged individual. In the sense of social
reform, philanthropy expressed itself mainly in the
English-speaking countries in the movement for the
abolition of the slave trade and, finally, of slavery itself;
in the demand for the abolition of capital punishment
and the reform of the penal code; in the concern for
helpless and exploited children; in the battle for the
political, legal, and social rights of women; in the more
humane treatment of animals, the mentally ill, and
others suffering from inherited or acquired handicaps;
and in the elimination of war as a means for solving
disputes among nations.

Philanthropy as social reform also expressed itself
in charity societies, voluntary agencies for supple-
menting or even replacing inadequate public provisions
for the care of the indigent poor. In both England and
America the charity organization movement drew
strength from the middle-class conviction that poverty
is largely a matter of personal shortcoming and that
the bestowal of relief or charity deteriorates the char-
acter of the recipient still further. “Human nature is
so constituted,” wrote a leading figure in the American
charity organization movement, “that no man can
receive as a gift what he should earn by his own labor
without a moral deterioration” (Lowell, pp. 66, 76).

Thus the movement emphasized ways of making the
unemployed poor self-supporting. The charity orga-
nization movement also sought to eliminate the waste-
ful duplication of agencies and the prevailing ineffi-
ciency in their operation. The idea of efficiency also
figured in the emphasis on the careful investigation of
the needs of each recipient. But this emphasis was also
a function of the feeling that the problems of the poor
and needy must be regarded in individual, personal,
rather than class terms. To counteract the impersonal,
even heartless treatment of those in distress by public
agencies, the charity organization movement devel
oped “friendly visiting,” in which volunteers not only
offered advice to the needy but showed personal inter-
est and understanding. The related social-settlement
idea also sought to bring the privileged and under-
privileged into mutually rewarding human contacts.
When the modern profession of social work developed
from the charity organizations and the social settle-
ments, scientific specialization and “expertise” largely
supplanted the voluntary character of older practice.
The first schools for training professional social workers
were called schools of philanthropy.

The New Rationale of Large-Scale Giving. In the
later decades of the nineteenth century and in the early
years of the twentieth, ideas, in the main new, initiated
an almost unprecedented chapter in the intellectual
history of philanthropy. While a great deal of giving,
both during the lives of donors and in provisions in
their wills, continued to be directed toward charitable
and religious institutions and causes, an increasing
emphasis was put on the use of philanthropy for the
prevention of shortcomings in the social order, and for
the general improvement of the quality of civilization,
especially through the extension of knowledge, the
increase of scientific understanding and control through
research, and through the enhancement of health and
the aesthetic and recreational components of everyday
life. This emphasis was expressed in the magnitude of
donations by Americans of great wealth for new pro-
grams and improvements in existing colleges and
universities, and for the establishment of new schools
and universities associated with the benefactions of
Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, Vassar, Eastman,
Stanford, and Rockefeller. It was also expressed in
philanthropic support for art museums, symphony or-
chestras, parks, and other recreational facilities. Not
since the Renaissance and Tudor England had wealth
been used on such a scale for the improvement of
cultural values.

No less important was the rationale for this philan-
thropy. In an article in the North American Review
(1889), Andrew Carnegie, a “self-made” multimillion-
aire, argued that men of great wealth should, during
their lifetime, allocate most of it to purposes other than
the relief of individual misfortunes or incompetence,
a relief which might be left to the state. Assuming that
those who had made great fortunes had demonstrated
their competence in the struggle for survival, Carnegie
contended that these men had a social obligation to
use their acquired wealth to provide opportunities for
hardworking, competent, and ambitious youths and
adults to advance themselves. This, he felt, could best
be done by the use of private wealth for stimulating
communities to support public libraries, baths, and
recreational and vocational training including that


offered, as yet inadequately, for Negro youth. The
millionaire, Carnegie concluded, should be ashamed to
die rich. This rationale quickly came to be known as
“The Gospel of Wealth.” While in a sense a further
secularization of the Christian doctrine of stewardship,
it also emphasized prevention rather than cure,
efficiency, and the equalization of opportunity.

Carnegie, together with the Rockefellers and the
later Fords, was also a pioneer in the development of
the modern foundation. This institution, to be sure, had
a long history stretching back into ancient, medieval,
and early modern times. But in its American form it
differed from its predecessors, not only in the magni-
tude of its resources and in its use of specialized per-
sonnel for the allocation of grants, but in its emphasis
less on specific purposes (though these continued to
find expression) than on the general prevention of
human suffering at home and abroad and on the
enrichment of life through the improvement of educa-
tional standards, medical and social science research,
and city planning, or through the support and dissemi-
nation of aesthetic values and opportunities. The
promoters of the new foundations were in the main
influenced by philanthropic interest and, to some
extent, by the value of the foundation for creating a
favorable public image of the donor. After 1917 and
more particularly 1936, legal provisions in income-tax
legislation, exempting gifts from taxation, stimulated
much foundation activity, particularly in the case of
the so-called family foundations, and in the new devel-
opment of corporation foundations that directed their
largess toward welfare programs, education, and local

The foundation met with a mixed public response.
At first, at the high tide of the Progressive movement,
fear was expressed that its power and influence might
become a bulwark for “conservatism,” and inhibit the
public assumption of social responsibilities deemed
imperative by most liberals. In the early 1950's, during
the “McCarthy period,” foundations were attacked in
some circles as supporters of subversive, “un-
American” causes, particularly in the field of social
welfare, and in grants given to liberal and radical
scholars and other intellectuals. The use and abuse of
tax-exemption privileges by many foundations, to-
gether with the secretive bookkeeping arrangements
in some cases, led to Congressional investigations after
mid-century, and to demands for a greater measure
of public control.

The development of the welfare state in England,
together with the new and large benefactions of the
Wellcomes, Nuffields, and others that supplemented
venerable trusts, raised again the issue of social
efficiency or inefficiency of endowments, and the rela
tion of these to public responsibility for social welfare
and education. On the whole, in England and America,
a consensus seemed to hold that by pioneering in
needed fields in which government was reluctant to
experiment, the foundation at its best had an important
and creative role to play in supplementing the state
as an agent for social well-being. Although in some
noncommunist countries in Europe, Latin America,
and Asia philanthropy in the Anglo-American sense
showed signs of developing in the mid-twentieth cen-
tury, in modern times its importance in the history of
ideas has largely been confined to Great Britain and
the United States, where individual responsibility and
the principle of voluntary cooperation for personal and
social well-being have been significant values in the
culture. Yet, a caveat expressed in the 1930's by Rein-
hold Niebuhr summed up a criticism almost as old as
philanthropy itself: “The effort to make voluntary
charity solve the problems of a major social crisis...
results only in monumental hypocrisies and tempts
selfish people to regard themselves as unselfish”
(Niebuhr, p. 29).


The most satisfactory, comprehensive account of pre-
Christian philanthropy is Hendrik Bolkestein, Wohltätigkeit
und Armpflege im Vorchristlichen Altertum
(Utrecht, 1939).
James Legge's celebrated translations, The Chinese Classics,
5 vols. (Oxford, 1893-95), was reissued in Hong Kong in
1960. For Hsüntze's essay, see Homer H. Dubs, The Works
of Hsüntze
(London, 1928). Special studies include Yu-Yue
Tsŭ, The Spirit of Chinese Philanthropy. A Study in Mutual
(New York, 1912). The literature on Jewish philanthropy
is extensive; the best introduction is Ephraim Frisch, An
Historical Survey of Jewish Philanthropy
(New York, 1924).
Translations from relevant Greek texts are conveniently
accessible in Grace H. Macurdy, The Quality of Mercy: the
Gentler Virtues in Greek Literature
(New Haven, 1940). A
sociological approach to the complex and developing ideas
in the Christian tradition distinguishes Ernst Troeltsch's Die
Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen und Gruppen

(Tübingen, 1922), trans. O. Wyon as The Social Teaching
of the Christian Churches,
2 vols. (London and New York,
1931; reprint New York, 1960). It should, however, be read
in connection with Michel Riquet, Christian Charity in
trans. from the French by P. J. Hepburne-Scott, in
a series, The Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholi-
Sec. ix (New York, 1961). The first comprehensive
study of the subject in the Eastern Church is Demetrios
J. Constantelos, Byzantine Philanthropy and Social Welfare
(New Brunswick, N.J., 1968). A corresponding study for
medieval charity in the Roman Church is Brian Tierney,
Medieval Poor Law. A Sketch of Canonical Theory and its
Application to England
(Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1959).

The earliest modern, and still useful, survey of the whole
development of English philanthropy is B. K. Gray, A His


tory of English Philanthropy (London, 1905). It has been
corrected at many points and enormously enriched by the
indispensable studies of W. K. Jordan, Philanthropy in
England 1480-1660
(London, 1960) and The Charities of
(London and New York, 1960), and by David Owen's
English Philanthropy (Cambridge, Mass., 1964).

The best general introduction to American philanthropy
is Robert H. Bremner, American Philanthropy (Chicago,
1960). Two basic sources for ideas about early American
philanthropy are The Apologia of Robert Keayne. The Self-
Portrait of a Puritan Merchant,
ed. Bernard Bailyn (New
York, 1965), and The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, ed.
Albert Henry Smyth, 12 vols. (New York, 1907). Josephine
Shaw Lowell's Public Relief and Private Charity (New York,
1884), and Frank D. Watson's The Charity Organization
Movement in the United States
(New York, 1894, and subse-
quent editions) are standard works. Special aspects of
American philanthropy are treated in Roy Lubove, The
Professional Altruist. The Emergence of Social Work as a
Career 1880-1930
(Cambridge, Mass., 1965); Merle Curti,
American Philanthropy Abroad (New Brunswick, N.J., 1963);
and Merle Curti and Roderick Nash, Philanthropy in the
Shaping of American Higher Education
(New Brunswick,
N.J., 1965). An early critical work on American foundations
is Eduard C. Lindeman, Wealth and Culture (New York,
1936). More objective is F. Emerson Andrews, Philanthropic
(New York, 1956). Andrews' Corporation Giving
(New York, 1952) is the first and still useful study of a new
development in American philanthropy. The comprehensive
survey edited and in part written by Warren Weaver, United
States Philanthropic Foundations
(New York, 1967), needs
to be supplemented by monographic studies of specific
foundations, relatively few having yet been undertaken.

Among the few philosophical analyses of the idea of
philanthropy special mention is to be made of T. V. Smith,
“George Herbert Mead and the Philosophy of Philan-
thropy,” Social Service Review, 6 (March 1932), 37-54, and
the study of Pitirim A. Sorokin, Altruistic Love. A Study
of American “Good Neighbors” and Christian Saints


[See also Buddhism; Christianity in History; Democracy;
Faith, Hope, and Charity; Millenarianism; Perfectibility;
Progress; Utilitarianism.]