Carnegie Establishes the Endowment for International Peace

On his seventy-fifth birthday, wealthy industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie announced the establishment of an endowment of ten million dollars. His letter of gift of December 14, 1910, was presented in Washington, D.C., to the newly established board of trustees, which was charged with the abolition of war and the attainment of the rule of law in international relations.

Summary of Event

Andrew Carnegie’s establishment of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was foreshadowed by his earlier donations, which totaled several million dollars, geared toward the abolition of war as an instrument of national policy. In 1903 he had provided more than one million dollars toward the construction of a Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, to house a Permanent Court of Arbitration for the peaceful settlement of international disputes. In the same year, he set up a Simplified Spelling Board in the belief that its work toward the simplification of English spelling would facilitate communication and thus aid peace efforts. In 1904, Carnegie began the creation of Hero Funds in the United States and other countries. These funds were designed to provide awards to nonmilitary citizens who had performed heroic deeds. Peace activism
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
[kw]Carnegie Establishes the Endowment for International Peace (Nov. 25, 1910)
[kw]Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Establishes the (Nov. 25, 1910)
[kw]Peace, Carnegie Establishes the Endowment for International (Nov. 25, 1910)
Peace activism
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
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[c]Humanitarianism and philanthropy;Nov. 25, 1910: Carnegie Establishes the Endowment for International Peace[02690]
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[c]Diplomacy and international relations;Nov. 25, 1910: Carnegie Establishes the Endowment for International Peace[02690]
Carnegie, Andrew
Roosevelt, Theodore
Taft, William Howard
Root, Elihu
Butler, Nicholas Murray
Choate, Joseph H.
Estournelles de Constant, Paul-Henri-Benjamin d’

At the same time he was funding such organizations, Carnegie was being urged to do more in the cause for the abolition of war and maintenance of peace. Requests came from foreign leaders, including Paul-Henri-Benjamin d’Estournelles de Constant of France, Baroness Bertha von Suttner of Austria, and Sir Norman Angell of England. Several Americans also urged Carnegie to increase his levels of support, including Elihu Root, statesman and longtime adviser to Carnegie; Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University; and Joseph H. Choate, prominent lawyer and diplomat.

Carnegie had frequent contacts with President Theodore Roosevelt both before and during his presidency, but the two never reached a really cordial working relationship in Carnegie’s drive for the abolition of war. Roosevelt, of course, had played a leading role in the Spanish-American War of 1898 and was a strong advocate for a buildup of the American military, particularly the U.S. Navy. Although the group encouraging Carnegie also included William Howard Taft, who was then vice president and later president, there was some jockeying between Carnegie and Taft in the march of events leading up to Carnegie’s eventual decision to establish and fund the endowment.

There was also some question regarding the name for the proposed organization. Butler wanted it to be called the Carnegie International Institute, a reflection of his view of the endowment as a body that would concentrate on the education of the public through lectures, publications, and scholarly exchange. Carnegie, however, would not agree to such nomenclature and insisted that it be named the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The group eventually convinced Carnegie that war could be eliminated through educational efforts that would lead to the acceptance and use of arbitration in disputes among nations. These efforts, the group said, would be particularly successful if they were led by political and business leaders, especially those in the United States, Great Britain, France, and Germany. Secretary of State Elihu Root was largely responsible for convincing Carnegie to establish the endowment. It was fitting, therefore, that when the initial board of trustees was named for the endowment, Root was elected as its first president; President William Howard Taft served as honorary president. In addition to Root and Taft, Butler, Choate, twenty-three other American luminaries—such as Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard University, and businessmen Robert S. Brookings and Howard Heinz—were named to the board.

Andrew Carnegie.

(Library of Congress)

By the time the endowment had been funded by ten million dollars’ worth of bonds from the United States Steel Corporation, Carnegie had become optimistic that universal peace could be achieved through the efforts of the endowment and similar organizations. He specified in his letter of gift to the trustees that when war had been abolished among nations, they should turn their attention to banishing the other evils that plague humankind. In keeping with this belief, trustees were given wide latitude in spending the endowment’s income to advance the cause of peace through the abolition of war. To meet its goal, the endowment promoted the use of arbitration to settle international disputes. The board initially decided that the work of the endowment would be carried out through three divisions: Intercourse and Education, International Law, and Economics and History. Butler was named to head the first division, and the largest portion of endowment income and expenditures was allotted to it.

Carnegie was showered with worldwide praise for establishing the endowment. In particular, he was complimented for naming active educational, business, and political leaders to the board of trustees, which also included some idealistic pacifists. On the other hand, there was some reverse criticism on this score. Some feared that these leaders would gain too much control of the endowment and that this would result in the creation of overly conservative policies and procedures.


The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw advances in science and technology that created social optimism and a fundamental belief, at least among many powerful figures of the time, that humanity was progressing along an inevitable path toward a world of peace and plenty. In this context, a belief in the possibility that war could be abolished did not seem to be unrealistic. However, the revolutions in Russia (1905, 1917) and the outbreak of World War I (1914) soon revealed a different picture.

In particular, the coming of World War I signaled the failure of the Carnegie Endowment’s efforts to prevent war. Following the end of hostilities in 1918, however, several members of the endowment’s staff were enlisted in President Woodrow Wilson’s delegation to Europe to write the resultant peace treaty. Also, some of the endowment’s income was used to aid some of Europe’s damaged cultural centers. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, under Butler’s leadership, the endowment concentrated its work in education. An outstanding example of this emphasis was the publication of the 150-volume Economic and Social History of the World War (1919-1929). Despite such efforts, however, 1939 brought the eruption of World War II. At the end of that conflict in 1945, the endowment transferred much of its attention to the newly established United Nations and its subsidiary organizations. In 1978, the endowment took over publication of the prestigious journal Foreign Policy. In addition to maintaining its headquarters in Washington, D.C., in 1993 the endowment also began funding the operation of a Carnegie Moscow Center in Russia. Although initially it was one of few organizations operating in this area, it gradually moved to the forefront of a growing number of groups interested in and devoted to the study of international relations and globalization. Peace activism
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Further Reading

  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Summary of Organization and Work, 1911-1941. Washington, D.C.: Author, 1941. Contains documentary and statistical material pertaining to the founding and early history of the endowment.
  • Hendrick, Burton J. The Life of Andrew Carnegie. 2 vols. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1932. Official biography; somewhat dated but still valuable for insights into the establishment of Carnegie’s endowment.
  • Krass, Peter. Carnegie. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2002. Full-length biography is judiciously critical of Carnegie’s philanthropic efforts, including creation of the endowment.
  • Wall, Joseph Frazier. Andrew Carnegie. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970. Biography includes an entire chapter devoted to Carnegie’s “pursuit of peace,” including the formation of the endowment.
  • _______. “Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.” In Research Institutions and Learned Societies, edited by Joseph C. Kiger. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1982. Discusses the origins, establishment, and operations of the endowment.

Second Hague Peace Conference

International Congress of Women

Formation of the American Friends Service Committee

Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace