John D. (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
Mention John D. Rockefeller’s name and chances are that it will elicit kneejerk responses: “pirate,” “monopolist,” “soulless money-grabber,” “Gave dimes to little children but nothing to his workers.” To biographer David Freeman Hawke, in his John D.: The Founding Father of the Rockefellers, the man was far more of a decent human being than people have given him credit for, while still being every inch the mercenary businessman and trust-builder.
To Hawke, the dichotomy between Rockefeller (JDR) the gracious, even kindly family man of simple tastes and devout disposition and Rockefeller the scheming, sly tycoon is as arresting as it is true.
In essence, John D. serves as one man’s answer to those historians who single out JDR as the chief villain of late nineteenth century America. To those who would condemn Rockefeller’s business tactics, Hawke says, “You are absolutely correct,” but to those who would lay the blame for America’s Gilded Age business corruption entirely at JDR’s feet, he counters, “You are unfair. Others even more cruelly grasping than him were involved.” John D. is neither grist for the anti-Rockefellerian mill nor is it an apologia; rather, it is one writer’s attempt to set the record straight.
Hawke, an established biographer, has explored the lives of several prominent Americans (among them, Benjamin Rush and Benjamin Franklin) as well as the social...
(The entire section is 2042 words.)
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