BILLIONAIRE steel magnate Andrew Carnegie tried to bribe the Germans in a desperate attempt to stop World War 1.
A new documentary reveals how the early 20th century philanthropist put forward diplomatic envoys and offered Kaiser Wilhelm II millions of pounds in exchange for peace.
Carnegie was used to success, but was left “broken” after US President Roosevelt blocked an attempt to put his absurd plans to the German Emperor.
It was a loss that plunged the Scots-born Carnegie into a deep depression and ill-health - and may ultimately have caused him to lose hope.
The film, ‘Andrew Carnegie: Rags to Riches, Power to Peace’, is made by London-based production company Galeforce and is narrated by actor Brian Cox. It is scheduled for release by BBC Scotland after premiering at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
The film chronicles Carnegie’s life, from his birth in a weaving shed in Dunfermline, Fife, and tells how he travelled to the New World with his impoverished family in the 1840s in search of the American dream, ultimately becoming one of the richest men in the world.
Producer Sonita Gale, of Galeforce Films, said: “Carnegie really thought he could stop the war. He offered the Kaiser a multi-million pound package which he rejected and later sent peace envoys to Germany just before the war broke out to have diplomatic talks right until the bitter end.
“He was the richest man in the world who got his own way in almost everything he put himself to but as soon as the war broke out he gave up.
“He fell silent, stopped talking to friends and moved back from Scotland to America after falling into a serious depression. He died a broken man.”
Sports Division founder Sir Tom Hunter, another philanthropist featured in the documentary, said Carnegie had been completely serious about averting the war.
He added: “He was a man used to getting his own way, and he would have given away his entire fortune to stop the First World War.”
Despite Carnegie’s steel business being a key part of the manufacture of arms and warships for the US Navy, he was later seized with a paradoxical determination to avert war.
His huge influence in business convinced him he could persuade the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm, to stop the carnage of WW1 before it began.
After attempting to get American president Theodore Roosevelt on board to negotiate Anglo-German peace talks with the Kaiser in Germany and his cousin, King Edward VII in England, Carnegie banked on brokering compulsory arbitration between nations.
But Roosevelt believed Carnegie’s Utopian plan was flawed. Even though the tycoon had financed an African safari in return for his talks with the Kaiser, discussion with the German was superficial.
The president refused to deliver Carnegie’s script and what he felt were absurd peace plans.
In the meantime, King Edward VII died, and the German war machine was already revving its engines and the world reacting.
David Nasaw, Carnegies biographer, said: “[Roosevelt] indirectly raised the question of Germany slowing the naval arms race with Britain, but indicated he would not be disturbed if there were no movement towards disarmament.
“He was assured the Kaiser was a practical man and in no sense, a peace at any price man.”
Mr Nasaw added: “If Andrew Carnegie were alive today, he would use every ounce of his energy, every dollar of his money, all his wit, his charisma, his intelligence, to create international peace movements that would stop the scourge of war.”
Carnegie’s Peace Palace, established in the Hague in 1913 was where international leaders came and met to arbitrate, and is still standing.
As he died, Carnegie wrote in his diary: “I may daily grow frail in my body but my hopes remain that one day war will be banished by an international court for peace.
“That day will mark the moment when man stops killing man the deepest and bleakest of crimes.”
• Carnegie: Rags to Riches, Power to Peace will be shown on BBC Scotland in August.