Montreal Standard, 9 December 1911, page 24
Mr Carnegie and Greatness.
Among the many things which Mr Andrew Carnegie wishes to permanently establish before saying farewell to a world from which he has extracted millions, and which he has since sprinkled with libraries, one is a list of the “world’s twenty greatest men”. Perhaps Mr Carnegie hopes that some thoughtful person will enlarge the list by one name, which will be that of the man who selected the other twenty, but who was too modest to recognise his own worth.
The worthlessness of such a list, as expressing the judgment of posterity, is most obvious. There is no such thing as a common and generally accepted standard by which greatness can be measured, and to compare a man great in one field of human endeavour with a man great in another, it must be assumed, in order to have a common ground of comparison, that the two fields offer equal opportunities for the exercise of qualities truly great. Napoleon was one of the greatest of soldiers, Shakespeare of the poets, but what have they in common by means of which a comparison could be made?
It may be possible for Mr Carnegie to select twenty men, each of whom he considers the greatest in his own particular field of activity. That is as far as he can go, and when he has gone that far, he has only given expression to the opinion of a man whose only claim to greatness rests on money-getting. Mr Carnegie will find it impossible to form for posterity a cast-iron judgment respecting the comparative worth of human endeavour.