Cornelius Vanderbilt

American businessman and tycoon (1794–1877)

Cornelius Vanderbilt (27 May 17944 January 1877) was an American business magnate and philanthropist who built his wealth in railroads and shipping. Born poor and with but a mediocre education, his luck, perseverance and intelligence led into leadership positions in the inland water trade, and the rapidly growing railroad industry. He is best known for building the New York Central Railroad. As one of the richest Americans in history, he was the patriarch of the Vanderbilt family and provided the initial gift to found Vanderbilt University.

Quotes edit

  • It is not according to my mode of doing things to bring a suit against a man that I have the power in my own hands to punish.… The law, as I view it, goes too slow for me when I have the remedy in my own hands.… I for one will never go to law when I have got the power in my own hands to see myself right. Let the other parties go to law if they want, but by God I think I know what the law is; I have had enough of it.
    • Testimony to Thurlow Weed before the railroad committee of the New York State Assembly (January 18, 1867) regarding the interruption of a through traffic agreement between the Vanderbilt-controlled Hudson River Railroad and the New York Central Railroad. T. J. Stiles, in The First Tycoon (2009), observed that whatever his preference, Vanderbilt was no stranger to the courts.
      Sometimes quoted as: "Law! What do I care about law? Ain't I got the power?"
  • I would recommend them all [other citizens] to pursue the course that I pursue.
    • Testimony before the railroad committee (January 18, 1867), sometimes quoted more briefly as "Let them do what I have done."

Misattributed edit

  • Gentlemen: You have undertaken to cheat me. I won't sue you, for law is too slow. I'll ruin you.
    • Said to be the entirety of a letter to Charles Morgan and C. K. Garrison, quoted in an obituary, "Commodore Vanderbilt's Life" (5 January 1877) New York Times. Stiles in The First Tycoon doubted the existence of such a letter although, as seen above, Vanderbilt was inclined to act on his own rather than sue.
Wikipedia has an article about: