Health and wealth

Riches were not always beyond reproach. The Puritans famously convicted Boston merchant Robert Keayne of “oppression,” having determined that he was charging too many shillings for a bag of nails. Such hard-line censure was always rare, but even two centuries later, at the dawn of what Mark Twain dubbed the Gilded Age, New Testament warnings about wealth continued to generate compunction. When Cornelius Vanderbilt, the 19th century’s richest American, died in 1877, many fretted about the fate of his soul—as had Vanderbilt himself, according to some reports.

 

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