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Learn More – Teach More Content Module Topic The Many Faces of Progressivism: Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson Glossary People Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) The ―People‘s Lawyer.‖ Recruited by the National Consumer‘s League, which had been founded in 1899, Brandeis presented the argument in Muller v. Oregon (1908) that the Oregon law that limited the workday to ten hours for women workers should be upheld. Brandeis used the League‘s research to show how long hours damaged women's health and their ability to fulfill their roles in their families. The case represented a victory for ―sociological jurisprudence‖ - the effort to use the courts to improve the lives of ordinary people. Woodrow Wilson drew on Brandeis‘s expertise in his treatment of anti-trust efforts. Brandeis believed that smaller firms were more efficient and thus more able to engage in active competition than major corporate trusts. Brandeis feared that an overly powerful regulatory commission would quickly become separated from its original aim of protecting the interests of the people. Public policy in his view should restrict the wrongful use of competition so that competition exercised rightly would destroy monopolies. In Abrams v. United States (1919), by then a Supreme Court justice, Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes represented the dissenting votes in the Court‘s decision to uphold Jacob Abrams‘s conviction for sedition. Abrams was an anarchist and Russian immigrant who had denounced United States military intervention in Russia through English and Yiddish pamphlets. Holmes and Brandeis argued that there was no clear threat to the conduct of the war. Eugene V. Debs (1845-1926) Labor activist and Socialist candidate for President in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. In the Campaign of 1908, Deb‘s ―Red Special‖ campaign train visited every region of the United States. Debs organized the American Railway Union in 1893. The American Railway Union went on strike against the Great Northern Railroad in the same year. After 18 days the railroad granted the union‘s demands. By contrast, the ARU‘s efforts in the Pullman Strike were markedly unsuccessful; the strike was broken. William McKinley (1843-1901) Elected President as a Republican in the election of 1896, McKinley was promoted by Marcus Hanna as the candidate who would be the ―advance agent of prosperity.‖ For Republicans in the election of 1896, being the ―agent of prosperity‖ meant being in favor of high tariffs, big business, and sound money. The Democratic platform supported the ―free coinage of both gold and silver,‖ a proposition that would have inflated the currency, and which Hanna used as a means of attracting large contributions from eastern Republican businessmen, who feared the Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan, a well- known advocate of ―free silver.‖ Bryan had ensured his nomination by attacking the gold standard in a speech that included such phrases as ―you shall not crucify mankind on a cross of gold.‖ McKinley‘s first term was dominated not by economic issues, but by the 100-day Spanish-American War. McKinley was assassinated by Leon F. Czolgosz, an anarchist, in 1901. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) Descendent of one of the seventeenth-century Dutch families that had settled and prospered in New York. Roosevelt graduated from Harvard, studied in Germany, and became a fierce proponent of what he called the ―strenuous life.‖ A complex personality, he was a statesman, writer, charismatic orator, conservationist, reformer, and consummate politician. He entered the New York Assembly while still in his twenties and became known as a reformer, but left politics in 1884 to pursue the life of a rancher, hunter, and outdoorsman in the West. He came back to New York, politics, and public service in 1886. He became McKinley‘s Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897, and, attired in a Brooks‘ Brothers uniform of his own design, distinguished himself with his Rough Riders in the Spanish- American War. He was elected governor of the state in 1898, and managed to bring about civil service reform and to institute a tax on corporate franchises during his brief tenure. He left office to serve as McKinley‘s vice-president in 1901. After McKinley‘s assassination in 1901, he became President. In 1902 the distinctive character of Roosevelt‘s view of the Presidency was demonstrated in his handling of the anthracite coal strike by the United Mine Workers. Through a combination of bullying and arbitration, the strike ended. Roosevelt appointed an arbitration commission to decide the issues. Roosevelt‘s handling of the trusts was equally innovative. He established the Bureau of Corporations in 1903, and gave it the power to investigate business practices. Using the information gathered by the Bureau of Corporations, the Justice Department could, in turn, file anti-trust suits, invoking the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. Roosevelt did not proceed through the courts entirely, however. In 1904, for example, he made a Gentleman‘s Agreement with U.S. Steel. The company agreed to scrutiny by the Bureau of Corporations. In turn, U.S. Steel was to be notified privately if there were difficulties and given a chance to take care of any infringements. Roosevelt made similar agreements with International Harvester in 1905. The arrangement was agreeable to both Roosevelt, who was not opposed on principle to big business, and to J.P. Morgan, who controlled both companies. Roosevelt‘s dealings with the railroads, which were subject to public regulation already, were different. The Interstate Commerce Commission had been established in 1887, and Roosevelt wanted to enforce its provisions. Roosevelt saw to the passage of the Elkins Act (1903), which outlawed the practice of granting favorable reductions on published rates to large or powerful customers. The Hepburn Railway Act, which gave the ICC the right to set maximum rates and set up a system for uniform bookkeeping, was passed in 1906. Roosevelt also began federal inspection of the stockyards in the wake of the publication of Upton Sinclair‘s The Jungle (1906) The Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act were both passed in 1906. In the 1904 election Roosevelt referred to his programs as the ―Square Deal.‖ This vision, fleshed out as the “New Nationalism” later, evolved into a concept of a more powerful federal government, with the capacity to regulate big business. Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his efforts in mediating the end of the war between Russia and Japan. Roosevelt transformed the office of the Presidency, extending the vision of its powers, and the concept of the President as an activist. A selection from Roosevelt‘s diaries, housed in the Papers of Theodore Roosevelt Collection at the Library of Congress, can be viewed at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/trhtml/trhome.html. William Howard Taft (1857-1930) Roosevelt‘s successor in the White House preferred to use the courts and Congress to achieve his ends rather than extend the power of the presidency as Roosevelt had. Taft found himself caught between the Progressive wing of the Republican Party and its more traditional base in the business class, Taft alienated many Progressives by his support of the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act (1909) which protected United States industries in the East from foreign competitors. Taft‘s actions in what came to be known as the Pinchot- Ballinger Affair further marked him as the creature of business interests. Taft found himself at the same time in the uneasy company of the conservative wing of his party. Led by Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, Progressive Republicans formed the ―National Progressive Republican Party‖ in 1911. Taft quarreled with his former mentor, Roosevelt, over the federal handling of business trusts. Taft believed that action should depend on enforcing the Sherman Act rather than on the presidential maneuvering and ―gentleman‘s agreements‖ that had marked Roosevelt‘s public policy. The Supreme Court‘s Standard Oil decision (1911) set a precedent for the ―rule of reason;‖ that is, for allowing the courts to distinguish between ―bad‖ and ―good‖ trusts. Taft‘s Attorney General, George, W. Wickersham, accordingly began to pursue anti-trust action more aggressively. The attack on U.S. Steel which followed was perceived as an attack on Roosevelt, who had intervened to allow U.S. Steel to acquire the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company in 1907 in violation of the Sherman Act. Roosevelt‘s action had been predicated on the assumption that he was protecting the interests of the United States economy. Roosevelt responded by giving a speech in 1910 in which he articulated his vision of the relation between the common good and the corporate good as the “New Nationalism.‖ In his prescient view, government should act as the ―steward of the public welfare.‖ Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) Like Roosevelt, Wilson believed that the President was empowered to represent the interests of the American people. Wilson is perhaps most famous for his declaration that the United States entrance into World War I was to ―make the world safe for democracy.‖ Prior to becoming President, Wilson was a political science professor and eventually President of Princeton. He became Governor of New Jersey, where he managed to have reform legislation on worker‘s compensation and regulation of utilities and railroads passed. During his tenure, a direct primary system was instituted in the state, and Wilson took on the powerful ―boss‖ system. As the Democratic candidate in the election of 1912, he campaigned on a platform called the ―New Freedom.” Using the rhetoric of slavery and freedom, he emphasized principles of states‘ rights and individual freedom. Freedom for Wilson began with free enterprise – a cornerstone, in his view, of economic liberty. Major pieces of domestic legislation included the Underwood-Simmons Tariff Act (1913), which lowered tariffs, the Federal Reserve Act (1913) which gave the United States a more elastic and stable money supply, and an act which established the Federal Trade Commission (1914) to deal with unfair business practices. Legislation in 1915 and 1916 included the Adamson Act’s eight-hour day for railroad workers, child labor laws, a federal workers‘ compensation law, and the Seaman’s Act which moved to protect the individual rights of sailors. Wilson also approved the Federal Farm Loan Act (1916), which provided for a low-interest, rural credit system for assisting the financial needs of farmers. Despite a slogan that proclaimed ―he kept us out of war‖ in the 1916 re-election campaign, Wilson moved toward war with Germany in 1917. In January, 1918, he articulated his aims for the war in his famous ―Fourteen Points.‖ The fourteenth point was to establish a ―general association of nations…affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.‖ This provision, embodied in a covenant for the League of Nations, proved to be the most problematic for Wilson. The United States did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which Wilson had helped engineer, and it did not join the League of Nations. Wilson‘s papers are, for the most part, housed in a massive collection at Princeton University. See http://pup.princeton.edu/catalogs/series/pwa.html Progressive Legislation under Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson Adamson Act (1916) Named for William Charles Adamson, a Georgia judge, lawyer, and congressman, the Adamson Act established an eight-hour day for railway workers at a ten-hour rate and made provisions for time and a half compensation for overtime. These would eventually become the standard for all workers. Clayton Anti-Trust Act (1914) Passed during Wilson‘s first administration, this Act amended the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. The definition of what constituted ―unlawful practices‖ was non-specific. Violations had to pass the test of ―substantially‖ lessening competition or tending to ―create monopoly in any line of commerce.‖ Bureau of Corporations (1903) Established during Theodore Roosevelt‘s first administration, the Bureau of Corporations was granted the power to investigate unfair business practices. Elkins Act (1903) Outlawed the railroads‘ practice of granting favorable reductions on published rates to large or powerful customers. Federal Reserve Act (1913) Established during Wilson‘s first term, the Federal Reserve Act made the banking system more resistant to the panics that had been the bane of the United States economy. The Act created a system of twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks, which controlled member banks in their areas. In addition, a Federal Reserve Board was appointed to oversee and regulate the Federal Reserve Banks. Federal Trade Commission (1914) Established in 1914 in Wilson‘s first term, with broad investigatory powers for enforcing the Sherman and Clayton Anti-trust Acts. The FTC could issue ―cease and desist‖ orders when the antitrust laws were found to have been violated. Its decisions were nevertheless subject to review by the courts. The courts continued to be in charge of making final judgments on what represented illegal business practices. Hepburn Railway Act (1906) The Interstate Commerce Commission was given the authority to set maximum rates and to prescribe a standardized form of bookkeeping for all the railroads. Newlands Reclamation Act (1902) Named for Francis Newlands, a land speculator, who had hired engineers to study the feasibility of building dams and other means of irrigation to bring water to land in some of the more arid areas of the West. Proceeds from the sale of public lands were designated for use in irrigating land in arid areas Pure Food and Drug Act (1906) and Meat Inspection Act (1906) Passed in response to exposés on the patent medicine business and in response to Upton Sinclair‘s novel The Jungle (1906) which had offered graphic descriptions of the horrors of the meat-packing plants in Chicago and the living conditions of the laborers who worked there. The Food and Drug Administration grew out of this legislation. Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act (1909) Protectionist tariff that kept rates high and foreign competition at bay. The legislation favored industries in the eastern United States. President Taft‘s support of the tariff helped widen the gap between Progressive reformers and conservative business interests in the Republican Party. Underwood-Simmons Tariff Act (1913) Brought tariff rates down to an average 25 percent. The Act targeted trust-dominated industries. Its Democratic proponents hoped that the reduction in the tariff would stimulate competition and result in lower prices for consumers by opening the United States to foreign products. International Events Panama Canal No aspect of the Progressive Era illustrates its multi-faceted nature better than the events surrounding the building of the Panama Canal, one of Theodore Roosevelt‘s pet projects. Roosevelt was a proponent of the theories of Alfred T. Mahan, and believed in the necessity of naval supremacy and of strategically placed naval bases. This vision also necessitated ease of movement. Under Roosevelt, the United States Navy ranked third in the world by 1907. The Spanish-American War had demonstrated the need for a canal through Central America. Britain had given up its rights to joint participation in any Central American canal project under the Hay-Paunceforte Agreement of 1901. Roosevelt attempted to negotiate leasing rights from Colombia for the strip of land that crossed Panama. The Colombian legislature turned down the proposition, principally because the old French lease was about to expire, and could be renegotiated under more favorable terms. Roosevelt took advantage of the independence movement in Panama. A bloodless revolution ensued, despite a series of mix-ups. The United States recognized Panama on November 7, 1903, received the rights to a perpetually renewable lease on a canal zone, and proceeded over the next eight years to build the canal. The United States paid Colombia $22 million for its loss in 1922. Roosevelt never regretted his move. The Canal opened in 1914, and gave the United States a pre-eminent strategic and commercial position in the Western Hemisphere. Spanish-American War (1898) America‘s Caribbean adventure in late nineteenth-century imperialism. Cuban freedom fighters, inspired by Jose Marti, the poet, rebelled against Spanish rule in 1895. The insurgents gained control of the countryside; the Spanish retained control in the cities. In 1896 the Spanish captain general Valeriano Weyler developed a policy of reconcentration in which whole populations were herded into camps. As many as 200,000 Cuban civilians may have died from the squalid conditions in the camps. American newspapers, particularly William Randolph Hearst‘s newly acquired New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer‘s New York World, sensationalized the story. The super patriotism that was generated was called jingoism. The McKinley administration, which inherited the problem from the Cleveland administration, had to deal with a jingoistic Republican campaign platform of 1896 that had called for Cuban independence. The pro-war contingent, led by Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt, may have influenced McKinley, but McKinley‘s primary concern was the protection of business interests and a developing national consensus for war. Though Weyler was withdrawn, and a new liberal government took office in Spain in 1897 after the United States minister formally protested conditions in Cuba, an inflammatory letter from Dupuy de Lome, the Spanish minister to the United States, referred to McKinley as playing to the crowd and as a weakling. He also suggested that the Spanish government was not taking United States threats of intervention seriously. The U.S.S. Maine was blown up a week later. The cause of the explosion remains unknown, but a board of inquiry at the time suggested that the cause of the explosion had been a mine. Thus, fueled by jingoistic journalism, Western Democrats, and some Republicans, the 100-day war began. Theodore Roosevelt resigned as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and, as a commissioned lieutenant colonel, organized a cavalry regiment that came to be known as the Rough Riders. The little war dramatized the end of Spain‘s claims to empire in the Western hemisphere and catapulted the United States onto the international stage. Commodore George Dewey‗s fleet was easily victorious at Manila Bay in the Philippines. The strategic possibilities immediately became apparent with the Philippines becoming a critical part of a version of Alfred T. Mahan‘s theoretical blueprint for naval supremacy. The 1898 annexation of Hawaii further supported this aim. In the Treaty of Paris (1898) Spain ceded the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico to the United States. In return, Spain received a payment of $20 million. Spain also gave up its claim to Cuba. For further information on the Treaty of Paris of 1898, see http://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/treaty.html. Other Terms Laissez-faire The concept, first developed by the English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) in his Second Treatise on Government, argued that ―that government governs best which governs least.‖ Locke‘s ideas were expanded and applied to international economic theory by Adam Smith (1723-1790) in his The Wealth of Nations (1776). The principle of laissez-faire in economic theory supported free trade and manufacture and enjoyed new currency in the ideologies of individualism and Social Darwinism that colored the thinking of the late nineteenth century. New Freedom Woodrow Wilson‘s campaign platform, which emphasized states‘ rights and free enterprise as the cornerstones of individual freedom. The text of one of Wilson‘s 1912 campaign speeches, in which he developed the concept of the ―New Freedom,‖ is located online at http://www.nv.cc.va.us/home/nvsageh/Hist122/Part2/WWNewFreedom.htm. New Nationalism Theodore Roosevelt‘s revised vision of his first term‘s ―Square Deal.‖ Roosevelt had moved increasingly toward a belief that government should serve to protect the interests of the people. His evolving vision received concrete direction from his reading of Herbert Croly‘s The Promise of American Life (1909). Croly‘s premise was that there were two tendencies in American political history. One was the Hamiltonian—which had become identified with strong central government and elite constituencies. The other was Jeffersonian and tended toward weak government, strong individual rights, and equality of opportunity. Croly‘s thesis was that the two tendencies had to be combined. In other words, Hamiltonian means should be used to realize a Jeffersonian vision. Roosevelt‘s reading of Croly crystallized his thinking, and in a speech given in Kansas in August, 1910, he argued that in a new industrial world, with its inevitable concentrations of economic power in corporations, a new brand of nationalism was necessary. In Roosevelt‘s vision, the federal government should act to protect individual interests against corporate ones by placing corporations under federal control and regulation. Roosevelt‘s 1910 speech in Ossowatomie, Kansas is the best articulation of the vision that would pervade his 1912 Presidential campaign. It is located online at http://www.civnet.org/resources/teach/basic/part5/31.htm. Pinchot-Ballinger Affair One of the indicators of the increasing divide within the Republican Party between the conservative business interests and the Progressive reformers, the Pinchot- Ballinger affair marked President William Howard Taft as the creature of the business interests. Gifford Pinchot, Chief Forest Ranger of the United States, a friend of Theodore Roosevelt‘s, and a conservationist accused Richard Ballinger, who was Secretary of the Interior, of attempting to transfer public lands in Alaska (which was rich then and now in natural resources) to a private concern. Pinchot went public with his charges in 1910, and Taft, always the advocate of protocol and orderliness, fined him for insubordination, finding himself at the same time in the uneasy company of the conservative wing of his party. Led by Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, Progressive Republicans formed the ―National Progressive Republican Party‖ in 1911. Square Deal During his campaign for re-election in 1903-1904, Roosevelt came to refer to his program as the ―Square Deal.‖ Roosevelt believed that when corporate interests collided with those of individuals, it was the responsibility of government to intervene in the interest of its unprotected constituents. The text of Roosevelt‘s ―Square Deal‖ speech to the New York State Agricultural Association (September, 1903) is available at http://www.theodore- roosevelt.com/trsquaredealspeech.html.
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