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New Freedom Progressive Movement Essay

Essay on The Progressive Era?s influence on the New Deal

1349 Words6 Pages

     The accomplishments taken place upon the onset of the many New Deal legislations owe much to the seeds implanted and unknowingly disseminated by the pre-WWI Progressive movement. Sparked by the new image as a world power, industrialization, and immigration at the dawn of the new century, a new found reform movement gripped the nation. With the new found image of the nation and world as a whole, the reforms advanced the position of the previously ignored people of the nation, as did its reincarnation and rebirth apparent in the New Deal.
Although the first signs of this pristine Progressive movement shone since the mid-1800s, no one had cleared the way for its momentous effect upon the nation in the same…show more content…

A true idealist, his crusades against these evils were truly heartfelt and in his mind, the best action to take for the nation. Beginning with the Underwood Tariff of 1913, it was the first lowering of taxes since the Civil War and stood against the protectionist lobbying. Next, he introduced the Federal Trade Act, which set up the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and halt unfair and illegal business practices. Also, the Clayton Anti-Trust Act deemed certain businesses illegal (trusts and horizontal mergers), declared unions legal, and also strikes, boycotts, picketing and the collection of strike benefit funds were ruled legal. The, a landmark legislation, the Federal Reserve Act in 12 districts would print and coin money as well as set interest rates. In this way the "Fed," as it was called, could control the money supply and effect the value of currency. The more money in circulation, the lower the value and inflation went up. In effect, the less money in circulation, the greater the value and this would lower inflation. Theodore’s true successor, Wilson finished Roosevelt’s job on the trusts and branched out towards the other deleterious aspects of the nation as well. He gave the surging mainstream progressive movement an innocent morality he naturally possessed.
While many of the Progressive accomplishments are attributed to these two leaders of the movement, many major events stand alone as Progressive milestones. The

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Compare and contrast the tenets and results of Theodore Roosevelt's New Nationalism and Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom.

   In the first two decades of the twentieth century the national political scene reflected a growing American belief in the ideas of the Progressive movement. This movement was concerned with fundamental social and economic reforms and gained in popularity under two presidents. Yet Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson espoused two different approaches to progressive reform. And each one was able to prevail upon congress to pass legislation in keeping with his own version of the progressive dream.

   Teddy Roosevelt, who became President upon the assassination of William McKinley, moved slowly but steadily toward a full-fledged progressive program in his two terms of office. Roosevelt believed that the federal government should be an active agent for reform and that the chief executive should play a lead role in demanding legislative action. For Roosevelt big business corporations were a fact of 20th century American economic life and were not intrinsically evil. Trusts could be either good or bad depending on whether they used their corporate power in the public interest or abused it. But to insure that big business did not misuse its power, Roosevelt insisted upon government regulation of business in the public interest.

   To insure that big corporations understood the necessity of accept- ing government regulation Roosevelt instituted a few anti-trust cases to demonstrate what the government could do if business refused to abide by regulation. Roosevelt chose to demonstrate the power of the federal government by bringing suit against the largest of the nation's trusts, J.P. Morgan's Northern Securities Holding Company, which controlled many of the nation's railroads. When the Supreme Court found in favor of the government and ordered the dissolution of Northern Securities a shock wave resounded throughout the corporate world. This legal victory paved the way for a few more successful anti-trust suits.

   Having demonstrated that businesses could either accept government regulation or be broken up by federal power, Roosevelt followed up his court victory over Morgan's control over the railroad system by pushing for passage of the Hepburn Act. This act strengthened the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission over railroads. And he followed that up with an executive action by which he created 150,000,000 acres of national forest lands which could not be exploited by private lumber companies. The National Forestry Service was to serve as a watchdog to help protect some of America's rich natural resources. Theodore Roosevelt, then, probably deserves the title of the United States first conservationist president.

   Roosevelt, however, was not primarily interested in "trust-busting" but in government regulation of businesses in the public interest. One example of Roosevelt's legislative success was congressional passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. Roosevelt became alarmed at the lack of control over the food industry after he read a muckraking novel by Upton Sinclair, The Jungle. Sinclair had written the novel to stir America's conscience about the poor conditions of workers in meat-packing houses, but in describing some of the things which made their way into processed meats (human fingers, rats and rat droppings) the author turned sensitive stomachs, not hearts. The law was a first step in eliminating some of the worst practices of the industry.

   Roosevelt felt that the major role of the federal government through action by the President should be to act as an "impartial broker" between powerful interest groups. The chief executive, as the only official elected by all the people, ought to intervene as a disinterested champion of the public in any dispute, for example, between labor and managment which threatened the public welfare. One such action was Roosevelt's intervention in the 1902 anthracite coal strike which, as it dragged on, imperiled both the nation's economy and the public's supply of coal for home heating. Roosevelt threatened to have the army take over the mines if the mine owners and labor leaders could not reach an agreement. Shortly thereafter the strike ended.

   While Roosevelt believed that the proper role of the federal government in labor disputes was to pursue an even-handed course to curb both corporate and labor abuses, his action in the coal strike seemed to many business leaders to put him on the side of labor. After all, previous governmental interventions in labor disputes had always taken the form of using government troops to break strikes under the pretext of "protecting lives and property." Roosevelt's threat to end the strike by the using federal troops to work the mines unless management and labor came to an agreement appeared to corporate executives to be pro-labor and earned Roosevelt business enmity.

   After deciding not to seek reelection in 1908, Roosevelt became increasingly unhappy over the way his hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft, seemed to be ignoring or opposing progressive programs and decided to seek the presidency again in 1912. After being rejected by the Republican nominating convention in favor of Taft, Roosevelt became the candidate of the newly-emergent Progressive party. His campaign for a progressive program of New Nationalism, however, ran into stiff opposition from his Democratic opponent who also ran on a progressive platform of New Freedom. With the Republican party split Wilson was the victor. But more significantly the two progressive candidates captured 75% of the popular vote. Progressivism held sway.

   Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom looked to the destruction of all trusts to promote economic competition and permit small businesses once again to flourish. While the federal government was to use its power on a one time basis to bust all trusts, the federal government was to have no role in regulating business. Any regulation would have to be done by state governments. This contrasted markedly with Roosevelt's New Nationalism which called for an even stronger role for the president and the federal government in regulating the economy and curbing the abuses of corporate power. New Freedom and New Nationalism differed primarily, then, in their views of federal governmental power. Roosevelt wanted to use it while Wilson did not.

   After successfully pushing for a few measures of New Freedom, such as the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, which prohibited all inter-locking directorates and all price-fixing, Wilson began to see that his programs were ineffective in achieving his reform goals. So in the second phase of his New Freedom, roughly in his second term, Wilson increasingly modified his approach so that it became more like Roosevelt's New Nationalism. Wilson, for example pushed for creation of a Federal Trade Commission, a federal agency which would regulate trade on a continuous basis. He also secured passage of the Federal Reserve Act which created a federal agency to serve as economic watch dog and regulator of the banking industry.

   Perhaps Wilson's most significant legislative program was passage of a graduated federal income tax. This measure, which can be used by the government as a peaceful method of income redistribution, most certainly involved the federal government in the economy on a continuing basis, and, along with the Federal Reserve System, comprises a major step in governmental regulation of the economy. Wilson's changing domestic legislative program demonstrated his flexibility in blending features of New Freedom and New Nationalism. This intermixing of the two competing doctrines of progressivism was the culmination of the progressive movement of the early 20th century.