Progressivism Essay, Research Paper
U.S. History Progressivism
The period of time between the Spanish-American War and World War I is known
as the Progressive Era. It was a period marked by idealism, reform, and significant
economic growth. Progressivism was a movement designed to correct the abuses which
reformers felt had crept into American society and government, as a result of
industrialization and urbanization.
Progressivism was the outcome of a number of forces in American life. The
reform spirit of the 1880’s and 1890’s was still strong, despite the collapse of the Populist
Party after the election of 1896. After the hard times of the 1890’s, many Americans were
anxious for a better life and supported reforms intended to achieve this. The middle class,
frightened by the economic unrest of the 1890’s and the actions of giant business
organizations, was more willing to accept progressive reforms than it had been earlier.
After the quick victory in the Spanish-American War, there was a new feeling of
confidence in the nation=s future. Progressivism had many aims.
The general aims of Progressivism were as follows: to extend political democracy
by shifting control of government from the political bosses and powerful industrialists to
the people; to curb the power of big businessmen, in order to give greater economic
opportunities to small business and labor; and to eliminate the social ills of society through
needed reforms. Although the aims of Progressivism were shared by all Progressivists,
support came from many different groups.
Progressives came from both major parties, as well as from minor or third parties.
Important political leaders in the movement included Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and
Woodrow Wilson, and Governors Robert La Follette, Charles Evans Hughes, and Hiram
Johnson. Support came from the farm, because the farmers wanted their problems to be
recognized. Support came from artists and writers, who wrote stories about social ills.
These sensationalists, known as Amuckrakers@, wrote about many different societal
problems. Lincoln Steffens wrote AA Shame of Cities.@ Ida Tarbell wrote, AHistory of
Standard Oil Co.@ Other writers, such as Upton Sinclair, wrote about bad working
conditions and unhygienic procedure in his book AThe Jungle.@ There was much support
from urban middle-class members. They were in fear of big business, and wanted to join a
movement which would strive to protect them. There were many achievements
accomplished by the Progressive Movement.
Progressivism accomplished many things. Political democracy was extended by
initiative, referendum, recall, and the short ballot. The Seventeenth Amendment was
passed and provided for the direct election of U.S. Senators. The Nineteenth Amendment
gave the franchise to women to permit the selection of party candidates by registered
voters. Many limitations and restrictions were placed on trusts. Monopolies were
prosecuted and the Clayton Act was passed. The Federal Trade Commission Act was
passed as well. Many laws which safeguarded labor and the public were enacted. More
adequate factory and building inspection codes were adopted, greater provisions were
made for sanitation and public health, and Congress enacted the Pure Food and Drug Act
and the Meat Inspection Act which further improved the quality of foods.
The Progressive Era did many great things for society. It improved the quality of
life, and of living. Through the support of many different types of people, Progressivism
was a major success.