Teddy Roosevetl Essay, Research Paper
Theodore Roosevelt Essay At the turn of the century the United States rapidly began coming into its own with Theodore Roosevelt at the head. Enveloped in the expectations, ideals, and philosophies of a swiftly changing country; Theodore Roosevelt sought to bring about many progressive reforms during his time as president. America now possessed a president that could not only keep up with the exponential growth but push it even faster. Both on the domestic and international front Roosevelt aggressively expanded the power of the presidency, the federal government and the nation. Roosevelt did not exactly epitomize Progressive America due to his more moderate tactics; including compromise, but he did however achieve many progressive reforms throughout his presidency. The road to presidency began in 1899. Garret Hobart the vice-president of the United States died that year leaving a vacant place on the Republican ticket. Roosevelt received much encouragement from friends ( as well as enemies) to run for vice-president. Roosevelt accepted the vice-president nomination and together with Robert McKinley; went on to win the 1900 presidential election against William Jennings Bryan. In September, 1901, less than one year into his new term, McKinley was shaking hands with the public at the Pan-American Exposition when a young anarchist walked up to him and shot him twice. Characteristically Roosevelt, a great outdoors man, was climbing a mountain when he received word of McKinley s death, and how he would soon be President. Now president, Roosevelt felt the power of the office of president and the federal government should be broadened. This act proved to be two fold: Roosevelt not only expanded the government s power but he weakened the wealthy and powerful Big Businesses. It was in the business arena that Roosevelt most aggressively extended the power of the federal government. The present policy between government and business was unrestricted laissez faire. Having a laissez faire policy ment that the government could not interfere with private businesses there by restricting the free-market system. This privilege of free-market enterprise was abused by the greedy owners of businesses they exploited workers and formed trusts to exploit consumers. The government had passed a few business regulations but in general left businesses to do as they saw fit. Roosevelt was the first president that felt it was the proper role of the federal government to make sure that business was responsive to public needs. Because of this he actively sought to regulate business by enforcing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and pushing new regulatory legislation through Congress. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act, passed in 1890, declared illegal every contract combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce. The act made it illegal to combine individual business firms in ways that restricted competition It further provided any person or corporation that monopolized, or tried to monopolize, trade and/or commerce would be found guilty of a criminal act. Once it had a monopoly a trust could unilaterally control prices and rack up huge profits. The king of trusts, a banker named J.P. Morgan, became the first target of Roosevelt’s assault. Many progressives felt that all trusts were bad and should be abolished; Roosevelt held a different view. The more moderate president felt the era of big business was inevitable, and that it had important economic benefits such as increased productivity and efficiency. In his opinion, there were good trusts and bad trusts. The good ones were responsive to the needs of the public, and he wanted to leave those alone. He only wanted to go after ones that did not act in the public interest. On February 18, 1902, he directed the Justice Department to use the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to prosecute the Northern Securities Company a railroad trust run by J.P. Morgan. Morgan had created this trust to control the activities of several powerful railroad companies. He was a rich and powerful adversary, but Roosevelt was victorious in March, 1904, when the Supreme Court ruled against the Northern Securities Company and forced it to break up. This marked an important shift in the scope of government. For the first time the federal government was taking an active, regulatory position in regard to business.
Roosevelt could not achieve all he wanted solely with existing law. He then worked to pass two landmark pieces of legislation – the Pure Food & Drug Act and a meat inspection bill. These laws were intended to protect consumers against the food industry – especially meat packing. Meat packers used diseased and rotten meat, processed meat in unsanitary conditions and put labels on their cans that had precious little relationship to the actual contents. Roosevelt’s greatest ally in his struggle against meat packers was the novel The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Its descriptions of the conditions in meat packing horrified and enraged the public, who in turn motivated their political representatives to support Roosevelt. As a result June 30, 1906, the President signed both of his consumer protection bills into law. Roosevelt was also the first president to use the power of the federal government as a broker in the conflict between labor and capital. In May, 1902, the coal miners of eastern Pennsylvania went on strike. They were working 12 hour shifts, six days a week for an average wage of $560 per year. The mine owners rejected their demands, and the strike continued through the summer into the fall. Eventually the prospect of a winter without heat began to frighten people, and Roosevelt decided to intervene in the interest of the public. He invited the leaders of both sides to come to Washington to meet with him. At that meeting he proposed that an arbitration committee help them settle their differences. The union agreed to this but the mine owners rejected it. By that time Roosevelt had become very put off by the attitude of the mine owners. He threatened to send in federal troops to take charge of the mines. Eventually they gave in and agreed to arbitration. The miners won a 9 hour day, a 10% wage increase and the right to have their own representatives present when the coal was weighed. Another innovation of Roosevelt s, the conservation movement, initiated preservation of the nation s national resources. When Roosevelt took office, the president had the power to set aside timberlands as National Forests Gifford Pinchot, the chief of the federal forest division, urged Roosevelt to use his power more vigorously. Roosevelt followed Pinchot s advice, even when exceeding the letter of law. He Set aside water power sites in the West and coal lands in Alaska by declaring them protected forests. By the end of his administration, the president had added 100 million acres of public land to the national forest preserve. However Conservation did not mean slowing western settlement and agriculture development. In 1902, the president signed the Newlands Reclamation Act, which provided funds for irrigation projects in arid states. Its goal was to reclaim the desert, bringing large tracts of arid land into cultivation. Roosevelt had always been a man determined to wear out -not to rust out. He accomplished his goal like few other presidents ever have. While not exactly epitomizing Progressive America Roosevelt masterfully commanded the characteristics necessary to guide the Untied States in the progressive movement. He did not back down in the face of adversity, and he continually displayed remarkable physical and moral courage.