Progressivism (1896 - 1920)

Characteristics

  • knew no party or sectional bounds - Democrats, Republicans, men, women, white, black
  • reaction to abuses of corporate world, abuses of railroads, corruption, social Darwinism
  • wanted absolute change; felt helpless against new rich, new economy, new factories
  • root of social evil was in structure; when that's changed, America will be a better place
  • shown by various writers who attack trusts, corruption, concealed wrongdoing
    • Henry Demarest Lloyd: Wealth against Commonwealth - questioned Standard Oil and ruthless treatment of people
    • Jacob Riis documented the disease and filth of New York slums (photographer)
    • magazines such as McClure's, Cosmopolitan, Collier's began to aggressively search for scandalous stories
    • Teddy Roosevelt branded them "muckrakers"
    • 1902, Lincoln Steffens
      • series of muckraking articles for McClure's
      • book, Shame of the Cities
      • showed corrupt alliances between city governments and "respectable" businessmen
    • Ida Tarbell
      • also attacked Standard Oil ("the octopus" was a popular target)
      • most significant female of the era
  • as with any movement, there were extremists
    • Eugene V. Debs, William "Big Bill" Haywood, Mary Harris "Mother" Jones
    • the Industrial Workers of the World suggested a move to socialism
  • borrowed from European intellectuals, such as Freud
  • wanted a revolution of morals - trial marriage, easy divorce, etc.
  • Social Gospel Movement
    • Protestant ministers called for a return to religious ethics
    • Washington Gladden - ministry in poor areas
    • Walter Rauschenbusch - Christians should endorse social reform to end poverty
    • the government has an ethical responsibility to improve working and living conditions
    • effort to change the role of government - government should protect and serve

Municipal Reforms

  • mayors of cities such as Toledo, New York, Detroit begin to combat political machines
  • special bureaus were appointed to investigate
  • build parks, free transportation, etc. - change their cities
  • inspect building for safety
  • City Manager System
    • a hurricane destroyed Galveston, Texas
    • under the current government, there was no way the city could be rebuilt
    • they created different departments for lighting, streets, etc.
    • mayor and "old-boy" system can no longer control kickbacks and contracts
    • city managers were hired by the city council as a professional, salaried civil servant that coordinated public services
    • take bids from companies and accept the best offer
    • under Progressive leaders, cities begin to gain control from corrupt influences

State Reforms - Wisconsin

  • Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette - mayor of Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin was the most progressive state during this time
  • prior to being governor, he served three terms in Congress
    • couldn't be bought, uncompromising with corruption
    • ethical behaviour was key to government
    • democracy should be based on knowledge
  • created Legislative Reference Bureaus - the "Wisconsin Idea"
    • staffed by professors from the University of Wisconsin
    • legislation was thus put together by experts
  • direct primaries - bosses no longer choose; creates competition between individuals
  • railroad regulation - fair prices for all
  • railroads sometimes pooled profits and split them equally - no competition
  • state income tax
  • workers' compensation - during the Industrial Age, there had been no compensation for injury, etc.
  • these movements began to spread throughout the nation

National Reform

  • President Theodore Roosevelt
    • promotes efficiency and expertise - staffs federal government with capable professionals
    • "trust buster" - started to break up monopolies, although Taft would do more
    • conservation - loved nature, and put aside federal land to protect the environment
  • social alternatives
    • new laws and regulations at state and federal levels to protect citizens at home and at work
    • at first, not written very well; many loopholes
    • they were trying to change the mentality of an entire government
    • many of these laws were eventually overturned by the courts - very conservative judges who favoured business
  • 1874 - lower women and children to 10-hour workdays in Massachusetts
  • 1882 - New York attacked sweatshops
  • courts use 14th Amendment "equal protection" and "due process" to overturn many of these laws
  • 1905, Lochner v New York - Supreme Court ruled that an act regulating New York to a 10-hour day deprived them of the liberty to work as long as they want
  • National Child Labour Committee
    • wanted to ban young children from working, and restrict the hours of older ones
    • eventually Congress does pass such a law, but the courts kill it
  • Triangle Shirtwaist Disaster
    • factory in New York
    • fire killed 150 women because there were no fire escapes
    • legislature passed strict laws
    • took a tragedy for changes to stick

Women

  • Women for lesser working hours and suffrage
  • Muller v Oregon declared limiting women to 10 hours per day to be Constitutional
  • National American Women's Suffrage Association was formed to fight for suffrage
  • the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women suffrage, was ratified in 1920

Blacks

  • Booker T. Washington sought economic independence; WEB Du Bois sought immediate political equality
  • Ida B. Wells (and others) fought for a federal anti-lynching law
  • the NAACP was formed in 1910

Progressive Presidents

Theodore Roosevelt Republican
William Howard Taft Republican
Woodrow Wilson Democratic

Theodore Roosevelt

  • wasn't supposed to be President
    • Hanna wasn't happy with the "cowboy" being Vice President for McKinley
    • after McKinley's assassination, Roosevelt became President
  • Spanish-American War hero
  • "walk softly, carry a big stick"
  • assures American that he won't take any drastic measures
  • he's at the opening of the 20th century, the time is ripe for reform
  • Square Deal
    • control of corporations
    • consumer protection
    • conservation
  • workers demanded more rights, while corporations wanted cheaper, more plentiful labour
  • Pennsylvania Anthracite Coal Strike (1902)
    • 140,000 workers went on strike, demanding a 20% pay raise, reduction from 10 to 9 hour work days, recognition of the union, and the right to bargain
    • mine owners refused to negotiate
    • with winter approaching a dwindling coal supply, the nation is concerned
    • in an unprecedented step, the President steps in and summons the mine owners and labour representatives to discussions in the Washington
    • the mine owners refused to come, so Roosevelt threatened to take over the mines with federal troops
    • the owners agreed to arbitration
    • the workers got a 10% pay raise, 9 hour workday; however, they didn't get recognition of the union
    • Roosevelt set a precedent as the President sided with the union
    • he gained a reputation as a friend of the common man
  • Control of Corporations
    • classified corporations as "good" or "bad" and prosecuted accordingly
    • 1902, JP Morgan and JJ Hill's Northern Securities Company
      • controlled most of the railroad in the North, and wanted a total monopoly
      • Roosevelt initiated legal proceedings, and eventually the Supreme Court used the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to order the company dissolved
      • Roosevelt thus gained a name as a "trust buster"
    • Congress created the Department of Commerce and Labour
      • Cabinet-level appointment, monitors corporations for fair business practises
      • Bureau of Corporations - benefits consumers by monitoring interstate commerce and ensuring fair competition
      • in 1913, it split in the Dept. of Labour and the Dept. of Commerce (two entities)
    • railroad business continued to be one of the most powerful in America
      • corrupt - rebates, prices fixings, etc.
      • 1903 - Elkins Act levied heavy fines on companies with illegal rebates
      • 1906 - Hepburn Act
        • strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission
        • had been a joke, without power (challenged in external courts)
        • the Commission could now set rates, investigate transportation firms' records
        • more power than ever in the past
  • Consumer Protection
    • The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
      • graphic descriptions of the meat packing industry
      • supposed to be about the plight of immigrant workers in the industry
      • the public ignored the workers, but noticed the descriptions of filth
    • Roosevelt appointed a commission to investigate the meat in Chicago; Sinclair was right
      • upset about possible effects on exports
      • the commission's report was so bad that Roosevelt promised to keep it secret if Congress would act
    • 1906 - Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act
      • meat industry had powerful lobbyists, but they lost
      • first step to ensuring that Americans were buying safe and healthy products
      • meat, food, alcohol, etc. required to be labelled
  • Conservation
    • Roosevelt was an outdoorsman, hunter, etc.
    • during this time, most Americans had felt that their natural resources were limitless
    • Roosevelt was concerned that farmers, ranchers, timber companies would cause damage for profit
    • some people were concerned about ecological damage
    • Roosevelt urged Congress to pass the 1902 Newlands Reclamation Act
      • allowed the federal government to sell public lands and use the money for irrigation projects
      • the owner of the irrigated land then gives some money back to the government
      • many dams were built; for example, the Roosevelt Dam on Arizona's Salt River
      • 175 million acres were set aside as federal reserves by Roosevelt
    • Gifford Pinchot - appointed chief forester by Roosevelt
  • when Roosevelt ran in 1904 and was elected, he said he would be done - probably a mistake

Election of 1908

  • Roosevelt stepped down and chose Secretary of War William Howard Taft as his successor
  • Taft was easygoing, so Roosevelt thought he could maintain control
  • the Republican Party also felt they could control him
  • the Democrats chose Bryan, and Debs ran as a Socialist
  • Taft easily defeated both of them

William Howard Taft

  • starts off badly
  • called a special session of Congress to bring about promised tariff reform
    • House passed a bill to moderately restrict some tariffs
    • the Senate tacked on hundreds of amendments, raising tariffs
    • Taft signed the Payne-Aldrich Tariff, and called it the best bill ever passed by the Republican Party
    • begins infighting among the Republicans
  • the Republicans weren't happy with Taft on conservation
    • Taft was a dedicated environmentalist, but the Ballinger - Pinchot dispute interfered
    • Pinchot, a friend of Roosevelt, attacked Ballinger (Secretary of the Interior) for his sale of thousands of acres for private use
    • Pinchot called for an investigation; Taft investigates and finds nothing wrong
    • Pinchot tries to go "over the head" of Taft and asks Congress to investigate; he is fired for insubordination
    • Congress also found Ballinger innocent
    • Taft has fired a friend of Roosevelt and the Progressives; doesn't look good for him
  • Taft as a scapegoat
    • President should not be involved in internal squabbles of Congress
    • Joseph Cannon, Speaker of the House, runs the House with an "iron fist"
    • the House goes to Taft to ask for help against Cannon
    • Taft says it's not his job, but they portray him as being unhelpful; bad image
  • divisions between Taft and Congress are so bad that the Democrats gain control of the House in 1910
  • Taft is a one-term President, but will later be appointed to the Supreme Court

Election of 1912

  • Roosevelt comes back, thinking of himself as the saviour of the Republican Party
    • he will run again for President
    • however, Taft controls the Party apparatus, and Taft is re-nominated
  • so, Roosevelt splits the Republican Party, forming the Progressive "Bull Moose" Party; he dooms himself and Taft to defeat
  • the Democrats choose Woodrow Wilson to run for President - he gets 435 electoral, 6 million popular votes
  • 88 electoral, 4 million popular votes for the Bull Moose Party
  • Progressivism is the overall winner of the election; Wilson and Roosevelt had about the same platforms

Woodrow Wilson

  • only the 2nd Democratic President since 1861
  • professional, idealistic
  • assault on "Triple Wall of Privilege": tariffs, banks, trusts
  • Tariffs - the Underwood Tariff
    • calls for a special session of Congress
    • the Underwood Tariff results in the first significant reduction of tariffs since the Civil War
    • create a graduate income tax; previously, it had been beaten down by the courts
    • the 16th Amendment now allowed Congress to create a progressive tax system (that is, not equal for all, but based on income)
    • the income tax makes up for revenue lost to tariffs, and is originally only on relatively high earners ($3000)
  • Banking - the Federal Reserve Act
    • the country has not come up with a solid, flexible banking system
    • discussed a third Bank of the United States
      • first two were fairly successful
      • but, most agreed that the system needed decentralise; have banks throughout the US
    • some argue that this is the greatest piece of legislation from the Civil War to the New Deal
    • creates a Federal Reserve Board with oversees 12 districts
    • each district has its own bank
    • issues Federal Reserve Notes to allow the government to adjust the flow of money
    • the Fed controls inflation/deflation by adjusting the prime interest rate
    • only banks can borrow from the Fed
    • the system has been largely successful, following some adjustments after the Great Depression
    • made the economy more elastic - manage highs and lows, so that there's no booms - but also no busts
  • Trusts
    • Wilson's successes embolden him to do more
    • he's one of the first Presidents to use the "bully pulpit" and talk directly to the people and tell them what their elected representatives are doing
    • goes to Congress and delivers an emotional/dramatic address
    • asks for legislation to forever address the issue of trusts and tame monopolies
    • Federal Trade Commission Act (1914)
      • inspect companies involved in interstate commerce
      • look for bad trading, bribery, etc.
    • Clayton Act
      • more effective Sherman Anti-Trust Act
      • can be enforced
      • first legislation to specifically prohibit trusts
      • redefines what is "monopolistic" (and therefore illegal)
      • labour is specifically exempt from anti-trust prosecution
      • legalises strikes and peaceful picketing
      • the "Magna Carta" of labour
      • however, it's not too effective at this point, and the courts view it with suspicion

Summary

  • goals weren't always clear, but there was great progress, new ideas, and new ways of thinking
  • during Wilson, Progressivism slowed down
  • it was time to stop changing and let the changes take effect
  • World War I was also garnering attention
  • Imperialism was beginning as well
  • considered a significant, good period, with many positive changes
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