Historians consider the beginning of the XX century as the most progressive period in US history. By the beginning of the given century, the United States has become the most powerful nation in the world, double the size of England. Big business, whose capital arose at the end of the 19th century, was reborn as a financial oligarchy and gradually settled down. He was forced to play by the rules that were established by Congress and the US Supreme Court. The ruling class gradually abandoned ostentatious luxury and showcasing its wealth, assimilating a respectable and cultural lifestyle. Progressive changes affected all spheres of life – economics, politics, sociology, philosophy, and literature. President T. Roosevelt was quite on the level of achievement, making a significant contribution.
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The supporters of the Progressists declared themselves President Roosevelt, who had embarked on the path of bourgeois reformism. The president considered nature conservation, protection of consumers, and regulation of corporations as the main characteristics of progressive (Roosevelt, 1912). Having come to power, he conducted a series of reforms that initiated the period of reform activities called by the American historians “progressive era.”
The main idea of Roosevelt was that the state, contrary to the doctrines of liberalism, should regulate the development of the economy and labor relations. According to him, the main representatives of the “anti-progressive” side are federalists, conservatives, and business lobbies (Roosevelt, 1912). The characteristic includes resistance to progressive reforms and focuses on the benefits of the traditional system (Roosevelt, 1912). While appreciating the big capitalists, whom he called “industry captains,” Roosevelt nevertheless believed that trusts needed government regulation designed to limit their “bad sides,” which include the tendencies to eliminate competitors and establish a monopoly position in the markets.
Roosevelt also believed that the state should regulate the relationship between labor and capital in order to prevent their aggravation and avoid the threat of revolution. The goals of progressivism include increased government power in resolving social problems, controlling the businesses, and expanding organizations promoting democracy (Roosevelt, 1912). The targeted area of society is the working class and lower-income families, who suffer from oppressive upper elites. In a message to Congress in 1902, he declared the government’s readiness to be an impartial arbiter between workers and entrepreneurs, to carry out an “honest course” in the work question (Lafuente, Loredo & Castro, 2015). The first progressive measure of the Roosevelt government, which caused a great public response, was the processes against the monopolies.
In his speech, Roosevelt highlights the two cases of the Rate Bill and Pure Food and Drug Bill (Roosevelt, 1912). Although the first legislative act was intended to support the corporations, Congress altered it by making it more beneficial and advantageous for all citizens, except the upper class (Roosevelt, 1912). In 1901, the US government organized a lawsuit against one of the railway companies controlled by Morgan, accusing it of creating a monopoly that impedes free trade (Lafuente, Loredo & Castro, 2015).
The court found the company guilty and ordered to divide it into two parts. The Pure Food and Drug Bill aimed to strictly regulate the agricultural sector alongside the nutritional institutions, which were responsible for processed food control (Roosevelt, 1912). Following this, another 25 lawsuits against the monopolies took place, which brought Roosevelt the glory of a “destroyer of trusts” and even a “revolutionary,” although, in reality, he tried to prevent a revolution.
In conclusion, Theodore Roosevelt was a proponent of progressivism, which aimed to expand the government to serve for lower and working classes. It also focused on reducing the power of the elites and corporations by strengthening democratic institutions. Therefore, it resulted in strict regulatory and legislative acts being implemented in business control.
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Lafuente, E., Loredo, J. C., & Castro, J. (2015). Citizens at work: Evolutionism, functionalism, progressivism and industrial psychology in the writings of Arland D. Weeks. History of the Human Sciences, 28(1), 84-97.
Roosevelt, T. (1912). Who is a progressive? Web.