Evaluation of the Progressive Presidents

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Evaluation of the Progressive Presidents
Historians disagree about which American presidents constitute the major progressive
presidents. Some historians list President Theodore Roosevelt (in office 1901-1909),
President William Howard Taft (in office 1909-1913), and President Woodrow Wilson
(in office 1913-1921) as the most progressive presidents. Other historians list the three
great progressive presidents as President Theodore Roosevelt (in office 1901-1909),
President Woodrow Wilson (in office 1913-1921), and President Franklin Delano
Roosevelt (in office 1933-1945). While there is no doubt that President F.D. Roosevelt
was a progressive president that permanently changed the American government, most
historians consider the major age of progressivism in United States politics to be from the
1890s to the 1920s. By this standard, President F.D. Roosevelt wouldn’t be considered
part of the age of progressive politics. Therefore, the list of progressive presidents being
Presidents T. Roosevelt, W.H. Taft, and W. Wilson seems to be the most correct.
President Roosevelt’s primary issues were summed up in his “Square Deal” plan
as the three C’s that included control of corporations, consumer protection, and
conservation. Roosevelt began implementing his issues in 1902 when a strike by coal
miners in Pennsylvania threatened the coal supply throughout the nation. Roosevelt
interfered in the strike and took the side of the miner. When Roosevelt threatened the
mine owners that he would seize the mines and operate them with federal troops, the
owners agreed to arbitration. This was the first time a president sided with unions in a
labor dispute. In 1903, with urging from Roosevelt, Congress created the Department of
Commerce and Labor (DOCL). This cabinet-level department was designed to monitor
corporations and ensure that they engaged in fair business practices. In 1906, Roosevelt
pressured Congress to pass the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act.
This was an important first step toward ensuring that Americans were buying safe and
healthy products. Roosevelt’s third issue was conservation of land and natural resources.
He brought the concept of environmentalism to the national attention. Roosevelt set
aside 125 million acres of timberlands as federal reserves. He also set aside land with
coal and water reserves. His actions were the beginning of the movement that would
eventually lead to the U.S. National Parks system. President Theodore Roosevelt was the
first progressive president and his actions probably had the most far-reaching effects on
the future of the United States.
President William Howard Taft was mostly known for what was called “dollar
diplomacy”, his policy and willingness to use the military might and full power of the
United States to protect private American investments abroad. While this doesn’t seem
to be in the spirit of the progressive ideal, it was an extension of the principle of using the
government to protect the American citizen.
President Woodrow Wilson was mostly known for the passage and his vigorous
enforcement of Antitrust Legislation. His goal was to restore competition and encourage
small economic units in the United States, rather than large corporations. He was also a
believer and tireless worker in the cause of international peace. This led to his forming
the League of Nations, a predecessor to the United Nations, which unfortunately was not
capable of dealing with the crises that led to World War I.
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