Theodore Roosevelt Role in Progressive Era: Essay

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The United States once found itself entering a world of rapid economic and industrial growth. Technological advances came forth at a rapid rate in both the transportation and manufacturing industries. Along with such developments, a wave of transformation came over the country and multiple social reform movements came to fruition. The Women’s Suffrage Movement, Child Labor, Abolition, Temperance, Prison Reform, and Workplace Improvements were some of the unions formed during such a deceiving period. Such a prosperous era that bloomed during the 1870s was called the Gilded Age; a time of opulence for the wealthy. The “Gilded Age”, a term coined by Mark Twain who alluded to America being like gold- whose surface is dazzling and filled with promise, but at its core, the harsh reality of those who weren’t part of the 1% were suppressed underneath. Corruption was at its prime and thrived on the exploitation of the working class. Some notable figures from the fraudulent point in time were Susan B. Anthony, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Boss Tweed, Carrie Nation, and Charles Darwin. Monopoly and Trusts laws were set in place all while the abuse of workers, corrupted usage of political machines, and the imbalanced distribution of wealth raised in prevalence. The basis of progressivism derived from the populist movement of the Gilded Age; building upon their previous efforts and bringing their goals to realization. Progressive reformers and the federal government attacked the remaining prevailing issues during the 1880-1923 period with very distinct motives, and various favorable outcomes, predominantly aiming to break the stranglehold of monopolies, improve the deteriorating conditions of the poor, and help the marginalized groups achieve their particular objectives.

Then, the Populist Party was made up of mainly farmers and laborers who ultimately didn't succeed in achieving their goals. However, the main ideology of this movement was what inspired the creation of the progressive era, which was the realization that “Corruption dominates the ballot box, the legislatures, the Congress, and even touches the ermine of the bench. The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled, public opinion silenced..labor impoverished” (doc 8). Both movements wanted to change the menacing grip corruption had on the US and allow the government to take proper action against the robber barons. Similarly, both movements were aware of the dire consequences it was having on the majority all while allowing rich white men to remain at the top of society. A reference to the 16:1 ratio of the Gilded Age was made when explaining how “Silver. has been demonetized to add to the purchasing power of gold by decreasing the value of all forms of property as well as human labor. If not met and overthrew at once it forebodes terrible convulsions, the destruction of civilization, or the establishment of an absolute despotism” (doc 8). Here the populist party takes the time to acknowledge the financial moves of the corrupt leaders and how it will lead to them having an excess amount of control over the rest of the population. There is genuine concern, especially for the working class and what will become of them once large businesses rule the nation and its government. The Progressive movement also called for the government to enforce its power and obliterate the corrupt companies who have too much power and influence in their hands. The main reason why the movement fell apart and nobody else paid much attention besides those affected was that the people from other social classes and parties were not willing to get themselves involved as it meant that they too would lose their outrageous wealth. The Progressive movement was made up of mostly middle-class citizens and was successful due to the support it received from almost every region. It is important to note that the progressive movement was not very inclusive in regards to ethnic minorities as they did not intend to help African Americans but they did help laborers, farmers, women, and the temperance movement. Their main goals were to get rid of bad trusts, end political machines, improve living conditions, conserve natural resources, stop corrupt election practices, improve working conditions, and reform banking, prohibition, and women's suffrage. The intent with some of the reforms during the progressive movement had a sinister intent. White women tried to achieve their suffrage for themselves by telling the public that if they allowed white women to vote, they couldn’t drown out the power of black voters. Eugenics (birth control) was created to prevent the undesired population (black) from growing. The true reason behind temperance (banning drinking alcoholic beverages) was associated with immigration. Since it was widely known that certain immigrants had a heavy drinking culture and the white population wanted to regulate the number of immigrants coming into the US, temperance was the sure way to achieve exactly that. Some of the most influential figures of the progressive movement were the “muckrakers.” They are not to be confused with yellow journalists who would more likely than not exaggerate or fabricate some details of big scoop to gain massive amounts of traction for the controversy they are selling. Muckrakers would open the eyes of the audience by telling sensationalist stories of the truth, leaving the decision to the public of what type of action they’d like to take place. These journalists would expose the hidden evils of businesses and society to bring awareness to what was happening under the table. They achieved true success once they got the president to be willing to make changes and the middle class to have the veil lifted from their eyes for them to realize just how severe things truly were. Many reformers did not want to destroy capitalism but they did support communismsocialism (kept under wraps due to the possibility of losing support). Some of their goals were to tax the rich “generously” but were aware that some of these rich people were willing to help as long as they did not lose out on anything materialistic.

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Theodore Roosevelt was a progressive who wanted to assert the government's power over businesses by taking the necessary measures to control trusts as shown in Document 1 (Washington Post, 1907). Roosevelt kept close to him the ideology that some trusts were necessary for the operation of the economy; solely weeding out the “bad” ones from the “good” ones was the rule of thumb he lived by as demonstrated in document one. The figure who had power over the bear-like creature decided to kill the “bad” trusts bear and spare the life of the “good” trusts bear just as Roosevelt did when implementing the trusts laws. Upton Sinclair was a prominent figure in the progressive movement known for shocking the public, nationally by publishing his novel The Jungle. Originally written with the intent to expose the plight and mistreatment of the factory workers, Sinclair captured the attention of his readers by painting elicit, vivid images of the unhygienic process of the meat-packing industry and the unsanitary conditions the Chicago slaughterhouses found themselves in. The Neill-Reynolds Report (doc.2) provides an analogous effect when describing the “damp and soggy” floors which were “in dark, ill-ventilated rooms”, most importantly emphasizing the condition of the meat that was “shoveled from filthy wooden floors..rarely washed..in rotten box carts..gathering dirt, splinters, and floor filth, and the expectoration of tuberculosis and other diseased workers” (doc 2) Due to supercilious factory owners not allowing their employees to take sick-leave, their workers often had to work while being in horrid conditions, exacerbating their well being. Similarly, Sinclair’s novel provided a superfluous amount of detail that the wealthy too were leery of the state of the food being provided by such disingenuous companies. Progressives were able to achieve sublime success when Theodore Roosevelt decided to pass the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food.

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