Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Compare Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson

Theodore Roosevelt, the youngest president to ever hold office, believed that the U.S. president could do anything not directly stated in the Constitution. Roosevelt's Square Deal was a perfect example of this power. The Square Deal philosophy was defined by a system in which "big labor would counterbalance big capital...mediating when needed, was a big government that could ensure fair results for all" (Davidson 650). Roosevelt created the Department of Commerce and strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission. He also passed the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Meat Inspection Act. Finally, Roosevelt "added nearly 200 million acres to government forest reserves...and enlarged the national park system (652).

William Howard Taft, "ended up protecting more land than Roosevelt, and he pushed Congress to enact a progressive program regulating safety standards for mines and railroads, creating a federal children's bureau, and setting an eight-hour workday for federal employees" (Davidson 653). He also supported and would pass the 16th Amendment which created a graduated income tax.

Woodrow Wilson, a Democratic progressive, began his presidency by lowering the high tariff rate. In 1913, he created the Federal Reserve which "sought to stabilize the existing order by increasing federal control over credit and the money supply" (Davidson 656). He also passed two important progressive legislations: The Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 and The Clayton Antitrust Act. Both Acts were meant to curb the abusive corporate practices of the time. Wilson's support of the British blockade of Germany in 1915, would eventually lead to the entrance of the U.S. in World War I.

I suppose Roosevelt was the most successful of the three. Roosevelt implemented important, at least according to public support, progressive policies with the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Meat Inspection Act. In addition, Roosevelt had fewer unintended consequences overseas as his diplomatic policies differed from Wilson's and Taft's (as Roosevelt's were less confrontational - at least relatively speaking).

Davidson, James, Brian Delay, Christine Heyrman, Mark Lytle, and Michael Stoff, Nation of Nations: A Narrative History of the American Republic Volume II: Since 1865. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008.

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