Roosevelt and Wilson: Progressive Presidents

The Progressive Era was a time of social, political, and economic reform throughout the United States in the early 1900s. Many citizens looked towards the government as the agent of change. Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are fondly remembered as progressive presidents though their methods were different. Without a doubt, both of these men brought about great change in America during the Progressive Era. Teddy Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States.

After serving in the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt entered politics and soon became Vice President. After the assassination of William McKinley, Roosevelt was President. As a progressive reformer, Roosevelt ran his presidency morally, liberally, and equality based. Roosevelt said “My problems are moral problems, and my teaching has been plain morality. ” His statement was accurate because a major contribution to the Progressive movement was his homilies. Homilies are like sermons, and Roosevelt made his opinions of morality public with these.

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In his speech Nine Reasons Why a Man Should Go to Church, Roosevelt points out moral reasons why a man should go to church, like “Church work and church attendance mean the cultivation of the habit of feeling responsibility for others. ” Because he was so fixated on his moral campaign, he never thought to transfer his judgments into social realizations. Roosevelt’s constant need to fix moral problems in the United States shows that he was progressive in the aspect of reform. A liberal is defined as someone who is favorable to progress and reform and Roosevelt was definitely this.

After reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Roosevelt pushed Congress to pass a law to check meat. The Meat Inspection Act, as well as the Pure Food and Drug Act, was something never done before, and a popular reform made by the president. Roosevelt also started a National Parks System, to which he signed five park systems during his presidency. His hope was to preserve the beauty of the land, and he did so with his system. Roosevelt’s programs and changes during his presidency made him liberal, which can also be seen in the following statement made by him: “This country belongs to the people. Its resources, its business, its laws, its institutions, should be utilized, maintained, or altered in whatever manner will be best promote the general interest. ” Lastly, Roosevelt advocated for equality.

In a phrase coined “The Square Deal,” the Roosevelt administration used various progressive reforms to be fair to many groups of Americans, just not one. He broke up the “bad” trust that he saw harmful to the consumer and laborer. In the United Mine Workers Strike, Roosevelt defended the rights of the laborer.

In the United Mine Workers strike, Roosevelt defended the rights of the labor organizers and helped the workers to get management to agree to a binding arbitration. In regards to equality for the black man, Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to the White House for dinner. At the time, Roosevelt did what he could for African-Americans without jeopardizing his presidency. Roosevelt successfully created a fair atmosphere with the help of his “Square Deal. ” Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States.

After serving as president of Princeton University, Wilson moved to politics. He served as Governor of New Jersey before becoming president. As a Progressive reformer, Wilson ran his presidency intellectually, conservatively, and past like. Wilson was nicked “the professor,” being the only president to earn a PhD. Wilson was a very principled man and believed that public obligations were greater than private ones and principles were larger than personalities. His intellect helped him to make wise decisions as the president.

Wilson sought to attack the “Triple Wall of Privilege” –the tariffs, banks, and trust- with his “New Freedom. ” The New Freedom proved to be successful. The Underwood-Simmons Act reduced tariff rates, the Federal Banking Reserve made the nation’s currency more flexible, and the Clayton Antitrust Act named certain business tactics illegal declaring strikes legal. Wilson carefully thought out his plan with the help of his intellect. In terms of his radical views, Wilson is considered a conservative. Wilson is considered one of our most radical presidents of all time.

During this presidency, Wilson segregated the army and went further to segregate most departments in the executive branch of the federal government. Wilson went as far as to make any federal job applicant provide a photo just to make sure they were not black. When activist like W. E. B. DuBois tried to protest and speak to him, Wilson had them kicked out of the White House. In a conference with the National Association of Equal Rights, Wilson said, “Segregation is not humiliating but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen. Lastly, Wilson drew on ideas from the past during his presidency.

Wilson was a huge admirer of Thomas Jefferson and used some of Jefferson’s ideas when a plat forming for New Freedom. The agrarian utopia of educated farmers suggested by Jefferson struck a chord with Wilson. Wilson liked the idea of a nation of small farmers and businesspeople, though industry could not be denied. Wilson also believed that the United States should seek to restore pristine. American ideals, not to go out in a new direction.

Wilson is quoted as saying, “If I did not believe that to be progressive was to preserve the essentials of our institutions, I for one could not be a progressive. ” Wilson found it important to have a “forward-looking return to the past. ” Overall, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were two progressive presidents who used different methods to achieve their own progressivism. They set a stage for future presidents to present change in the United States. In the years to come, war would become a driving force for reform and the Progressive Era presidents would be an example of what change should be.

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Roosevelt and Wilson: Progressive Presidents. (2016, Oct 02). Retrieved from