The Gilded Age, which took place during the 19th century was a period of transformation in America. Technology, economy and social practices all changed during the Gilded age. “ Economically, the term Gilded Age seems apt:… a handful of men made spectacular fortunes, and their “Gilded” triumphs belied a rising crisis of poverty, pollution and erosion of worker’s rights.” Though the Gilded age allowed for some to make fortunes off businesses and corporations, this era created corruption and problems in America. The Tweed Ring is one example of the corruption that was found in the Gilded Age. The problems that were faced in the Gilded Age contributed to the Progressive movement.
The Progressive era attempted to reduce the corruption. One of the acts that was passed to do this was the Pendleton Act. The Act was enforced after the assasination of James Garfield. The act made people go through an exam in order to acquire a job position instead of people getting jobs from having ties with others. This act lessened corruption because it made the process of getting a job more fair. Republicans tried to meet the needs of what was a modernizing nation. The Sherman Antitrust Act was their attempt to forbid any form of trust, conspiracy or restraint of trade. The Lodge Bill attempted to fix corruption in politics by declaring that if 100 people in any district appealed for intervention than a federal board would investigate. The Lodge Bill allowed for people to have a greater effect in their government and actually fix corruption when they see it. The Progressive Era was filled with laws that were directly in reaction to the corruption and problems that the Gilded Age fixed.
Roosevelt’s Square Deal was the president’s program which manifested his three top priorities which involved the conservation of natural resources, control of corporations as well as consumer protection. Roosevelt during his presidency managed to hit all aspects of the Square Deal. “ …he hoped to identify and punish ‘malefactors of great wealth’ who abused their power.” Roosevelt punished these corporations by passing acts like the Hepburn act which allowed the Interstate Commerce Commision to set shipping rates. Another example of Roosevelt confronting big corporations would be when he threatened big coal companies that he would nationalize them if they did not negotiate with the minors union.
Roosevelt also created the Bureau of Corporations which investigated businesses and supported the Justice department. Roosevelt was a nature man and expressed his love for nature by issuing 51 executive orders that would create refuges for wildlife. He not only supervised creation of national parks but also used the Antiquities Act which allowed him to set aside places like the Grand Canyon and Mt. Olympus. Roosevelt increased the number of land in the federal forests and supported the Newlands Reclamation act. The Newlands Reclamation Act sold public lands in order to make money for irrigation projects that would expand agriculture. In 1908 Roosevelt retired and passed on the Republican nomination to Williiam Howard Taft.
Though in the election of 1912 Roosevelt decided to attempt a return to the presidency. He lost the republican nomination to Taft but led his supporters into a party that he would create and be named the Progressive Party. In the election of 1912 Woodrow Wilson occupied the Democratic nomination. Wilson had similar characteristics that aligned with the same ideas that progressives, like Roosevelt had. Like Roosevelt, Wilson was eager to restrict big businesses. Unlike Roosevelt, Wilson’s goals were less extensive.
WIlson’s proposed a reform program called New Freedom. The New Freedom was not supposed to depict collectivism like the Square Deal but was meant to conserve both political as well as economic liberty in the nation. The election ended with Wilson as president. As president, Wilson tackled economic reforms. He enacted the federal progressive income tax which instead of it being a flat tax, the tax rose toward the top of the income scale. President Wilson rearranged the financial system in order to deal with the fact that there wasn’t a central bank. With the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, America got a banking system that was more immune to crises. Wilson also worked on labor issues. During his presidency Wilson created bills to benefit workers, an example would be the Seaman’s Act which ended abuse of merchant sailors and allowed for a workmen’s compensation law. Both Wilson’s time as president and Roosevelts dealt with the problems that came up with the growing power of corporations in America.