The Progressive Era began because of the industrialization and urbanization of largely populated areas. The Progressive Era occurred during 1890’s to the 1920’s. The Progressive Era was a time where many reforms started to take place, to fix problems that were created because of industrialization and urbanization. Two of the major issues that needed reformation was the corrupt government and it’s officials who were being controlled by political machines and greed. The other major issue that needed to be reformed was the control monopolies and big businesses had over the economy and the government. One of the most important people who made a difference during the Progressive Era was Theodore Roosevelt. He helped to shape the new world and to give the common people a voice and the power to choose their destiny and have a fair chance at life in America, by helping to initiate many reform movements.
When President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt succeeded him as the President of the United States. When Roosevelt became president he introduced a new type of leadership, which involves truly listening to the opinions of the common people. Roosevelt believed it was the government’s responsibility to take care of the people and to enact what they wanted as long as it was beneficial to the people. It is because of Roosevelt’s strong belief in this idea that he started to do things to help advance the Progressive movement. Roosevelt was not against Monopolies and he did not want to destroy them, but he did want to make it fair for competition to have a chance to grow and compete against them. He wanted to put rules and regulations in place to attain a fair economy. He did not like the corruption and the control that the rich had over people and the government and he wanted to make a change. Roosevelt did not see his position of power as a way for him to serve himself, but rather as a way to speak for the people and to help them. Roosevelt wanted to insure that if people were being taken advantage of by big monopolies that they received a square deal, meaning a fair deal or treatment. He started by enforcing the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which helped to stop monopolies from being formed by making it illegal to form trusts. Roosevelt filed up to 44 antitrust suits, to break up trusts, earning him the title of “Trustbuster”.
Roosevelt moved onto railroad regulation. There was already a regulation created in 1887, called the Interstate Commerce Act. This was meant to stop railroad owners from working with other companies to control the market and take advantage of the common people. The issue was that there were laws put in place to regulate the railroads, but no one was enforcing any of them. Roosevelt wanted to change this and enact new laws that could be upheld. In 1903, Roosevelt was able to get Congress to pass the Elkins Act. This stopped railroads from being able to refund tickets or change the prices for certain customers without giving the public notice. Another act that Roosevelt helped to get passed was the Hepburn Act of 1906. This prohibited railroads from giving free rides to people, which they would do to bribe other companies or people of power. These were all ways that Roosevelt helped to regulate reform the railroad industry.
Another industry that needed to be regulated and changed was the meat industry. An author named Upton Sinclair wrote a novel called The Jungle exposing the terrible working conditions of the meat packaging factories and the equally as atrocious conditions in which the meat was being inspected and packaged. It was because of this book that Roosevelt took a closer look into the meat packing industry. After he had discovered the disgusting conditions of the industry he helped to pass the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. This law demanded that all the animals, including: cattle, swine, sheep, goats and horses be heavily inspected before they are slaughtered and processed and after. It also required that all products being brought into America from foreign countries be just as heavily inspected so that people are eating foods that are safe for their consumption. The one downside for the government was that they were responsible for paying for the inspections, but it was well worth it for the safety of the people.
The food and drug industries were actually giving out dangerous products and was actually in major need of laws to regulate what was being offered to the public to consume. Manufacturers and distributors were able to sell almost anything they wanted and could label their products however they pleased. The could promise anything they wanted with their products and could include opium, cocaine and alcohol in many of their medicines. Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley was unafraid to to expose the companies for using such drugs in their products. He started to point out the dangerous effects of these drugs and why they need to be regulated. It is because of this that Roosevelt helped to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. This helped stopped companies from being able to put whatever they want in their products. It forced them to label their products and actually tell people what their products contained.
Roosevelt had a deep appreciation for the natural resources of the earth and he understood that we do not have an endless supply of them. Roosevelt spent time with John Muir in what is now called, Yosemite National Park in 1903, and Muir managed to convince Roosevelt to actually preserve about 148 million acres of forest reserves, 1.5 million acres of water-power sites and 80 million acres of land for the exploration of minerals and water resources. He also helped to create over 50 sanctuaries for wildlife and many national parks that could be preserved in their natural beauty. Roosevelt did however understand that land needed to continue to be expanded upon and so he set aside specific plots of land that would not be sold by the government and would remain untouched, while other areas that would be best for development could be used to create more cities.
Roosevelt not only was a great speaker and president, he did something that was much more important. He walked the walk. He spoke about how much he cared for the people and how important it was that they were taken care of and were represented by their government. He did his best to help make it more fair for the common people to live in America without having to worry about being taken advantage of by big businesses and the rich and empowered. Roosevelt didn’t just help to put laws in place to make America more fair, but he actually enforced the laws and made sure that companies were being held responsible for their actions. Roosevelt once said, “We recognize and are bound to war against the evils of today. The remedies are partly economic and partly spiritual, partly to be obtained by laws, and in greater part to be obtained by individual and associated effort”. This quote helps to explain his mentality and approach to helping reform America and shape it into the world we know today.
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