Progressivism to Wilson
In 1912, the divided Republicans were no match for the united Democrats. Woodrow Wilson easily glided to victory as the Democrats also took both houses of Congress. Except on the issue of race, the election identified the party firmly with reform for the rest of the century. Wilson’s agenda included tariff reform, banking and currency reform, corporate regulation, and labor legislation. Four amendments to the Constitution within the span of eight years demonstrated the efficiency of the progressive impulse.
Woodrow Wilson, New Freedom: The Democratic Party, to which Wilson belonged, had a past history of 45 ballots without a nomination. To overcome this stumbling block the Democrats united with the Progressives, running under a compromise platform. Wilson’s "New Freedom" campaign was concerned with progressive programs similar to both parties. He did not, however, support trustbusting in the same way that Roosevelt did. To him, all big business was morally evil and should be broken up.
Theodore Roosevelt, New Nationalism: In the election of 1912 Roosevelt was nominated under a platform nicknamed "The New Nationalism." This platform followed the previous trustbusting and regulation trend as well as alleviating many common progressive concerns such as child labor, woman’s suffrage, and minimum wages. A Federal Trade Commission was also planned to regulate the economy. This platform was essentially identical with many of the progressive reforms later passed under Wilson.
Herbert Croly, The Promise of American Life: Croly best captured the nature of progressivism in this book. He dreamed of an activist government which would serve all citizens. Specifically, he suggested a redefinition of government, democracy, and individualism. Roosevelt copied many of his ideas for his New Nationalism platform.
Election of 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft, Debs - issues: The election of 1912 was very interesting for most Americans since there were 4 active political parties. Roosevelt tried to run with the Republican Party, but Taft was chosen. He left and created the Progressive Party. Wilson ran with the Democratic Party. Debs continued to run on the Socialist platform. All of the platforms dealt primarily with economic reform, indicating the change that Americans wanted. Debs even received 900,000 votes.
Eugene V. Debs, Socialist Party: Eugene V. Debs was an American Socialist leader and five time presidential candidate. In 1897 he created the Social Democratic Party of America. He received nearly one million votes for president while he was imprisoned in jail. His Socialist party was quite popular until it splintered apart along internal divisions.
Daniel DeLeon, IWW, Wobblies, "Big Bill" Haywood: The Industrial Workers of the World, nicknamed the "Wobblies," was a radical labor group formed by "Big Bill" Haywood. They were never large, but they captured many people’s imaginations as they preached revolution. Though they won several strikes, they were more rhetoric than action.
National Monetary Commission: The National Monetary Commission examined monetary data collected by the Pujo Committee and recommended a new form of banking. This advice, suggesting a secure Treasury reserve and branch banks, later became the Federal Reserve System, used to adjust the value of money to keep the economy stable.
Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology: Edgar Lee Master’s poems are unique in that they are presented as the voices of a town’s graveyard talking about their lives. His work’s realism and irony contrast with the romantic and sentimental trends in progressive literature, demonstrating the revolt against conventional social standards that was beginning.
D. W. Griffith, The Birth of a Nation: D. W. Griffith revolutionized the field of motion pictures after his production of The Birth of a Nation in 1915. This story demonstrated the power of film propaganda and the racist effects it had on people. It also began a trend towards hour-long, dramatic, well-acted films.
Edwin Porter, The Great Train Robbery: The Great Train Robbery, produced by Edwin Porter in 1903, was the first major American film. It used new innovations such as the intercutting of scenes shot in different settings. These scenes were later unified to form a coherent narrative ending in a scene of suspense.
Nickelodeons: Nickelodeons, movies costing a nickel each, became extremely popular in the Progressive Era due to the freedom they offered children from parents. Immigrant children could easily imagine away their restrictive home conditions. Noticing the lack of moral oversight, many progressives moved to create censorship boards for these films.
Scott Joplin, Ragtime: Scott Joplin was a pianist and one of the most important developers of ragtime music. He believed that ragtime should evolve into an indigenous black American opera style. His 1899 release of "Maple Leaf Rag" was the beginning of popular ragtime music.
Eugenics movement: The Eugenics movement is one of the best examples of progressive ideas contradicting science. Some Americans believed that the society could be improved by controlled breeding. They accomplished this by sterilizing many criminals and sex offenders. The right to do so was upheld in the court case Buck v. Bell.
Mary Ritter Beard, Charles A. Beard, Historical revisionism: Mary and Charles were two historians that pioneered a new perspective on history. They each believed that history must be reexamined from a modern perspective and that the economic, political, and social threads of present time must be followed back to generate a clearer picture.
Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race: This book, published in 1916, is a preview to the ideas later espoused by Adolf Hitler. Written in the Progressive Era, this book calls for absolute racial segregation, immigrant restriction, and a forced eugenics movement by crime and by race type.
Billy Sunday: Billy Sunday was an American Fundamentalist preacher and professional baseball player. He conducted regular ‘revivals’ throughout the nation, in which he used broadcasting to strengthen people’s bond with Christianity. The broadcasts of his revivals are considered among the most effective ever.
Margaret Sanger: Sanger was a leader among birth-control advocates. She attacked the Comstock Law, a law which prevented the distribution of birth control. In 1916 she opened the first American birth-control facility. She was convicted for this "public nuisance," won an appeal, and eventually gained the right for birth-control.
Sixteenth Amendment: The Sixteenth Amendment, ratified in 1913, is an obvious indicator to the Progressive era in which it was passed. It authorized the income tax thereby allowing the Underwood-Simmons Tariff of 1913 to lower many tariffs. This amendment invalidated an earlier Supreme Court decision calling the income tax was unconstitutional.
Seventeenth Amendment: The Seventeenth Amendment, ratified in 1913, moved the election of senators from the state legislatures to the general populace. It followed the ideas already laid down by the Australian secret ballot and the direct primary. This law was intended to create a more democratic, fair society in the eyes of progressives.
Eighteenth Amendment: The Eighteenth Amendment, ratified in 1919, prohibited the non-medical sale of alcohol. This amendment resulted from intense efforts among various women’s movements, proving to the nation that women could effect political changes. This amendment is the midpoint of a growing drive towards women’s rights.
Nineteenth Amendment: The Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the vote in 1920, is a logical progression from the prohibition movement. As women felt their power in politics increasing, they began to demand the ability to vote from their male peers. In the spirit of progressivism they were granted the vote in 1920.
Charles Evans Hughes: Charles Evans Hughes was an American jurist and statesmen. As governor of New York he eliminated much of the corruption in government, passing many progressive reform measures. He served as the chief justice of the Supreme Court in the depression years of the 1930s and supported many aspects of Roosevelt’s liberal New Deal.
Pujo Committee: The Pujo Committee researched and later reported on the concentration of money and credit over the general populace. They found that the money and credit of the US is localized inside a small group of rich capitalists. This committee’s findings later led to the creation of the Federal Reserve Banking system.
Federal Reserve Act: The Federal Reserve Act was a compromise designed to stabilize the currency in the US. It split the US into 12 regions with one Federal bank in each region. Commercial banks bought stock from this bank. The discount rate at which the federal bank lent the money determined the interest rate.
Underwood-Simmons Tariff: The Underwood-Simmons Tariff reduced the tariffs from the Payne-Aldrich Tariff to about 29%. It included a graduated income tax, made legal by the sixteenth amendment to the Constitution, to correct for this monetary loss. Wilson, noticing that it followed his principle of "New Freedom," heavily advocated it.
Income tax: The income tax, originally declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, was later ratified as the Sixteenth Amendment. This new power was first used in the Tariff Act of 1913 which set the tax of corporate income at 1%. It also levied a 1% tax on all rich families. Income tax has been greatly increased as tariffs have been lowered.
Federal Trade Commission, cease and desist orders: The Federal Trade Commission, created by the Federal Trade Commission Act, promoted free and fair trade competition. It investigated economically unfair business practices and regulated these. The commission also regularly generated statistics of economic and business conditions to the public.
Clayton Antitrust Act, labor’s Magna Carta (?): The Clayton Act was designed to clarify the Sherman Antitrust Act in terms of new economic issues that had arisen. Practices such as local price-cutting and price discrimination were made illegal. The right of unions to strike, boycott, and picket was also confirmed. This act would have been labor’s Magna Carta had it been followed, but unfavorable court interpretations rendered many of its pro-labor sections powerless without further legislation.
Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan: From 1913-1915, Bryan served as Secretary of State to Wilson. The US’s stubbornness on the issue of neutrality rights led Bryan to resign his position in 1915. He felt that instead of insisting on passenger’s rights, the United States should keep Americans off belligerent ships, a differing view on neutrality.
arbitration treaties: The arbitration treaties were negotiated by Secretary of State Root with 25 other nations. International disputes could be deferred to the Hague Tribunal as stipulated by the arbitration treaties. An example of such a treaty is the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. The treaties were undermined by disputes of individual national interests.
Panama Tolls dispute: In 1912, the United States passed a bill that would exempt the United States from payment in the use of the Panama Canal. Great Britain opposed the move saying it violated the 1901 Hay-Pauncefote Treaty. After some dispute the United States eliminated the exemption clause and the president signed the bill in 1914.
Colonel House: Colonel Edward M House was part of the Wilson administration and served as an advisor to the president. He later was part of the Roosevelt administration and was involved in New Deal legislation taking his traditional Wilsonian democracy to the New Deal era and its actions.
Louis Brandeis, "Brandeis brief": In 1916, Woodrow Wilson appointed Louis Brandeis, a Jew, to the Supreme Court, which was briefly opposed because of anti-Semitism. In 1908 in Muller v. Oregon, his Brandeis brief provided evidence as to why women need limited work hours. This represented the Court’s adapting to the new, changing industrial society.
La Follette Seaman’s Act: Passed in 1915, the La Follette Seaman’s Act improved working and living conditions as well as making ships safer. It applied to US ships as well as any ship docked in a US port. Included provisions regulating work hours, as well as pay and food quality. The act was designed to attract Americans to ocean occupations.
Keating-Owen Act: The Keating-Owen Act, passed in 1915, attempted to prevent the problem of child labor. It forbade interstate shipment of products whose production was due to the labor of children under fourteen or sixteen. This law was particularly important because it was the first attempt by Congress to regulate interstate commerce.
Workmen’s Compensation Act: The Workmen’s Compensation Act heightened the rights of employees to bring legal action against their employers for injuries. Prior to this act, the employee had to prove they were not at fault and that it was not a normal risk. This act created scales of compensation for any injury, regardless to the party responsible.
Federal Warehouse Act: Wilson heavily supported the Federal Warehouse Act, which allowed farmers to more easily secure long-term, low-interest credit, using land or crops as the loan security, from regional Farm Loan Banks. Prior to the passage of this act, farmers had to use actual money or property as security, making loans harder to obtain.
Federal Highways Act, 1916: The Federal Highways Act of 1916 was pushed by Wilson and supported by the Democratic congress. It stated that federal funds would match appropriations made by states funds for highway construction. This aided the automobile industry and allowed for the existence of more cars.
Adamson Act, 1916: The Adamson Act of 1916 was a compromise that avoided a railroad strike. It set an eight hour day for interstate railroad workers with a salary of one and a half for overtime work. The act signaled a major victory for railroad workers. An example of Wilson’s sympathy to labor and was one of his important worker protection laws.
Smith-Lever Act: The Smith-Lever Act, enacted in 1914, created a system of agricultural extension work funded by federal grants. Students not in college benefited because they were taught agricultural skills by county agents. It was part of the governments plan to encourage a growth in American agriculture.
Smith- Hughes Act: The Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 created the Federal Board for Vocational Education to encourage agricultural growth. Furthermore, it gave the federal government greater control over education because it required that states submit proposals for education to a federal board.