The Promise of American Life, published in 1909, is the most comprehensive statement of the Progressive political movement that occurred at the start of the twentieth century. It came at a time when the United States was in great flux due to the Industrial Revolution. At this time, the wealth of the country was becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals, most often corporate and political bosses. In the text, Croly lays out a plan to regain a political and economic balance through strong federal regulations and social programs. He argues that only programs administered by the federal government can truly help pave the way for America to fulfill the promise of a positive and fair democracy for the greatest number of citizens. Croly’s theories were influenced by his parents, who were both political journalists, and by the philosophers with whom he studied at Harvard. Promise was read by President Theodore Roosevelt, who was a proponent of its theories. The term ‘‘New Nationalism,’’ which Roosevelt used as the label for his political reforms, was taken directly from Croly’s book. Although Promise did not reach a wide readership, it was read by some very wealthy and influential people, including Willard and Dorothy Straight. They were so impressed by Croly’s political theories, they contacted him and provided the backing to launch a new periodical of progressive thinking which became The New Republic, a periodical still in circulation today. It is said that some of Croly’s proposals were an influence on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs.
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