How did the progressive philosophies of Roosevelt and Wilson differ?

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The Progressive Era was occasioned by a growing call to reform the social and political aspects of the United States. The idea was to deal with issues arising from industrialization, urbanization, and political corruption. Both President Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson wanted to break cartels that had taken over the...

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The Progressive Era was occasioned by a growing call to reform the social and political aspects of the United States. The idea was to deal with issues arising from industrialization, urbanization, and political corruption. Both President Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson wanted to break cartels that had taken over the nation’s politics and create a fair environment for businesses to compete. The ideals of the Progressive Movement were ingrained in both administrations.

However, differences in how the agenda was pursued by both administrations can be recognized. Some of Roosevelt’s activities were indirect, while Wilson pursued direct action extensively. In order to counter the pressure of urbanization on the environment, Roosevelt preserved America’s resources by committing millions of acres to federal protection. He worked to empower the laborers and pushed against unfair labor practices. He also dismantled trusts that had no regard for public interests. On the other hand, Wilson’s Progressive policies focused directly on trusts, tariffs, and banks. He wanted trusts to be dismantled to ensure that no business was too big to interfere with the entry of new players. He was also keen on tariffs that affected the price of imports. Wilson was also responsible for the establishment of the Federal Reserve System. However, it is important to note that although Wilson pursued more direct action, the groundwork had been prepared by Roosevelt.

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President Roosevelt and President Wilson had different philosophies regarding the Progressive Movement. President Roosevelt believed it was acceptable to work with big businesses. Roosevelt felt big businesses were acceptable as long as they didn’t do things that hurt society but benefited themselves. If a business acted in a self-serving way, then Roosevelt would take action against the business. This happened with the coal strike in 1902. When the coal companies wouldn’t negotiate with workers, Roosevelt threatened to take over the mines. This threat brought action in the strike. Roosevelt felt government and business could work together.

President Wilson felt big businesses couldn’t be trusted. He wanted to eliminate monopolies and regulate big businesses. The Clayton Antitrust Act and the Federal Trade Commission were created to regulate the actions of big businesses. Laws restricting child labor were also passed while Wilson was president. Wilson had a much less trusting viewpoint of big businesses.

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