What made Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson Progressive presidents, and what were their most significant pieces of legislation?

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Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson are considered Progressive presidents due to their belief in the federal government's role in improving American lives, particularly by curbing monopolies' power. Roosevelt's significant legislations include the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Hepburn Act, and the Pure Food and Drug Act. Taft continued trust-busting, particularly against railroad companies, and legislated for worker protection in interstate trade. Wilson fought against big business and reduced tariffs, advocating for the Federal Reserve and improved worker conditions. The Clayton Antitrust laws, further regulating big businesses, were also passed during his term.

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Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson shared a belief that the federal government, and the president more specifically, should play a role in improving the lives of the American people. They were especially concerned with curbing the power of monopolies, which they saw as potentially dangerous. Roosevelt earned a reputation as a...

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"trustbuster" by using the powers conferred on the federal government by the Sherman Antitrust Act to break up the Northern Securities company, a railroad titan. He also signed the Hepburn Act, which boosted the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate the railroads. He signed the Pure Food and Drug Act as part of a campaign to regulate the mass production of foods, another move against powerful businesses that controlled the packing and canning industries. William Howard Taft continued to break up trusts, empowering the ICC to battle the railroad companies in particular. Though he took on powerful trusts, including the Standard Oil Trust, he was less ideologically committed to restraining the monopolies than Roosevelt and, unlike his predecessor, was sensitive to criticism from business leaders. Still, his record on this crucial Progressive reform arguably surpasses that of Roosevelt. Wilson also took direct aim at big business, attacking the trusts, and, unlike Taft, signed a significantly lower tariff, long a cornerstone of Progressive policy. Wilson pushed for the Federal Reserve, the centralized organization that would eventually control the nation's monetary policy, and promoted and signed federal law to establish shorter hours and better conditions for workers.

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The presidencies of Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson are termed progressive because of the focus and emphasis they had on empowering the American masses. These presidents were against trusts that took undue advantage of the country’s economy and adversely influenced the nation’s politics to fuel business interests. They were also pro-conservation and supported stronger environmental conservation policies. Additionally, they led governments that were focused on protecting the rights of the consumers and workers from the exploitative, giant corporations.

The Elkins Act and the Hepburn Act were important pieces of legislation passed during the Roosevelt administration. The laws were an onslaught on railroad trusts and companies engaged in unfair practices. The Elkins Act granted authority to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to punish railroad companies that offered rebates and businesses that accepted these rebates. The Hepburn Act also strengthened the ICC by granting it the authority to scrutinize financial statements of railway companies and setting maximum railroad rates. The laws ensured that large corporations did not enjoy undue advantage and made it possible for other small businesses to engage and compete in trade.

Taft signed the first piece of legislation that required employers to cover their employees engaged in interstate trade. The laws were aimed at protecting the workers and ensuring they were compensated when they suffered injuries in the line of duty. The legislation affirmed citizens’ freedom and rights to work in different states under the protection of their employers and the government.

The Clayton Antitrust laws were passed during the Wilson administration and sought to strengthen the Sherman Antitrust laws by making additional clarifications aimed at regulating big business. These laws dealt with exploitative pricing, monopolistic mergers, and exclusive business engagements. These practices were detrimental to the existence of smaller businesses and exposed the consumer to exploitation by large corporations. The new laws ensured that the people enjoyed products and services that were fairly priced.

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Presidents Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson are considered progressive presidents. Each president did several things to further the cause of the Progressives.

President Roosevelt took several actions and had several laws passed while he was in office. He wasn’t afraid to go after businesses that were acting unfairly or that were harming the public’s interests. He went after the Northern Securities Company when its actions in a stock battle nearly caused a financial panic. He also threatened to intervene in the coal strike of 1902 when the owners of the coal mines refused to negotiate. There was concern that there wouldn’t be enough coal to heat homes in the winter. Several laws were passed to protect consumers while Theodore Roosevelt was president. The Meat Inspection Act required federal inspection of the meat industry. Cleanliness standards were established to help try to ensure that the meat was being prepared in clean conditions. The Pure Food and Drug Act made it illegal to falsely label food and medicines. These actions and laws helped Americans know that their interests were being protected, which can be interpreted as a form of freedom.

President Taft also did several things that are considered progressive. President Taft broke up more trusts than President Roosevelt did. He also established the Children’s Bureau to investigate problems with child labor. The Mann-Elkins Act gave the federal government more power to regulate businesses. The Bureau of Mines was created to monitor the actions of the mining companies. These actions also helped people believe the federal government was on their side and would help them if abusive conditions developed in the workplace, especially regarding children.

For President Wilson, there were some progressive changes, as well. The Underwood Tariff reduced tariffs. The Federal Reserve Act brought stability to the banking industry. The Federal Reserve Board would set banking policy. The decisions of the Federal Reserve Board would also impact the economy since the board could change interest rates. The Federal Trade Commission could require businesses to stop unfair business practices. The Clayton Antitrust Act allowed unions to exist and prevented businesses from charging different prices to different people. The Adamson Act created an eight-hour day for railroad workers. The Keating-Owen Child Labor Act made it illegal to hire kids under the age of fourteen in certain industries. These laws also reassured Americans that the government was working to protect their interests.

These actions by these presidents helped free Americans from the fear that they were powerless and that the government would not work to protect their interests.

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