Apush: The Progressive Movement: Essay

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Intro
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Industrialization, immigration, and urbanization transformed the United States during the late 19th century. These changes were accompanied by overwhelming effects in American life. Progressivism, a reform movement mostly dominated by the white urban middle class, emerged. Progressives believed that society was in urgent need of change, and that the government was the agency through which the ills of society could be corrected. The presidencies of Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson along with the efforts of protestant church leaders, African Americans, women’s rights proponents, and union leaders propelled American society into an era of progressivism.
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BP1 (muckrakers)
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The progressive movement truly began with the works of the Muckrakers, journalists who attempted to expose the evils of all facets of society. Some notable muckrakers include: Jacob Riis, a photojournalist who published How the Other Half Lives, a visual commentary on tenement life, Lincoln Steffens, the author of The Shame of the Cities, a collection of articles which exposed corruption in big city politics, Ida M. Tarbell, the author of a devastating expose on the Standard Oil Company, and Upton Sinclair, the author of The Jungle, a novel which portrayed the horrors of the meat packing industry. Although muckraking came to an end circa 1910 due to pressure from politicians and big business owners, it served to expose the inequities and corruption that existed in American life to the general public, thus bolstering support for and awareness of the progressive movement.
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BP2 (voting rights)
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Progressivism also took form in the state and municipal levels. Progressives advocated for a number of voting laws which would increase voter participation and democracy. The Australian ballot was a secret ballot which would help prevent voter manipulation and intimidation. The first state to adopt a secret ballot was Massachusetts in 1888. By 1910, all states had adopted a secret ballot. Direct primaries were also adopted during this time. Wisconsin governor, Robert La Follette is accredited as having introduced the direct primary. A direct primary is a system which bypasses politicians and places the nominating process in the hands of the voters. The direct election of senators was also introduced during this era. This was a system in which voters were responsible for electing senators rather than state legislatures. The 17th amendment which was ratified in 1913 required that all US senators be elected by voters. The initiative, referendum, and recall were also adopted during the progressive era. The initiative was a method by which voters could compel legislature to consider a bill, the referendum was a method that allowed citizens to vote on laws, and the recall was a method that enabled citizens to remove a corrupt politician from office by majority vote.
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BP3 (women)
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Additional progressive era reforms that took place on a state and municipal level pertained to social justice and labor. Child and women labor were of special concern to progressives, especially proponents of women’s rights. Florence Kelley founded the National Consumers League in 1898. The NCL sought to pass laws which would safeguard women and children in the workplace. In the Muller v. Oregon (1908) case, the supreme court rules that women were to be restricted to a 10 hour work day. Additionally, the triangle shirtwaist factory fire led to legislation improving conditions in the workplace.
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BP4 (Roosevelt’s Presidency)
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Roosevelt’s presidency was centered around his square deal. Through this deal Roosevelt sought to enforce legislation that would provide for control of corporations, consumer protection, and the conservation of natural resources. An example of the control of corporations can be discerned through Roosevelt’s reaction to the Anthracite Coal Mine Strikes. Roosevelt became the first president to side against the owners in a labor dispute when he threatened to seize the mines unless they agreed to negotiate. Subsequent to the strikes, the Department of Commerce and Labor was established in order to help settle future labor disputes. Roosevelt also took the initiative to increase the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission through the Elkins Act of 1903 and the Hepburn Act of 1906. Muckraking novels such as The Jungle by Upton Sinclair prompted Roosevelt to issue two acts that would provide for consumer protection The Meat Inspection Act of 1906 stated that the federal govt had the right to inspect meat shipped over state lines. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 stated that all food and drugs must be labeled. In efforts to conserve natural resources, Roosevelt lobbied for the Newlands Act of 1902 which stated that D.C. could use money acquired from the sale of land to fund irrigation projects. Finally, at the end of Roosevelt’s presidency, the nation experienced another economic panic in 1907. In response, Roosevelt passed the Aldrich Vreeland Act of 1908. The act stated that banks must issue emergency currency backed by various collateral, thus increasing money supply during times of Crisis.
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BP5 (Taft’s Presidency)
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Although Taft’s reforms were mostly progressive, they were not exactly impressive. The Mann-Elkins Act of 1910 gave the ICC the power to suspend new railroad rates and oversee telephone, telegraph, and cable companies. The 16th amendment authorized the US govt to collect an income tax. Controversy arose when Taft signed the Payne-Aldrich Tariff, which raised the tariff on almost all imports. Needless to say, Taft’s presidency was not remarkable.
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BP6 (Wilson’s Presidency)
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Woodrow Wilson’s presidency was based off of his New Freedom Program. This plan called for a more active govt role in economic and social affairs, stronger antitrust legislation, banking reform, and tariff reductions. Furthermore, it suggested small enterprise and entrepreneurship and the free functioning of unregulated and unmonopolized markets. In essence, Wilson sought to tackle the triple wall of privilege: the tariffs, banks, and trusts. The Underwood Tariff reduced rates substantially. The Federal Trade Commission Act stated that presidents could appoint commission to investigate monopolies. The Clayton Antitrust Act gave more power to the Sherman Antitrust Act, made interlocking directories illegal, and made labor unions and agricultural organizations exempt from antitrust prosecution. Wilson also made efforts to better the conditions of the workplace. The Working Man’s Corporation Act of 1916 provided assistance to federal civil service employees during times of disability. Finally, the Adamson Act of 1916 limited workers on interstate trains to an 8 hour workday and provided extra pay for overtime.

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