Ahs Taking The Ball To The Hoop11


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Ahs Taking The Ball To The Hoop11

  1. 1. TAKING THE BALL TO THE HOOP: THE PROGRESSIVES 1900-1914 A Scalia Bump and Stumble Through the Opening Decade of the 20th Century. © 2005 Joseph M Scalia. Do not reprint without permission. Hey, guys, what’s in a name? I mean, besides the lame, readily-identifiable names like Slim, or Tex, or even those that defy logic, like “P-Diddy” or “Dog” (hey, those belong to your generation, not mine. We Baby Boomers still have to live with the guilt of “Bubba” and “Gomer”). No, I mean the title of this article. Why in the world would I entitle this “Taking the Ball to the Hoop?” Simple. To characterize the Progressive Movement, just think of “continuance,” or perhaps chunkin’ ball to the guy who ISN’T double covered. All the Progressives really did was take the “ball,” (attempts at reform) from the Populists and score (in other words, make them a reality). Within this respect, the men and women of the Progressive Era took their “broken” economic, social, and political society and “fixed” it. All we need to look at was who and how; we already know when. Face it: the Populist reformers tried, they really did. And they were admirable in the fact that they were sincere (I guess if you are a starving farmer or worker you can’t afford NOT to be sincere). However, the Populists suffered from two major problems: First, they were primarily a rural movement, and even those urban reformers had little or no legitimacy with which to garner serious respect for their causes. Secondly, they never had the BIG GUY, the one person, soaked through with wads of charisma, who threw caution to the wind, picked up the movement, put it on his back, and forced his will upon those he targeted. Sure, many good people tried, committed souls such as William “The Man Who Wouldn’t Die” Jennings Bryan, but none of them could realistically go head to head with JP Morgan, John D Rockefeller, and the rest of the dominant industrialists (known in some circles as the “Robber Barons;” in others as “Captains of Industry”) and their political flunkies. We need to take a gander at the social, economic, and political forces which shaped the early years of the 20th century. In the closing decades of the Gilded Age, you already know how much of a stranglehold the Barons had upon America, and you know the trouble reformers and Populists experienced in dealing with these folks. Therefore, anything that puts a dent in the Robber Baron legend, anything that even in the least bit WORKS . . . well, it would have to be substantial. Guess what? It was. THE NATURE OF PROGRESSIVISM First of all, what caused Progressivism to take hold? In light of Gilded Age reform movements, why did things work in the Progressive Era of the early Twentieth Century and not in the Gilded Age? We can’t begin to answer that question unless we know what caused the change. There were numerous reasons for the causes of the Progressive Era, but primary among these were a devastating economic depression that lasted throughout the 1890s and the social unrest that accompanied it. This economic crisis prompted this “Progressive” social revolution because it affected the majority of Americans; in addition to the urban and rural poor the rapidly growing middle class was hit as well. The only ones left relatively untouched were the super-rich, and
  2. 2. this was only because they were so wealthy they didn’t feel the economic hit (its sort of like swimming in the rain. I mean, you’re already wet, for Pete’s sake, so how can you even notice a few more drops?). Consequently, the growing number of those affected by the crisis gave rise to the growth of people and organizations seeking to diagnose and remedy the worst “sores” of society. Because many of these new reformist organizations were led by and included noteworthy and respected citizens, as opposed to the hell- raising socialists and anarchists associated with the Populists, political leaders began to refer to the upcoming years of the new century as a time of “progressivism.” In short, the movement’s credibility hinged on the reputation of its leaders. Yep, it pays to be somebody. Progressivism was both varied (different) and comprehensive in nature; you really can’t define it. Its sort of like having to explain why water is wet without invoking chemistry. Progressives went to war against ALL of America’s social ills: corrupt government, evil Robber Barons, greedy employers, and crippling social problems. The paradox of this war was that the main body of the Progressive “army,” which was by definition a liberal movement, was armed with not a little conservatism. Why? Two words: Middle Class. Progressives fought this war on several fronts. One was on the front of social reform, another was political reform. Still yet another was economic reform. However, the basis for the Progressive Movement lies within the use of government as the agent of reform. All in all, the Progressives differed greatly from their Populist kin primarily because Progressivism was a multi-faceted (many-layered) endeavor which represented the spirit of an age rather than the interests of relatively small and varied groups or interests (such as farmers or laborers). Another formidable precedent to the Progressives came in the form of radical journalists and writers who delved into America’s nasty underside (you know, the ugly junk underneath all of that golden gilding that Mark Twain alluded to) and revealed the social goo they found there. Because they wallowed around in and plowed through this muck, Theodore Roosevelt named them the Muckrakers, who were “indispensable to society . . . as long as they know when to stop raking the muck.” We need to look at a few of these folks, including the one who could rightly be called the Founding Father of Vegetarianism. 1. Lincoln Steffins. Steffins wrote The Shame of the Cities (1904) which revealed the numerous cases of municipal corruption throughout the country. No fan of Boss Tweed was this guy. 2. Jacob Riis. Riis, a Danish immigrant, armed himself with a camera and documented the squalor and filth of tenement dwellers in New York. Along with a stinging, indictment style of writing, he published How the Other Half Lives in 1890, which shocked Americans to the plight of the urban poor by injecting not a little guilt into the mix. Nothing gets to American like the sight of suffering children, a fact of which Riis was quite aware. 3. Ida M. Tarbell. Tarbell, one of those famous female reformers, wrote a tell- all expose that would make 60 Minutes proud. Tarbell’s A History of Standard Oil (1904) attacked John D. Rockefeller and his questionable business practices, and exposed the unethical nature of them all.
  3. 3. 4. Upton Sinclair. The granddaddy of them all. Sinclair secretly infiltrated a Chicago meat packing facility to investigate the horrid conditions of immigrant labor. Instead, he found himself throwing up on a moment-by- moment basis due to the horrible unsanitary nature of the meatpacking business. As a result, he published the greatest muckraking novel of them all, The Jungle, in 1906, which directly led to the passage of Federal legislation insuring that people could EAT meat instead of becoming part of the meat. The Muckrakers remained popular and effective, but their overall effect was short-lived. As Big Business became aware of the power of public opinion, they began to blunt Muckraker attacks by hiring publicity specialists and public relations directors, or what we would today call Spin Doctors. These guys used everything at their disposal to offer the public a sanitary, warm and fuzzy vision of what their particular industry was all about, whether it was true or not. I suppose these people would try to convince you that rat droppings and various detached body parts added needed protein and diversity to meat, and was therefore good for you. Bon appetite, mon amis, and HEY!!! Pass me one of those finger steaks. FEATURES OF PROGRESSIVISM There were four primary features that guided progressive efforts: democracy, efficiency, regulation, and social justice. An understanding of these will help you greatly when navigating the shoals of progressive issues. Democracy Kinda sad that this pops up as an option rather than the status quo. . . Anyway, the first duty of Progressivism was to re-install democracy as the primary motivating factor behind American government. As such, the Progressives instituted several measures and programs to return government to the American people. The Direct Primary Before the Progressives rode into town, the people of the states had practically no input into whom their elected officials would be. Candidates for office were appointed by state political bosses, who, of course, were placed in that position to further the interests of the very WEALTHY folks that nominated them. In 1896, South Carolina became the first state to incorporate the direct primary, in which all of the party’s members voted statewide to nominate candidates rather than a few political bosses. Within twenty years, virtually every state had switched to the direct primary. The Initiative and Referendum Ah, two concepts with which you are very much aware, even if you don’t realize it. These measures were designed to allow for greater participation in the political process by giving citizens a voice in their. The Initiative is simply the process in which citizens enact a petition which calls for a specific issue to be placed before a public vote. When the initiative appears on a ballot, the voters can either approve it or vote it down in what is known as a referendum. Get it? Initiative equals petition; referendum equals voting on that petition. The Recall QUICK!!!! How does the national government deal with a crooked president, or at least one dumb enough to get caught being crooked? Simple; the Constitution provides for a system of impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate. However, this did not reach into the states. In 1910, Oregon became the first state to install the recall; by which citizens petition to have a crooked state official (usually governor) removed. Upon receiving a requisite number of signatures, a recall
  4. 4. election is held that can remove the official and call for a new election. In Louisiana we hold these things all the time; heck, you assume that when a governor wins the general election that you’ll be voting for a recall within a year. What’s the latest, most famous outcome of a recall? Why, it’s his royal Ahnold-ness, the Governator himself. California voters removed their sitting governor and replaced him with Herr Schwartzenegger. Direct Election of Senators In the 1789 Constitution the Founding Fathers designed the “election” of United States senators to appease the small-states (remember how Rhode Island was constantly complaining about everything?) at the Constitutional Convention; each state legislature would select two senators for Congress. However, by the Gilded Age, this practice was obviously corrupt, so the Progressives called for legislation that enabled the people themselves to directly elect their senators. Yo, democracy! What a concept! Anyway, because this involved a Constitutional principle, the change had to be enacted in the form of a Constitutional Amendment, and in 1913, the 17th Amendment was passed to guarantee the people the right to elect their senators. In other words, now its OUR fault when they screw up. Efficiency Business The Grand Poobah of the “Gospel of Efficiency,” and the original efficiency expert, was Frederick W. Taylor. This guy stepped into factories armed with only a stopwatch and determined methods by which the companies could work quicker, more efficiently, and consequently cheaper. This became known as the scientific management system that was designed to cut operating costs and increase productivity. Don’t laugh; today there are people out there making millions of dollars doing exactly what Taylor did . . . HOW?? WHY?? HOW CAN I GET IN ON THIS DEAL?? The truth is that business majors (and most engineers) don’t stay awake in class long enough to learn history in college and subsequently don’t know that they can read Taylor’s books on the subject. Instead, they hire some doofus “efficiency expert” for around $100 grand on something that they could have found at the public library for free . . . or in my History 202 survey at Louisiana Tech. Municipal (City) Government Few governments were as corrupt as city government (Boss Tweed again), therefore to combat growing potential for abuse, two municipal operating systems were devised. In 1901, Galveston, Texas, which was recovering from a devastating hurricane, instituted a city commission system as an emergency measure to help the city recover. This system placed ultimate authority for vital city operations—sanitation, police, utilities, etc—in the hands of an elected board of commissioners rather than in the hands of a Tammany-Hall style of political patronage. This worked so well that Galveston made it a permanent fixture, and by 1914 more than 400 other cities had adopted the commission system. Hmm, reckon what they’ll do in the wake of Ike? To make sure that Big Business didn’t get into the act, the system of home rule was enacted. Home rule means simply that the cities would own these operations (especially utilities) rather than some Robber Baron type. Another neat and popular idea was that of the city manager, in which a professional administrator ran city functions according to policies laid out by an elected council and mayor. In other words, now there was an official bean-counter to pay the city’s bills and balance the budget, sorta of what Mrs. Scalia does . . . that’s why I stay broke and she’s driving the BMW.
  5. 5. “Fightin’ Bob” By the dawn of the 20th century, it was apparent that the complex workings of government required a greater degree of professional expertise than in pre-Civil War America. No one believed this more than Wisconsin governor Robert LaFollette (aka “Fightin’ Bob,”). Born and bred a die-hard Populist, LaFollette sincerely believed in the power and judgment of the American people and was an intense advocate of popular participation and maintenance of government. LaFollette was convinced that no one knew specific problems better than experts that dealt with these problems on a regular basis. Therefore, he developed the Wisconsin Plan of government, which incorporated a Legislative Reference Bureau staffed by professors, researchers, and specialists who combined to introduce legislation that would control the influence of special interests and give the people a greater say in state government. Pretty sharp idea for a cheeshead, is it any surprise that the Green Bay Packers are owned by the people of Green Bay and not some rich bum? Remember that for Trivial Pursuit. Regulation In spite of all the attempts at reform, one mountainous problem stood above the others as seemingly insurmountable: The regulation of Big Business. Some old-school Populists and radical Progressives supported busting the trusts and monopolies under the assumption that competition could cure all; indeed, this line of thought was behind the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890. However, without an enforcement arm and support from the government, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was nothing more than a toothless paper tiger that sounded really good. With the government heavily infiltrated by special interests and agents of the Barons, how in the world could anything come from DC that could put as dent in business? Consequently, true Progressives began to operate not under a plan of battle of destruction of the trusts, but regulation of the trusts. Smell a compromise here? If you are a Baron, you know that someday, America will eventually tire of your practices. Therefore, perhaps it is in your best interests to compromise and accept a little regulation and give up a little laissez faire if it means that your conglomerate will remain intact. Not bad strategy, especially since you know that there is always a way around everything. And here it is. In the words of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius “If you delegate control to the guards, who will guard the guards?” Indeed, the progressive regulatory agencies often fell under the influence of those whom they were intended to regulate. Even in those cases where this didn’t happen, agencies fell victim to those with greater experience and knowledge than they. For example: railroad executives had a far greater knowledge of the intricate nature of the railroad business, and therefore could outmaneuver regulators on the Interstate Commerce Commission, who often sat around picking their collective noses while the Barons laughed all the way to the bank with money gained illegally. Hey, they didn’t get rich for nothing. Remember: the greatest geniuses in history were typically motivated by greed or power . . . often both. Social Justice (Here Come The Women!) Along with measures to legitimize business and government came the painful recognition that all was not well in America, whether it be on city streets or the backroads of the country. By 1900, Jane Addams’ settlement house movement had created a corps of dedicated social reformers who quickly discovered that charitable organizations and good intentions can only go so far when faced with the magnitude of the social crisis in America. Somewhere along the line, the government is going to have to get involved.
  6. 6. The Atascocita Agenda: Kids that Work Probably the greatest tragedy facing reformers was the practice of child labor. For years, attempts to address this practice were often blunted by the sheer fact that families needed the income. However, by 1904, attitudes were changing due to pressure from women’s progressive groups. In 1904, the National Child Labor Committee led nation-wide campaign that urged states to ban the employment of young (under 14 years old) children. Within ten years the Committee was successful in lowering the minimum age of child labor (typically 12 to 16 years, depending upon the state) and limiting the amount of hours a child could work. Assuming, of course, that once you get to work you’ll be able to leave by a DOOR, rather than by a WINDOW One of the somewhat forgotten areas of concern was the issue of working conditions facing women in the workplace. Women, as we have seen, were considered best seen and not heard, and despite the efforts of women’s labor groups, their working lives were not the topic of proper discussion . . . until 1911. The most graphic instance of the abuse of women as workers came with the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, in which 146 people primarily young women, died in a fire because of inadequate (as in NO) exits. These poor souls were locked in a sewing room, so when the building caught fire, most were forced to jump from the 11-story building and introduce themselves to Dr. Splat on the concrete below, which does not constitute the best public relations for your company. The results of the following outrage were tighter building codes and inspection agencies, but it would be years before a serious attempt would be made to render the workplace safe. Remember: it costs a lot of money to protect workers, people who were, by and large, considered expendable in the first place. Uh oh, watch out guys . . . Yep, they’re at it again: women want to relieve men of their most prized possession: LIQUOR!! Temperance had remained a hot topic for reformers, primarily women, since the days of Andrew Jackson (who, obviously, could care less what they wanted). The Women’s Christian Temperance Movement had been combating the sale of alcohol since 1874, but in 1913 the Anti-Saloon League was formed with an entirely new plan of battle: Don’t go after the entire evil of alcohol because you can’t beat this monster, even of you have Frodo and the Ring on your side. It is far better to go after a single aspect of your overall target. The League was highly successful; by 1913 they had endorsed an amendment to the Constitution calling for the prohibition of liquor. Although the amendment would not be ratified by the entire country until 1919, by that time the League’s efforts had seen nearly three-fourths of the nation’s population go dry. Well, relatively dry; I am sure that the steady and unending trail of tears that streamed down men’s sober faces were incredibly wet, not to mention quite cruel. Cheers. Well, now you know what’s going on in America during the concluding years of the 19th century and the infancy of the 20th. Realistically, no one expected anything great; I mean, sure, there would be some changes that would appease people (especially voting-type people), but these were usually limited in both their scope and the number of people they reached. In 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated, but he would be replaced by yet another Republican. Therefore, as far as politics and the new president: well, like Peter Townshend wrote: meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Right? Not
  7. 7. hardly. THE ORIGINAL AMERICAN ORIGINAL The greatest compliment you can give an American is that he or she was “an American original.” This concept has its intellectual roots within Turner’s “Frontier Thesis” and suggests the individuality that lies within all Americans. Many historical figures can rightly claim this distinction, but none could ever lay a more honest and deserving claim that Theodore Roosevelt (wellllll, maybe Andrew Jackson, but that’s another course. Guess you’ll have to wait until college). Teddy Soon you will become familiar with TR’s views and actions concerning the United States as a world power, and his ambition and desire to see that dream become a reality should tell you all you need to know about the man. Without revealing too much, m let’s just say that much to TR’s delight, America emerged from the Spanish American War a world power. As such, TR reasoned that with this designation came new responsibilities both foreign and domestic. To ensure that America accepted its new role and accepted its new obligations, TR stretched both the Constitution and his executive power to the limit. You see, TR was not bound by the vision of America as held by the Founding Fathers. Oh no, not this guy. TR was bound by the vision of America as held by TR. Although Theodore Roosevelt was raised in wealth and splendor in New York, he was a thin, weak, sickly child who suffered from crippling asthma. As such, he was determined to build himself into a physical presence through physical training and exercise. Through sheer, dogged determination he succeeded; by his early teens, he was not only competing as a wrestler but was also a Golden Gloves boxer in New York. This tells you a lot about TR and the way he approached, evaluated, and pursued his missions in life. This deire and lust for living inspired me to name my boat after his nature: Relentless TR graduated from Harvard in 1880 and began a career as lawyer. Two years later, he was elected to the New York legislature and had his first historical volume published, The Naval War of 1812. However, tragedy struck in 1884, when his forty- eight-year-old mother died, and eleven hours later, his twenty-two-year-old wife died in his arms only days after giving birth to his first child. Unable to handle the burden of grief, TR resigned his legislature seat, sold his New York mansion and moved to the Dakota Territory to pursue the life of a cowboy: a move that would instill within him a lifelong adoration for the outdoors and outdoor life. TR relished his life rounding up cattle, fighting Indians, capturing outlaws, and living on the open range. After a few years of what amounted to as therapy, TR returned to New York, pulled east by what he saw as “a civic duty to serve.” Back in New York, TR served as police commissioner and, due to his reputation as a diligent and devoted worker, was eventually asked by President William McKinley to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. TR served in this capacity until he voluntarily resigned to participate in the Spanish American War (his “splendid little war”) with his collection of misfits from his cowboy days known as the Rough Riders. TR’s visibility and charisma was a newspaper’s dream come true, and he enjoyed great popularity and favorable press during and immediately after the war. Known as a man of unquestioned integrity, his rise as a popular political figure worried many
  8. 8. Republican leaders, most of all Republican Senator Mark Hanna. Hanna was the “king maker” for the Republican Party, the man who directed favorable politics and politicians for the Robber Barons. Knowing that the unpredictable TR would never follow the standard Republican-Robber Baron party policy of giving in to Big Business, Hanna sought to bury TR’s political career in that bastion of mediocrity, the political black hole known as the vice presidency. Typically, the man who was vice president was doomed as far as a future in politics was concerned. Consequently, Hanna designated TR as McKinley’s 1900 running mate, and the pair easily won the election over William “The Man Who Wouldn’t Die” Jennings Bryan. Now, everyone’s happy: the Republicans have their guy McKinley back in the White House, and the major threat to their laissez- faire government is stuck in the vice presidency, which does two things: First, the American people assume that TR will eventually rise to the position of president, so they’re happy. Secondly, Hanna knows that after four years of being Veep, TR and his accursed popularity will likely fades away. Right? The Untimely Demise of Big Bill McKinley In 1901, President McKinley, Gilded Age Republican extraordinaire, attended the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo (actually nothing more than a political photo op at a dog and pony show), when a young, self- proclaimed Hungarian anarchist made his way through the crowd and decided to find out whether 250 pounds of man could stop a .38 caliber bullet. It did. McKinley was hit with three shots and died a week later. Waiting in the wings to take the reigns of government was our man in DC, and perhaps the greatest American president, Theodore Roosevelt. TR governed the country exactly like he lived his life: wide open and to the limit. There was never any doubt as to where TR stood on any issue, and how he intended to deal with it. Love him or hate him, he was a phenomenal man who, although a tad theatrical at times, was absolutely genuine in his convictions. After McKinley’s assassination, TR was now at the reigns. While Hanna, the Republican hierarchy, and Robber Barons everywhere shuddered at the thought of that “damned cowboy” as president, TR rolled up his sleeves and got to work. Hang on, boys, because the fur is fixin’ to fly. ROOSEVELT’S PROGRESSIVISIM It would take tremendous levels of energy and determination to wrest control of America from the political and business Barons, both qualities that were in short supply for Gilded Age politicians. Indeed, there was only one TR; perhaps he was the depository of all of the energy that was lacking elsewhere. In any case, TR brought unprecedented energy and determination to the office of president, something that had been in short supply since the Civil War. TR was no dummy. Realizing that Populism and Progressivism could swerve dangerously close to Socialism, he avoided the extreme aspects of the movement. At the same time, he wanted no part of total laissez faire politics. He was adept at cultivating congressional loyalty and then letting his congressional allies do the dirty work; he in turn stayed away from politically lethal issues such as the tariff controversy. When he began to explore trust and monopoly regulation, he always reassured the business community that he was not out to get them or their business . . . he just wanted them to play fair. To do that, TR’s government would regulate—not eliminate—trusts and
  9. 9. monopolies. Well, I suppose we should qualify that statement: TR wouldn’t go after anyone who played the game by his rules. However, if you got brave and wanted to take him on . . . . TR and the Trusts TR addressed the trust situation thusly: “Combinations and concentrations (in other words, trusts and monopolies) should not be prohibited, but rather supervised and, within reasonable limits, controlled.” In 1902, he set forth his policy, known as the “Square Deal,” a program that called for enforcing existing antitrust laws and stricter control of business. Now that TR had picked a weapon, he looked around and found that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was excellent ammunition. Now, all he needed were targets, and he found three of them, starting with the railroads. 5. TR v Northern Securities Company In an 1895 decision, the Supreme Court had declared that manufacturing was an intrastate activity (in other words, within state boundaries) and therefore out of control of the federal government. In other words, a regional (ie intrastate) rail carrier could carry manufactured goods within a state beyond the reach of Federal laws and regulation. OK, within this framework you can see that if a large national railroad company bought up smaller regional companies, well, gosh, they just might conspire to move goods across state lines with their smaller carriers. Its like this: the Louisiana RR carries stuff the Texas/Louisiana border, where it crosses over into Texas and is loaded onto the Texas RR. This isn’t illegal, but the fact that both the LA and TX RRs are owned by the Scalia Crooked Securities Company makes it illegal; my single firm controls all of the transit within and between the states. See? Ingenious, huh? Well, this is what JP Morgan was doing with his Northern Securities Company: he owned both the regional Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads (this dual ownership is known as a combination). TR knew what was going on here, and let Morgan know that this has to stop, and that, if pushed on the matter, he’ll use the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to stop it. Morgan, who was unaccustomed to any politician questioning his motives, told TR to calm down, chill out, and “send your man to my man and they can fix it up.” Infuriated at this disrespectful attitude, TR took the issue to court, and, in 1904, the Supreme Court ruled in US v Northern Securities Company that Morgan’s railroad combination must be broken up. This was TR’s first big victory over the Barons, and it sent shock waves throughout all corners of America. Yep, you guessed it boys: There’s a new sheriff in town. 6. TR v the Beef Trust TR’s most notable anti-trust victory came in Swift and Company v US (1905). Meat packers were one of the worst offenders of the trusts. The meat packers had been able to avoid competitive bidding for livestock by belonging to the Swift Beef Trust. In other words, when bidding for livestock, as members of the trusts they would drive the prices sky high by bidding against themselves, and therefore squeezing out smaller beef producers who couldn’t compete. Well, TR attacked this on all fronts, and in Swift and Company v US, in which TR once again used the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Court issued the famous “stream of commerce” doctrine. The Court reasoned that livestock and meat products of the packers all moved in the overall “stream” of
  10. 10. American commerce, and since this stream traveled from state to state it was therefore subject to federal regulation. Eventually, this interpretation would serve as precedent to other antitrust cases, therefore spreading to other “manufacturing concerns.” Before long, all manufacturing would resided within close reach of Federal regulatory agencies. They could try to run, but from TR they could not hide. 7. Welcome to The Jungle In 1906, muckraker Upton Sinclair published the ultimate in muckraking literature, the infamous The Jungle, the book that spawned a thousand vegetarians. Sinclair went undercover to expose the horrible unsanitary conditions in the meat packing industry, and, yes, TR read the book. Infuriated, the President ordered an immediate investigation which resulted in the 1906 Meat Inspection Act. This act called for mandatory federal inspection for all meat bound for American consumers and gave inspectors from the Agricultural Department power to impose sanitary standards. On the same day, and at TR’s request, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, which not only imposed the same restrictions as the Meat Inspection Act, but also placed restrictions on the makers of prepared foods and medicines. TR and Labor By now you can see why the Barons were deathly afraid of TR. After all, TR WAS a Republican; why the heck wouldn’t he act like one? Steel baron Henry Frick (the same guy that prompted the Homestead Strike) commented that “we bought the son of a bitch, but he wouldn’t stay bought.” In 1902, the Barons found out what happened when TR got a righteous bug in his shorts . . . and also what happened when you made him mad. The 1902 Anthracite Coal Strike In 1902, the United Mine Workers union went on a nationwide strike to obtain a 20% wage increase, a 9-hour working day, and recognition of their union by the mine owners. The mine owners could care less about the miners, after all, as one owner commented, “hell, they don’t suffer. They can’t even speak English.” I guess Black Lung only comes in one language. Anyway, TR became alarmed at this strike primarily because of the prospect of a national coal shortage with predictions of a brutal winter looming ahead (it was). TR called all the parties to the White House to try and settle the dispute and was so appalled at the rude, indignant “extraordinary stupidity and temper” of the “wooden-headed” mine owners that he threatened to grab the owner’s representative “by the seat of his breeches and chuck him out of a White House window.” This didn’t work, so TR told the owners that, to protect the American people against a shortage of coal, he would seize the mines in the name of the country and use the army to run them. This abuse of presidential power alarmed Republican congressmen, who protested TR’s threat. This, of course, calmed TR down, right? You know better than that; TR responded by saying “To hell with the Constitution when the people need coal!” Was TR’s threat constitutionally illegal? Of course it was. So why did the owners take TR’s obvious intimidation seriously? Because “that damned cowboy in the White House” might actually do it, and worse yet, the public would support him. This, my friends, is politics at its best, and as a result, the owners caved. In October the opposing sides compromised (there’s that word again!) as the miners received a 10% raise and their 9-
  11. 11. hour day. Another extraordinary, and perhaps not wholly unintended, result, was the fact that a Republican President had actually supported labor in a dispute with management. This led to TR’s incredible popularity with the American people, especially normal, everyday, non-Robber Baron types. He consequently represented a formidable obstacle for the Democrats to beat when he runs for re-election in 1904, and indeed he was. He won handily over a Democratic Party so intimidated that they ran an unknown against him. Other battles fought and won TR carried his Progressive fight with him into his second term. All in all, he had a remarkable run. Before we leave the big guy, we need to look at the other reforms measures of both of his terms. 8. The Elkins Act 1903 This act outlawed the corporate practice of giving rebates. It also created the Bureau of Corporations, which had the authority to investigate companies suspected of illegal business practices; sort of a “you can run but you can’t hide” attitude. The Bureau’s findings most often led to antitrust suits, which TR had proven effective (Northern Securities, the Beef Trust). An interesting aside to this little antitrust gem is the fact the none other than John D Rockefeller got right sick and tired of TR. Therefore, he refused the Bureau of Corporation access to the records and files of his mammoth Standard Oil Corporation (heck, Rockefeller was no fool; he knew that what the Feds would find would land him UNDER the jail). Well, YOU DON’T SAY NO TO TR, and as a result, TR went after Standard Oil with a vengeance. TR wasn’t around in 1911 when the government won the antitrust suit and dissolved Standard Oil (he had refused a third term so he could go on an African safari) . . . but you can bet that impalas and rhinos weren’t the only thing TR saw in his sights. TR’s Regulatory Legacy By the end of his second term, TR had achieved a great measure of governmental interaction with business. In effect he had asked the question “What the heck is laissez faire, and why do we have a French word controlling our economy?” In short, TR’s policies moved the federal government away from the protected anchorage of laissez faire non-intervention and placed it full front into the teeth of the storm. TR’s Pet By far, TR’s greatest satisfaction came not from seeing the fat cats wallow in their own corporate filth. Because he was an avid outdoorsman and felt that the president was the custodian of the nation’s natural resources, he became this nation’s greatest advocate of the environment and conservation. TR was extremely concerned about the effect of laissez faire attitudes about the environment as well as business, and was determined to stop the wholesale ravaging of Americas forests and public land. He appointed Gifford Pinchot as his Chief Forester, a choice made due to Pinchot’s new theories of the scientific management of land resources. All in all, TR added fifty new federal wildlife refuges, five new national parks, and initiated the system of designating national monuments, the first being the Grand Canyon. TR and Pinchot also dusted off the 1891 Forest Reserve Act in order to exclude from harvesting or settlement 172 million acres of timberland. No other American president has done so much for the natural preservation of America. After TR leaves office in 1908, Pinchot will remain at the helm of the Forestry service; however, TR’s successor will not harbor
  12. 12. the same passion for the outdoors. Result? When TR finds out, the fur will fly. Stay tuned. William Howard Taft: Smaller than TR, yet so much larger! Taft typically tipped the scales at 375 to 400 pounds, and yes, this is the guy that got stuck in the White House bathtub. Whereas TR was a rambunctious, energetic ball of fire, Taft was laid back (well, I guess he didn’t have much choice); he took on the persona of a goofy, bumbling uncle (John Candy comes to mind). How did this guy get elected? Well, he was TR’s hand-picked successor; TR and Taft were friends, and TR felt that he could trust Taft to continue his policies. The only problem: Whereas TR had abandoned his Old School Republican ways in favor of Progressivism Taft was a die hard, true believer to the end; indeed, Taft was a devotee of Social Darwinism and worshipped the doctrine of laissez faire. He was also a walking contradiction; he eventually became more Progressive in antitrust matters than TR. Go figure. Taft came to office by virtue of his defeat of William “The Man Who Wouldn’t Die” Jennings Bryan (he’s back!!) and Socialist Eugene V. Debs in the Election of 1908. “Big Bill” Taft had no intention of following TR’s habit of avoiding controversial political matters such as the tariff issue; indeed, one of his first actions as president was to call a special session of Congress to offer his version of a new protective tariff, a move that had Progressives screaming mad. It appeared as if laissez faire had risen from the dead. Taft and the Payne Aldrich Tariff Taft’s tariff was a total disaster that was obviously built for Big Business interest, and to make matters worse he opened his big mouth and announced that this tariff, which was known as the Payne-Aldrich Tariff, was the “best tariff ever passed by the Republican Party.” This is somewhat like saying that although you despise Scalia as your US History teacher (a comment I hear all too frequently) and will readily support any attempt to get rid of him, he’s the best Atascocita has to offer (REMEMBER: this is an example and neither an attempt to pad some nonexistent ego that you may think I have lurking somewhere nor an exercise in truth . . . actually I pretty much stink compared to my compadres) and is therefore acceptable after all. The ultimate effect of Taft’s tariff blunder was that he lost the confidence of the American people. The tariff destroyed his reputation, an unfortunate result that forced Taft further into the arms of the Old Guard Republicans that TR fought off so effectively. This was bad enough, but this still wasn’t what touched off a firestorm of controversy from deep, darkest Africa. The Ballinger and Pinchot Affair While Pinchot remained as Chief Forester, Taft did name his own Secretary of the Interior Richard Ballinger. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, Ballinger was an idiot when it came to the politics of conservation. In 1910, Ballinger turned over some coal-rich government reserve land to a group of investors, who consequently sold the rights to a mining company who, of course, set about depleting the land of its resources. Today we would call this a conflict of interest. Anyway, Pinchot came unglued and revealed this scam to the American people. Taft, in another example of political stupidity publicly ordered Ballinger to fire Pinchot for insubordination. The public perceived Taft and Ballinger as representative of those who would rape the delicate national lands so tenderly nurtured by TR; one newspaper ran an editorial that claimed that Taft, indeed, was carrying out TR’s policies--on a stretcher.
  13. 13. The firestorm of public protest was deafening, but NOTHING could mask the uproar than erupted from the deepest recesses of the darkest corners of the Dark Continent. Yep, even on safari and supposedly segregated from the world, TR found out about the Ballinger-Pinchot Affair. Safari over. The Ballinger-Pinchot episode, coupled with the tariff snafu, deeply wounded Taft. Taft was increasingly seen as an Old Guard, Robber Baron-favoring, conservative at a time when Progressivism was at its highest peak. Timing is everything, Bill. In 1910, the American people revealed just how deep Taft was hit when they practically threw the Republicans out of Congress; the Democrats gained control of the House and gained enough senators that they could upset the balance of congressional power by controlling the Senate. In addition to these problems, Taft was facing re-election, and his worst nightmare came true when, in 1911, TR disembarked from a passenger vessel in New York Harbor. He was back, he was mad, and he was ready for battle. Batten down the hatches boys. The Election of 1912 Funny how hope springs eternal, even the most overwhelmingly obvious situations. The Republicans knew that there was a great chance that they would lose the White House in 1912, yet they still picked Taft as their candidate over the hugely-popular TR. This political suicide was easy to understand; Republican power brokers knew that if you could say nothing else in Taft’s favor you could control him. TR as nominee? Oh, no, been there, done that; we’ll take our chances with the Big Guy . . .uh, someone want to get a pry bar? He’s stuck again. And don’t look, cause it ain’t a pretty sight. The Democrats were, of course, delighted at this struggle within the Republican Party. You know why—anytime one party has internal division, the opposing party stands a good chance to win. Therefore, they nominated a newcomer to the political arena, much to the dismay and anger of William “The Man Who Wouldn’t Die” Jennings Bryan. Bryan saw 1912 as an election he couldn’t lose, but his party instead chose Woodrow Wilson of Virginia, as its nominee. To appease Bryan, Wilson promised to make him Secretary of Sate if he won. TR? No way he isn’t getting involved in this. TR barged into the fledgling Progressive Party, stole away the party leadership from Robert “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, and proclaimed himself healthy and as “fit as a bull moose.” TR on the Stump This is where TR shined: when he was able to take his message to the American people. He was a masterful campaigner with an unbelievable flair for the dramatic. This was exposed in 1911 in Milwaukee when, as he was stepping into a car on the way to a campaign speech, he was shot by a crazed fanatic. The bullet went through his overcoat, metal glasses case, and the folded speech in his pocket before crushing a rib and lodging below his right lung. All in all, it was a bloody and painful mess. TR rose from the initial shock, implored police and the crowd to not harm his assailant, and demanded that he be driven to the venue for his speech. There, he took maximum advantage of the situation by showing the crowd his bloody shirt and wound, while proclaiming that “it takes more than this to kill a Bull Moose.” He proceeded with his speech, periodically apologizing for the halting nature of his delivery, in which he labeled Taft a “fathead” who had “less brains than a guinea pig.” Needless to say, Taft was out of his league and quickly faded on the campaign trail. As a result, TR and Wilson went head to head in the campaign of 1912.
  14. 14. Goodbye to Taft: An Ode to Obesity I know, that’s pretty cruel. However, Taft was one of the great over- eaters in history; his gluttony was legendary. In other words, no genetic issues here. Big Bill simply ate too doggone much . . . and thought too doggone little. However, Taft was not a complete failure, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the successful aspects of his administration. Upon taking office in 1908, Taft did suffer from two immediate problems. First, he was victim to several political storms (ie the tariff issue) that damaged him irreparably, and second, he had the extreme misfortune of following possibly the most beloved (well, by everyone except Robber Barons) and charismatic of American presidents, Theodore Roosevelt. However, he did make an attempt at tariff reform; not even TR would approach that political minefield. In addition, and counter to the charge that he was out to sell America’s natural resources to the highest bidder, Taft did set aside more public land than did TR. In conclusion, Taft far more deserved the title “Trustbuster” than did TR; he brought eighty antitrust suits to court, compared to TR’s twenty-five. Taft supported both the 16th (the authorization of the income tax) and 17th (the popular election of senators) Amendments to the Constitution. After leaving the Oval Office, Taft was named to the Supreme Court, where he enjoyed a spectacular career as Chief Justice. Rumor has it that he also became an advocate of showers over baths, but one can only wonder about how true this might be. Wilson’s New Freedom v TR’s New Nationalism Wilson dubbed his program for America the “New Freedom.” The plan called for the federal government to restore competition by attacking and eliminating monopolies, rather than by simply regulating them. In addition, Wilson called for lower tariffs, breaking up the financial power of Wall Street, and the return of social programs to the states. TR called his program the “New Nationalism,” in which he called for a graduated income tax to lessen dependence on the tariff for federal revenue, a federal trade commission that would have sweeping and ultimate authority over business, and a tariff commission to set rates on what TR called a “scientific basis.” TR was obviously the people’s choice, but the division of support within the Republican Party was sufficient enough to cost him the election. In 1912, America gave Woodrow Wilson a mandate to not only reinstall Progressivism, but to introduce Progressivism on steroids. Wild Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was one of the most important presidents, and to understand him we need to know just who he was. Wilson was born in 1856 in Staunton, the son of a rigid Presbyterian minister and strict mother. Wilson attended Princeton and the UVA law school, then moved on to Johns Hopkins to study history and political science. Wilson’s PhD dissertation tells us much about this guy; in Congressional Government (1885) he argued that the President should be like the British Prime Minister in that he should be the leader of a party government and of a strong presidency with ultimate authority. He never abandoned that philosophy, and it both helped and hurt him later on. Wilson’s rigid personality could be maddenly uncompromising; when once accused of refusing to acknowledge both sides of an argument, he snapped “of course there are two sides: the right side and the wrong side.” Did I mention that he was also a schoolteacher? (Really, he was.) Wilson was named the president of Princeton University and later gained fame as the reform governor of the grand home of the Robber Barons, New Jersey. Because of his record of successful reform in New Jersey, he was
  15. 15. named the Democratic nominee in 1912. One more thing uncomfortable thing about Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was an uncompromising, reconstructed Southerner. Once, when pressed about this distinction, he stated that “it is because I love the South that I rejoice in the failure of the Confederacy.” His devotion to the South would result in the return to governmental power for southerners, who had been absent since the Civil War. However, Wilson’s old school southern demeanor made him an unabashed racist who once commented that while he did not support the methods of the Ku Klux Klan, he did agree with their motives to restore white supremacy to the South. He regarded black voting as “the foundation of every evil in this country,” and argued that Americans of Anglo-Saxon origin would never submit to “an ignorant and inferior race.” Wilson viewed DW Griffin’s masterpiece movie Birth of a Nation, which depicted the Klan as the saviors of America and blacks as heathenous monsters bent on the wholesale harassment and violation of white women everywhere as the “greatest” show he had ever witnessed. Under his watch, discrimination in the federal government became rampant, and when asked by black leaders to address the problem, Wilson replied that such actions were necessary to eliminate “the possibility of friction” in the federal workplace. What you must remember is that in the early twentieth century, this sort of attitude was the rule, not the exception. Still, it does tend to taint the luster of Wilson’s Progressivism and makes one wonder if he defined the term in a vastly different way than, say, Booker T Washington. Finis When next we meet, we’ll look at Wilson’s Progressive measures; they were indeed quite substantial. In fact, Woodrow Wilson was the Progressive Daddy of the Age, moreso than TR, and would have continued his Progressive ways if not for some idiots in Europe deciding that the time was ripe to attempt the mass destruction of their continent. While the world erupts in its war to end colonialism, monarchies, and human existence, Wilson will begin to pay a little too much attention to the carnage. After a while, he simply couldn’t resist to try and “make the world safe for democracy.”