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Connor Kocek

Mr. Newcomb
4/6/11
US History AP
Which President Was More Progressive?
Although Taft’s trust-busting and Wilson’s plans of solutions showed progressive
reform during the Progressive Era, Theodore Roosevelt ultimately was the most
Progressive President in this Era due to his accomplishments in domestic relations,
regulating business, and foreign relations.
Roosevelt’s Progressive ways of dealing with the domestic front included various
reforms based around the citizen. As a “man of action,” Roosevelt felt compelled not
only to lead the country behind his desk, but to visit the nation’s corners and give highly
energetic speeches. TR’s spontaneous attitude towards the press and public carried over
to his politics. In 1906 Roosevelt passed the Meat Inspection Act, partly from having
experienced diseased food on the frontlines first hand. Yet he did not stop there in
protecting the consumer. Later in the same year, the Pure Food and Drug Act guaranteed
pure food and safe labeling of drugs. However, Roosevelt’s determination to safeguard
the public’s interest did not stop there. For future use, Roosevelt set aside 120 million
acres of land containing vast amounts of oil in the Newland’s Act of 1902. Later in his
career, his Progressive political party, with New Nationalism in mind, sought to reduce
tariffs, enforce child labor laws, implement social reforms, and answer the plea for direct
election of senators.
While he may be controversial in his methods, Roosevelt succeeded in becoming
the most Progressive President when dealing with big-business through the use of
regulation and enforcement. His approach to the Coal Miners Strike of 1902 called for
both sides to meet and come to an agreement. This progressive approached was
threatened when the miners threatened to work and the factories not show. However,
Roosevelt displayed his strength in the issue and shut down the opposition: resulting in
the “square deal.” The outcome also planted the seeds for the Department of Commerce
and Labor, a much needed asset. Additionally, Roosevelt felt it was his duty to take down
fraudulent trust and he became the “trust-buster” of his day. This approach to big
business was revolutionary and extremely progressive for the time period. After passing
the Elkins and Hepburn Acts in 1903, Roosevelt had finally put a leash on the somewhat
rampant leaders of big business.
Theodore Roosevelt’s approach to foreign relations was the progressive policy of
the big stick. In this, United States declared itself the major militaristic power in the
Americas. However, military was not the only thing Roosevelt achieved. He took a
progressive gamble when he assumed the task of building the Panama Canal: a vital
waterway for merchants and warships alike. His “Roosevelt Corollary” infuriated the
European World but retained its Progressive statue as being bold and changing.
Taft and Wilson alike showed signs of major attempts at Progressivism, however
Roosevelt exceeded their efforts. Taft was deemed the “trust-busting President” breaking
up 88 trusts in all and adding to the progressive fever. Yet besides destroying trusts, Taft
failed to stand up to his Progressive role. Wilson faired better than Taft: succeeding in
implementing his progressive plans of action. His first action was the Triple Wall of
Privilege in which he tackled some of the nation’s internal problems. Yet he showed his
limits on progressivism internally by accelerating the segregation of blacks in federal
bureaucracy. Next he encountered problems with Mexico and Europe—both clamored for
war. However, this is Wilson’s downfall in Progressivism. Besides setting up 14 points to
be set in place after the war, Wilson retained a conservative attitude throughout the entire
war; being thrust in only at the last moment. Even after the war, Wilson failed to have his
14 points passed, ultimately failing in his Progressive goal.
Although Wilson’s Progressive approach and Taft’s actions towards trusts
illustrated progressive reform during the Progressive Era, Theodore Roosevelt ultimately
was the most Progressive President in this Era due to his accomplishments in domestic
relations, regulating business, and foreign relations.