Presidents Theodore Roosevelt And Woodrow Wilson History Essay
American author Linda Chavez once said “From George Washington to George W. Bush, presidents have invoked Gods name in the performance of their official duties.” Presidents Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were no exception to this as they were actively involved in evoking policies they felt would better the United States. President Roosevelt was a strong, pro-active man who was not afraid to get his hands dirty by fighting wars and who had this uncanny ability to “get what he wanted”. Wilson was a very moral and well-educated man whose policies gave the federal government a more active role in the economy and ensuring the well-fare of the people. Both are considered to have been great Presidents1, who truly did fulfill they’re “official duties”.
From the “Rough Rider” to “Teddy, Theodore Roosevelt had many nicknames and was known throughout the country more by them than his actual name.2 He was the son of Theodore Roosevelt Sr., American philanthropist and politician, and because Teddy viewed his father as a role model he mimicked his father in occupation. Roosevelt was tough and known to be so wherever he went. He was a war hero in the war against Spain, a war which he even helped start. Some saw him as a barbarian who was willing to do anything to get what he wanted. Others viewed him as someone trustworthy who got the job done. Luckily for Teddy, these “others” made up the larger majority and allowed him to become the Vice President of the United States during President William McKinley’s second term. McKinley was shot just sixth months after his inauguration allowing the so-called “barbarian” to be President. And a fantastic one he was…
Like almost, if not every, president, Roosevelt’s personality was shown in his domestic policies. His strong belief in his own abilities to accomplish a task led him to really take federal power to new heights. This was not done in the most obvious and expected ways, though. The main issue that the federal government was expected to tackle at the time was that of the monopolies that were rising in industries and sometimes abusing their power, mainly involving the railroads. Roosevelt believed that these big businesses were natural parts of the economy and so therefore the government should not interfere so much with them. At the same time, their abuses could not be ignored and so the government would have to take some action against them. Sure the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which was supposed to put an end to monopolies, had been passed before Roosevelt’s administration began but it was weak and rather unenforced.
One example of Roosevelt being involved in this issue was the Elkins Act of 1903. This piece of legislation was supposed to stop railroad companies from granting anymore shipping rebates to certain companies. The rebates allowed big companies to ship goods for much lower rates than smaller companies could obtain. This was obviously unfair and was used by railroad companies to gain bribes from any company that wanted one. The Elkins Act was a failure, unfortunately, because companies were able to slip by it and so Roosevelt tried again to put down the abuses of the railroad companies. This next try took its form in the Hepburn Act. This Act would allow the ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission) to regulate regulate shipping rates on railroads. A big controversy during the time that the Act was still a bill was in how much power the courts would have in regulating individual cases. People in the Senate who supported the big railroad companies argued for courts to play such a huge role that it really did not matter what the ICC could say. When this issue came up Roosevelt quickly used that previously mentioned ability to “get what he wanted” and through many forms of media he pleaded with the people for their support of his bill, with no extensions to court power. The President’s activeness paid off as the bill became law and without being altered form what it originally was.
As shown by these policies regarding railroads, Roosevelt tried for his policies to benefit everybody. The Hepburn Act took some power away from railroad companies but not so much that they weren’t still making a good amount of money. Another example of Roosevelt’s style of policy making was the “square deal”. This occurred when the country had a coal shortage in 1902 thanks to a strike by mine workers in Pennsylvania. Trying to end the shortage, Roosevelt called both the workers and the mine owners to the White House to discuss how they would solve the problem. The expected result was that he would send the army to go and forcibly end the strike. Having a much better plan, though, Roosevelt instead threatened to send the army to occupy the mine and have them run it as a federal property.
Why was this better? Well, had Roosevelt used force to stop the strike the mine owners would have benefitted and the workers would have been the ones to receive all he losses. Instead of that one sided approach, Teddy came up with his own approach that, again, “benefitted everyone”. Threatening to have the army take over the mine would have resulted in the workers without their jobs and the owners without their source of income. After Roosevelt’s threat, the two opposing groups could now unify and agree to work together because they faced a new common enemy: the army. It was a brilliant move by the President and shows that not only was he pro-active and fair, but also that he was wise and good at his job.
Woodrow Wilson is considered even today to have been one of the most important presidents. Having obtained degrees from Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and then John Hopkins University – Wilson was a highly educated man. He was only a child during the bloody Civil War and so therefore knew how terrible war itself was. He was a peace maker – a perfect president to be in office during World War I. He was not originally going to be involved in politics. He was a professor and later became president of Princeton. His pro-activeness in his occupations was vividly demonstrated during the time he worked for Princeton – a lot of major changes in the university occurred because of him. Wilson got started in politics because the Democratic Party in New Jersey approached him and asked if he wanted to run for governor. He said yes and it was at that point that his rapid rise in the world of politics began. He rose through he ranks quickly and soon enough he was a senator competing against Charles Hughes for the presidency. After a very narrow victory in the voting, Wilson finally became president in 1916.
Wilson was basically the model for the modern day activist president. Sure Roosevelt was very active in the affairs of the nation but Wilson took it to a whole new level. It was because of him that the presidency went from being a position of power equal to that of Congress to one superior to Congress..Much of Wilson’s attention had to be directed to World War I yet the president still found the time to make sure things were alright at home. One such example of this was in tariff reform. Wilson’s Underwood-Simmons Act lowered tariffs so as to please the lower classes. He would then make up for lost federal revenue by imposing a nationwide tax that was smaller but applied to more people so it garnered the same amount of money that the federal government lost in the end.
Another example of Wilson handling domestic problems is with currency and bank reforms. After the Panic of 1907, many people wanted a currency and bank system that could provide loans even in times of crisis. This was something that could not be done with the banking system that was already in place, one run by a few huge banks like J.P Morgan. This is where Wilson’s Federal Reserve Act came into play.
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