Again submitted anonymously. Again my comments are in Hypothes.is:
From the Progressive Era to the end of World War II, there was continuous change in the role of government in America. There was a continuous disagreement among the American people about whether federal government should be kept small and have little say on day to day matters, or whether it should be bigger and have more power. The progressive change that took power away from big corporations, and put it in the hands of the federal government was something that worked in favor for the majority of Americans.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Capitalism emerged. The role of government in Capitalism was quite minimal or nonexistent. People were able to manage their property without any interference from government. This enabled big corporations in America to be formed, which in turn began creating some problems because of the interference of capitalism with democracy. The power of these big corporation owners seemed to be overpowering and this caused worry for most Americans. Soon after, this is when the progressive movement took action, and this is where we can see how the role of government began to change.
Those behind the progressive movement believed that the capitalism was giving too much power to the wrong people, and instead of the government having a relaxed role, believed America needed a stronger and more active government. These reformers who called themselves “progressives” began taking action by first making changes to the state governments. During this time period, the state governments took care of most things in the daily lives of Americans; while the federal government only dealt with national issues like war and peace. So, for the progressives to start at the state level of government was actually a big step. The reformers were able to make big changes at state level, such as writing laws to regulate railroads and other corporations. However, they reached some difficulty when handling businesses that crossed state lines because of the federal government’s control over interstate commerce, so they had to look outside of state government and look to federal government. They were able to pass the Sherman Antitrust Act, which seemed like it was a big step, but the act was largely ignored by those in favor of big corporations, so it really had little effect to stop the growing power of big corporations. Thankfully for them Theodore Roosevelt was elected and began to take away the power of these big corporation moguls. He believed that instead of the power of the American Financial System should not lie in the hands of a big business man, but instead in the hands of an elected official; or in other words himself. Instead of wanting to keep the government small like the former president, Roosevelt was in favor of a strengthening the government in order to keep the power away from the crooked capitalists. During his time in office, Roosevelt fully exercised his belief that federal government should have more power than capitalists. He started by initiating antitrust lawsuits against big corporations such as Northern Securities, and John Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. These were wins for Roosevelt, and he continued making movements by encouraging congress to pass the Elkins Act and Hepburn Act that regulated rates railroads could charge. Roosevelt didn’t stop there, he then created laws to oversee the way food and drugs were handled and labeled. Along with this he took efforts to protect the environment creating 150 new forest reserves, and launched the first twenty-four irrigation projects. He also inherited congressional authority to create national parks and national monuments. So as we can see by these changes made by Roosevelt, this worked in favor for the average American. Although he claimed he was favoring neither corporations nor workers, it was the first time that the government allowed such a great advancement for workers.
However, the progressive movement which was helping the average American, came to a halt in the 20s. In 1920, Republic Warren Harding was elected president of the United States. He was against progressivism ideals, and his time in office was dedicated to undoing the progressive works of Wilson and Roosevelt. After his death in 1923, Calvin Coolidge took office and had the same motives and ideas of Harding. He too was for in favor of big businesses and a small government. He thought best that it was better to go back to the ways of keeping government out of the way of businesses. Proceeding him in Presidency was Herbert Hoover, who again shared the same ideals of the two previous presidents, and continued with the capitalist ideals in America. With the economic boom of the twenties, things seemed to be going good in America and most Americans seemed to be quite happy with the way things were going. However, as some financial experts warned, this wasn’t something that could last forever. Eventually starting in the autumn 1929, the stock markets began to crash and banks investing in these stocks were out of money. This started a down spiral of the economy and this depression left millions of people with no jobs, money, homes, or food. President Hoover, who was the current president at the time of the depression, tried to explain to the people that nothing was wrong with American Institutions and that the free market place would soon recover. However this was not enough for the people, and the panic of the depression only got worse. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected soon after, was able to restore hope and faith in these people. In his inaugural speech on March 4, 1933 he stated “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Roosevelt’s goal was to move from small to big government, so the federal government could take back power. His “New Deal” was launched and marked as the largest advance of government power in American History. One federal program was created in efforts to help those who found themselves out of work. This program known as Social Security, is still prevalent in our country today and became one of the largest programs of the federal government. With the control back in the hands of the federal government instead of with corporations, this gave more opportunities for the average American and therefore was a good thing for them. One act that was passed that helped workers was the National Relations Labor Act, which helped to protect the rights of employees, banned unfair workplace practices, and prohibited employers from interfering with employees trying to create unions. This is something that really benefited most Americans, leading to reasonable compensation, fair work schedules, and safe working conditions that were once non-existent.
Therefore, as can be seen by the benefits gained by the average Americans, the government taking on more powers and control was a good thing for most Americans. Instead of power resting in the hands of corrupt businessman who created an uneven playing field for all the rest, now there were more equal rights for all Americans and not just the elite.
Pure Food and Drug Act.
•Theodore Roosevelt, Statements Pertaining to Conservation.
•Franklin Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address.
•National Industrial Recovery Act.
•National Labor Relations Act.