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Progressive Roots
- In the beginning of the 1900s, America had 76 million people, mostly in good condition. Then before the first decade of the 20th century, the U.S. would be influenced by a “Progressive movement’ that fought against monopolies, corruption, inefficiency, and social injustice. 1. The purpose of the Progressives was to use the government as an agency of human welfare.
- The Progressives had their roots in the Greenback Labor Party of the 1870s and 1880s and the
Populist Party of the 1890s.
- In 1894, Henry Demarest Lloyd exposed the corruption of the monopoly of the Standard Oil
Company with his book Wealth Against Commonwealth, while Thorstein Veblen criticized the new rich (those who made money from the trusts) in The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899).
- Other exposers of the corruption of trusts, or “muckrakers,” as Theodore Roosevelt called them, were Jacob A. Riis, writer of How the Other Half Lives, a book about the New York slums and its inhabitants, and novelist Theodore Dreiser, who wrote The Financier and The Titan to attack profiteers. - Socialists and feminists gained strength, and with people like Jane Addams and Lillian Wald, women entered the Progressive fight.
II. Raking Muck with the Muckrakers
- Beginning about 1902, a group of aggressive ten and fifteen-cent popular magazines, such as
Cosmopolitan, Collier’s, and Everybody’s, began flinging the dirt about the trusts.
- Despite criticism, reformer-writers ranged far and wide to lay bare the muck on the back of
American society.
- In 1902, Lincoln Steffens launched a series of articles in McClure’s entitled “The Shame of the Cities,” in which he unmasked the corrupt alliance between big business and the government. 2. Ida M. Tarbell launched a devastating exposé against Standard Oil and its ruthlessness. iii. These writers exposed the mean trust, the “money trust,” the railroad barons, and the corrupt amassing of American fortunes, this last part done by Thomas W. Lawson. iv. David G. Phillips charged that 75 of the 90 U.S. Senators did not represent the people, but actually the railroads and trusts.
v. Ray Stannard Baker’s Following the Color Line was about the illiteracy of Blacks. vi. John Spargo’s The Bitter Cry of the Children exposed child labor. vii. Dr. Harvey W. Wiley exposed the frauds that sold potent patent medicines by experimenting on himself. viii. The muckrakers sincerely believed that cures for the ills of American democracy, was more democracy. III. Political Progressivism
i. Progressives were mostly middle-class citizens who felt squeezed by both the big trusts above and the restless immigrant hordes working for cheap labor that came from below. ii. The Progressives favored the “initiative” so that voters could directly propose legislation, the
“referendum” so that the people could vote on laws that affected them, and the “recall” to remove bad officials from office. iii. Progressives also desired to expose graft, use a secret ballot (Australian ballot) to counteract the effects of party bosses, and have direct election of U.S. senators to curb corruption.
1. Finally, in 1913, the 17th Amendment provided for direct election of senators. iv. Females also campaigned for woman’s suffrage, but that did not come…yet.
IV. Progressivism in the Cities and States
i. Progressive cities like Galveston, TX either used, for the first time, expert-staffed commissions to manage urban affairs or the city-manager system, which was designed to take politics out of municipal administration. ii. Urban reformers tackled “slumlords,” juvenile delinquency, and wide-open prostitution. iii. In Wisconsin, Governor Robert M. La Follette wrestled control from the trusts and returned power to the people, becoming a Progressive leader in the process.
1. Other states also took to regulate railroads and trusts, such as Oregon and California, which was led by Governor Hiram W. Johnson.
2. Charles