The Progressive Era
Progressivism can be defined as the political orientation of those who favor progress toward better conditions in government and society. The period of progressivism took place from about the 1890s until the 1920s. Moving toward better conditions is a huge part of what took place during this time in America.
Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as President in 1901 upon the assassination of the former president, William McKinley. At the age of 42, he was the youngest person ever to become president. He was an upper class citizen, well-educated, and an outdoorsman, as well as highly dedicated to public service. He served in the United States military during the Spanish-American War and then became Governor of New York. After becoming president he promised to continue McKinley’s policies. However, when he was reelected in 1904 he began to bring in new ways of running the country. One thing Theodore, or Teddy, Roosevelt was most well-known for was his firm belief that trusts should be broken up and not allowed to monopolize businesses. He was appropriately nicknamed the “trustbuster”. His biggest, most successful act was the Hepburn Act, passed in 1906, which gave the Interstate Commerce Commission the power to regulate what rates were reasonable and which ones were not.
Roosevelt’s domestic policy was hugely based on creating what was called a “Square Deal”. Its main goal was to help middle class Americans. The Square Deal prohibited railroads from giving rebates to favored companies. It also promoted fair and free enterprise. He hoped to create peaceful coexistence between businesses and workers’ unions.
Roosevelt served as president for two terms before deciding not to run in the 1908 election. A close friend, William Howard Taft, ran for the Republican Party and won. Many Progressives were glad to see Roosevelt out of the White House. They felt he had done enough and were pleased when Taft war brought into office. Taft, unlike Roosevelt, did not believe in the “stretching of Presidential powers”. Taft failed to carry out Roosevelt’s conservation policies and in turn angered many Progressives. At the end of his term, the Republicans renominated him, but Roosevelt ran against him just to ensure that the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, would be elected.
Woodrow Wilson was the twenty-eighth president of the United States. Prior to service in the White House, Wilson served as President of Princeton University, as well as Governor of New Jersey in 1910. He was elected President in 1912. He was a quiet, stoic, and very intellectual kind of guy. He was often nicknamed a “reluctant warrior”. He and Roosevelt were huge rivals. The two were very different in both personality and ideas on how to run the country. They were both Progressives, but while Teddy was loud, forceful, and brazen, Wilson was not so much. Wilson believed that the solution to almost all problems could be found in The Bible. He was a good, clear speaker, and people really paid attention when he spoke. During his first term he focused on things such as the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Trade Commission, The Underwood Tariff, and the Federal Reserve System.
The Federal Reserve, which we still use today, was set up for many different reasons. One was to create stability for banks. Another was to avoid bank panics. A bank panic is when a large number of people think their bank is about to fail, so they all rush to it and withdraw all their money, wreaking havoc on the bank and forcing them to face possible bankruptcy.
When Wilson began his second term, major problems were sprouting up over in the European countries. Two alliances were formed. One, called the Central Powers, consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and later Bulgaria. The other alliance, called the Entente Powers, was made up of France, the United Kingdom, and Russia. The main cause of the problems was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This action set off a chain reaction of war declarations and fighting. A war to end all wars erupted; it was called World War I. Most of the fighting took place on European land. In the West, a type of warfare called trench warfare was taking place. In the East, they were also using trench warfare, but they had come to a stalemate. Wilson decided to keep the United Stated neutral for as long as possible, but our entering the war eventually became inevitable. Germany began a thing called unrestricted submarine warfare and in turn sank a British ship called the Lusitania. Americans were outraged and a pact to end sub warfare, called the Sussex Pledge, was made. The United Stated became less and less neutral and began siding with the Allied Powers. A note called The Zimmerman Note was intercepted by the British government asking Mexico to attack the United States if war broke out between them.
War took place for about four years, but was finally ended by several treaties. The Treaty of Versailles created an armistice with Germany and was hurriedly signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. The terms of the treaty included Germany handing over weapons and warships and giving the Allies control of the German fleet. Also, German troops were to withdraw from Belgium, France, and Alsace-Lorraine. They had to end the treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest and return all prisoners of war. There were several other conditions that went along with the armistice as well but these were the main points.
Following the Treaty of Versailles, an organization called the League of Nations was formed. It had many goals, but among the most important were to prevent war in the future, disarmament, and improving global welfare. For now, fighting had come to an end.
I think this war was such a major event in our history because it WAS the first ever world war. Prior to it, there had never been a war involving so much of the world, and it really created a lot of destruction. Over 40 million lives were lost due to this senseless battle that was basically started over power and money-hungry leaders. Imperialism created rivalry in Europe which led to a whole chain of events causing this massive world war. All in all, I feel like the entire war could have been avoided if the leaders of the battle-causing countries would have set their greed aside and minded their own business without bothering other countries.