Theodore Rooosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson
Theodore Roosevelt was born on Oct. 27, 1858 in Manhattan, New York. He was the second of four children and experienced debilitating asthma at a young age. Roosevelt took heavily after his father and always remembered a quote his father told him, "Take care of your morals first, your health next, and finally your studies". Roosevelt pursued his studies through homeschooling and eventually attended Harvard University. He was deeply interested in science and history, but despised mathematics. While at Harvard, Roosevelt was a part of the rowing and boxing teams, once a runner up in national boxing tournament.
Roosevelt was elected the 26th President of the United States and served from 1901 to 1909. He sided with the Republican party and initiated the Progressive Era. Roosevelt was commonly known as a “cowboy” and for his masculine qualities.
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Theodore Roosevelt was a strong, progressive leader who followed his personal values along with doing what was best for the country. Roosevelt represented the majority of citizens by regulating monopolies and being a “trust buster”. During the first few weeks in office, Roosevelt produced a 20,000 word address for Congress asking to limit the power of trusts. The Square Deal was Theodore Roosevelt’s domestic program that attempted to change the corrupt business world of monopolies and trusts by focusing on the conservation of natural resources, control of large corporations, and consumer protection. However, Roosevelt supported big business if it was what was best for the good of society. As expected, Roosevelt was very popular with the public. Roosevelt only faulted when he purchased the area for the Panama Canal in a scandalous manner.
Roosevelt was known as the Conservationist as he strove to change the environmental regulations in the United States. “We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources and we have just reason to be proud of our growth. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have been still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields, and obstructing navigation. These questions do not relate only to the next century or to the next generation. It is time for us now as a nation to exercise the same reasonable foresight in dealing with our great natural resources that would be shown by any prudent man in conserving and widely using the property which contains the assurance of well-being for himself and his children,” Roosevelt said.He was the first to take concern with the deteriorating landscape that had been destroyed by the building of railroads and industrialization across America. Just during his presidency, Roosevelt managed to conserve 230 million acres of land, 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 18 national monuments, 4 game reserves, 24 irrigation projects,and created 5 national parks. Rightfully so, Roosevelt was appointed the first Chief of the first US Forest Service and head of the Conference of Conservation of Natural Resources.
Roosevelt knew exactly how to use the press and media to his advantage, while still being respectful and honorable to the nation. He essentially created the Presidential Press Briefing which is now covered daily at the White House. Back then, the White House did not have their own set of reporters, so the press flocked to the outside lawn each day hoping to catch a story. On a rainy day, Roosevelt invited these reporters into the White House and gave them their own room, thus creating the press briefing and press conference. Each day Roosevelt gave the media picture or interviews to help gain the public's support. While being supportive of the media, Roosevelt did coin the term “muckraker” which gave a bad rep to journalism. While appearing polished to the public, Roosevelt continued his boyish hobbies such as wrestling in the White House.
Theodore Roosevelt is known as one of the progressive presidents who left his footprint in American history. Roosevelt established the means of foreign policy. Two of the most well known is the Monroe Doctrine along with the Roosevelt Corollary. The Monroe Doctrine was a document stating that if any European powers tried to colonize the Americas, it would be seen as an act of war. Building on that, the Roosevelt Corollary states that is European Powers intervene in the Latin Americas, the US would intervene and reduce conflict. During his presidency, Roosevelt also disputed the Coal Strike of 1902, which if continued long enough, would have caused an extreme energy shortage. Roosevelt enacted the Hepburn act which established federal control over the railroad rates, which in turn made the coal miners happy. Also, Roosevelt helped pass the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act which prevented companies from printing misleading labels and producing products with harmful chemicals.
"Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."
William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft was born on September 15, 1857 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He came from a middle class family who had a background in politics. His father was the attorney general and secretary of war under grant, and his great grandfather was a judge in Vermont. Taft was not the most brilliant child as he was suspected to have dyslexia, but he overcame this struggle since he was an incredibly hard worker. His hard work got him into Yale University where he found interest in dancing, horseback riding, golf, tennis, and wrestling which he placed as a heavyweight champion. Taft was a leader during the Progressive Era in which he was the 27th President of the United States and later the Chief Justice. Taft worked with Roosevelt and McKinley to earn his place in the political world.
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Taft was a strong leader of the free world and pushed for reform, but never would have made it into office with constant pushing from Roosevelt. Roosevelt pushed so heavily for Taft to be in office as Taft was his Secretary of War and Roosevelt wanted to fuel his ideas through Taft. The stress got to Taft throughout the presidency as he gained 350 pounds and developed depression. The public often criticized his work ethic and blamed Taft for not being as great as Roosevelt. He often left the weight of the work on his cabinet. Overall, Taft was not fit to be the president.
Taft was known as the “Trust Buster”. He passed the Sherman Antitrust Act which brought 70 cases of trust and monopolies through the Supreme Court in just four years. Some of these companies included: Standard Oil Company, American Tobacco, and United States Steel. US Steel had been corrupted during Roosevelt’s presidency as Roosevelt offered a bargain to the Steel Company to be the sole provider for the railroads. Taft uncovered this scandal and brought it justice. Taft also brought a new importance to foreign policy and made it his chief concern. He established the Dollar Diplomacy which, “was a form of American foreign policy to further its aims in Latin America and East Asia through use of its economic power by guaranteeing loans made to foreign countries.“
Taft wanted to take a much quieter route than Roosevelt and aimed to avoid the press. Taft allowed minimal pictures and only did interviews when his staff forced him. When once told that he was nothing like Roosevelt, Taft replied, "I try to accomplish just as much without any noise.” Similar to not wanting to talk to the press, Taft rarely used executive order, but instead passed legislation to put his ideas into effect. For example, Taft withdrew some of the conservation efforts Roosevelt had established. Taft sold 5,280 acres of protected land in Alaska since prospectors claimed there was coal in that area. However, Taft did add new protected forests to the conservation efforts. Also, Taft did not allow any African Americans in political offices which went against the Republican Party. In conclusion, Taft was not a natural politician and never should have made it to the oval office.
Taft continued the reforms seen by Roosevelt during his presidency. He doubled the amount of trusts busted and limited tariffs. However, Taft was not very educated on the effects of lowering tariffs, and did not look for support from the public before doing so. The Panama Canal was opened in 1914 which guided US policy in the Caribbean and Central America. During his presidency, Taft appointed a Supreme Court Justice, Horace H Lurton, who held many of the same views as Taft. Lurton is still the oldest justice to ever be appointed. Lastly, Taft vetoed a law requiring literacy tests for workers to join unions. This allowed immigrants and minority groups to work.
Woodrow Wilson was born on December 18, 1856 in Staunton, Virginia. He grew up hearing about political issues concerning slavery and the confederate army from his father and grandfather. Wilson began reading around age ten, he was also considered to have dyslexia similar to Taft. He attended Princeton University and took an interest in literacy, debate, political sciences, and philosophy. Wilson lectured about political sciences at Cornell University and wrote many papers about the US Constitution and a Parliamentary system. Before Wilson was elected 28th president of the United States, he was the 34th governor of New Jersey and focused on the Progressive Movement. Through his presidency, Wilson focused on reform by initiating many new amendments, and remained neutral during war.
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Woodrow Wilson was widely loved by the public and often titled one of the greatest presidents of all time. Wilson almost always looked to the American people for their opinion. He was a president you could truly say was in it for bettering the nation, rather than just being power hungry. Wilson maintained a strong family front by fighting against child labor laws and women's wages. Towards the end of his second term, Wilson attempted to pass child labor laws, but the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional until the 1930s. However, Wilson was able to pass a law saying the maximum time a railroad worker may work in one day is eight hours. He also strove for women’s suffrage, working closely with the National Americans Women’s Suffrage Association. He waited to pass the suffrage law until 1919 to assure that the American people and the Democratic party were ready for this step in the right direction.
Wilson’s whole campaign was built up on his New Freedom plan. He got the idea and name from a statement he said in an Indiana debate: "There will be no greater burden in our generation than to organize the forces of liberty… And to make conquest of a new freedom for America.” His plan included a bank reform which strove to create a new banking regulation system that would be called the Federal Reserve System. This system was intended to monitor the general financial status of the country and regulate banks. Also part of his reform was reducing tariffs. While some money was lost due to the lowered tariffs, all the revenue was made up with the new income taxes. Finally, the last hurrah for trusts was broken with Wilson passing the Clayton Antitrust Act. This set of laws made it illegal to have price discrimination, prohibit retailers, and handling other companies products.
While being a great leader of the United States, Wilson did not hold a professional front. Wilson was ill throughout his whole presidential career and even stayed out of public eye for two years so America would not know that the head of their country was failing. Wilson’s doctor said to stay low for a while and keep a light schedule. He eventually went blind in one eye and had a very weak immune system which caused him to have constant flues. Even being ill, Wilson embarked on speaking tour to promote nationalism. During the trip, he fell immensely ill due to mental and physical stress. Wilson ended up having a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. However, Wilson still won a Nobel Peace Prize for his valiant efforts.
During his first term, WWI broke loose in European nations. Wilson was determined to keep the United States neutral. Even when Germany sent a torpedo towards a US ship and killed 1,100 people, Wilson remained calm and said that if Germany committed another act against the US it would be seen as “deliberately unfriendly” as he put it. About two years later, Germany wrote the Zimmerman telegram which leaked to the US. The note was meant for Mexico where Germany was attempting to persuade an alliance between the two to go against the US. After this telegram, Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany saying, “The world must be made safe for democracy.” In 1918, a Paris Peace Conference was held where the Treaty of Versailles was signed which formed the League of Nations. Wilson was the first to propose an idea of an alliance of nations along with his 14 point plan.