The Progressive Presidents

A Comparison

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was born on October 27, 1858, in New York City. His family was wealthy, however, he struggled with health-related issues. In 1884 his first wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt, and his mother died on the same day. The two years after that he spent on a ranch in the Badlands of Dakota Territory. There is where he mastered his sorrow by driving cattle, and hunting big game. Roosevelt even managed to capture an outlaw. On a trip to London, he met Edith Carow and married her in December 1886. The Spanish-American War came around, and soon Roosevelt found himself as lieutenant colonel of the Rough Rider Regiment. He became one of the most known heroes of the war. Roosevelt was accepted as the Republican candidate for governor in 1998, and he won the election. As president, he held the ideal that the Government should be a great influence on the conflicting economic forces in the Nation, guaranteeing justice to each and dispensing favors to none.

Report Card

Leadership -A:

Roosevelt was a very charismatic leader, and his personality often helped him act on what he thought was right. He believed that as the president, he had a special connection with the citizens of the United States unlike any other. What made his Presidency so unique was his contrasting beliefs with the previous leaders. He had a desire to make the society more fair, with economic possibilities for every American, not just a select few. Americans loved this outlook, as he didn't really care much about his political party, but he cared for the nation and its people. He had a strong relationship with the citizens of the United States, and he understood how to use media to shape public opinion. In fact, he was the first president whose election was based more on the individual than the party. Being the most popular president of his time, he used his enthusiasm to win votes, shape issues, and form opinions.

Organization -A:

Roosevelt was a very energetic and active president. He was almost always doing things. He forced a strong railroad monopoly to close down, and earned the name "trust buster." Other antitrust acts under the Sherman Act followed after. In March of 1903 he established an island and named it "Pelican Island," which served as the first federal bird reserve. That November he signed a treaty with the Panama and began work on the Panama Canal, which would become one of his biggest projects. After his re-election in 1904, he founded the Wichita forest in Oklahoma as the first ever federal game preserve. During that time he also negotiated a treaty between the Russian Empire and Japan called the Russo-Japanese peace treaty. The next year he was a busy man. He created numerous national parks and monuments, too many to count. He also became the first president to leave the country in a visit to the Panama Canal. Roosevelt was also awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for helping create the Russo-Japanese peace treaty. The last year of his presidency he brought together the first conference of governors to discuss conservation; he also appointed the National Conservation commission to inventory natural resources. If Roosevelt had something in his mind that he wanted to do, you can bet he did it.

Professionalism -A:

In office, Roosevelt had a strong relationship with the citizens of the United States, and he understood how to use media to shape public opinion. In fact, he was the first president whose election was based more on the individual than the party. Being the most popular president of his time, he used his enthusiasm to win votes, shape issues, and form opinions. He was very active, it's hard to believe he ever even slept. The way that he was always somewhere doing things is admirable. While in office, Roosevelt believed that the people needed to be treated fairly when it came to business, however, he also thought that big business was a part of the economy and we shouldn't destroy it. His resolution for that was to break large trusts and monopolies so that one person didn't have control over everything. He wanted to be a part of America, and you can bet he played his part, and even more.

Contributions -A:

Roosevelt contributed a lot to America, more than can even be typed. In fact, he has been given multiple names to remember his accomplishments. For example, his approach to Latin America and the Caribbean has been characterized as the "Big Stick," and his policy came to be known as the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. Adding on to his belief that the government should use its resources to help achieve social and economic justice, Roosevelt created the Square Deal. What this did was it settled conflicts between workers and businesses because everyone gained fairly from the agreements it made. Jumping to another belief of his, he thought that the environment needed to be protected for both present and future America. He created hundreds of conservation sites and parks, and saved countless animals. In fact, the Teddy Bear was named after him because he refused to shoot a wounded black bear. These are just a few contributions that Theodore Roosevelt made that changed America for the better.
Theodore Roosevelt - Mini Biography

William Howard Taft

Taft was born on September 15, 1857, he was the son of a well known judge. He graduated from Yale, and returned to Cincinnati to practice law. He became better at politics through Republican judiciary appointments, his skill and availability, and because he always had his "plate right side up when offices were falling." However, Taft much preferred law to politics. He was appointed a Federal circuit judge at age 34. To become a member of the Supreme Court was his dream, but his wife, Helen Herron Taft, had other ambitions for him. His journey to the White House came through administrative posts. President McKinley sent him to the Philippines in 1900 as chief civil administrator, and President Roosevelt made him Secretary of War, and by 1907 had made the decision that Taft would be his successor. However, what Taft didn't realize was that he didn't want to become a president until it was too late.

Report Card

Leadership -D:

Taft was a very indecisive president. He seldom took any initiative in legislative matters, and he had little talent for leadership. His political experience and skills were limited, and he was naturally critical of his own abilities. His biographers generally agree that it was his appetite that created psychological tensions within himself that never truly got resolved. He tended to think about all sides of a question for hours or even days. To add on to this, he was very inactive, completely unlike Roosevelt. He typically ate a dozen eggs, and piles of bacon and pancakes for breakfast. These breakfast choices often left him sluggish for the rest of the morning. Most historians agree to some extent that he is a conservative interval between activists reformers Roosevelt and Wilson. Even though calling him a disaster is a bit too extreme, there can be no doubt that Taft's hesitancy as a leader produced few accomplishments during his term.

Organization -C:

Despite nearly drowning in stress from the presidency, he managed to get a few things done and pass a few laws. He created a policy known as the "Dollar Diplomacy." This policy was started because Taft shared the same view as a lawyer named Knox. They believed that the goal of diplomacy was to create stability and order abroad that would best promote national interests. The Dollar Diplomacy was an effort to further the United States' aims in Latin America and East Asia through the use of its economic power by guaranteeing loans made to foreign countries. In addition, Taft placed 85,000 postmasters and 20,000 skilled workers into the Navy under civil service protection. He also approved the division of the two departments of Commerce and Labor. The admissions of Arizona and New Mexico were vetoed because of their constitutional revision for the recall of judges. However, when the recall clauses were removed, he supported statehood. He promoted an innovation where the president would submit a budget to Congress, but Congress prohibited that action. However, his attempt foreshadowed the creation of the executive budget.

Professionalism -D:

As said before, Taft was a very inactive president. Not that he was lazy and just irresponsible, he was just unhappy with his job, and the stress was piling up on him. He didn't want to make decisions that people would scorn him for, but he also didn't want to make decisions that were too extreme. This led to him not making decisions at all. It was most likely very difficult for Taft to come in after Roosevelt, because that meant the citizens would expect him to be like Roosevelt. However, he was the exact opposite. Roosevelt was extremely active, Taft was not. This made the citizens kind of skeptical about him, and he didn't reach the expectations they had given him after Roosevelt's presidency.

Contributions -B:

Taft's intent to provide more efficient administration for existing reform policies was perfectly suited for the prosecution of antitrust violations. More trust prosecutions occurred under Taft than under Roosevelt. There were 99 trusts in all under his name. Taft became known as the "Great Trust Buster." The two most famous cases under the Taft Administration were the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and the American Tobacco Company. These were actually started during Roosevelt's presidency. He also won a lawsuit against the American Sugar Refining Company to break up the "sugar trust" that rigged prices. However, when Taft moved to break up the U.S Steel, Roosevelt accused him of a lack of insight. That he was unable to distinguish between the good and bad trusts. By 1911, however, Taft began to back away from his antitrust efforts, stung by the criticism of his conservative business supporters and unsure about the long-range effect of trust-busting on the national economy.

William Howard Taft | 60-Second Presidents | PBS

Woodrow Wilson

Wilson was born in Virginia in 1856, the son of a Presbyterian minister who during the Civil War was a pastor in Augusta, Georgia, and during Reconstruction a professor in the charred city of Columbia, South Carolina. After his graduation from Princeton, the College of New Jersey, and the University of Virginia Law School, Wilson earned his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University and entered upon an academic career. In 1885 he married Ellen Louis Axson. He advanced rapidly as a conservative professor of political science and became president of Princeton in 1902. His growing national reputation led the Democrats to consider him as a presidential candidate.

Report Card

Leadership- B:

When legacy is defined as influence on the nation and future politics, Wilson ranks with Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt in importance. Domestically, he was perhaps the most important transitional figure among the Presidents since Lincoln. With his presidency, the Democratic Party assumed the mantle of reform while Republicans became more conservative. On the negative side, Wilson's idealism sometimes led him astray. For instance, he did not tolerate dispute during the war, and approved serious violations of civil rights in his mission to achieve victory. However, he had the ability to shape public opinion in turn molding modern presidency.

Organization -A:

Wilson's 1912 platform for change was called the "New Freedom." Wilson admired Thomas Jefferson's idea of a nation built of small, educated farmers. He knew that the development of industry could not be stopped, however a nation of small farmers and small businessmen did not seem completely out of reach. The New Freedom sought to achieve this vision by attacking what Wilson called the Triple Wall of Privilege: the tariff, the banks, and the trusts. Since tariffs protected large industrialists at the expense of small farmers, Wilson signed the Underwood-Simmons Act, which reduced tariff rates. The gold standard still made currency too tight, and loans were too expensive for the average American. In response Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act, which made the nation's currency more flexible. Unlike Roosevelt, Wilson did not distinguish between "good" trusts and "bad" trusts. Any trust by virtue of its large size was bad in Wilson's eyes. The Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 clarified the Sherman Act by specifically naming certain business tactics illegal.

Professionalism -A:

In the three-way election he received only 42 percent of the popular vote but an overwhelming electoral vote. This is because of the New Freedom, which almost stressed individualism and states' rights. Speaking of rights, Wilson's voice was not enough to pass the 19th Amendment. In a 1918 speech before Congress, Wilson publicly showed support for women's right to vote. While his speech did not gain enough votes to pass the amendment, Wilson still continued to speak in its defense, consulting with members of Congress on his own time.Eventually, on June 4th, 1919, the amendment finally received enough votes to be sent to the states for ratification. However, it would take another year for the states to agree to the amendment.

Contributions -A:

Prior to the outbreak of World War I, protecting democracy throughout the world primarily meant protecting the fledgling republics in Latin America that had struggled in decades past with corrupt governments, pressures from European powers, and even American imperialism under President Roosevelt.To atone for these mistakes, and to demonstrate that the United States did indeed intend to uphold the Monroe Doctrine, Wilson spent several of his first years dealing with Latin American issues. He persuaded Congress to repeal the 1912 Panama Canal Act which exempted many American ships from paying the required toll for passage through the canal. He also wrote a letter apologizing for Roosevelt's acts of aggression. During World War One Wilson went back on the promise he had made to America to keep the nation out of it. Instead he obliged to declare war on Germany after the return of unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917. He was relatively uninterested in military affairs, but was able to organize the American economy to provide the food and munitions the army needed to fight in France. At the end of the war, Wilson became the first American president to leave the country during his administration when he sailed for Paris to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.
Woodrow Wilson | 60-Second Presidents | PBS