Presidents of the Progressive Era

By: Carly Buecker

Theodore Roosevelt


Theodore Roosevelt became president after the assassination of President McKinley. He was born into a wealthy family in New York City and went to Harvard College and Columbia Law School. After his mother and wife died he became depressed and moved to the Dakotas to become a cattle driver. Roosevelt later returned to New York and served as the police commissioner and Assistant U.S. Navy Secretary under President William McKinley. As a result of his interest in the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt left his government position to lead the Rough Riders, a volunteer cavalry, and became a war hero after he won the battle at San Juan Hill. He was later elected governor of New York and became the 26th President of the United States.

Report Card

Leadership- A+

Theodore Roosevelt was one of the most influential leaders in American history. Many presidents today look back to him as a template for their own actions and leadership decisions. Roosevelt was such a successful leader because he was extremely charismatic and his passion moved people to support him and rally behind him. In addition, the American people believed in his abilities because he had proved in the past to be a reliable and successful leader. For example, he led the Rough Riders to the military success at San Juan Hill. His political career also exhibited advanced leadership qualities as he helped negotiate the end of the Russo-Japanese War and then won the Nobel Peace Prize for his actions. As a result, the American people wholeheartedly supported Roosevelt and believed that his leadership skills were good enough to make the right decisions for the country.

Organization- A

Theodore Roosevelt's administration can be described as active, effective, and organized. Roosevelt did enact several reforms that changed and shaped America including the important environmental reforms. He signed the National Monuments Act in 1906 which deemed him as the first environmentalist president and protected and preserved national monuments such as the Grand Canyon and other wildlife reservations, national forests, and federal game reserves. In addition, Roosevelt organized and enacted 21 federal irrigation projects to help strengthen the infrastructure of the country. Roosevelt was also known for his active foreign policy and involvement in international affairs. This policy was proven in the addition of the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine to enforce the right of America to intervene in cases of wrongdoing by other nations which was an organized and efficient way to enforce his foreign policy. One of Roosevelt's biggest reforms was based off of his belief that the government should be allowed to regulate big businesses in order to protect middle class citizens from harmful trusts and monopolies. In 1902 he convinced Congress to allow him to create the Bureau of Corporations to regulate big businesses and he even filed antitrust lawsuits against more than 40 large corporations during his terms. Roosevelt's impressive structure of environmental, international, domestic, and economic reforms represent his extensive list of accomplishments and success as a progressive president.

Professionalism- A

As a result of his war hero status and popular movements to help the working class people of America, Theodore Roosevelt was adored by a majority of the American population. Although many people did admire his progressive attitude and regulations against trusts, Roosevelt exhibited strongly forceful attitude towards big businesses and towards his foreign policy. This attitude was seen through his establishment of the Square Deal and his strict belief that the government should be allowed to regulate big businesses. In addition, he forcefully believed that the United States should watch for problems in international matters and regulate and actively interfere in such matters. For example, Roosevelt's addition of the Roosevelt Corollary, assistance with the Latin American debt, and creation of the Panama canal proved his rather bold and interfering actions towards foreign countries and issues. This bold attitude helped him gain popularity from the American people as they admired his strength and progressive reforms.

Contributions- A+

Theodore Roosevelt's presidential contributions had a huge impact on American society. He was known for enacting several progressive reforms and especially focused on breaking up monopolies with the Sherman Antitrust Act. His dedicated to reform is documented in his creation of the Square Deal, a popular program that reformed the American workplace, promoted government regulation of industry, and protected all classes of Americans by ensuring consumer protection. In addition to workplace reforms, Roosevelt made sure to improve the military in size and strength and created the "Great White Fleet" to sail around the world and intimidate other countries with the power of the United States military. President Roosevelt is also known for his help in the completion of the Panama Canal. In order to speed up the work on the canal, Roosevelt assisted Panama in their revolution by creating a naval blockade to prevent Columbian troops from arriving on Panama. Although he did believe in a strong military, Roosevelt also fought for peace by bringing the Russo-Japanese War to an end and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his actions. Roosevelt enacted several social, economic, political, and military reforms that helped shape the nation as it is today.

Photo Gallery of Teddy Roosevelt

The History of Theodore [Teddy] Roosevelt - A Short Story

William Howard Taft


William Howard Taft was born into a politically active family in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1857. Several of his family members were well versed in law and served in many different political positions in the federal government. Taft followed in his father's footsteps and attended Yale College, the University of Cincinnati College of Law, and was accepted into the Ohio State Bar Association. Taft later became governor general of the Philippines under President William McKinley and traveled throughout Southeast Asia with his family. By 1904, Taft became Roosevelt's secretary of war and later chose to become chief justice of the Supreme Court. Not long after, Taft's wife and Roosevelt himself convinced Taft to run for President instead. Taft easily won the election and became the 27th President of the United States of America.

Report Card

Leadership- C+

William Howard Taft was not as charismatic as Roosevelt and his leadership skills lacked the charm and confidence of his predecessor. The American people did not follow in Taft's lead because his stance on big business and tariff proposals was unclear and misunderstood by his supporters and opponents, creating a feeling of tension between the conservatives and progressives. Even though he was not as popular, he did launch more antitrust initiatives than Roosevelt and was a devoted trust buster. In addition, Taft raised the nation's revenue by imposing a corporate income tax and created idea of dollar diplomacy to assist trade with Latin America and China. The loans guaranteed with dollar diplomacy greatly improved trade relations and growth. Although he did accomplish many things while president, Taft's leadership skills fell behind because of his lack of passion for his presidency and his inability to thrive under the shadow of Roosevelt.

Organization- B

William Howard Taft did accomplish a great deal while in office but his lack of leadership skills and less progressive ideals resulted in some tension and confusion during his presidency. Taft ran as a progressive candidate but once in office he strayed away from the progressive agenda. For example, his awkward and unclear approach to tariff reforms resulted in the Payne-Aldrich Act, an act that raised tariffs on goods entering the United States, which angered its supporters and opponents and even resulted in increased tension between the progressives and conservatives. On the other hand, Taft did enact many important social and government reforms. In terms of social reform, Taft took initiative to help the advancement of African American treatment by vetoing a law that imposed a literacy test on unskilled workers and supporting free immigration. In terms of governmental reform, under Taft's administration Congress enacted a federal income tax and the direct election of Senators, two practices that are still used today. In addition, a postal savings system was established and railroad rates were set by the newly created Interstate Commerce Commission. As a result of his many accomplishments but lack of clarity of his ideas and values, Taft did an above average, but not excellent job at organizing his administration.

Professionalism- C+

Taft differed from Roosevelt as he preferred to activate reforms within legal means and limited presidential power. As a result of his strict adherence to the law, he did act professionally and well mannered during his time as president. Although Taft did act professionally, the American citizens did not look up to or admire him because of his lack of passion in his work. In addition, Taft allowed tariffs to rise with the unpopular Payne-Aldrich Act which frustrated his and the opposing side. This act, along with his abandonment of Roosevelt's conservation initiatives resulted in the consensus among the American people and media that Taft was not the passionate, inspired, and charismatic president that they needed.

Contributions- B-

William Taft is most commonly known for his active antitrust program and his dollar diplomacy policy. The dollar diplomacy policy enforced by Taft's administration strengthened and stabilized trade with East Asia and Latin America by guaranteeing loans to other countries. He also initiated 80 antitrust suits, doubling that of Roosevelt, and dedicated himself to trust busting. In addition, his establishment of the Interstate Commerce Commission, his support of a federal income tax, and his push to allow direct election of senators defined his accomplishments in office. On the other hand, Taft is also known for his switch from a progressive platform to a more conservative platform which angered many people and resulted in great tension in the nation's political sphere. Despite his controversial mistakes and significant accomplishments, Taft did not leave a huge impact on America because he had a lack of political conviction and the shadow of Roosevelt's popularity and accomplishments made Taft one of the least influential and remembered presidents.

Photo Gallery of William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft | 60-Second Presidents | PBS

Woodrow Wilson


Woodrow Wilson was born in Virginia in 1856 but also lived in Georgia and South Carolina growing up. He attended Davidson College, Princeton University, the University of Virginia Law School, and obtained his PhD from Johns Hopkins University. Wilson then began teaching at Bryn Mawr College, married, and had three daughters. Woodrow Wilson also taught political economy at Wesleyan University and Princeton University. He became President of Princeton and Governor of New Jersey for a single term in 1910. Wilson was elected to be the 28th President of the United States two years later and was elected to a second term in 1916. He suffered from a stroke in 1919 and, after his presidency, lived in Washington D.C. with his wife for the remainder of his life.

Report Card

Leadership- A

Woodrow Wilson was a successful leader of America because, like Roosevelt, he believed that he was a man of the people, and as president, it was his duty to look out for and act in the best interest of the American people. In addition, Wilson was a progressive leader and sponsored many reform movements that made him popular among the American population. Wilson's political zeal and dedication to building up America's power in the eyes of the international community and protecting American democracy resulted in a strong following by the American people. Wilson was an exceedingly intelligent and peaceful man that devoted himself to bettering American society which resulted in his great leadership skills and his support from the American population.

Organization- A+

Wilson organized his administration extremely well and accomplished many important things during his two terms as president. Most of Wilson's accomplishments were in the form of progressive reforms. Wilson lowered tariffs with the Underwood-Simmons Act, improved upon the federal income tax, and created the Federal Reserve to regulate banking, credit, and the nation's money supply. In addition to the tariff reduction and banking reform, Wilson also enacted antitrust legislation with the establishment of the Federal Trade Commission that fought against unfair business practices. Wilson also organized the passing of laws to prohibit child labor and shorten railroad worker's work days to eight hours. Wilson did not stop with just these reforms as he also pushed Congress to grant women's suffrage in the 19th amendment. During the prohibition era, Wilson vetoed the National Prohibition Act to show his opposition to the 18th amendment. Wilson's ability to pass several successful economic, political, and social reforms proves that his administration was highly organized and dedicated.

Professionalism- A

Woodrow Wilson maintained an excellent level of professionalism throughout his time as president. He devoted his presidency to fighting for the rights of the American people including women, railroad workers, and children. Wilson also showed his devotion to bettering American society through his extensive list of progressive reforms and legislation that he enacted to benefit the American people. His peaceful foreign policy and ability to negotiate with other countries also contributed to his popularity and success as a president. As a result, American citizens and the media looked up to and admired Wilson for his political zeal, democratic values, and commitment to the betterment of the United States.

Contributions- A+

Woodrow Wilson, one of the most active and intelligent presidents in American history, left a huge impact on American society with his many progressive reforms and movements. Wilson is known for his impressive domestic policy which included the extended rights of workers, women's suffrage, the ban of child labor, and his establishment of the Federal Trade Commission to regulate and keep businesses honest. He is also widely known for his lowering of tariffs under the Underwood-Simmons Act and his improvement of the federal income tax. In terms of a banking reform, Wilson established the Federal Reserve to regulate the nation's banks and help protect the nation's money supply. In addition to his domestic policy, Woodrow Wilson was also known for his fairly peaceful foreign policy. During Wilson's presidency, Victoriano Huerta staged a coup against Mexico's elected government and started a revolution. After failing to promote both sides to reach an agreement, Wilson enlisted the help of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile to solve the matter peacefully. After their success, another man, Pancho Villa began another revolution and a civil war in Mexico erupted. Although the United States came come to declaring war, Carranza, the Mexican president, negotiated a mediation with America, resulting in a peaceful end to the conflicts. Similar to his reluctance to go to war with Mexico, Wilson avoided fighting in World War I for as long as possible until he finally declared war on Germany in hopes of protecting democracy. Even during war, Wilson tried to negotiate peace treaties and even proposed the Versailles Treaty to the Senate, which failed to pass it, in hopes of inspiring peace. Despite the failure of the treaty, Wilson won the Nobel Peace prize for his efforts. Wilson's peaceful foreign policy and actively progressive domestic reforms represent his great impact on every aspect of American life and society.

Photo Gallery of Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson | 60-Second Presidents | PBS