Home » Democracy » The Progressive Era Research Paper

The Progressive Era Research Paper

As progressivism expanded throughout American cities and towns, there was the need to create a solution due to the highly prevalent political and economic issues. However, the solution to the problem was not apparent because of the corruption deep within the system in the national and state governments. For a resolution to the many problems present in the country, the progressive era was the response of different groups to the problems present. Progressivism focused on promoting new ideas with a new wave of industrialization, social reforms, and laws.

The most prevalent change that occurred in this time period was the introduction of a new idea: democracy. Democracy is a system of government by the whole population or through elected members of states. As this idea began to spread, it sparked the interests of many making it as prevalent as it is in today’s society. During the height of the Progressive Era, the citizens and leaders of the United States focused on developing a democratic world which has an everlasting impact even till present day. Prior to the Progressive Era, the United States was still developing as a world power in terms of economy and government.

America’s governmental system was vulnerable to corruption and destruction because of many politicians especially during the Gilded Era, the time period before the Progressive Era. Even though America received a name for itself because of past accomplishments, the apathetic government began to contradict all of its past glory by not doing anything for the betterment of the country. Political machines controlled national and state government An example of the most prominent political machine was Tammany Hall, the political organization controlling New York until 1873.

William Marcy Tweed, the owner, used his power to benefit his companies and profits, favored supporters for jobs, social care, etc. , and bribed legislators to cover his wrongdoings. Tweed is just one example of many political leaders a part of the “spoils system” which quickly began to anger citizens. People of the nation rallied and protested as they detested the corruption rooted deep within the government (Watts). They realized the impact a corrupt government could have on the future of the country. This realization of the public opinion and public administration later becomes an important part of the Progressive Era.

Decades after the end of the Gilded Era, progressivism ideals expanded rapidly and was in the incipient stages of changing America’s course forever in the time span of 1890s-1920s. Progressive leaders advocated reforms with a variety of goals. First, introduced was the urban reforms and towards the corrupt leaders and political system. Others, focused on the involvement of government in solving social problems and fairness in the economy (The Progressive Era). Although, initial leaders of the movement were able to spark the movement, they could not successfully solve the deep rooted problems.

The most important change occurred a bit later when William McKinley was elected as the 25th president in the election of 1897, and made changes in the state and national governments. He was followed by Presidents Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09) and William Howard Taft (1909-13) who carried McKinley’s legacy of progressivism when he was assassinated in 1901. Since the time of the American Revolution, American citizens have been fighting for their rights and most importantly the prevalence of democracy.

Democracy by American citizens is defined as having the people’s say represented by an elected group of officials. also known as representative democracy. However, often times direct democracy is often misunderstood as democracy which means a government purely run on people’s say and in which people decide policy initiatives directly. To understand this concept in its entirety one must look at the origins of these ideas, the founding father Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

Political leaders used Hamiltonian methods to develop a stronger government to end Jeffersonian ideas of state government superiority. Values of democracy and equality were implemented strongly. By embracing these democracy initiatives, America is still known as the free country we see today (Mattson). The most important reforms, as mentioned afore, was during the era of President McKinley, and they were the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, Bureau of Corporations, and Interstate Commerce Commission.

The Midwest states particularly had success– with leaders such as Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin but with the help of counterparts all over the country. These successful leaders included Charles Evan a Hughes of NY, Woodrow Wilson if NJ, Andrew J. Montage of VA, and Hiram W. Johnson of California. As proposed primarily by Hiram Johnson, governor of California, and Robert M La Gillette, governor of Wisconsin to combat fraud, bribery, and corruption, the initiative, recall, and referendum plans were implemented in the U. S. starting with the state then to the federal government.

In the initiative plan, ordinary citizens should participate and have power to pass legislation in special elections rather than depend on incompetent, corrupt landowners which leads up to the prohibition and suffrage in 1900s. The recall removed elected officials from office with special election. Referendum repealed laws and neutralized power of “political machines”. Also, citizens voted not the state legislatures. These laws and changes were important because they hoped to and did reduce corruption by the concept of popular vote by the passing of the 17th amendment in 1913 (Hillstrom).

But the most important man, in terms of politics, was a Thomas Jefferson(youngest man hey at 42) because he passed the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, Bureau of Corporations, and Interstate Commerce Commission. Following this, Teddy Roosevelt revolutionized our economy during his presidency. Economic regulatory services were built: the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Trade Commission (Progressive Era: 1890-1920s: Progressive Political Reform).

Finally, William Howard Taft when he came into presidency he followed the same principles as Theodore Roosevelt. Two new ideas he implemented was the Payne-Aldrich Act to lower tariffs and numerous antitrust acts. However, although his policies were similar to Roosevelt, he was not well liked because of his radical, well thought out ideas and lack of charisma. Eventually, he lost the possibility for reelection in the next election. This created a sustained progressive nature of this era for a while until the next presidency of Franklin D.

Roosevelt during the world wars (United States). The Progressive Era’s push for democracy led to a permanent change in the American people’s ideals by making remarkable changes on the American economy, society, and government. Although the reformers of this movement consisted of a diverse group of individuals– journalists, politicians, middle class, and men and women — the thing that united them was their goal of protecting the people, solve urbanization and industrialization problems, improve social welfare, and of course promoting the ideal of democracy.

These everlasting effects are shown even until present day in two distinct ways. The most important effect is the difference between prior existing and modern definitions of democracy. Direct democracy is a government run on people’s say and in which people decide policy initiatives directly. However, the definition has changed over the years and the new western democratic definition is a government which incorporates the people’s ideas as well as elected officials which is slightly different than the previous example.

Because of this continuous push of democracy, America’s [policeman] role in the world is relevant in this paper. The spread of western democracy’s (although a bit different) ideals. A key example is the 2016 Presidential Election between Republican Donald Trump and Democratic Hillary Clinton. Numerous times in their discussions and debates, the topic of democracy and whether its ideals are protected was common during the time period of the election. In response to this growing unrest among American citizens, President Obama eloquently stated in his farewell address, “Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear.

So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are” (Obama). This shows the need for the protection of democracy’s ideals that our founding fathers have strived to create to strengthen this country’s foundation and future. The progressive era improved the lives of the American population, and influenced other countries to also embrace these principles adopted by the United States shown by the effects by the era till present day.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.