We have seen many great leaders in our day especially within the United State of America. No two are the same however their decisions and policies have affected the progression and development of our country at large. The beauty of democracy is that we the people have an influence to elect leaders that will ultimately care for our citizens as a whole and invoke power and knowledge to help our great country grow. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are great examples of exceptional leaders and influencers of Progressivism though the two are polar opposites in so many ways.
Let us explore the concrete differences of these two men while illustrating their ability to make appropriate change in this era. T. Roosevelt and Wilson changed our country drastically by way of foreign policy, reforms, and all out Progressivism. Teddy Roosevelt, elected in 1901, was the first president to outwardly claim it was America’s duty to propel its beliefs abroad, and that it was in its national interest to do so. He believed America’s strength was a tool to be used when interests collided between states.
Roosevelt made intervention the United State’s new foreign policy. “Roosevelt sought to amend this by stating that the United States had the right to step in and intervene in the domestic politics of its neighbors if they were unable to govern themselves. What motivated Roosevelt was the threat by some European nations to invade the Dominican Republic. ” (Bowles, 2011) He provoked Panama into war of independence from Colombia with the intention of building an American canal that would link the Atlantic to the Pacific.
He would flex his muscles in the Caribbean by forcing Haiti to clear itself of European debt and he would send troops, though unprepared, to occupy Cuba. During this time as well, within Roosevelt’s “Big Stick” and namely “The Monroe Doctrine”, we officially demanded our independence from the intervention of Europe. “The Monroe Doctrine (1823) stated that the Western Hemisphere was essentially off limits to Europe. In turn, America promised not to meddle in internal European affairs. (Bowles, 2011)
His policies are nothing short of headstrong and even borderline belligerent but also without them, America would’ve never seen its true strength and power. Things went a slightly different way when Wilson was elected in 1913. Rather than justifying foreign intervention through blatant use of American authority, Wilson would assure Americans that it was in their best interests. He, like Roosevelt, would go against the word of those who wrought our country, and would continue to entangle America in the web of foreign affairs.
Wilson clearly butters up the thought of intervention and the suggestion that it is America’s duty to oppose aggression anywhere at any time during his annual State of the Union address to congress: “We insist upon security in prosecuting our self-chosen lines of national development. We do more than that. We demand it also for others. We do not confine our enthusiasm for individual liberty and free national development to the incidents and movements of affairs which affect only ourselves. We feel it wherever there is a people that tries to walk in these difficult paths of independence and right. (Wilson, 1913)
Wilson’s philosophy of neutrality and the doctrine he espoused were in total contradiction. What Wilson did was make America seem righteous, benevolent, and merciful. He created a mask of American innocence so successfully that when the Lusitania was shot and sunk by Germany as it ventured into enemy waters, it painted a black and white picture: America was victim and Germany was an immoral attacker. The Maine brought Roosevelt and his Rough Riders to the Cuban battlefield while the sinking of the Lusitania sent Wilson to lead the fight against the Central Powers of World War I.
Because of Wilson, we now have a United Nations, which is as useless as the League of Nations, striving to create international law. Roosevelt had great ideals for reforms on our own land as well. He pitched a new wide-ranging program of progressive reform called The New Nationalism. This broad plan called for reform in every area of American life, with the notable exception of race relations. The ideas behind The New Nationalism required involvement by the national government in a bigger way with more intervention of American life.
Roosevelt argued that the nation needed change and that it was going to take the federal government to get it done. “National efficiency has many factors. It is a necessary result of the principle of conservation widely applied. In the end it will determine our failure or success as a nation. National efficiency has to do, not only with natural resources and with men, but is equally concerned with institutions. The State must be made efficient for the work which concerns only the people of the State; and the nation for that which concerns all the people. (Roosevelt, 1910)
He put great emphasis on the development and maintenance of railroads and the growth of the food and drugs corporations in our country while also giving equal rights to the poor. Of course with this said, the square deal was hardly in the best interest of everyone. Women and African- Americans suffered greatly in this era with no help from Roosevelt. “Roosevelt championed women’s rights in some respects but, at the same time, expected them to perform their traditional role in society, which was marriage and childbirth.
His views on race were also of the time, meaning that he favored segregation, believing that this was the only way to prevent atrocities such as lynching in the South. Roosevelt saw segregation as a way to isolate and protect those he considered inferior. ” (Bowles, 2011) Due to the split of the Republican Party after Taft, The Democrats took great pride in nominating Wilson, especially because of his educational background and determination to make change. Woodrow Wilson ran his campaign on the ideas of his reforms titles “New Freedom”, obviously to contradict Roosevelt before-mentioned “New Nationalism”.
Wilson plan advocated three concrete reforms, lowering protective tariff, creating a better banking system, and strengthening anti-trust laws. Wilson contended that if these three reforms passed, control by monopolies would end and freedom would be restored. The New Freedom plan offered no provisions for social justice reforms. Wilson asserted that people did not want the government to take care of them; they simply wanted competition restored so the free enterprise system could work and citizens thrive. “I do not want to live under a philanthropy.
I do not want to be taken care of by the government, either directly, or by any instruments through which the government is acting. I want only to have right and justice prevail, so far as I am concerned. Give me right and justice and I will undertake to take care of myself. If you enthrone the trusts as the means of the development of this country under the supervision of the government, then I shall pray the old Spanish proverb, ‘God save me from my friends, and I’ll take care of my enemies. ’ (Wilson, 1913) We can clearly see that both men had plans for change and executed them with great vigor.
Progressivism was a time of reform and allegiance, illustrated boldly within both the T. Roosevelt and Wilson administrations. Without Roosevelt’s foreign policy, our nation may not know true freedom from Europe while without Wilson’s humble approach to the United Nations, we may have lost more in the beginning of World War I. Both of these great leaders have given us progress in freedom just in opposite, even conflicting, manners. T. Roosevelt and Wilson changed our country drastically by way of foreign policy, reforms, and all out Progressivism.
January 9, 2018
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