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Theodore Roosevelt – a Progressive and a Square Deal Republican

February 18, 2011


“Let the watchwords of all our people be the old familiar watchwords of honesty, decency, fair-dealing, and commonsense.”… “We must treat each man on his worth and merits as a man. We must see that each is given a square deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive no less.””The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.”

Just a note: Theodore Roosevelt was a Republican and founder of what we now call the Progressive movement. The present day GOP is a far cry from TR’s beliefs. I think you will find this short article very interesting when comparing notes on who believes in what these days.

From NPS.gov

TR met the challenges of his time with a combination of rhetoric and deft political action. Describing the presidency as “a bully pulpit” he used his position to crusade for reform at home and peace abroad.

Determined to give Americans what he called “a Square Deal”; i.e., a more just and equitable society, TR worked to increase the regulatory power of the federal government. He persuaded Congress to pass laws that strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission and established a new federal Department of Labor and Commerce. Under his leadership, the federal government also brought forty-four suits against corporate monopolies. In addition, TR was instrumental in the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. Long concerned about the environment, he encouraged the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902 to promote federal construction of dams to irrigate small farms and placed 230 million acres under federal protection.

From the Square Deal to the New Deal

Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of President Franklin Roosevelt), was TRs cousin.
ER and TR also shared many of the same progressive political concerns including a strong central government committed to human welfare, government regulation of business and industry, and improved living conditions for all Americans. She incorporated many of his ideas into New Deal programs. ER, however, surpassed TR in her commitment to civil liberties, civil rights, human rights, and world peace, and she had a more expansive view of human and political relations than he did.

From Theodore Roosevelt speech on Republican Progressives:

The Republican party is now facing a great crisis. It is to decide whether it will be, as in the days of Lincoln, the party of the plain people, the party of progress, the party of social and industrial justice; or whether it will be the party of privilege and of special interests, the heir to those who were Lincoln’s most bitter opponents, the party that represents the great interests within and with out Wall Street which desire through their control over the servants of the pubic to be kept immune from punishment when they do wrong and to be given privileges to which they are not entitled.

and this…

In his recent speech at Philadelphia President Taft stated that he was a Progressive, and this raises the question as to what a Progressive is. More is involved than any man’s say-so as to himself.

A well-meaning man may vaguely think of himself as a Progressive without having even the faintest conception of what a Progressive is. Both vision and intensity of conviction must go to the make-up of any man who is to lead the forward movement, and mildly good intentions are utterly useless as substitutes.

The essential difference, as old as civilized history, is between the men who, with fervor and broad sympathy and imagination, stand for the forward movement, the men who stand for the uplift and betterment of mankind, and who have faith in the people, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, the men of narrow vision and small sympathy, who are not stirred by the wrongs of others. With these latter stand also those other men who distrust the people, and many of whom not merely distrust the people, but wish to keep them helpless so as to exploit them for their own benefit.

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