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Chapter 30 – Wilsonian Progressivism at Home and Abroad

1. The “Bull Moose” Campaign

a. Woodrow Wilson was nominated at the Democratic nominating convention, aided by William Jennings Bryan. The
Democrats gave him a strong progressive platform called the “New Freedom” program that advocated stronger
antitrust legislation, banking reform, and tariff reductions.
b. Meanwhile, a pro-Roosevelt Progressive Republican convention nominated Roosevelt in a religious revival-type
convention. Jane Addams placed Roosevelt’s nomination, symbolizing the rise of women’s power.
c. Roosevelt declared that he felt as strong as a bull moose, and that became their symbol.
d. Roosevelt and Taft cut at each other, assuring a Democratic victory.
e. Two theories of progressivism were the main issue: Roosevelt’s New Nationalism or Wilson’s New Freedom. They
both agreed that government should be move involved, but Roosevelt followed Herbert Croly’s The Promise of
American Life theories. This favored continued consolidation of trusts and labor unions, and strong government
regulation of such organizations. Bull Moose also advocated women’s suffrage and social welfare, including
minimum-wage laws and “socialistic” social insurance.
f. Wilson’s New Freedom called for small enterprise in unregulated, unmonopolized markets. It shunned social
welfare, instead emphasizing competition. Wilson sought to fragment big business through antitrust laws.
g. The campaign cooled after Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a fanatic.
2. Woodrow Wilson: A Minority President
a. Wilson won the presidency, though he was a minority president and despite the fact that his party won the majority
in Congress. His popular total was actually less than William Jennings Bryan in any of his campaigns. Taft and
Roosevelt won over 1.25 million more votes than Wilson. With Roosevelt as the runner up, clearly, progressivism
was the real winner. Socialist Eugene V. Debs polled more than he ever had.
b. The Progressive party had no future. They had elected few officials to state and local offices while Socialists had
elected more than a thousand. Without patronage, the Progressives died. Yet their impressive showing helped enact
many of their pet reforms under Wilson.
c. Republicans were in the minority in Congress for six years and out of the White House for eight. Taft eventually
became chief justice of the Supreme Court.
3. Wilson: The Idealist in Politics
a. Wilson was the first president from a southern state since Zachary Taylor. Wilson sympathized with the South’s
attempt at independence, influencing his foreign policy. He was a true Jeffersonian democrat. He was a moving
orator. He believed the president should lead Congress. His personality deflects made him look down of lesser
intellectuals than himself. His moral righteousness made it difficult to compromise.
4. Wilson Tackles the Tariff
a. Wilson called for an assault on the “triple wall of privilege”: the tariff, the banks, and the trusts.
b. To attack the tariff, he called a special session of Congress in 1913. Instead of sending a message via clerk, he
arrived in person to give his address.
c. The House passed the Underwood Tariff Bill, which provided for the reduction of rates. When lobbyists tried to
change the bill in the Senate, Wilson issued a plea to the people to hold their representatives. In late 1913, the bill
was approved due to public pressure.
d. The tariff substantial reduced import fees and enacted a graduated income tax, beginning with a modest tax on
incomes over $3,000.
5. Wilson Battles the Bankers
a. The old Civil War National Banking Act had large defects. Its worst was the inelasticity of currency as shown in the
panic of 1907. Banking reserves were concentrated in large cities and couldn’t be moved to areas of financial stress.
b. In 1908, Congress had authorized an investigation by Senator Aldrich. Three years later, the commission
recommended a huge bank with numerous branches – a third Bank of the US.
c. Democratic banking reformers favored the findings of a House Committee headed by Congressman Arsene Pujo.
They blamed the money crisis on the hidden money of American business and banking. Louis D. Brandeis, Wilson’s
attorney, published Other People’s Money and How the Bankers Use It.
d. In June 1913, Wilson visited Congress and endorsed the Democratic plan for a decentralized bank in government
hands as opposed to the Republican demands for a huge private bank with 15 branches.
e. In 1913, Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act, the most important economic legislation between the Civil War and
the New Deal. A Federal Reserve Board, appointed by the President, would oversee a national system of 12 regional
reserve districts, each with its own bank. The regional banks were owned by member financial institutions, but the
Federal Reserve Board granted public control. The board was encouraged to issue “Federal Reserve Notes” backed
by commercial paper. The amount of money could be swiftly increased.
f. The Federal Reserve Act carried the nation through the financial problems of WW1
6. The President Tames the Trusts
a. In early 1914, Wilson went before Congress again. Eventually, they responded with the Federal Trade Commission
Act of 1914. This law said that a presidentially appointed commission was to look at interstate trade and root out
unfair trade practices, including unlawful competition, false advertising, mislabeling, adulteration, and bribery.
b. The Clayton Anti-Trust Act of 1914 extended the list of unlawful business practices from the Sherman Act to
including price discrimination and interlocking directorates.
c. The Clayton also benefits labor. Conservative courts had been ruling that labor unions fell under the Sherman Act.
The Clayton exempted labor and agricultural organizations from anti-trust prosecution and explicitly legalized strike
and peaceful picketing.
d. Samuel Gompers praised the act because it lifted human labor out of being a “commodity.”
7. Wilsonian Progressivism at High Tide
a. Wilson also enacted other reforms like the Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916 which made credit available to farmers at
low rates of interest (as requested by the Populists). The Warehouse Act of 1916 authorized loans of the security of
staple crops (another Populist idea). Other laws provided for highway construction and the establishment of
agricultural extension work in the state colleges.
b. La Follette Seamen’s Act of 1915 provided for decent treatment and living wages of sailors. This act accidently
crippled America’s merchant marine as prices rose with the wages.
c. The Workingmen’s Compensation Act of 1916 granted assistance to federal civil-service employees during periods
of disability. The president also approved acts for the restriction of child labor on products flowing into interstate
commerce and the Adamson Act of 1916 established an 8 hour day for all employees on trains in interstate
commerce with extra pay for overtime.
d. In 1916, Wilson nominated prominent reformer Louis D. Brandeis to the Supreme Court. Wilson’s progressivism
stopped short of allowing for the better treatment of blacks and presided over accelerated segregation.
e. Wilson knew that to be reelected in 1916, he needed to identify himself as the candidate of progressivism. He made
conservation appointments to the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Trade Commission as a sop to
businessmen, but he mostly cultivated the progressive vote.
8. New Directions in Foreign Policy
a. Wilson hated imperialism, “big stick”-ism and dollar diplomacy. A week in office, he declared a war on dollar
diplomacy. He proclaimed that American investors wouldn’t offer special support to Latin America and China. The
next day, American investors pulled out of the Taft-designed six-nation loan to China.
b. In early 1914, Wilson persuaded Congress to repeal the Panama Canal Tolls Act of 1912, which exempted American
shippers from tolls and offended the British. Wilson also signed the Jones Act of 1916, which granted the
Philippines territorial status and promised independence when a stable government was established.
c. In 1913, the California legislature, seeking to rid themselves of Japanese, forbade them from owning land. Tokyo
was annoyed and launched protests. Wilson sent Sec. of State William Jennings Bryan to persuade the California
legislature to ease its stance and tensions decreased.
d. In 1914-1915, Haiti was having political turmoil and the Haitian president was literally torn to pieces. In1915,
Wilson dispatched marines to protect American lives and property. In 1916, he used the Roosevelt Corollary and
made a treaty with Haiti that provided for US supervision of finance and police. That same year, he sent marines to
the Dominican Republican to quell riots and controlled the country for eight years. In 1917, Wilson bought the
Virgin Islands from Denmark. America was increasingly involved in the Caribbean Sea as it was vital access to the
Panama Canal.
9. Moralistic Diplomacy in Mexico
a. For decades Mexico had been taken advantage of by American capitalists in oil, railroads, and mines.
b. Mexicans in general were poor. They revolted in 1913, killing the popular revolutionary president and installing
General Victoriano Huerta. Millions of Mexicans immigrated to America. They settled mostly in Texas, New
Mexico, Arizona, and California. They worked on highways and railroads or as fruit pickers. They were segregated
in Spanish-speaking enclaves, but blended both Mexican and American cultures.
c. The revolution jeopardized American lives and property. American intervention was strongly favored by many,
including William Randolph Hearst, who was biased by his large ranch in Mexico. Wilson held the view that
deciding foreign policy by material interests was perilous.
d. Wilson refused to intervene, but he also refused to recognize Huerta’s government. In 1914, he allowed American
arms to get into Venustiano Carranza and Francisco Villa’s hands, Huerta’s chief rivals.
e. In Tampico in April 1914, a party of American sailors was arrested. The Mexicans released the captives and
apologized but refused to give the party a 21 gun salute. Wilson asked Congress for force, but ordered the navy to
seize the port of Vera Cruz without their approval. Huerta and Carranza protested.
f. Wilson was rescued before the shooting by the ABC Powers – Argentina, Brazil and Chile – offer of mediation.
Huerta collapsed in 1914 under pressure and was succeeded by Carranza, who resented American intervention.
g. Villa now emerged as the chief rival to Carranza, who Wilson reluctantly supported. In January 1916, Villa’s men
hauled 16 American mining engineers of a train and murdered them. A month later, Villa and his men crossed the
border to Columbus, New Mexico and murdered 19 Americans, hoping to provoke a war between Mexico and US
h. General John J. (“Black Jack”) Pershing, a veteran of the Cuban and Philippine campaigns, was order to break up
the bandits. His troops managed to maul Villa’s forced, but were pulled when war with Germany threatened.
10. Thunder Across the Sea
a. In the summer of 1914, a Serb patriot killed the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo. The Vienna
government, backed by Germany, issued Serbia and ultimatum.
b. Serbia, was by Russia, was not cowed. Russia menaced Germany on the east while France did on the west. Germany
struck at France through Belgium, hoping to knock France out in order to attack Russia. Great Britain’s coast was
jeopardized by the attack, and they joined on the side of France.
c. Europe was locked in a fight to the death. The Central Powers – German, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, Bulgaria – were
fighting the Allies – France, Britain, Russia, Japan, and Italy.
11. A Precarious Neutrality
a. Wilson’s wife died around the same time as war, and he issued the routine neutrality proclamation.
b. Both sides wanted the US as an ally – however, Great Britain had the advantage of cultural, linguistic and economic
ties, as well as control of the transatlantic cables. They censored war stories harmful to the Allies and emphasized
the horrible act of the Germans.
c. The Germans and Austro-Hungarians were counting on the many blood ties in America. Some recent immigrants
supported the Central Powers, but most were happy to be out of the fray.
d. Most Americans were anti-German. Kaiser Wilhelm II seemed the embodiment of arrogant autocracy, strengthened
by his attack on neutral Belgium. The Central Powers resorted to violence in American factories and ports, further
damaging their cause. In 1915, a German operative left his briefcase in a New York elevated car, detailing plans for
industrial sabotage.
12. America Earns Blood Money
a. In 1914, the US was bogged down with a recession that was cured by war-born prosperity. Part of this was the
enormous sum of money J.P. Morgan and Company advanced the Allies. However, Germany couldn’t protest since
this didn’t violate international neutrality laws. Germany was technically free to trade with the US, by was prevented
from doing so by geography and the British navy. Over the protest of American shippers, the navy forced American
shipping with Germany to cease.
b. In retaliation, Germany declared a submarine war area around the British Isles in 1915. The sub was such a new
invention that international law couldn’t address it.
c. Germany declared that they would try not to sink neutral shipping, but mistakes might occur. This put the US in a
precarious position. Wilson decided to claim profitable trading rights, and hoped that no sea incident would force the
US into war. He warned that Germany would be held accountable for any attacks.
d. The submarines did their deadly work until May 1915, when the British passenger liner Lusitania was torpedoed,
killing 128 Americans.
e. The Germans justified themselves with the small-arms ammo the Lusitania was carrying, but the US seethed. The
eastern US called for war, but the rest disliked the hostilities. Wilson instead wrote a series of strong notes. Sec. of
State Bryan resigned rather than sign a protestation that might provoke shooting. Roosevelt assailed him as spineless
f. Another British liner, the Arabic, was sunk later in 1915 and two Americans died, Berlin agreed not to sink,
unarmed, unresisting passenger ships without warning.
g. In March 1916, the Germans torpedoed the French passenger ship Sussex. Wilson informed Germany if they didn’t
stop the inhuman practice of sinking passenger and merchant ships, he would break off diplomatic relations.
h. Germany reluctantly agreed, but attached a string – the US would have to persuade the Allies to modify their
“illegal” blockade. America could not do this, and accepted the Germany pledge without the string, a precarious
position that could lead to war.
13. Wilson Wins Reelection in 1916
a. The bull moose Progressives and the Republicans met. Roosevelt had no stomach for splitting the Republican party
again, ensuring his rival would win and refused to run, ending the Progressive party.
b. The Old Guard resented Roosevelt for rupturing the party in 1912. They nominated Charles Evans Hughes, Supreme
Court Justice. The Republican platform condemned the assaults on trusts, the Democratic tariff and Wilson’s wishy-
washiness in foreign relations.
c. Hughes left the bench to run, but straddled the line. He assailed Wilson for not standing up to the Kaiser, yet took a
softer line in isolationist.
d. Roosevelt hampered Hughes by giving skin-‘em-alive speeches against Wilson and scoffing at Hughes, who he
believed was exactly like Wilson.
e. Wilson ignored Hughes, on the theory that you shouldn’t murder a man committing suicide. Democratic orators
warned that electing Hughes was certain war. Hughes seemed to win with support from the east, but the westerners
relied on Wilson’s implicit promises of no war. They were disappointed.