As the Progressive Party candidate for President in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt continued to seek reform with his Square Deal policies. Roosevelt was a true Progressive and fought consistently for reform throughout his political career. His address made during the campaign was entitled “The Struggle for Social Justice” from Progressive Principles: Selections from Addresses Made during the Presidential Campaign of 1912, ed. Elmer H. Youngman (New York: Progressive National Service, 1913), 199-207.
Theodore Roosevelt’s main argument in this article was that privilege should be eliminated from industrial life and lose its power in political life. He claimed that the boss system thrives on injustice and calls his fight that he was engaged in a fight for human rights. In 1912, Roosevelt fought forcefully for the Republican presidential nomination. When he failed and Taft got the nomination, Roosevelt headed the Progressive party and ran in the election as the Progressive, or Bull Moose, candidate. The Republican vote was split, and the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, won.
Though Roosevelt’s address did not lead to him winning the presidency, his progressive ideas about social justice, and representative democracy have significantly shaped our national character. His desires displayed in the article were all for the bettering of American society, and he really recognized no one could prosper permanently if there were large amounts of people who were debased and degraded. Although Theodore Roosevelt was a member of the Republican Party for the majority of his life, he is best described as a Progressive.
Progressives were politicians and activists who sought change in government and society. The article gives an abundance of evidence that shows Roosevelt’s desire for change. He no longer wanted the rich men of Wall Street to have so much power, he claimed that they were not loyal to the cause of human rights, human justice, or human liberty. These jabs he made at big business and trusts were not unreasonable, at the time many large corporations had complete control of the services that they were selling.
He thought that power and wealth in the hands of private interests threatened the morality and stability of the nation. Just several weeks after Roosevelt’s inauguration, he began prosecuting big business under the 1890 Sherman Act, a task no one had successfully accomplished before. Teddy quickly earned the nickname “the Great Trustbuster. ” Roosevelt attempted to run for president again when he realized that William Howard Taft was generally at odds with the progressive elements in his party. He had favored the Payne-Aldrich tariff, a high-tariff measure that was denounced by progressive Republicans.
Taft’s relations with Roosevelt deteriorated, and the former President joined the opposition to Taft. Roosevelt thought the topic of labor was extremely important. In his address he claimed that all who stand for justice wish to make the country a better place to live in for the man who actually toils, for the wage-worker, for the farmer, and for the small business man. He tried almost everything and anything to help the citizens of the United States. Roosevelt set up child protection laws, which were used to prevent children to work in factories, and it also reduced the amount of time they worked.
Roosevelt also set up workman’s compensation, which is a payment that employers had to pay employees who get injured on the job. Roosevelt intervened in the 1902 anthracite coal strike. As winter got closer and 140,000 miners stayed off the job, the coal industry was paralyzed and the nation grew desperate. The mine owners refused to recognize the miners’ union or negotiate a settlement. Roosevelt summoned both sides to his office for a meeting. The managers did not cooperate. Furious, Roosevelt threatened he might declare a national emergency and call out the Army to run the mines if the owners did not give in.
A settlement was reached that granted the miners’ demands for a higher wage and shorter work day. Most presidents allied with business, never before had a president acted so boldly to settle a strike and respect the interests of labor. There is a myriad of genius logic within Theodore Roosevelt’s address. While trying to get votes for the election he brought up topics such as trust busting and labor unions. His motives were all about helping Americans live better lives, lives without the unfair privileges involved with big business and lives without the terribly unjust working conditions.
His words appealed directly to the majority of American people, many of whom already recognized the dangers of the rich man who felt that his wealth entitled him to more than his share of political, social and industrial power. Roosevelt succeeded in getting the point across to the “plain people” that the big businesses were against them. Throughout his campaign and when he was president he strived for industrial as well as political democracy. His desires displayed in his address were all for the bettering of American society.