Everyone Loves a Fat Man - William Taft The Most Progressive President In the early nineteen hundreds, the events that come to mind first are most likely World War I, which was going on at full steam, maybe even the Wright brothers making their first successful flight, and most likely the subject of racism and segregation. All these events became a major part of the future of our nation, and even the world. But nothing molded our country as much as the progressive movement from 1900 to 1917, and even more importantly, those who lead the movement. Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, and Woodrow Wilson consisted of those who lead. All three were great leaders, but not all were as progressive as they could have been. To understand the importance of a progressive leader, it is critical to understand the definition of progressive.
In a nutshell, progressivism is defined as trying to achieve social progress through political reform. Progressivism consisted of primarily the middle to upper middle class. They concentrated on helping out the poor, getting the government out of corruption and back into the people s hands, and ending all the business abuse that destroyed free enterprise and brought wealth to few individuals. As stated, all three, Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson, were great leaders, but William Taft had to be the most progressive leader of them all.
Taft achieved many goals and had many great progressive ideas for our country. For example, one of his major accomplishments was getting the Mann-Elkins Act passed in 1910. The Mann-Elkins act basically strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), so regulate the top railroad, telephone and telegraph corporations. For example, t this time, railroads had ridiculously high prices, and this act regulated that. Taft also got the Department of Labor to form a Children s Bureau to investigate and solve any problems concerning chil labor.
Taft was also against the trust and large businesses that didn t play by the rules. If there were a business that was monopolizing over small businesses, he would bust it. Taft filed over ninety suits against trusts; he was truly a trust-buster. The introduction of the Income Tax, or the sixteenth amendment, was another large accomplishment that Taft achieved, although it was passed during Wilson s presidency. The Income Tax would pay for social programs, such as the Child Labor Act and the Workers Compensation Act. Taft initially wanted to lower tariffs (tax on imported goods), to increase competition between the foreign companies and the American companies.
This would push the American economy to work harder and most likely prosper. Taft passed the Pain-Aldridge Act, which was supposed to lower tariffs, but senator Aldridge and congress amended the act over eight hundred times to keep the tariffs high, so imported goods would be taxed more. In comparison to Wilson and Roosevelt, Taft might not have been credited to all of his reforms, so it may not seem like he was as good of progressive leader as he really was. However, over seven years, Roosevelt filed about forty suits against unfair, and rule breaking trusts. In the span of four years, Taft filed ninety suits against trusts. Not only did he out trust-bust Roosevelt, he also set aside more public lands as forest reserves than Roosevelt did.
Taft also formed a children s bureau, which would investigate child labor. During Wilson s term, the Child Labor Act was passed, which limited the number of hours that children can work. You have to think that this couldn t have been possible if Taft hadn t made the effort to look into child labor. As I stated earlier, Taft introduced the concept of the Income Tax, which was later passed during Wilson s term as the sixteenth amendment. Again, credit Taft never really received directly. Roosevelt initially wanted to keep tariffs high, unlike Taft who wanted to lower tariffs.
Later Roosevelt said he would lower tariffs, following in Taft s footsteps, only proving that Taft had the right idea. As you can see, all three presidents were great progressive leaders, and accomplished many things. But Taft stands out as the most progressive of the leaders. The bottom line is that he achieved more social progress through political reform.
He busted the rule breaking trusts, and set aside much land for public use. He ensured safer working conditions for miners and railroad workers, and dropped federal worker s days down to eight hours. True, he was known as being hostile towards unions, but he respected the American workers and made any reforms that would benefit them. From the Mann-Elkins act to the Payne-Aldridge Act, and introducing the concept of Income Tax, Taft made many progressive reforms that molded our country to how it is today.
And as William H. Taft says, Everyone love s a fat man.