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Evaluate The Presidency Of Theodore Roosevelt

To evaluate the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt it is necessary to examine the problems faced by America when he came to power in 1901, and to analyse how and whether he dealt with these problems successfully and efficiently.America faced many economic and social problems when Roosevelt came to power at the turn of the twentieth century. The first problem was the urgent need for conservation of the country’s national resources. Half the country’s timber had been cut down, non-renewable energy resources were being wasted, top quality soil was lost through poor management, and many species of animals were threatened with extinction due to the destruction of their natural habitats.Secondly, America had emerged from its victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898 as a major global power, and for the first time it was in possession of an empire; it had acquired an informal empire in Latin America. This new international role meant there was huge potential for the United States to expand its influence over the international scene, this needed to be explored and developed.The industrialisation of the United States had also created many social and economic problems. Corrupt industrial monopolies emerged, which created problems as the control of many industries lay in the hands of only a few individuals, resulting in an unfair distribution of wealth. Profits also became the prime concern of companies over the welfare of their workers.”The Square Deal” was Roosevelt’s policy to deal with many of the social and economic problems in American society. It aimed to ensure that all Americans received an equal deal in life. It is necessary to look at this ‘deal’ and his other policies to analyse whether they actually improved the problems or addressed the issues, and if so, to what extent did they resolve or deal with them.Throughout his two terms in office Theodore Roosevelt attempted to deal with all of these issues, which were apparent when he was elected.Roosevelt recognised the problems created by large corporations and became known as the ‘trust buster’ for his crusade throughout his presidency to limit the powers of, and to correct the social and economic problems created by large business corporations, commonly known as ‘trusts’.He saw monopolies as an inevitable part of the emerging industrial economy and worked to correct their faults through regulation, as opposed to dissolving them completely. It could be argued that this is evidence that Roosevelt was successful as a president as he had a realistic judgement of problems, knowing that regulation would be a much more effective method to correct the corrupt practises of trusts, rather than futile attempts to dissolve all monopolies and restore small businesses, a method which he reserved to deal with only the most threatening trusts. Roosevelt’s policy of regulation was imposed through the establishment of two regulatory bodies: a commerce and labour department, which was authorised to investigate and warn again practises harmful to the public, and a Bureau of Corporations, whose role was to work with the owners of trusts to correct malpractices from within. This was an effective policy as Roosevelt knew that corporation owners would prefer to work with these organisations to correct problems themselves, rather than face law suits which could dissolve their businesses.Legislation was passed through Congress to prevent business corporations from committing actions which went against Roosevelt’s ‘Square Deal’ policy. For example: ‘The Hepburn Act’, which forbade railroads to grant free passes to anyone but employees. Roosevelt also used his executive powers to enforce the ‘Sherman Anti-Trust Act’, which stated that large trusts were against the public interest and should be dissolved. Roosevelt used this policy to deal only with the largest and most corrupt monopolies. The legislation which was passed is also evidence that Roosevelt’s presidency was successful, as he was able to enforce his will through congress throughout most of his presidency; with congress passing the laws which he suggested.As another method of dealing with trusts, Roosevelt brought law suits against the corporations which he thought were the most problematic for American society. This was effective as over twenty-five successful law suits were brought against harmful corporations, either dissolving them or correcting their misconducts. The most notable was the 1904 ‘U.S. Vs Northern Securities Company’ case. This was significant as the huge company that had a monopoly of the railroad system after the merger of three major railway companies was ordered dissolved.Conservation was another of Roosevelt’s chief concerns. Roosevelt extended the powers of the president to deal with the serious environmental issues facing America. Roosevelt believed that people had a responsibility to ensure the country’s natural resources were still in tact for generations to come. Roosevelt chose to employ a variety of techniques to conserve the country’s natural resources and wildlife.Firstly, he chose to enforce the Forest Reserve Act of 1891. This act proved a success as over 170 million acres of Timberland was excluded from settlement or harvest, in addition to 85 million acres of land in Alaska alone.Roosevelt succeeded in another of his aims; attempting to raise the profile of the conservation issue to the masses. This was achieved partially through inviting university presidents, governors, businessmen, and scientists to a high profile conference at the White House on the conservation of natural resources. The aim of this conference was to consider which policies should be adopted to preserve the nation’s natural resources. This conference was a great success because, as a result, forty one states created conservation committees, which would handle the issue of conservation at a local level, which Roosevelt knew would be more efficient than establishing a single body to discuss how to conserve resources throughout the whole country.Finally, Roosevelt used his presidential powers to create fifty new wildlife refuges, appoint five new national parks, and initiate a system of designating national monuments, such as the grand canyon.Therefore, Roosevelt clearly recognised the need for conservation in America. Roosevelt’s conservation campaign was hugely successful; he contributed significantly to ensuring that the country’s natural resources were preserved, and many have said that it is down to Roosevelt’s foresight, in a time when few people thought about conservation, that America has areas of rural interest and natural resources to enjoy today.Throughout his two terms in office Roosevelt successfully developed the United States’ rising role as a major international power. This was achieved through intervention in foreign affairs, for example in Panama in 1904, and through the introduction of a new foreign policy statement, The Roosevelt Corollary.Roosevelt intervened between the state of Panama and Colombia in 1904; aiding Panama to achieve its independence, to ensure that the United States would acquire the rights to construct a canal across part of Panama. This was achieved by Roosevelt defusing the civil war, by ordering United States vessels to keep hostile Colombian forces from proceeding to Panama City. The newly independent State of Panama acknowledged Roosevelt’s support in achieving its independence by handling over the control of a ten mile strip across the isthmus of Panama to the United States to build the canal.Roosevelt developed what became known as the Roosevelt Corollary. This was significant as it updated the Monroe Doctrine (which stated that world was divided into two hemispheres, and warned Europe that it did not have the right to intervene in the Western hemisphere, which was assumed to be owned by the United States), which had influenced American foreign policy since 1823, into a policy which was appropriate for America’s recent emergence as a major player on the international stage. The corollary was a confrontational statement which declared that the U.S. could intervene whenever its interests in Latin America were threatened, adopting the role of an ‘international police power’ �.Roosevelt’s foreign policy illustrates that he recognised that the United States had huge potential as a world power after its victory against Spain in 1898, and developed and explored this new role. The policies and actions Roosevelt chose to follow in response to the issue of international affairs were greatly successful. This is shown by the effects of the actions he chose to take. The Roosevelt Corollary was successful, regardless of the fact that it was generally ignored by the major European powers, because it recognised the United States’ new international role. It realised that the country was now in possession of an informal empire which it had a responsibility to protect : ‘All that this country desires is to see the neighbouring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous’ �. The Corollary also justified both Roosevelt and the succeeding presidents’ more active and interventionist stance on foreign affairs. His intervention in Panama in 1904 was successful as he put into action what presidents before him had dreamed about for decades, and in doing so brought about many positive economic and political effects for the United States. The Panama Canal shortened trade routes, therefore, boosting the country’s income from trade, and was of major strategic importance for America as it enabled the country’s navy to move swiftly from ocean to ocean. This was highly significant for America’s new, more active foreign policy. As a whole, his foreign policy boosted the United States’ world role, gained recognition from other nations of the country’s positive effects on foreign affairs through its intervention, and finally, set the precedent for successive presidents regarding American foreign policy.Therefore, as Roosevelt identified the major issues which needed to be addressed, and then introduced policies and took appropriate action, which significantly dealt with these issues, his presidency can be seen as successful at one level. However, a president must also be capable of dealing with crises which arise while they are in power for their presidency to be judged as successful at a second level.The major crisis of Roosevelt’s presidency was the miner’s strike which exploded during his first term of office. In May 1902, 15,000 coal miners went on strike in Pennsylvania, demanding recognition of their union, a nine-hour working day, and a twenty percent pay increase. As the mine owners refused to negotiate the strike dragged on for five months. With no sign of a settlement, and the winter approaching with the nation facing a coal shortage, Roosevelt decided to take firm action. He threatened to call out U.S. troops to operate the mines in the public interest, and brought such pressure upon the mine owners that they unwillingly agreed to arbitration.Roosevelt showed success in dealing with a crisis as he applied pressure to the miners to negotiate, and then resolved the problem through providing them with their demands in a way which did not make him appear too weak or lenient. Thus, not encouraging other strikes. The workers received their 9 hour day, however, they only received a 10% pay increase, as opposed to 20%, and their union was not recognised.Although this evidence suggests that Roosevelt’s presidency can be judged as successful, there are also ways in which his presidency can be viewed as unsuccessful. This is because there were many serious issues facing America at the time of his presidency which he failed to address.At this time women were severely repressed in American society; they could not be employed in certain sectors and were not eligible to vote. Almost 90% of African-Americans in the South were victims of poverty, segregation, discrimination and violence. Child labour was also a major problem; in 1900 over 1.7 million children under the age of 16 worked full-time, labouring up to sixteen hours a day. Although Roosevelt spoke out on all these issues, he failed to take any significant action or enforce any legislation to deal with these problems.Roosevelt also made a severe strategic mistake on election night in 1904, declaring he would uphold the two term tradition set by George Washington, by not standing as a candidate in the 1908 election. This was a political mistake as congress did not enforce Roosevelt’s policies towards the last part of his second term, as they knew that he would not be in office in the next term to deal to follow his actions up. This is partly why Roosevelt did not deal with the problems mentioned earlier, as when he attempted to deal with them, congress did not pass his legislation.Many historians have questioned the motives behind Roosevelt’s achievements, believing that Roosevelt’s credibility should be reduced as he was motivated by personal concerns. They feel he implemented his ‘square deal’, not motivated by a genuine concern for the people, but to prevent them from turning to extremist groups, which would lead to the loss of his powers as president. However, I think that the results of a president’s policies are far more important than his motives, and that Roosevelt’s credibility should not be reduced.In conclusion, although Roosevelt did not deal with some of the issues which arose during his presidency, and did make a major political mistake, I think that his presidency can still be viewed as effective and successful. The great achievements Roosevelt made in the areas he did deal effectively deal with, I think, far out-weigh the negative aspects of his presidency.

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