Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson were three American presidents. Their presidency (as a whole) went on for 18 years between 1901-1917.
All were American and admired their demanding job. But was there a difference? Well the answer is their approach to foreign policy. From dealing with foreign matters to challenging whether or not war is the solution; all three presidents had different approaches. In this essay I will look at and attempt to state the differences between the presidents and why some (if not all) were good in their demanding role as president of the United States.The first of the three to ‘reign’ as president was Roosevelt. He was president between 1901 and 1909. Also known as ‘Teddy’ (which came from his first name Theodore).
He approached presidency with ‘big stick’ theory. He was not afraid to use economic strength and/or military power. An example of this would be the vast growth of the American Navy. He did not once think whether this would arouse suspicion with other nations. His theory was if something needs doing-do it! The navy in actual fact doubled in size between 1901 and 1909. Along with the size of the navy, its expenditure grew by over 50 million US dollars.
Roosevelt (being the show off he is) sent the US ‘Great White’ fleet around the world to show just how much of a naval power America is. He wanted to ‘signal’ America’s power and presence to the world, which he did (there is another reason which will be underlined later on). Roosevelt worked effectively in ending the Russo-Japanese war. As the Japanese won the war with ease, Roosevelt was unsettled as he saw Japan becoming what can only be described as a potential threat. Under the treaty of Portsmouth in 1905, Japan gained Korea, south Manchuria and Sakhalin.He wanted the two nations to come together in piece. Relations only worsened between America and Japan because of racial incidences being brought up in American schools (against Japanese children). It was then that Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet to underline America’s interest in the area.
The Japanese gave a warm welcome to the ship and relations between the two nations began to bridge. This event almost fits in with his saying of speaking softly and carrying a big stick. His attempts to bring about peace got him a Nobel peace prize. Roosevelt was also famously renowned for the way he dealt with the Panama Canal situation. The canal was very sought after by Roosevelt. If he acquired the canal, American trading would have become much more sufficient and he would have paved the foundations for future imports and exports. Ferdinand De Lessops (architect of the Suez Canal), asks America if they want a stake in the project for $109 million. America declines the offer because it is way too much.
In 1901, America gets exclusive access and the price is lowered to $40 million and America accepts. Columbians, however, want to renegotiate and so a revolution is begun by a canal worker supported by America! In the end, America got the Canal for $10 million and $1 million each year. It is heavily debated whether or not it was Roosevelt who started the revolution, however in years after his presidency he said “I stole the Canal”. It becomes quite clear that it was him who got the Canal worker to start the revolution. Although it may seem this is wrong and unjust for the acts of a president, it did get the US the canal; which helped immensely in the near future to come.The second president was William Taft. He adopted the famous ‘Dollar Diplomacy’.
He, just like Roosevelt, had planned to have an ongoing interest in foreign affairs. He firmly believed that co operation would go a lot further than the immediate reaction equipped by humans to use force. He believed the economic strength of America was enough to promote American interests. Hence the phrase, ‘Dollar Diplomacy’. This is where he and Roosevelt differed (largely). He actively encouraged and supported American overseas investments as he saw it in the sense that whatever profited American bankers and benefited the industrialists was bound to benefit the US. Dollar Diplomacy didn’t prove too popular in Latin America as they saw it (and rightly so) as an excuse for American expansionism. American mining firms helped start a revolution in 1909 against the uncooperative president Zelaya.
An American warship helped persuade the new leaders (of a revolutionary government) that taking out loans from New York banks were the best option. By 1911, America was undoubtedly in control of the nation’s finances.Taft, with his unique approach to presidency, had many achievements in his years as US president. The Mann-Elkins Act gave the interstate commerce commission power to revise railroad rate without waiting for complaints from shippers. Under the same reform, the ICC was able to regulate the important telephone and telegram companies.
He greatly supported the sixteenth amendment, creation of the federal children’s bureau, safety laws for mines and railroads, and the Mann White Slave Traffic Act. It seemed that he really cared about his fellow citizens. However, when economic influence didn’t seem to work, he did look to use force. An example of this is when he dispatched the marines in 1909 in order to preserve a pro American in power in Nicaragua. This seemed to remain a long term ‘settlement’ as it was still in power until 1925, making it a renowned success.
Taft also looked to the Caribbean and China to ‘substitute bullets for dollars’.The third and final president was Woodrow Wilson. He came to power in 1913. He rejected both the ‘big stick’ and ‘dollar diplomacy’ theories put into motion by his two predecessors. He was a fan of idealism. He believed strongly in equality and honor. Based on this, the economic hold that Taft had on Latin America was disavowed.
He made it quite clear that he did not wish to expand into another country on the basis of forcefulness. “Never again seek an additional foot of territory by conquest”. He became president on near enough the verge of the beginning of the First World War. This fact challenged him as a president. Germany had attacked the ‘neutral’ Belgians. Despite feeling sympathetic towards the Belgians, Wilson didn’t do anything. Ex President Roosevelt saw it as cowardly (as you would expect) and many Americans believed that America should be prepared to defend democracy which it believed a great deal in.He saw the fiasco as a European problem and despite his feelings he stuck to his ‘hug a tree’ approach to presidency.
A small part urging Wilson to join the First World War was the boom that the war had on America’s economy. Prices rose considerably. Britain had blockaded ships in order to search vessels believed to have been carrying goods.
The Germans reacted by trying to sink British ships without warning. This was seen as barbaric and Wilson believed this was a breach of standard warfare ‘rules’. Germans sank the ‘Lusitania’. Of the 1200 that died, 128 were American! In 1916, the Sussex was sunk. Wilson threatened the Germans and made it clear that if American lives were endangered, there would be consequences. The Germans abandoned the U boat campaign. Wilson kept his cool in this situation whereas Roosevelt (and possibly Taft) would have reacted in an act of war.They would have only fueled the fire by making the situation worse and endangering even more lives.
Wilson however avoided conflict and kept American status as the ‘dad’ of the world at large. The Zimmerman telegram made relations worse and the loss of American lives at sea almost made war a certainty. America declared war or Germany with the promise of Wilson being that he would make the world ‘safe for democracy’. The Americas strong navy challenged the Germans’ U boats (it seems that Roosevelt’s desire to expand America’s navy had finally paid off). Although they had not spent much time in the war, they most certainly contributed to the victory along with their allies.The president of this time must be praised for his patience and prudence before and after joining.
Wilson’s run of success was not to be challenged as what followed the war was the Paris peace conference. Probably one of the most famous peace conferences held. Germans asked for peace off the Americans (just goes to show how aware they were of America’s superiority). Wilson made it clear about what he wanted with his 14 points. One of these was the introduction to the League of Nations. Although in the near future it had its streak of unsuccessfulness, it also had its successes and encouraged nations to work with each other.
His mains aims were to minimize conflict and maximize co operation between nations.All presidents had their ’15 minutes of fame’ and achieved something in their years as presidents. Their approach to presidency differed, from Roosevelt’s ‘pro power’ to Taft’s ‘semi power’ to Wilson’s ‘anti power’. Roosevelt laid the foundations by increasing the naval size (which would be needed later on) and ended the Russo-Japanese war. Taft increased the nation’s economic state and made it a nation of power through its economic strength. Wilson aided America through the war and done his best to avoid conflict.
He laid the ground works of the League of Nations which would later go on to help the conflicts of the world. The three presidents differed in their approach to foreign policy, not in their ambition of spreading and protecting that valued American asset-democracy.