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.