Interviews with Past Presidents

Jarod Vitorino
November 21, 1998
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Good morning, I\'m Jarod Vitorino, and welcome to our ABC special, Remembering Our Past. This morning we will be remembering the time of the progressive movement.

At the turn of the century, many areas needed reform. The progressive movement was an early 20th century reform movement seeking to return control of the government to the people, to restore economic opportunities and to correct injustices in American life. The progressive movement took place between the years of 1890-1920, with the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. Let us take a closer look at each president.

We will start with Theodore Roosevelt. He took office when William McKinley was assassinated in 1901. Roosevelt\'s first challenge in presidency was the coal strike in 1902. One hundred forty thousand coal miners in Pennsylvania went on strike. They demanded a 20 percent raise, 9- hour days, and the write to organize a union. Roosevelt called both sides to the White House to talk, five months into the strike. They finally agreed to a wage increase and shorter days.

Another problem Roosevelt faced was trustbusting. By 1900, trusts controlled about four-fifths of the industries in the U.S. Many trusts lowered their prices to put other businesses out of business. Once they succeeded with that, they raised their prices. Roosevelt filed 44 antitrust suits and won many of them. Because of this, it broke up many of the trusts. Today in the U.S., we have laws that protect us from anything like this happening again. Now we will move on to William H. Taft.

William H. Taft was the 27th president of the United States. He became president after Roosevelt and lasted four years. Taft busted 90 trusts in 4 years, as did Roosevelt 44 trusts in seven and a half years. Although Taft was not known for trustbusting. Taft also signed the Payne- Aldrich Tariff, which was a set of tax regulations enacted by congress in 1909 that failed to significantly reduce tariffs on manufactured goods. Taft thought this was the best bill the Republican Party ever passed. At this point, he had many people angry with him. He made it worse when he appointed Richard A. Ballinger, a lawyer in Seattle, as Secretary of the Interior. Ballinger removed one million acres of forest and mining lands from a reserved list and approved it to be sold. When it came time for the election, Roosevelt decided to run for a third term. He and his supporters formed the Progressive Party, which supported Roosevelt\'s candidacy for the election in 1912.

Roosevelt, Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Eugene V. Debs ran for presidency in the election of 1912. With Roosevelt and Taft name-calling, Wilson stayed above the political feud. We will return after a brief word from our sponsor.

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Welcome back, now lets take a look at Woodrow Wilson. During his administration, congress enacted two important antitrust measures, the Federal Trade Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act. They Clayton Antitrust Act was a law enacted in 1914 that made certain monopolistic business practices illegal and protected the rights of labor unions and farm organizations. During this time, strikes, peaceful picketing, Boycotts, and the collection of strike benefits became illegal. This is still true today in the U.S. Wilson created a new tax system by the use of the bully pulpit. I would say that all three presidents were very successful.

Now lets take a look at women suffrage. There were many organizations to help women spread the word about suffrage, such as the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government and the College Equal Suffrage League. They would speak to crowds, go door to door, and do whatever they possibly could to spread the word. They would also travel from state to state to win the vote of people. They even went so far as to picket around the White House. Finally, in 1919, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote. Another major issue of this time was child labor, which I will take you through.

It was nearly a century ago when our children were working behind big machines such as the ones shown here. Children needed to work to keep their families out of poverty. Sometimes