There might be many aspects of US history between 1900 to 1932 that were detrimental, causing much trouble between this period and years to come. It is between this period that America lost two presidents, entered World War I, which left thousands of soldiers dead, experienced the Great Depression, among other detrimental effects. Still, many stood out as beneficial, and Americans enjoy them to this day. It is between this period that women were granted the right to vote, labor unions were recognized, big businesses and corporate bosses (“robber barons”) with their unethical business practices were curbed, an income-based tax was introduced, among many other benefits. This paper argues that the period from 1900 to 1932 was more beneficial than detrimental. It discusses events in the Progressive Era, the constitutional amendments, among other reforms. It also discusses the effects of World War I and the Great Depression, which are some of those considered detrimental between this period.
Between 1890 and 1920, the United States was graced with the Progressive Era. During this time, many political and social reforms aimed at achieving a better America (Nugent 3). Progressive Era reformers and the US presidents during this time, such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, directed the power of the federal government to reduce corruption, eliminate unfair and unethical business practices and counteract the adverse social effects of industrialization (Nugent 3). President Roosevelt, in particular, was against capitalism and corporate bosses in the country such as JP Morgan with General Electric and John D Rockefeller with his Standard Oil controlling the economy (Nugent 11). Also, during the Progressive Era, the power of the federal government was expanded to regulate the private industry, protect workers and consumers and the natural environment. Some of the constitutional amendments during the Progressive Era include the Sixteenth Amendment, the Seventeenth Amendment, Eighteenth Amendment, and the Nineteenth Amendment. Besides, there was the implementation of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914, among others.
Following the assassination of President William McKinley in September 1901, his vice Theodore Roosevelt took office, becoming the youngest US president. Theodore Roosevelt, a naturalist and conservationist, implemented many policies that steered the United States forward. He established many monuments, forests, national parks, and irrigation programs. In 1902, he signed the Newlands Reclamation Act, which authorized the federal government to commission diverting, retaining, and transmitting of water projects in western United States arid lands. This provided Americans with an opportunity to access water through a series of dams on waterways important for domestic and commercial farming activities.
In 1903, Congress passed the Elkins Act, which strengthened the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) as it forbade rebates and rate-cutting. It also required the railroads to fulfill the published rates. The Act enabled the country to prevent loss of revenue. The Act was further enhanced in 1906 with the Hepburn Act. With this Act, the ICC would use standardized bookkeeping systems that eased monitoring of
In 1903, president Roosevelt authorized the big stick diplomacy, which showcased America’s naval power without using force but by diplomatic contact. While the naval strength was showcased, it permitted America to perform humanitarian roles and establish goodwill through diplomatic contact.
In 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World labor union was formed. The union combined the industrial unionism and general unionism in the efforts to organize workers in industries and various trades. The union has streamlined working conditions for workers and employers to this day, despite local, state, and federal governments suppression between this time.
In 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Act and Meat Inspection Act strengthened the protections of workers and consumers. Previously, production companies would alternate ingredients, reduce production costs, and make profits while the public was left with low quality and misbranded food and other products. With these Acts, such practices were banned, improving the health of consumers and the welfare of employees working for such companies.
In 1913 there was the Sixteenth Amendment. Americans were now taxed according to their pay instead of using the state population to determine tax rates. Initially, if a person came from a state that contributed 17% of the US population, then he/she was taxed at the rate of 17%, regardless of his/her earnings. In the same year, under the Seventeenth Amendment, constituents were allowed to elect their senators. Initially, senators were chosen by the legislature of a state, creating a room of corruption and ignoring the interests of the constituents.
In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was enacted. Although the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed from the constitutions in the 1930s, between 1919 and 1930s, it advocated for a better society by outlawing the production and selling of alcohol. The objective was to improve health and hygiene, reduce corruption, crime, the tax burden in prisons and poorhouses, among others (Thornton 1). While it is considered a failure, the intent was noble.
In 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment was enacted. With the Nineteenth Amendment, women were allowed to vote, creating a room for women’s voice in socio-political facets. Initially, women had rights in these areas.
The Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 regulated price discrimination, access to collective bargaining, mergers, among other obligations. The government was given the mandate to control monopolies and unethical business. The Act enhanced consumer protection and business competition, paving the way for small businesses to grow.
In 1917, the United States entered World War 1. The war indeed caused the loss of millions of lives, both civilians and men and women in uniform. However, the lessons learned from World War I helped in defeating tyranny in World War II. American resumed the global responsibility to restore and preserve peace since the World War I. While the costs were high, the Americans have enjoyed its benefits for the last century, including property and security, respect for human rights, collaborations between nations, controlling the spread of dangerous arms (MacGregor 603).
In 1929, America was struck with the Great Depression. It is true the Great Depression resulted in a broader financial crisis, bank failure, growth of unemployment, and unspeakable suffering, which affected millions of Americans. However, people forget about the resulting policy changes. Among the result of the Great Depression were the inclusion of women in the workforce, lower cost of living, and scientific and technological advancement that helped the country during and after the Depression (Milkman and Ruth 71). Besides, the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 showed how trade protectionism could affect the global economy. After the Great Depression, economics, among them political leaders, advocated for free trade agreements, promoting trade for all participants (Amadeo 1).
While some Americans choose to consider the period between 1900 to 1932 as detrimental, they fail to recognize its benefits. This paper has presented the benefits of this period. It has discussed the benefits of the Progressive Era, which stretched up to 1920 and its resulting constitutional amendments between this period. It has also considered the effects and lessons learned from major events in US history, such as World War I and The Great Depression.
Amadeo, Kimberly. “What the Smoot-Hawley Act can teach protectionists today.” 2019, https://www.thebalance.com/smoot-hawley-tariff-lessons-today-4136667 (Accessed 21 October 2019)
MacGregor, David. “The Use, Misuse, and Non-Use of History: The Royal Navy and the Operational Lessons of the First World War.” The Journal of Military History 56.4 (1992): 603.
Milkman, Ruth, and Ruth Milkman. “Women’s work and economic crisis: some lessons of the Great Depression.” Review of Radical Political Economics 8.1 (1976): 71-97.
Nugent, Walter. Progressivism: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press, 2009.
Thornton, Mark. “Cato institute policy analysis no. 157: Alcohol prohibition was a failure.” Washington, DC: Cato Institute (1991).