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When the name of the 26th head of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt is mentioned, what normally comes to mind is the progressive era. While there is no doubt that he was among the admired leaders during that era, the most striking legacy of Theodore Roosevelt was the expansion of the Federal Government. At the time of independence, the founders of the United States had envisioned a less powerful government that was more concerned with the protection of individual liberty of its citizens (Paul and Buckley 1). During that early period, the state and local governments were more prominent in the daily lives of the American citizens as they played a bigger role of promoting and protecting their social and economic welfare. However, President Theodore Roosevelt is among the American Presidents considered to have championed the need to expand the powers and authorities of the Federal Government so as to play a chief role in supporting the social and economic welfare of the American people. Although, the expansion of the Federal Government had begun during the Civil War through President Abraham Lincoln, President Theodore Roosevelt assisted by the popularity of the Progressive ideologies, reinforced the idea of “big government” in the minds of American citizens in addition to the American political arena (“Big-Government Man”).
Theodore Roosevelt birth and death was on October 27, 1858 and January 6, 1919 respectively. He was recorded to be the 26th head of the United States at the age of 42 after the death of the former President William McKinley who was assassinated in 1901. President Theodore Roosevelt had earlier served in the American Navy before venturing into public life and serving in his country in many capacities especially in New York City. However, his star as a national leader started to rise in 1898 when he was elected the governor of New York State in a hotly contested election (Powell 82.) As a governor, he was credited with weeding the state of corruption in politics and business as well as numerous scandals that were common during his predecessors. President Theodore Roosevelt soon became the Vice-President of the United States when President William McKinley chose him as the running mate in the 1900 presidential elections. Being a progressive and a popular one for that matter, he helped President William McKinley assume the highest seat in the United States, but soon found himself running the country after President McKinley was assassinated in 1901 (Paul and Buckley 1).
Upon assuming office as the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt’s aspiration to spread out the powers and authorities of the Federal Government were effective within only some months into the office. He used his first address to the Congress to express his desire for strong antitrust policies. On numerous occasions during his Presidency, Theodore Roosevelt asserted that the President of the United States should “use without hesitation every power the position yields” (Powell 89). President Theodore Roosevelt believed that politicians would be able to solve all the world’s problems if they were granted enough power. Powell notes that the reign of President Theodore Roosevelt steered in a fresh period of improved government concern in the monetary and societal circumstances of the country (90). While President Theodore Roosevelt was not the first U.S. President to expand the supremacy and influence of the Federal Government over the state and local governments, he is considered to be the first to have done so during peaceful times. The expansion of the Federal Government was started by President Abraham Lincoln. However, unlike President Theodore Roosevelt who served during peaceful times, he was forced to expand the powers of his office in order to respond to the devastating effects of the Civil War, which according to him required extraordinary measures so as to protect the citizens of the Union (McDonald 56).
While President Theodore Roosevelt used to make known his beliefs on what roles should be performed by the Federal Government, he reinforced those believers through many deeds during his tenure as the President. At different times during his Presidency, Theodore Roosevelt argued that the office of the President is allowed to wield all powers so long as such powers are not forbidden by the constitution. This argument has continued to be replicated by many subsequent Presidents (notably by his distant cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt) through their deeds. While President Franklin D. Roosevelt is considered to have greatly contributed to the expansion of federal powers and authority in the history of the U.S. Presidents through his New Deal programs, he drew a lot of inspiration from the deeds and beliefs of his distant cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt (McDonald 70).
Through President Theodore Roosevelt, the idea of ‘big government’ was institutionalized in the American political landscape as the deeds of most of his successors would attest. After the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, the expansion of the Federal Government continued through expansion of federal programs and agencies. For instance, towards the end of the progressive era, a number of policies and laws were initiated by the Federal Government with an aim of promoting the monetary and social provisions of the American people. For example, the Federal Reserve (1913) and the Federal Trade Commission (1914) were formed to look into the welfares of the American citizens (McDonald 78). The creation of the United States Food Administration in 1917 was predominantly imperative in demonstrating the extension of the Federal Government in the standards of living of the American citizens .The body was charged with regulating the food industry by controlling agriculture, distribution, as well as sale of food products in the United States. Similarly, other bodies were formed to regulate production, distribution and sale of fuel in the United States and later, regulation was extended to the entire American economy, something that was more prominent during the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt (Paul and Buckley 1).
President Theodore Roosevelt was probably the first President in the record of the United States to have presided over the biggest expansion of powers and authorities of the Federal Government. While earlier governments had started to show intention of increasing the involvement of the Federal Government in the way of life of the American people, President Theodore Roosevelt came out openly to support and reinforce programs that would increase the powers and authorities of the U.S. Federal Government. His antitrust policies were particularly important in enforcing the antitrust laws passed in the previous decade (“Big-Government Man”). In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt created a new cabinet position, Department of Commerce and Labor that would address labor and business issues in the country. The Bureau of Corporations which falls under the department was empowered during his Presidency to investigate and make reports on the illegal activities undertaken by corporations. On the same year, President Theodore Roosevelt oversaw the enactment of the Elkins Act which authorized the Interstate Commerce Commission to deal with the discriminating rebates which was caused by the railroad’s abuse of economic power (Paul and Buckley 1).
In addition, the Meat Inspection Act passed in 1906, allowed for sanitary and federal regulations as well as inspections of meat production in the meat packing facilities. With this act, the Federal Government provided avenues to protect the consumers of meat products from frauds of drugs, food and meat packing, as well as from poisonous industries. The expansion of Federal Government during the reign of President Theodore Roosevelt cannot be complete without a discussion on the role of the government on land use and conservation. Being a conservationist, he challenged the dominant view at the time that decisions on land use should be left to private owners since they have a high stake in order to improve the worth of their businesses (Paul and Buckley 1). President Theodore Roosevelt expanded the powers of the Federal Government to stifle the privatization of American lands that had been common for many decades. In 1905, he created the U.S. Forest Service that was entitled to manage thousands of acres of government land that were earlier managed by the Department of the Interior. Although the move was popular at the time and is considered as one of the greatest accomplishments of President Theodore Roosevelt, he was able to keep on with the development of the federal powers and authorities in the everyday lives of the American people.
President Theodore Roosevelt being one of the most commemorated heads of the United States is no doubt. He is particularly known for his progressive ideals that not only propelled him to power but also helped him gain a respectable honor from American people for many years and even to date. While he may not be faulted for having introduced numerous programs and agencies with an aim of enhancing the economic and social conditions of the American people, his deeds and words were particularly important in reinforcing the idea of “big government” in the United States. He not only expanded the powers and authorities of the Federal Government during his Presidency, but also instilled the notion that the Federal Government must increase its involvement in the daily lives of the people so as to improve their social and economic welfares. The idea has remained prominent to date.
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