I have chosen three presidential administrations that to my opinion had the greatest impact on the development of the American nation. These are the administrations of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. I am going to demonstrate that these administrations shaped America’s political, economic and financial model as well as laid the foundations of its modern foreign policy. I am going to consider the three administrations separately, and compare and contrast them in the conclusion of this paper.
Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)
Roosevelt’s presidency marked the beginning of the XX century for America with a completely new style of administration. As a “steward of the people” Roosevelt introduced a new idea of a president as a mouthpiece of the public good. At that he aimed to turn the government into an organizing power and arbiter of the national economic forces, including both large capitals and workers. Striving to provide fair competition in the national economy Roosevelt became known as a “trust buster” when he aggressively pursued the enforcement of the Sherman Act. On the other hand he declared the need for social reforms and social partnership that were necessary in order for capitalism to survive in America thusly laying grounds for modern American socioeconomic model.
It appears that Roosevelt has not distinguished social and environmental issues that are viewed separately in our times. Although being a passionate hunter, he fostered major nature-oriented measures including significant increase of the national forests area and major irrigation projects. A link between social and environmental matters can be found in Pure Food and Drug Act that has been passed during Roosevelt’s presidency. Roosevelt was extremely concerned with public health believing that nature protection is a part of social policy.
In the international arena Roosevelt made America both and active player and an arbiter for international disputes. He placed Panama into the range of American interests and increased the US influence in Central America by allowing construction of the Panama Canal under US control. As a mediator in the international disputes he intervened into the conflict between Venezuela and European nations with a proposition to settle the conflict in the International Court of Arbitration, and, most remarkably, mediated during the peace talks between Japan and Russia in 1905 that contributed greatly to America’s global prestige. It can thus be observed that Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency marked the beginnings for establishment of both US home policies in the social, economic and environmental fields and foreign policy as a global player and a global arbiter.
Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)
Just like Roosevelt, Wilson believed that a president should first and foremost act as a representative of the people. And, just as Roosevelt, Wilson continued the course for establishment of partnership between large capital and the society. In order to normalize national finances he persuaded two major measures. Firstly he won the Congress support for Underwood Act that decreased overall tariff and eliminated tariff for such items as steel and wool, as well as established the Federal income tax as a unified basis for national taxation. Secondly he succeeded in passing the Federal Reserve Act providing the nation with the necessary supply of funds.
Financial reforms were followed by social ones. In 1916 a new law prohibited child labor and limited the length of the working day to eight hours for some categories of workers. Yet some of Wilson’s measures in the social sphere are at least controversial. This includes his support to official segregation in the universities and state offices that has been finally eliminated only half a century later.
Not less controversial was Wilson’s foreign policy. Having won his second elections as a “man who protected America from war” he still caused the Congress to declare America’s entry to the European conflict making WWI really global. Arms contract resulted in economic boost, while Wilson’s position during the subsequent peace talks was a major factor that produced interwar global order, including foundation of the League of Nations. Perhaps Wilson frankly strived to make WWI a war that would put an end to all wars and it is not the fault of his administration that the Versailles system collapsed in twenty years.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)
F.D. Roosevelt is literally a person to whom America owes its present influence and prosperity. He became a leader of a nation that experienced dramatic economic and social crisis and has been withdrawing to isolationism from the rest of the world. By the end of his presidency America was the mightiest economy of the leader of the western nations. In the sphere of home policy Roosevelt demonstrated how state interference can contribute to economic revival, while in foreign policy he managed to win wars before first shots were made.
Roosevelt’s “New Deal” provided relief to the tens of millions of the unemployed by canalizing this potentially dangerous energy to the national projects like highways construction and working in the rural areas. Such new bodies as Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration and Agricultural Adjustment Administration were designed as state bodies that were to organize the unemployed to perform public works thusly providing them with jobs and salary. Roosevelt’s financial policy was more contradictory, including confiscation of privately owned gold and securing of economic growth by major loans that dramatically increased the national debts. Although the economy has been partially recovered, America was still too weak to play a decisive role in the global policy at the eve of the World War II.
Roosevelt’s administration was extremely successfull in combining economy and foreign policy. The land-lease program advocated by Roosevelt both provided outstanding economic growth and allowed America to shape the course of the global war by economic and financial means. Whether Japan would attack Pearl-Harbor or not, America was already participating in the war as non-belligerent ally of Great Britain and USSR. Roosevelt championed in raking up the fire with the hands of the others, and in 1945 America was the only among Allied nations that has not suffered military devastation and whose economy allowed it to set the tone during peace conferences. Although Roosevelt died before the war was over, it was his effort that made America the only real winner in the World War II.
Concluding the paper it can be observed that each of the three mentioned presidential administrations had to deal with similar problems and proposed similar solutions. In the home policy this included major economic and financial reforms that were to ensure the social development of America, while in the foreign policy this was a race for global leadership eventually won by the USA. Although Theodore Roosevelt demonstrated commitment to free economy and his homonym used state intervention to the economy, and although the views of America’s place in the world differed from Wilson to F.D. Roosevelt, their basic course was the same. It included establishment of socially oriented competitive economy and promotion of America to the position of the global leader and arbiter.