Essay on The Progressive Movement

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The Progressive Movement (ca. 1890s-1910s)

Even more energetic a sphere of historical controversy than that over the Populists is the historians' argument over the Progressive movement. The Progressives were a heterogeneous collection of reformers. Active chiefly in the nation's cities and the urban mass media (and in the legislatures of such states as Wisconsin and New York), the Progressives carried out efforts to reform American society and governance on all fronts. They numbered among their ranks social Progressives (such as Jane Addams, the founder of the Hull House settlement movement), economic Progressives (such as Richard Ely, the noted Wisconsin economist who emphasized the need to prevent great concentrations of economic
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This new thinking took various forms -- including the use of local, state, and national government to protect workers from unsafe working conditions, to guard consumers against unsafe products, and to bring order and system to the growing, ever more complex economic system. As noted above, however, a division emerged between nationalist Progressives led by Theodore Roosevelt, who conceived the nation as a fully integrated economic, social, and political unit requiring national solutions to national problems, and localist Progressives led by Woodrow Wilson and Louis D. Brandeis, who believed that mere bigness was itself a dangerous threat to American liberty, and that solutions to the problems of American life were best given effect by state and local government.

Progressives built on some of the ideas of the Populists, advocating greater democracy and accountability at all levels of government. Progressive initiatives and inventions in government included such devices as the referendum (by which the electorate would decide directly on major public questions), the initiative (by which the electorate could instruct their elected representatives to consider legislative measures), and the recall (by which the electorate could topple officials, for malfeasance or faith ithlessness to the interests of those they represented, before their terms of office were up). The Progressives also united to amend
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