Trustbusters Progressive Era Essay

President Roosevelt did not just focus on conservationism during his presidency.  He attacked the trusts guilty of monopolies and set up the necessary reforms that resulted in businesses into accepting government regulation. According to our textbook The American Pageant, Roosevelt, as a trustbuster, made headlines in 1902 when he attack the Northern Securities Company, a railroad holding company organized by financial titan J.P. Morgan and empire builder James J. Hill.  Roosevelt challenged these great big giants and their attempts to monopolized the railroad industry.  In response they appealed to the Supreme Court, which in 1904 upheld Roosevelt’s antitrust suit and ordered the Northern Securities Company to be dissolved.  The Northern Securities decision jolted Wall Street and angered big business but greatly ehanced Roosevelt’s reputation as a trust smasher. His big stick crashed down on other ginat monopolies, as he initiated over forty legal proceedings against them.  The Supreme Court in 1905 declared the beef trust illegal, and the heavy fist of justice fell upon monopolies controlling sugar, fertilizer, harvesters, and other key products(666-667).

According to Wikipedia, Trust-busting refers to government activities designed to break up trusts or monopolies. Theodore Roosevelt is the U.S. president most associated with dissolving trusts, but his chosen successor, William Howard Taft, actually began the most of the anti-trust proceedings.

Trusts were large business entities that largely succeeded in controlling a market, essentially becoming a monopoly. The term became common in the late 19th century, when a system of trusts controlled much of the economy of the United States. In 1898, President William McKinley launched the “trust-busting” era when he appointed the U.S. Industrial Commission on Trusts, which interrogated Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Charles M. Schwab, and other industrial titans. The report of the Industrial Commission was seized upon by Theodore Roosevelt, who became known as a “Trust Buster,” dissolving 44 trusts during his two terms as president. However, the “Trust Buster” name is probably more suited for Roosevelt’s successor, William Howard Taft, who brought an end to 90 trusts in one term. Although Taft may have done more to control the trusts while in office, Roosevelt retains the nickname because he was the pioneer of trust-busting.

Do you think Roosevelt’s trust busting practices contradicts the ideals of capitalism?

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