Document-based Question The Progressive Era



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Document-based Question

The Progressive Era


Focus Question:

Assess the accomplishments of the Progressive Movement in the period between 1890-1920. In your answer be sure to consider the economic, social, and political goals of the reformers. To what extent were the Progressives really progressive?


Use the documents and your knowledge of the period 1890-1920 in constructing your response.


  1. Document

Progressive Party Platform, 1912

In particular, the party declares for direct primaries for the nomination of State and National offices, for nation wide preferential primaries for candidates for the presidency; for the direct election of United States Senators by the people; and we urge on the states...the initiative, referendum, and recall.... 

The Progressive party, believing that no people can justly claim to be a true democracy which denies equal political rights on account of sex, pledges itself to the task of securing equal suffrage to men and women alike. 

We pledge our party to legislation that will compel strict limitation of all campaign contributions and expenditures, and detailed publicity of both before as well as after primaries and election.... 

The Progressive party demands such restriction of the power of the courts all leave to the people the ultimate authority to determine fundamental questions of social welfare and public policy.... We believe that the issuance of injunctions in cases arising out of labor disputes should be prohibited when such injunctions would not apply when no labor disputes existed.... 

We pledge ourselves to work...for: 
Effective legislation looking to the prevention of industrial accidents, occupational diseases, overwork, involuntary unemployment, and other injurious effects incident to modern industry; 
The fixing of minimum safety and health standards.... 
The prohibition of child labor; 
Minimum wage standards for working women, to provide a "living wage" in all industrial occupations; 
The general prohibition of night work for women and the establishment of eight hour day for women and young persons; 
One day's rest in seven for all wage workers; 
The eight hour day in continuous twenty-four-hour industries; 
The abolition of the convict contract-labor system.... 
Standards of compensation for death by industrial accident and injury and trade disease which will transfer the burden of lost earnings from the families of working people to the industry, and thus to the community.... 
Establishing...schools for industrial education under public control and encouraging agricultural education and demonstration in rural schools; 
The establishment of industrial research laboratories to put the methods and discoveries of science at the service of American producers; 
We favor the organization of the workers, men and women, as means protecting their interests and of promoting their progress.... 

We believe that the remaining forests, coal and oil lands, water powers and other natural resources still in State or National control (exception agricultural lands) are more likely to be wisely conserved and utilized for the general welfare if held in the public hands.



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Progressive Era Amendments

16th (1913)

Granted Congress the power to tax income.

17th (1913)

Provided for the direct election of U.S. Senators.

18th (1919)

Prohibited making, selling, or transporting alcohol.

19th (1920)

Provided women suffrage (voting).




  1. Document

Progressive Era Federal Legislation

Newlands Reclamation Act

(1902)

Encouraged conservation by allowing the building of dams and irrigations systems using money from the sale of public lands.

Elkins Act

(1903)

Outlawed the use of rebates by railroad officials or shippers.

Pure Food and Drug Act

(1906/1911)

Required that companies accurately label the ingredients contained in processed food items.

Meat Inspection Act

(1906)

In direct response to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, this law required that meat-processing plants be inspected to ensure the use of good meat and health-minded procedures.

Hepburn Act

(1906)

Strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission, allowing it to set maximum railroad rates.

Federal Reserve Act

(1913)

Created 12 district Federal Reserve Banks, each able to issue new currency and loan member banks funds at the prime interest rate, as established by the Federal Reserve Board.

Clayton Antitrust Act

(1914)

Strengthened the Sherman Antitrust Act by outlawing the creation of a monopoly through any means, and stated that unions were not subject to antitrust legislation.

Federal Trade Act

(1914)

Established the Federal Trade Commission, charged with investigating unfair business practices including monopolistic activity and inaccurate product labeling.




  1. Document

Gentleman's Agreement-1908-Between US and Japan
In order that the best results might follow an enforcement of the regulations, an understanding was reached with Japan that the existing policy of discouraging emigration of its subjects of the laboring classes to continental United States should be continued, and should, by co-operation with the governments, be made as effective as possible. This understanding contemplates that the Japanese government shall issue passports to continental United States only to such of its subjects as are non-laborers or are laborers who, in coming to the continent, seek to resume a formerly acquired domicile, to join a parent, wife, or children residing there, or to assume active control of an already possessed interest in a farming enterprise in this country, so that the three classes of laborers entitled to receive passports have come to be designated "former residents " "parents, wives, or children of residents " and "settled agriculturists."

With respect to Hawaii, the Japanese government of its own volition stated that, experimentally at least, the issuance of passports to members of the laboring classes proceeding thence would be limited to "former residents" and "parents, wives, or children of residents." The said government has also been exercising a careful supervision over the subject of emigration of its laboring class to foreign contiguous territory.





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  1. Document

Ida B. Wells on Lynching
OUR country's national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob. It represents the cool, calculating deliberation of intelligent people who openly avow that there is an "unwritten law" that justifies them in putting human beings to death without complaint under oath, without trial by jury, without opportunity to make defense, and without right of appeal.
The alleged menace of universal suffrage having been avoided by the absolute suppression of the negro vote, the spirit of mob murder should have been satisfied and the butchery of negroes should have ceased. But men, women, and children were the victims of murder by individuals and murder by mobs, just as they had been when killed at the demands of the "unwritten law" to prevent "negro domination." Negroes were killed for disputing over terms of contracts with their employers. If a few barns were burned some colored man was killed to stop it. If a colored man resented the imposition of a white man and the two came to blows, the colored man had to die, either at the hands of the white man then and there or later at the hands of a mob that speedily gathered.
In fact, for all kinds of offenses--and, for no offenses--from murders to misdemeanors, men and women are put to death without judge or jury; so that, although the political excuse was no longer necessary, the wholesale murder of human beings went on just the same. A new name was given to the killings and a new excuse was invented for so doing. Again the aid of the "unwritten law" is invoked, and again it comes to the rescue. During the last ten years a new statute has been added to the "unwritten law." This statute proclaims that for certain crimes or alleged crimes no negro shall be allowed a trial; that no white woman shall be compelled to charge an assault under oath or to submit any such charge to the investigation of a court of law. The result is that many men have been put to death whose innocence was afterward established; and to-day, under this reign of the "unwritten law," no colored man, no matter what his reputation, is safe from lynching if a white woman, no matter what her standing or motive, cares to charge him with insult or assault.


  1. Document

From Theodore Roosevelt's Seventh Annual Message to Congress
Dec. 3, 1907

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

The conservation of our natural resources and their proper use constitute the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem of our national life. . ..As a nation we not only enjoy a wonderful measure of present prosperity but if this prosperity is used aright it is an earnest of future success such as no other nation will have. The reward of foresight for this nation is great and easily foretold. But there must be the look ahead, there must be a realization of the fact that to waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.


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Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court Decision 1896
Justice [Henry Billings] Brown delivered the opinion of the Court:

This case turns upon the constitutionality of an act of the General Assembly of the State of Louisiana, passed in 1890, providing for separate railway carriages for the white and colored races...

The constitutionality of this act is attacked upon the ground that it conflicts both with the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution, abolishing slavery, and the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits certain restrictive legislation on the part of the States...

The object of the amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political, equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either. Laws permitting, and even requiring, their separation in places where they are liable to he brought into contact do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race to the other, and have been generally, if not universally, recognized as within the competency of the state legislatures in the exercise of their police power. The most common instance of this is connected with the establishment of separate schools for white and colored children, which has been held to be a valid exercise of the legislative power even by courts of states where the political rights of the colored race have been longest and most earnestly enforced...


Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts or to abolish distinctions based upon physical differences, and the attempt to do so can only result in accentuating the difficulties of the present situation. If the civil and political rights of both races be equal, one cannot be inferior to the other civilly or politically. If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane. The judgment of the court below is therefore, Affirmed.

  1. Document


April 11, 1913-Woodrow Wilson signs into law a bill that establishes segregation in all federal facilities.


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