Square Deal

The Square Deal was President Theodore Roosevelt's domestic program formed upon three basic ideas: conservation of natural resources, control of corporations, and consumer protection. These three demands are often referred to as the "three C's" of Roosevelt's Square Deal. Thus, it aimed at helping middle class citizens and involved attacking plutocracy and bad trusts while at the same time protecting business from the most extreme demands of organized labor. A progressive Republican, Roosevelt believed in government action to mitigate social evils, and as president denounced "the representatives of predatory wealth” as guilty of “all forms of iniquity from the oppression of wage workers to defrauding the public."

Within his second term, he tried to extend his square deal further. Roosevelt pushed for the courts, which had been guided by a clearly delineated standard up to that point, to yield to the wishes of the executive branch on all subsequent anti-trust suits. In 1903, with Roosevelt's support, Congress passed the Elkins Act. This stated that railroads were not allowed to give rebates to favored companies any longer. These rebates had treated small Midwestern farmers unfairly by not allowing them equal access to the services of the railroad. The Interstate Commerce Commission controlled the prices that railroads could charge.

Legislation was passed which specified that meat had to be processed safely with proper sanitation. Foodstuffs and drugs could no longer be mislabeled, nor could consumers be deliberately misled. Roosevelt also fought strongly for land conservation, and safeguarded millions of hectares of wilderness from commercial exploitation. Roosevelt’s conservation efforts were driven by practicality as well as by a love for nature. Influenced by early wise-use advocates like Gifford Pinchot, Roosevelt believed that nature existed to benefit humanity. In a conserved wilderness, water could be taken to irrigate farmland, sport could be had, and timber could be harvested. Acting on these beliefs, Roosevelt set up the federal Reclamation Service in 1902. The agency, through the use of dams and irrigation, created arable land in areas that had been too dry to farm, and the Reclamation Service eventually brought millions of acres of farmland into service. During Roosevelt's time in office, 24 reclamation projects were set up, and 150 national forests were created.

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American History

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Economic History

The Gilded Age and Progressive Era (1877-1929)

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