Progressives used wealth and intellectual arguments to garner political influence. By 1910, progressives had enough political influence to sway major legal amendments and enact their progressivist ideas into law. However, progressivism received a lot of criticism because of its impacts on government, society, and especially the economy. The following paper critically analyses the progressivism reform movement as a controversial issue in United States history.
Many Americans shared a series of beliefs about the motive of government, its organization, and policies briefly following the civil war. This consensus was shaped by the principles of the founding fathers.1 However, a new orientation slowly started to replace this early one between 1877 and 1920.2 The new orientation, progressivism, became more and more widespread and extreme through its conversion into modern liberalism. The progressives did not have a definite explanation for their identity. The progressives lacked a political party and instead included a number of them. These parties supported diverse representative and workplace reforms that frequently discriminated against minorities or just demeaned them.
Founders of the progressive reform movement argued that God created human beings equally and gave them absolute rights.3 As a result, all human beings had to abide by the natural law that gives all men rights and responsibilities. Latter progressives like John Dewey rejected the founders’ idea of natural law and equality stating it is naïve and unhistorical as God did not create all men free4. Gradually, Dewey and other latter progressives deduced there are no permanent criteria of rights.5 The motive of government was not as important as a man’s existence and independence for the founders of the progressive reform movement. Dewey later argued against this motive of government by stating that the government is obliged to form institutes that