Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/383

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365
Progressivism

business man as his employer. The attorney in a country town is as much a business man as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis. The merchant at the crossroads store is as much a business man as a merchant of New York. The farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day who begins in the spring and toils all summer and who, by the application of brain and muscle to the natural resources of the country, creates wealth, is as much a business man as the man who goes upon the Board of Trade and bets upon the price of grain. The miners who go down a thousand feet into the earth, or climb two thousand feet upon the cliffs and bring forth from their hiding place the precious metals to be poured into the channels of trade, are as much business men as the few financial magnates, who, in a back room, corner the money of the world. We come to speak for this broader class of business men.

This ideal, rejected by the dominant political parties, led to a revolt. Elaborated into a definite programme with definite methods, it became known as Progressivism, possessing three aims: to remove special, minority, or corrupt influences in the government and to revise the political machinery; to enlarge the functions of government by exercising greater authority over individual and corporate activities; and to provide measures of relief for the less fortunate citizens. The first triumphs of its origins and conflicts, in Wisconsin, are well told in Robert M. La Follette's Autobiography (1911) and its definite programme in the same State in McCarthy's The Wisconsin Idea (1912); while progressive achievements along the Pacific coast are described in Hichborn's Story of the California Legislature of 1911 and Barnett's Oregon Plan. In municipal affairs the Progressives looked to stricter control of franchises and the commission and managerial forms of government ; in the literature of this phase of the movement, Tom L. Johnson's My Story (1913) is pre-eminent. In national government it brought about stricter Federal control of railways, a definition of restraint of trade, a more democratic banking system, and efforts toward conservation of natural resources. Progressivism was the dominant issue in the presidential campaign of 1912. Its arguments as set forth at that time may be found in Theodore Roosevelt's New Nationalism and Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom. Less popular but more profound presentation of its philosophy is given in the writings of Walter Weyl and Herbert Croly.