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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Rise of the Progressive Mind

"The welfare state is not really about the welfare of the masses. It is about the egos of the elites." — Thomas Sowell

During the 2008 presidential election campaign when Hillary Clinton was challenging Barack Obama she was asked during one of the debates with Obama if she was a liberal. Her response was:

"I consider myself a modern progressive, someone who believes strongly in individual rights and freedoms, who believes that we are better as a society when we're working together and when we find ways to help those who may not have all the advantages in life get the tools they need to lead a more productive life for themselves and their family.

"So I consider myself a proud modern American progressive, and I think that's the kind of philosophy and practice that we need to bring back to American politics.”

So just what is a proud, modern American progressive? To answer that question you have to back to the beginning of the twentieth century and John Hopkins University. On his death in 1873, Johns Hopkins, a Quaker entrepreneur and childless bachelor, bequeathed $7 million (Between $140 million to $1.6 billion in 2011 dollars, by varying estimates) to fund a hospital and university in Baltimore, Maryland. At that time this fortune, generated primarily from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, was the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the United States.

The original board opted for an entirely novel university model dedicated to the discovery of knowledge at an advanced level, extending that of contemporary Germany. Johns Hopkins thereby became the model of the modern research university in the United States. Its success eventually shifted higher education in the United States from a focus on teaching revealed and/or applied knowledge to the scientific discovery of new knowledge. The founders intended the university to be national in scope to strengthen ties across a divided country in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Therefore, the university's official inauguration took on great significance: 1876 was the nation's centennial year and February 22 was George Washington's birthday.

The University's viability depended on its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman, recruited from the presidency of the University of California. Gilman launched what many at the time considered an audacious and unprecedented academic experiment to merge teaching and research. He dismissed the idea that the two were mutually exclusive: "The best teachers are usually those who are free, competent and willing to make original researches in the library and the laboratory," he stated. To implement his plan, Gilman recruited internationally known luminaries such as the biologist H. Newell Martin; the physicist Henry A. Rowland (the first president of the American Physical Society), the classical scholars Basil Gildersleeve and Charles D. Morris; the economist Richard T. Ely; and the chemist Ira Remsen, who became the second president of the university in 1901.

In 1914 Frank Goodnow became the president of John Hopkins University. Goodnow graduated from Amherst College (A.B.) in 1879 and from Columbia Law School (LL.B.) in 1882. At Columbia, in addition to such subjects essential for admission to the Bar, he took courses in public law and jurisprudence offered in the recently organized School of Political Science. Late in 1882 he was offered a position in the School of Political Science on the condition that he prepare himself with a year of study abroad. He studied at the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris and at the University of Berlin where he became familiar with the teachings of the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

Hegel was one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.

Hegel developed a comprehensive philosophical framework, or "system", of Absolute Idealism to account in an integrated and developmental way for the relation of mind and nature, the subject and object of knowledge, psychology, the state, history, art, religion, and philosophy. In particular, he developed the concept that mind or spirit manifested itself in a set of contradictions and oppositions that it ultimately integrated and united, without eliminating either pole or reducing one to the other. Examples of such contradictions include those between nature and freedom, and between immanence and transcendence. According to Hegel, the absolute ground of being is essentially a dynamic, historical process of necessity that unfolds by itself in the form of increasingly complex forms of being and of consciousness, ultimately giving rise to all the diversity in the world and in the concepts with which we think and make sense of the world.

Goodnow took up his teaching in October 1884 at Columbia, giving some instruction in History as well as in United States Administrative Law.

Made Adjunct Professor in 1887, Goodnow became Professor of Administrative Law in 1891, and in 1903 Eaton Professor of Administrative Law and Municipal Science. He became the first president of the American Political Science Association in 1903. Governor Theodore Roosevelt made him a member of the commission to draft a new charter for Greater New York, and President Taft chose him as a member of his Commission on Economy and Efficiency.

At the time Goodnow became the president of John Hopkins it was an established axiom in the academic world that at least one of year of study in Europe, especially Germany, was essential for any academic advancement in the United States, In essence our colleges and universities were moving away from the teachings and philosophies of our founders to the European model of higher education were the elite and masterminds ruled the classrooms.

To many historians Goodnow is credited, along with John Dewey, as being the founder of the modern American progressive movement and John Hopkins University was its crucible. This is where Woodrow Wilson received a PhD and began to develop his progressive, anti-Constitutional and Declaration of Independence philosophy.

Progressives believe that America needs to move beyond the principles of the Founding. Woodrow Wilson—who served as president of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey, and as America’s 28th president—was one of the earliest Progressive thinkers. His critique of the Founding—namely, his rejection of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution’s system of the separation of powers—is one of the most articulate expressions of the Progressive movement’s core beliefs.

After earning a Ph.D. in both history and political science at Johns Hopkins University, Wilson held various academic positions, culminating in the presidency of Princeton University. Throughout this period, he came to see the Constitution as a cumbersome instrument unfit for the government of a large and vibrant nation. This speech, delivered during his successful campaign for president in 1912 and included in a collection of speeches called The New Freedom, puts forward the idea of an evolving, or “living,” constitution.

Woodrow Wilson wrote, “If you want to understand the real Declaration ofWoodrow_Wilson_(Nobel_1919) Independence, do not repeat the preface.” Equality, natural rights, consent of the governed—these are not the fundamental principles that inform the purpose of government. Rather, Wilson argued that it is the list of grievances in the Declaration that demonstrates the proper role of government. Government exists to address and resolve practical problems, which change according to the circumstances of a specific time and place. As these problems change, so too does government. This is in total contradiction to the mind of our founders who believed government existed to protect of God given rights.

The Founders held that the purpose and form of government was inextricably tied to a fixed and imperfect human nature. Wilson, on the other hand, argued that government must evolve because human nature itself is changeable, and has progressed beyond the limitations that the Founders identified. Far from fearing man’s capacity to form majority factions and trample on the rights of others as Publius warned in the Federalist Papers, Wilson held that human beings, now enlightened by the passage of time, could be entrusted with power without abusing it.

In Federalist Paper No. 10, one of the most important of the series authored by James Madison calls “factions” the greatest threat to our liberty and the Republic. Madison stated:

“By a faction I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”


“The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well as speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities that where no substantial occasion presents itself the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.

Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of government.”

“It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

The inference to which we are brought is that the causes of faction cannot be removed and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects.

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed. Let me add that it is the great desideratum by which alone this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has so long labored and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.”

Progressives like Wilson believe the progress of human nature and of government is tied to the idea of historical contingency, which means that each period of history is guided by different truths that change over time. The timeless self-evident truths that the Founders upheld in the Declaration of Independence are no longer applicable. As a result, the Founders’ structure of government based on those principles, including especially the separation of powers, is no longer relevant, and indeed hinders the achievements of true justice.

Progressives thus rejected the limited government of the Founding in favor of an evolving Constitution.

In his 1911 address to the Jefferson Club of Los Angeles — Woodrow Wilson said:

“Now, the business of every true Jeffersonian is to translate the terms of those abstract portions of the Declaration of Independence into the language and the problems of his own day. If you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface. Make a new table of contents, make a new set of counts in the indictment, make a new statement of the things you mean to set right, and then call all the civilized world to witness, as that great document does, that you mean to settle these things in the spirit of liberty, but also in the spirit of justice and responsibility. If you remember how that great document calls on all mankind to witness that we are not doing this thing in the spirit of insurgents but in the spirit of free men, men who have the true interests of humanity at heart—now, in a similar spirit, how are we going to realize the conceptions of the author of the Declaration of Independence in our own day?”

Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, the President who signed the Income Tax legislation and the law authorizing the Federal Reserve System did not believe in the preface of the Declaration of Independence which stated:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

If, as Wilson recommended, you remove this part of the Declaration it becomes no more than a list of grievances against the King. Wilson believed that even this list is outdated and each generation should post their own list of grievances contingent on the times and conditions we live in. To Wilson this “historical contingency” represented the evolution of Darwinian thinking and was opposed to the science of government, that he called Newtonian, that was the basis of the principles of our founders.

As an aside I would point out the Newtonian science put a man on the moon and brought us the advancements in science we live with today. Darwinian thinking gave us eugenics, something progressives of the 1930’s advocated, and Auschwitz.

In his 1907 essay on the Authors and Signers of the Declaration Wilson stated:

“So far as the Declaration of Independence was a theoretical document, that is its theory. Do we still hold it? Does the doctrine of the Declaration of Independence still live in our principles of action, in the things we do, in the purposes we applaud, in the measures we approve? It is not a question of piety. We are not bound to adhere to the doctrines held by the signers of the Declaration of Independence: we are as free as they were to make and unmake governments. We are not here to worship men or a document. But neither are we here to indulge in mere rhetorical and uncritical eulogy. Every Fourth of July should be a time for examining our standards, our purposes, for determining afresh what principles and what forms of power we think most likely to effect our safety and happiness. That and that alone is the obligation the Declaration lays upon us. It is no fetish; its words lay no compulsion upon the thought of any free man, but it was drawn by men who thought, and it obliges those who receive its benefits to think likewise.”

Wilson believed (as the pioneering progressive thinkers like John Dewey and Frank Goodnow) that the changing times and conditions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries such as industrialization, economic conditions, and immigration made the principles of our American Founding no longer relevant or valid. He wanted more power to be vested in the hands of the bureaucrats and masterminds thus giving government the power to dole out the rights they believed were necessary for the times and conditions. This was proven during the First World War with Wilson draconian, anti-Constitutional measures he took against those who opposed his intervention into the European War, especially against German-Americans in Wisconsin and Minnesota when he went so far as banning the speaking of German over the telephone of the written German word in newspapers. This was in direct opposition to Madison’s belief that a man had property rights in opinions.

This progressive philosophy intent on progressing or moving beyond (forward) the principles of our founders is what have driven the Democrat Party for the past 100 years.

He also stated in the same speech:

“The question is not whether all men are born free and equal or not. Suppose they were born so, you know they are not. They may have been born free and equal, but they are neither free not equal if the things of this sort can go on and continue to go on so that the problem of the Jeffersonian is to discredit and break up the machine. How to dissolve the partnership between the machine and the corporations—that is the problem of modern democracy?

We ought to be afraid of thinking of our own generation only, when we ought to think of the long future of America. Because I, for one, feel, as I am sure you do, that I would have reason to be ashamed of having sprung from a great race of Americans if I do not do everything in my power to make the future of American greater than her past. Born of a free people, we, above all other men, are under bonds to prove ourselves worthy of freedom. And not only that, but to hand the freedom on, enhanced, glorified, purified, in order that America may not look back for her credit upon the days of her making and of her birth, but look forward for her credit to the things that she will do in the advancement of the rights of mankind.”

The statement shown above shows that Wilson was not only an academic elitist, but also a racist. According to our Founders and the Declaration we were given our freedom based on the laws of nature and nature’s God — we did not have to earn it or be worthy of it. This is a classic example of the elitist’s masterminds thinking. It was Wilson the racist who:

Fired all blacks on staff in the white house except those in servant Positions

  • Ordered the Navy to segregate (it was integrated before him).
  • Wrote a set of books, "A History of the American People." It was one of the most racist tracts written by a president of any era.
  • Was an active Supporter of the KKK
  • Had a special showing of D.W. Griffin‘s racist and pro KKK film, Birth of a Nation, in the White House.
  • Oversaw one of the great red scares, attributed it to the Jews.

Wilson did not believe that the checks and balances mandated in our Constitution were a positive thing. He was a fan of the so-called unwritten British Constitution that is a changing set of rules enacted by Parliament and has no real founding principles.

In Wilson’s What is Progress speech he stated:

“I am, therefore, forced to be a progressive, if for no other reason, because we have not kept up with our changes of conditions, either in the economic field or in the political field. We have not kept up as well as other nations have. We have not kept our practices adjusted to the facts of the case, and until we do, and unless we do, the facts of the case will always have the better of the argument; because if you do not adjust your laws to the facts, so much the worse for the laws, not for the facts, because law trails along after the facts. Only that law is unsafe which runs ahead of the facts”


“The laws of this country have not kept up with the change of economic circumstances in this country; they have not kept up with the change of political circumstances; and therefore we are not even where we were when we started. We shall have to run, not until we are out of breath, but until we have caught up with our own conditions, before we shall be where we were when we started; when we started this great experiment which has been the hope and the beacon of the world. And we should have to run twice as fast as any rational program I have seen in order to get anywhere else.

I am, therefore, forced to be a progressive, if for no other reason, because we have not kept up with our changes of conditions, either in the economic field or in the political field. We have not kept up as well as other nations have. We have not kept our practices adjusted to the facts of the case, and until we do, and unless we do, the facts of the case will always have the better of the argument; because if you do not adjust your laws to the facts, so much the worse for the laws, not for the facts, because law trails along after the facts.”

In Wilson’s What is Progress speech he went on to state:

“One of the chief benefits I used to derive from being president of a university was that I had the pleasure of entertaining thoughtful men from all over the world. I cannot tell you how much has dropped into my granary by their presence. I had been casting around in my mind for something by which to draw several parts of my political thought together when it was my good fortune to entertain a very interesting Scotsman who had been devoting himself to the philosophical thought of the seventeenth century. His talk was so engaging that it was delightful to hear him speak of anything, and presently there came out of the unexpected region of his thought the thing I had been waiting for. He called my attention to the fact that in every generation all sorts of speculation and thinking tend to fall under the formula of the dominant thought of the age. For example, after the “Newtonian Theory of the universe had been developed, almost all thinking tended to express itself in the analogies of the Newtonian Theory, and since the Darwinian Theory has reigned amongst us, everybody is likely to express whatever he wishes to expound in terms of development and accommodation to environment.

Now, it came to me, as this interesting man talked, that the Constitution of the United States had been made under the dominion of the Newtonian Theory. You have only to read the papers of The Federalist to see that fact written on every page. They speak of the “checks and balances” of the Constitution, and use to express their idea the simile of the organization of the universe, and particularly of the solar system,—how by the attraction of gravitation the various parts are held in their orbits; and then they proceed to represent Congress, the Judiciary, and the President as a sort of imitation of the solar system.

They were only following the English Whigs, who gave Great Britain its modern constitution. Not that those Englishmen analyzed the matter, or had any theory about it; Englishmen care little for theories. It was a Frenchman, Montesquieu, who pointed out to them how faithfully they had copied Newton’s description of the mechanism of the heavens.

The makers of our Federal Constitution read Montesquieu with true scientific enthusiasm. They were scientists in their way,—the best way of their age,—those fathers of the nation. Jefferson wrote of “the laws of Nature,”—and then by way of afterthought,—“and of Nature’s God.” And they constructed a government as they would have constructed an orrery,—to display the laws of nature. Politics in their thought was a variety of mechanics. The Constitution was founded on the law of gravitation. The government was to exist and move by virtue of the efficacy of “checks and balances.”

The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life. No living thing can have its organs offset against each other, as checks, and live. On the contrary, its life is dependent upon their quick co-operation, their ready response to the commands of instinct or intelligence, their amicable community of purpose. Government is not a body of blind forces; it is a body of men, with highly differentiated functions, no doubt, in our modern day, of specialization, with a common task and purpose. Their cooperation is indispensable, their warfare fatal. There can be no successful government without the intimate, instinctive coordination of the organs of life and action. This is not theory, but fact, and displays its force as fact, whatever theories may be thrown across its track. Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of life, not of mechanics; it must develop.

All that progressives ask or desire is permission—in an era when “development,” “evolution,” is the scientific word—to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine.

Some citizens of this country have never got beyond the Declaration of Independence, signed in Philadelphia, July 4th, 1776. Their bosoms swell against George III, but they have no consciousness of the war for freedom that is going on today.

The Declaration of Independence did not mention the questions of our day. It is of no consequence to us unless we can translate its general terms into examples of the present day and substitute them in some vital way for the examples it itself gives, so concrete, so intimately involved in the circumstances of the day in which it was conceived and written. It is an eminently practical document, meant for the use of practical men; not a thesis for philosophers, but a whip for tyrants; not a theory of government, but a program of action. Unless we can translate it into the questions of our own day, we are not worthy of it, we are not the sons of the sires who acted in response to its challenge.”

Wilson was a conflicted man. At one point in his political career and thinking he favored the small, agrarian society of Jefferson yet all of his policies grew the power of the federal government. From the establishment of the Federal Reserve, the passage of the progressive income tax laws, his regulation of business, and the creation of numerous new federal agencies to regulate the lives of Americans Wilson wanted more and more power to be vested in the hands of the executive branch where he could appoint non-elected masterminds to determine our rights and freedoms.

His 1912 platform for change was called the New Freedom. Wilson was an admirer of Thomas Jefferson. The agrarian utopia of small, educated farmers envisioned by Jefferson struck a chord with Wilson. Of course, the advent of industry could not be denied, but a nation of small farmers and small business people seemed totally possible. The New Freedom sought to achieve this vision by attacking what Wilson called the Triple Wall Of Privilege — the tariff, the banks, and the trusts.

Once elected, Wilson seemed to abandon his "New Freedom" and adopted policies that were more similar to those of Theodore Roosevelt's New Nationalism, such as the Federal Reserve System. Wilson appointed Brandeis to the US Supreme Court in 1916. He worked with Congress to give federal employees worker's compensation, outlawed child labor with the Keating-Owen Act (though this act was ruled unconstitutional in 1918) and passed the Adamson Act, which secured a maximum eight-hour workday for railroad employees. Most important was the Clayton Act of 1914, which largely put the trust issue to rest by spelling out the specific unfair practices that business were not allowed to engage in.

Progressive Republicans in the Congress were pleased by Wilson's conversion to their brand of progressivism, and the American people showed their approval by electing him to a second term.

By the end of the Wilson Administration, a significant amount of progressive legislation had been passed, affecting not only economic and constitutional affairs, but farmers, labor, veterans, the environment, and conservation as well. The reform agenda of the New Freedom, however, did not extend as far as Theodore Roosevelt's proposed New Nationalism in relation to the latter's calls for a standard 40-hour work week, minimum wage laws, and a federal system of social insurance. This was arguably a reflection of Wilson's own ideological convictions, who adhered to the classical liberal principles of Jeffersonian Democracy (although Wilson did champion reforms such as agricultural credits later in his presidency, and called for a living wage in his last State of the Union Address). Despite this, the New Freedom did much to extend the power of the federal government in social and economic affairs, and arguably paved the way for future reform programs such as the New Deal and the Great Society. The following is a list of legislation that was passed under the progressive leadership of Woodrow Wilson:


  • The 1914 Smith-Lever Act tied vocational education in home economics and agriculture to the land-grant college system. It also led to the support of the federal government to support farm cooperatives, bringing about a system of country agents to assist farmers in conducting more efficient and scientific stock-raising and crop-growing.
  • The Cotton Warehouse Act (1914) authorized the federal government to license warehouses. The intention of this legislation was to ensure that the better handling of crops “would make warehouse receipts more readily acceptable by banks as collateral for loans.
  • The Agricultural Extension Act (1914) authorized federal grants-in-aid to the state agricultural colleges for the purpose of supporting a program of extension work in farm areas.
  • The Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916 provided federal credit to small farmers via cooperatives.
  • The Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act extended the Smith-Lever provisions of 1914 and supported teacher training and other instruction in industrial occupations, home economics, and agriculture.
  • The Warehouse Act of 1916.
  • The Stock-Raising Homestead Act of 1916.
  • The Grain Standards Act of 1916 mandated the grading and inspection of grains under federal license.


  • The Workmen’s Compensation Act provided medical coverage for federal employees suffering from work-related injuries.
  • The Seamen's Act of 1915 aimed to protect merchant seamen. It outlawed their exploitation by officers and ship owners by practices such as indefinite hours, inadequate food, poor wages, and abandonment in overseas ports with back pay owing.
  • The Adamson Act gave railroad workers on interstate runs an eight-hour workday.
  • The Clayton Act strengthened anti-trust regulation while exempting agricultural cooperatives and labor unions, thus putting an end to the court’s habitual rulings that boycotts and strikes were “in restraint of trade.
  • A National War Labor Board was established,[8] which improved working conditions in factories by insisting on an eight-hour workday, no child labor, and better safety conditions.
  • A Department of Labor was established (1913), designed to promote the welfare of workers through improving conditions of work, tracking changes in employment-related economic factors, and safeguarding benefits.
  • The Women's Bureau Act of 1920 established a Women’s Bureau to “formulate standards and policies which shall promote the welfare of wage-earning women, improve their working conditions, increase their efficiency, and advance their opportunities for profitable employment.
  • A Child Labor Tax Law (1919) assessed a 10% tax on the net profits of factories and mines employing children “to offset any competitive advantage employers thereby gained. The legislation introduced a minimum age of 14 for workers in most jobs, and of 16 for mining and night work. The legislation also required documentary proof of age and, like the previous Keating-Owen Act, limited working hours for minors. From 1919 to 1922 (the year when the Supreme Court declare the legislation to be unconstitutional), arguably as a result of, or partly because of, this legislation, the number of working children fell by 50%.
  • The Workingmen's Compensation Act (Kern–McGillicuddy Act).
  • The Keating-Owen Act
  • The Kern Resolution of 1913.
  • The Saboth Act of 1913.
  • The Newlands Labor Act of 1913.
  • The Federal Boiler Inspection Act of 1915.
  • The Occupancy Permits Act of 1915.
  • The Fraudulent Advertising Act of 1916.
  • The Merchant Marine Act of 1920.

Health and Welfare

  • The Cutter Service Act of 1914.
  • The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916.
  • The Rural Post "Good" Roads Act of 1916.
  • The Sundry Civil Appropriations Act authorized $200,000 for the newly formed Division of Scientific Research for the United States Public Health Service.
  • An Act was passed (1916) authorizing hospital and medical services to government employees injured at work.
  • An anti-narcotics law was passed (1914).
  • A cooperative Federal-State program of cash grants for public health services was established (1917).
  • The United State Housing Corporation was established (1918) to build housing projects for wartime workers.
  • In 1918, the first Federal grants to States for public health services were made available.
  • A federal leprosy hospital was authorized (1917).
  • The Civil Service Retirement System was established (1920) to provide pensions to retired civilian federal employees.
  • The Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1920 (Smith-Fess Act) authorized a joint federal-state vocational rehabilitation program for handicapped civilians.
  • The Death on the High Seas Act (1920) aimed at compensating the wives of sailors who had lost their lives at sea. The legislation enabled survivors “to recover pecuniary damages, or the lost wages of their relatives on whom they depended upon financially.
  • Under the Industry Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1920 (Smith-Bankhead Act), Congress began providing federal funds for cooperation with the states in the vocational rehabilitation of persons disabled in industry.


  • The War Risk Insurance Act of 1914.
  • The War Risk Insurance Act of 1917.
  • The Rehabilitation Law of 1919 provided disabled veterans with tuition, books, and a monthly subsistence allowance of between $90 and $145.
  • The Public Health Service was made directly responsible for the hospitalization of veterans under the War Risk Insurance Act (1919).
  • The Smith-Sears Vocational Rehabilitation Act (1918) supported programs to help veterans with disabilities return to civilian employment following the end of the First World War.
  • The Bureau of War Risk Insurance was set up to provide direct assistance to the families of soldiers. By the end of the First World War, the bureau was sending regular checks to 2.1 million families.


  • The Jones-Shafroth Act 1917 bestowed US citizenship upon people of Puerto Rico.
  • The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution created the federal income tax.
  • The Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provided for the direct election of senators, who had previously been chosen by their state legislatures.
  • The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed (1920), granting women the right to vote.
  • Mother’s Day was made an official national holiday (1914).


  • The River and Harbors Act of 1916.
  • The Irrigation District Act of 1916 (Smith Act).
  • The Flood Control Act of 1917 (Ransdell-Humphreys Act).
  • The Federal Water Power Act of 1920.


  • A federal act established the National Park Service, bringing together the many historical sites, monuments, and national parks into one agency.
  • The Glacier National Park Act of 1914.
  • The Wildlife Game Refuges Act of 1916.
  • The Acadia National Park Act of 1919.
  • The Grand Canyon Park Act of 1919.

While many of these laws may seem reasonable and proper to the modern progressive very few fell under the enumerated powers expressed in Article I, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution and most had unintended consequences we are living with today. Also these acts gave the federal government and the executive branch far reaching powers beyond what our founders wanted along with establishing numerous departments and bureaus within the government and diminishing the authority of the states and the people.

Like all progressives and statist Wilson wanted to move us to a utopian society where our betters could dictate how we lived our lives as they doled out government regulations and handouts. It was Alexander Hamilton who wrote in Federalist No. 6 about the dangers of the utopian society and the masterminds who would be in charge of such a society when he stated:

“A man must be far gone in Utopian speculations who can seriously doubt that, if these States should either be wholly disunited, or only united in partial confederacies, the subdivisions into which they might be thrown would have frequent and violent contests with each other. To presume a want of motives for such contests as an argument against their existence, would be to forget that men are ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious. To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties in the same neighborhood, would be to disregard the uniform course of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages.

The causes of hostility among nations are innumerable. There are some which have a general and almost constant operation upon the collective bodies of society. Of this description are the love of power or the desire of pre-eminence and dominion--the jealousy of power, or the desire of equality and safety. There are others which have a more circumscribed though an equally operative influence within their spheres. Such are the rivalships and competitions of commerce between commercial nations. And there are others, not less numerous than either of the former, which take their origin entirely in private passions; in the attachments, enmities, interests, hopes, and fears of leading individuals in the communities of which they are members. Men of this class, whether the favorites of a king or of a people, have in too many instances abused the confidence they possessed; and assuming the pretext of some public motive, have not scrupled to sacrifice the national tranquility to personal advantage or personal gratification.”

Wilson’s policies and progressive thinking permeated both political parties during the mid-twentieth century with a brief interruption by Calvin Coolidge. His progressive policies returned with a vengeance during the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson.

In my next article of Woodrow Wilson I will explore Wilson as the internationalist.

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