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Chapter Nine. Theodore Roosevelt, Presidential Power and the Regulation of the Market

Gary Murphy


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When I became President, the question as to the method by which the United States Government was to control the corporations was not yet important. The absolutely vital question was whether the government had power to control them at all . ( Roosevelt 1913 , 417) The power of big business to have a detrimental effect on the lives of American citizens was a recurring theme of Theodore Roosevelt's career in public life. From as early as his first foray into national politics as member of the New York State assembly where he struck out at monopolies as a neophyte legislator, TR engaged in a lifelong, although not always successful, crusade to limit the detrimental effects of big business on society. When close to two decades later as Governor of New York, TR was able to secure from a reluctant legislature a measure taxing corporation franchises he had developed a reputation as a politician unafraid to take on large business interests. He would secure this reputation over the course of his tumultuous presidency but would ultimately fail to transform the Republican Party into a political organization in which progressive principles took precedence over conservative ones. TR did not object to large-scale business enterprise on size grounds and indeed actively disliked old-fashioned small-scale economic competition. He accepted, for the most part, the view that the biggest corporations ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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