The goals of Progressivism

Come to class the next time we meet ready to explain the main differences between Populism and Progressivism. By the way, “they happened at different times” is NOT a good answer! They WERE both reform movements, and both sought to promote fairness for common people.

Some people claim that Progressivism had four main goals: encouraging morality, promoting social welfare, encouraging efficiency, and creating economic reform. To me, there are actually three goals:

1) promoting morality,

2) encouraging democracy and fairness (including economic fairness), and

3) encouraging efficiency.

Progressivism was originally a movement, NOT a party, and there were Progressive Democrats as well as Progressive Republicans. During the Progressive era of roughly 1900-1920, there were three Progressive presidents: Teddy Roosevelt, William H. Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. Each man’s Progressivism had its limits: Teddy was pro-imperialist (many Progressives opposed imperialism), Taft got tripped up over the Payne-Aldrich Tariff (Progressive hated tariffs, by and large), and Wilson was not the most forward-thinking person when it came to race relations.


Take a look at the four Progressive Amendments to the Constitution. Which of the three goals does each promote?

16th Amendment (1913): Created a reliable source of government revenue through the creation of an income tax. What revenue source was this supposed to replace, and why? (See above for part of the answer.) Why, logically, did this amendment need to come first?

17th Amendment (1913): Allowed the people to DIRECTLY elect their Senators. How had Senators been elected previously? Why was this seen as a bad thing by Progressives? Think about the nickname given for the Senate in chapter 28.

18th Amendment (1919): Enacted national Prohibition of the manufacture and sale of Alcoholic beverages…. mostly. What were the intended consequences of this? What were the REAL consequences of this?

19th Amendment (1920): Gave women the franchise.


There’s a lot of interesting information about the ratification of Amendments on this site:

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