It is said that it was Theodore Roosevelt’s Square Deal that helped him win the 1904 election against Democrat Alton Parker. So what was this Square Deal all about, and how did it bring about a change in the United States?
Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th President of the United States in September 1901, after the assassination of President William McKinley. He coined the phrase ‘Square Deal’ to refer to a fair deal for the average citizen. He first mentioned the said phrase in a speech on the eve of Labor Day on September 7, 1903.
What was the Square Deal?
The main idea of Square Deal introduced by President Theodore Roosevelt was reducing inequality. The three Cs of Roosevelt’s Square Deal were control of corporations, consumer protection, and conservation of natural resources.
Control of Corporations
Monopolies that dominated public services, or used services and obstructed the free flow pricing mechanism were considered bad monopolies. New laws were put forth to stop firms that were bad monopolies, while encouraging firms that were good. The firms that were bad monopolies included the railroad holding companies. Roosevelt knew that the only way to put them in line was to shield businesses from trade unions. Back then, military power was used to disperse the striking mobs. Roosevelt brought an end to this practice.
The Elkins Act of 1903 and the Hepburn Act of 1906 made the Interstate Commerce Commission more powerful by allowing it to control the rail prices. However, this action resulted in diminishing the importance of railroads in comparison to trucks and buses. In 1902, when the mine workers called a strike against the Northern Securities Company (a coal company), he suggested that the army would take the place of these striking workers and put the mine workers under pressure. At the same time, he suggested that the Wall Street should sell off the stocks of coal companies and put them under pressure as well. This pressure on both parties from external forces, caused a reconciliation between them.
In 1906, the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act were passed, thanks to Roosevelt. These laws stipulated that meat be packed under clean conditions and with the required standards. While this favored large meat packing houses, similar small businesses were put at a disadvantage. Labels on containers of food products were also made mandatory.
Conservation of Natural Resources
Theodore Roosevelt was an environmentalist, who wanted to conserve natural areas and historical sites. He created the National Conservation Commission for this purpose. As a result of this policy, he clashed with the businesses that wanted to use the minerals, lumber, and the water power in these reserves for their own benefits. The Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Theodore Roosevelt Island were named in Roosevelt’s honor as a champion of conservation.
Theodore Roosevelt’s Square Deal handled the problems with businesses and society. He had many rich friends, but his policy was directed towards poor people. He changed the rules so that everyone could have equal opportunity and everyone would be treated the same way. Roosevelt was much concerned about rise in criminal activity and uprisings, and that was the reason he created his Square Deal.