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Square Deal

Square Deal

The hard economic conditions of the nineteenth century brought Theodore Roosevelt into the presidency and shaped his agenda. Leon Czolgosz was a man who had lost his job in the economic Panic of 1893 and turned to Anarchism as a political answer. In Europe, Anarchists had developed a practice known as "Propaganda of the Deed", which meant that they performed actions ranging from non-violent resistance to bombings and assassinations to spread their political beliefs. Czolgosz carried through on this and assassinated President William McKinley, who he believed carried on the oppression of the working class. Thrust into the Presidency, how did Roosevelt manage not to give in to political violence while still addressing the underlying social problems that had radicalized people like Czolgosz?

Theodore Roosevelts square Deal President Theodore Roosevelt StudySmarterFig. 1. Theodore Roosevelt.

Square Deal Definition

The term "square deal" was an expression Americans had been using since the 1880s. It meant a fair and honest trade. In a time of monopolies and labor abuses, many Americans felt that they weren't getting a square deal. Labor disputes and strikes had turned into violence and riots during the late nineteenth century, as American workers fought for their interests.

The principle of giving a square deal to each and every one."

–Teddy Roosevelt1

Square Deal Roosevelt

Shortly after becoming President, Roosevelt made "square deal" his catchphrase. Equality and fair play had become themes of his campaigns and acts in office. He applied "square deal" to groups who had often been forgotten, such as Black Americans, when he made a speech noting that he had fought side by side with Black troops in the Cavalry.

During the 1904 presidential election, Roosevelt even published a short book titled A Square Deal for Every American, outlining his views on a variety of topics. Although he never proposed a comprehensive agenda known as the "square deal", like his fifth cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt would do with the "New Deal", historians later grouped some of Teddy Roosevelt's domestic legislative agenda together as the Square Deal.

Theodore Roosevelt's Square Deal Roovevelt Coal Strike Political Cartoon StudySmarterFig. 2. President Roosevelt Coal Strike Political Cartoon.

Anthracite Coal Strike

The Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902 was a turning point for how the federal government dealt with labor and the beginning of the Square Deal. In earlier strikes, the government had mobilized troops only on the side of industrial owners, to break up the destruction of property or to have soldiers perform the work themselves. When a coal strike occurred in the summer of 1902 and continued through October, it was quickly becoming a crisis. Without any legal authority to force a solution, Roosevelt invited both sides to sit down with him and discuss a solution before the nation headed into winter without an adequate supply of the needed heating fuel. For sticking to fairness on both sides, instead of siding with big money, Roosevelt famously stated that the outcome he helped mediate was "a square deal for both sides."

Anthracite Coal Strike Commission

Roosevelt appealed to the operators of the coal facilities and the leader of the union to come to an agreement out of patriotism, but the best he got was the operators agreeing to a federal commission to mediate the dispute. When filling the seats agreed to by the operators, Roosevelt subverted the operators' idea to appoint an "eminent sociologist" to the commission. He filled the spot with a labor representative and adding in a Catholic priest, as most of the strikers were of Catholic faith.

The strike finally ended on October 23, 1902. The commission detected that some union members had committed violence and intimidation against strikebreakers. It also found that wages were low. The committee decided to create a board to settle disputes between labor and management, as well settling the hour and wage disagreements at the halfway point between what the union and management had each sought.

The Anthracite Coal Strike was a major victory and turning point for the labor movement in America. Public opinion had never been as strong on the union side.

Theodore Roosevelts Square Deal  President Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir in Yosemite National Park StudySmarterFig. 3. Roosevelt Visits Yosemite National Park.

Square Deal's Three C's

Historians have used the "Three C's" to describe the elements of the Square Deal. They are consumer protection, corporate regulation, and conservationism. As a Progressive Republican, Roosevelt sought to protect the public from abuses of corporate power. Fairness is the root of many of his policies. These policies were not aimed at simply opposing the interests of businesses, but it tackled the ways big businesses of the era were able to have unfair and overwhelming power over the public good. He supported both unions and issues that businesses advocated for, such as lower taxes.

Progressivism of the time meant to combine the hard sciences, like engineering, and the social sciences to find new solutions to society's problems. Roosevelt studied biology at Harvard and even had some of his scientific work published. He was interested in looking objectively at issues and finding new solutions.

Consumer Protection

In 1906, Roosevelt supported two bills that protected outraged consumers from dangerous corner cutting by corporations. The Meat Inspection Act regulated meat packing companies who had been known to sell rotting meat, preserved in dangerous chemicals, as food to unknowing consumers. The problem had gotten so out of hand that American soldiers had died as a result of tainted meat sold to the army. The Pure Food and Drug Act provided for similar inspections and requirements on labeling to be applied to a broader range of foods and drugs in the United States.

In addition to real life scandals, Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle brought the abuses of the meat packing industry to the public.

Corporate Regulation

Through the Elkins Act in 1903 and Hepburn Act in 1906, Roosevelt pushed for greater regulation of corporations. The Elkins Act took away rail companies' ability to provide rebates on shipping to other large corporations, opening up increased competition by smaller companies. The Hepburn Act allowed the government to regulate railroad prices and even audit their financial records. In addition to passing these acts, the Attorney General went after monopolies, even breaking up the massive Standard Oil.

The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.

–Theodore Roosevelt2

Conservationism

Trained as a biologist and known for his love of the outdoors, Roosevelt fought to protect America's natural resources. Over 230,000,000 acres of land received protection under his administration. As president, he was even known to go off for weeks at a time exploring the nation's wilderness. In total, he accomplished the following protections:

  • 150 national forests
  • 51 federal bird reserves
  • 4 national game preserves,
  • 5 national parks
  • 18 national monuments

The teddy bear stuffed toy is named after Teddy Roosevelt and his respect for nature. After a story was reported on how he had refused to shoot a bear in an unsportsmanlike manner, a toy maker began to market the stuffed bear.

Theodore Roosevelts square Deal political cartoon about President Theodore Roosevelt and the Square Deal StudySmarterFig. 4. Political Cartoon Showing Republican Fear of the Square Deal.

Square Deal History

Having come to power the result of an assassin's bullet in 1902, Roosevelt did not have to seek election as president until 1904. His initial agenda was extremely popular, and he won the 1904 election in a landslide victory. By his second term, his agenda had moved further than many in his party were comfortable with. Ideas like a federal income tax, campaign finance reform, and eight-hour work days for federal employees failed to find the necessary support.

Square Deal Significance

The effects of the square deal changed the country. Unions gained a strength that resulted in large gains for the average American's standard of living. The limits on corporate power and protections for workers, consumers, and the environment were enormous and inspired later actions. Many of the issues he advocated for but could pass were later picked up by Democratic Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Square Deal - Key takeaways

  • A name for the domestic agenda of President Teddy Roosevelt
  • Focused on the "3 C's" of consumer protection, corporate regulation, and conservationism
  • It was designed to ensure fairness against the power of large corporations
  • Placed the federal government more on the side of the public than previous administrations which had supported big business

References

  1. Theodore Roosevelt. Speech to the Silver Bow Labor and Trades Assembly of Butte, May 27, 1903.
  2. Theodore Roosevelt. Speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, August 31, 1910.

Frequently Asked Questions about Square Deal

The Square Deal was President Roosevelt's domestic agenda aimed at leveling the power of corporations.

The Square Deal set the federal government more on the side of consumers and workers, where previous adminsitrations had heavily favored corporations.

Roosevelt regularly used the term "square deal" to mean a more fair system, without the unfair influence of big money but collectively referring to his domestic legislation as "The Square Deal" was a product of later historians. 

The 3 C's of Roosevelt's Square Deal are consumer protection, corporate regulation, and conservationism.

The Square Deal was important because it balanced power between coporations and average Americans. 

Final Square Deal Quiz

Question

What were the "3 C's" of the Square Deal?

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Answer

Consumer protection, corporate regulation, and conservationism

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Question

What event did Teddy Roosevelt famously refer to as a "square deal" for the first time?

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Answer

Anthracite Coal Strike

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Question

What was the point of the Square Deal?


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Answer

To level the playing field between average Americans and big business 

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Question

Who called Teddy Roosevelt's domestic agenda "The Square Deal"?

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Answer

Later historians 

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Question

What was a way Teddy Roosevelt fought for consumer protection?


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Answer

Fighting for inspection and proper labels for food 

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Question

When did the Republican Party start to support less of Roosevelt's agenda?

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Answer

His second term 

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Question

How did Roosevelt help smaller companies compete?


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Answer

He stopped rail companies from providing rebates to big businesses 

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Question

Teddy Roosevelt coined the term "square deal"

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Answer

False 

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Question

What acts regulated corporations?


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Answer

Hepburn Act and Elkins Act 

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Question

Later Democratic presidents resurrected and passed Square Deal initiatives that Teddy Roosevelt was unable to pass.

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Answer

True 

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