In the early 1830s, the city of Baltimore was developing as a bustling urban center and port. The city diverted the streams around John Barron’s successful wharf and lowered the water level, which negatively impacted his business. He sued the city to recover his financial losses.
The United States Constitution is silent on the subject of corporations. After the Civil War, as American society began to quickly evolve from agrarian to industrial, politicians from both major parties raised concerns about the rise of corporations, banks, and businesses, and the need for protection of the individual. Against this backdrop, two important political figures emerged on the national scene. William Jennings Bryan was a leader of the Populist Party (which would merge with the Democratic Party in 1896) who unsuccessfully ran for President in 1896, 1900 and 1908. Republican President Theodore Roosevelt proposed a number of “progressive” initiatives through his “Square Deal” program and other policies and positions. Other essays in this series cover the various Presidential elections in which Bryan and Roosevelt were their parties’ nominees. This essay compares the progressive and populist views of Roosevelt and Bryan, respectively.