Guest Essayist: Matthew Spalding


In The Federalist No. 47 James Madison asserted that “accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands…may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” Indeed, the importance of the separation of powers was so widely accepted by the American public in 1788 that Madison could confidently declare it to be “the sacred maxim of free government.” Today, however, government agencies routinely make, enforce, and adjudicate legally binding rules that have the full force and effect of laws passed by Congress. Such evidence leaves no doubt that there has been a revolutionary shift in the constitutional theory guiding American politics since the time of the American Founding. But how—and why—did this revolution come to be? The answer is to be found in a broad movement known as progressivism that came to dominate both the American academy and government in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century.

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Guest Essayist: Daniel A. Cotter


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.

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Guest Essayist: Steven Aden


“The Most Absurd Political Campaign of Our Time”:  Teddy Roosevelt, Alton Parker and the Election of 1904

The candidates who squared off in the presidential election of 1904, Republican President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt and Democrat Alton Parker, were both native to New York State; beyond that one commonality, they were a study in contrasts.  Parker was tall and rangy, but with a tentative demeanor that seemed to apologize for looming over others.  Parker resigned his post as the chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, to run for the nation’s highest office.  True to his calling and by all accounts a thoughtful decision maker on the bench, Parker was quiet and professorial, and an unimpressive speechmaker with a voice like a cracked reed.   The barrel-chested, bull-voiced Roosevelt, on the other hand, had been tapped for the vice presidency by William McKinley on the strength of his renown as the Rough Rider who led his troops up San Juan Hill in 1898, as if he had carried the country on his shoulders to victory in the Spanish-American War.  The living embodiment of the national will that found its expression in “Manifest Destiny” and the Monroe Doctrine, Roosevelt was arguably the most physical president America has ever had.  Sometimes overcome by pent-up energy, Roosevelt would jump up from his seat in the Oval Office and hike in a straight line for five miles, climbing, jumping, and swimming all barriers natural or manmade he encountered on the way.  This exercise exhausted the few staffers and security officers who could keep up with him, but Roosevelt would return refreshed and invigorated.

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