Monday, June 18, 2012

Theodore Roosevelt's Muckrakers, 1906

Theodore Roosevelt's soft hand towards the business trusts, those great demons of turn-of-the-century America, make questionable the president's commitment to reforming American capitalism.  This being said, Historian Richard Hofstadter, no progressive sympathizer, noted that TR's commitment against corruption, civic indifference, and materialism, qualify him in some respects as a progressive.  He certainly is a closer cut to the archetypal reformer than other presidents of his age.
  • Title: [Theodore Roosevelt photomontage]
  • Creator(s): Underwood & Underwood, photographer
  • Date Created/Published: c1908 Jan. 28.LC-USZ62-131821
Roosevelt was wary of the literature of criticism that was emerging in the first decade of the twentieth-century, hoping that a revolutionary sentiment was not overtaking the nation.  In a speech of 1906, Roosevelt coined the term for the growing clamour of expose journalism, exemplified by Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. (Hofstadter, Richard, ed. The Progressive Movement, 1900-1915. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1963, p. 11, 18)

In Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress' you may recall the description of the Man with the Muck-rake, the man who could look no way but downward, with the muck-rake in his hand; who was offered a celestial crown for his muck-rake, but who would neither look up nor regard the crown he was offered, but continued to rake to himself the filth of the floor.
         In 'Pilgrim's Progress' the Man with the Muck-rake is set forth as the example of him whose vision is fixed on carnal instead of on spiritual things.  Yet he also typifies the man who in this life consistently refuses to see aught that is lofty, and fixes his eyes with solemn intents only on that which is vile and debasing. [...] the man who never does anything else, who never thinks or speaks or writes, save of his feats with the muck-rake, speedily become, not a help to society, not an incitement to good, but one of the most potent forces for evil."
(Roosevelt, 14 April 1906)

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