TR or Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt: A Comparison of Progressive Reformers

Among the few consecutive progressive reformers in American history are Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt (TR). They differed in their approaches to pursuing Progressive goals, and I contend that TR was a more effective reformist than Woodrow Wilson. TR entered politics at the age of 23 and served as the 26th president of the United States between 1901 and 1909 at the age of 42. Early in his political career, TR identified more as an autonomous Republican reformer who upheld the principles of able presidents like Henry Clay, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. As the president TR pushed the executive powers to greater heights, arguing that industrial capitalism had compromised limited governance. One of TR’s successful reforms was Roosevelt’s stewardship theory that unmoored the presidential power from the American constitution and made it directly accountable to the American citizens.

TR’s Strategies for Economic Reform

He mobilized for greater government control over the American economy where he pursued two main strategies: regulatory control and antitrust prosecution. He believed that one beneficial thing towards a growing economy is to have a business environment that co-exists with the government. Businesses that acted in the interest of everyone performed its actions successfully, and businesses that acted towards their selfish interest could only protect people’s interest through governmental intervention.

TR’s Reforms in Other Areas

President TR’s other reform was the legislations that gave Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) authority to set railroad rates, hence giving room for the rise of the modern administrative state. Roosevelt also cast himself as a steward of the natural resources and presided over the rise of conservation movements in America. More so, he was convinced as president that a strong defense is the only way to total peace in America and went ahead to build a strong navy in America.


In summary, TR as compared to Woodrow Wilson continued to push harder for progressive reforms to move the country towards social democracy. He sought to transform the political and economic scenes to its highest moral purpose to make politics and American economy sustainable for coming generations.


Ekirch, Arthur Alphonse. Progressivism in America: A study of the era from Theodore Roosevelt to Woodrow Wilson. New viewpoints, 1974.

Johnston, Robert D. "Re-democratizing the Progressive era: The politics of Progressive Era political historiography." The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 1, no. 1 (2002): 68-92.

Wilson, Woodrow, Theodore Roosevelt, and Labor Demands Its Rights. The Progressive Era, 1900-1917. New York: Harper and Row, 1963.

Yarbrough, Jean M. Theodore Roosevelt, and the American political tradition. University Press of Kansas, 2012.

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