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Research Paper on Theodore Roosevelt as the "Trust-Buster"

A research paper on Theodore Roosevelt as the "Trust Buster" will look at this former president's reputation as defender of the working class and small business entrepreneur.

Theodore Roosevelt earned the popular reputation as a “trust-buster” for the following factors:

  1. Roosevelt's insistence that the federal government enforce the provisions of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890.
  2. Roosevelt depicted him as the defender of the working class and small entrepreneur against the greed and corruption of big business.

Roosevelt was actually a strong supporter of big business and the expansion of corporate activity, believing that the development of industrial capacity was critical for America’s future economic prosperity and global security. He recognized, however, that business had to ultimately be answerable to the government as representatives of the people in order to prevent unscrupulous or unwitting business operators from taking improper advantage of the public and thereby fomenting social unrest. As a result, he targeted specific trusts for governmental suits to force divestiture of assets based on his perception of the way in which the trust conducted business and its impact on retraining competition.

In December 1901, three months after acceding to the Presidency following the assassination of McKinley, Roosevelt issued an annual message in which he indicated that he intended to take a middle road with respect to trusts, neither fully supporting nor fully condemning big business. He indicated that there was widespread animosity towards trusts, with “many of those who have made it their vocation to denounce the great industrial combinations...appeal especially to hatred and fear.” He also noted that there is “widespread conviction... that combination and concentration should be, not prohibited, but supervised and within reasonable limits, controlled.” This position was the outcome of Roosevelt’s observation of the way in which large corporations were expanding their power through mergers and acquisitions, which tended to reduce competition and concentrate great power in the hands of a few very wealthy individuals. While Roosevelt supported business, he believed that the operation of a business impacting a wide range of public interests should be accompanied by a high degree of social responsibility in order to prevent the business from causing harm to the general welfare of Americans.

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