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The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Topic: MemoryTopic: ProgressTopic: PeopleTopic: PowerTopic: Empire
Topic: Power: Taming the Octopus
Toolbox Overview: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Resource Menu: Power
Text 1. Images of the Octopus, five cartoons
Text 2. Standard Oil
Text 3. The Octopus in the West
Text 4. The Populist Party Platform [Omaha Platform]
Text 5. The Pullman Strike
Text 6. Jack London, South of the Slot
Text 7. The Boss and the Reformer
Text 8. Images of Big City Politics
Text 9. Social Policy: Social Darwinism vs. the Social Gospel
Text 10. Theodore Roosevelt, The New Nationalism
» Reading Guide
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Text 11. African American Strategies
Text 12. Women and Power

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Reading Guide
Theodore Roosevelt, 1910
Roosevelt, 1910
Theodore Roosevelt, "The New Nationalism," address, 1910

As noted above, after 1896 the People's Party disappeared from the national scene, but the positions it advocated lived on. They found a new champion in Theodore Roosevelt, who was able to enact some of them during his presidency. When Roosevelt's successor William Howard Taft turned out to be far more conservative than Roosevelt had anticipated, he considered running for the presidency again in 1912. On August 31, 1910, on a speaking tour during which he received considerable encouragement to run, he used the occasion of a park dedication in Osawatomie, Kansas, where John Brown had fought Missouri ruffians in 1860, to articulate an expanded vision of government's role in America's commercial society. He had been moving in the direction of what he called "the New Nationalism" during his second term, but his thinking derived fresh vigor and coherence from a book entitled The Promise of American Life. Its author Herbert Croly identified two basic strands in American politics: the Hamiltonian—characterized by strong government, aristocracy, and special privilege—and the Jeffersonian, characterized by democracy, equal rights, and equal opportunity. Croly argued for deploying a Hamiltonian state to achieve Jeffersonian ends, and in this speech, so, too, does Roosevelt. 10 pages.

Discussion questions
  1. What implicit interpretation of the Civil War lies behind "The New Nationalism"?
  2. How does Roosevelt use the Civil War, Lincoln, and the American past in general to advance his argument?
  3. What principles shape Roosevelt's vision of government?
  4. What relationship does he posit between the character of individual citizens and the character of the nation?
  5. How does Roosevelt's speech echo the Omaha Platform?

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Topic Framing Question
  •  How did Americans respond to the shifts in economic and political power that occurred during this period?

Toolbox: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Memory | Progress | People | Power | Empire

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