Chapter 2: The “New Nationalism” vs. the “New Freedom”

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Speeches

Theodore Roosevelt – The New Nationalism

Woodrow Wilson – Labor Day Speech in Buffalo, New York

If the American people’s choice in 1896 was between an activist and passive view of government’s role, the 1912 would present the American people with two competing notions of activist government. Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism and Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom would lay out their vision of progressive government in America. While the two would share some commonalities where they diverged was the central question of what was to be done with America’s increasingly powerful business trusts. Should they, as Roosevelt suggested, be regulated by a strong central government or should they, as Wilson argued, be weakened in order to ensure greater competition in the economy. Wilson summed up succinctly the central difference between the two candidates, “Ours is a program of liberty, and theirs is program of regulation.”
In these two speeches we see the intellectual arguments that underpinned this seminal debate. In the end, Wilson would win in November but ended up enacting many of Roosevelt’s proposals. But the debate over the proper role of government in regulating America’s economic behemoths would continue to rage on the campaign trail for many years to come

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