Study Guide

The Man with the Muckrake Compare and Contrast

By Theodore Roosevelt

  • Andrew Carnegie, Gospel of Wealth (June, 1889)

    With all of Teddy Roosevelt's talk of good businessmen, it would do well to read Carnegie's guide to good business behavior. Carnegie believed that, while men shouldn't be blocked from having a vast fortune and being able to spend it as they please, they had a moral responsibility to spend that fortune on the public good.

    He agrees with Teddy that fortunes shouldn't pass in tact from generation to generation, letting the child live a life of leisure off of their parent's good business sense. Carnegie thought that a millionaire, before his death, should spend most of his or her money on philanthropy and spread the good fortune around.

    We've gotta say, we wouldn't hate a world with fewer My Super Sweet 16 marathons.

  • Lincoln Steffens, "Tweed Days in St. Louis" (October, 1902)

    The first muckraking article up to bat, Lincoln Steffens ran this article in McClure's Magazine to call out the corruption racket squeezing the city, and not to report on St. Louis' menswear scene. The men on the city council were squeezing the city's coffers dry; lining their pockets while public buildings started to cut corners in the worst ways.

    They wouldn't pass any ordinances, no matter how necessary, unless someone greased their palms first. Steffens targeted Mayor Ziegenhein as the ringmaster of this circus of grift and gave him the dragging of his life in the pages of McClure's.

    It was sensational, telling sordid tales of political corruption in the style of the best crime novels. The combination of moral outrage and juicy gossip was able to pull people's ears, and other investigative journalists would take a page from Steffens' book in their own exposes. Teddy Roosevelt came along with his Muckrake speech, gave the journalists a name, and the rest was history.

  • Emma Goldman, "What is Patriotism?" (1908)

    Emma Goldman gave this fiery speech in San Francisco right at the end of Roosevelt's last term. It's sort of her good riddance speech to Roosevelt's America.

    In it, she asks a simple question: "What is Patriotism?" If patriotism is looking fondly back on where you grew up, then patriotism would be dead in America. Not too many people look back fondly on a childhood spent crammed like so many sardines in a tenement. No, patriotism, she concludes, is the tool in which people are convinced that they're God's gift to the world and are completely justified in fighting, killing, and dying to prove that their flag is top dog.

    She calls Roosevelt out on this in particular. Roosevelt's pet navy, which he dispatched freely because he thought that America was large and in charge enough to play police in the entire west side of the globe. How much did those ships cost? How much was paid for the big parties to launch the Great White Fleet, while America's poorest citizens tried desperately to feed themselves, all so America's kids could remember fondly the launch of a fleet of killing vessels?

    Emma Goldman was targeting what she viewed as the worst kind of corruption—the state itself and the value it places on martial supremacy over its own citizens' well-being.

  • William McKinley's Inaugural Address (March 4, 1901)

    Considering that most of his term went straight to Teddy Roosevelt, it's interesting to look at McKinley's roadmap for those first four Roosevelt years. Oddly enough, considering how knee-deep in corruption the Roosevelt administration spent its days, McKinley spent his first speech waving the flag and declaring that the problems that had plagued America for the past four years had, fortunately, been solved.

    He paid particular attention to the fact that the Spanish-American war (which he assures us he never wanted to begin with) had been decisively won, leaving America in the best position to give Cuba and the Philippines America's favorite party favor: democracy.

    By his calculus, the US was shiny, neat, and able to play big brother in the Western Hemisphere. While TR would pick up where McKinley left off in foreign affairs, he knew that America's domestic affairs were far from being sorted. While McKinley was happy so long as the economy was booming, Teddy Roosevelt cared a lot more about the corners businesses' cut on the way to prosperity.

  • Theodore Roosevelt, "The New Nationalism" (August 31, 1910)

    In this speech, Teddy gets into the nitty-gritty of the reform he implied was coming in "The Man with the Muckrake." He delivered this speech at a gathering of Civil War vets, so he lays out his policy in Civil War metaphors.

    The most powerful of these metaphors is comparing military organization to the country. Soldiers needed good ties with Washington, competent generals, and a solid supply line, but without the right character all of them will be useless in getting results. This is TR's politics in a nutshell—he wants to make sure that conditions in America are fair to everyone, but people have to meet the government halfway and really show what they're made of.