The Industrial Revolution dominated the post-Civil War era in America, also known as the Gilded age. Mark Twain first used this expression as the title of a book to describe the reality of the economic situation of America at the time. The term “gilded” means something that is coated in gold, therefore it looks good on the outside but in actuality on the inside the object is a piece of junk. This in terms of America’s economics means that to the rest of the world America seemed to be booming due to Laissez-faire economics and Social Darwinism, however, there was extreme economic disparity and mass political corruption. The rich were getting richer at the expense of the working-class people with the help of politicians. This poor quality of life in the industrial age sparked the wave of Progressivism in America. Although there were various approaches to Progressivism, the ideology that remained constant over all avenues of the movement was the idea that the government needed to evolve with the societal needs of the period.
Progressive ideology was based on four pillars of change that needed to occur in civilization to continue moving forward to achieve a perfect society. This would result in anarchy, but Madison argued in his Federalist 51 that because of human nature a perfect government is not obtainable.[endnoteRef:1] Therefore, progressives are aiming to achieve the most perfect society possible. In this sense, the government needed to evolve like an organism as explained by Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Due to Charles Darwin being the scientist of the day, the fact that his theories influenced various avenues of thought was not surprising. Darwin’s theory of evolution reigned supreme when it came to the Progressive theory. Progressives believed that the evolutionary process was already in motion; however, they are trying to manipulate the process to protect the common man. For example, the government needed to adapt to stop the harsh conditions created by the Industrial Revolution. During the Gilded Age, Social Darwinism and Laissez Faire economics dominated the nation’s economy by creating extreme disparity between the classes. The system was obviously no longer working for the society; it was time to evolve. Wilson suggested in his book Constitutional Government that we needed a strong, central government with a chief executive that would take a role in passing laws and legislature.[endnoteRef:2] This most reflects the government and presidency that we have today. This is not the idea that the founders had in mind for the government. They believed that government worked like a machine; therefore, the president was never meant to have such a strong role. However, because the presidency became so influential it proves that the government lives and breathes like any organic being, allowing it to evolve to fit its environment. This idea is threaded through all Progressive thought ...