LEGISLATIVE AND EXECUTIVE ACTIVITIES
=Economic Legislation.=—When President Roosevelt turned from the field of opinion he found himself in a different sphere. Many of his views were too advanced for the members of his party in Congress, and where results depended upon the making of new laws, his progress was slow. Nevertheless, in his administrations several measures were enacted that bore the stamp of his theories, though it could hardly be said that he dominated Congress to the same degree as did some other Presidents. The Hepburn Railway Act of 1906 enlarged the interstate commerce commission; it extended the commission’s power over oil pipe lines, express companies, and other interstate carriers; it gave the commission the right to reduce rates found to be unreasonable and discriminatory; it forbade “midnight tariffs,” that is, sudden changes in rates favoring certain shippers; and it prohibited common carriers from transporting goods owned by themselves, especially coal, except for their own proper use. Two important pure food and drug laws, enacted during the same year, were designed to protect the public against diseased meats and deleterious foods and drugs. A significant piece of labor legislation was an act of the same Congress making interstate railways liable to damages for injuries sustained by their employees. When this measure was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court it was reenacted with the objectionable clauses removed. A second installment of labor legislation was offered in the law of 1908 limiting the hours of railway employees engaged as trainmen or telegraph operators.
[Illustration: Courtesy United States Reclamation Service.
THE ROOSEVELT DAM, PHOENIX, ARIZONA]
=Reclamation and Conservation.=—The open country—the deserts, the forests, waterways, and the public lands—interested President Roosevelt no less than railway and industrial questions. Indeed, in his first message to Congress he placed the conservation of natural resources among “the most vital internal problems” of the age, and forcibly emphasized an issue that had been discussed in a casual way since Cleveland’s first administration. The suggestion evoked an immediate response in Congress. Under the leadership of Senator Newlands, of Nevada, the Reclamation Act of 1902 was passed, providing for the redemption of the desert areas of the West. The proceeds from the sale of public lands were dedicated to the construction of storage dams and sluiceways to hold water and divert it as needed to the thirsty sands. Furthermore it was stipulated that the rents paid by water users should go into a reclamation fund to continue the good work forever. Construction was started immediately under the terms of the law. Within seventeen years about 1,600,000 acres had been reclaimed and more than a million were actually irrigated. In the single year 1918, the crops of the irrigated districts were valued at approximately $100,000,000.