The Making of America: Volume 8


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J. D. Morris
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Dec 31, 1906
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The autobiography of Robert La Follette (1855-1925) traces the political life and accomplishments of this eminent Republican politician from his election as district attorney for Dane County, Wisconsin in 1880 to the presidential campaign of 1912, when his bid to dislodge President William Howard Taft was pushed aside by former president Theodore Roosevelt on the Progressive Party's national ticket. The book emphasizes tactics, strategies, and coalition-building as well as La Follette's assessments of various local and national public figures. We learn little about La Follette's childhood, education, legal training or family life, although he does pay tribute to his wife, a lawyer and civic reformer in her own right. La Follette served three terms in Congress (1885-1891); and after a decade of private law practice and grassroots activism, was elected Wisconsin's governor (1900-1904). From 1905 until his death, La Follette was a senator. He crusaded at state and national level against powerful, unregulated business interests--especially the railroads--which he felt exerted undue influence upon government. He also championed open primary elections, equitable taxation of corporations, and public management of public resources by highly qualified, non-partisan public servants. While many of these influential reforms were instituted at the state level during his governorship, his contribution in the Senate may have had less to do with his legislative record than with his ability to rally forces around well-articulated programs.
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