The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History

By Carlos Arnaldo Schwantes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 16

Adjustments: Progressivism and World War I

Oregon has more fundamental legislation than any other state in the Union excepting only Oklahoma, and Oklahoma is new. Oregon is not new; it is and it long has been corrupt, yet it has enacted laws which enable its people to govern themselves when they want to. How did this happen? How did this state of graft get all her tools for democracy? And, since it has them, why don't her people use them more? The answer to these questions lies buried deep in the character and in the story of W. S. U'Ren (accent the last syllable), the lawgiver.-- Lincoln Steffens, "U'Ren, The Law-Giver", American Magazine ( 1908)

The turn-of-the-century years that gave rise to the builders of a New Northwest also called forth the talents of adjusters, a generation of reform-minded men and women who would reshape old laws and inherited patterns of thought to fit such complex new realities as urbanization, organized labor, nationwide transportation and communication networks, and expanded governmental responsibilities for the well-being of its citizens.

To many adjusters it seemed that social, political, and moral developments lagged behind the era's impressive financial and technological achievements. Why, they wondered, should unprecedented feats of engineering and dramatic economic growth be accompanied by such debilitating increases in poverty and other forms of human misery? The qualities motivating individuals to seek answers to such questions ranged from sim

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