B ETWEEN 1898, when the United States stepped dramatically onto the world stage, and 1918, the last full year of Theodore Roosevelt's life, the nation was occupied by numerous troublesome issues. The result was sustained pressure on the political system to address these issues, if not to resolve them completely. Many people felt government must provide the electorate with some assurances that political leaders appreciated the need to adjust interpretations of the Constitution to changing circumstances.
It is not hard to discern the root causes of the predicaments facing all three branches of the national government, Congress, President, and Supreme Court. For example, possession of the Philippine Islands on what promised to be a long-term basis gave rise to the question: does the Constitution follow the flag?, an issue that would land squarely in the lap of the court. Indeed, the presidential election of 1900 included the larger, fundamental issue of imperialism: yes or no? Toward the close of Roosevelt's life the United States would become involved in the ultimate power struggle among the nation states. If Wilson's policy of neutrality did not tear the country apart -- and it did not -- nonetheless there was contention aplenty about his conduct of foreign affairs. Between 1898 and 1918, in fact, foreign policy caused frequent disagreement between the two major parties and on occasion within the ranks of the parties themselves.
As preoccupied with diplomacy as the Congress and presidents could be, domestic issues crowded the legislative calendars, kept presidents busy, and drew the Supreme Court into the political arena as the constitutionality of reform measures was challenged, often successfully. To cite one example, the widespread use of child labor in the workplace offended few businessmen but shocked those seeking social reform. State laws had limited effect. Roosevelt singled out the