Initiative

Americans were becoming more and more concerned about corruption within the political process in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These concerns contributed to the growth of Progressivism, a major reform movement of this era. One reform instituted by Progressives in many states was the initiative. Progressives believed that private interests often influenced politicians, keeping them from acting in the public's interest. For example, a politician might not be willing to support legislation that regulated an industry, if that industry's leaders had contributed money to the politician's campaign. Initiative would allow citizens to have important issues placed on the ballot so that the voters, rather than the politicians, had control over its passage. In order to have an issue placed on the ballot, interested citizens collected signatures for a petition. In the election, the voters then were given the power to vote for or against the proposed law. Progressives argued that the initiative made the American political system more democratic.

Wisconsin was one of the first states to implement the initiative, but other states soon followed its example. In Ohio, the Reverend Herbert Bigelow of Cincinnati was instrumental in gaining passage of the initiative. Bigelow and his supporters founded the Direct Legislation League, which lobbied the state legislature for passage of the initiative and another Progressive reform, the referendum. Ultimately these issues were addressed in Ohio's Constitutional Convention in 1912. The convention's delegates wrote the initiative into a constitutional amendment, which Ohio voters then approved later in the year.

Wisconsin was one of the first states to implement the initiative, but other states soon followed its example. In Ohio, the Reverend Herbert Bigelow of Cincinnati was instrumental in gaining passage of the initiative. Bigelow and his supporters founded the Direct Legislation League, which lobbied the state legislature for passage of the initiative and another Progressive reform, the referendum. Ultimately these issues were addressed in Ohio's Constitutional Convention in 1912. The convention's delegates wrote the initiative into a constitutional amendment, which Ohio voters then approved later in the year.

See Also