To Reform a Society


Whose duty is it to change the way society is run when it is not being done properly? Is it the citizens? the leaders?  Or should we not worry about it at all and let it be what it is?  To explore this question further, let’s take a look at a man who took reforming society in his own hands.  This man is Hazen S. Pingree, he was a wealthy business man who became mayor of Detroit, and later he became the governor of Michigan too.

Pingree as mayor and governor had a goal, he was a progressive reformer and had big plans for a change in the way society was being run.  He dreamed that the wealthy and less fortunate could be treated with the same dignity, in his time the poor people were often treated just as that, poorly.  Accordingly, Pingree took many actions to help make that change.  When he saw that there needed to be a change in society he did not just stand idlily by waiting for it to happen, he made it his duty to be the change.  As mayor there are many cases when Pingree took the chance to make a difference.

One of those chances he took was calling for municipal ownership of utility companies when they refused to lower their high rates.  Again, in another instance he threatened to establish a city owned transit system and to veto the street railroad firms franchise renewal request, this was due to the fact that railroad firms would not reduce their fares.  He also urged arbitration when the common occurrence of strikes happened, rather than the usual calling in of the state militia to act as strikebreakers. In addition, when the depression of 1893 caused severe hunger, Pingree made vacant Detroit lots available for vegetable gardens for the poor, this was so they would have a place to grow their own food. So, did all these actions from Pingree really amount to anything? by far they were worth it.

Unfortunately, Pingree’s actions were soon slowed down by a pro-McMillan bloc in the state senate, this led to his decision to hand over his governor’s chair and retire to a private life.  On the contrary this does not mean his actions were in vain, he brought positive change to less fortunate Michigan citizens and he will forever be known as a social reformer.

This brings us back to the beginning question, so whose duty is it?  In my opinion I believe that it is each citizens duty to give their views and beliefs on society, so it is evident that the majority of people agree we have an issue that needs resolving.  From there if it is in the individual’s ability to make a change for the better then they should go ahead and do so.  If on the other hand it is out of one individuals control to make a decision then I believe people in places of authority should be able to make those decisions, so long as it is agreed upon by the majority of the people.

(Michigan, A History of the Great Lakes State, Rubenstein and Zlewacz, pages 126-128) 

11 thoughts on “To Reform a Society

  1. Hazen S. Pingree was indeed a very powerful and successful. He wanted to see a change in society. I feel that he wanted to much change in society. Then again he did do many of beneficial and caring things for the poor during the Depression of 1893.

    1. Hazen S. Pingree kind of reminds me of Cadillac in a way. He was a very powerful man like Cadillac and was very successful as well. One reason why I think why Pingree reminds me of Cadillac is because Pingree wanted too much change in society, just like Cadillac wanted many changes and was very powerful. One way he differs from Cadillac is because he did many beneficial things for the poor during the depression. I think that Pingree was a very successful man and was very helpful.

  2. Pingree was truly an advocate for the people. He did everything he did with the sole purpose of helping the poor. Making vegetable gardens for the poor in vacant lots was a great idea, and I feel the people were truly thankful for that. He was a great leader, and helped the people of Detroit very much.

    1. Yes I agree, he listened to what people wanted and needed and he made it his priority to help them. He was so very generous and caring and I wish we had more people like him in our government today.

  3. It really shocks me that a wealthy business man such as Pingree would even consider fighting against corporations. He took governmental action that would steal from the pockets of his fellow wealthy businessmen. It was extremely bold of him, and for him to do so, it really showed that he didn’t care so much for the money, but for his fellow man, be them rich or poor. I think it truly had something to do with his poor upbringing. If you are born rich, then you simply cannot understand the situation of the poor. Pingree, I believe, remembered this all too well and focused his efforts on helping others. Something that is both noble and notable.

    1. I think this is why he probably thought nothing of selling his own horse to buy seeds to feed his towns people who were hungry. They could relate to him, and that is why they liked him so much. They knew he looked out for them, and he wanted the best for everyone.

  4. It is amazing to see someone who was viewed as a wealthy business man to take time out of his life to try and help those who were not as well off as he was. Was there something that happened in his life that opened his eyes to what those people had to go through on a daily basis, and he wanted a change to that? Did he grow up poor and slowly rise to the top, but watch as everyone else around him stayed where they were? After everything that he did for the people, why would they have ever wanted him out of office, he most likely had so many more ideas in store to help people, but he was not given enough time.

    1. Before the Progressive Era, some people, mainly the upper class, believed that wealth was given to them because they deserved it. Those who lived in poverty did so because they were being punished for something. The Progressives began to realize that with their wealth came a sense of obligation to help those in need. Some Progressives even believed that simply giving money to the poor wasn’t the answer, but that some assistance should help the poor to better themselves. Pingree was considered to be one of the early Progressives and perhaps was of the same way of thinking. Instead of just giving the starving poor some food, he had the vacant lots in Detroit become vegetable fields and potato patches. People could plant, work, and harvest food to sustain themselves and their families.

  5. Using empty lots to grow vegetable gardens for the poor community was such a great idea, this idea should be implemented more in the current time. By doing this Pingree showed that he truly was looking out for the peoples best interest. Good job.

  6. Pingree fought against the big corporations and they reacted in revenge through Pingree’s personal life…banks refused to extend him credit, exclusive club memberships were not renewed, and even his preferred church pew was taken from him (pg 126, Rubenstein). Despite all of this, Pingree gained popularity and continued his political career. I’m certain there are personal sacrifices that political figures give up in today’s times, but I wonder if it is to the extent of Pingree’s?

  7. It makes you wonder how in our own lives we can help the people. Even if we are not running for office, just being a civil person and going out helping those less fortunate. We don’t have a horse to sell, but giving to the needy, or even helping to fight for a cause, I feel Pingree would be right there with us if he could.

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