The Brains Trust

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was Governor of New York, he employed Samuel Rosenman as his speechwriter and political adviser. He suggested that Roosevelt should recruit help from the universities: "You have been having good experiences with college professors. If we can get a small group together willing to give us some time, they can prepare memoranda for you. You'll want to talk with them yourself, and maybe out of all the talk some concrete ideas will come." Roosevelt took his advice and Rexford Guy Tugwell, Adolf Berle and Raymond Moley joined the team. Basil O'Connor, Roosevelt's legal partner, also became a member of what later became known as the Brains Trust. It has been argued by Patrick Renshaw, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt (2004): "Politically, Tugwell was on the left with Berle on the right. Moley chaired regular meetings of the brains trust, which Samuel Rosenman and Basil O'Connor also attended. FDR was not an intellectual, but enjoyed their company and was in his element at the free-wheeling discussions which hammered out the New Deal."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt with his advisors: Cary Grayson, Norman Davies, Raymond Moley, Rexford Tugwell and William Woodin in 1932.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt with his advisors: Cary Grayson, Norman
Davies, Raymond Moley, Rexford Tugwell and William Woodin in 1932.

This group became an important factor of the 1932 Presidential Election. It has been argued by William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963): "They argued economic doctrine through long spring evenings at the Governor's fireside in Albany, held audiences for economists in a hotel suite in New York City, and wrangled over drafts of campaign speeches... After the election... Moley continued to serve as minister without portfolio in the months before the inauguration; he interviewed experts, assigned men to draft bills, and hammered out the legislation of the Hundred Days."

James Kieran of New York Times called Roosevelt's group of advisors as the Brains Trust. Over the next few years several of his advisors were considered to be members of the Brains Trust. This included Raymond Moley, Rexford Guy Tugwell, Adolf Berle and Roosevelt's law-partner, Basil O'Connor, Ernest Cuneo, Hugh Johnson, Bernard Baruch, Frances Perkins , Harry Hopkins , Harold Ickes , Louis Brandeis , Cordell Hull, Henry Morgenthau, Thomas Corcoran, Benjamin Cohen, Robert Wagner and Felix Frankfurter .

Primary Sources

(1) William E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963)

They argued economic doctrine through long spring evenings at the Governor's fireside in Albany, held audiences for economists in a hotel suite in New York City, and wrangled over drafts of campaign speeches... After the election... Moley continued to serve as minister without portfolio in the months before the inauguration; he interviewed experts, assigned men to draft bills, and hammered out the legislation of the Hundred Days.