Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the son of James Roosevelt and his second wife, Sara Delano Roosevelt, was born Hyde Park, on 30th January, 1882. Both sides of the family were extremely wealthy. The Roosevelts were one of the oldest families in America and had made their fortune from land and trading in the 18th century and increased their wealth during the 19th century by investing in iron and coal mines. (1)
Since arriving in America from Holland in 1624 the Roosevelts had been active in politics. Franklin later wrote: "Some of the famous Dutch families in New York today have nothing left but their name - they are few in numbers, they lack progressivism and a true democratic spirit. One reason - perhaps the chief - of the virility of the Roosevelts is their very democratic spirit... They have felt that there was no excuse for them if they did not do their duty by the community." (2)
At the time of his birth the United States was becoming the world's most powerful country. It's gross domestic product (GDP) had doubled since 1865 and was now the largest in the world; one third larger than Britain's, twice that of France, and three times as great as Germany. (3) "The production of steel, less than twenty thousand tons in 1867, totaled almost 2 million tons in 1882, Coal production had tripled. On the negative side, more than five hundred miners lost their lives in deep-pit accidents each year." (4)
Families as wealthy as the Roosevelts usually entrusted newborn babies to the care of experienced nurses. As soon as she recovered from childbirth, Sara insisted on doing everything herself: "Every mother ought to learn to care for her own baby, whether she can afford to delegate the task to someone or not." She kept to a tight deadline: "Awake at seven. Breakfast at eight. Lessons until eleven. Lunch at noon. More lessons until four. Two hours of play followed by supper at six and bed by eight." (5)
The Roosevelts were supporters of the Democratic Party and in 1884 Presidential Election they helped fund the campaign of Grover Cleveland. After the election James agreed to a diplomatic post in Vienna. Before leaving Washington, James and five-year-old Franklin called on the president to discuss the appointment. As they were leaving Cleveland told Franklin: "My little man, I am making a strange wish for you. It is that you may never be president of the United States." (6)
James Roosevelt, aged 54 at his son's birth, was content to leave the disciplining to his wife. "Franklin never knew what it meant to have the kind of respect for his father that is composed of equal parts of awe and fear. The regard in which he held him, amounting to worship, grew out of a companionship that was based on his ability to see things eye to eye, and his father's never-failing understanding of the little problems that seem so grave to a child." (7)
Sara Roosevelt employed several tutors to teach Franklin mathematics, history, Latin, French and German. His most important teacher was a young Swiss woman named Jeanne Rosat-Sandoz, who not only taught him modern languages but attempted to instill a sense of social responsibility. He later wrote to her, "I have often thought that it was you, more than anyone else, who laid the foundation for my education." (8)
Franklin did not have any brothers or sisters and so until he was sent away to boarding school he spent most of his time in the company of adults. Sara tried to teach him to think like an adult and was very careful about the books she selected for him to read: "The highest ideal I could hold up before our boy was to grow to be like his father: straight and honorable, just and kind." (9) One family member commented that "seldom has a young child been more constantly attended and incessantly approved by his mother." (10)
The family spent a lot of time travelling in Europe. The first school he attended was in Bad Nauheim. Sara insisted that nine-year-old Franklin be enrolled in the local school to improve his German. His schoolmaster, Christian Bommersheim, later commented: "His parents put him in my class and he impressed me very quickly as an unusually bright young fellow. He had such an engaging manner, and he was always so polite that he was soon one of the most popular children in the school." (11)
At the age of fourteen Roosevelt was sent to America's most exclusive private school, Groton, in Massachusetts. The founder and headmaster of the school was the Reverend Endicott Peabody, who had studied for the ministry at the Episcopal Theological Seminary at Cambridge. Tuition was $500 a year. That was about twice what the average American family had to live on. Life at the school was Spartan. Each boy lived in a six-by-ten-foot cubicle with a bed, bureau, rug and chair. There was a curtain instead of a door because Peabody was opposed to too much privacy. The boys were also forced to have two cold showers a day. Averell Harriman, one of the boys at Gorton, told his father, that Peabody "would be an awful bully if he weren't such a terrible Christian." (12)
Franklin Roosevelt was not an outstanding student: "He read rapidly and retained facts easily, a trait that would become more pronounced in the years ahead. He was fluent in French and German and already possessed an uncanny ability to assimilate what he observed. But Roosevelt was not a reflective thinker, nor an original thinker. He learned by doing. And the extensive traveling he did with his parents - he went to Europe eight times in his first fourteen years - exposed him to a wider range of experience than most boys his age." (13)
Roosevelt entered Harvard University in the autumn of 1900, along with sixteen of his eighteen Groton classmates. He rented a three-room suite in Westmorly Court, with his close friend Lathrop Brown. He studied economics, government, and history. Roosevelt had little difficulty academically. Later he recalled: "I took economics courses in college for four years and everything I was taught was wrong." (14)
Franklin's father, James Roosevelt, had a severe heart-attack on 8th December, 1900. He died a few hours later. Franklin was provided with a trust fund and for the rest of his life never had to worry about money. His father left an estate of $600,000 (around $14 million in today's currency). Two years previously, his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, had inherited $1.3 million from her father ($28 million). (15)
While at university he met became engaged to his cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt. Her father, Elliott Roosevelt, was the brother of Theodore Roosevelt, the president of the United States. Her life had been very difficult. Her mother, Anna Hall Roosevelt, died of diphtheria at the age 29. Her father was an alcoholic, who had committed suicide in August, 1894, and so by the age of ten she was an orphan. (16)
Eleanor's autobiographical writings depict a lovable, caring father and an austere, self-absorbed mother. Her biographer, Blanche Wiesen Cook, has pointed out: "She (Eleanor) did not relate to her mother's bitter situation, even in adulthood, after she knew the facts. And she never acknowledged the sacrifice her mother had made for her, an act of love that allowed Eleanor to maintain her romantic image of her father." (17)
At the age of 15 Eleanor was sent to a boarding school in London. The headmistress of the school was Marie Souvestre, the daughter of the French philosopher and novelist, Émile Souvestre. A committed feminist, she believed passionately in educating women to think for themselves, to challenge accepted wisdom, and to assert themselves. Souvestre wrote to Eleanor's guardian: "She is the most amiable girl I have ever met; she is nice to everybody, very eager to learn and highly interested in her work." (18)
Eleanor was very upset when she had to leave the school at 18: "Mlle. Souvestre had become one of the people whom I cared most for in the world, and the thought of the long separation seemed hard to bear... When I left I felt quite sure that I would return before long, but I realize now that Mlle. Souvestre, knowing her infirmities, had little hope of seeing me again. She wrote me lovely letters, which I still cherish. They show the kind of relationship that had grown up between us and give an idea of the fine person who exerted the greatest influence, after my father, on this period of my life." (19)
Roosevelt was a member of the Democratic Party but in the 1904 Presidential Election he voted for his uncle, Theodore Roosevelt. "My father and grandfather were Democrats and I was born and brought up as a Democrat. But in 1904, when I cast my first vote for president, I voted for the Republican candidate, Theodore Roosevelt, because I thought he was a better Democrat than the Democratic candidates. If I had to do it all over again, I would not alter that vote." (20)
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were married on 17th March, 1905. President Roosevelt attended the wedding. When he accepted the invitation he wrote to Franklin about the importance of love: "I am as fond of Eleanor as if she were my daughter; and I like you, and trust you, and believe in you. No other success in life - not the Presidency, or anything else - begins to compare with the joy and happiness that come in and from the love of a true man and the true woman, the love which never sinks lower and sweetheart in man and wife." (21)
Franklin Roosevelt attended Columbia Law School. A fellow student, William Donovan described him as a person with enormous self-confidence but with little desire to spend much time studying. His final grades were three Bs, three Cs, and a D, which placed him roughly in the middle of the class. One of his tutors, Professor Jackson E. Reynolds, commented that Roosevelt had little aptitude for the law and "make no effort to overcome that handicap by hard work." (22)
In 1906 Roosevelt passed his New York state bar exam and joined Carter, Ledyard and Milburn at 54 Wall Street, a bluechip firm whose best clients, big corporations like Standard Oil of Ohio and American Tobacco, who were the very people who were vigorously fighting President Theodore Roosevelt's anti-trust suits in federal court. However, Franklin was too junior to become involved in this work. (23)
Roosevelt wanted a career in politics and in 1910 the Democratic Party in New York asked him to run for election to the state senate for rural Columbia, Duchess and Putnam counties. Frances Perkins was one of the people who helped him in his campaign: "Tall and slender, very active and alert, moving around the floor, going in and out of committee rooms, rarely talking with the members, not particularly charming (that came later), rarely smiling, with an unfortunate habit - so natural he was unaware of it - of throwing his head up. This, combined with his pince-nez (a pair of eyeglasses with a nose clip instead of earpieces) and great height, gave him the appearance of looking down his nose at most people." (24)
Roosevelt became one of the first politicians to campaign in an automobile. It was a risky strategy as cars were luxury items at the time and it highlighted his wealthy background. However, travelling at the speed of twenty miles an hour, Roosevelt was able to criss-cross the district as no candidate had done before. The car draped in the national flag soon caught people's attention and his speeches attracted large crowds: "They came to see as well as hear the handsomest candidate that ever asked for votes in their district. Franklin was so good looking he might have stepped out of a magazine cover." (25)
Roosevelt carried more than two thirds of the precincts in the Senatorial District, defeating the Republican candidate 15,708 to 14,568, an unprecedented Democratic majority. At the age of 28 Roosevelt had achieved his first political success. His mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, commented: "I have always thought Franklin perfectly extraordinary, and, as I look back, I don't think he has ever disappointed me." (26)
Gifford Pinchot was a family friend who was the most important conservationist in the United States. Roosevelt arranged for Pinchot to give lectures on the subject in New York. He was also a supporter of votes for women after he had a meeting with Inez Milholland, one of the leaders of the National Women's Party. His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, claimed she was shocked by this conversion: "I was shocked, as I had never given the question serious thought, for I took it for granted that men were superior creatures and knew more about politics than women did, and I realised that if my husband was a suffragist I probably must be, too." (27)
In the 1912 election Roosevelt appointed Louis Howe as his campaign manager. Howe was a journalist who had made his name when helping Thomas Mott Osborne, to defeat the press baron, William Randolph Hearst, who was trying to become the Democratic Party presidential candidate. Hearst, who owned 28 newspapers and magazines, was a difficult man to beat. Howe biographer Julie M. Fenster describes the anti-Hearst campaign as a "personal turning point" for Howe, in which he got his first taste of politics, learned the practical mechanics of party organization, and had an opportunity to make news rather than simply reporting it. (28)
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Howe was greatly impressed with Roosevelt and came to the conclusion that "nothing but an accident could keep him from becoming president". (29) Making sure he did did so became the purpose of Howe's life. As his secretary explained, "Louis was small, ugly and insignificant looking. Roosevelt was big, handsome and dramatic. Louis Howe closed one eye and saw the two divergent personalities merge into a political entity and the picture fascinated him." (30)
Howe was asked to devise a strategy to win the farm vote. One of the main complaints concerned the New York commission merchants, the middlemen who pocketed the difference between what the farmer got for his crop and what the consumer paid. Howe drafted a letter promising that if re-elected, Roosevelt would become chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. There he would ensure passage of an agricultural marketing act that would increase the farmers income. Howe mailed more than eleven thousand letters to voters. Each letter contained a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the farmer's reply. This was highly successful and he had an easy victory in November 1912. (31)
According to Eleanor Roosevelt, Howe's most important contribution to her husband's political outlook was to persuade him to become concerned with the plight of the American work-force. He arranged for him to meet with trade union leaders. Howe insisted Roosevelt attend hearings on labour problems in person rather than delegate labour relations to someone else. (32)
On 13th January, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson invited Roosevelt to Washington. He was introduced to Josephus Daniels, the new Secretary of the Navy. Daniels asked Roosevelt: "How would you like to be assistant secretary of the Navy?" Roosevelt replied: "It would please me better than anything in the world. All my life I have loved ships and have been a student of the Navy, and the assistant secretaryship is the one place, above all others, that I would like to hold... nothing would please me so much as to be with you in the Navy." (33)
Daniels told Elihu Root about his appointment. He replied: "You know the Roosevelts, don't you? Whenever a Roosevelt rides, he wishes to ride in front... though, of course, being a Republican, I have no right to make any suggestion." Daniels replied that he wasn't worried about Roosevelt and that he wanted a strong man as assistant secretary. "A chief who fears that an assistant will outrank him is not fit to be chief." (34)
Roosevelt had a good opinion of President Wilson. He told Frances Perkins: "You know, Wilson had an uncanny understanding of the European problem. He understood the moral drives of modern man. He was a Presbyterian, you know, and a tough one, and he was perfectly sure that all men are sinful by nature. He figured it out that Western civilisation would attempt to destroy itself through the natural sinful activities of modern man unless by the grace of God the decent people of Western civilisation resolved to support the doctrine of the Golden Rule." (35)
Daniels and his close friend, William Jennings Bryan, were the two most radical members of Wilson's cabinet. "For seventeen years they had worked to free the common man from the clutches of trusts, railroads, robber barons, and whatever other vested interest appeared on the horizon. Daniels served as Bryan's publicity director in each of his presidential campaigns, and the two shared a contempt for anything that smacked of wealth and special privilege." (36)
Louis Howe moved to Washington to be with Roosevelt and was appointed as his secretary on $2,000 a year. "My husband had asked Louis Howe to come down as his assistant in the Navy Department; Louis moved his wife and two children, one of them a fairly well-grown girl and the other a baby boy, into an apartment not far from us." (37) Every morning at 8.15 Howe would call for Roosevelt and the two men would walk to the Navy Department. Elliott Roosevelt fondly remembers his father "striding down Connecticut Avenue with Louis hurrying along at his side. The two of them looked uncannily like Don Quixote and Sancho setting out to battle with giants." (38)
Howe's duties involved labour relations, special investigations and speech writing. He also took charge of patronage, handled Roosevelt's correspondence, made appointments for his boss. Daniels soon became aware of Howe's importance: "Howe advised FDR about everything. His one and only ambition was to steer Franklin's course so that he could take the tide at the full. He was totally devoted. He would have sidetracked both President Wilson and me to get Franklin Roosevelt to the White House." (39)
Roosevelt read The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1783, a book published by Alfred Thayer Mahan in 1890. Mahan argued that national greatness was closely associated with the sea, with its commercial use in peace and its control in war. Roosevelt shared Mahan's belief that the example of Britain showed the command of the world's oceans was key to world power. Roosevelt became an ardent proponent of a "Big Navy". (40)
As assistant secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt's impact on the policies of the Wilson's administration was minimal. However, his eight years in Washington provided the opportunity to learn about the realities of national politics. Howe taught Roosevelt how to deal with organized labour. On several occasions he had meetings with trade union leaders. His great strength was that he was a good listener. He told them: "I want you to feel that you can come to me at any time in my office and we can talk matters over. Let's get together for I need you to teach me your business and show me what's going on." (41)
Eleanor Roosevelt gave birth to their sixth child, John Aspinwall Roosevelt, on 13th March, 1916. According to one of his biographers, Jean Edward Smith, after the birth of their last child "the evidence suggests that Eleanor and Franklin adopted abstinence as the only sure means of birth control". (91) They were both members of the Episcopal Church that at that time forbade birth control, and it was illegal in many states by statute. Eleanor told her daughter that "sex is an ordeal to be borne" and that after John's birth "that was the end of any marital relationship". (43)
In the summer of 1916 Franklin Roosevelt began a relationship with Lucy Mercer, Eleanor's part-time social secretary. She was 25 and Franklin was 34. Lucy was the impoverished daughter of high-living socialites who had recklessly spent their way through a substantial fortune. Lucy was well-liked by Roosevelt's children: "She was femininely gentle where Mother had something of a schoolmarm's air about her, outgoing where Mother was an introvert. We children welcomed the days she came to work." (44)
Franklin Roosevelt was said to be at his peak of physical attractiveness. Arthur C. Murray, who was based in Washington at this time described him as "breathing health and vitality". (45) Another official commented that "he was the most magnetic young men I ever saw." (46) Admiral Sheffield Cowles warned him about the dangers of the attention he was receiving from young women. (47)
Elliott Roosevelt was aware of the relationship and later explained why his father was attracted to Lucy. She had "the same brand of charm as Father, and there was a hint of fire in her warm dark eyes... in the new circumstances of Father's life at home, I see it as inevitable that they were irresistibly attracted to each other." (48) Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the eldest daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, provided a safe house for the couple to meet. She later recalled: "Franklin deserved a good time. He was married to Eleanor." (49)
By the time the United States had entered the First World War in 1917, Roosevelt had the country's naval plants and yards working efficiently. During the war he helped to devise the plans for the battle of the North Sea which broke the effectiveness of German U-boat warfare. On 24th June, 1917, Roosevelt arranged for Lucy to work as his secretary in Washington. The war and his relationship with Lucy meant that he rarely arrived home until after midnight. (50)
Josephus Daniels, the new Secretary of the Navy, discovered about the affair. He was old-fashioned in his views about the sanctity of marriage and the sin of divorce, and on 5th October, 1917, he ordered her to be sacked. Blanche Wiesen Cook, also believes that it is possible that Eleanor was also aware of the relationship. Members of the family knew, so did many of Eleanor's Red Cross co-workers, and so did "almost everybody else of importance in Washington." (51)
Further evidence that Eleanor might have suspected something is that all of a sudden she became very close to Sara Delano Roosevelt. The relationship between Eleanor and her mother-in-law had never been easy. However, in 1918 she wrote to her virtually every day. In one letter she said: "As the years go on, I realize how lucky we are to have you, and I wish we could always be together. Very few mothers I know mean as much to their daughters as you do to me." (52) On 17th March she wrote: "As I have grown older I have realized better all you do for us and all you mean to me and the children especially and you will never know how grateful I am nor how much I love you." (53)
In the summer of 1918 Franklin Roosevelt visited the Western Front in France before meeting George Clemenceau. "He is only 77 years old and people say he is getting younger everyday... The wonderful old man leaves his office almost every Saturday in a high-powered car, dashes to the front, visits a Corps Commander, travels perhaps all night, goes up a good deal closer in the actual battle line than the officers like, keep it up all day Sunday and motors back in time to be at his desk on Monday morning." He then had meetings with David Lloyd George, the British prime minister, who he described as "not very tall, rather large head, rather long hair, but tremendous vitality." (54)
On his return, in the course of unpacking Franklin's luggage, Eleanor discovered a pack of love letters from Lucy Mercer. Eleanor later told Joseph P. Lash: "The bottom dropped out of my world. I faced myself, my surroundings, my world, honestly for the first time." (55) Eleanor apparently told Franklin that she was willing to give him a divorce. However, Sara was furious and threatened to cut him out of his will if he left his wife. (56)
Louis Howe pointed out that Josephus Daniels, the Secretary of the Navy, would certainly sack him if he left Eleanor. He also told him that as a divorced man he could never become president. Howe also had a meeting with Eleanor and persuaded her that FDR could not go on without her. She claimed that she would only be willing to continue with the marriage if FDR promised never to see Lucy Mercer again. FDR agreed to this deal and not long afterwards Lucy married the 58 year-old wealthy playboy, Winthrop Rutherfurd. (57)
Franklin Roosevelt attended the Paris Peace Conference with President Woodrow Wilson. He spoke French fluently and this helped greatly in the negotiations. but was highly critical of the terms of Versailles Treaty. He believed the "the effort to make the world safe for democracy had resulted in making the world safe for the old empires". Roosevelt also had doubts about the formation of the League of Nations. (58)
In 1920, both Democrats and Republicans considered asking Herbert Hoover to become their presidential candidate. It was suggested that Roosevelt could be Hoover's running-mate. Roosevelt agreed with the suggestion: "Hoover is certainly a wonder. I wish I could make him President of the United States. There could not be a better one." (59) Colonel Edward House agreed: "It's a wonderful idea. A Hoover-Roosevelt ticket is probably the only chance the Democrats have in November." (60)
On 6th March, 1920, Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, met Hoover to discuss the issue. Afterwards she wrote: "Mr. Hoover talked a great deal. He has an extraordinary knowledge and grasp of present-day problems." (61) At the end of March, Hoover broke his long silence and announced that he intended to be a candidate for the Republican nomination. However, he was defeated by Warren Harding. It was claimed that he "conducted a highly amateur campaign for the nomination; the politicians dismissed him with a sour laugh." (62)
At the Democratic convention in San Francisco, Roosevelt gave his support to Al Smith: "I love him as a friend; I look up to him as a man; I am with him as a Democrat; and we all know his record throughout the nation as a great servant of the public." (63) However, the nomination went to three-term Ohio governor, James Middleton Cox. In the negotiations that took place with party managers, Cox them: "My choice is young Roosevelt. His name is good, he's right geographically, and he's anti-Tammany." (64)
The 1920 campaign saw Eleanor Roosevelt emerge into public life. It was Louis Howe who recognised her potential and asked her advice. "I was flattered and before long I found myself discussing a wide range of topics." (65) Eleanor developed a close relationship with Howe and according to Blanche Wiesen Cook: "Louis Howe was the first of many intimate friends that ER grew to trust and love, with a warmth and generosity both spontaneous and unlimited". (66)
The United States entered the 1920's in a strong economic position. The economies of her European rivals had been severely disrupted by the First World War and the United States had been able to capture markets which had previously been supplied by countries like Britain, France and Germany. Roosevelt knew that the Democrats had no chance of winning. The Republican isolationist foreign policy was popular with the electorate and in the 1920 Presidential Election Harding was voted into office by the widest popular margin in history. (67)
On 10th August, 1921, Franklin Roosevelt took a swim in Lake Glen Severn, a shallow freshwater pond on Campobello Island. About an hour later Roosevelt felt a sudden chill. He went straight to bed but continued to tremble despite two heavy blankets. The next morning he was worse. When he attempted to stand his left leg buckled beneath him. That evening he had lost the power to move his legs. He ached all over and was paralyzed from the chest down. However, it was not until fifteen years later before he was diagnosed as suffering from poliomyelitis. (68)
At first it was hoped that it was a mild attack but by October it was clear that he had lost the ability to walk. Sara Roosevelt wanted her son to retire from public life. Eleanor Roosevelt and Louis Howe disagreed and thought that the prospect of returning to politics would aid his recovery. Eleanor later recalled: "This was the most trying winter of my entire life. My mother-in-law thought we were tiring my husband and that he should be kept completely quiet. This made the discussions about his care somewhat acrimonious on occasion." (69).
Louis Howe took care of Roosevelt's public image. "Roosevelt had after his illness four means of locomotion: (a) he could walk on somebody's arm with the braces and a cane, (b) he could walk with braces and crutches, (c) the wheel-chair, (d) he could be carried. He hated to be carried, and Louis Howe laid it down as an iron rule that he must never be carried in public. But in private he was carried, like an infant, thousands of times. For instance in later years, at dinner in the White House or elsewhere, he would usually be carried in to his place at the table before the company arrived.... Often, however, he used the chair. His servants and helpers acquired a marvellous dexterity in manipulating the change from the wheel-chair to another so quickly and unobtrusively that few people ever noticed." (69a)
Although he was confined to bed, with the help of Eleanor, Louis and his new secretary, Marguerite LeHand, he was able to keep up a constant correspondence with Democratic Party leaders. In March, 1922, he was fitted with steel braces that weighted fourteen pounds and ran from his heels to above his hips. Since his hips were paralyzed, he was incapable of moving his legs individually and was taught to pivot forward on his crutches, using his head and upper body for leverage. His doctor told him that he would never be able to walk normally. (70)
Eleanor agreed to become involved in politics to keep the Roosevelt name in the news. By this stage Eleanor was politically far to the left of her husband. She became involved in the campaigns against child labour and racial discrimination and became a supporter of organisations such as National Consumer's League, League of Women's Voters, National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and the Women's Trade Union League. People she worked with during this period included Frances Perkins, Jane Addams, Rose Schneiderman, Nancy Cook and Marion Dickerman. Eleanor became the "centre of a dynamic group of women reformers who were college-educated, who had worked helping the urban poor in settlement houses and were social feminists." (71)
Sara Roosevelt also became involved in these progressive campaigns. Mary McLeod Bethune, the president of the National Association of Colored Women, remembers attending a luncheon for thirty-five board members of the National Council for Women. "Mrs. James Roosevelt did a remarkable thing. Very deliberately, she took my arm and seated me to the right of Eleanor Roosevelt, the guest of honor! I can remember too, how the faces of the Negro servants lit up with pride. From that moment on, my heart went out to Mrs James Roosevelt. I visited her at her home many times subsequently, and our friendship became one of the most treasured of my life." (72)
Franklin Roosevelt returned to public life in 1924 when he agreed to help Al Smith in his attempt to become president. According to Eleanor: "He was entirely well and lived a normal life, restricted only by his inability to walk. On the whole, his general physical condition improved year by year, until he was stronger in some ways than before his illness... In the spring of 1924, before the National Democratic Convention met in New York, Al Smith, who was a candidate for the presidential nomination, asked him to manage his pre-convention campaign. This was the first time that my husband was to be in the public eye since his illness. A thousand and one little arrangements had to be made and Louis carefully planned each step of the way." (73)
Frances Perkins believed that this illness changed Roosevelt's personality and in doing so, made him into a better man. "Roosevelt underwent a spiritual transformation during the years of his illness. I noticed when he came back that the years of pain and suffering had purged the slightly arrogant attitude he had displayed on occasion before he was stricken. The man emerged completely warmhearted, with humility of spirit and with a deeper philosophy. Having been to the depths of trouble, he understood the problems of people in trouble." (74)
In 1928 Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted the nomination as the Democratic candidate for the Governor of New York. Some newspapers questioned the decision. The New York Post asserted: "There is something both pathetic and pitiless in the drafting of Franklin D. Roosevelt". (75) The New York Herald Tribune took a similar view: "The nomination is unfair to Mr. Roosevelt. It is equally unfair to the people of the state." (76) Al Smith responded by arguing: "A governor doesn't have to be an acrobat. The work of the governorship is brainwork. Frank Roosevelt is mentally as good as he ever was in his life." (77)
After being nominated Roosevelt had four weeks of energetic campaigning, sometimes speaking as often as fourteen times a day. "Roosevelt surprised all his friends, and I think himself, by the vigor and drive he, just out of the sickroom, put into the whirlwind visits to the hundreds of districts... He took to the automobile as a method of getting around and spoke from the back of it at outdoor meetings... He proved to himself and the people that he was not too sick to assume responsibility, as his opponents claimed. He had that imponderable human quality which made people feel they were close to him." (78)
Although the Democrats did badly that year, with Herbert Hoover being elected as president. However, Roosevelt, bucked the trend and obtained 2,130,238 votes against the 2,104,630 achieved by his Republican opponent, Albert Ottinger - a majority of 25,608 out of more than 4 million cast. The New York Times reported: It is too early to select the new leader of the Democratic Party or to predict nominations for a date so remote as 1932. Yet by a most extraordinary combination of qualities, political fortunes and diversified associations, Governor-elect Roosevelt is within reach of the elements of party leadership." (79)
Al Smith, the previous Governor of New York, urged Roosevelt to appoint two of his key advisers, to his administration, Robert Moses and Belle Moskowitz. Roosevelt, who wanted to show he was in control of the situation rejected these suggestions. He told one aide, "I've got to be governor of the State of New York and I've got to be it myself." Two years later Smith commented: "Do you know, by God, he has never consulted me about a damn thing since he became governor." (80)
There was another important reason why Franklin Roosevelt wanted Guernsey T. Cross as Secretary to the Governor. He told Smith that there were physical reasons why he could not appoint Moskowitz: "You know I need a great, big, strong man as secretary. I need someone whom I can lean on physically, if necessary, and I think it will be better, Al." (80a)
Roosevelt appointed Frances Perkins as his industrial commissioner and a member of a governor's cabinet, the first woman to serve in that capacity. On her appointment he stated: "It is my firm belief that had women had an equal share in making laws in years past, the unspeakable conditions in crowded tenements, the neglect of the poor, the unwillingness to spend money for hospitals and sanitariums... would never have come about." (81) Other key figures in his administration included Edward J. Flynn (secretary of state), James Farley (chief strategist), Louis Howe (chief of staff), Henry Morgenthau (Agricultural Advisory Commission), Samuel Rosenman (speech writer) and Basil O'Connor (legal adviser). (82)
The Wall Street Crash in October 1929, created an economic crisis in America. President Herbert Hoover completely underestimated the importance of the event and argued. "The fundamental business of the country - that is, the production and distribution of goods and services - is on a sound and prosperous basis." (83) The following month Hoover addressed the nation on the state of the economy. "I have... instituted systematic, voluntary measures of cooperation with the business institutions and with State and municipal authorities to make certain that fundamental businesses of the country shall continue as usual, that wages and therefore consuming power shall not be reduced, and that a special effort shall be made to expand construction work in order to assist in equalizing other deficits in employment... I am convinced that through these measures we have reestablished confidence. Wages should remain stable. A very large degree of industrial unemployment and suffering which would otherwise have occurred has been prevented. Agricultural prices have reflected the returning confidence. The measures taken must be vigorously pursued until normal conditions are restored." (84)
These measures did not work. Within a short time, 100,000 American companies were forced to close and consequently many workers became unemployed. As there was no national system of unemployment benefit, the purchasing power of the American people fell dramatically. This in turn led to even more unemployment. Yip Harburg pointed out that before the Wall Street Crash, the American citizen thought: "We were the prosperous nation, and nothing could stop us now.... There was a feeling of continuity. If you made it, it was there forever. Suddenly the big dream exploded. The impact was unbelievable." (85)
President Hoover made the situation worse by the passing of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff in March 1930. This raised taxes on more than 20,000 imported goods to record levels. In an attempt to persuade Hoover to veto the legislation, 1,028 American economists, including Irving Fisher, professor of political economy at Yale University, who was considered the most important economist of the period, published a open letter on the subject. (86)
"We are convinced that increased protective duties would be a mistake. They would operate, in general, to increase the prices which domestic consumers would have to pay. By raising prices they would encourage concerns with higher costs to undertake production, thus compelling the consumer to subsidize waste and inefficiency in industry. At the same time they would force him to pay higher rates of profit to established firms which enjoyed lower production costs. A higher level of protection, such as is contemplated by both the House and Senate bills, would therefore raise the cost of living and injure the great majority of our citizens."
The letter went on to point out that since the Wall Street Crash had resulted in much higher-rates of unemployment: "America is now facing the problem of unemployment. Her labor can find work only if her factories can sell their products. Higher tariffs would not promote such sales. We can not increase employment by restricting trade. American industry, in the present crisis, might well be spared the burden of adjusting itself to new schedules of protective duties. Finally, we would urge our Government to consider the bitterness which a policy of higher tariffs would inevitably inject into our international relations. The United States was ably represented at the World Economic Conference which was held under the auspices of the League of Nations in 1927. This conference adopted a resolution announcing that 'the time has come to put an end to the increase in tariffs and move in the opposite direction.' The higher duties proposed in our pending legislation violate the spirit of this agreement and plainly invite other nations to compete with us in raising further barriers to trade. A tariff war does not furnish good soil for the growth of world peace." (87)
Henry Ford spent an evening at the White House trying to convince Hoover to veto the bill, calling it "an economic stupidity." Thomas W. Lamont, the chief executive of J. P. Morgan Investment Bank said he "almost went down on his knees to beg Herbert Hoover to veto the asinine Hawley-Smoot tariff." He warned that the act would intensify "nationalism all over the world.” (88)
President Hoover considered the bill "vicious, extortionate, and obnoxious" but according to his biographer, Charles Rappleye, "the president could hardly turn its back on a measure endorsed by a clear majority of his own party." (89) Hoover signed the bill on 17th June, 1930. The Economist Magazine argued that the passing of the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act was "the tragic-comic finale to one of the most amazing chapters in world tariff history… one that Protectionist enthusiasts the world over would do well to study.” (90)
Andrew Mellon was Hoover's secretary of the treasury. Mellon followed policies that involved cutting income tax rates and reducing public spending. He also brought an end to the excess profits tax. Mellon's policies created a great deal of controversy and he was accused of following policies that favoured the wealthy. The economic depression that began in 1929 was partly blamed on Mellon's policies. (91)
Franklin Roosevelt had opposed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. He also disagreed with Hoover when he vetoed a bill that would have created a federal unemployment agency and opposed a plan to create a public works programme. In March, 1930, Roosevelt established a commission to stablize employment in New York. "The situation is serious and the time has come for us to face this unpleasant fact dispassionately". (92)
Unemployment which stood at 4 million in March 1930, reached 8 million in March 1931. Hoovervilles, settlements on tin shacks, abandoned cars and discarded packing crates, emerged on the edges of all big cities. President Hoover responded by urging Americans to embrace the principles of local responsibility and mutual self-help, by setting up community soup kitchens. If we depart from these principles, he argued, we will "have struck at the roots of self-government". (93)
Franklin Roosevelt made it clear that he disapproved of this approach to unemployment. He pointed out he was willing to spend $20 million to provide useful work where possible and, where such work could not be found, to provide the needy with food and shelter. "In broad terms I assert that modern society, acting through its government, owes the definite obligation to prevent the starvation or dire want of any of its fellow men and women who try to maintain themselves but cannot... To these unfortunate citizens aid must be extended by government - not as a matter of charity but as a matter of social duty." (94)
In addition to the $20 million relief package, Roosevelt asked the New York legislature, for funds to establish a new state agency, the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA), to distribute the funds. He also requested that the legislature to raise personal income taxes by 50% to pay for the relief effort. New York was the first state to establish a relief agency, and TERA immediately became a model for other states. This included New Jersey, Rhode Island and Illinois. (95)
Roosevelt selected Jesse Straus, president of R. H. Macy department stores, and one of the most respected businessmen in New York, to head TERA. He chose as his executive director a forty-two-year-old social worker, Harry L. Hopkins, who at that time was unknown to Roosevelt or any of his advisers. Hopkins was an inspired choice. A gifted administrator who proved he could deliver aid swiftly. In the next six years TERA assisted some 5 million people - 40 per cent of the population of New York State. (96)
Eleanor Roosevelt pointed out that TERA was the first of her husband's important projects. "Many experiments that were later to be incorporated into a national program were being tried out in the state. It was part of Franklin's political philosophy that the great benefit to be derived from having forty-eight states was the possibility of experimenting on a small scale to see how a program worked before trying it out nationally." (97)
Senior members of the Democratic Party began to talk of Roosevelt being the best man to take on Herbert Hoover in the 1932 Presidential Election. This included Burton Wheeler of Montana, Cordell Hull of Tennessee, James F. Byrnes of South Carolina and Pat Harrison of Mississippi. Roosevelt wrote to his friend, James Hoey, that "the great majority of States through their regular organizations are showing every friendliness towards me." (98)
The Republican Party feared Roosevelt and began circulating unfounded gossip concerning his condition. Time Magazine reported that Roosevelt might be mentally qualified for the presidency, he was "utterly unfit physically". (99) Roosevelt was very concerned about this campaign and wrote to a friend in the media: "I find that there is a deliberate attempt to create the impression that my health is such as would make it impossible for me to fulfill the duties of President... I shall appreciate whatever my friends may have to say in their personal correspondence to dispel this perfectly silly piece of propaganda." (100)
Earle Looker, a journalist who was a supporter of the Republican Party, challenged Roosevelt to undergo a medical examination to prove "you are sufficiently recovered to assure your supporters that you could stand the strain of the Presidency." Roosevelt accepted the challenge immediately. Dr. Lindsay R. Williams, director of the New York Academy of Medicine, was asked to select a panel of eminent physicians, including a brain specialist, to conduct the examination. In addition, Looker was invited to visit Roosevelt unannounced and observe the governor whenever he wished and as often as he wished. (101)
The panel examined Roosevelt on 29th April, 1931, and published its report the same day: "We have today carefully examined Governor Roosevelt. We believe that his health and powers of endurance are such as to allow him to meet any demand of private and public life. We find that his organs and functions are sound in all respects. There is no anemia. The chest is exceptionally well developed, and the spinal column is absolutely normal; all its segments are in perfect alignment and free from disease. He has neither pain nor ache at any time... Governor Roosevelt can walk all necessary distances and can maintain a standing position without fatigue." (102)
Earle Looker took advantage of Roosevelt's offer to visit him at work. Later he recalled: "I observed him working and resting. I noted the alertness of his movements, the sparkle of his eyes, the vigor of his gestures. I saw his strength under the strain of long working periods. Insofar as I observed him, I came to the conclusion that he seemed able to take more punishment than many men ten years younger. Merely his knees were not much good to him... From my own observation I am able to say unhesitatingly that every rumour of Franklin Roosevelt's physical incapacity can be unqualified defined as false." (103)
In March 1932 Roosevelt asked Raymond Moley, a professor of public law at Columbia University, "to pull together some intellectuals who might help Roosevelt's bid for the presidency". Moley recruited two of his university colleagues, Rexford G. Tugwell and Adolf Berle. Others who joined the group, later known as the Brains Trust, included Roosevelt's law-partner, Basil O'Connor and his main speech writer, Samuel Rosenman. Others who attended these meetings included Felix Frankfurter, Louis Brandeis (who introduced the group to the ideas of John Maynard Keynes) and Benjamin Cohen. (104)
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." (105)
In a speech jointly written by Roosevelt, Moley and Rosenman, he gave a speech on 7th April 1932 where he attacked the Hoover administration for attacking the symptoms of the Great Depression, not the cause. "It has sought temporary relief from the top down rather than permanent relief from the bottom up. These unhappy times call for the building of plans that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid." (106)
Roosevelt constantly made the point that to solve the country's economic problems, the president had to resort to "imaginative and purposeful planning". In a speech at Oglethorpe University he suggested that if he became president he would not be afraid to experiment: "Must the country remain hungry and jobless while raw materials stand unused and factories idle? The country needs, the country demands, bold, persistent experimentation. Take a method and try it. If it fails admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." (107)
At the convention held to select the presidential candidate a debate took place over the Democratic Party's policy on Prohibition. This was a problem for Roosevelt as much of his support came from traditionally dry areas in the South and West whereas most party members and the general public favoured repeal. Roosevelt told his supporters to "vote as you wish" and that he would be happy to run on whatever platform the convention adopted. In the vote for repeal 934-213. Arthur Krock reported that "the Democratic party went as wet as the seven seas". (108)
The first ballot showed Roosevelt with 666 votes - more than three times as many as his nearest rival but 104 short of victory. Al Smith ran second with 201. At the second ballot Roosevelt's total crept up to 677. The conservative establishment in the South, disliked the radicalism of Roosevelt and made a move, led by Sennet Conner of Mississippi, to select Newton D. Baker as a compromise candidate. Huey Long, the progressive Governor of Louisiana, went to see Conner and said that unless he supported Roosevelt "I'll go into Mississippi and break you." (109)
Roosevelt won the nomination on the fourth ballot when he won 945 votes. William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963) summed up the situation that the Democratic Party found itself in: "Liberal Democrats were somewhat uneasy about Roosevelt's reputation as a trimmer, and disturbed by the vagueness of his formulas for recovery, but no other serious candidate had such good claims on progressive support. as governor of New York, he had created the first comprehensive system of unemployment relief, sponsored an extensive program for industrial welfare, and won western progressives by expanding the work Al Smith had begun in conservation and public power." (110)
In his acceptance speech Roosevelt argued: "Yes, the people of this country want a genuine choice this year, not a choice between two names for the same reactionary doctrine. Ours must be a party of liberal thought, of planned action, of enlightened international outlook, and of the greatest good to the greatest number of our citizens.... Let us all here assembled constitute ourselves prophets of a new order of competence and of courage. This is more than a political campaign; it is a call to arms. Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win in this crusade to restore America to its own people." He then added the words: "I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a New Deal for the American people." (111)
Henry L. Mencken, was a journalist who had great doubts about the wisdom of selecting Roosevelt as the Democratic candidate for the 1932 Presidential Election. He wrote in The Baltimore Evening Sun: "Mr. Roosevelt enters the campaign with a burden on each shoulder. The first is the burden of his own limitations. He is one of the most charming of men, but like many very charming man he leaves on the beholder the impression that he is also somewhat shallow and futile. The burden on his other shoulder is even heavier. It is the burden of party disharmony." (112)
Elmer Davis, in Harper's Magazine, claimed that the Democratic Party had nominated "the man who would probably make the weakest President of the dozen aspirants". (113) Another journalist, Charles Willis Thompson, believed that the Democrats have nominated nobody quite like him since Franklin Pierce." It was pointed out that when Roosevelt was nominated bookies made him a 5-1 chance of beating Herbert Hoover. (114)
Roosevelt selected John Nance Garner as his running mate. Roosevelt's campaign did little to reassure critics who thought him a vacillating politician. For example, he attacked the Hoover administration because it was "committed to the idea that we ought to centre control of everything in Washington as rapidly as possible" but advanced policies which would greatly extend the power of the national government. He said he would initiate a far-reaching plan to help the farmer; but he would do it in such a way that it would not "cost the Government any money". (115)
In one speech he made in Sioux City, Roosevelt argued that he would cut government spending by 25 per cent: "I accuse the present Administration of being the greatest spending Administration in peace times in all our history. It is an Administration that has piled bureau on bureau, commission on commission, and has failed to anticipate the dire and the reduced earning power of the people." (116) One of Roosevelt's supporters, Marriner Eccles, admitted: "Given later developments, the campaign speeches often read like a giant misprint, in which Roosevelt and Hoover speak each other's lines." (117)
Huey P. Long, the progressive governor of Louisiana, telephoned Roosevelt to complain about his apparent move to the right. Roosevelt placated Long as best he could because he did not want to lose his support. Roosevelt told one of his advisers that he was unwilling to use the Long approach to politics: "Huey's a whiz on the radio. He screams at people and they love it. He makes them think they belong to some kind of church. He knows there is a promised land and he'll lead them to it." (118)
However, Roosevelt made good use of Long's talents. James Farley, who managed Roosevelt's campaign, later regretted not making more of Long: "We underrated Long's ability to grip the masses. He put on a great show and everywhere he went we got the most glowing reports of what he had accomplished for the Democratic cause... If we had sent Huey into the thickly populated cities of the Pennsylvania mining districts, the electoral vote of the Keystone State would have gone to the Roosevelt-Garner ticket by a comfortable margin." (119)
There was a general agreement that Hoover ran a very bad campaign. Several leading Republican politicians, on the left of the party, including Robert LaFollette Jr of Wisconsin, Hiram Johnson of California, George Norris of Nebraska, Bronson Cutting of New Mexico and Smith Wildman Brookhart of Iowa, supported Roosevelt. Jonathan Bourne of Oregon stated: "I think Hoover is the most pitiful failure we have ever had in the White House." (120)
William E. Leuchtenburg pointed out: "If Roosevelt's program lacked substance, his blithe spirit - his infectious smile, his warm, mellow voice, his obvious ease with crowds - contrasted sharply with Hoover's glumness. While Roosevelt reflected the joy of a campaigner winging to victory. Hoover projected defeat. From the onset of the depression, he had approached problems with a relentless pessimism... A man of impressive accomplishments, he had little understanding of the nuances of the art of governing." (121)
During the campaign President Herbert Hoover had to deal with the problems of the Bonus Army. In May 1924 Congress had voted $3,500,000,000 to the American veterans of the First World War. President Calvin Coolidge vetoed the bill saying: "patriotism... bought and paid for is not patriotism." However, Congress overrode his veto a few days later, enacting the World War Adjusted Compensation Act. Each veteran was to receive a dollar for each day of domestic service, up to a maximum of $500, and $1.25 for each day of overseas service, up to a maximum of $625. (122)
In order to prevent an immediate strain on its funds, the Government decided to pay the money over a 20 year period. During the Great Depression, many of these veterans found it difficult to find work. An increasing number came to the conclusion that the money would be more useful to them in this time of need than when the bonus was due. As Jim Sheridan pointed out: "The soldiers were walking the streets, the fellas who had fought for democracy in Germany. They thought they should get the bonus right then and there because they needed the money." (123)
In 1932 John Patman of Texas, introduced the Veteran's Bonus Bill which mandated the immediate cash payment of the endowment promised to the men who fought in the war. Although there was congressional support for the immediate redemption of the military service certificates, President Hoover opposed such action claiming that the government would have to increase taxes to cover the costs of the payout. (124)
In May 1932, 10,000 of these ex-soldiers marched on Washington in an attempt to persuade Congress to pass the Patman Bill. When they arrived in the capital the Bonus Army camped at Anacostia Flats, an area that had formerly been used as an army recruiting centre. They built temporary homes on the site and threatened to stay there until they received payment of money granted to them by Congress. It was clear that the veteran camp was a source of great embarrassment to Hoover and provided further proof of the government's callous unconcern for the plight of the people." (125)
It is estimated that by June 1932, there were 20,000 men living in the camp. President Herbert Hoover refused to meet with the leaders of the Bonus Army and ordered the gates of the White House chained shut. Police Chief Pelham Glassford did his utmost to provide tents and bedding for the veterans, furnished medicine, and assisted with food and sanitation. "The men were camped illegally, but Glassford (who had been the youngest brigadier general with the AEF in France) choose to treat them simply as old soldiers who had fallen on old times who had fallen on hard times. He resisted efforts to use force to dislodge them." (126)
On 28th July, General Douglas MacArthur and assisted by Major George S. Patton, used soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment and the 16th Infantry, supported by tanks and machine guns, to clear the area. After a tear gas barrage the cavalry swept the camp, followed by infantrymen, who systematically set fire to the veterans' tents and temporary buildings to stop the men returning. MacArthur, controversially used tanks, four troops of cavalry with drawn sabers, and infantry with fixed bayonets, on the ex-serviceman. He justified his attack by claiming the "mob" was animated by the "essence of revolution". (127)
William E. Leuchtenburg has argued: "Far from being a menacing band of revolutionaries, the Bonus Army was a whipped, melancholy group of men trying to hold themselves together with their spirit was gone. The Communist faction had to be protected from other bonus marchers who threatened physical violence." (128) Irving Bernstein has admitted that there were some criminals in the group, but the record for serious crime in the government of President Harding was proportionately higher than in the Bonus Army. (129)
Some newspapers praised President Hoover for acting decisively, however, most were highly critical of what he had done. The The New York Times, devoted its first three pages to the coverage, including a full page of photographs showing the veterans being attacked. The Washington Daily News stated: "The mightiest government in the world chasing unarmed men, women and children with Army tanks. If the Army must be called out to make war on unarmed citizens, this is no longer America. (130)
Roosevelt was highly critical of the way President Hoover treated the Bonus Army. He was especially harsh on General MacArthur who he believed "has prevented Hoover's reelection". He told Rexford Tugwell that MacArthur was the most dangerous person in America. "You saw the picture of him in the New York Times after the troops chased all those vets out with tear gas and burned their shelters. Did you ever see anyone more self-satisfied? There's a potential Mussolini for you. Right here at home." (131)
Franklin D. Roosevelt made twenty-seven major addresses during the six month 1932 Presidential Election campaign, each devoted to a single subject. He spoke briefly on thirty-two additional occasions, usually at whistle-stops or impromptu gatherings to which he was invited. Herbert Hoover, by contrast, made only ten speeches, all of which were delivered during the closing weeks of the campaign. (132)
At a meeting in Detroit, President Hoover told the audience, "I wish to present to you the evidence that the measures and the policies of the Republican administration are winning this major battle for recovery. And we are taking care of distress in the meantime. It can be demonstrated that the tide has turned and the gigantic forces of depression are today in retreat." (133) The crowd responded with the cry: "Down with Hoover, slayer of veterans". According to one observer: "When he got up to speak, his face was ashen, his hands trembled. Toward the end, Hoover was a pathetic figure, a weary, beaten man, often jeered by crowds as a President had never been jeered before." (134)
The British film-star, Charlie Chaplin, took a keen interest in the election and later commented: "The lugubrious Hoover sat and sulked, because his disastrous economic sophistry of allocating money at the top in the belief that it would percolate down to the common people had failed. And amidst all this tragedy he ranted in the election campaign that if Franklin Roosevelt got into office the very foundations of the American system - not an infallible system at that moment - would be imperilled." (135)
On 31st October, 1932, in a speech in New York City Hoover attempted to show the American public had a clear choice in the election: "This campaign is more than a contest between two men. It is more than a contest between two parties. It is a contest between two philosophies of government. We are told by the opposition that we must have a change, that we must have a new deal.... This question is the basis upon which our opponents are appealing to the people in their fear and their distress. They are proposing changes and so-called new deals which would destroy the very foundations of the American system of life."
Hoover went on to argue: "The proposals of our opponents will endanger or destroy our system. I especially emphasize that promise to promote 'employment for all surplus labour at all times.' At first I could not believe that anyone would be so cruel as to hold out hope so absolutely impossible of realization to these 10,000,000 who are unemployed. And I protest against such frivolous promises being held out to a suffering people. If it were possible to give this employment to 10,000,000 people by the Government, it would cost upwards of $9,000,000,000 a year. It would pull down the employment of those who are still at work by the high taxes and the demoralization of credit upon which their employment is dependent. It would mean the growth of a fearful bureaucracy which, once established, could never be dislodged." (136)
Roosevelt heard Hoover's speech on the radio before appearing in Boston that night: "Once more he warned the people against changing - against a new deal - stating that it would mean changing the fundamental principles of America, what he called the sound principles that have been so long believed in in this country. My friends, my New Deal does not aim to change those principles. Secure in their undying belief in their great tradition and in the sanctity of a free ballot, the people of this country - the employed, the partially employed and the unemployed, those who are fortunate enough to retain some of the means of economic well-being, and those from whom these cruel conditions have taken everything - have stood with patience and fortitude in the face of adversity."
Roosevelt highlighted the plight of the unemployed: "There they stand. And they stand peacefully, even when they stand in the breadline. Their complaints are not mingled with threats. They are willing to listen to reason at all times. Throughout this great crisis the stricken army of the unemployed has been patient, law-abiding, orderly, because it is hopeful. But, the party that claims as its guiding tradition the patient and generous spirit of the immortal Abraham Lincoln, when confronted by an opposition which has given to this Nation an orderly and constructive campaign for the past four months, has descended to an outpouring of misstatements, threats and intimidation. The Administration attempts to undermine reason through fear by telling us that the world will come to an end on November 8th if it is not returned to power for four years more. Once more it is a leadership that is bankrupt, not only in ideals but in ideas." (137)
During the campaign Herbert Hoover had to have a heavy police escort to protect him from the angry crowds. He became very unpopular when he told one of the most influential journalists in Washington, Raymond Clapper: "Nobody is actually starving. The hobos, for example, are better fed than they have ever been." In another interview he attributed the high unemployment rate to the fact that "many people have left their jobs for the more profitable one of selling apples." (138)
Three days before the 1932 Presidential Election Hoover claimed that Roosevelt's policies could be compared to those of Joseph Stalin. He suggested that his opponent had "the same philosophy of government which has poisoned all of Europe... the fumes of the witch's cauldron which boiled in Russia." He accused the Democrats of being "the party of the mob". Hoover then added: "Thank God, we still have a government in Washington that knows how to deal with the mob." (139)
The turnout, almost 40 million, was the largest in American history. Roosevelt received 22,825,016 votes to Hoover's 15,758,397. With a 472-59 margin in the Electoral College, he captured every state south and west of Pennsylvania. Roosevelt carried more counties than a presidential candidate had ever won before, including 282 that had never gone Democratic. Of the forty states in Hoover's victory coalition four years before, the President held but six. Hoover received 6 million fewer votes than he had in 1928. The Democrats gained ninety seats in the House of Representatives to give them a large majority (310-117) and won control of the Senate (60-36). Only one previous Republican candidate, William Howard Taft, had done as badly as Hoover. (140)
Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected on 8th November, 1932, but the inauguration was not until 4th March, 1933. While he waited to take power, the economic situation became worse. Three years of depression had cut national income in half. Five thousand bank failures had wiped out 9 million savings accounts. By the end of 1932, 15 million workers, one out of every three, had lost their jobs. When the Soviet Union's trade office in New York issued a call for 6,000 skilled workers to go to Russia, more than 100,000 applied. (141)
Edmund Wilson published an article in The New Republic just before Roosevelt took office: "There is not a garbage-dump in Chicago which is not diligently haunted by the hungry. Last summer, the hot weather when the smell was sickening and the flies were thick, there were a hundred people a day coming to one of the dumps... a widow who used to do housework and laundry, but now had no work at all, fed herself and her fourteen-year-old son on garbage. Before she picked up the meat, she would always take off her glasses so that she couldn't see the maggots." (142)
Before taking office Roosevelt attended a rally at Bayfront Park in Miami with Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago. James Bowler later recalled: "Mayor Cermak and I had gone to the park twenty minutes before the President elect was due to arrive, and we sat in the band shell together. When Mr. Roosevelt's car came along the President elect saw the mayor and called to him to come down. Mr. Cermak called back that he would wait until after Mr. Roosevelt had made his speech. Then Roosevelt spoke, and he waited until the mayor came down from the platform to go to the side of the automobile." (143)
Roosevelt explained how after the speech "I slid off the back of the car into my seat. Just then Mayor Cermak came forward. I shook hands and talked with him for nearly a minute. Then he moved off around the back of the car. Bob Clark (one of the Secret Servicemen) was standing right behind him to the right. As he moved off a man came forward with a telegram... and started telling me what it contained. While he was talking to me, I was leaning forward to the left side of the car." (144)
At that moment an Italian immigrant, Giuseppe Zangara, pointed his gun at Roosevelt. At the critical moment an alert spectator, Lillian Cross, hit the assassin's arm with her handbag and spoiled his aim. Zangara fired five shots and they all missed Roosevelt, but did hit others. This included Cermak who received a serious wound in the abdomen. Rex Schaeffer, a journalist working for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported: "I stood twenty-feet behind the car of the President-elect. Suddenly - I had given my attention to Mr. Roosevelt - a pistol blasted over my shoulder... Four more shots were fired and at the left of the car of Mr. Roosevelt I saw Mr. Cermak slump down." (145)
Zangara was attacked by the crowd. "He was seized by men and women, dragged between the rows of seats, and then a policeman rushed through the crowd and swung on him with his blackjack. The Sherriff of Dade County, Dan Hardie, was on the platform and as the shots rang out he plunged into the crowd after the shooter, and with the policeman, jerked him errect and threw him on the trunk rack of a defective automobile which was carrying one of the wounded out of the park." (146) Another witness remembers shouts of "Kill that man!" and "Don't let him get away". (147)
L. L. Lee was standing next to Cermak when he was shot. He claimed that his only words were, "The president! Get him away!" Lee and W. W. Wood, a Democratic county committee member, grabbed his arms and walked him towards the president's car." The chauffeur decided to get away from the scene as quickly as possible. Lee then heard Roosevelt shout "For God's sake a man has been shot" and the "car jerked to a sudden stop." (148)
Roosevelt told the New York Times: "I called to the chauffeur to stop. He did - about fifteen feet from where we started. The Secret Service man shouted to him to get out of the crowd and he started forward again. I stopped him a second time, this time at the corner of the bandstand, about thirty feet further on. I saw Mayor Cermak being carried. I motioned to have him put in the back of the car... Mayor Cermak was alive but I didn't think he was going to last. I put my left arm around him and my hand on his pulse, but I couldn't find any pulse... For three blocks I believed his heart had stopped. I held him all the way to the hospital and his pulse constantly improved." (149)
After the shooting Roosevelt remained at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami until Cermak was brought out of the emergency room. He spoke with him for several minutes and then visited the other shooting victims. According to the New York Tribune, an unnamed witness heard Cermak tell Roosevelt: "I'm glad it was me and not you, Mr. President." (150)
Anton Cermak died three weeks later on 8th March, 1933. Giuseppe Zangara, an unemployed thirty-two-year-old bricklayer, claimed he acted alone. "I have always hated the rich and powerful. I do not hate Mr. Roosevelt personally. I hate all presidents, no matter from what country they come." After being found guilty was sentenced to death in the electric chair at the Florida State Penitentiary. When he heard his sentence he yelled at the judge, "You give me electric chair. I no afraid of that chair! You're one of capitalists. You is crook man too. Put me in electric chair. I no care!" Guiseppe Zangara was executed on 20th March, 1933. (151)
Franklin D. Roosevelt took office on 4th March, 1933. His first act as president was to deal with the country's banking crisis. Since the beginning of the depression, a fifth of all banks had been forced to close. Already 389 banks had shut their doors since the beginning of the year. As a consequence, around 15% of people's life-savings had been lost. Banking was at the point of collapse. In 47 of the 48 states banks were either closed or working under tight restrictions. To buy time to seek a solution Roosevelt declared a four-day bank holiday. It has been claimed that the term "bank holiday" was used to seem festive and liberating. "The real point - the account holders could not use their money or get credit - was obscured." (152)
Roosevelt summoned Congress into special session and presented it with an emergency banking bill that permitted the government to reopen the banks it ascertained to be sound, and other such banks as rapidly, as possible." The statue passed the House of Representatives by acclamation in a voice vote in forty minutes. In the Senate there was some debate and seven progressives, Robert LaFollette Jr, Huey P. Long, Gerald Nye, Edward Costigan, Henrik Shipstead, Porter Dale and Robert Davis Carey, voted against as they believed that it did not go far enough in asserting federal control. (153)
On 9th March, 1933, Congress passed the Emergency Banking Relief Act. Within three days, 5,000 banks had been given permission to be re-opened. President Roosevelt gave the first of his radio broadcasts (later known as his "fireside chats"). It is estimated that it had an audience of 60 million people: "Some of our bankers have shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in their handling of the people's funds. They had used money entrusted to them in speculations and unwise loans. This was, of course, not true of the vast majority of our banks, but it was true in enough of them to shock the people for a time into a sense of insecurity. It was the government's job to straighten out this situation and do it as quickly as possible. And the job is being performed. Confidence and courage are the essentials in our plan. We must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumours. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system; it is up to you to support and make it work. Together we cannot fail." (154)
Will Rogers welcomed the speech: "Mr. Roosevelt stepped to the microphone last night and knocked another home run. His message was not only a great comfort to the people, but it pointed a lesson to all radio announcers and public speakers what to do with a big vocabulary - leave it at home in the dictionary. Our President took such a dry subject as banking (and when I say dry, I mean dry, for if it had been liquid, he wouldn't have to speak on it at all) and made everybody understand it, even the bankers." (155)
Roosevelt's advisers, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, and Rexford G. Tugwell agreed with progressives who wanted to use this opportunity to establish a truly national banking system. Heads of great financial institutions opposed this idea. Louis Howe supported conservatives on the Brains Trust such as Raymond Moley and Adolf Berle, who feared such a measure would create very dangerous enemies. Roosevelt was worried that such action "might accentuate the national sense of panic and bewilderment". (156)
During the election campaign, Roosevelt promised to bring an early end to prohibition. In February 1933, Congress voted to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment. While the Twenty-first Amendment was making its way through the states, Roosevelt requested quick action to amend the Volstead Act by legalizing beer of 3.2 per cent alcoholic content by weight. Within a week both houses passed the beer bill, and added wine for good measure. On 22nd March 1933, Roosevelt signed the bill. (157)
In 1933 agriculture in America was in a terrible state. For example, per capita farm income was one quarter that of non-farmworkers. Farm prices fell by 53 per cent from 1929 to 1932. Net farm income was down by 70 per cent. "A cow that sold for $83 in 1929 now brought $28. Cotton sold for six cents a pound. Corn in Nebraska brought thirty-one cents a bushel, Kansas wheat thirty-eight cents. By early 1933, 45 per cent of all farm mortgages were delinquent and facing foreclosure." (158)
Harry Terrell was brought up on a farm in South Carolina: "320 acres of farm land, fine land, that my uncle owned and cleared, he lost it because they foreclosed the mortgage. Some of the best in the state, and he couldn't borrow a dime. The farmers didn't have anything they could borrow on...Corn was going for eight cents a bushel. One county insisted on burning corn to heat the courthouse because it was cheaper than coal... The county was getting up in arms about taking a man's property away from him. It was his livelihood. When you took a man's horses and his plow away, you denied him food, you just convicted his family to starvation." (159)
Oscar Heline was someone who was forced into bankrupcy by the Great Depression: "First, they'd take your farm, then they took your livestock, then your farm machinery. Even your household goods. And they'd move you off... In South Dakota, the county elevator listed corn as minus three cents. Minus three cents a bushel. If you wanted to sell 'em a bushel of corn, you had to bring in three cents. They couldn't afford to handle it." (160)
Henry A. Wallace was appointed as Secretary of Agriculture. Rexford G. Tugwell, became assistant secretary. Tugwell wrote that "Since my graduate-school days, I have always been able to excite myself more about the wrongs of farmers than those of urban workers." (161) Together they drafted what became known as the Agricultural Adjustment Act. The plan was to raise farm income by reducing agricultural surpluses through a system of domestic allotments. Farmers would be paid directly by the government not to produce crops beyond an allotment set by the secretary of agriculture. The proposal aimed to deal with the crucial problem of depressed prices and mounting surpluses. (162)
Calvin Benham Baldwin was one of those employed by Wallace to help solve these problems. "The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) came into being shortly after I got to Washington. Its purpose was to increase farm prices, which were pitifully low. All the farmers were in trouble, even the big ones. Hog prices had just gone to hell. They were four, five cents a pound? The farmers were starving to death. It was decided to slaughter piggy sows (a pregnant pig). The AAA decided to pay the farmers to kill them and the little pigs. Lot of them went into fertilizer. You had a similar situation on cotton. Prices were down to four cents a pound and the cost of producing was probably ten. So a program was initiated to plow up cotton. A third of the crop, if I remember. Cotton prices went up to ten cents, maybe eleven." (163)
On 16th March, 1933, President Roosevelt sent the first genuine New Deal measure to Congress. It was a radical departure, suggesting government control of agricultural production, historically the most individualitic segment of the economy. Roosevelt admitted that the Agricultural Adjustment Act was a great departure from previous legislation: "I tell frankly that it is a new and untried path, but I tell you with equal frankness that an unprecedented condition calls for the trial of new means to rescue agriculture." (164)
The House of Representatives passed the Agricultural Adjustment Act without any amendments, but the Senate was not so convinced. The measure shocked conservatives and upset those who had to pay the proposed processing tax. Joseph W. Martin of Massachusetts claimed that it the bill passed it would "put America on the road to Moscow". Frank Freidel, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny (1990) pointed out that "others plastered a red label on Roosevelt's agricultural experts, or denounced them as professors who had no knowledge of farm realities." (165)
At the same time, some radicals, such as Burton Wheeler and Lynn Frazier, argued that the farmer deserved nothing less that government guarantee of his "cost of production". Tugwell observed: "For real radicals such as Wheeler, Frazier, etc., it is not enough; for conservatives it is too much; for Jefferson Democrats it is a new control which they distrust. For the economic philosophy which it represents there are no defenders at all. Nevertheless, in spite of everything, it will probably become law." It was passed on 10th May, 1933. (166)
Most farmers were very pleased by the passing of the Agricultural Adjustment Act. Harry Terrell claims: "Henry Wallace and his granary was the man who saved the farmer... They took this corn and paid for it and stored it. They put a price on it that was above the miserable going price." (167) Oscar Heline agrees "It was Wallace who saved us, put us back on our feet. He understood our problems." Heline was in a group of farmers who went to see Henry A. Wallace: "He made it clear to us he didn't want to write the law. He wanted the farmers themselves to write it... He would always give his counsel, but he never directed us. The program came from the farmers themselves." (168)
After he was elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt initially opposed massive public works spending. However, by the spring of 1933, the needs of more than fifteen million unemployed had overwhelmed the resources of local governments. In some areas, as many as 90 per cent of the people were on relief and it was clear something needed to be done. His close advisors and colleagues, Harry Hopkins, Rexford Tugwell, Robert LaFollette Jr. Robert Wagner, Fiorello LaGuardia, George Norris and Edward Costigan eventually won him over. (169)
Frances Perkins explained in her book, The Roosevelt I Knew (1946): In one of my conversations with the President in March 1933, he brought up the idea that became the Civilian Conservation Corps. Roosevelt loved trees and hated to see them cut and not replaced. It was natural for him to wish to put large numbers of the unemployed to repairing such devastation. His enthusiasm for this project, which was really all his own, led him to some exaggeration of what could be accomplished. He saw it big. He thought any man or boy would rejoice to leave the city and work in the woods. It was characteristic of him that he conceived the project, boldly rushed it through, and happily left it to others to worry about the details." (170)
On 9th March 1933, Roosevelt called a special session of Congress. He told the members that unemployment could only be solved "by direct recruiting by the Government itself." For the next three months, Roosevelt proposed, and Congress passed, a series of important bills that attempted to deal with the problem of unemployment. The special session of Congress became known as the Hundred Days and provided the basis for Roosevelt's New Deal.
It took only eight days to create the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It authorized half a billion dollars in direct federal grants to the states for relief. The CCC was a program designed to tackle the problem of unemployed young men aged between 18 and 25 years old. By September, 1935, over five hundred thousand young men lived in CCC camps. (171)
CCC camps were set up all over the United States. Blackie Gold told Studs Terkel: "I was at CCC's for six months, I came home for fifteen days, looked around for work, and I couldn't make $30 a month, so I enlisted back in the CCC's and went to Michigan. I spent another six months there planting trees and building forests. And came out. But still no money to be made. So back in the CCC's again. From there I went to Boise, Idaho, and was attached to the forest rangers. Spent four and a half hours fighting forest fires." (172)
The organisation was based on the armed forces with officers in charge of the men. Over 25,000 men were First World War veterans. The pay was $30 dollars a month with $22 dollars of it being sent home to dependents. The men planted three billion trees, built public parks, drained swamps to fight malaria, built a million miles of roads and forest trails, restocked rivers with nearly a billion fish, worked on flood control projects and a range of other work that helped to conserve the environment. Between 1933 and 1941 over 3,000,000 men served in the CCC. (173)
Marriner Eccles, an advocate of the economic ideas of John Maynard Keynes and Lauchlin Currie, worked at the Treasury Department under the treasury secretary Henry Morgenthau. Eccles went before the Senate Finance Committee in 1933. According to Patrick Renshaw, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt (2004): "Though the young Mormon banker from Utah claimed never to have read Keynes he had nevertheless jolted Senate finance committee hearings in 1933 by urging that the federal government forget about trying to balance budgets during the depression and instead spend heavily on relief, public works, the domestic allotment plan and refinancing farm mortgages, while cancelling what remained of war debt." (174)
The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) was passed by the Senate on 13th June by a vote of 46 to 37. The National Recovery Administration (NRA) was set up to enforce the NIRA. President Franklin D. Roosevelt named Hugh S. Johnson to head it. Roosevelt found Johnson's energy and enthusiasm irresistible and was impressed with his knowledge of industry and business. William E. Leuchtenburg has commented: "A gruff, pugnacious martinet with the leathery face and order-barking rasp of a former cavalry officer, Johnson had no illusions about the dimensions of the job." (175)
Johnson expected to run the whole of the NRA. However, Roosevelt decided to split it into two and placed the Public Works Administration (PWA) with its 3.3 billion dollar public works programme, under the control of Harold Ickes. When he heard the news Johnson stormed out of the cabinet meeting. Roosevelt sent Frances Perkins after him and she eventually persuaded him not to resign. As David M. Kennedy has pointed out in Freedom from Fear (1999), the NRA and the PWA "were to be like two lungs, each necessary for breathing life into the moribund industrial sector". (176)
Jean Edward Smith, the author of FDR (2007): "No two appointees could have been more dissimilar, and no two less likely to cooperate. For Johnson, an old cavalryman, every undertaking was a hell-for-leather charge into the face of the enemy. Ickes, on the other hand, was pathologically prudent. As he saw it, the problem of the public works program was not to spend money quickly but to spend it wisely. Obsessively tightfisted, personally examining every project in minute detail, Ickes spent a minuscule $110 million of PWA money in 1933." (177)
The National Recovery Act allowed industry to write its own codes of fair competition but at the same time provided special safeguards for labor. Section 7a of NIRA stipulated that workers should have the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing and that no one should be banned from joining an independent union. The NIRA also stated that employers must comply with maximum hours, minimum pay and other conditions approved by the government. Johnson asked Roosevelt if Donald R. Richberg could be general counsel of the NRA. Roosevelt agreed and on 20th June, 1933, Roosevelt appointed him to the post. Richberg's main task was to implement and defend Section 7(a) of the NIRA. (178)
Employers ratified these codes with the slogan "We Do Our Part", displayed under a Blue Eagle at huge publicity parades across the country, Franklin D. Roosevelt used this propaganda cleverly to sell the New Deal to the public. At a Blue Eagle parade in New York City a quarter of a million people marched down Fifth Avenue. Roosevelt argued that "there is a unity in this country which I have not seen and you have not seen since April, 1917." (179)
Charles Edison told his workers: "President Roosevelt has done his part: now you do something. Buy something - buy anything, anywhere; paint your kitchen, send a telegram, give a party, get a car, pay a bill, rent a flat, fix your roof, get a haircut, see a show, build a house, take a trip, sing a song, get married. It does not matter what you do - but get going and keep going. This old world is starting to move." (180)
The NRA program was voluntary. However, those businessmen who accepted the codes developed by the various trade associations, could place the NRA blue eagle symbol in their windows and on the packaging of their goods. This virtually made the scheme compulsory as those companies that did not display the NRA symbol were seen as unpatriotic and selfish. (181)
Johnson's first success was with the textile industry. This included bringing an end to child labour. As William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963), has pointed out: "At the dramatic cotton-code hearing, the room burst into cheers when textile magnates announced their intention to abolish child labor in the mills. In addition, the cotton textile code stipulated maximum hours, minimum wages, and collective bargaining." As Johnson pointed out: "The Textile Code had done in a few minutes what neither law nor constitutional amendment had been able to do in forty years." (182)
On 30th June, 1933, Hugh S. Johnson commented: "You men of the textile industry have done a very remarkable thing. Never in economic history have labor, industry, government and consumers' representatives sat together in the presence of the public to work out by mutual agreement a 'law merchant' for an entire industry... The textile industry is to be congratulated on its courage and spirit in being first to assume this patriotic duty and on the generosity of its proposals." However, some trade unionists criticized the agreement to a $11 minimum wage as a "bare subsistence wage" that would provide workers with little more than "an animal existence." (183)
By the end of July 1933 Johnson had half the main ten industries, textiles, shipbuilding, woolens, electricals and the garment industry, signed up. This was followed by the oil industry but he was forced to make a raft of concessions on price policy to persuade the steel industry to join. On 27th August, the automobile manufactures, except for Henry Ford, agreed terms with Johnson. When the coal operators fell in line on 18th September, Johnson had won the last of the big ten industries to the NRA in a period of only three months. (184)
During this period Roosevelt persuaded Congress to pass a whole range of different measures including the Works Projects Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the National Youth Administration (NYA), the National Recovery Act (NRA), the Public Works Administration (PWA), National Housing Act (NHA), Federal Art Project (FAP), Federal Theatre Project (FTP), and Federal Writers Project (FWP). As well as trying to reduce unemployment, Roosevelt also attempted to reduce the misery for those who were unable to work. One of the bodies Roosevelt formed was the Federal Emergency Relief Administration which provided federal money to help those in desperate need.
Emanuel Celler later explained: "The first days of the Roosevelt Administration charged the air with the snap and the zigzag of electricity. I felt it. We all felt it. It seemed as it you could hold out your hand and close it over the piece of excitement you had ripped away. It was the return of hope. The mind was elastic and capable of crowding idea into idea. New faces came to Washington - young faces of bright lads who could talk. It was contagious. We started to talk in the cloak rooms; we started to talk in committees. The shining new faces called on us and talked. In March of 1933 we had witnessed a revolution - a revolution in manner, in mores, in the definition of government. What before had been black or white sprang alive with color. The messages to Congress, the legislation; even the reports on the legislation took on the briskness of authority." (185)
Francis Townsend, a doctor, lost his job during the Great Depression and was forced into retirement. William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963), has argued: "He was sixty-seven years old, and had less than a hundred dollars in savings. Disturbed not only by his own plight but by that of others like him - elderly people from Iowa and Kansas who had gone west in the 1920's and now faced the void of unemployment with slim resources." (186)
In 1933 Townsend proposed a scheme whereby the Federal government would provide every person over 60 a $200 monthly pension (roughly $2,600 in today's money), on condition that he or she retire from all gainful work and spent the money in the United States. Townsend claimed that his Old Age Revolving Pension Plan could be financed by a 2 per cent tax on business transactions. Townsend argued that his plan would help the economy as older people would be compelled to surrender their positions to the younger unemployed and the spending of the pension money would produce a demand for goods and services that would create still more jobs. (187)
Some critics described Townsend's plans as being an example of the ideas of the "crackpot Left". (188) Other observers pointed out that it was far from radical and appealed to Protestant rural America and proclaimed traditional values, and promised to preserve the profit system free from alien collectivism, socialism and communism. In the words of Townsend, the movement embraced people "who believe in the Bible, believe in God, cheer when the flag passes by, the Bible Belt solid Americans." He told his followers: "The movement is yours, my friends... Without you I am powerless but with you I can remake the world for mankind." (189)
Walter Lippmann observed: "If Dr. Townsend's medicine were a good remedy, the more people the country could find to support in idleness the better off it would be." Townsend replied "My plan is too simple to be comprehended by great minds like Mr. Lippmann's." (190) One historian has pointed out that "Townsend meetings featured frequent denunciations of cigarettes, lipstick, necking, and other signs of urban depravity. Townsendites claimed as one of the main virtues of the plan that it would put young people to work and stop them from spending their time in profligate pursuit of sex and liquor." (191)
Townsend plan would have diverted 40 per cent of the national income to 9 per cent of the people. It obtained a great deal of public support and by 1935 his Townsend Club had over 5 million members. Most of them from among otherwise conservative people, that politicians throughout the country had to take these ideas into consideration. The pressure increased when Townsend handed in to President Franklin D. Roosevelt a petition supporting the Old Age Revolving Pension Plan that had been signed by over 20 million people. (192)
Frances Perkins, one of Roosevelt's most senior colleagues, later recalled in her autobiography, The Roosevelt I Knew (1946): "One hardly realizes nowadays how strong was the sentiment in favour of the Townsend Plan and other exotic schemes for giving the aged a weekly income. In some districts the Townsend Plan was the chief political issue, and men supporting it were elected to Congress. The pressure from its advocates was intense." (193)
The measures taken by President Roosevelt did help 2 million people to find jobs by 1934 but unemployment remained high at 11.3%. The nation's GDP registered a 17% increase on 1933 but national income was still little better than half of what it had been in 1929. Roosevelt and the Democrats were worried about the outcome of the mid-term elections in November, 1934. However, they were wrong to be concerned as the government was rewarded for its actions to deal with the country's economic problems. In the House of Representatives the Democratic majority increased from 310 to 322 and in the Senate they now held 69 seats that was more than a two-thirds majority. Never in the history of the Republican Party had its percentage in either House been so low. Arthur Krock wrote in the The New York Times that the New Deal had won "the most overwhelming victory in the history of American politics". (194)
These results gave President Roosevelt to introduce more radical policies. On 17th January, 1935, Roosevelt asked Congress to pass social security legislation. The two men he chose to guide this measure through Congress had both experienced poverty. Robert Wagner (Senate) was an immigrant boy who had sold newspapers on the street and David John Lewis (House of Representatives) had gone to work at nine in a coal mine. (195)
Roosevelt told the American people: "We must begin now to make provision for the future. That is why our social security program is an important part of the complete picture. It proposes, by means of old age pensions, to help those who have reached the age of retirement to give up their jobs and thus give to the younger generation greater opportunities for work and to give to all a feeling of security as they look toward old age. The unemployment insurance part of the legislation will not only help to guard the individual in future periods of lay-off against dependence upon relief, but it will, by sustaining purchasing power, cushion the shock of economic distress. Another helpful feature of unemployment insurance is the incentive it will give to employers to plan more carefully in order that unemployment may be prevented by the stabilizing of employment itself. (196)
The Social Security Act established Old Age and Survivors' Insurance that provided for compulsory savings for wage earners so that benefits may be paid to them on retirement at 65. To finance the scheme, both the employer and employee had to pay a 3% payroll tax. The provisions of the act also encouraged states to deal with social problems. It did this by offering substantial financial help the states provide unemployment benefits, old-age pensions, aid to the disabled, maternity care, public health work and vocational rehabilitation. (197)
In the debate in Congress, Arthur Harry Moore protested that if the legislation was passed: "It would take all the romance out of life. We might as well take a child from the nursery, give him a nurse, and protect him from every experience that life affords." Newspapers were also hostile to these measures. For example, The Jackson Daily News reported: "The average Mississippian can't imagine himself chipping in to pay pensions for able-bodied Negroes to sit around in idleness on front galleries, supporting all their kinfolks on pensions, while cotton and corn crops are crying for workers to get them out of the grass." (198)
After being passed by Congress in April and signed into law by President Roosevelt on 14th August, 1935. William E. Leuchtenburg has argued: "In many respects, the law was an astonishingly inept and conservative piece of legislation. In no other welfare system in the world did the state shirk all responsibility for old-age indigency and insist that funds be taken out of the current earnings of workers. By relying on regressive taxation and withdrawing vast sums to build up reserves, the act did untold economic mischief. The law denied coverage to numerous classes of workers, including those who needed security most: notably farm laborers and domestics. Sickness, in normal times the main cause of joblessness, was disregarded. The act not only failed to set up a national system of unemployment compensation but did not even provide adequate national standard." (199)
Despite its faults the Social Security Act of 1935 was a new landmark in American history. It reversed historic assumptions about the nature of social responsibility, and it established the proposition that the individual had the same social rights as those people living in Europe. Roosevelt defended his decision to make the employee contributions so high: "We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program." (200)
Roosevelt told Anne O'Hare McCormick: "In five years I think we have caught up twenty years. If liberal government continues over another ten years we ought to be contemporary somewhere in the late Nineteen Forties." (201) The British journalist, Henry N. Brailsford, argued that Roosevelt was doing what David Lloyd George had done between 1906 and 1914, but at a quicker tempo. According to William E. Leuchtenburg: "The British reforms, which rested on the conviction that the profit system was compatible with aid to the underdog, had rendered working-class life less precarious and was one of the important reasons that the depression struck Britain less heavily than America." (202)
This reform came under attack from right-wing conservatives. John T. Flynn argued: "Does anyone imagine that $8 a week is security for anyone, particularly since Roosevelt's inflation has cut the value of that in half? But what of the millions of people who through long years of thrift and saving have been providing their own security? What of the millions who have been scratching for years to pay for their life insurance and annuities, putting money in savings banks, commercial banks, buying government and corporation bonds to protect themselves in their old age? What of the millions of teachers, police, firemen, civil employees of states and cities and the government, of the armed services and the army of men and women entitled to retirement funds from private corporations railroads, industrial and commercial? These thrifty people have seen onehalf of their retirement benefits wiped out by the Roosevelt inflation that has cut the purchasing power of the dollar in two. Roosevelt struck the most terrible blow at the security of the masses of the people while posing as the generous donor of security for all." (203)
Francis Townsend claimed that Roosevelt's social security legislation was completely inadequate and in 1936 joined with Father Edward Coughlin and Gerald L. K. Smith to form the National Union of Social Justice. They selected William Lepke as their presidential candidate. The 1936 Presidential Election was one of the greatest election victories in American history. Roosevelt won by 27,751,612 votes to 16,681,913 and carried the electoral college 523 to 8. He won every state but Maine and Vermont. Lepke won only 882,479 votes. (204)
The NAACP hoped that the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 would bring an end to lynching. Two African American campaigners against lynching, Mary McLeod Bethune and Walter Francis White, had been involved in helping Roosevelt to obtain victory. His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, had also been a long-time opponent of lynching.
Roosevelt persuaded Congress to pass the Wealth Tax Act in August, 1935. It was a progressive tax that took up to 75 percent on incomes over $5 million. In a speech he made in October 1936 Roosevelt claimed that the tax had created a great deal of hostility: "The forces of organized money... are unanimous in their hate for me - and I welcome their hatred. I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match."
Many wealthy people used loopholes in the existing tax code to evade these taxes. According to William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963): "The outcry from high-income brackets obscured the fact that much of Roosevelt's tax program was sharply regressive. His insistence on payroll levies to help finance social security cut into low-income groups, and his emphasis on local responsibility for unemployables helped stimulate the spread of the regressive sales tax. The share of upper-income groups remained fairly constant through the thirties, and the share of the top 1 per cent even increased a bit after the passage of the Wealth Tax Act."
Robert F. Wagner and Edward Costigan agreed to draft an anti-lynching bill. The legislation proposed federal trials for any law enforcement officers who failed to exercise their responsibilities during a lynching incident. In 1935 attempts were made to persuade Roosevelt to support the Costigan-Wagner Bill. However, Roosevelt refused to speak out in favour of the bill. He argued that the white voters in the South would never forgive him if he supported the bill and he would therefore lose the next election. The editor of the NAACP journal, Crisis, wrote: "The Negro ought to realize by now that the powers-that-be in the Roosevelt administration have nothing for them." Charles Houston of Howard University asked: "Is the Democratic Party determined to make it impossible for self-respecting Negroes to support it in 1936?"
Frances Perkins, was Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor. In her autobiography The Roosevelt I Knew (1946) she argued: "Franklin Roosevelt was not a simple man. That quality of simplicity which we delight to think marks the great and noble was not his. He was the most complicated human being I ever knew; and out of this complicated nature there sprang much of the drive which brought achievement, much of the sympathy which made him like, and liked by, such oddly different types of people, much of the detachment which enabled him to forget his problems in play or rest, and much of the apparent contradiction which so exasperated those associates of his who expected 'crystal clear' and unwavering decisions. But this very complicated of his nature made it possible for him to have insight and imagination into the most varied human experiences, and this he applied to the physical, social, geographical, economic and strategic circumstances thrust upon him as responsibilities by his times." William Phillips, Roosevelt's Under Secretary of State, argued. "To describe Roosevelt you would have to describe three or four men for he had at least three or four different personalities. He could turn from one personality to another with such speed that you often never knew where you were or to which personality you were talking."
In 1935 Marriner Eccles and Lauchlin Currie drafted a new banking bill to secure radical reform of the central bank for the first time since the formation of the Federal Reserve Board in 1913. It emphasized budget deficits as a way out of the Great Depression and it was fiercely resisted by bankers and the conservatives in the Senate. The banker, James P. Warburg commented that the bill was: "Curried Keynes... a large, half-cooked lump of J. Maynard Keynes... liberally seasoned with a sauce prepared by professor Lauchlin Currie." With strong support from California bankers eager to undermine New York City domination of national banking, the 1935 Banking Act was passed by Congress.
The journalist Anne O'Hare McCormick interviewed Franklin Roosevelt in June, 1936: "On none of his predecessors has the office left so few marks as on Mr. Roosevelt. He is a little heavier, a shade grayer; otherwise he looks harder and in better health than on the day of his inauguration. His face is so tanned that his eyes appear lighter, a cool Wedgwood blue; after the four grilling years since the last campaign they are as keen, curious, friendly and impenetrable as ever."
Out of power, Herbert Hoover opposed Roosevelt's New Deal programme. He told the New York Times on 31st October, 1936: "I rejected the schemes of economic planning to regiment and coerce the farmer. That was born of a Roman despot 1400 years ago and grew into the AAA. I refused national plans to put government into business in competition with its citizens. That was born of Karl Marx. I vetoed the idea of recovery through stupendous spending to prime the pump. That was born of a British Professor (John Maynard Keynes)."
When Roosevelt took office the national deficit was nearly $3,000,000,000 and the unemployment-rate was 23.6%. His Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, and aides within the Treasury Department favored an approach that sought to balance the federal budget. But other advisers in the President's inner circle, including Harry Hopkins, Marriner Eccles and Henry Wallace, had accepted the recent theories of John Maynard Keynes, who argued that technically advanced economies would need permanent budget deficits or other measures (such as redistribution of income away from the wealthy) to stimulate consumption of goods and to maintain full employment. It was argued that it was the attempt to balance the budget that was causing the recession.
President Roosevelt was eventually convinced by these arguments and he recognized the need for increased government expenditures to put people back to work. An important part of his New Deal programme was increased spending on government expenditures for relief and work schemes. From 1933 to 1937, unemployment was reduced from 25% to 14%.
Roosevelt was much attacked by his political opponents for not concentrating on reducing the national deficit. However, as Roosevelt explained in a speech in 1936: "To balance our budget in 1933 or 1934 or 1935 would have been a crime against the American people. To do so we should either have had to make a capital levy that would have been confiscatory, or we should have had to set our face against human suffering with callous indifference. When Americans suffered, we refused to pass by on the other side. Humanity came first."
During the 1936 Presidential Election, Roosevelt was attacked for not keeping his promise to balance the budget. The National Labour Relations Act was unpopular with businessmen who felt that it favoured the trade unions. Some went as far as accusing Roosevelt of being a communist. However, the New Deal was extremely popular with the electorate and Roosevelt easily defeated the Republican Party candidate, Alfred M. Landon, by 27,751,612 votes to 16,681,913.
In 1937 Roosevelt appointed Joseph Kennedy as United States Ambassador to Britain. Joseph E. Persico, the author of Roosevelt's Secret War (2001) has argued: "The President may have had an ulterior motive. Joe Kennedy had proved something of a misguided missile in Washington. The right wing saw him as a renegade, a businessman who attacked his own kind. The left painted him as a man who could be troublesome for labor. Within the administration, he was counted a power-hungry publicity hound, a harsh critic of the administration when it suited him, and a man whose business dealings might not stand up to close scrutiny." Henry Morgenthau was upset by the appointment and demanded a meeting with Roosevelt. He later claimed that Roosevelt told him: "Kennedy is too dangerous to have around here... I have made arrangements to have Joe Kennedy watched hourly and the first time he opens his mouth and criticizes me, I will fire him."
Roosevelt had had problems with the Supreme Court. The Chief justice, Charles Hughes, had been the Republican Party presidential candidate in 1916. Herbert Hoover appointed Hughes in 1930 and had led the court's opposition to some of the proposed New Deal legislation. This included the ruling against the National Recovery Administration (NRA), the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) and ten other New Deal laws.
On 2nd February, 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt made a speech attacking the Supreme Court for its actions over New Deal legislation. He pointed out that seven of the nine judges (Charles Hughes, Willis Van Devanter, George Sutherland, Harlan Stone, Owen Roberts, Benjamin Cardozo and Pierce Butler) had been appointed by Republican presidents. Roosevelt had just won re-election by 10,000,000 votes and resented the fact that the justices could veto legislation that clearly had the support of the vast majority of the public.
Roosevelt suggested that the age was a major problem as six of the judges were over 70 (Charles Hughes, Willis Van Devanter, James McReynolds, Louis Brandeis, George Sutherland and Pierce Butler). Roosevelt announced that he was going to ask Congress to pass a bill enabling the president to expand the Supreme Court by adding one new judge, up to a maximum off six, for every current judge over the age of 70.
Charles Hughes realised that Roosevelt's Court Reorganization Bill would result in the Supreme Court coming under the control of the Democratic Party. His first move was to arrange for a letter written by him to be published by Burton K. Wheeler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. In the letter Hughes cogently refuted all the claims made by Roosevelt.
However, behind the scenes Hughes was busy doing deals to make sure that Roosevelt's bill would be defeated in Congress. On 29th March, Owen Roberts announced that he had changed his mind about voting against minimum wage legislation. Hughes also reversed his opinion on the Social Security Act and the National Labour Relations Act (NLRA) and by a 5-4 vote they were now declared to be constitutional.
Then Willis Van Devanter, probably the most conservative of the justices, announced his intention to resign. He was replaced by Hugo Black, a member of the Democratic Party and a strong supporter of the New Deal. In July, 1937, Congress defeated the Court Reorganization Bill by 70-20. However, Roosevelt had the satisfaction of knowing he had a Supreme Court that was now less likely to block his legislation.
In December 1939, Joseph Kennedy, the United States Ambassador in London informed Roosevelt that Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, was "ruthless and scheming" and was in close touch with an "American clique... notably, certain strong Jewish leaders" who wanted the United States to intervene in the conflict. Two months later Harold Ickes claimed that Kennedy informed William Bullitt that at a meeting with Joseph M. Patterson and Doris Fleeson of the New York Daily News: "Before long he (Kennedy) was saying that Germany would win, that everything in France and England would go to hell, and that his one interest was in saving his money for his children. He began to criticize the President very sharply, whereupon Bill (Bullitt) took issue with him... Bill told him that he was disloyal and that he had no right to say what he had before Patterson and Fleeson."
Kennedy soon came to the conclusion that the island was a lost cause and he considered aid to Britain fruitless. Kennedy, an isolationist, consistently warned Roosevelt "against holding the bag in a war in which the Allies expect to be beaten." Averell Harriman later explained the thinking of Kennedy and other isolationists: "After World War I, there was a surge of isolationism, a feeling there was no reason for getting involved in another war... We made a mistake and there were a lot of debts owed by European countries. The country went isolationist.
Tyler Kent was a cypher clerk at the American Embassy in London. In February 1940, Kent met Anna Wolkoff. The Wolfoff family ran the Russian Tea Room in South Kensington, a place where members of the secret society, the Right Club, used to meet. Wolkoff introduced Kent to Archibald Ramsay, the leader of the organization. Wolkoff, Kent and Ramsay talked about politics and agreed that they all shared the same political views. Unknown to Kent, MI5 agent, Joan Miller, had infiltrated the Right Club. She later recorded that "he appeared strongly anti-Communist and pro-Fascist in outlook." Kent was concerned that the American government wanted the United States to join the war against Germany. He said he had evidence of this as he had been making copies of the correspondence between Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Kent invited Wolkoff and Ramsay back to his flat to look at these documents. This included secret assurances that the United States would support France if it was invaded by the German Army. Kent later argued that he had shown these documents to Ramsay in the hope that he would pass this information to American politicians hostile to Roosevelt.
On 13th April 1940 Anna Wolkoff went to Kent's flat and made copies of some of these documents. Joan Miller and Marjorie Amor were later to testify that these documents were then passed on to Duco del Monte, Assistant Naval Attaché at the Italian Embassy. Soon afterwards, MI8, the wireless interception service, picked up messages between Rome and Berlin that indicated that Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence (Abwehr), now had copies of the Roosevelt-Churchill correspondence. Soon afterwards Wolkoff asked Miller if she would use her contacts at the Italian Embassy to pass a coded letter to William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) in Germany. The letter contained information that he could use in his broadcasts on Radio Hamburg. Before passing the letter to her contacts, Miller showed it to Maxwell Knight. On 18th May, Knight told Guy Liddell about the Right Club spy ring. Liddell immediately had a meeting with Joseph Kennedy, the American Ambassador in London. Kennedy agreed to waive Kent's diplomatic immunity.
Tyler Kent was arrested on 20th May, 1940. According to Joseph E. Persico, the author of Roosevelt's Secret War (2001): "They found 1,929 U.S. embassy documents, including secret correspondence between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The content of these messages was such that their exposure to the public could harm the President and the Prime Minister, and jeopardize America's presumed neutrality in the European war. What they revealed could also influence the upcoming U.S. presidential election."
Roosevelt enjoyed a good relationship with J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI. Roosevelt's attorney general, Robert Jackson commented, "The two men liked and understood each other." Roosevelt asked J. Edgar Hoover to investigate Charles Lindbergh, one of the leaders of the American First Committee. He willingly did so for he had been upset by Lindbergh's critical comments about the failures of the FBI investigation into the kidnapping and murder of his infant son. He also provided detailed reports on isolationists such as Burton K. Wheeler, Gerald Nye and Hamilton Fish.
Roosevelt wrote to Hoover thanking him for this information. "I have intended writing you for some time to thank you for the many interesting and valuable reports that you have made to me regarding the fast moving situations of the last few months." Hoover replied on 14th June, 1940: "The letter is one of the most inspiring messages which I have ever been privileged to receive; and, indeed, I look upon it as rather a symbol of the principles for which our Nation stands. When the President of our country, bearing the weight of untold burdens, takes the time to express himself to one of his Bureau heads, there is implanted in the hearts of the recipients a renewed strength and vigor to carry on their tasks."
In July, 1940, Roosevelt appointed two leading figures in the Republican Party to his cabinet. Frank Knox became Secretary of the Navy and Henry Stimson, took the post of Secretary of War. Jean Edward Smith, the author of FDR (2008) has argued that Roosevelt was determined to get the timing of the decision right: "It was important to stress the bipartisan nature of the defense effort, he told Knox. Even more important, if the GOP nominated an isolationist candidate, Knox and Stimson would be deemed guilty of bad sportsmanship in joining FDR's team afterward." Knox was allowed to bring in another Republican, James V. Forrestal, an investment banker, as his undersecretary.
Although Knox disagreed with Roosevelt on domestic policy, he did share his views on the dangerous threat posed by Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. After the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe, Knox argued that if Britain was defeated, the United States would be Hitler's next target. Knox stated at the time: "In public speeches I have warned the American people that if Britain is defeated, we ought then to be fully prepared to repel attempts by Germany to seize bases on this side of the Atlantic. Germany would use these bases either to attack us directly or else first to establish herself solidly in South America. Many of our people and many of the speakers who have opposed giving ample aid to Great Britain apparently believe it fantastic to think that there is any real danger of invasion. I disagree with such people and believe that a victorious Germany would move over to this hemisphere just as soon as she could accumulate the strength to do so, and certainly very soon unless we now take the steps to check her career of reckless aggression."
Frank Knox worked tirelessly to provide help for the British in their lone fight with Nazi Germany. Lord Lothian, the British ambassador in Washington, informed Knox on 28th July, 1940, that Britain had entered the war with 176 destroyers and that only 70 of these were still afloat. He requested 40 to 100 destroyers and 100 flying boats. Robert Jackson, the Attorney General, pointed out that at the cabinet meeting on the following day: "Knox opened the discussion by relating how Lord Lothian had pleaded with him for the destroyers on the previous evening. Knox had countered with an inquiry whether the British had ever considered selling parts of their Atlantic and Caribbean possessions. Lothian said they had not. This, so far as I know and so far as I can learn, was the first mention of the American need for bases in connection with the British need for destroyers."
In the summer of 1940 Charles Lindbergh made several critical speeches of Roosevelt. After one particularly objectionable speech, he told Henry Morgenthau, "If I should die tomorrow, I want you to know this. I am absolutely convinced that Lindbergh is a Nazi." He wrote to Henry Stimson and claimed that: "When I read Lindbergh's speech, I felt that it could not have been better put if it had been written by Goebbels himself. What a pity that this youngster has completely abandoned his belief in our form of government and has accepted Nazi methods because apparently they are efficient."
In September, 1940, Japan and Germany signed the German-Japanese Pact. Allied secret services soon discovered that Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister, had sent a telegram to Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister, where he pointed out that the alliance was to be directed towards the United States and not the Soviet Union. "Its exclusive purpose is to bring the elements pressing for America's entry into the war to their senses by conclusively demonstrating to them if they enter the present struggle they will automatically have to deal with the three great powers as adversaries."
Frank Knox was now convinced that eventually that the United States would be attacked by the Axis powers. He worked closely with William Allen White, the founder of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (CDAAA). White gave an interview to Knox's newspaper, the Chicago Daily News, where he argued: "Here is a life and death struggle for every principle we cherish in America: For freedom of speech, of religion, of the ballot and of every freedom that upholds the dignity of the human spirit... Here all the rights that common man has fought for during a thousand years are menaced... The time has come when we must throw into the scales the entire moral and economic weight of the United States on the side of the free peoples of Western Europe who are fighting the battle for a civilized way of life."
In 1940 Henry A. Wallace, Harry Hopkins, Harold Ickes and Thomas Corcoran called on Roosevelt to seek a third term. Roosevelt would therefore became the first person to break the unwritten rule that presidents do not stand for more than two-terms in succession. John Nance Garner, the vice-president openly declared his opposition to a third term for Roosevelt. Garner suggested that the Democratic Party candidate should be Jesse H. Jones, the conservative and powerful head of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.
Roosevelt accepted the nomination and selected Wallace as his running-mate. He told a friend the reason for his decision was that Wallace was a genuine New Dealer, an internationalist, in good health with plenty of energy and a loyalist on the Supreme Court and other controversial issues. James Farley , who had become disillusioned with the New Deal, argued against the decision: "Henry Wallace won't add a bit of strength to the ticket... He won't bring you the support you may expect in the farm belt and he will lose votes for you in the East... He has always been most cordial and cooperative with me, but I think you must know that the people look on him as a wild-eyed fellow." Harold Ickes also warned Roosevelt not to select Wallace and instead suggested Robert Maynard Hutchins.
At the Democratic Convention in Chicago Roosevelt was challenged by Garner and Farley for the nomination. The delegates gave Roosevelt 946 votes, Garner 61 and Farley 52. Wallace was challenged by John Hollis Bankhead of Alabama and despite the backroom efforts of James F. Byrnes and Paul McNutt, he won with 626 votes to 329. However, the decision was greeted with boos. The veteran journalist, Arthur Krock, wrote: "Mr. Wallace deserved a better fate than the boos that greeted the mention of his name and the distaste of the delegates over nominating him. He is able, thoughtful, honorable - the best of the New Deal type."
At Philadelphia in 1940 the Republican Party chose Wendell Willkie as their presidential candidate. His running-mate, Charles L. McNary, was a well-know isolationist. During the campaign Paul Block, publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, managed to get hold of some letters written by Wallace to Nicholas Roerich in 1933-34. The content of the letters suggested that Wallace held left-wing views and unconventional opinions on religion. Harry Hopkins contacted Block and told him if he published the letters they would reveal that Willkie was having an affair with Irita Van Doren, the literary editor of the New York Herald Tribune. As a result, Block did not publish the letters.
During the campaign Willkie attacked the New Deal as being inefficient and wasteful. However, he refused to take advantage of Roosevelt's decision to prepare for possible war with Nazi Germany. In one speech Henry A. Wallace had argued: "It is strength only that Hitler respects. By preparedness we can win and hold our peace." Willkie agreed with Roosevelt's decision to spend $5.2 billion to build 7 battleships and 201 other ships of war. At the election Roosevelt beat Willkie by 27,244,160 (54.7%) votes to 22,305,198 (44.8%). Norman Thomas, the candidate of the American Socialist Party received only 116,599 votes.
In January 1941, the Commander in Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto began planning for a surprise attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbour. Yamamoto feared that he did not have the resources to win a long war against the United States. He therefore advocated a surprise attack that would destroy the US Fleet in one crushing blow. Yamamoto's plan was eventually agreed by the Japanese Imperial Staff in the autumn and the strike force under the command of Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo sailed from the Kurile Islands on 26th November, 1941.
Richard Sorge, a German journalist working as a Soviet agent in Tokyo, discovered details of the plan for the attack on Pearl Harbor. However, this information does not seem to have been passed onto the United States. US Army intelligence. Harold Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, feared a Japanese attack on the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor but by the end of 1941 became convinced that the initial attack on the US Navy would come in the Far East.
Military intelligence did intercept two cipher messages from Tokyo to Kichisaburo Normura, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, that suggested an imminent attack, but Richmond Turner, in charge of evaluating and dissemination, did not pass on warnings of the proposed attack to Admiral Husband Kimmel.
Nagumo's fleet was positioned 275 miles north of Oahu. On Sunday, 7th December, 1941, 105 high-level bombers, 135 dive-bombers and 81 fighter aircraft attacked the the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor. In their first attack the Japanese sunk the Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia and California. The second attack, launched 45 minutes later, hampered by smoke, created less damage. In two hours 18 warships, 188 aircraft and 2,403 servicemen were lost in the attack. Luckily, the navy's three aircraft carriers, Enterprise, Lexington and Saratoga, were all at sea at the time. The following day, President Roosevelt and a united US Congress declared war on Japan.
Robert Jackson, the Attorney General, has argued that Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, had assured Roosevelt that after the United States entered the war, the US Navy would "knock Japan out of the water" in no time. "When questions had arisen such as stockpiling rubber, Knox, with great assurance, had said that our naval forces in the Pacific were so superior to those of Japan that we would have a very brief interruption of our rubber supply. Of course at Pearl Harbor the losses were very serious, much more than the public realized. The naval force was very much reduced. But even so, I was surprised that we were faced with such a serious problem in the Pacific."
Roosevelt appointed William Leahy as his new Military Chief of Staff. As Leahy admitted in his autobiography, I Was There (1951): "There were many of his domestic policies which I, being of a conservative mind, had little liking for... I had seen him almost every morning since he appointed me his Military Chief of Staff... The range of his mind was infinite. The official matters I had selected to bring to his attention usually were disposed of quickly, and he listened attentively as I talked... I remembered partisan criticism that he had made this or that war move with an eye on the date of a national election. Franklin Roosevelt was the real Commander-in-Chief of our Navy, Army, and Air Force. He had fought this war in close co-operation with his military staff. To my knowledge, he never made a single military decision with any thought of his own personal political fortunes."
The journalist, Raymond Gram Swing, met Roosevelt for the first time on 24th May, 1942, and came about through his friendship with Harry Hopkins. "As a talker Mr. Roosevelt went rapidly from one subject to another, almost by a kind of compulsiveness, not actually conversing with me or with Mr. Hopkins. I had the impression that in his way he was garrulous, which is certainly no fault, but it nevertheless astonished me to find a trace of it in as great a man as Franklin Roosevelt."
Elected president for the fourth time in 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt died three weeks before Germany surrendered on 7th May, 1945. Frances Perkins later claimed that Eleanor Roosevelt told her that people would stop her on the street and say "they missed the way the President used to talk to them". They would say "he used to talk to me about my government". Eleanor added: "There was a real dialogue between Franklin and the people. That dialogue seems to have disappeared from the government since he died." war debt."
We have two problems: first, to meet the immediate distress; second, to build up on a basis of permanent employment.
As to immediate relief, the first principle is that this nation, this national government, if you like, owes a positive duty that no citizen shall be permitted to starve.
In addition to providing emergency relief, the Federal Government should and must provide temporary work wherever that is possible. You and I know that in the national forests, on flood prevention, and on the development of waterway projects that have already been authorized and planned but not yet executed, tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of our unemployed citizens can be given at least temporary employment.
Some of our bankers have shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in their handling of the people's funds. They had used money entrusted to them in speculations and unwise loans. This was, of course, not true of the vast majority of our banks, but it was true in enough of them to shock the people for a time into a sense of insecurity. It was the government's job to straighten out this situation and do it as quickly as possible. And the job is being performed. Confidence and courage are the essentials in our plan. We must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumours. We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system; it is up to you to support and make it work. Together we cannot fail.
We planned a demonstration of the unemployed for the occasion of President Roosevelt's first inauguration on March 4, 1933. At City Hall we asked the mayor for a permit, which he promptly refused. I protested so loudly right in his office that the mayor lost his temper and called me a "young snotnose," which not only made me indignant but humiliated me terribly. Perhaps I gave him some cause.
Naturally we decided to go through with our plans, permit or not, and I was designated to open the demonstration. The newspapers had given the matter considerable publicity and on the day of the demonstration the courthouse square was full of police and curious onlookers, as well as demonstrators.
He announced the closing of the banks and the inauguration of a New Deal for the American people. Listening to the broadcast there in jail, it did not sound exactly like a New Deal to me. I did not believe the President serious and had no confidence in him. Nor were Communists the only ones to feel this way. Edmund Wilson, in his essay "Washington: Inaugural Parade," written at the time, said of the address: "There is a suggestion, itself rather vague, of a possible dictatorship."
Franklin Roosevelt was not a simple man. That quality of simplicity which we delight to think marks the great and noble was not his. He was the most complicated human being I ever knew; and out of this complicated nature there sprang much of the drive which brought achievement, much of the sympathy which made him like, and liked by, such oddly different types of people, much of the detachment which enabled him to forget his problems in play or rest, and much of the apparent contradiction which so exasperated those associates of his who expected "crystal clear" and unwavering decisions. But this very complicated of his nature made it possible for him to have insight and imagination into the most varied human experiences, and this he applied to the physical, social, geographical, economic and strategic circumstances thrust upon him as responsibilities by his times.
President Roosevelt is not going to make a mistake, for God Almighty is guiding him. President Roosevelt has leadership, he has followers and he is the answer to many prayers that were sent up last year.
If Congress fails to carry through with the President's suggestions, I foresee a revolution far greater than the French Revolution. It is either Roosevelt or Ruin.
We are not isolationists except in so far as we seek to isolate ourselves completely from war. I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war. I have passed unnumbered hours, I shall pass unnumbered hours, thinking and planning how war may be kept from this Nation.
Tonight, sitting at my desk in the White House, I make my first radio report to the people in my second term of office.
I am reminded of that evening in March, four years ago, when I made my first radio report to you. We were then in the midst of the great banking crisis.
Soon after, with the authority of the Congress, we asked the Nation to turn over all of its privately held gold, dollar for dollar, to the Government of the United States.
Today's recovery proves how right that policy was.
But when, almost two years later, it came before the Supreme Court its constitutionality was upheld only by a five-to-four vote. The change of one vote would have thrown all the affairs of this great Nation back into hopeless chaos. In effect, four Justices ruled that the right under a private contract to exact a pound of flesh was more sacred than the main objectives of the Constitution to establish an enduring Nation.
In 1933 you and I knew that we must never let our economic system get completely out of joint again - that we could not afford to take the risk of another great depression.
We also became convinced that the only way to avoid a repetition of those dark days was to have a government with power to prevent and to cure the abuses and the inequalities which had thrown that system out of joint.
We then began a program of remedying those abuses and inequalities - to give balance and stability to our economic system - to make it bomb-proof against the causes of 1929.
Today we are only part-way through that program - and recovery is speeding up to a point where the dangers of 1929 are again becoming possible, not this week or month perhaps, but within a year or two.
National laws are needed to complete that program. Individual or local or state effort alone cannot protect us in 1937 any better than ten years ago.
It will take time - and plenty of time - to work out our remedies administratively even after legislation is passed. To complete our program of protection in time, therefore, we cannot delay one moment in making certain that our National Government has power to carry through.
Four years ago action did not come until the eleventh hour. It was almost too late.
If we learned anything from the depression we will not allow ourselves to run around in new circles of futile discussion and debate, always postponing the day of decision.
The American people have learned from the depression. For in the last three national elections an overwhelming majority of them voted a mandate that the Congress and the President begin the task of providing that protection - not after long years of debate, but now.
The Courts, however, have cast doubts on the ability of the elected Congress to protect us against catastrophe by meeting squarely our modern social and economic conditions.
We are at a crisis in our ability to proceed with that protection. It is a quiet crisis. There are no lines of depositors outside closed banks. But to the far-sighted it is far-reaching in its possibilities of injury to America.
I want to talk with you very simply about the need for present action in this crisis - the need to meet the unanswered challenge of one-third of a Nation ill-nourished, ill-clad, ill-housed.
Last Thursday I described the American form of Government as a three horse team provided by the Constitution to the American people so that their field might be plowed. The three horses are, of course, the three branches of government - the Congress, the Executive and the Courts. Two of the horses are pulling in unison today; the third is not. Those who have intimated that the President of the United States is trying to drive that team, overlook the simple fact that the President, as Chief Executive, is himself one of the three horses.
It is the American people themselves who are in the driver's seat.
It is the American people themselves who want the furrow plowed.
It is the American people themselves who expect the third horse to pull in unison with the other two.
I hope that you have re-read the Constitution of the United States in these past few weeks. Like the Bible, it ought to be read again and again.
It is an easy document to understand when you remember that it was called into being because the Articles of Confederation under which the original thirteen States tried to operate after the Revolution showed the need of a National Government with power enough to handle national problems. In its Preamble, the Constitution states that it was intended to form a more perfect Union and promote the general welfare; and the powers given to the Congress to carry out those purposes can be best described by saying that they were all the powers needed to meet each and every problem which then had a national character and which could not be met by merely local action.
But the framers went further. Having in mind that in succeeding generations many other problems then undreamed of would become national problems, they gave to the Congress the ample broad powers "to levy taxes ... and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States."
That, my friends, is what I honestly believe to have been the clear and underlying purpose of the patriots who wrote a Federal Constitution to create a National Government with national power, intended as they said, "to form a more perfect union ... for ourselves and our posterity."
For nearly twenty years there was no conflict between the Congress and the Court. Then Congress passed a statute which, in 1803, the Court said violated an express provision of the Constitution. The Court claimed the power to declare it unconstitutional and did so declare it. But a little later the Court itself admitted that it was an extraordinary power to exercise and through Mr. Justice Washington laid down this limitation upon it: "It is but a decent respect due to the wisdom, the integrity and the patriotism of the legislative body, by which any law is passed, to presume in favor of its validity until its violation of the Constitution is proved beyond all reasonable doubt."
But since the rise of the modern movement for social and economic progress through legislation, the Court has more and more often and more and more boldly asserted a power to veto laws passed by the Congress and State Legislatures in complete disregard of this original limitation.
In the last four years the sound rule of giving statutes the benefit of all reasonable doubt has been cast aside. The Court has been acting not as a judicial body, but as a policy-making body.
When the Congress has sought to stabilize national agriculture, to improve the conditions of labor, to safeguard business against unfair competition, to protect our national resources, and in many other ways, to serve our clearly national needs, the majority of the Court has been assuming the power to pass on the wisdom of these acts of the Congress - and to approve or disapprove the public policy written into these laws.
That is not only my accusation. It is the accusation of most distinguished justices of the present Supreme Court. I have not the time to quote to you all the language used by dissenting justices in many of these cases. But in the case holding the Railroad Retirement Act unconstitutional, for instance, Chief Justice Hughes said in a dissenting opinion that the majority opinion was "a departure from sound principles," and placed "an unwarranted limitation upon the commerce clause." And three other justices agreed with him.
In the case of holding the AAA unconstitutional, Justice Stone said of the majority opinion that it was a "tortured construction of the Constitution." And two other justices agreed with him.
In the case holding the New York minimum wage law unconstitutional, Justice Stone said that the majority were actually reading into the Constitution their own "personal economic predilections," and that if the legislative power is not left free to choose the methods of solving the problems of poverty, subsistence, and health of large numbers in the community, then "government is to be rendered impotent." And two other justices agreed with him.
In the face of these dissenting opinions, there is no basis for the claim made by some members of the Court that something in the Constitution has compelled them regretfully to thwart the will of the people.
In the face of such dissenting opinions, it is perfectly clear that, as Chief Justice Hughes has said, "We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is."
The Court in addition to the proper use of its judicial functions has improperly set itself up as a third house of the Congress - a super-legislature, as one of the justices has called it - reading into the Constitution words and implications which are not there, and which were never intended to be there.
We have, therefore, reached the point as a nation where we must take action to save the Constitution from the Court and the Court from itself. We must find a way to take an appeal from the Supreme Court to the Constitution itself. We want a Supreme Court which will do justice under the Constitution and not over it. In our courts we want a government of laws and not of men.
I want - as all Americans want - an independent judiciary as proposed by the framers of the Constitution. That means a Supreme Court that will enforce the Constitution as written, that will refuse to amend the Constitution by the arbitrary exercise of judicial power - in other words by judicial say-so. It does not mean a judiciary so independent that it can deny the existence of facts which are universally recognized.
How then could we proceed to perform the mandate given us? It was said in last year's Democratic platform, "If these problems cannot be effectively solved within the Constitution, we shall seek such clarifying amendment as will assure the power to enact those laws, adequately to regulate commerce, protect public health and safety, and safeguard economic security." In other words, we said we would seek an amendment only if every other possible means by legislation were to fail.
When I commenced to review the situation with the problem squarely before me, I came by a process of elimination to the conclusion that, short of amendments, the only method which was clearly constitutional, and would at the same time carry out other much needed reforms, was to infuse new blood into all our Courts. We must have men worthy and equipped to carry out impartial justice. But, at the same time, we must have Judges who will bring to the Courts a present-day sense of the Constitution - Judges who will retain in the Courts the judicial functions of a court, and reject the legislative powers which the courts have today assumed.
Negroes are the most oppressed and most neglected section of your population. 12,000,000 of your citizens have to endure insults, injustices, and such degradation of the spirit that you would believe impossible. The un-Christian, un-American conditions in the South make it impossible for me and other young Negroes to live there and continue our faith in the ideals of democracy and Christianity. We are as much political refugees from the South as any of the Jews in Germany.
Do you feel as we do, that the ultimate test of democracy in the United States will be the way in which it solves its Negro problem? Have you raised your voice loud enough against the burning of our people? Why has our government refused to pass anti-lynching legislation? And why is it that the group of congressmen so opposed to the passing of this legislation are part and parcel of the Democratic Party of which you are leader?
When he died our society was measurably farther forward in every respect than we became President. It is true that he did facilitate our transit from the old individualism to the new collectivism. This is involved, in economists' terms, a change from unlimited to regulated competition with some direction and some weighting in favor of those with the least power to bargain; and from individual responsibility for all the risks of life to security for all in sickness, unemployment, and old age. He grasped leadership when we were economically paralyzed and socially divided.
We are a lucky people. We have had leaders when the national life was at stake. If it had not been for Washington we might not have become a nation; if it had not been for Lincoln we might have been split in two; if it had not been for this later democrat we might have succumbed to a dictatorship. For that was the alternative, much in the air, when he took charge.
One of the rare breaks in his composure came at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in 1936. As the President began his stiff-legged march toward the stage in Franklin Field, he reached out to shake the hand of the white-bearded poet Edwin Markham, was thrown off balance, and sprawled to the ground. White-faced and angry, he snapped: "Clean me up."' But most of the time he bore his handicap with astonishing good humor. To board a train, he had to be wheeled up special ramps; to go fishing, or to get to the second story of a meeting hall, he had to be carried in men's arms like a helpless child. To walk, he had to be harnessed in leg braces, and endure the strain of dragging, painfully, a cumbersome dead weight of pounds of steel. Yet he carried it all off with a wonderfully nonchalant air, and often made his incapacity the subject of some seemingly carefree jest. He would roar with laughter and say: "Really, it's as funny as a crutch." Or at the end of a conversation, Roosevelt, who had not been able to walk since 1921, would often remark: "Well, I'm sorry, I have to run now!"" Indeed, so vigorous did he seem that most Americans never knew he remained a cripple in a wheelchair. Frequently, in fact, writers gave the impression that Roosevelt had fully conquered his infirmity. One "who had summoned from the depths of character the incredible patience to win his battle for health and make himself walk again."
On a gray London morning, May 20, 1940, four men approached a flat at 47 Gloucester Place. Behind the door, a young man, clean-cut and studious-looking, sat amid the remains of his breakfast. He did not respond to the knocking even when a booming voice shouted, "Police!" Instead he bolted the door and called out coolly, "No, you can't come in." A Scotland Yard detective rammed his shoulder against the door and it burst open. The others filed in, a second detective, an officer from M15, the British domestic military intelligence service, and the second secretary of the American embassy. The man they had broken in on was Tyler Kent, a code clerk also attached to the embassy. One of the detectives produced a search warrant, and Kent stood by, unruffled, as his visitors rummaged through his apartment. They found 1,929 U.S. embassy documents, including secret correspondence between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The content of these messages was such that their exposure to the public could harm the President and the Prime Minister, and jeopardize America's presumed neutrality in the European war. What they revealed could also influence the upcoming U.S. presidential election....
One American vigorously disapproved of the collusive nature of the secret correspondence passing between FDR and Churchill, the code clerk Tyler Kent, who had access to these messages. The reserved twenty-nine-year-old lone wolf was a deeply discontented man. Kent believed that he was working well below his station. He possessed all the WASP credentials favoring a successful diplomatic career. Tyler Gatewood Kent descended from an old Virginia family that dated to the 1600s. His father, William Patton Kent, had been a career officer in the U.S. Consular Service. Tyler had been born during his father's posting to Manchuria and thereafter traveled with the family to subsequent assignments in China, Germany, Switzerland, England, and Bermuda. He had received a first-class education, St. Albans, Princeton, the Sorbonne, and spoke French, Greek, German, Russian, Italian, and Spanish. Still, Kent had been hired by the State Department in 1934 not as a fledgling diplomat but as a clerk. He had come to London in October 1939 after serving at the American embassy in Moscow, where he had been assigned to the code room. His political ideas had begun to take shape at that time, characterized by a visceral hatred of communism.
A code clerk was essentially a technician, and Kent's fellow clerks encoded and decoded messages that were shaping history with the indifference with which bank tellers handle bundles of money. Kent, on the contrary, read, reread, and thought deeply about the secrets that passed through his hands. For him, the FDR-Churchill exchanges had taken on an alarming turn from the very first. In a dispatch dated October 5, 1939, Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, asked FDR to have American warships alert the British navy to any German ship movements in the Atlantic. "The more American ships cruising along the South American coast the better," Churchill observed, "as you, sir, would no doubt hear what they saw or did not see." He began signing his dispatches "Naval Person," chummily underlining his present and FDR's former navy affiliation. Roosevelt readily complied with Churchill's request. Admiral John Godfrey, director of British Naval Intelligence, reported on February 26, 1940: "Their (U.S.) patrols in the Gulf of Mexico give us information, and recently they have been thoroughly unneutral in reporting the position of the SS Columbus," a German merchant vessel subsequently captured by the British.
Another secret exchange further punctured the thin membrane of neutrality. American shipowners complained bitterly to the President that the Royal Navy was forcing their vessels into British ports to be searched. The British, seeking to maintain a blockade against shipments that might aid their enemies, believed themselves within their rights in detaining any vessels, including American. Roosevelt told Churchill of the American shipowners' discontent. Churchill made a swift exception. He responded, "I gave orders last night that no American ship under any circumstances be diverted into the combat zone around the British Isles declared by you. I trust this will be satisfactory."
Roosevelt's breaches of neutrality drove Tyler Kent to a desperate act. The American people, he was convinced, did not want to be enmeshed in Europe's fight. A Roper public opinion poll taken immediately after the war began indicated that less than 3 percent of Americans wanted their country to enter the war on the Allied side. The largest percentage, 37.5 percent, preferred to "Take no sides and stay out of the war entirely." Yet, here was an American president, in Kent's view, conniving with the British, risking America's entanglement in a conflict his people decidedly did not want. There could be little doubt of what Churchill wanted; as the Prime Minister put it to an Admiralty official, "Our objective is to get the Americans into the war... We can then best settle how to fight it afterwards."
Tyler Kent, as he brooded in the airless silence of the code room translating messages into the State Department's Gray code, fretted that FDR was "secretly and unconstitutionally plotting with Churchill to sneak the United States into the war:" He had developed a corollary obsession: "All wars are inspired, formented and promoted by the great international bankers and banking combines which are largely controlled by the Jews." He had, he later admitted, "anti-Semitic tendencies for many years." Kent finally decided where his duty lay. He had to gather evidence that he could place into the hands of the U.S. Senate and the American press to expose Roosevelt's duplicity and keep the United States out of the war.
This government directed its efforts to doing what it could to work for the preservation of peace in the Mediterranean area, and it likewise exercised its willingness to endeavor to cooperate with the government of Italy when the appropriate occasion arose for the creation of a more stable world order through the reduction of armaments and through the construction of a more liberal international economic system, which would assure to all powers equality of opportunity in the world's markets and in the securing of raw materials on equal terms.
I have likewise, of course, felt it necessary in my communications to Signor Mussolini to express the concern of the government of the United States because of the fact that any extension of the war in the region of the Mediterranean would inevitably result in great prejudice to the ways of life and government and to the trade and commerce of all of the American republics.
The government of Italy has now chosen to preserve what it terms its "freedom of action" and to fulfill what it states are its promises to Germany. In so doing it has manifested disregard for the rights and security of other nations, disregard for the lives of the peoples of those nations which are directly threatened by this spread of the war, and has evidenced its unwillingness to find the means through pacific negotiations for the satisfaction of what it believes are its legitimate aspirations.
On previous occasions Congressmen have called for the impeachment of the President.
On those occasions most citizens disagreed with the Congressmen.
At length, however, an event has transpired which now marks Franklin D. Roosevelt as a dangerous citizen of the Republic - dangerous insofar as he has transcended the bounds of his Executive position.
In plain language, without the knowledge or consent of Congress, he has denuded this country of thirty-six flying fortresses, either selling or giving them to Great Britain.
By this action Franklin D. Roosevelt had torpedoed our national defense, loving Great Britain more than the United States.
He has consorted with the enemies of civilization - through the continued recognition of Soviet Russia.
He has deceived the citizens of the United States - telling the newspaper reporters, who are the people's eyes and ears at Washington, that he did not know the whereabouts of these flying fortresses.
He has transcended the bounds of his Executive position - spurning the authority of Congress.
He has invited the enmity of powerful foreign nations- on whose natural resources we depend for essential tin and rubber.
Because he has encouraged the British government to reopen the Burma Road, and encouraged Britain to declare war on the German government, when Britain was unable to care for the English people - he stands revealed as the world's chief war-monger.
All these events, culminating with the transfer of these 36 flying fortresses without the consent of Congress, demand that he be impeached.
In the present world situation of course there is absolutely no doubt in the mind of a very overwhelming number of Americans that the best immediate defence of the United States is the success of Great Britain in defending itself; and that, therefore, quite aside from our historic and current interest in the survival of democracy in the world as a whole, it is equally important, from a selfish point of view of American defence, that we should do everything to help the British Empire to defend itself.
It isn't merely a question of doing things the traditional way; there are lots of other ways of doing them. I am just talking background, informally; I haven't prepared any of this - I go back to the idea that the one thing necessary for American national defence is additional productive facilities; and the more we increase those facilities - factories, shipbuilding ways, munition plants, et cetera, and so on - the stronger American national defence is.
I have been exploring other methods of continuing the building up of our productive facilities and continuing automatically the flow of munitions to Great Britain. I will just put it this way, not as an exclusive alternative method but as one of several other possible methods that might be devised toward that end.
It is possible - I will put it that way - for the United States to take over British orders and, because they are essentially the same kind of munitions that we use ourselves, turn them into American orders. We have enough money to do it. And there-upon, as to such portion of them as the military events of the future determine to be right and proper for us to allow to go to the other side, either lease or sell the materials, subject to mortgage, to the people on the other side. That would be on the general theory that it may still prove true that the best defence of Great Britain is the best defence of the United States, and therefore that these materials would be more useful to the defence of the United States if they were used in Great Britain than if they were kept in storage here.
Now, what I am trying to do is to eliminate the dollar sign. That is something brand new in the thoughts of practically everybody in this room, I think - get rid of the silly, foolish old dollar sign. Well, let me give you an illustration: Suppose my neighbor's home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose 400 or 500 feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant, I may help him to put out his fire. Now, what do I do? I don't say to him before that operation, "Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it." What is the transaction that goes on? I don't want $15 - I want my garden hose back after the fire is over. All right. If it goes through the fire all right, intact, without any damage to it, he gives it back to me and thanks me very much for the use of it. But suppose it gets smashed up - holes in it - during the fire; we don't have to have too much formality about it, but I say to him, "I was glad to lend you that hose; I see I can't use it any more, it's all smashed up." He says, "How many feet of it were there?" I tell him, "There were 150 feet of it." He says, "All right, I will replace it." Now, if I get a nice garden hose back, I am in pretty good shape.
In other words, if you lend certain munitions and get the munitions back at the end of the war, if they are intact - haven't been hurt - you are all right; if they have been damaged or have deteriorated or have been lost completely, it seems to me you come out pretty well if you have them replaced by the fellow to whom you have lent them.
I can't go into details; and there is no use asking legal questions about how you would do it, because that is the thing that is now under study; but the thought is that we would take over not all, but a very large number of, future British orders; and when they came off the line, whether they were planes or guns or something else, we would enter into some kind of arrangement for their use by the British on the ground that it was the best thing for American defence, with the understanding that when the show was over, we would get repaid sometime in kind, thereby leaving out the dollar mark in the form of a dollar debt and substituting for it a gentleman's obligation to repay in kind. I think you all get it.
The lend-lease policy translated into legislative form, stunned a Congress and a nation wholly sympathetic to the cause of Great Britain. The Kaiser's blank check to Austria-Hungary in the First World War was a piker compared to the Roosevelt blank check of World War II. It warranted my worst fears for the future of America, and it definitely stamps the President as war-minded.
The lend-lease-give program is the New Deal's triple-A foreign policy; it will plow under every fourth American boy. Never before have the American people been asked or compelled to give so bounteously and so completely of their tax dollars to any foreign nation. Never before has the Congress of the United States been asked by any President to violate international law. Never before has this nation resorted to duplicity in the conduct of its foreign affairs. Never before has the United States given to one man the power to strip this nation of its defenses. Never before has a Congress coldly and flatly been asked to abdicate.
If the American people want a dictatorship - if they want a totalitarian form of government and if they want war - this bill should be steam-rollered through Congress, as is the wont of President Roosevelt.
Approval of this legislation means war, open and complete warfare. I, therefore, ask the American people before they supinely accept it - Was the last World War worthwhile?
If it were, then we should lend and lease war materials. If it were, then we should lend and lease American boys. President Roosevelt has said we would be repaid by England. We will be. We will be repaid, just as England repaid her war debts of the First World War - repaid those dollars wrung from the sweat of labor and the toil of farmers with cries of "Uncle Shylock." Our boys will be returned - returned in caskets, maybe; returned with bodies maimed; returned with minds warped and twisted by sights of horrors and the scream and shriek of high-powered shells.
I have called for personal sacrifice. I am assured of the willingness of almost all Americans to respond to that call. A part ofof the sacrifice means the payment of more money in taxes. In my budget message I recommend that a greater portion of this great defense e program be paid for from taxation than we are paying today. No person should try, or be allowed, to get rich out of this program; and the principle of tax payments in accordance with ability to pay should be constantly before our eyes to guide our legislation. If the Congress maintains these principles, the voters, putting patriotism ahead of pocketbooks, will give you their applause.
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want, which translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear - which, translated into world terms, means a worldwide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor - anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception - the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change - in a perpetual peaceful revolution - a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions - without the concentration camp or the quicklime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.
This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and hearts of its millions of free men and women, and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is in our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory.
Franklin Roosevelt took us into a war without telling the people anything about it. He served an ultimatum which we knew nothing about. We were forced into the war. It was the biggest cover-up ever perpetrated in the United States of America.
I'd led the fight for three years against Roosevelt getting us into war. I was on the radio every ten days. I stopped him until he issued this ultimatum. That is the greatest thing I did do in my life. He would have gotten us into the war six months or a year before Pearl Harbor. We would have been fighting those Germans, plus probably the Russians, because they made a deal with them. Every American family owes an obligation to me because we would have lost a million or two million killed. That's the biggest thing I ever did, and nobody can take it away from me.
The big question which rightly dominated Roosevelt's mind (March 1943) was whether it was possible to work with Russia now and after the war. He wanted to know what I thought of the view that Stalin's aim was to overrun and communize the Continent. I replied that it was impossible to give a definite opinion. Even if these fears were to prove correct, we should make the position no worse by trying to work with Russia and by assuming that Stalin meant what he said in the Anglo-Soviet Treaty. I might well have added that Soviet policy is both Russian and communist, in varying degree.
On the future of Germany the President appeared to favour dismemberment as the only wholly satisfactory solution. He agreed that, when the time came, we should work to encourage separatist tendencies within Germany and foresaw a long 'policing' of that country. More surprisingly, he thought that the three Powers should police Europe in general. I pointed out that the occupied countries, as they then were, would want to put their own house in order and I thought we should encourage them to do so. We should have our hands quite full enough with Germany.
In the Balkans, Mr. Roosevelt favoured separating Serbia from Croatia and Slovenia. I told him that in principle I disliked the idea of multiplying smaller states, I hoped the tendency would now be reversed and that we should aim at grouping. I could not see any better solution for the future of either the Croats or the Slovenes than forming some union with the Serbs.
The first days of the Roosevelt Administration charged the air with the snap and the zigzag of electricity. I felt it. We all felt it. It seemed as it you could hold out your hand and close it over the piece of excitement you had ripped away. It was the return of hope. The mind was elastic and capable of crowding idea into idea. New faces came to Washington - young faces of bright lads who could talk. It was contagious. We started to talk in the cloak rooms; we started to talk in committees. The shining new faces called on us and talked.
In March of 1933 we had witnessed a revolution - a revolution in manner, in mores, in the definition of government. What before had been black or white sprang alive with color. The messages to Congress, the legislation; even the reports on the legislation took on the briskness of authority. I have asked myself often, "Did one man do this? If one did this, what manner of man was he?" I don't know. I think nobody does. Since those days I have read every bit of writing on Roosevelt: Perkins, Sherwood, Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, Flynn, Gunther. Out of these cascades of words no definite or sharp outline arises. Whenever I visited Roosevelt on official business, I found a man adroit, voluble, assured, and smiling. I was never quite sure he was interested in the purpose of my visit; we spent so little time on it.
Mostly he talked. He talked with seeming frankness, and when I left, I found that he had committed himself to no point of view. At the end of each visit I realized that I had been hypnotized. His humor was broad, his manner friendly without condescension. Of wit there was little; -of philosophy, none. What did he possess? Intuition, yes. Inspiration, yes. Love of adventure, the curiosity of the experimental. None of these give the answer. None of these give the key. I believe his magic lay in one facet of his personality. He could say and he did say, "Let's try it." He knew how to take the risk. No other man in public life I knew could so readily take the challenge of the new.
Franklin Roosevelt was a world figure of heroic proportions. He also was my friend, whom I had known and admired for thirty-six years, since we began to work together in World War I. A thousand memories crowded my mind as I sat in the compartment of the train returning to Washington.
I had seen him almost every morning since he appointed me his Military Chief of Staff late in July, 1942. The range of his mind was infinite. The official matters I had selected to bring to his attention usually were disposed of quickly, and he listened attentively as I talked. He was likely thereafter, at these daily sessions, to do most of the talking and to bring up anything he had on his mind. A flood of memories of Quebec, Cairo, Teheran, Honolulu, Alaska and the still-fresh impression of Yalta came to my mind.
I remembered partisan criticism that he had made this or that war move with an eye on the date of a national election. Franklin Roosevelt was the real Commander-in-Chief of our Navy, Army, and Air Force. He had fought this war in close co-operation with his military staff. To my knowledge, he never made a single military decision with any thought of his own personal political fortunes.
There were many of his domestic policies which I, being of a conservative mind, had little liking for, but I admired the skill he possessed in playing the complex and to me almost inexplicable "game of politics." That skill was frequently displayed at his famous weekly conferences with the Washington newsmen, many of which I attended. He gave them all the information he could, easily and cheerfully. He even scolded them at times, but they seemed to like it.
Roosevelt was the one who had the vision to change our policy from isolationism to world leadership. That was a terrific revolution. Our country's never been the same since. The war changed everybody's attitude. We became international almost overnight.
I found that Churchill felt it was very important to help Stalin. I certainly agreed. There was that meeting at sea between Roosevelt and Churchill. I attended it. Churchill decided to send Beaverbrook and Roosevelt decided to send me. We both went to Moscow in October 1941. We both agreed that Stalin was determined to hold out against the Germans. He told us he'd never let them get to Moscow. But if he was wrong, they'd go back to the Urals and fight. They'd never surrender. We became convinced that, regardless of Stalin's awful brutality and his reign of terror, he was a great war leader. Without Stalin, they never would have held.
Much of the aid we first gave to Russia we took away from what we promised Britain. So in a sense, Britain participated in a very real way in the recovery of Russia. After that, the Russians got mean. Poland, of course, was the key country. I remember Stalin telling me that the plains of Poland were the invasion route of Europe to Russia and always had been, and therefore he had to control Poland.
It was fear. He didn't want to see a united Germany. Stalin made it clear to me - I spoke with him many times - that they couldn't afford to let Germany build up again. They'd been invaded twice, and he wasn't willing to have it happen again.
There's a myth that Roosevelt gave Stalin Eastern Europe. I was with Roosevelt every day at Yalta. Roosevelt was determined to stop Stalin from taking over Eastern Europe. He thought they finally had an agreement on Poland. Before Roosevelt died, he realized that Stalin had broken his agreement.
I think Stalin was afraid of Roosevelt. Whenever Roosevelt spoke, he sort of watched him with a certain awe. He was afraid of Roosevelt's influence in the world. If FDR had lived, the cold war wouldn't have developed the way it did, because Stalin would have tried to get along with Roosevelt.
The most insistent propaganda in those days declared that humanitarianism and liberalism and democratic forces were played out, and that the choice now lay between two bleak extremes, Communism and Fascism - the red or the black. To those who were not carried away by this patter the only light that was left in the darkness was the administration of Roosevelt and the New Deal in the United States. At a time of weakness and mounting despair in the democratic world Roosevelt radiated confidence and strength. He was the leader of the democratic world, and upon him alone, of all the statesmen of the 1930s, no cloud rested - neither on him nor on the New Deal, which to European eyes still looks a bright chapter in the history of mankind. It is true that his great social experiment was conducted with an isolationist disregard of the outside world, but then it was psychologically intelligible that America, which had come into being in the reaction against the follies and evils of a Europe perpetually distraught by religious or national struggles, should try to seek salvation undisturbed by the currents of European life, particularly at a moment when Europe seemed about to collapse into a totalitarian nightmare. Roosevelt was therefore forgiven, by those who found the European situation tragic, for pursuing no particular foreign policy, indeed for trying to do, if not without any foreign policy at all, at any rate with a minimum of relationship with the outside world, which was indeed to some degree part of the American political tradition.
His internal policy was plainly animated by a humanitarian purpose. After the unbridled individualism of the 1920s, which had led to economic collapse and widespread misery, he was seeking to establish new rules of social justice. He was trying to do this without forcing his country into some doctrinaire strait-jacket, whether of socialism or State capitalism, or the kind of new social organisation which the Fascist regimes flaunted as the New Order. Social discontent was high in the United States, faith in businessmen as saviours of society had evaporated overnight after the famous Wall Street Crash, and Roosevelt was providing a vast safety-valve for pent-up bitterness and indignation, and trying to prevent revolution and construct a regime which should provide for greater economic equality and social justice - ideals which were the best part of the tradition of American life - without altering the basis of freedom and democracy in his country...
But Roosevelt's greatest service to mankind (after ensuring the victory against the enemies of freedom) consists in the fact that he showed that it is possible to be politically effective and yet benevolent and human: that the fierce left- and right-wing propaganda of the 1930s, according to which the conquest and retention of political power is not compatible with human qualities, but necessarily demands from those who pursue it seriously the sacrifice of their lives upon the altar of some ruthless ideology, or the practice of despotism - this propaganda, which filled the art and talk of the day, was simply untrue. Roosevelt's example strengthened democracy everywhere, that is to say the view that the promotion of social Justice and individual liberty does not necessarily mean the end of all efficient government; that power and order are not identical with a strait-jacket of doctrine, whether economic or political; that it is possible to reconcile individual liberty - a loose texture of society - with the indispensable minimum of organising and authority.
The ever worsening position of the British in the Middle East was a matter of grave concern to the American government both in terms of strategic damage done and as evidence of a general weakening of British morale with a corresponding effect on neutral nations and subjugated peoples. This concern for British morale was reflected in a Roosevelt message to Churchill on May 1 (1941), describing the intervention in Greece as a "wholly justifiable delaying action," extending Axis and shortening British lines, though he found it necessary to add, the undercurrent of concern showing, that he was sure the British would not allow any "great debacle or surrender." In the last analysis, wrote the president, the control of the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic would decide the war.
Churchill responded with one of the bleakest telegrams of their correspondence. He reflected the profound pessimism of Whitehall. Nothing in Roosevelt's recent messages indicated an inclination to intervene, and the British could not help but feel that, as one Foreign Office official put it, "in their hearts the Americans expect us to be defeated." In his message the prime minister disagreed that the loss of Egypt and the Middle East would be a "mere preliminary to the successful maintenance of a prolonged oceanic war." He could not be sure such a loss would not be "grave" (in the original "mortal"), for a war against an Axis system controlling Europe and most of Africa and Asia was a daunting proposition.
Unless the United States took "more advanced positions now or very soon, the vast balances may be tilted heavily to our disadvantage." More precisely, said Churchill, in absolute frankness, the one counterbalance to growing pessimism in Europe and the Middle East would be American belligerency.
In reply, May 10, Roosevelt assured Churchill that he had no intention of minimizing either the gravity of the situation or the worthiness of the British effort. But he reiterated with a slight change his argument of May 1. No defeat in the Mediterranean, he said, could destroy their mutual interests because the outcome of the war would be decided on the Atlantic: "Unless Hitler can win there he cannot win anywhere in the world in the end."" Churchill could hardly object to this reaffirmation of America's predominant strategic conception from which flowed Lend-Lease and patrolling, but he may have sensed that this was not all the president meant in dwelling on the importance of the Atlantic. While Roosevelt unquestionably considered the Atlantic vital as a bridge to Britain and ultimately the conquest of Germany, he also regarded it as vital for protecting the safety and existence of the United States in case of British defeat. It is tempting to explain Roosevelt's public emphasis on hemisphere security in May as a rationalization for intervention in the Battle of the Atlantic on more fundamental but publicly divisive grounds of Anglo-American mutual interest. But it was not a ploy; briefly at this low point in British fortunes but authentically and intensely, the president focused on threats to the safety of the United States in a most direct and visceral sense.
The question was how to prevent German seizure of the Atlantic islands and Dakar, the bridgeheads for German access to the Americas. Crete was important as a demonstration that German power was not landlocked, that it could with control of the air leap across narrow waters and seize strategic focal points. No less important was the Bismarck breakout. It was a relief no longer to have to count this mammoth in capital ship balances, but the loss of the Hood and near escape of the Bismarck left Roosevelt uneasy about the Royal Navy. Above all, the rediscovery of the ship by aircraft showed that air power was critical in maintaining control of the sea, and for this bases such as Bermuda and the Azores were indispensable. Knowing the British were ready to send expeditions to the Azores and Cape Verdes in case of a German move on Portugal and Spain, Roosevelt nevertheless set out to learn whether the Portugese government in that case would accept protection of the Azores by the United States. On May 22, before learning the answer, he ordered the armed services to prepare an expeditionary force of 25,000 troops, to be ready by June 22.
In a few months, some who had voted for the resolution had second thoughts. The Spanish "civil war," they feared, was being used by Hitler and Mussolini as a testing ground for the great war that lay ahead. Tens of thousands of Italian soldiers fought for Franco, and the Fascist press celebrated the fall of Malaga as a national victory. The Nazis made no attempt to disguise the airplanes that bombed Bilbao. A number of isolationist progressives came to believe the threat to democratic government more compelling than the doctrines of neutrality. Senator Nye, to the discomfiture of the pacifists, introduced a resolution to repeal the embargo on arms to the Loyalists. Both Secretaries Ickes and Morgenthau supported Nye, and fifteen prominent scientists, including Arthur Compton and Harold Urey, pleaded with the President to lift the embargo to "save the world from a fascist gulf." In January, 1938, sixty members of Congress ostentatiously sent greetings to the Spanish Cortes. For many American intellectuals, the Spanish war was the crucial event of the decade, for it signified an apocalyptic struggle between the forces of democracy and fascism. Placards on college bulletin boards announced: "We dance that Spain may live." A few did more than that. Two or three thousand American volunteers fought in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and other Loyalist units; most who went died there, including Ring Lardner's son James, who lost his life in the Ebro campaign."
For a brief time in the spring of 1938, it appeared that Roosevelt would lift the embargo, but the American ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph Kennedy, warned him that such a move might spread the Spanish war to the rest of the world. Hull insisted that such action would destroy the work of the Nonintervention Committee. The President also had to reckon with the state of American opinion. Most of the country was indifferent; one poll found the remarkably high figure of 66 per cent of respondents neutral or with no opinion. Pro-Loyalist intellectuals were a negligible political force compared to the large bloc of pro-Franco Catholics. Although Catholic laymen like Kathleen Norris and George Schuster were anti-Franco, and most Catholics did not regard themselves as Franco supporters, the Catholic press and hierarchy were almost uniformly pro-Franco, and polls revealed that the proportion of Catholics who backed Franco was more than four times as great as the proportion of Protestants."
Ickes has recorded that Roosevelt told him that to raise the embargo "would mean the loss of every Catholic vote next fall and that the Democratic Members of Congress were jittery about it and didn't want it done." So the cat was out of the bag, Ickes complained, the "mangiest, scabbiest cat ever."
Although it has been argued that the neutrality laws handcuffed Roosevelt in his efforts to check the aggressors, Congress can scarcely be assigned sole responsibility for American policy toward Spain. Ironically, it was Senator Nye, the symbol of congressional isolationism, who led the move to lift the embargo, while Roosevelt, who had originally opposed such legislation, upheld it. The President's Spanish policy had unfortunate consequences. It helped sustain Neville Chamberlain's disastrous policy of appeasement which permitted Germany and Italy to supply Franco while the democracies enforced "nonintervention" against themselves. "My own impression," wrote Ambassador Claude Bowers in July, 1937, "is that with every surrender beginning long ago with China, followed by Abyssinia and then Spain, the fascist powers, with vanity inflamed, will turn without delay to some other country such as Czechoslovakia-and that with every surrender the prospects of a European war grow darker."
The establishment of a war economy had its own dynamics, as Roosevelt knew from World War I. The theoretical sequence was simple enough: first allocation of resources, then building plant and obtaining machine tools and manpower, and finally switching on the assembly line. Setting up priorities and sequences for the economy as a whole was a different matter. First one needed timber, girders, cement, riggers, masons, and skilled machinists. Bringing together the components of new factories at the right time and place was itself impossible in 1941; delay was inevitable. The steel industry was reaching full capacity. Plant construction, ship hulls, and tank production would have to vie with each other for a limited output until steel could build new plants itself. Keeping the completely different aircraft-engine and air-frame industries in tandem so that one did not wait upon the other was another headache, to say nothing of propellers, generators, ammunition, and radios. Manpower problems were always acute. Should industry and the armed services maintain existing units-factories, warships, infantry divisions-because of their present efficiency or withdraw cadres of skilled personnel to form new units, thereby multiplying size?
These immediate questions raised larger ones. At what point in time was this national effort aiming? Should the nation ready itself for war immediately, sacrificing time-consuming armaments like battleships, or for the longer pull? What kind of war would be waged with what arms and what enemies? Defending the Western Hemisphere or invading Europe? Germany alone or the Axis? America alone or with allies, and which allies? These questions were impossible to answer in any satisfactory way in the spring of 1941.
Roosevelt went about these problems with his distinctive decision-making style. Never given to formal bureaucratic ways, he dealt with officials in terms of competence and function rather than hierarchical position, as well as the relative importance of a particular policy domain and his interest in it. Thus, as usual, his involvement varied widely across the policy spectrum.
His closest involvement was in regulating, as commander in chief, the strength, dispositions, and rules of engagement of the United States Atlantic Fleet. Of course naval affairs had always aroused Roosevelt's keenest interest. Over the mantelpiece in the Oval Study hung a painting of the four-stack destroyer Dyer on which he had traveled to Europe as assistant secretary of the navy in World War I. This was the same type of destroyer exchanged for bases with the British in 1940, the same that still in March 1941 composed most of the destroyer force of the Atlantic Fleet.
In 1936, I was critical of his decision not to press his proposal to enlarge the Supreme Court. At that time I regarded the Court, as then functioning, as the chief roadblock to social progress in the United States and wanted to see it enlarged by Roosevelt appointees. I thought President Roosevelt compromised too easily in this matter, for political reasons - and while I slid not vote for London in 1936, I did not vote for Roosevelt either. It was only after the second New Deal was under way that my earlier enthusiasm for Roosevelt returned, and it mounted and continued mounting as war came and his capacities for leadership were unfolded. And as to the Court fight, I was to learn that I was mistaken, for the very threat of enlarging the Court had been sufficient to liberalize the tenor of its rulings after 1936...
My one private meeting with the President was in the evening of May 24, 1942, and came about through Harry Hopkins. I had just finished a broadcast which was largely devoted to a speech by Hermann Goring on the ardors of the Nazi winter campaign in the heart of Russia. Mr. Hopkins called me at the studio. "How would you like to come over to the White House," he asked, "and meet the President? We have just been listening to your broadcast." Naturally, I said I would be there as quickly as my car could bring me. I arrived shortly before 10:30.
I was at once ushered into the President's office, where he had been working in shirt sleeves, his desk piled high with papers. He greeted me warmly and asked what I should like to drink. "I am going to take a gin and tonic with a slice of lemon rind," he said. I do not remember what Harry Hopkins took, but I joined him in a gin and tonic.
The President opened the conversation by discussing my broadcast and the difficulties the Nazis had experienced with the Russian winter.
Then he told me I had been asked to come over for a particular reason. He wanted my opinion of Elmer Davis as possible head of the Office of Facts and Figures, a position then occupied by Archibald MacLeish. I liked MacLeish and asked why he should be replaced. "Archie is a poet," Mr. Roosevelt said, with what seemed to me a tone of disparagement. I missed my cue at this point, and it did not occur to me until I was on the way home. I should have replied that John Milton, also a poet, had lost his eyesight working overtime as Latin Secretary to the Council of State under Cromwell. But I did speak up to voice my admiration for Elmer Davis, Mr. Roosevelt asked me if I thought newspaper correspondents would consider him a good appointment, and I assured him that I did riot believe any colleague would be held in higher esteem. Davis's nomination to head the Office of War Information (replacing the OFF) followed within a week or so...
As a talker Mr. Roosevelt went rapidly from one subject to another, almost by a kind of compulsiveness, not actually conversing with me or with Mr. Hopkins. I had the impression that in his way he was garrulous, which is certainly no fault, but it nevertheless astonished me to find a trace of it in as great a man as Franklin Roosevelt. Both he and I had a refill of gin and tonic. I did not miss the opportunity to tell the President to what extent he had been responsible for my broadcasting career in making his proposal to Sir John Reith for an exchange of broadcasts with the BBC, and I warmly thanked him. By midnight I knew the time for my departure had come, and I left. The visit had been a rare treat, and I knew that Harry Hopkins had engineered it as a special favor to me.
This was the only time I saw President Roosevelt and Mr. Hopkins alone together. I knew they were as nearly intimate friends as that term could be used to describe the association of anyone with the President. But I was struck by the deference Mr. Hopkins showed to his chief. He did not speak familiarly to him at any time and always addressed him formally as "Mr. President."
My esteem for President Roosevelt had not been without certain reservations. I have mentioned his readiness to be guided by purely political advantage in domestic questions. He also said things to callers which apparently were meant to he misunderstood as agreement with them in a way that stirred the roots of my puritanical disapproval. But he was a complex person, and out of this complexity rose a stature in national and world affairs that both astonished and ultimately overwhelmed me. I came to regard him as one of the greatest men of his age. Though he was an aristocrat, he liked common people. He enjoyed meeting them, and he put their welfare uppermost in his domestic policy. When I bad to write my commentary on the day of his death, I was too deeply moved to use more though, two-thirds of my time and had to ask the studio to fill the remainder with music. And having written it, I threw myself on my bed and wept as I had not done since I was a boy.
It has pleased God in His infinite wisdom to take from us the immortal spirit of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 3rd president of the United States.
The leader of his people in a great war, he lived to see the assurance of the victory but not to share it. He lived to see the first foundations of the free and peaceful world to which his life was dedicated, but not to enter on that world himself.
His fellow countrymen will sorely miss his fortitude and faith and courage in the time to come. The peoples of the earth who love the ways of freedom and of hope will mourn for him.
But though his voice is silent, his courage is not spent, his faith is not extinguished. The courage of great men outlives them to become the courage of their people and the peoples of the world. It lives beyond them and upholds their purposes and brings their hopes to pass.
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