Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a distant cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, was born in Hyde Park, New York on 30th January, 1882. The Roosevelts were a wealthy family and was educated by home tutors until attending Groton School at 14. He was a successful student and did well at Harvard University and Columbia Law Schools, before being admitted to the New York bar in 1907.
In 1905 Franklin married his cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt. Her father, Elliott Roosevelt, was the brother of Theodore Roosevelt, president of the United States (1901-1909). Like her husband, Eleanor was a Democrat and took a strong interest in politics.
In 1910 Roosevelt was elected to the New York Senate. Frances Perkins was one of those who was not impressed by his activities during this period: "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 unforunate habit - so natural he was unaware of it - of throwing his head up. This, combined with his pince-nez and great height, gave him the appearance of looking down his nose at most people."
Roosevelt upset the party bosses by supporting a rebel Democrat as New York's senator. Roosevelt's dissent group received a lot of publicity and he became a well known figure in New York politics. Roosevelt's abilities were brought to the attention of President Woodrow Wilson and in 1913 he appointed him as assistant secretary of the navy, a post he held for the next six years.
Woodrow Wilson and other Democrat leaders were impressed with Roosevelt's achievements during this difficult period. 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. Roosevelt attended the Paris Peace Conference but was highly critical of the 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".
In 1920 the Democrat candidate for president, James Middleton Cox, selected Roosevelt as his running-mate. Warren Harding, the Republican Party candidate, won the election by a wide margin, 16,144,093 (60.3%)to 9,139,661 (34.2%). However, Roosevelt was considered by many to have been an effective campaigner and was picked out as a future president.
In the summer of 1921, Roosevelt became seriously ill. He was eventually diagnosed as suffering from poliomyelitis. He was almost totally paralyzed and he was never again to recover full use of his legs. 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."
In 1924 Roosevelt joined forces with Basil O'Connor to establish their own law firm. They also founded the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation in order to raise funds to support poliomyelitis patients. Although confined to a wheelchair, Roosevelt returned to politics in 1928 to help his friend, Alfred Smith, in his unsuccessful attempt to beat Herbert Hoover in the presidential election.
The following year Roosevelt was elected as governor of New York. While in ths post he met people such as Rose Schneiderman, Harold Ickes, Frances Perkins and Harry Hopkins, who held radical views on how America could solve its economic problems. Their influence turned Roosevelt into one of America's most progressive politicians.
The Wall Street Crash in October 1929, created the worst depression in American history. President Herbert Hoover was slow to provide federal relief to farmers and stubbornly refused to give help to the unemployed in urban areas. Hoover vetoed a bill that would have created a federal unemployment agency and also opposed a plan to create a public works programme.
As governor of New York, Roosevelt made strenuous attempts to help those without work. He set up the New York State Emergency Relief Commission and appointed the respected Harry Hopkins to run the agency. Another popular figure with a good record for helping the disadvantaged, Frances Perkins, was recruited to the team as state industrial commissioner. With the help of Hopkins and Perkins, Roosevelt introduced help for the unemployed and those too old to work.
Roosevelt was seen as great success as governor of New York and he was the obvious choice as the Democratic presidential candidate in 1932. William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963): "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."
Roosevelt attacked President Herbert Hoover for over-spending. In September 1932, Roosevelt made a speech at Souix City where he argued: "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 needs and the reduced earning power of the people." The following month he declared in Pittsburgh: "I regard reduction in Federal spending as one of the most important issues of this campaign. In my opinion, it is the most direct and effective contribution that Government can make to business." 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."
Charlie Chaplin 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."
Samuel Rosenman became one of his political advisers. He suggested that Roosevelt should recruit help from the universities: "You have been having good experiences with college professors. If we can get a small group together willing to give us some time, they can prepare memoranda for you. You'll want to talk with them yourself, and maybe out of all the talk some concrete ideas will come." Roosevelt took his advice and Rexford Guy Tugwell, Adolf Berle and Raymond Moley joined the team. Basil O'Connor, Roosevelt's legal partner, also became a member of what later became known as the Brains Trust. It has been argued by Patrick Renshaw, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt (2004): "Politically, Tugwell was on the left with Berle on the right. Moley chaired regular meetings of the brains trust, which Samuel Rosenman and Basil O'Connor also attended. FDR was not an intellectual, but enjoyed their company and was in his element at the free-wheeling discussions which hammered out the New Deal."
Roosevelt selected John Nance Garner as his running mate. Although Roosevelt was vague about what he would do about the economic depression, he easily beat his unpopular Republican rival, Herbert Hoover. William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963), has argued: "Franklin Roosevelt swept to victory with 22,800,000 votes to Hoover's 15,750,000. 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."
Before taking office Roosevelt attended a rally at Bayfront Park in Miami with his friend Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago. An Italian immigrant, Guiseppe Zangara, fired five shots at Roosevelt. They all missed the president but one hit Cermak in the stomach. On the way to the hospital Cermak told Roosevelt, "I'm glad it was me and not you, Mr. President." Cermak died three weeks later on 6th March 1933.
Roosevelt's 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. As a consequence, around 15% of people's life-savings had been lost. By the beginning of 1933 the American people were starting to lose faith in their banking system and a significant proportion were withdrawing their money and keeping it at home. The day after taking office as president, Roosevelt ordered all banks to close. He then asked Congress to pass legislation which would guarantee that savers would not lose their money if there was another financial crisis.
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.
After he was elected President 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, Frances Perkins, Harry Hopkins, Rexford Tugwell, Robert LaFollette Jr. Robert Wagner, Fiorello LaGuardia, George Norris and Edward Costigan eventually won him over.
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.
William E. Leuchtenburg has argued: "The air of casual gaiety, of evasiveness, had vanished - the ring of his voice, the swing of his shoulders, his call for sacrifice, discipline, and action demonstrated he was a man confident in his powers as leader of the nation. In declaring there was nothing to fear but fear, Roosevelt had minted no new platitude... Roosevelt had made his greatest single contribution to the politics of the 1930's: the instillation of hope and courage in the people. He made clear that the time of waiting was over, that he had the people's interests at heart, and that he would mobilize the power of the government to help them. In the next week, nearly half a million Americans wrote their new President." The journalist, William Allen White admitted he had been wrong about Roosevelt: "As Governor of New York, I thought he was a good, two-legged Governor of the type that used to flourish in the first decade of the century... Instead of which he developed magnitude and poise, more than all, power!"
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."
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."
On 21st March, 1933, sent an unemployment relief message to Congress. It took only eight days to create the Civilian Conservation Corps. 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. The organisation was based on the armed forces with officers in charge of the men. The pay was $30 dollars a month with $22 dollars of it being sent home to dependents. The men planted trees, built public parks, drained swamps to fight malaria, restocked rivers with fish, worked on flood control projects and a range of other work that helped to conserve the environment.
Rexford Tugwell pointed out: "During the late spring the Civilian Conservation Corps got underway with some awkwardness. What had begun as a simple notion that the experienced foresters would take under their care and direction a certain number of idle young men turned out in practice to be not so simple. There were problems of recruiting; who was to be chosen? There were problems of housing; who was to build the camps? It was finally decided that all those sent to camps should come from families on relief. It was also decided, when pacifying the unions had become something of an issue, that the boys would not build their own camps but that union labour would do it."
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."
The government employed people to carry out a range of different tasks. These projects included the Works Projects Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the National Youth Administration (NYA), the National Recovery Act (NRA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA). 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."
As soon as Roosevelt became president he recruited Harry Hopkins to implement his various social welfare programs. As John C. Lee has pointed out: "On the whole, it is apparent that the mission of the Civil Works Administrator had been accomplished by 15th February 1934. His program had put over four million persons to work, thereby directly benefiting probably twelve million people otherwise dependent upon direct relief. The program put some seven hundred million dollars into general circulation. Such losses as occurred were negligible, on a percentage basis, and even those losses were probably added to the purchasing power of the country." Frances Perkins later recalled: "Hopkins became not only Roosevelt's relief administrator but his general assistant as no one had been able to be. There was a temperamental sympathy between the men which made their relationship extremely easy as well as faithful and productive. Roosevelt was greatly enriched by Hopkins knowledge, ability, and humane attitude toward all facets of life."
Other legislation passed by Roosevelt included the Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933), National Housing Act (1934), the Federal Securities Act (1934). In August 1935 the Social Security Act was passed. This act set up a national system of old age pensions and co-ordinated federal and state action for the relief of the unemployed. 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." 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."
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."
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.