Roosevelt, Franklin D.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
David M. Kennedy
IT was the worst of times when Franklin Delano Roosevelt assumed the presidency in March 1933. Following the ruinous stock market crash of late 1929, the bottom seemed to drop out of the American economy. By 1933, securities listed on the New York Stock Exchange had lost more than three-quarters of their 1929 value. Industrial production had fallen to half its 1929 level. Agricultural income had plummeted even more sharply. Piles of unmarketable wheat flanked railroad tracks across the plains states. Desperate Iowa farmers blockaded the approaches to Sioux City in the summer of 1932, assaulting vehicles that tried to breach the makeshift barricades of logs and spiked telephone poles.
Americans had earned some $88 billion in 1929. Those still lucky enough to be working earned less than half that amount four years later. One wage earner in four—some 13 million people—had no job in 1933. Some 5,000 banks collapsed in the first three years of the depression, carrying down with them the life savings of tens of thousands of citizens. Those cold statistics only hinted at the human suffering that the Great Depression inflicted. Anxious men and women postponed or canceled plans to marry. Struggling couples had fewer children. Even the divorce rate declined, as the contracting economy sealed the exits from unhappy marriages. Disillusioned immigrants forsook the fabled American land of promise and returned by the thousands to their old countries. Nearly 100,000 down-and-out Americans responded to an advertisement in 1931 offering employment in the Soviet Union. More than a million homeless hoboes drifted about the country in search of work. "Hoovervilles," tar-paper and cardboard shanty-towns derisively named for the incumbent president, sprang up on the outskirts of virtually every major city.
One such encampment of the unemployed arose in the summer of 1932 on the damp flatlands along the Anacostia River, in the District of Columbia. Bivouacked in old pup tents and huts fashioned from packing cases, some fifteen thousand veterans of World War I sought by their presence in Washington to wring from Congress the early award of a war-service bonus scheduled to be paid in 1945. President Hoover responded by putting the White House under guard, chaining its gates, and mobilizing four troops of cavalry under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. Exceeding his orders to contain the "Bonus Expeditionary Force" in their campsite at Anacostia Flats, MacArthur cleared the area with tear gas and put the marchers' shacks to the torch.
Against this background of deepening economic distress and rising social tension, Democrats met in Chicago in June 1932 to nominate their presidential candidate. Their party had not commanded the White House since Woodrow Wilson's departure in 1921. In the intervening years, the party had been riven by apparently irreconcilable conflicts between its stunningly disparate factions: agriculturalists opposed industrialists; the largely rural, Protestant, old-stock Anglo-Saxon South, still the party's principal power base, struggled to accommodate the growing influence of the Catholic American body politic. Their effort to coalesce, to agree on a candidate, and to govern thus tested the ability of the society itself to cope with the crisis of the depression in a coherent, effective way.
The Road to the White House
Well before 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had established himself as the favorite candidate of progressive, or liberal, elements in the Democratic party. Yet he was in many ways an improbable progressive. Born on 30 January 1882 into a life of sumptuous privilege, he had passed as a young man through the rituals customary to the upbringing of sons of the Hudson River valley squirearchy: excursions abroad, instruction from tutors, preparatory school at Endicott Peabody's exclusive academy at Groton, Massachusetts, and attendance at Harvard.
Yet, even as an undergraduate, Roosevelt displayed remarkable qualities of leadership and political belief. He remained an extra year at Harvard to serve as editor of the Crimson, the student newspaper. In an undergraduate essay on the decline of the once-famous Dutch families of New York, he made an exception of the Roosevelts. "They have never felt," he wrote, "that because they were born in a good position they could put their hands in their pockets and succeed. They have felt, rather, that being born in a good position, there was no excuse for them if they did not do their duty by the community."
Impelled by that sense of noblesse oblige, Roosevelt set out almost immediately after his graduation from Harvard on a career of public service. He drew inspiration from the example of his fifth cousin, Theodore Roosevelt. With uncanny and Jewish immigrant political machines and labor unions of the northern cities; states' righters battled centralizers; prohibitionist "drys" warred against opposing "wets"; reformist progressives clashed with old-fashioned conservatives. To a far greater extent than Republicans, who tended to be more homogeneous socially and like-minded politically, Democrats contained among themselves the many contentious forces that pulsed in the precision he retraced the path to the White House that Theodore had blazed, serving first as a New York state legislator (1910–1913), then as Woodrow Wilson's assistant secretary of the navy (1913–1920), and as governor of New York (1928–1932).
Stricken by polio in 1921, Roosevelt spent the next several years trying to recuperate, though he never regained the use of his legs. His disease became, in a sense, a political asset. Rising to eminence from birth in a humble log cabin evidenced the indomitability of character of other presidential aspirants; Roosevelt, denied that proof, found its equivalent in his struggle against paralysis. So thoroughly did he triumph over his handicap that many Americans, even after his many years in office as president, remained unaware that Roosevelt could neither walk nor stand unassisted.
Even during the gravest period of his illness, Roosevelt remained politically active, working to modernize the ramshackle organizational structure of the Democratic party and to move it in a progressive direction. "The Democratic Party is the Progressive Party of the country," he said in 1924, and two years later he explained that "a nation or a State which is unwilling by governmental action to tackle the new problems, caused by immense increase of population and by the astounding strides of modern science, is headed for decline and ultimate death." Those sentiments were strikingly at odds with the free-market philosophy of 1920s Republicanism and with the Jeffersonian origins of his own party, but they showed Roosevelt's fidelity to the principles of the early-twentieth-century progressive movement that his cousin Theodore had so colorfully led.
As governor of New York, Roosevelt tried to put those principles into practice. He called for the state government to take an active role in developing the St. Lawrence River waterway. He championed reforestation and other resource-management projects under state direction. He proposed legislation to improve credit facilities for farmers and to protect women and children factory workers. In 1931, in telling contrast to the timid response that the Hoover administration made to the problem of unemployment, Roosevelt established the state's Temporary Emergency Relief Administration to provide jobs to victims of the depression.
Democrats knew that they had an excellent opportunity to recapture the presidency from the battered Hoover in 1932, and Roosevelt was clearly the preferred candidate of the progressive wing of the party. But he was not without opposition, particularly from old-guard elements led by John J. Raskob, the enormously wealthy and powerful national party chairman, and from southern Democrats who rallied to the candidacy of Speaker of the House John Nance Garner, a Texan. At the crucial moment in the balloting at Chicago, Garner threw his support to Roosevelt, who secured the nomination on the fourth round of voting.
Many observers were little impressed with the party's choice. One commentator opined that Roosevelt "would probably make the weakest President of the dozen aspirants." Columnist Walter Lippmann offered a judgment destined to become infamous as a monument of underestimation. Roosevelt, he concluded, was "a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be President." The venerable Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., came closer to the mark when he described Roosevelt as a man of "second-class intellect but a first-class temperament."
Unfathomably mysterious is the alchemy that shapes the temperament of leadership out of ordinary human clay, but in Roosevelt's case his aristocratic upbringing and long struggle against disability were crucial elements. He was almost preternaturally self-confident, restlessly active, unflaggingly optimistic, and endowed with a fine instinct for sensing the mood of the nation.
Roosevelt exhibited those qualities immediately upon receiving notice of his nomination. Shattering precedent, he flew to Chicago and gave the first acceptance speech ever delivered to a presidential nominating convention. "I pledge you, I pledge myself," he declared to the assembled delegates, "to a new deal for the American people." But the campaign that followed also seemed to confirm the truth of Holmes's judgment about the nominee's intellectual limitations. Though Roosevelt conscientiously listened to the advice of a "brain trust" of economic nationalists, including Rexford G. Tugwell, Raymond Moley, and Adolf A. Berle, Jr., historians have sought in vain to discover in his 1932 campaign speeches a consciously wrought blueprint for the New Deal. He never mentioned later landmark developments such as the Social Security Act or the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Much of his attack on Hoover focused on the incumbent's alleged determination to expand the federal government and to be "the greatest spending Administration in peace times in all our history"—accusations given a sharply ironic ring by later events.
Roosevelt's warm, ebullient, yet comforting personality contrasted irresistibly with the hapless Hoover's efforts to portray his opponent as a confused and vacillating "chameleon on plaid." On election day, 8 November 1932, Roosevelt rolled up an impressive victory with 22,809,638 votes to Hoover's 15,758,901. He carried all but six states, for an electoral college count of 472 to 59. He pulled into office with him sizable Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Roosevelt thus began the longest presidency—three times reelected, twelve years in office—in American history.
Roosevelt's first election marked the last time that a four-month interval separated a president's election and inauguration. (Since 1937, presidents have been inaugurated in January.) The wait in this case was especially long and cruel. The downward-spiraling depression sucked the entire nation's banking and credit structure into its vortex. Nearly five thousand banks failed between 1929 and 1933, wiping out billions of dollars of savings. As the crisis thickened, panicky depositors accelerated their withdrawals from savings accounts, further jeopardizing the precarious liquidity of many institutions. The governor of Nevada ordered a "bank holiday" in October 1932 to slow the vicious cycle. The governor of Michigan followed suit in February 1933, and by inaugural eve, banks had barred their doors in thirty-eight states. Outgoing President Herbert Hoover tried several times to secure President-elect Roosevelt's agreement to various emergency measures, but Roosevelt warily refused to commit himself. On the very morning of the inauguration, the governors of New York and Illinois announced the closing of banks in their states, the twin pillars of the nation's financial edifice. A few hours later, the New York Stock Exchange stopped all trading in securities. This was the grim setting for Roosevelt's inauguration and the occasion for his famous admonition that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
The Hundred Days
"Rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence," Roosevelt charged in his inaugural address. "The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths." With that belligerent battle cry against the bankers, Roosevelt summoned Congress to convene in special session to deal with the banking crisis. By the time the representatives and senators settled into their seats in the Capitol on 9 March, every bank in the nation was closed by presidential order. Rumors flew that the new president intended to take the radical step of nationalizing the banks.
When the emergency banking bill was read aloud to a tense House of Representatives at 1:00 p.m. (it had been drafted too hastily for copies to be distributed), conservatives were greatly relieved. The bill extended the helping hand of government to assist private bankers back to their feet. It authorized the Federal Reserve Board to issue additional currency secured by bank assets; it directed the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC)—an agency created in the Hoover administration to provide capital to private businesses—to purchase preferred bank stock; it extended the government's control over gold holdings; and it mandated Treasury Department supervision of the reopening and reorganization of the banks. Less than eight hours after it was introduced, the banking bill swept virtually unexamined through both houses of Congress and was back on the president's desk for his signature.
Conservatives again took heart six days later when the administration pushed through a stringent budget-cutting measure and followed it up with legislation designed to increase federal revenues from the sale of beer and wine. In a fortnight of dazzling political initiative, the supposedly progressive Roosevelt had enacted almost the entire program of the reactionary Raskob wing of his party. "Capitalism," one New Dealer later reflected, "was saved in eight days."
But the president was not finished. He had shored up the private banking system and had moved to restore business confidence in the soundness of his administration's fiscal policies. Now he saw further opportunities. "Things moved so fast," he wrote of the period just after the Emergency Banking Act was launched, "that during the next two days it became obvious that other matters had to be taken up to meet the financial and economic crisis." Some of the matters next taken up addressed the immediate goals of unemployment relief and economic recovery. Others had their origins deep in the history of the progressive reform movement; they aimed at governmental restructuring of broad areas of American life in ways destined to endure well beyond the depression.
In the next three months, Roosevelt induced Congress to pass a dozen additional pieces of major legislation. The Federal Emergency Relief Act funded the unemployment compensation programs of the states, whose treasuries had long since been overwhelmed by the scale of the depression. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) put hundreds of thousands of jobless young men and a handful of young women to work on federally directed projects in reforestation, road building, and flood control. Financial institutions, as well as homeowners and farmers, were further aided by the Homeowners' Loan Act, the Emergency Farm Mortgage Act, and the Farm Credit Act, all of which provided in various ways for the refinancing of private debts under government auspices. As many as one-fifth of the nation's homes and farms were saved from foreclosure by these measures, securing the lifelong political gratitude of large sections of the middle class. The Glass-Steagall Banking Act created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, insuring bank deposits up to $5,000—a measure that at a single stroke virtually eliminated the prospect of further "runs" on banks by nervous depositors. The Tennessee Valley Authority Act initiated a comprehensive development plan for the vast Tennessee River basin. The Agricultural Adjustment Act sought to stabilize agricultural prices by crop limitation and government subsidy. It also carried an amendment authorizing the president to undertake various steps to inflate the currency. The National Industrial Recovery Act called for the establishment of codes governing production, pricing, and labor practices in major industries; it additionally provided for a $3.3 billion public works program. Other measures promoted the financial reorganization of railroads, as well as tighter federal controls over securities markets and gold.
On 16 June 1933 the special congressional session ended. The famous "Hundred Days" that commenced Roosevelt's presidency left the country somewhat breathless and a bit baffled, but nonetheless bolstered in spirit. The new president had displayed awesome powers of political leadership, though the precise ideological sum of the Hundred Days legislation remained almost impossible to define. Roosevelt seemed to offer something for every-body—but the gift of hope, precious beyond measure at that volatile moment, he offered equally to all.
Roosevelt took extraordinary steps to project his reassuring presence into every American home. He was the first president to master the new electronic medium of radio, with its powerful ability to touch millions of persons instantaneously and simultaneously. He began the second week of his presidency with a radio broadcast explaining in plain, simple language the purpose of his banking program—the first of many such "fireside chats." He cultivated journalists by abolishing the practice of responding only to written questions in press conferences. In studied contrast to President Hoover's treatment of the Bonus Expeditionary Force, Roosevelt provided food and medical services for all the veterans who had remained along the Anacostia River, and sent his wife, Eleanor, to lead them in group singing. This was an early instance of the extraordinary role that Eleanor Roosevelt played in her husband's administrations. A dedicated reformer and humanitarian, she developed an independent public career as an advocate for disadvantaged Americans and served as Franklin Roosevelt's ambassador to such constituencies as blacks, women, farmers, workers, and young people. She was unquestionably the most activist First Lady in American history up to that time.
The New Deal in Action
The National Recovery Administration (NRA) formed the spearhead of the administration's attack on the economic crisis. Roosevelt had voiced its informing philosophy in a speech to San Francisco's Commonwealth Club in September 1932. His keynote was a call for stability, not stimulus. "Our task now," he had said, "is not . . . necessarily producing more goods. It is the soberer, less dramatic business of administering resources and plants already in hand." Headed by General Hugh Johnson, the NRA set out to secure the agreement of major industries to government-backed codes designed to stop the downward slide of payrolls, prices, and production. Johnson offered exemption from antitrust prosecution to industries that consented to put a floor under wages and to cease cutthroat price slashing. Section 7a of the National Industrial Recovery Act appealed for labor support of these arrangements, by offering guarantees of the right of unions to organize and bargain collectively.
Fearing a court test of the NRAs constitutionality, Johnson avoided legal coercion and relied instead on a massive publicity campaign to achieve his aims. He plastered the country with the NRA symbol, a stylized blue eagle, and organized monster parades to induce businessmen to do their part. Within months, some 2 million employers in most major industries had signed code agreements.
The codes brought stability to the failing economy, but they did not bring instant recovery. More than 20 percent of the work force remained idle in 1934. The codes also brought controversy. Small businessmen in particular chafed under the labor regulations of the codes; virtually all businessmen resented the weight of government bureaucracy with which they were suddenly saddled; other critics charged that the codes maintained prices at artificially high levels and promoted monopoly.
On 27 May 1935 the United States Supreme Court declared the NRA unconstitutional. The administration soon rebounded with a series of "Little NRA" bills targeted on specific industries, including coal mining and oil refining. These measures, together with the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936 and the Miller-Tydings Act of 1937, both of which prohibited "unfair" price competition in the retail trades, showed the persistence of the stagnationist economic philosophy that had originally generated the NRA.
In agriculture, which in the 1930s still employed more than one-fifth of all American workers, the administration pursued similar policies. It aimed at achieving equilibrium, not growth, by raising prices and lowering production. In 1933 those ends compelled the distasteful means of crop destruction. Farmers were required to plow under millions of acres of cotton and to slaughter millions of baby pigs. Thereafter, debate raged within the administration over the best method of increasing farm income. George Peek, head of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) and a fierce economic nationalist, favored dumping American surpluses in foreign markets. Rexford Tugwell, then assistant secretary of agriculture and an economist devoted to government-directed economic planning, advocated stricter production controls. For the moment, at least, Tugwell won. In the years immediately following 1933, the AAA relied on loan subsidies and a variety of compulsory crop-reduction laws to reduce the agricultural glut.
Farm income rose nearly 50 percent by 1936, though some of this gain was achieved by exporting rural unemployment to the cities. A combination of spectacular dust storms in the Great Plains and AAA policies forced many small farmers off the land, especially black sharecroppers and tenant farmers in the cotton South. The Resettlement Administration was established in 1935, and its replacement, the Farm Security Administration, in 1937, to deal with the problems of displaced agricultural workers, but neither agency significantly deflected the shift of labor out of agriculture that the depression, the AAA, and the weather had catalyzed.
The Supreme Court declared certain key provisions of the AAA unconstitutional in early 1936, though Congress, as in the case of industrial policy, moved swiftly to replace it with only minor modifications. The Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1936 and the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 perpetuated the early New Deal policies of subsidizing crop reductions. Yet none of these measures solved the problem of over-production, and the growing mountain of agricultural surpluses severely strained the government's ability to maintain prices. By the late 1930s, the United States was dumping millions of bushels of wheat overseas. It would take a world at war to absorb fully the paradoxically baleful bounty of America's farms.
Despite the drama of the Hundred Days and the efforts of the NRA and the AAA, the economy remained sickly. Desperate for some means to raise prices and lift the crushing burdens of debtors, especially farmers, Roosevelt set out in October 1933 on a deliberate program of monetary inflation. He had already cleared the way for such action by taking the United States off the international gold standard on 19 April 1933. A few weeks later, he had repudiated the efforts of the London Economic Conference to stabilize international exchange rates. Now he launched a bold but somewhat ill-advised scheme to devalue the dollar by ordering the Treasury Department to buy gold at ever-increasing prices. These purchases ended in January 1934, with the price of gold pegged at $35 an ounce, the level at which it remained for decades. The dollar had been reduced to about 59 percent of its pre-1933 value relative to gold, but prices had not risen correspondingly.
Roosevelt's disappointment at that result was aggravated by the sharp criticism his gold-buying program evoked in orthodox financial circles. Several high officials in the administration resigned or were fired because of this episode. But pressure to inflate the currency persisted. Congress in June 1934 directed the Treasury Department to monetize large amounts of silver. These inflationary measures, together with chronic though unintended federal budget deficits and the creation in June 1934 of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to regulate the securities market, helped to precipitate the first organized business opposition to the New Deal—the American Liberty League, chartered in August 1934. Executives of the Du Pont and General Motors corporations, including conservative Democrats like Raskob, dominated the new organization.
If the Liberty League represented the nucleus of an emerging anti-New Deal coalition, its influence was negligible in the congressional elections of 1934. Voters gave the Democratic party a whopping three-to-one majority in the House and an unprecedented sixty-nine seats in the Senate. Many newly elected Democrats came from urban, industrial areas whose unemployed voters hungered for drastic, even radical, solutions to the seemingly endless depression. If anything, the center of political gravity in the new Congress was well to the left of Roosevelt and the New Deal.
The Second New Deal
Other pressures inclining Roosevelt toward the left were also building as the new Congress convened in 1935. Louisiana's flamboyant Senator Huey Long, who had unmistakable presidential ambitions, had founded the national "Share Our Wealth" movement in 1934, advocating sweeping redistribution of national income from the wealthy to the poor. The Reverend Charles Coughlin, Michigan's "radio priest" who claimed a weekly radio audience of some 40 million listeners, increasingly lashed out at Roosevelt for his failure to tame the bankers and unleash an aggressively inflationary program. California physician Francis Townsend championed the cause of the elderly with a warmhearted but actuarially daffy scheme to pay $200 a month to all citizens over sixty years of age. Industrial unionists, led by the president of the United Mine Workers, John L. Lewis, pressed with growing ardor and occasional violence to grasp the benefits that the National Industrial Recovery Act's Section 7a had put so tantalizingly within their reach.
All those forces worked to push the president in a more radical direction. In April he approved the enormous Emergency Relief Appropriation Act, allocating some $4.8 billion dollars to create jobs on public projects under the auspices of the Public Works Administration (PWA) and the newly created Works Progress Administration (WPA). Roosevelt named a close confidant, social worker Harry Hopkins, to head the WPA, which emphasized "work relief," rather than the dole, for the unemployed. Under authority provided by the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act, Roosevelt later created the Rural Electrification Administration to bring electricity to rural areas; the National Youth Administration (NYA) to provide employment and educational benefits to persons under twenty-six years of age; and the National Resources Planning Board to draw up plans for the long-range development of natural resources. (Only the first of these agencies survived World War II.)
Then, on 27 May 1935, the Supreme Court decision that the NRA's code-making activities were unconstitutional removed the centerpiece from Roosevelt's economic program. The Court's action provided the final shove propelling Roosevelt on a fresh round of legislative activity that eventually eclipsed even the formidable achievements of the Hundred Days. The early New Deal had emphasized stabilization and relief, and had made some hesitant efforts to stimulate economic recovery. Roosevelt's legislative program in 1935 emphasized far-reaching social and institutional reforms. It represented a triumphant victory for progressives, who now saw much of their decades-old political agenda finally enacted. And it permanently transformed vast sectors of American society.
The first measure to pass owed more to the new composition of Congress than it did to Roosevelt's leadership. Senator Robert Wagner, whose New York constituents exemplified the urban, working-class elements now rising to dominance in the Democratic party, introduced a bill establishing a permanent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to replace an earlier board that had collapsed under management pressure. It provided for considerably stronger government guarantees than the National Industrial Recovery Act's Section 7a had afforded for the rights of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with employers. Neither the president nor Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (the nation's first woman cabinet officer) bothered until the eleventh hour to lift a finger in support of the bill, which was signed into law on 5 July.
The Wagner Act revolutionized the condition of American labor. Union membership doubled in the half dozen years following 1935. Organizers, protected by the government, rallied workers with the slogan "The President Wants You to join a Union." The Wagner Act also contributed to a profound change in the character of the union movement. It speeded the developing schism between the old-line craft-based unions and the much more rapidly growing industry-based unions, which concentrated on recruiting low-skilled workers. The split became official in 1938 when John L. Lewis led his Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) out of the American Federation of Labor (AFL).
Other legislative landmarks followed in quick succession in the summer of 1935. The Banking Act of 1935 brought the Federal Reserve system under closer government control. In the teeth of fierce opposition from privately owned utility companies, the Public Utility Holding Company Act mandated the elimination of monopolistic practices in the utilities industry. It further enabled the Federal Power Commission to regulate the interstate transmission of electrical power, and the Federal Trade Commission to perform a similar function for natural gas.
Most important of all was the passage of the Social Security Act. It provided for joint federal-state programs of unemployment compensation, financed by a federal tax on payrolls. It also created an exclusively federal system of old-age and survivors' insurance funded by a tax shared equally between employers and employees. Though modest in its initial benefits and regressively financed by a uniform tax on the current earnings of workers, the Social Security Act nevertheless represented a milestone on the road to a comprehensive welfare state. It offered a modicum of protection from the historic scourge of unemployment and guaranteed a minimum level of comfort for workers in their old age. It also created the potential for enormous demands on the public purse, diminished incentives for individuals to save, and reduced the sense of responsibility of families to care for their own elderly members. Probably no other New Deal measure did more in the long run to change the character of American life.
Roosevelt now had a broadly based, thoroughly progressive platform on which to stand for reelection in 1936. A handful of unreconstructed conservatives, including the two previous presidential nominees of his own party, bitterly denounced him as a traitor to his own class, a dangerous experimenter with his country's most sacred traditions, and an architect of permanent bloc divisions in the body politic. ("They are unanimous in their hatred for me," Roosevelt told an election-eve crowd at Madison Square Garden, "and I welcome their hatred!") A ragtag coalition of radical populist groups, badly weakened by the assassination in September 1935 of their ablest leader, Huey Long, fielded a Union party presidential ticket, with pathetic results. The Republican party nominated Governor Alf Landon of Kansas, a sincere but inept campaigner who proved no match for Roosevelt.
The president campaigned as a serenely confi-dent incumbent. Though nearly 9 million Americans were still without work, Roosevelt pointed to the progress that had been made against unemployment since 1933. He reaped the political benefits of his myriad programs to halt foreclosures on homes and farms. Black voters, long loyal to the party of Lincoln, switched their allegiance massively to the party of Roosevelt, who had avoided civil rights initiatives but had provided black Americans with unemployment relief and access to newly created agencies like the NYA. Perhaps most dramatic, Roosevelt harvested the rich crop of political goodwill he had sown in the ethnic, working-class communities of the big industrial cities. Fifty-two of Roosevelt's appointments to the federal bench were Catholics; only eight Catholics had been appointed by his three Republican predecessors. John L. Lewis' CIO contributed more than $770,000 to the campaign, and laborers voted for Roosevelt in overwhelming numbers. Roosevelt carried all but 2 of the nation's 106 cities with populations of a hundred thousand or more. He carried every state except Maine and Vermont, scoring the largest victory margin (523 to 8) in the electoral college since James Monroe in 1820. His share of the popular vote was 27,752,869 to Landon's 16,674,665. Democrats also tightened their grip on Congress, with unassailable majorities of 76 to 16 in the Senate and 331 to 89 in the House.
Roosevelt had thus forged a political coalition that would sustain the Democrats in power for nearly a generation. He had successfully wedded to the traditional southern and agricultural elements in his party the newly potent urban working class, including a variety of ethnic and racial minorities, and large sections of the middle class, grateful for the preservation of their threatened way of life. His party's enormous preponderance in Congress apparently afforded him almost unlimited power. And when he declared in his second inaugural address on 20 January 1937 that I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished," there seemed little doubt that he intended to use that power for progressive ends.
Roosevelt at Bay
Within weeks of that triumphant moment, Roosevelt was ensnared in paralyzing political difficulties. He and his party unquestionably commanded the executive and legislative branches of government, but not the third branch, the judiciary, designedly insulated from the flow and surge of popular political tides. The Supreme Court, made up entirely of pre-Roosevelt appointees, six of them over seventy years of age in 1937, had declared seven major pieces of New Deal legislation unconstitutional by the end of Roosevelt's first term. As he began his second, he determined to confront that judicial obstacle head-on.
On 5 February 1937, Roosevelt proposed to a surprised Congress and nation that he be allowed to appoint one additional justice, up to a maximum of six, for every justice who remained on the Court after reaching the age of seventy. Disingenuously, he tried to justify his proposal with the argument that an overburdened Court needed an expanded membership to handle its caseload—an allegation peremptorily squelched by the respected Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes.
Roosevelt's "Court-packing plan," as it was soon called, amounted to one of the worst political blunders of his career. Conservatives gagged at the notion of tampering with one of the Republic's sacred institutions. (Though it had been done before, when President Grant had added two justices to the Court, primarily in order to secure a favorable ruling on the Legal Tender Act. Unlike Roosevelt, Grant had taken care to cultivate political support in the Senate before he acted.) Even friends of the New Deal objected to the president's high-handed tactics.
While the battle raged, the Court itself moved to spike Roosevelt's guns. On 29 March 1937 it upheld a Washington State minimum-wage law (in West Coast Hotel v. Parrish ) and two weeks later it declared the Wagner Act constitutional (in National Labor Relations Board v. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp. ). This shift in judicial sentiment, effected largely by the conversion of Justice Roberts to a more liberal point of view, has been dubbed "the switch in time that saved nine." The president's Court-reform bill died an ignominious death—though eventually Roosevelt appointed eight Supreme Court justices, more than any president save George Washington.
The Court-packing controversy marked the beginning of the end of the New Deal. More than any other single episode, it helped to crystallize a powerfully obstructionist congressional coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats. In one brief season the president squandered much of the political capital he had so impressively amassed at the polls just a few months earlier.
Other problems soon beset him. Middle-class Americans grew restive at the mushroom growth of industrial unions, especially when daring organizers introduced the "sit-down strike," which amounted to the peaceful seizure of factories by striking workers. The United Auto Workers (UAW) used the sit-down with great effect against General Motors in early 1937. The UAW won recognition as the sole bargaining agent for General Motors employees, but its tactics alienated many nonunionists from the Roosevelt camp.
The worst was yet to come. The economy had improved slowly but perceptibly since 1933, making especially vigorous gains after 1935 under the stimuli of relief expenditures and the one-time-only payment of the budget-busting veterans' bonus, which passed over Roosevelt's veto in January 1936. Incredibly, this display of economic vitality raised the dread specter of inflation in many influential minds, including that of the president. In June 1937, Roosevelt severely curtailed federal spending. Simultaneously, the new Social Security taxes began to bite into paychecks. By late summer these deflationary developments had precipitated an economic downturn at least as bad as that of 1929. Within months, more than 2 million workers lost their jobs.
The "Roosevelt recession" rubbed salt into the president's already smarting political wounds, but it did bring to eventual resolution a long-running debate within his administration about fiscal policy. Orthodox financial advisers had until then dominated the government's inner policymaking circles. As the devil views holy water, so did they look upon the radical notion that the government might deliberately incur deficits as a means of economic stimulus. Though Roosevelt had not yet produced a single balanced budget, that had continued to be his aim. He had tolerated deficits, not sought them, but now he hearkened to the counsel of another group of advisers. Armed with the recently formulated theories of the British economist John Maynard Keynes, the advisers argued that the government should consciously embrace deficit spending in order to bolster consumption and stimulate the economy.
In April 1938, Roosevelt sent to Congress an avowedly stimulatory multibillion-dollar deficit-spending bill. After almost ten years of depression, this was the first purposeful effort to effect economic recovery through the means of countercyclical fiscal policy. For the millions of Americans who for a decade had paid the price of economic collapse, it came assuredly too late; as events were to prove, it was also woefully too little.
It was also among the last gasps of the New Deal. Roosevelt did manage to push through Congress in June 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act, which defined a federally guaranteed minimum wage and maximum workweek and outlawed child labor. By then the conservative congressional coalition had crystallized, and even members of the president's own party were openly flouting his will. Roosevelt tried to purge conservatives from his party in the 1938 primary season but failed utterly. In the congressional elections in November, Republicans scored their first gains since 1928, picking up eight seats in the Senate and seventy-nine in the House.
With that, the New Deal was effectively ended. It had carried the country, however minimally, through a dark hour. It left a large and lasting legacy of major institutional reforms. Added together, those reforms embodied the various, often contradictory pressures of the decade—particularly those pulsing in the still disparate Democratic party—rather than a coherent expression of any particular ideology. The problem of the depression, the problem that had been midwife and companion to those reforms, was never solved by the New Deal. Roosevelt's principal achievement was political, not economic. He had enabled his countrymen to keep their heads while peoples all about them in the world were losing theirs. He had, against not inconsiderable odds, maintained social peace in a depressed and sometimes desperate America. As the decade of the 1930s drew on, the president's attention turned more and more to preserving peace in the increasingly brutal world beyond America's borders.
To the conduct of American foreign policy Franklin Roosevelt brought credentials that were rare in the history of the presidency. His cosmopolitan upbringing as a late-nineteenth-century American aristocrat, including his intellectual formation on two continents, gave him a sophisticated appreciation of the world that was approximated among modern presidents only by his cousin Theodore. Yet the precise imprint of that international background on his policies was sometimes difficult to define. He had served in the government of the archinternationalist Woodrow Wilson and, as his party's vice presidential candidate in 1920, had faithfully echoed Wilson's call for American membership in the League of Nations. Yet during his own presidential campaign in 1932 he repudiated the idea of American entry into the League.
Roosevelt sounded an especially isolationist note in his first inaugural address when he declared that "our international trade relations, though vastly important, are, in point of time and necessity, secondary to the establishment of a sound national economy." He acted consistently with these sentiments when he helped to scuttle the London Economic Conference in June 1933 and embarked thereafter on a highly nationalist monetary policy of drastically devaluing the dollar.
Yet Roosevelt also displayed distinctly internationalist colors in the early years of the New Deal. He chose Senator Cordell Hull of Tennessee, an indefatigable paladin of liberalized international trade, as his secretary of state. He restrained AAA administrator George Peek from dictating narrowly nationalist agricultural policies. He blessed Hull's campaign to secure passage of the Trade Agreements Act of 1934, as well as the secretary's subsequent efforts to negotiate reciprocity treaties incorporating the unconditional most-favored-nation principle. Defying the fierce invective of some conservatives—and the scolding of his own mother—he extended diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union on 16 November 1933. He made partial amends for his destructive role at the 1933 London Economic Conference when he concluded an exchange stabilization agreement with Britain and France in 1936.
Roosevelt also sought to implement the "Good Neighbor policy" with Latin America. He allowed Secretary Hull to vote in favor of a resolution at the Pan-American Conference in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1933, proclaiming that "no state has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another." That statement effectively repudiated the belligerent "corollary" Theodore Roosevelt had attached in 1904 to the Monroe Doctrine, asserting the claim of the United States to exercise international police power in the western hemisphere. Hull prevailed upon his chief to follow up on that dramatic announcement by renouncing the Platt Amendment (1901), whereby the United States had asserted its right to intervene in Cuban affairs, and by ending in 1934 the twenty-year-old American military occupation of Haiti. Mexico put Roosevelt's good-neighborliness to a demanding test in 1938 when it nationalized its oil industry, expropriating the interests of many American firms. Roosevelt resisted pressure to intervene, and successfully negotiated adequate compensation for the confiscated American properties.
Roosevelt's Latin American policies suggested that he had at most a limited internationalist agenda in the early years of his presidency, confined to making the United States an influential regional power, but no more. That impression was strengthened in March 1934, when Congress mandated the granting of independence to the Philippines within ten years—an apparent signal that the United States intended to diminish its role in Asia.
Roosevelt's halting steps toward a more active international role for the United States took place against a backdrop of gathering isolationist feeling in the country and in Congress. Isolationism had roots sunk deeply into the soil of American history and culture. "Rejection of Europe," the novelist John Dos Passos once wrote, "is what America is all about." The earliest Pilgrims had sought separation from the corruptions of the Old World. George Washington in his farewell address had formulated those sentiments into high political doctrine. "Why . . . entangle our peace and prosperity," he had asked, "in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?"
Americans of Roosevelt's generation had temporarily forsaken that ancient wisdom when they entered the European war in 1917. A decade and a half later, many of them deeply regretted that lapse. Fifty thousand of their countrymen had died, Woodrow Wilson had failed miserably to shape a liberal peace, and Europe, so far from being redeemed by the American intervention, had apparently lost its soul in the postwar era to Communism, Fascism, and Nazism. Regret was powerfully reinforced in 1934 when Senator Gerald P. Nye's Munitions Investigating Committee began to publicize sensational accusations that the United States had been cynically maneuvered into the war in 1917 by American bankers and arms manufacturers.
The full force of this isolationist tide was revealed in January 1935, when Roosevelt proposed that the United States join the World Court. Inspired by a savage anti-court radio sermon from Father Coughlin, opponents of the president's plan poured a Niagara of telegrams onto the Senate, drowning the court agreement. Ever sensitive to the public temper, a chastened Roosevelt quickly grasped the implications of this episode for foreign policy: "We shall go through a period of non-co-operation in everything . . . for the next year or two."
For the next year or two and longer, Roosevelt witnessed the simultaneous deepening of the isolationist mood in America and the sorry deterioration of the fragile structure of international peace. Adolf Hitler announced in March 1935 his intention to train a half-million-man army, and a long-simmering dispute between Italy and Ethiopia exploded into a shooting war in October of that year. Alarmed at these events, Congress, in August 1935, passed the Neutrality Act, which imposed a mandatory embargo on arms shipments to all belligerents. Roosevelt disliked the limits on his discretionary power dictated by the act's mandatory features; but, giving top priority to his domestic reform package in that remarkable summer, he did little to shape the neutrality law. The act was strengthened in February 1936 to include a ban on loans or credits to any nation at war. In early 1937, Congress tightened the law still further by confining the sale even of nonmilitary goods to belligerents who could pay cash and carry their cargoes away from American ports in their own ships.
Brazenly flouting the Treaty of Versailles, Hitler marched troops into the Rhineland in March 1936. Four months later, civil war erupted in Spain, which quickly became a proving ground for the newly developed military machines of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. "The whole European panorama is fundamentally blacker than at any time in your life . . . or mine," Roosevelt wrote in early 1936 to his ambassador in Paris; these, he said, "may be the last days of . . . peace before a long chaos." Hitler rolled on, virtually unchecked. He marched into Austria in March 1938. At the infamous Munich conference in September 1938, he secured the acquiescence of Britain and France to his annexation of the Sudetenland. Unappeased, he swallowed up the rest of Czechoslovakia six months later. After signing a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union in August 1939, Hitler invaded Poland on 1 September. Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later.
The Shadow of War
A second world war had "come at last," Roosevelt said on hearing the news from Poland. "God help us all." When the war ended, more than five years and 50 million deaths later, the United States would be indisputably the most powerful nation on the ravaged planet. But in 1939, America wavered uncertainly on the periphery of these ominous events.
Roosevelt hoped to preserve the United States from the scourge of war, but he also hoped, from at least 1935 on, to bring the power of his country to bear against the prairie fire of armed aggression that was licking its way around the globe. Three forces constrained him: the lack of political will in his potential allies, Premier Édouard Daladier of France and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain, cowering in the face of Hitler's bullying; the isolationist mood in America, codified into formal statutes purposely designed to tie the president's hands; and his own uncertainty, both about the means to be employed abroad and about the political risks of frontally challenging the isolationists at home.
Roosevelt did manage to align the United States with the League of Nations sanctions against Italy in the Ethiopian crisis, simply by enforcing the 1935 neutrality law. It prohibited arms shipments to all belligerents, but since Ethiopia could not have afforded to purchase American arms in any event, the real force of the ban fell exclusively on Italy. Similarly, Roosevelt artfully invoked the Neutrality Act during the Spanish civil war, reinforcing the Anglo-French Nonintervention Committee's effort—pusillanimous and myopic though it may have been—to contain the conflict within Spain's borders.
Japan in mid-1937 escalated its six-year-old incursion in Manchuria into a full-scale invasion of China, once again testing Roosevelt's ingenuity in finding ways to check aggression while fettered by the neutrality laws. He responded by refusing to proclaim that a formal state of war existed between the two nations. (Japan officially labeled the conflict an "incident.") He thus forestalled activating the arms embargo and cash-and-carry provisions of the neutrality statutes and preserved China's ability to secure supplies in the United States.
Using isolationist legislation to achieve internationalist ends was a kind of political jujitsu, and the president could employ the tactic only so long. "If Germany invades a country and declares war," Roosevelt explained to a senator in 1939, "we'll be on the side of Hitler by invoking the [neutrality] act. If we could get rid of the arms embargo, it wouldn't be so bad." But the president's efforts to revise the neutrality statutes were repeatedly frustrated by congressional isolationists. Their political power waxed while Roosevelt's waned in the declining days of the New Deal. He called for a "quarantine" against aggression in an eloquent speech in Chicago on 5 October 1937, but still smarting from the lacerations of the Supreme Court reform fight and freshly wounded by the sharp recession then setting in, he failed to capitalize on the generally favorable public response. The foreign press accurately described the quarantine speech as "an attitude without a program." Three months later, isolationists in Congress pointedly reminded Roosevelt of the obstacles confronting an avowedly internationalist program when they mustered 188 votes in the House in favor of a constitutional amendment requiring a national referendum on a declaration of war. Throughout the rest of 1938 and most of 1939, Roosevelt could do little to prepare for the inescapable conflict. Only after the German invasion of Poland did Congress, in November 1939, repeal the mandatory arms embargo. The cash-and-carry provisions of the neutrality laws remained.
Roosevelt moved thereafter to make the United States, as he later described it, "the great arsenal of democracy." Yet he and his countrymen had waited so long to make their weight felt in the scales of diplomacy that the cause they even now so hesitantly joined came perilously close to being lost. After a deceptive lull following his swift conquest of Poland, Hitler unleashed lightning assaults on Denmark and Norway on 9 April 1940. A month later, Germany and Italy invaded France, which crumpled quickly and ingloriously. Jackbooted Fascists now stood astride Europe from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. Only Britain, lonely and besieged, stood between them and the United States.
As Hitler's air force pounded Britain in the summer of 1940, the new British prime minister, Winston Churchill, beseeched Roosevelt for aid, especially for destroyers to secure Britain's sea-lanes. Roosevelt had already, in the opening months of 1940, induced Congress to appropriate several billion dollars for defense measures, including an aircraft production program with the then incredible goal of building fifty thousand planes a year. Now, fulminating against isolationists who deluded themselves that the United States could survive as "a lone island in a world dominated by force . . . handcuffed, hungry, and fed through the bars from day to day by the contemptuous, unpitying masters of other continents," he desperately sought ways to bolster beleaguered Britain. In August he hit upon a bold idea: to give Britain fifty American destroyers in exchange for long-term leases on naval bases in the western Atlantic.
With that exchange, Roosevelt inaugurated a collaboration with Churchill that in the history of relations among sovereign states was uniquely intimate and comprehensive. He also risked the wrath of isolationists—and in an election year. While the Battle of Britain raged, Americans waged their own quadrennial political battle to elect a president. Roosevelt, reluctant to relinquish the stage at such a dramatic historical moment, stood for an unprecedented third term. His opponent was Wendell Will-kie, a liberally inclined businessman who had swept out of obscurity to capture the Republican nomination. Fortunately for the cause of American internationalism, Willkie shared much of Roosevelt's appraisal of the international scene and largely refrained from attacking the president's foreign policies. (Roosevelt had earlier taken steps to secure bipartisan cooperation in foreign affairs when in June 1940 he appointed Republicans to head the War and Navy departments.) Roosevelt won by his smallest margin to date, with 27,307,819 popular votes to Willkie's 22,321,018. The electoral tally was 449 to 82. Both houses of Congress remained safely in Democratic hands.
During the campaign, Roosevelt declared that "this country is not going to war." But in the months after the election, events pushed the United States into ever-closer cooperation with Britain and eventually into what amounted to an undeclared naval war against Germany in the Atlantic. Secret talks between British and American military planners in early 1941 established the cardinal principle that in the event of war with both Germany and Japan, the United States and Britain would give priority to defeating Germany. Churchill wrote the president in December 1940, laying out Britain's military plight with sobering candor. To prevail, even to survive, he must have American war matériel and, above all, American money. Roosevelt, still constrained by the cash-and-carry clauses of the neutrality laws, devised another inventive means to meet Britain's needs: the so-called lend-lease program, pledging American goods secured only by a deliberately vague promise of repayment "in kind" at some unspecified later date. Artfully numbered House Resolution 1776, the Lend-Lease Act passed Congress in March 1941. Its enactment marked the effective end of American neutrality and the opening of a floodgate of American largesse through which more than $50 billion in aid was to flow by the war's end.
Lend-lease provided goods and credits principally to Britain and, after Hitler's invasion of the USSR in June 1941, to the Soviet Union as well. But the task remained of delivering the promised matériel safely to British and Russian ports. Wolf packs of German submarines stalking the Atlantic sea-lanes inflicted enormous losses on British shipping. Churchill pleaded for American naval convoys, but Roosevelt balked. He extended American sea and air patrols to Greenland in April and to Iceland in July, but stopped short of authorizing convoys. He at last took that fateful step in August, after a dramatic meeting with Churchill aboard the American cruiser Augusta, off the coast of Newfoundland. There, in Argentia Harbor, the two leaders formulated the Atlantic Charter, a joint statement of war aims affirming their lack of interest in territorial gain and support for self-determination, a liberalized world economic order, and the creation of a permanent international peacekeeping organization. Having thus secured a public declaration of British war aims, Roosevelt was apparently ready for war, though surely not eager for it.
"Everything [is] to be done to force an 'incident' on the Atlantic, Churchill informed his cabinet. The incidents were not long coming. A German submarine fired on the USS Greer off the coast of Iceland on 4 September, and the American destroyer Kearny was torpedoed in the same area a few weeks later. On 30 October the Reuben James sank under German fire, taking more than one hundred American sailors down with it. But before these deliberately provoked incidents could precipitate war in the Atlantic, an unexpected blow in the far-off Pacific in December at last catapulted the United States into the conflict.
Roosevelt had long opposed the Japanese invasion of China, even while the United States paradoxically remained a major supplier of critical war matériel, including aviation fuel, to Japan. Following Hitler's successes in Europe in mid-1940, Japan began to look covetously on the orphaned French and Dutch colonies in the Far East. On 26 July 1940, Roosevelt sought to discourage the Japanese by slapping an embargo on the shipment of aviation gasoline and high-grade scrap metal to Japan. He cinched the economic noose more tightly when Japan signed a pact of military alliance with Germany and Italy in September 1940, and more tightly still when Japanese troops marched into Indochina in July 1941. Jolted by these American moves, Japan made several last-ditch efforts at reconciliation with Washington in late 1941. But Roosevelt, encouraged by Secretary Hull, insisted that Japan withdraw not only from Indochina but also from China, as the precondition for restoring economic relations with the United States. On other matters the Japanese might have been disposed to yield, but on China they were adamant. Diplomacy reached a dead end in late November. Japan now took the fateful step of breaking the deadlock by military means.
American cryptanalysts in late 1940 had cracked the Japanese diplomatic codes, including the top-secret "Purple Cipher." Military leaders therefore knew, as did Roosevelt, that Japan had abandoned diplomacy in early December and was about to strike an armed blow. American forces throughout the Pacific stood on alert. Because the blow was expected to fall in Southeast Asia, Japan scored a devastating surprise when its aircraft swarmed out of the dawn sky over the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941. Within minutes the Japanese sank or crippled several American warships, killing over twenty-five hundred military personnel and civilians. The next day Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan. Germany and
Italy declared war on the United States three days later. Roosevelt, so long the hesitant neutral, now faced battle on two fronts.
America in World War II
Roosevelt had now to decide which front should command greater attention. The British and American decision in early 1941 to concentrate first on defeating Germany came under question after Pearl Harbor. Japan, treacherous perpetrator of the sneak attack on the Pacific Fleet, loomed as much the more hated enemy in the mind of the American public. Moreover, the Japanese followed their murderous strike at Pearl Harbor with overpowering assaults on Hong Kong, Singapore, Java, Burma, and the Philippines. They seemed to be positioning themselves for further attacks on India or Australia, while in Europe Hitler was preoccupied on the Soviet front, reducing the immediate danger to the Western Allies.
Disagreement over strategic choices in Europe complicated the issue. The British, remembering the ghastly war of attrition they had fought in 1914–1918, preferred to weaken the enemy by bombing, blockading, and probing about his periphery. The Americans, reflecting the wisdom conventionally taught at West Point and Annapolis, favored an assault in massive force aimed directly at the enemy's stronghold. These differences came to a head during Churchill's visit to Washington in June 1942. The prime minister advocated delaying a massive invasion of France and undertaking instead a joint landing in North Africa, where British forces defending Egypt and the Suez lifeline to India were under heavy German pressure. The chiefs of staff of the army and navy protested to Roosevelt that the American objective should be "to force the British into acceptance of a concentrated effort against Germany, and if this proves impossible, to turn immediately to the Pacific."
The president flatly overruled his military advisers in a decision with far-reaching consequences. The North African invasion went ahead, with American troops under Dwight D. Eisenhower landing in Morocco and Algeria in November 1942. After subduing the Germans in North Africa, the combined Anglo-American force pushed on to Sicily and the Italian mainland in the summer of 1943, further delaying the invasion of France. The Pacific theater remained distinctly subordinate to the effort in Europe, though Roosevelt from time to time found it useful to discipline his British allies by threatening to renege on his Europe-first commitment.
After spectacular American naval victories over the Japanese in the Coral Sea in early May 1942 and at Midway the following month, the United States launched a counteroffensive in the Solomon Islands with an attack on Guadalcanal in August. That bloody engagement initiated a tortuous campaign of fighting up the Pacific island chains to within striking distance of the Japanese homeland. At the price of some forty-five thousand American lives, this effort was to come to a blinding climax on 6 and 9 August 1945, when American aircraft dropped atomic bombs, developed at Roosevelt's initiative, on two Japanese cities. Japan surrendered on 14 August.
In Europe, the prospective landing in France dominated Roosevelt's agenda in the early period of the war. Russia, at frightful cost, bore almost the entire brunt of Hitler's onslaught. The German invasion ultimately cost some 20 million Soviet lives, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin ardently urged his Anglo-American allies to open a second front in the west. Roosevelt promised to do so virtually from the outset, but it took him more than two years to make good on his word. In the interim, he sought to reassure Stalin about the reliability of his Western partners by declaring at Casablanca in January 1943 that he would accept nothing less than the "unconditional surrender" of the enemy. Stalin, he suggested, need not worry that Churchill and Roosevelt would cut any deals with the Fascist powers—an assurance that lost much of its credibility just a few months later when the Americans and the British entered into negotiations with the Italians over terms of surrender.
By the time Roosevelt and Churchill conferred in Quebec in August 1943, Roosevelt had clearly established himself as the dominant partner in the Anglo-American alliance. That conference, too, confirmed the spring of 1944 as the target date for the invasion of France. With that issue settled at last and with allied victory in sight, however distantly, Roosevelt began to turn his energies toward planning for the postwar era. He had already, in the opening days of American belligerency, secured the agreement of twenty-six nations, including the major allies, to the United Nations Declaration, which affirmed the principles of the Atlantic Charter. In July 1944 he convened the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. There delegates established the International Monetary Fund, to undertake global exchange-rate stabilization, and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to help rebuild the shattered world. The following month Allied representatives, including those from the Soviet Union, gathered at Dumbarton Oaks, in Washington, D.C., to draw up a charter for a permanent international peacekeeping organization.
At meetings with Churchill and Stalin in Teheran in late November 1943 and at Yalta in February 1945, Roosevelt worked to secure Soviet participation in the new organization and to bring the Soviet Union into the war against Japan when the conflict in Europe was settled. His critics later charged that he conceded too much to Stalin to achieve those goals, but he had, in fact, little choice. In Eastern and Central Europe, the Red Army stood supreme and unchallengeable. In Asia, uncertainties about the still untested atomic bomb made it seem imperative that the Soviet Union's weight be added to that of the Western Allies in order to speed Japan's surrender.
The long-awaited invasion of France finally came on D day, 6 June 1944. Within a month a million Allied troops had crossed the English Channel. After breaking out of their Normandy beach-head in August, they raced toward Germany, halted only briefly by a fierce German counterattack in the Ardennes, known as the "Battle of the Bulge," in December. The Allies crossed the Rhine in March.
Roosevelt was victorious at home as well as abroad. He had won reelection in 1944 to a fourth term (though by his smallest margin yet), defeating the youthful Republican Thomas E. Dewey by a margin of 25,606,585 votes to 22,321,018. His electoral count was 432 to 99. The fantastic scale of government spending in the war had finally wiped out the Great Depression. Ending the economic crisis had also extinguished the last sputtering flames of reform. The New Deal spirit was evident in some wartime measures, such as the creation of the Fair Employment Practices Commission, which Roosevelt established to ensure the rights of black workers, and the "G.I. Bill of Rights" of 1944, conferring enormous educational benefits on returning veterans. But the war's effect on reform was best summarized by Roosevelt himself in December 1943 when he declared that the American body politic was no longer to be ministered to by "Dr. New Deal," but by "Dr. Win-the-War." In that spirit, he dropped his exultantly New Dealish vice president, Henry Wallace, from the Democratic ticket in 1944 and replaced him with the supposedly "safer" Harry S. Truman.
On 11 April 1945, while American Marines battled on the beaches of Okinawa and American soldiers sped toward Berlin, Franklin Roosevelt was in Warm Springs, Georgia, working on the draft of a speech for Jefferson Day. His nation's arms were vindicated, his enemies were routed, his principles had everywhere been embraced by men and women of goodwill. This was his triumphal hour; but he was not to enjoy it. The next day, 12 April, he died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. He had sustained his people through the bleak years of the depression and led them to victory in a nightmarish war. Even at the end, he looked to the future with characteristic buoyancy. The last words that he dictated on that spring afternoon were a fitting epitaph: "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith."
James MacGregor Burns, Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox (New York, 1956) and Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom (New York, 1970), comprise the most exhaustive biography of Roosevelt and deal with the New Deal and the war years, respectively. Two superb one-volume treatments of FDR are Frank Freidel, Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny (Boston, 1990), and Ted Morgan, FDR: A Biography (New York, 1985). Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Roosevelt, 3 vols. (Boston, 1957–1960), a brilliantly partisan history, is rich in detail and anecdote, covering the period up to 1936. Frank B. Freidel, Franklin D. Roosevelt, 4 vols. (Boston, 1952–1973), is the most detailed of the Roosevelt studies, though these volumes take the story only as far as 1933.
A massive, gripping examination of how FDR was changed by his illness is Geoffrey C. Ward, A First-Class Temperament: The Emergence of Franklin Roosevelt (New York, 1989). Betty H. Winfield, FDR and the News Media (Urbana, Ill., 1990), is the best of a number of books that have been written on its subject. Invaluable for details is Otis L. Graham, Jr., and Meghan Robinson Wander, Franklin D. Roosevelt, His Life and Times: An Encyclopedic View (Boston, 1985). Two contrasting recent interpretations are Philip Abbott, The Exemplary Presidency: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the American Political Tradition (Amherst, Mass., 1990), and Robert Shogan, Hard Bargain: How FDR Twisted Churchill's Arm, Evaded the Law, and Changed the Role of the American Presidency (New York, 1995).
Anthony J. Badger, The New Deal: The Depression Years, 1933–40 (New York, 1989), gives an excellent account of Roosevelt's principal social and economic policies. William E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932–1940 (New York, 1963), is an eminently readable, engaging account of the Roosevelt years up to 1940. Leuchtenburg's The FDR Years: On Roosevelt and His Legacy (New York, 1995), is the mature summing-up of one of the preeminent students of FDR's career. Paul K. Conkin, The New Deal, rev. ed. (New York, 1975), is the best of the "revisionist" accounts criticizing the New Deal for being too timid, even conservative. Ellis W. Hawley, The New Deal and the Problem of Monopoly: A Study in Economic Ambivalence (Princeton, N.J., 1966), is the leading study of New Deal domestic economic policies. Alan Brinkley, Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression (New York, 1982), is a fresh, suggestive analysis of the two Depression-era figures who had a plausible chance, if anyone did, of wringing radical results from the crisis of the 1930s. The same author's The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War (New York, 1995) examines the economic policy debates of the later Roosevelt years.
Robert Dallek, Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932–1945 (New York, 1979), the only complete account of Roosevelt's foreign policies, is an unusually thorough and intelligent work. John Morton Blum, From the Morgenthau Diaries, 3 vols. (Boston, 1959–1967), a meticulous history of the Roosevelt years from the perspective of the Treasury Department, is particularly informative about foreign economic policy.
Waldo Heinrichs, Threshold of War: Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Entry into World War II (New York, 1988), analyzes in detail the fateful year of 1941. A scintillating evocation of FDR's military leaders is Eric Larrabee, Commander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War (New York, 1987). Warren F. Kimball, ed., Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 3 vols. (Princeton, N.J., 1984), is an indispensable source for the war years. John Morton Blum, V Was for Victory: Politics and American Culture During World War II (New York, 1976), is a comprehensive and somewhat disillusioned discussion of the home front during World War II.
A mesmerizing estimate of the Franklin Roosevelts as a couple is Doris Kearns Goodwin, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; The Home Front in World War II (New York, 1994). It supplements Joseph P. Lash, Eleanor and Franklin: The Story of Their Relationship, Based On Eleanor Roosevelt's Private Papers (New York, 1971).
Recent works include James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn, The Three Roosevelts: Patrician Leaders Who Transformed America (New York, 2001), which examines the roles of Theodore Roosevelt in inspiring his cousins Eleanor and Franklin to work for social and economic justice. Kenneth S. Davis, FDR: The War President, 1940–1943: A History (New York, 2000), the latest of the author's books on Roosevelt, is good on the role of Harry Hopkins. Thomas J. Fleming, The New Dealers' War: FDR and the War within World War II (New York, 2001), sharply challenges the traditional veneration of Roosevelt as a leader in World War II. Jonas Klein (introduction by George J. Mitchell), Beloved Island: Franklin and Eleanor and the Legacy of Campobello (Forest Dale, Vt., 2000), explores the role of the Roosevelts' summer home in shaping their private lives. See also Joseph E. Persico, Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage (New York, 2001), and David Reynolds, From Munich to Pearl Harbor: Roosevelt's America and the Origins of the Second World War (Chicago, 2001).
COPYRIGHT 2002 The Gale Group,
Roosevelt, Franklin D.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Born January 30, 1882
Hyde Park, New York
Died April 12, 1945
Warm Springs, Georgia
Thirty-second president of the United States
Franklin D. Roosevelt, commonly referred to as FDR, was the thirty-second president of the United States. Largely owing to the home front uncertainties of World War II (1939–45), Roosevelt is the only U.S. president to have been elected four times. Roosevelt entered the White House in March 1933 at the height of the Great Depression (1929–41). The Great Depression, which began in the fall of 1929, was the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. Approximately 25 percent of the nation's workforce was unemployed as business activity dramatically slowed, and many Americans did not have enough food. Roosevelt's charm, broad grin, and willingness to surround himself with able advisors brought hope to most Americans, first during the Depression and then through the war. Through his years as president, Roosevelt greatly expanded the powers of the federal government and reshaped the Democratic Party. To many in the United States and throughout the world, Roosevelt was the savior of democracy by defeating the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) and restoring the U.S. economy. Roosevelt had an incredible ability to mobilize the nation in times of crisis and maintain a high level of public support during trying times.
A privileged upbringing
An only child, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born to James and Sara Delano Roosevelt on January 30, 1882. The family was wealthy and lived on their Hyde Park estate in the Hudson River Valley of Dutchess County, New York. Their ancestors had accumulated the wealth from maritime trade in the early nineteenth century. Through his early school years young Franklin was privately tutored, both at home and on the family's frequent European travels. A major change came in Franklin's life in 1891 when his father suffered the first in a series of heart attacks, leaving him largely incapacitated. Young Franklin learned to hide his emotions, always presenting a calm and cheerful appearance to his frail father. This manner would be one of his greatest personal assets later in life while leading the nation through the Depression and war.
In 1896 at fourteen years of age, Franklin left home to attend Groton Preparatory School, a Massachusetts boarding school. It was the first time for Franklin to attend school with others his age. Though feeling very awkward socially, Franklin was greatly influenced by the Groton experience, which reinforced the family Episcopal values of a civic duty to serve the less fortunate. Through Groton, Franklin performed religious and charity work at places such as a boys club in Boston.
Franklin Roosevelt entered Harvard in 1900. His father died during his first year and his mother moved to Boston to be near him. At Harvard his social life flourished as he assumed many extracurricular activities, including president of the Harvard student newspaper. He also became more seriously interested in politics, particularly the progressive movement led by his distant cousin Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919; served 1901–09), who was elected vice president in 1900. Progressivism called for an increased role of government in solving the nation's social and economic problems. Theodore became president in September 1901 following the assassination of President William McKinley (1843–1901; served 1897–1901). Franklin Roosevelt's buoyant personality and outward self-assurance gave him a persuasive but nonthreatening manner with others. A future trademark of Roosevelt's public speaking was his genial greeting, "My friends."
Theodore's niece, Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962; see entry), also caught Franklin's attention. Eleanor was active in New York City charities serving the poor. The two distant cousins increasingly saw each other through the next few years, including at White House events. Outwardly they seemed opposite in personality. Eleanor was very serious and reserved. However, they shared intelligence and a compassion for others. Franklin graduated from Harvard in 1904 and married Eleanor in March 1905. Theodore gave Eleanor away in the wedding. Franklin and Eleanor had four sons and a daughter.
Early politics and the navy
Franklin Roosevelt entered Columbia Law School in 1905. Though not receiving a degree, he passed New York's bar exam and began work as a law clerk for a prestigious Wall Street law firm in New York City. Roosevelt's strong interest in public service was known to the Democratic Party leaders of Dutchess County. They invited him to run for the state senate in 1910. At twenty-eight years of age, Roosevelt surprisingly won the election. An advocate for an open and honest government at a time when political corruption was dominant in New York politics, Roosevelt easily won reelection in 1912.
In early 1913 newly elected President Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924; served 1913–21), a democrat, appointed Roosevelt assistant secretary of the navy, a position Theodore Roosevelt had earlier held in his rise to the presidency. Franklin loved the Washington, D.C., atmosphere, and made a name for himself by personally resolving naval shipyard labor issues involving unions and the navy's civilian workers. Roosevelt ran for the U.S. Senate in 1914, but was unsuccessful. When the United States entered World War I (1914–18) in 1917, Roosevelt held an important position overseeing naval operations in the North Atlantic. It was during this time, in 1918, that his relationship with Eleanor took a different course. She discovered a romantic relationship between Franklin and her personal secretary, Lucy Mercer. They remained married, but their relationship became less intimate and based more on shared political goals and a mutual respect for each other.
A rising political star
After seven years as assistant secretary of the navy, Roosevelt in 1920 was selected vice presidential running mate for Ohio governor James M. Cox (1870–1957). Roosevelt resigned his naval post for the campaign. Though they soundly lost, Roosevelt showed strong campaigning skills and made many new influential friends.
Roosevelt's life took another dramatic change in August 1921 when he became ill with polio-like symptoms. Within only a few days his legs were paralyzed. Given no hope of walking again, Roosevelt retreated to the family's Hyde Park estate for the next seven years to recover while desperately hoping for a cure. While trying various forms of therapy he discovered spa-like baths in Warm Springs, Georgia. Roosevelt bought an old resort hotel at Warm Springs and transformed it into a center for treating polio victims. Through time, Roosevelt learned how to conceal his paralysis from the public. He would wear heavy leg braces and support himself with a cane and the arm of another person, often one of his sons. Throughout the rest of his life the media very quietly cooperated in not reporting his disability. Few photographs were taken of him in a wheelchair. As a result, the public knew little of his confinement to a wheelchair when not in public view. The experience gave him even greater sympathy for those who suffered in life.
A triumphant comeback
While Roosevelt was rebuilding his strength, Eleanor and others kept his political career alive. Eleanor made many public appearances, and her husband on occasion made speeches at Democratic national meetings. Ready for a return in 1928, Roosevelt successfully won the New York governorship. Tackling the serious economic issues of the early Great Depression years in the populous state, Roosevelt proved very popular. His landslide reelection victory in 1930 made him a favorite for the next Democratic presidential candidate for 1932.
During the 1932 presidential campaign, Roosevelt's charm and broad grin sharply contrasted with President Herbert Hoover's (1874–1964; served 1929–33) stern manner. As a result, Roosevelt easily won the election. Roosevelt's calm, reassuring manner was put to a test in February 1933 when a lone gunman made an assassination attempt on his life in Miami, Florida. Roosevelt escaped injury, and his aides were awestruck by his seemingly unperturbed manner as the city's mayor, who was shot instead of Roosevelt, lay dying in his arms as they were rushed away from the shooting scene to the hospital.
Establishing a calm
Roosevelt entered the White House in March 1933 at the depth of the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. Most banks were closed, thirteen million workers were unemployed, and industrial production had fallen 44 percent from its 1929 levels. The nation was in turmoil. As he would during World War II, Roosevelt casually spoke directly to the nation through a series of radio addresses, called "Fireside Chats," on important issues, explaining why he was taking certain actions. He used his calm, friendly voice and simple language. With calm soon restored to a worried nation, Roosevelt established one landmark economic and social program after another, collectively known as the New Deal, reshaping the U.S. government.
Roosevelt's popularity soared as a broad coalition of voters including black Americans, farmers, the poor, women, and the working class, in addition to traditional liberals and progressives, came together to support his reelection in 1936. Roosevelt won by a landslide. This newly formed Democratic Coalition would propel Democratic candidates for decades to come.
Despite his popularity, by late 1937 Roosevelt's grip on Congress lessened. A growing coalition of conservative Republicans and Southern Democrats in Congress began blocking further reform legislation proposed by Roosevelt. In addition, international events were gaining greater attention from Roosevelt. With the rise of military dictatorships in Germany, Japan, and Italy, the threat of war was steadily growing in both Europe and Asia. The general public and Congress still held a strong mood of isolationism (avoiding foreign commitments or involvement) since World War I. Roosevelt therefore had to very cautiously develop foreign policy. Following Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. World War II had begun. While voicing a neutral position to please the public, Roosevelt clearly supported Britain and its allies.
As late as August 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was still dealing with an American public and Congress reluctant to become entangled in the war raging in Europe. The president had to convince the home front about the need to at least help Britain and perhaps even enter the war itself. On August 14 Roosevelt met with British leader Winston Churchill (1874–1965) for five days on warships in the North Atlantic off the Newfoundland coast of Canada. Together they identified the goals for going to war against Nazi Germany. These goals were captured in a document known as the Atlantic Charter.
In the Charter, the two leaders declared that all nations should live safely within their own borders, free from outside threat, that no changes in national boundaries should occur without approval of those living within the affected areas, that citizens have the right to choose their own form of government, and that the high seas should be safe for trade and travel. Any aggressor nation posing a threat should be disarmed. They went further to proclaim that global cooperation should seek to raise labor standards, increase the social security of the general population, and promote international trade. Regarding war, they also affirmed that the United States and Great Britain were not seeking increased power or wealth.
The Charter, reflecting the war aims identified by Roosevelt in his famous "Four Freedoms" speech to the American public in January 1941, directly influenced the Declaration of United Nations signed by twenty-six nations on January 1, 1942, shortly after the United States formally entered the war. The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941 finally rallied the home front fully behind Roosevelt. However, most Americans went to war simply to defend life as they knew it in their home front community and not to promote the ideals of the Atlantic Charter.
In the fall of 1939 Roosevelt had Congress repeal the Neutrality Acts that had banned the United States from selling weapons and supplies to foreign countries. He then initiated a "cash and carry" program in which Britain paid cash for war materials and had to carry them back to Britain in their own ships. In the spring of 1940 German military forces swept into Western Europe, eventually capturing Paris, France, in June. The U.S. public mood shifted more toward Roosevelt's perspective. In September 1940 Roosevelt traded fifty aging destroyers to Britain for seven military bases in the Caribbean. In November 1940 Roosevelt won an unprecedented reelection to a third presidential term. His victory largely resulted from the public's fear of what was coming. They wanted to keep a comfortable and familiar person in the White House.
After his reelection in November 1940, Roosevelt became much bolder in mobilizing the United States for war. The following month he delivered his historic "Arms for Democracy" speech in which he proposed the Lend-Lease program. With Britain running out of money, this program would provide a continued supply of arms without Britain having to pay cash. In March 1941 Congress responded with passage of the Lend-Lease Act. In August 1941 Roosevelt met with British leader Winston Churchill (1874–1965) on a U.S. naval ship off Newfoundland, Canada. They signed the Atlantic Charter, which defined the war aims of the two nations. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Roosevelt extended the Lend-Lease program to the Soviets in November. Meanwhile, Roosevelt also placed a strict trade embargo (ban on trade with a foreign nation) on Japan and froze Japanese assets in the United States.
War finally arrived at the doorstep of the United States on December 7, 1941, when Japanese forces carried out a surprise bombing attack on U.S. military bases at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack killed more than two thousand American military personnel and destroyed many military ships and airplanes. Within the next few days the United States plunged into war on two fronts: Europe and the Pacific.
For the next few years Roosevelt provided firm, steady inspirational leadership to the nation while leaving the detailed orchestration of war to a group of highly capable military and corporate leaders. These included Republicans
Henry L. Stimson (1867–1950; see entry) as secretary of war and Frank Knox (1874–1944) as secretary of the navy. The president wanted to create a more bipartisan (involving both political parties) approach to the war effort. As he had during the Great Depression, Roosevelt created numerous temporary war agencies to coordinate activities. Roosevelt's participation focused more on the larger strategic decision making such as emphasizing the war in Europe first over the Pacific front and attacking German forces first in North Africa rather than in Europe. The president also authorized the Manhattan Project early in the war to develop the atomic bomb, later used by President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53) to end the war with Japan in August 1945.
The invasion of North Africa began in November 1942. Allied forces pushed the fight from there into Sicily and Italy by the summer of 1943. Meanwhile, beginning with the battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, U.S. forces fought from island to island across the Pacific. Roosevelt ended any further efforts at domestic reform legislation and provided little resistance in 1943 when Congress ended several New Deal programs. The massive U.S. wartime spending, converting production of consumer goods to wartime materials, essentially ended the Great Depression and brought full employment.
Roosevelt met with Churchill again in January 1943 in Casablanca, Morocco, and once more in November 1943 in Tehran, Iran. At Tehran they met with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) for the first time. Roosevelt and Churchill promised Stalin they would invade France by spring of 1944 and Stalin promised to attack Japan once the European war was over. The Soviets could also keep parts of Poland that it had recently captured in pushing German forces back.
By mid-1944 eventual victory was taking shape. Roosevelt began to look more toward the nature of the world following war. Based on the Atlantic Charter, twenty-six nations signed the United Nations Declaration. In July 1944 he hosted an international conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to plan for a postwar world economy. Out of the conference came the International Monetary Fund and an international bank to assist European and Asian nations in their recovery from war.
Still believing government had a responsibility toward the economic security of American citizens, Roosevelt played a role in the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, more commonly known as the GI Bill. The bill provided generous housing, educational, and other benefits to war veterans.
By the November 1944 elections, Allied troops had regained most of France and captured all the Pacific islands east of Japan including the Philippines. They were closing in on both German and Japanese soil. Nevertheless, the public felt uncertain about postwar conditions, both the domestic economy and international relations with the Soviet Union. As a result, Roosevelt won reelection again in November 1944 for a fourth term. However, Roosevelt was suffering from advanced arteriosclerosis (heart disease), and his health was markedly fading. In January 1945 Roosevelt met with British leader Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin at Yalta in the Soviet Union to determine postwar occupation of Germany and create an international organization to help avoid future wars. Roosevelt was visibly in very poor health at the meetings.
In April 1945, with the war in Europe winding down, Roosevelt traveled to his spa in Warm Springs for a much-needed rest. On April 12, while an artist painted his portrait, Roosevelt suddenly collapsed from a massive cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain). He died only a few hours later. The nation was plunged into profound grief as one of its most beloved leaders had passed away.
A giant figure
Roosevelt is recognized as one of the great world figures of the twentieth century. He served an unprecedented twelve years as U.S. president, leading the nation through two major prolonged crises, the Great Depression and World War II. Roosevelt established an expanded view of government—that it should provide an economic safety net for its citizens in times of trouble.
However, some important issues were not addressed during Roosevelt's time in office. Civil rights issues received little attention and racial discrimination continued largely unchallenged. The armed forces remained racially segregated throughout World War II. In addition, 110,000 Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps from 1942 to 1944 despite lack of any evidence of disloyalty to the United States. The United States also made minimal efforts to assist European Jews trying to flee from the oppression of Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. Nonetheless, Roosevelt immediately stopped the dramatic decline of the national economy in the 1930s and successfully guided the nation through a massive and complex world war. He laid the foundation for the postwar international order, including formation of the United Nations.
Numerous tributes to Roosevelt include the Roosevelt Presidential Library built near his home at Hyde Park, New York. His image was placed on the dime in U.S. currency, and the Roosevelt Monument was dedicated in Washington, D.C., in 1997.
For More Information
Freidel, Frank. Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny. Boston: Little, Brown, 1990.
Goodwin, Doris Kearns. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, the Home Front in World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.
Meacham, Jon. Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship. New York: Random House, 2003.
Roosevelt, Eleanor. The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt. New York: Da Capo Press, 1992.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum. http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu (accessed on July 25, 2004).
COPYRIGHT 2005 The Gale Group, Inc.
Roosevelt, Franklin Delano
ROOSEVELT, FRANKLIN DELANO
Franklin Delano Roosevelt served as the thirty-second president of the United States from 1933 to 1945. During his unprecedented four terms in office, Roosevelt established himself as a towering national leader, leading the United States out of the Great Depression through the active involvement of the federal government in the national economy. The federal government grew dramatically in size and power as Congress enacted Roosevelt's new deal program. As president, Roosevelt was responsible for the creation of social security, federal labor laws, rural electrification programs, and myriad projects that assisted farmers, business, and labor. During world war ii Roosevelt's leadership was vital to rallying the spirits of the citizenry and mobilizing a wartime economy. Nevertheless, Roosevelt was a controversial figure. Many economic conservatives believed his programs owed more to state socialism than to free enterprise.
Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, in Hyde Park, New York, the only son of James and Sara Delano Roosevelt. The young Roosevelt was taught to be a gentleman and to exercise Christian stewardship through public service. He graduated from Harvard University in 1904 and in 1905 wed eleanor roosevelt, the niece of his fifth cousin, President theodore roosevelt.
Roosevelt attended Columbia University Law School but left without receiving a degree when he passed the New York bar exam in 1907.
In 1910 Roosevelt was elected to the New York Senate as a member of the democratic party. Reelected in 1912, he resigned in 1913 to accept an appointment from President woodrow wilson as assistant secretary of the Navy. For the next seven years, Roosevelt proved an effective administrator and an advocate of reform in the U.S. Navy.
Roosevelt was nominated for vice president on the 1920 Democratic party ticket. He waged
FDR's Court Packing Plan
A conservative bloc of judges emerged on the U.S Supreme Court during the 1920s. Their conservatism was marked by a restrictive view of the federal government's power to enact a certain class of regulations falling under the heading of "administrative law." Federal administrative law is an area of law comprised of orders, rules, and regulations that are promulgated by executive branch agencies that have been delegated quasi-lawmaking power by Congress. Justices pierce butler, james mcreynolds, george sutherland, and willis van devanter denied that the federal Constitution gave Congress the power to delegate its lawmaking function, arguing that Article II of the Constitution expressly limited the executive branch to a law enforcement role. By the advent of the 1930s, Butler, McReynolds, Sutherland, and Van Devanter had become known as the "Four Horseman" because they consistently voted to strike down every federal law that involved any congressional delegation of lawmaking power to the executive branch.
The Four Horsemen were usually joined by Justice owen roberts and Chief Justice charles hughes, two conservatives of a more moderate and centrist temperament. Pitted against the conservative block was the so-called "liberal wing" of the Court, comprised of Justices benjamin cardozo, louis brandeis, and harlan stone. The Court's composition presented a potential problem for Democrat presidential candidate Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), who had promised voters a "New Deal" during the 1932 election. After FDR took the oath of office, it became clear that his new deal entailed the creation of a vast federal regulatory bureaucracy designed to stimulate the U.S. economy and pull it out of the depression.
The potential problem FDR faced transformed into an immediate crisis during 1935, when the Supreme Court issued a series of decisions that struck blows at the heart of the New Deal. First, the Court struck down the Frazier-Lemke Act, a law that provided mortgage relief to farmers. Louisville Joint Stock Land Bank v. Radford, 295 U.S. 555, 55 S.Ct. 854, 79 L.Ed. 1593 (U.S. 1935). Next the Court upheld a provision of the Federal Trade Commission Act that prohibited the president from replacing a commissioner except for cause, thereby thwarting FDR's attempt to bring the agencies in line with his regulatory policies. Humphrey's Executor v. United States, 295 U.S. 602, 55 S.Ct. 869, 79 L.Ed. 1611 (U.S. 1935). Finally, the Court invalidated the National Industrial Recover Act, which authorized the president to prescribe codes of fair competition to bring about industrial recovery and rehabilitation. The Court said that Congress could not delegate such sweeping lawmaking powers to the executive branch without violating separation-of-powers principles in the federal constitution. A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corporation v. United States, 295 U.S. 495, 55 S.Ct. 837, 79 L.Ed. 1570 (U.S 1935).
FDR postponed making an issue over the Court's decisions during the 1936 presidential campaign. But the Court continued invalidating important New Deal programs, including the Agricultural Adjustment Act and the National Bituminous Coal Act. In some of these cases Chief Justice Hughes sided with the three dissenting liberal justices, leaving Justice Roberts as the swing vote. Emboldened by his landslide victory, FDR unveiled what critics called the "Court Packing Plan."
The plan, which FDR announced on February 5, 1937, would have given the president the power to add one justice for every Supreme Court justice over age 70, up to a total of six. The older justices were not able to handle the increasing workload, FDR explained, so the additional justices would improve the Court's efficiency.
Much of the nation saw through FDR's explanation. Newspaper editors, Republicans, southern and moderate Democrats, leaders of the organized bar, and even the three liberals on the Supreme Court condemned the plan as a blatant effort to politicize the Court. Roosevelt, however, remained committed to the plan and continued pushing Congress to enact it. By April the Supreme Court appeared to have received the president's message.
In nlrb v. jones & laughlin steel corp., 301 U.S. 1, 30, 57 S.Ct. 615, 621, 81 L.Ed. 893 (1937), the Supreme Court by a 5–4 vote upheld the constitutionality of the national labor relations board, a federal regulatory agency that investigates and remedies unfair labor practices. Justice Roberts cast the deciding vote. Thereafter Roberts typically voted to uphold the constitutionality of New Deal legislation that was challenged before the Court. Journalists called Roberts' change of heart "the switch in time that saved nine." Combined with Van Devanter's retirement later that year, which allowed FDR to replace him with a justice more amenable to federal regulatory programs, Roberts' move to the left of the political spectrum doomed the Court Packing Plan, as both Congress and the American people realized that the president had achieved his goal without subverting the Court.
Throughout U.S. history presidents have sought to mold the federal courts in their own political image. On balance presidents have filled the courts with high quality judges possessing strong intellects and fair-minded temperaments. On occasion, however, presidents have also become frustrated with the federal bench, especially the Supreme Court. But never has any president attempted to do what President Roosevelt tried to accomplish through the Court Packing Plan, namely change the rules of the game by which vacancies on the Court are created and filled.
Neither death nor resignation on the Court was giving the president the opportunity to shape the Court in the fashion he desired. By proposing to expand the court to as many as 15 justices, FDR could have wielded influence over the Court's jurisprudence for the next generation or two. But he could also have compromised the independence of the federal judiciary by turning it into an overtly political branch. Article III of the U.S. Constitution gives federal courts the power to interpret and apply the laws passed by Congress and enforced by the executive branch. Federal judges are given life tenure to insulate them from political pressures. FDR tried to alter that equation with the Court Packing Plan. Although the Supreme Court eventually placed its imprimatur of approval on the New Deal, the Court Packing Plan was defeated in what history has deemed a victory for the independence of the federal judiciary.
McKenna, Marian C. 2002. Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-Packing Crisis of 1937. New York: Fordham Univ. Press.
a vigorous campaign in support of the presidential nominee, James M. Cox, but the Republican ticket headed by warren g. harding soundly defeated Cox and Roosevelt. After the election Roosevelt joined a Maryland bonding company and began investing in various business schemes.
Roosevelt's life changed in August 1921, when he was stricken with poliomyelitis while vacationing at Campobello Island, New Brunswick. Initially, Roosevelt was completely paralyzed, but over several years of intense therapy, he made gradual improvement. His legs, however, suffered permanent paralysis. For the rest of his life, he used a wheelchair and could walk only a few steps with the help of leg braces.
Eleanor Roosevelt believed her husband's recovery depended on his reentry into New York politics. She attended meetings, made speeches, and reported back to him on the political events of the day. By 1924 Roosevelt was at the Democratic National Convention nominating Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York for president. Smith, who lost the presidential elections in 1924 and 1928, showed Roosevelt the ways of New York state politics and pushed him to run for governor in 1928. A reluctant Roosevelt won by a narrow margin, but soon was governing as if he had won by a landslide. With the stock market crash of October 25, 1929, the United States was thrown into a national economic depression of unprecedented severity. As governor, Roosevelt set up the first state public relief agency and tried to find ways to spark an economic recovery. His landslide reelection in 1930 made him the logical candidate to face the Republican president herbert hoover in the next presidential election.
Roosevelt was nominated for president on the third ballot of the 1932 Democratic National Convention. During the campaign Roosevelt called for the federal government to take action to revive the economy and end the suffering of the thirteen million unemployed people. Hoover advocated a more limited role for the federal government in the national economy. Roosevelt easily defeated Hoover and brought with him large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.
Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933, at a time when the economy appeared hopeless. In his inaugural address he reassured the nation that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." He proposed a New Deal for the people of the United States and promised to use the power of the executive branch to address the economic crisis.
During his first hundred days in office, Roosevelt sent Congress many pieces of legislation that sought to boost economic activity and restore the circulation of money through federally funded work programs. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) provided unemployment relief and an opportunity for national service to young workers, while promoting conservation through reforestation and flood control work. Federal funds were given to state relief agencies for direct relief, and the Reconstruction Finance Company was given the authority to make loans to small and large businesses.
The centerpieces of Roosevelt's New Deal legislation were the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1933 (7 U.S.C.A. § 601 et seq.) and the national industrial recovery act (NIRA) of 1933 (48 Stat. 195). The AAA sought to raise farm prices by giving farmers federal subsidies if they reduced their agricultural production.
The NIRA was a comprehensive attempt to manage all phases of U.S. business. It established the national recovery administration (NRA) to administer codes of fair practice within each industry. Under these codes labor and management negotiated minimum wages, maximum hours, and fair-trade practices for each industry. The Roosevelt administration sought to use these codes to stabilize production, raise prices, and protect labor and consumers. By early 1934 there were 557 basic codes and 208 supplementary ones. In 1935, however, the Supreme Court struck down the NIRA in A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495, 55 S. Ct. 837, 79 L. Ed. 1570.
In 1935 Roosevelt and the Congress passed the social security act (42 U.S.C.A. § 301 et seq.), a fundamental piece of social welfare legislation that provided unemployment compensation and pensions for those over the age of sixty-five. More groundbreaking legislation came with the passage of the wagner act, also known as the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 (29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq.), which recognized for the first time the right of workers to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining with employers.
Roosevelt handily defeated Republican Alfred M. Landon, the governor of Kansas, in the 1936 presidential election. In his second term, however, Roosevelt met more resistance to his legislative initiatives. Between 1935 and 1937, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional eight New Deal programs that attempted to regulate the national economy. Most of the conservative justices who voted against the New Deal statutes were over the age of seventy. Roosevelt responded by proposing that justices be allowed to retire at age seventy at full pay. Any justice who declined this offer would be forced to have an assistant with full voting rights. The assistant, of course, as a Roosevelt appointee, would be more likely to be sympathetic to the president's political ideals. This plan to "pack" the Court was met with hostility by Democrats and Republicans and rejected as an act of political interference. Despite the rejection of his plan, Roosevelt ultimately prevailed. In 1937 the Supreme Court upheld the Wagner Act in nlrb v. jones and laughlin steel corp., 301 U.S. 1, 57 S. Ct. 615, 81 L. Ed. 893, signaling an end to the invalidation of New Deal laws that sought to reshape the national economy. From Jones onward the Court permitted the federal government to take a dominant role in matters of commerce.
By 1937 the national economy appeared to be recovering. In the fall of 1937, however, the economy went into a recession, accompanied by a dramatic increase in unemployment. Roosevelt responded by instituting massive government spending, and by June 1938 the economy had stabilized.
During the late 1930s, Roosevelt had also become preoccupied with foreign policy. The rise of adolf hitler and Nazism in Germany, coupled with a militaristic Japanese government that had invaded Manchuria in 1933, created international tensions that Roosevelt realized might come to involve the United States. U.S. foreign policy had traditionally counseled against entanglements with other nations, and the 1930s had seen a resurgence of isolationist thought. Roosevelt, while publicly agreeing with isolationist legislators, quietly moved to enhance U.S. military strength.
"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
—Franklin Delano Roosevelt
With the outbreak of World War II in Europe in August 1939, Roosevelt sought to aid Great Britain and France against Germany and Italy. The Neutrality Act of 1939 (22 U.S.C.A. § 441), however, prohibited the export of arms to any belligerent. With some difficulty Roosevelt secured the repeal of this provision so that military equipment could be sold to Great Britain and France.
In 1940 Roosevelt took the unprecedented step of seeking a third term. Although there was no constitutional prohibition against a third term, President george washington had established the tradition of serving only two terms. Nevertheless, Roosevelt was concerned about the approach of war and decided a third term was necessary to continue his plans. He defeated the Republican nominee, Wendell L. Willkie, pledging that he would keep the United States out of war. Roosevelt's margin of victory in the popular vote was closer than in 1936, but he still won the electoral college vote easily.
Following his reelection, Roosevelt became more public in his support of the Allies. At his urging, Congress moved further away from neutrality by passing the lend-lease act of 1941 (55 Stat. 31). Lend-Lease provided munitions, food, machinery, and services to Great Britain and other Allies without immediate cost.
The United States entered World War II following the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. Roosevelt rallied a stunned citizenry and began the mobilization of a wartime economy. In his public speeches and "fireside chats" on the radio, Roosevelt imparted the strong determination that the United States would prevail in the conflict. He met with Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Great Britain, and joseph stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, several times during the war to discuss military strategy and to plan power-sharing in the postwar world. Roosevelt, who needed the Soviet Union's cooperation in defeating Germany, sought to minimize conflicts with Stalin over postwar boundaries in Europe.
In 1944 Roosevelt decided to run for a fourth term. Though his health had seriously declined, he wished to remain commander in chief for the remainder of the war. The republican party nominated Governor thomas e. dewey of New York for president, but again Roosevelt turned back the challenge, winning 432 electoral votes to Dewey's 99.
In February 1945 Roosevelt traveled to Yalta in the Crimea to meet with Churchill and Stalin. Germany was on the edge of defeat, but Japan's defeat did not appear imminent. Stalin accepted Roosevelt and Churchill's offer of territorial concessions in Asia in return for his promise that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan once Germany was defeated. At Yalta the leaders reaffirmed earlier agreements and made plans for the establishment of democratic governments in eastern Europe. The Yalta agreements were not clearly written, however, and therefore were open to differing interpretations by the Allies. Within a month after Yalta, Roosevelt sent a sharp message to Stalin concerning Soviet accusations that Great Britain and the United States were trying to rob the Soviets of their legitimate territorial interests.
Early in the war, Roosevelt decided that an effective international organization should be established after the war to replace the league of nations. At Yalta, Roosevelt pressed for the creation of the united nations as a mechanism to preserve world peace. A conference attended by fifty nations was scheduled to begin on April 25, 1945, in San Francisco, California, to draft a United Nations charter. Roosevelt had planned to attend, but his health had steadily declined since the 1944 election.
Instead, Roosevelt went to his retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia, where he had begun his rehabilitation from polio in the 1920s. He died there on April 12, 1945. Vice President harry s. truman succeeded Roosevelt. On May 7 the war in Europe ended with Germany's surrender; four months later, on September 2, Japan also surrendered, ending the war in the Pacific.
Jenkins, Roy. 2003. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. New York: Times Books.
Kline, Stephan O. 1999. "Revisting FDR's Court Packing Plan: Are the Current Attacks on Judicial Independence So Bad?" McGeorge Law Review 30 (spring).
McElvaine, Robert S. 2002. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.
COPYRIGHT 2005 The Gale Group, Inc.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), thirty-second president of the United States, led the nation out of the Great Depression and later into World War II. Before he died, he cleared the way for peace, including establishment of the United Nations.
Franklin Roosevelt was born on Jan. 30, 1882, of his father's second marriage, to Sara Delano, the daughter of a prominent family. The Roosevelts had been moderately wealthy for many generations. Merchants and financiers, they had often been prominent in the civic affairs of New York. When Franklin was born, his father was 51 years old and semiretired from a railroad presidency, and his mother was 28. Franklin was often in the care of governesses and tutors, until at the age of 14 he went to Groton School. Here he received a solid classical, historical, and mathematical training and was moderately good at his studies. His earnest attempts at athletics were mostly defeated because of his tall, ungainly frame.
Roosevelt wanted to go to Annapolis, but his parents insisted on preparation for the position natural for the scion of the Delano and Roosevelt families, so he entered Harvard University. He was a reasonably good student and found a substitute for athletics in reporting for the Harvard newspaper, of which he finally became editor. While seeming to be a Cambridge socialite, he spent an extra year studying public affairs. He also met and determined to marry his cousin, Eleanor, to his mother's annoyance. Eleanor was the daughter of Elliott Roosevelt, a weak member of the family who had died early. Raised by relatives, she received a lady's education but little affection. She was shy and retiring, but Franklin found her warm, vibrant, and responsive.
Despite his mother's opposition, they were married in 1905, and Franklin entered Columbia University Law School. He prepared for the bar examinations and without taking a degree became a lawyer and entered a clerkship in the Wall Street firm of Carter, Ledyard and Milburn. He took his duties lightly, however, and it was later recalled that he had remarked to fellow clerks that he meant somehow to enter politics and finally to become president. There was never any doubt of his ambition.
Roosevelt's chance came in 1910. He accepted the Democratic nomination for the New York Senate and was elected. Opportunity for further notice came quickly. Although his backing had come from Democrats affiliated with New York City's notorious Tammany Hall, he joined a group of upstate legislators who were setting out to oppose the election of Tammany's choice for U.S. senator. The rebels were successful in forcing acceptance of another candidate.
Much of Roosevelt's wide publicity from this struggle was managed by Albany reporter Louis McHenry Howe, who had taken to the young politician and set out to further his career. (This dedication lasted until Roosevelt was safely in the White House.) The Tammany fight made Roosevelt famous in New York, but it also won him the enmity of Tammany. Still, he was reelected in 1912. That year Woodrow Wilson was elected president; Roosevelt had been a campaign worker, and his efforts had been noticed by prominent party elder Josephus Daniels. When Daniels became secretary of the Navy in Wilson's Cabinet, he persuaded Wilson to offer Roosevelt the assistant secretaryship.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy
As assistant secretary, Roosevelt began an experience that substituted for the naval career he had hoped for as a boy. Before long he became restless, however, and tried to capture the Democratic nomination for U.S. senator from New York. Wilson and Daniels were displeased. Daniels forgave him, but Wilson never afterward really trusted the brash young man. This distrust was heightened later by Roosevelt's departure from the administration's policy of neutrality in the years preceding World War I. Roosevelt openly favored intervention, agitated for naval expansion, and was known to be rather scornful of Daniels, who kept the Navy under close political discipline.
America soon entered the war, however, and Roosevelt could work for a cause he believed in. At that time there was only one assistant secretary, and he had extensive responsibilities. Howe had come to Washington with him and had become his indispensable guardian and helper. Together their management of the department was creditable.
Though Roosevelt tried several times to leave his civilian post to join the fighting forces, he was persuaded to remain. When the war came to an end and Wilson was stricken during his fight for ratification of the Versailles Treaty, there was an obvious revulsion throughout the United States from the disappointing settlements of the war. It seemed to many that the effort to make the world safe for democracy had resulted in making the world safe for the old empires.
The Allied leaders had given in to Wilson's insistence on the creation of the League of Nations only to serve their real interest in extending their territories and in imposing reparations on Germany. These reparations were so large that they could never be paid; consequently the enormous debts the Allies owed to the United States would never be paid either. The American armies had saved Europe and the Europeans were ungrateful. Resentment and disillusion were widespread.
The Republican party had the advantage of not having been responsible for these foreign entanglements. In 1920 they nominated Warren G. Harding, a conservative senator, as their presidential candidate. The Democrats nominated Governor James Cox of Ohio, who had had no visible part in the Wilson administration; the vice-presidential candidate was Roosevelt.
It was a despairing campaign; but in one respect it was a beginning rather than an ending for Roosevelt. He made a much more noticeable campaign effort than the presidential candidate. He covered the nation by special trains, speaking many times a day, often from back platforms, and getting acquainted with local leaders everywhere. He had learned the professional politician's breeziness, was able to absorb useful information, and had an infallible memory for names and faces. The defeat was decisive; but Roosevelt emerged as the most representative Democrat.
Victim of Poliomyelitis
Roosevelt retreated to a law connection in New York's financial district again and a position with a fidelity and deposit company. But in the summer of 1921, vacationing in Canada, he became mysteriously ill. His disease, polio-myelitis, was not immediately diagnosed. He was almost totally paralyzed, however, and had to be moved to New York for treatment. This was managed with such secrecy that for a long time the seriousness of his condition was not publicized. In fact, he would never recover the use of his legs, a disability that seemed to end his political career. His mother, typically, demanded that he return to Hyde Park and give up the political activities she had always deplored. He could now become a country gentleman. But Eleanor, joined by Howe, set out to renew his ambition.
Roosevelt's struggle during the convalescence of the next few years was agonizing and continually disappointing. Not much was known then about rehabilitation, and he resorted to exhausting courses of calisthenics to reactivate his atrophied muscles. In 1923 he tried the warm mineral waters of Warm Springs, Ga., where exercise was easier. He was so optimistic that he wrote friends that he had begun to feel movement in his toes. It was, of course, an illusion.
Roosevelt invested a good part of his remaining fortune in the place. It soon became a resort for those with similar ailments. The facilities were overwhelmed, but gradually an institution was built up, and the medical staff began to have more realistic knowledge of aftereffects. There were no cures; but lives could be made much more tolerable. Meanwhile Roosevelt, realizing that cures were impossible, turned to the encouragement of prevention. (Ultimately, an effective vaccine was found.)
New York Governor
While at Warm Springs in 1928, Roosevelt was called to political duty again, this time by Al Smith, whom he had put in nomination at the Democratic conventions of 1924 and 1928. Almost at once, however, it became clear that Smith could not win the election. He felt, however, that Roosevelt, as candidate for governor, would help to win New York. Roosevelt resisted. He was now a likely presidential candidate in a later, more favorable year for the Democrats; and if he lost the race for the governorship, he would be finished. But the New Yorkers insisted, and he ran and was narrowly elected.
Roosevelt began the 4 years of his New York governorship that were preliminary to his presidency, and since he was reelected 2 years later, it was inevitable that he should be the candidate in 1932. Since 1929 the nation had been sunk in the worst depression of its history, and Herbert Hoover's Republican administration had failed to find a way to recovery. This made it a favorable year for the Democrats.
First Term as President
It would be more true to say that Hoover in 1932 lost than that Roosevelt won. At any rate, Roosevelt came to the presidency with a dangerous economic crisis at its height. Industry was paralyzed, and unemployment afflicted some 30 percent of the work force. Roosevelt had promised that something would be done, but what that would be he had not specified.
Roosevelt began providing relief on a large scale by giving work to the unemployed and by approving a device for bringing increased income to farmers, who were in even worse straits than city workers. Also, he devalued the currency and enabled debtors to discharge debts that had long been frozen. Closed banks all over the country were assisted to reopen, and gradually the crisis was overcome.
In 1934 Roosevelt proposed a comprehensive social security system that, he hoped, would make another such depression impossible. Citizens would never be without at least minimum incomes again. Incidentally, these citizens became devoted supporters of the President who had given them this hope. So in spite of the conservatives who opposed the measures he collectively called the New Deal, he became so popular that he won reelection in 1936 by an unprecedented majority.
Second and Third Terms
Roosevelt's second term began with a struggle between himself and the Supreme Court. The justices had held certain of his New Deal devices to be unconstitutional. In retaliation he proposed to add new justices who would be more amenable. Many even in his own party opposed him in this attempt to pack the Court, and Congress defeated it. After this there ensued the familiar stalemate between an innovative president and a reluctant Congress.
Nevertheless in 1940 Roosevelt determined to break with tradition and run for a third term. His reasons were partly that his reforms were far from finished, but more importantly that he was now certain of Adolf Hitler's intention to subdue Europe and go on to further conquests. The immense productivity and organizational ability of the Germans would be at his disposal. Europe would be defeated unless the United States came to its support.
The presidential campaign of 1940 was the climax of Roosevelt's plea that Americans set themselves against the Nazi threat. He had sought to prepare the way in numerous speeches but had had a most disappointing response. There was a vivid recollection of the disillusion after World War I, and a good many Americans were inclined to support the Germans rather than the Allied Powers. So strong was American reluctance to be involved in another world war that in the last speeches of this campaign Roosevelt practically promised that young Americans would never be sent abroad to fight. Luckily his opponent, Republican Wendell Willkie, also favored support for the Allies. The campaign, won by a narrow majority, gave Roosevelt no mandate for intervention.
Roosevelt was not far into his third term, however, when the decision to enter the war was made for him by the Japanese, whose attack on Pearl Harbor caused serious losses to American forces there. Almost at once the White House became headquarters for those who controlled the strategy of what was now World War II. Winston Churchill came immediately and practically took up residence, bringing a British staff. Together the leaders agreed that Germany and Italy must have first attention. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander in the Pacific, was ordered to retreat from the Philippines to Australia, something he was bitterly reluctant to do. But Roosevelt firmly believed that the first problem was to help the British, and then, when Hitler turned East, to somehow get arms to the Soviets. The Japanese could be taken care of when Europe was safe.
Hitler's grand strategy was to subdue the Soviet Union, conquer North Africa, and link up with the Japanese, who were advancing rapidly across the Eastern countries. Roosevelt wanted an early crossing of the English Channel to retake France and to force Hitler to fight on two fronts. Churchill, mindful of the fearful British losses in World War I, instead wanted to attack the underbelly of Europe, cut Hitler's lines to the East, and shut him off from Africa. The invasion of Europe was postponed because it became clear that elaborate preparation was necessary. But Allied troops were sent into Africa, with Gen. Dwight Eisenhower in command, to attack Field Marshal Erwin Rommel from the rear. Eventually an Allied crossing to Sicily and a slow, costly march up the Italian peninsula, correlated with the attack across the English Channel, forced the Italian collapse and the German surrender.
Meanwhile MacArthur was belatedly given the support he needed for a brilliant island-hopping campaign that drove the Japanese back, destroyed their fleet, and endangered their home island. After the German surrender, the Pacific war was brought to an end by the American atomic bomb explosion over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By this time Roosevelt was dead. He had not participated in that doubtful decision; but he had been, with Churchill, in active command during the war until then.
Roosevelt had gone to Warm Springs early in 1945, completely exhausted. He had recently returned from a conference of Allied leaders at Yalta, where he had forced acceptance of his scheme for a United Nations and made arrangements for the Soviet Union to assist in the final subjugation of Japan. The strain was visible as he made his report to the nation.
At Warm Springs he prepared the address to be used at San Francisco, where the meeting to ratify agreements concerning the United Nations was to be held; but he found himself unable to enjoy the pine woods and the gushing waters. He sat wan and frail in his small cottage, getting through only such work as had to be done. He finished signing papers on the morning of April 12, 1945. Within hours, he suffered the massive cerebral hemorrhage that killed him.
A special train carried Roosevelt's body to Washington, and there he lay in the White House until he was taken to Hyde Park and buried in the hedged garden he himself had prepared. His grave is marked by a plain marble slab, and his wife is buried beside him. He had given the estate to the nation, and it is now a shrine much visited by those who recall or have heard how great a man he was for his time.
Samuel I. Rosenman, ed., The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1938-1950), includes selected messages to Congress, speeches, executive orders, and transcripts from press conferences. There is also a collection of Roosevelt's letters edited by Elliott Roosevelt, F. D. R.: His Personal Letters (4 vols., 1947-1950). Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember (1949), is a frank account by Roosevelt's wife. Frances Perkins, The Roosevelt I Knew (1946), and Samuel I. Rosenman, Working with Roosevelt (1952), personal accounts, are helpful in assessing Roosevelt's character and work methods.
The only full biography of Roosevelt is Rexford G. Tugwell, The Democratic Roosevelt (1957). Frank B. Freidel's biography, Franklin D. Roosevelt (3 vols., 1952-1956), was never completed. Rexford G. Tugwell's briefer F. D. R.: Architect of an Era (1967) studies the man and his work, and his The Brains Trust (1968) tells the part played in Roosevelt's presidency by a group of helpers, mostly from Columbia University. The presidential elections involving Roosevelt are covered in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed., History of American Presidential Elections (4 vols., 1971). James MacGregor Burns, Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox (1956), ranks Roosevelt among the great presidents. Basil Rauch, Roosevelt: From Munich to Pearl Harbor, a Study in the Creation of a Foreign Policy (1950), is a detailed, accurate history of events during this period. Written by an Albany newspaper correspondent when Roosevelt was governor, Ernest K. Lindley, The Roosevelt Revolution: First Phase (1933), helped establish Roosevelt as a progressive leader. An authoritative and readable history of Roosevelt's era is provided in the two volumes by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The New Deal in Action, 1933-1939 (1940) and The Crisis of the Old Order (1957). Another account of the period is Basil Rauch, The History of the New Deal, 1933-1938 (1944). □
COPYRIGHT 2004 The Gale Group Inc.
Roosevelt, Franklin Delano
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (dĕl´ənō rō´zəvĕlt), 1882–1945, 32d President of the United States (1933–45), b. Hyde Park, N.Y.
Through both his father, James Roosevelt, and his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, he came of old, wealthy families. After studying at Groton, Harvard (B.A., 1904), and Columbia Univ. school of law, he began a career as a lawyer. In 1905 he married a distant cousin, a niece of Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt. They had five children: Anna Eleanor, James, Elliott, Franklin D., Jr., and John A. Both Franklin D., Jr., and James served terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
His political career began when he was elected (1910) to the New York state senate. He became the leader of a group of insurgent Democrats who prevented the Tammany candidate, William F. Sheehan, from being chosen for the U.S. Senate. Roosevelt allied himself firmly with reform elements in the party by his vigorous campaign for Woodrow Wilson in the election of 1912. Appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he served in that position from 1913 to 1920 and acquired a reputation as an able administrator. In 1920 he ran as vice presidential nominee with James M. Cox on the Democratic ticket that lost overwhelmingly to Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge.
Affliction and Return to Politics
The following summer, while vacationing on Campobello Island, N.B., Roosevelt was stricken with poliomyelitis. He was paralyzed from the waist down, but by unremitting effort he eventually recovered partial use of his legs. Although crippled to the end of his life, his vigor reasserted itself. He found the waters at Warm Springs, Ga., beneficial, and there he later established a foundation to help other victims of poliomyelitis. Encouraged by his wife and others, he had retained his interest in life and politics and was active in support of the candidacy of Alfred E. Smith in the Democratic conventions of 1924 and 1928.
Persuaded by Smith, Roosevelt ran for the governorship of New York and was elected (1928) by a small plurality despite the defeat of the Democratic ticket nationally. Roosevelt's program of state action for general welfare included a farm-relief plan, a state power authority, regulation of public utilities, and old-age pensions. Roosevelt was reelected governor in 1930, and, to deal with the growing problems of the economic depression, he in 1932 surrounded himself with a small group of intellectuals (later called the Brain Trust) as well as with other experts in many fields. Although his program showed him to be the most vigorous of the governors working for recovery, the problems still remained.
In July, 1932, Roosevelt was chosen by the Democratic party as its presidential candidate to run against the Republican incumbent, Herbert C. Hoover. In November, Roosevelt was overwhelmingly elected President. He came to the White House at the height of crisis—the economic structure of the country was tottering, and fear and despair hung over the nation. Roosevelt's inaugural address held words of hope and vigor to reassure the troubled country— "Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" —and at the same time to prepare it for a prompt and unprecedented emergency program— "This Nation asks for action, and action now. We must act and act quickly." He did act quickly. During the famous "Hundred Days" (Mar.–June, 1933), the administration rushed through Congress a flood of antidepression measures.
Finance and banking were regulated by new laws that loosened credit and insured deposits; the United States went off the gold standard; and a series of government agencies—most notably the National Recovery Administration, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, and the Public Works Administration—were set up to reorganize industry and agriculture under controls and to revive the economy by a vast expenditure of public funds. Later on came more reform legislation and new government agencies. The Securities and Exchange Commission was set up (1934) to regulate banks and stock exchanges. The Works Progress Administration (later the Work Projects Administration) was intended to offer immediate work programs for the unemployed, while the legislation for social security was a long-range plan for the future protection of the worker in unemployment, sickness, and old age. The government also took a direct role in developing the natural resources of the country with the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority (1933) and the Rural Electrification Administration (1935).
The vast, many-faceted program of the New Deal was fashioned with the help of many advisers. Some of the Brain Trust had accompanied Roosevelt to Washington, and counselors, such as Raymond Moley, Rexford Guy Tugwell, and Adolf A. Berle, Jr., were important advisers in the early years, as were some members of the cabinet, including Henry A. Wallace, Harold L. Ickes, Frances Perkins, Cordell Hull, and James A. Farley. Among his other counselors was Harry L. Hopkins. There was sometimes dissension within the ranks of these advisers; a counselor breaking from the group and denouncing the policies of the administration—and sometimes the President himself—became a familiar occurrence. The steady and rapid buildup of the program and the forceful personality of Roosevelt offset early opposition. His reassuring "fireside chats," broadcast to the nation over the radio, helped to explain issues and policies to the people and to hold for him the mandate of the nation.
In 1936, Roosevelt was reelected by a large majority over his Republican opponent, Alfred M. Landon, who won the electoral votes of only two states. However, the impetus of reform had begun to slow. The opposition (generally conservative) turned more bitter toward "that man in the White House," whom they considered a "traitor to his class." Quarrels and shifts among supporters in the government continued to have a divisive effect. The action of the Supreme Court in declaring a number of the New Deal measures invalid—notably those creating the National Recovery Administration and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration—spurred the opponents of Roosevelt and tended to reduce the pace of reform. Roosevelt tried to reorganize the court in 1937, but failed (see Supreme Court). He failed, too, in his attempt to "purge" members of Congress who had opposed New Deal measures; most of those opponents were triumphant in the elections of 1938. However, the dynamic force of the administration continued to be exerted and to impress foreign observers.
The War Years
Apart from extending diplomatic recognition to the USSR (1933), the main focus of Roosevelt's foreign policy in the early years was the cultivation of "hemisphere solidarity." His "good neighbor" policy toward Latin America, which included the signing of reciprocal trade agreements with many countries, greatly improved relations with the neighboring republics to the south. By 1938, however, the international skies were black, and as the power of the Axis nations grew, Roosevelt spoke out against aggression and international greed.
Although the United States refused to recognize Japan's conquest of Manchuria and decried Japanese aggression against China, negotiations with Japan went on even after World War II had broken out in Europe. After the fighting started, the program that Roosevelt had already begun—to build U.S. strength and make the country an "arsenal of democracy" —was speeded up. In the summer of 1940, after the fall of France and while Great Britain was being blitz-bombed by the Germans, aid to Britain (permitted since relaxation of the Neutrality Act) was greatly increased, and in 1941 lend-lease to the Allies was begun. In the presidential election of 1940 both of the major parties supported the national defense program and aid to Britain but opposed the entry of the United States into the war.
In accepting the nomination for that year Roosevelt broke with tradition; never before had a President run for a third term. Some of his former associates were vocal in criticism. John N. Garner, who had been Vice President, was alienated, and the new vice presidential candidate was Henry A. Wallace. James A. Farley, who had been prominent in managing the earlier campaigns, fell away. John L. Lewis, with his large labor following, bitterly denounced Roosevelt. The Republican candidate, Wendell Willkie, had much more support than Roosevelt's earlier opponents, but again the President won, if by a closer margin.
The story of his third administration is primarily the story of World War II as it affected the United States. The first peacetime selective service act came into full force. In Aug., 1941, Roosevelt met British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at sea and drafted the Atlantic Charter. The United States was becoming more and more aligned with Britain, while U.S. relations with Japan grew steadily worse.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into the war. Much later, accusations of responsibility for negligence at Pearl Harbor, and even for starting the war, were leveled at Roosevelt; historians disagree as to the validity of these charges. Roosevelt was, however, responsible to a large extent for the rapid growth of American military strength. He was not only the active head of a nation at war but also one of the world leaders against all that the Axis powers represented. His diplomatic duties were heavy. There was no conflict within the United States over foreign policy, and the election that occurred in wartime was again largely on domestic issues.
In 1944, Roosevelt, who had chosen Harry S. Truman as his running mate, was triumphant over the Republican Thomas E. Dewey. The turn in the fortunes of war had already come, and the series of international conferences with Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Chiang Kai-shek, and others (see Casablanca Conference; Quebec Conference; Tehran Conference; Yalta Conference) began increasingly to include plans for the postwar world. Roosevelt spoke eloquently for human freedom and worked for the establishment of the United Nations.
On Apr. 12, 1945, not quite a month before Germany surrendered to the Allies, Franklin Delano Roosevelt died suddenly from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was buried on the family estate at Hyde Park (much of which he donated to the nation). The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Library is there. Roosevelt's character and achievements are still hotly debated by his fervent admirers and his fierce detractors. However, no one denies his immense energy and self-confidence, his mastery of politics, and the enormous impact his presidency had on the development of the country.
Roosevelt's letters (4 vol., 1947–50) were edited by his son E. Roosevelt, and his public papers and addresses (13 vol., 1938–50, repr. 1969) by S. I. Rosenman. See particularly the works of F. Freidel; biographies by J. Gunther (1950), J. M. Burns (1956 and 1970), A. M. Schlesinger, Jr. (3 vol., 1957–60), R. G. Tugwell (1967), C. Black (2003), R. Jenkens (2003), and J. E. Smith (2007); R. E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins (rev. ed. 1950); S. I. Rosenman, Working with Roosevelt (1952, repr. 1972), H. I. Ickes, The Secret Diary (3 vol., 1953–54, repr. 1974), D. R. Fusfeld, The Economic Thought of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Origins of the New Deal (1956, repr. 1969); J. M. Blum, Roosevelt and Morgenthau (1970); J. P. Lash, Eleanor and Franklin (1971); J. Bishop, FDR's Last Year (1974); R. T. Goldberg, The Making of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1982); W. Heinrich, Threshold of War (1988); P. Collier with D. Horowitz, The Roosevelts (1994); D. K. Goodwin, No Ordinary Time (1994); R. H. Jackson, That Man (2003); J. Meacham, Franklin and Winston (2003); J. Alter, The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope (2006); A. J. Badger, FDR: The First Hundred Days (2008); A. Cohen, Nothing to Fear (2009); A. Roberts, Masters and Commanders (2009); B. Solomon, FDR v. the Constitution (2009); H. Rowley, Franklin and Eleanor (2010); J. Shesol, Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt v. the Supreme Court (2010); J. F. Simon, F.D.R. and Chief Justice Hughes (2012); I. Kitznelson, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (2013); A. J. Lichman and R. Breitman, FDR and the Jews (2013); N. Hamilton, The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941–1942 (2014).
Copyright The Columbia University Press
Roosevelt, Franklin D.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Born: January 20, 1882
Hyde Park, New York
Died: April 12, 1945
Warm Springs, Georgia
American president, governor, and politician
Franklin D. Roosevelt, thirty-second president of the United States, led the nation out of the period of economic crisis known as the Great Depression (1929–39) and later into World War II (1939–45). Before he died, he cleared the way for peace, including the establishment of the United Nations.
Youth and marriage
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, into a well-known family. The Roosevelts had been fairly wealthy for many generations. The family had often been important in the civic affairs of New York. When Franklin was born, his father was fifty-one years old and his mother was twenty-eight. As his parents' only child, he did not have to compete with other siblings for their attention. Tutors and governesses (female, live-in teachers) educated him at home until he was fourteen. At this time he attended Groton School, which educated boys of the upper class. The young Roosevelt was thus surrounded by privilege and by a sense of social importance from an early age. His family traveled in elite (high-society) circles, and he even visited the White House to meet President Grover Cleveland (1837–1908) when he was five years old.
As a young man, Roosevelt attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While living in Cambridge, he met and decided to marry his cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962). The couple married in 1905. At that same time Franklin entered the Columbia University Law School. He became a lawyer and took a job as a clerk in a New York firm. However, he took his duties there lightly. It was later recalled that he had told other clerks that he intended to enter politics and eventually become president.
Roosevelt's opportunity came in 1910. He accepted the Democratic nomination for the New York Senate and was elected. He was reelected in 1912, and that same year Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924) was elected president of the United States. Roosevelt had worked to support Wilson's run for office, and his efforts were noticed by the important Democrat Josephus Daniels (1862–1948). When Daniels became secretary of the Navy under Wilson, he persuaded Wilson to offer Roosevelt the assistant secretaryship.
Roosevelt soon became restless in his new position, and he decided to run for the Democratic nomination for U.S. senator of New York. Wilson and Daniels were not pleased, and afterward President Wilson never really trusted Roosevelt. This distrust increased when Roosevelt disagreed with the Wilson administration's policy in the years preceding World War I (1914–18), the conflict that pitted Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, and other countries against the forces of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and others. Wilson wanted to remain neutral—he wanted to keep the United States from taking sides in the war. Roosevelt openly favored greater engagement in the war. When America finally did enter the war in 1917, Roosevelt worked for a cause he believed in.
After the war came to an end, President Wilson suffered a devastating stroke while fighting to gain American support for the Versailles Treaty, the peace document which set the terms for the war's end. Throughout the United States there was obvious disappointment with the treaty's final terms. Many Americans felt that they would do little to ensure future peace and democracy in the world. Anger and disappointment were widespread.
The Republican Party had the advantage of not having been responsible for America's role in World War I. In 1920 the Republicans nominated U.S. senator Warren G. Harding (1865–1923) of Ohio as their candidate for president. The Democrats nominated Ohio governor James Cox (1870–1957). His vice presidential candidate was Roosevelt.
It was a doomed run for office, but in one respect it was a beginning rather than an ending for Roosevelt. He had covered the nation by special trains, speaking many times a day and meeting local leaders everywhere. Roosevelt and Cox were easily defeated, but Roosevelt emerged as the leading figure in the Democratic party.
Victim of poliomyelitis
After his run for vice president, Roosevelt returned to work in New York City's financial district. But in the summer of 1921 he became mysteriously ill. His disease, which was not immediately diagnosed, was poliomyelitis. Often called simply polio, this infectious disease is caused by a virus and can lead to paralysis. Roosevelt became almost totally paralyzed as a result of this illness. He would never be able to use his legs again, which might have ended his political career. However, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt's friend Louis McHenry Howe (1871–1936) set out to renew Roosevelt's ambition.
Roosevelt's struggle during the next few years was very difficult and disappointing. He did exhausting exercises to reactivate his paralyzed muscles. In 1923 he tried the warm mineral waters of Warm Springs, Georgia. Roosevelt invested a good part of his remaining fortune in Warm Springs, and it soon became a resort for those with similar ailments.
New York governor
While at Warm Springs in 1928, Roosevelt was called to political duty again. Al Smith (1873–1944), the four-time governor of New York, was now running as a Democratic candidate for president. Although it became clear that Smith could not win the national election, Smith felt that Roosevelt, as a candidate for governor, would help to carry New York. Roosevelt resisted, feeling that if he lost the race for the governorship he might lose his own chance to become president. Nevertheless, he ran and was barely elected.
Roosevelt now began the four years of his New York governorship that led to his presidency. By 1930, it was clear that he should be the Democratic candidate for president in 1932. Since 1929 the nation had been struggling in the Great Depression, the worst economic depression of its kind in history, and the Republican administration of then-president Herbert Hoover (1874–1964) had failed to find a way to help the country recover.
First presidential term
Roosevelt was elected president in 1932. He came to office with a dangerous economic crisis at its height. Some 30 percent of the work force was unemployed. Roosevelt began providing relief on a large scale by giving work to the unemployed and by approving a device for bringing increased income to farmers. He adjusted the U.S. currency (the American money system) so that those in debt could pay what they owed. Banks that were closed all over the country were helped to reopen, and gradually the crisis was overcome.
In 1934 Roosevelt proposed a national social security system that, he hoped, would prevent another such depression. Citizens would never be without at least minimum incomes again, because the new social security system (still in use today) used money paid by employees and employers to provide support to those who were unemployed, retired, and disabled. Many citizens became devoted supporters of the president who had helped them. Roosevelt became so popular that he won reelection in 1936 by an overwhelming majority.
Second and third terms
Roosevelt's second presidential term began with a battle with the Supreme Court. The justices of the court had considered some of his economic programs to be against the principles of the U.S. Constitution. Roosevelt tried to fight the court by adding new justices who would be more accepting of his policies. However, many even in his own party opposed him in this attempt to pack the court, and the Congress defeated it. After this disagreement, relations were suspended between Roosevelt and the Congress. Nevertheless, in 1940 Roosevelt ran for a third presidential term. He was now certain that the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), intended to conquer all of Europe. Roosevelt saw that Europe would fall unless the United States came to its support.
The presidential campaign of 1940 was the climax of Roosevelt's plea that Americans set themselves against the Nazi threat. Many Americans remembered their disappointment after World War I, and many also leaned toward supporting the Germans rather than the group of countries known as the Allies (including Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union). The Allies opposed what were known as the Axis Powers—Germany, Italy, and Japan. The American people were so unwilling to be involved in this war that by the end of his campaign Roosevelt practically promised that young Americans would never be sent overseas to fight.
Roosevelt narrowly won the election. He was not far into his third presidential term when the decision to enter the war was made for him. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii, causing serious losses to American forces. At once the White House became headquarters for those who controlled the strategy of World War II. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1871–1947) practically began living there. Together the leaders agreed that defeating Germany and Italy was the first priority, rather than focusing on the threat posed by Japan.
The war ends
Hitler's strategy was to defeat the Soviet Union, conquer North Africa, and link up with the Japanese in the East. Roosevelt wanted to retake France, which had been occupied by Germany, and to force Hitler to fight on two fronts. Churchill, however, wanted to attack lower Europe, cut Hitler's lines to the East, and shut him off from Africa. The invasion of Europe was postponed, but Allied troops were sent into Africa. Eventually these forces crossed to the island of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea and made a slow march up the Italian peninsula. At the same time, Allied troops landed on the beaches of France. The twin attacks forced an Italian collapse and the German surrender.
Meanwhile, American general Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) drove the Japanese back and destroyed their fleet in the Pacific. After the German surrender, the war came to an end with the American atomic bomb explosion over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The decision to drop the bombs was not made by Roosevelt, but by the man who followed him, President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972). Although Roosevelt was elected to a fourth term in 1944, he died before World War II ended. He had gone to Warm Springs in 1945, completely exhausted after having returned from a conference of Allied leaders to set the terms for final peace. At the conference, he had forced other leaders to accept his scheme for a United Nations. On April 12, 1945, he suffered a fatal stroke when an artery ruptured in his brain.
For More Information
Alsop, Joseph. FDR, 1882–1945: A Centenary Remembrance. New York: Viking, 1982. Reprint, New York: Gramercy Books, 1998.
Burns, James MacGregor. The Three Roosevelts: Patrician Leaders Who Transformed America. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2001.
Freedman, Russell. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. New York: Clarion Books, 1990.
Larsen, Rebecca. Franklin D. Roosevelt: Man of Destiny. New York: Franklin Watts, 1991.
Leuchtenburg, William E. The FDR Years: On Roosevelt and His Legacy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr. The Age of Roosevelt. 3 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957.
COPYRIGHT 2003 The Gale Group, Inc.
Roosevelt, Franklin D.
An unsuccessful candidate for vice president in 1920, Roosevelt overcame crippling polio to win the New York governorship in 1928 and attain the White House in 1932. Espousing isolationist views during his first two terms, FDR gave priority to New Deal reforms over foreign policy, accepted congressional revision of neutrality laws, and reacted hesitantly to Axis aggression in Asia and Europe. Notwithstanding his “Arsenal of Democracy” speech in December 1940, he had urged moderate rearmament until Adolf Hitler's conquest of France and supported the Selective Service Act of 1940 only after political opponents had introduced it. While promising to protect the hemisphere from war, he employed the neutrality patrol, the Destroyers‐for‐Bases Agreement, Lend‐Lease, and economic embargoes primarily to assist potential Allies (Britain, China, Soviet Union) in steps short of full belligerency. Emphasizing naval power and airpower instead of a second American Expeditionary Force, FDR proceeded to “wage war, but not declare it.”
After Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 catapulted the United States into World War II, some isolationist historians later charged that Roosevelt had provoked the Japanese into firing the first shot so as to overcome American isolationism and thus ensure support, via the Pacific “back door,” for war against Japan's ally, Nazi Germany. Most scholars reject conspiracy and explain Pearl Harbor as the consequence of intelligence errors, missed clues, overconfidence, and plain bad luck. Nonetheless, Japan's attack and Hitler's subsequent declaration of war gave FDR the political leeway to implement a “Europe‐first” military strategy. Fearful that mounting American casualties in the Pacific would focus public resentment against Japan, the president reaffirmed Anglo‐American plans to defeat Hitler first. Against recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to concentrate forces in England for a cross‐Channel invasion by spring 1943, he accepted Winston S. Churchill's alternative plan, Operation Torch, for the North Africa Campaign in November 1942. This decision led logically to the invasion and conquest of Sicily and Italy in 1943 and effectively postponed the liberation of France (Operation Overlord) until 1944. Apart from Roosevelt's desire for Americans to fight Germans somewhere in 1942, British strategy predominated in the two years after Pearl Harbor because England had fully mobilized, whereas America had not, and any combined operation had to depend largely on British troops, shipping, and casualties.
Despite the European emphasis, Roosevelt did reinforce the Pacific theater after victories at the Battle of Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway (1942) and oversaw a controversial two‐prong strategy in which the navy and Marines “leapfrogged” toward Tokyo across Micronesian atolls while U.S.‐Australian forces under Gen. Douglas MacArthur battled northward from New Guinea to the Philippines. FDR's expectation that China would figure decisively in defeating Japan and policing postwar Asia was undermined by Japan's conquest of Burma and internal bickering between Chinese Communists and Nationalists.
Because Roosevelt sought to win the war with minimal American casualties, the country never fully mobilized its population for military service. With no threat of invasion and the bulk of Axis forces engaged in Russia and China, the president gambled that “an air war plus the Russians” meant that ninety U.S. Army divisions would be sufficient for military and political goals.
Such calculations increased dependence on Soviet Russia. With the Red Army “killing more Axis personnel … than all other twenty‐five United Nations put together,” Roosevelt sent the Soviets $11 billion in Lend‐Lease supplies, made promises for an early second front, and used personal diplomacy at Teheran (November 1943) and Yalta (February 1945). “Unconditional Surrender” assured a suspicious Josef Stalin that there would be no separate peace with Hitler or his underlings. It also underscored FDR's belief that Germany deserved punishment for Hitler's crimes, including permanent partition, demilitarization, and dismantling of heavy industry. The president's postwar plans envisaged a disarmed, decentralized, and decolonized Europe initially policed by British and Soviet armies; U.S. forces would patrol the western hemisphere and replace Japanese power in the western Pacific. Because Red Army victories guaranteed Soviet hegemony over Eastern Europe, FDR urged “open” spheres and free elections and hoped that increased contacts would make the Russians “less barbarian.”
Aiding the Soviets reflected Roosevelt's military advice. Despite “assured Russian military dominance” after the war, the joint chiefs invariably opposed “get tough” policies because of military necessity, including the need for Soviet help against Japan. According to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson in 1945, “in the big military matters the Soviet Government have kept their word.” Only after the end of the war did the predominant U.S. military view of the Soviet Union change from ally to adversary.
That the cooperation with the Kremlin had limits was shown in the Manhattan Project, the secret Anglo‐American effort to acquire an atomic weapon before the Germans. Despite Danish physicist Niels Bohr's plea in 1944 that the Russians be brought into the partnership to prevent a postwar nuclear arms race, Roosevelt and Churchill chose to maintain their monopoly, partly as a hedge against Russian misbehavior.
The booming U.S. economy (the gross national product had jumped from $90.5 billion in 1939 to $211.9 billion in 1945) also provided insurance against future uncertainties, as did FDR's support for new international institutions—the United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund—designed to maintain peace and prosperity after the war.
The commander in chief died of a cerebral hemorrhage in April 1945, shortly after the Yalta Conference, on the eve of final victory.
[See also Lend‐Lease Act and Agreements; World War II: Military and Diplomatic Course.]
Eric Larrabee , Commander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants and Their War, 1987.
Frank Freidel , Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny, 1990.
Doris Kearns Goodwin , No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Homefront in World War II, 1994.
Warren F. Kimball , Forged in War: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War, 1997.
J. Garry Clifford
© The Oxford Companion to American Military History 2000, originally published by Oxford University Press 2000.
Roosevelt, Franklin D.
Roosevelt, Franklin D. 1882-1945
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the thirty-second president of the United States of America. He served as president from March 4, 1933, until his death on April 12, 1945. He was elected president four times, more than any other American president.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, in Hyde Park, New York. He was the only child of James and Sara (Delano) Roosevelt. A graduate of the Groton School and Harvard University, he also attended the law school of Columbia University before becoming an attorney in 1907.
Like his father, Franklin D. Roosevelt was a Democrat, but he wanted to follow the career path of his Republican cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909). As a young attorney, Roosevelt became active in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. In 1910 he was elected to the New York state senate. An admirer and supporter of Democratic president Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921), Roosevelt was appointed assistant secretary of the navy in 1913. Like Wilson, Roosevelt supported an active, leading role for the United States in the League of Nations after World War I.
After the Democratic national convention nominated James Cox for president and Roosevelt for vice president in 1920, the Democratic Party decisively lost the 1920 presidential election. In 1921 Roosevelt was stricken by polio, which permanently paralyzed his legs. After resuming his political activism, Roosevelt became closely allied with Democratic governor Alfred E. Smith of New York; he also relied on his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, who served as a political operative. After Smith was nominated for president in 1928, Roosevelt, at Smith’s request, ran for governor. While Smith lost the 1928 presidential election by a landslide, Roosevelt was narrowly elected governor of New York.
For a Democratic governor, Roosevelt was unusually popular in heavily Republican rural areas of upstate New York. He advocated such policies as state-sponsored rural electrification, property tax relief for farmers, and the state construction of paved farm-to-market roads. He directly communicated to New Yorkers through radio broadcasts, and increased public works and relief spending when the economy worsened after 1929. Reelected in 1930, Roosevelt emerged as the leading candidate for the 1932 Democratic presidential nomination.
Citing his rural-oriented policies as governor, Roosevelt emphasized agricultural and rural economic issues as he gained greater political support in the South and West while the Great Depression worsened. Competing against Smith, Speaker of the House John N. Garner, and several minor candidates, Roosevelt was nominated for president at the 1932 Democratic national convention. He chose Garner as his running mate.
The Great Depression helped Roosevelt to easily defeat Republican president Herbert Hoover in 1932. In his campaign speeches and 1933 inaugural address, Roosevelt promised bold, innovative presidential leadership to combat economic suffering and reform the economy. Roosevelt’s domestic policies, collectively known as the New Deal, included public works programs, the Social Security Act of 1935, stricter federal regulation of banks and the stock market, agricultural subsidies, legal powers for labor unions, and a national minimum wage. Roosevelt’s landslide reelection in 1936 solidified changes in American voting behavior that caused a Democratic realignment which lasted until 1968.
During his second term (1937–1941), Roosevelt was less successful in realizing his domestic policy agenda. The rejection of his “court-packing bill” in 1937 and Republican gains in the 1938 elections increased opposition in Congress to further New Deal legislation. After the outbreak of World War II in Europe in 1939, Roosevelt concentrated on foreign and defense policies. Before the United States entered World War II following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt assisted Great Britain against Nazi Germany through military and economic aid, despite strong isolationist opinion in the United States.
In his treatment of African Americans, Roosevelt generally deferred to the pro-segregation beliefs and policies of white Southern Democrats who dominated Congress and the Democratic Party. He never submitted a civil rights bill to Congress and only reluctantly created a Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) after black civil rights leaders threatened a march on Washington. New Deal programs, especially the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps, were often racially segregated and discriminatory. Roosevelt did not publicly support federal anti-lynching legislation and the American military remained racially segregated during World War II.
Roosevelt was reelected president in 1940 and 1944 by narrower margins. During the period of American participation in World War II (1941–1945), Roosevelt converted the U.S. economy’s productive capacity for military and foreign aid purposes and developed military and political alliances with Great Britain and the Soviet Union to defeat Germany and Japan. He also secretly authorized the development of atomic bombs and promoted the creation of the United Nations and the establishment of the concept and practice of international human rights.
SEE ALSO Democratic Party, U.S.; Great Depression; New Deal, The; Pearl Harbor; Truman, Harry S.;World War II
Burns, James MacGregor. 1970. Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom. New York: Konecky and Konecky.
Leuchtenburg, William E. 1963. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932–1940. New York: Harper and Row.
Savage, Sean J. 1991. Roosevelt: The Party Leader, 1932–1945. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
Sean J. Savage
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Roosevelt, Franklin Delano
© World Encyclopedia 2005, originally published by Oxford University Press 2005.
Roosevelt, Franklin Delano
ROOSEVELT, FRANKLIN DELANO
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945), known as F.D.R., was the thirty-second president of the United States. He was the only president elected to four consecutive terms of office. According to polls of historians and political scientists, F.D.R. is consistently ranked with George Washington (1789–1797) and Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865) as one of the United States' three greatest presidents.
Roosevelt's politics in fighting both the Great Depression (1929–1939) and World War II (1939–1945) was always realistic: he stood for humanity and against rigid ideology. Roosevelt seemed to work against the abstract ideologies of fascism, communism, and European imperialism in an effort to find practical ways to help common people.
Some Roosevelt critics in the wealthy business community said he was leading the United States into communism. During the Great Depression he said to his business detractors: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
Roosevelt is known as the president who lifted the United States out of its deepest economic despair and revolutionized the country's way of life. While many businessmen opposed him, he understood that social security, unemployment compensation, stock securities regulation, farm price supports, minimum wages, and guarantees of collective bargaining were all ways in which capitalism could save itself, instead of surrendering to other systems and pulling itself apart.
Franklin Roosevelt was born into a prominent and wealthy family in Hyde Park, New York, in 1882. He received a traditional education at the respected Groton School and went on to graduate from Harvard University, then entering the Columbia University law school. Roosevelt became a lawyer without finishing law school, but his dreams seemed always to be about politics. He had great ambitions to become president, and as early as 1905 his fellow law clerks remarked how Roosevelt meant to enter politics and the White House.
In 1910 he was elected to the New York State Senate. From there, his career in public service went from the New York Senate to President Woodrow Wilson's (1913–1924) Assistant Secretary of the Navy, then to the governor of New York in 1928, and ultimately to the presidency of the United States in 1933. He was re-elected to the presidency three times before his death in 1945.
In 1921, at age 39, Roosevelt became seriously ill with polio, and he was almost completely paralyzed. Through exhausting courses of physical exercise, he fiercely struggled to cure himself. He made progress in recovery, but never regained the use of his legs. Prior to his illness, Roosevelt was seen by many as a spoiled rich man dabbling in politics. Little of his later political seriousness was apparent before his bout with polio. When asked how he could be so patient with a political opponent, he said: "If you had spent two years in bed trying to wiggle your big toe, after that anything else would seem easy."
Roosevelt ran for the presidency on the Democratic Party ticket in 1932, promising to balance the federal budget and provide direct aid to the needy. Though his Republican opponents saw Roosevelt as a dangerous "socialist" during the 1930s, they missed the point that Roosevelt's efforts were to save American capitalism from its worst traits. He also planned to break with "foolish traditions" in order to relieve the misery of one-third of the population, mired in the hard times of the Great Depression (1929–1939). Roosevelt won the election and began his first term of office in 1933.
On March 9, 1933, he convened a special session of Congress, which lasted 100 days. During that period more important legislation was passed than at any other comparable period in U.S. history. Roosevelt called his reform, recovery, and relief efforts the New Deal. To accomplish his social and economic goals he needed to overcome the deep-seated public prejudices against a strong federal government. Roosevelt went on the radio and talked informally to the public about what he wanted to do. This combination of decisive action and personal persuasion was effective. The most popular New Deal measures voted in were aimed at relieving the suffering of the unemployed, who made up about 30 percent of the country's workforce at the time. Roosevelt created federal jobs for the unemployed, assisted farmers ruined by the Depression, and protected citizens against loss of their homes by mortgage foreclosures. He also enacted the Social Security Act, which put in place an old-age pension system, as well as benefits to widows with children and the chronically disabled. A combination of New Deal legislation and World War II (1939–1945) worked to return the United States to prosperity.
By 1938 the Republicans and conservative Democrats had won enough seats in Congress to halt substantial increases in New Deal legislation, which was never without controversy. Regardless of the many perspectives held on Roosevelt and his terms in office, it is impossible to deny the central role he and his New Deal played in the shaping of the modern United States. F.D.R. died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia, on the morning of April 12, 1945. He died knowing World War II was won, and the economy repaired.
See also: Great Depression, New Deal, Social Security Act, Unemployment, United Nations, World War II
Davis, Kenneth S. FDR: The New Deal Years, 1933– 1937. New York: Random House, 1979.
Larrabee, Eric. Commander in Chief, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War. New York: Harper and Row, 1987.
Morgan, Tom. FDR: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.
Thomas, Henry. Franklin Roosevelt. New York: G. P. Putnam, 1962.
Zevin, B.D., ed. Nothing to Fear: The Selected Addresses of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1946.
the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
franklin d. roosevelt
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