Franklin D Roosevelt And The New Deal

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ISBN-13: 978-0061330254
ISBN-10: 0061330256
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"Considerable amount of new information, as well as a balanced synthesis." -- -- Robert E. Burke

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

The Politics of Hard Times

The Democratic party opened the 1932 campaign confident of victory. The crash of 1929 had made a mockery of Republican claims to being "the party of prosperity." In the three years of Herbert Hoover's Presidency, the bottom had dropped out of the stock market and industrial production had been cut more than half. At the beginning of the summer, Iron Age reported that steel plants were operating at a sickening 12 per cent of capacity with "an almost complete lack" of signs of a turn for the better. In three years, industrial construction had slumped from $949 million to an unbelievable $74 million. In no year since the Civil War were so few miles of new railroad track laid."1

By 1932, the unemployed numbered upward of thirteen million. Many lived in the primitive conditions of a preindustrial society stricken by famine. In the coal fields of West Virginia and Kentucky, evicted families shivered in tents in midwinter; children went barefoot. In Los Angeles, people whose gas and electricity had been turned off were reduced to cooking over wood fires in back lots. Visiting nurses in New York found children famished; one episode, reported Lillian Wald, "might have come out of the tales of old Russia." A Philadelphia storekeeper told a reporter of one family he was keeping going on credit: "Eleven children in that house. They've got no shoes, no pants. In the house, no chairs. My God, you go in there, you cry, that's all."2

At least a million, perhaps as many as two millions were wandering the country in a fruitless quest for work or adventure or just a sense of movement. They roved the waterfronts of both oceans, rode in cattle cars and gondolas of the Rock Island and the Southern Pacific, slept on benches in Boston Common and Lafayette Square, in Chicago's Grant Park and El Paso's Plaza. From Klamath Falls to Sparks to Yuma, they shared the hobo's quarters in oak thickets strewn with blackened cans along the railroad tracks. On snowy days, as many as two hundred men huddled over fires in the jungle at the north end of the railway yards in Belen, New Mexico. Unlike the traditional hobo, they sought not to evade work but to find it. But it was a dispirited search. They knew they were not headed toward the Big Rock Candy Mountain; they were not, in fact, headed anywhere, only fleeing from where they had been.3

On the outskirts of town or in empty lots in the big cities, homeless men threw together makeshift shacks of boxes and scrap metal. St. Louis had the largest "Hooverville," a settlement of more than a thousand souls, but there was scarcely a city that did not harbor at least one. Portland, Oregon, quartered one colony under the Ross Island bridge and a second of more than three hundred men in Sullivan's Gulch. Below Riverside Drive in New York City, an encampment of squatters lined the shore of the Hudson from 72nd Street to 110th Street. In Brooklyn's Red Hook section, jobless men bivouacked in the city dump in sheds made of junked Fords and old barrels. Along the banks of the Tennessee in Knoxville, in the mudflats under the Pulaski Skyway in New Jersey, in abandoned coke ovens in Pennsylvania's coal counties, in the huge dumps off Blue Island Avenue in Chicago, the dispossessed took their last stand.4

"We are like the drounding man, grabbing at every thing that flotes by, trying to save what little we have," reported a North Carolinian. In Chicago, a crowd of some fifty hungry men fought over a barrel of garbage set outside the back door of a restaurant; in Stockton, California, men scoured the city dump near the San Joaquin River to retrieve half-rotted vegetables. The Commissioner of Charity in Salt Lake City disclosed that scores of people were slowly starving, because neither county nor private relief funds were adequate, and hundreds of children were kept out of school because they had nothing to wear. "We have been eating wild greens," wrote a coal miner from Kentucky's Harlan County. "Such as Polk salad. Violet tops, wild onions. forget me not wild lettuce and such weeds as cows eat as a cow wont eat a poison weeds."5

As the party in power during hard times, the Republicans faced almost certain defeat in the 1932 elections. President Herbert Hoover could escape repudiation only if the Democrats permitted internal divisions to destroy them. There was some prospect that the Democrats might do just that. National Democratic party leaders criticized Hoover not because he had done too little but because he had done too much. The main criticism they leveled at Hoover was that he was a profligate spender. In seeking to defeat progressive measures, Republicans in Congress could count on the votes of a majority of Democrats on almost every roll call.6 But when, in their determination to balance the budget, Democratic leaders reached the point of advocating a federal sales tax, many of the congressional Democrats balked.7 Under the leadership of Representative Robert "Muley" Doughton of North Carolina, rebellious Democrats joined with Fiorello La Guardia's insurgent Republicans to vote down the sales tax and adopt income and estate taxes instead.8 The sales tax fight fixed the lines of combat at the forthcoming Democratic convention. Progressive Democrats were determined to overturn the national party leadership at Chicago in June and choose a liberal presidential nominee.

By the spring of 1932, almost every prominent Democratic progressive had become committed to the candidacy of New York's Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Liberal Democrats were somewhat uneasy about Roosevelt's reputation as a trimmer, and disturbed by the vagueness of his formulas for recovery, but no other serious candidate had such good claims on progressive support. As governor of New York, he had created the first comprehensive system of unemployment relief . . .


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Product Details

  • Series: New American Nation Series
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: HarpPeren (July 17, 1963)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061330256
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061330254
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #644,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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69 of 73 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen VINE VOICE on May 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
The New Deal is a era of history which of which I frequently heard but really knew very little about. We knew that it was a very important period of our history in which the Roosevelt administration attacked the depression with an alphabet soup of agencies. The New Deal managed to alter the political balance of the United States for the balance of the century, but which was really unsuccessful in ending the depression until the advent of World War II. It was to learn more about what really went on during the New Deal that I opened William E. Leuchtenburg's "Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal". I was very pleased as I read this book.

At the start of the book I was expecting this to be a propaganda piece for FDR. While the author seems to view the New Deal with favor, I did find the book to seem to be a rather even handed account of this period of history.

Leuchtenburg begins the book with an analysis of the conditions existing at the beginning of the New Deal. The advancing gloom of 1932 provides the background for the beginning of the story. The progressively desperate measures of the Hoover administration are contrasted with the rising tide of the Roosevelt movement in the Democratic Party. The shadows of despair lengthened in the winter between the November elections and the March inauguration. This section of the book both reinforced and challenged my prior understandings. The fact that the economy deteriorated significantly over the winter was confirmed. My prior readings, presented from President Hoover's point of view, emphasized Roosevelt's unwillingness to endorse any attempts by the administration to deal with the worsening crisis.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on April 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
Historian William Leuchtenburg, one of the most prominent American scholars writing about America in the 1930s, wrote "Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940" as a response to other researchers who "tended to minimize the significance of the changes wrought by the thirties." According to the author, these historians "have stressed, quite properly, the continuity between the New Deal reforms and those of other periods, and especially the many debts the New Dealers owed the progressives." Unfortunately, they "have too often obscured the extraordinary developments of the decade." Leuchtenburg's book examines the savage effects of the depression and the wild experimentation in the arenas of politics and society that the Roosevelt administration undertook to alleviate America's economic woes. Far from indulging in panegyric, the author takes care to expose Roosevelt's weaknesses and failings alongside the president's triumphs. The book marshals an impressive array of manuscripts from Roosevelt intimates and political associates, congressional papers, and published works to construct an intricate examination of the New Deal years.

The Great Depression was a horror that improved little after Roosevelt's election. The year 1932 was an unmitigated disaster for millions of Americans as the economy continued its downward spiral. The national income dropped to half of what it had been in 1929. Nine million savings accounts evaporated when banks closed. In New York City, a couple lived in a cave in Central Park for more than a year. Teachers in Chicago fainted in the classrooms from hunger. Farmers lost lands held by their families for generations because they could not earn enough money to pay their debts.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By R. Schwartz on October 26, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have very much enjoyed this book. It appears very objective - relatively speaking - and describes both the benefits and failures of the New Deal Economic policies and social advancement. It acknowledges the second crash of 1937 and the many problems incurred. And yet it does not deny the social progress that has helped millions of voices that were otherwise previously unheard in the political arena of American life.

The book takes on FDR and the New Deal Administration's efforts and set backs. It does however fail in the reasons of economics, the deeper structural reasons as to why many of the New Deal measures failed. The books does write of the Gold buying, the TVA, the higher taxes, the farm subsidies, relief efforts, the 100's of Acts, the Supreme Court decisions, the internal affairs and problems. What I especially enjoyed was the descriptions and political views of many of the other running mates as in Father Coughlin - a Yahoo, Huey Long and "Share the Wealth," Upton Sinclair, Merman, Wilkes - others and the political climate of socialism through out the country.

Immediately after reading this book, I began reading another book called "FDR's Folly," by Jim Powell, which is an anti-New Deal account with detailed analysis pertaining to the economic policies and their failures, written from a lazzaire-faire, Free Market, and Libertarian viewpoint - a bias account which supports the old two-class capitalism, and yet is also an excellent book. A good pro-New Deal on Social Security is Joe Cnason's "The Raw Deal." I recommend reading these books, as this one by William E. Leuchtenburg is more detailed in the social advancements as Powell's is more detailed on economics.
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