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Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal: 1932-1940 Paperback – February 24, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (February 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061836966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061836961
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #368,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“The best one-volume study of Franklin D. Roosevelt.” (Chicago Sun-Times)

“Any list of the New Deal’s premier historians must include Leuchtenburg.” (Library Journal)

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 . . .

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Plus the book reads very nicely!
Evin
In short, counterintuitiely, information on earlier history of the U.S. available in modern sources is harder to find and less reliable than in older literature.
Frank T. Manheim
I would recommend this to lovers of history and of high quality used books.
Lawrence Schwartz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Louie's Mom on June 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I heard a lot about another book on this subject, "The Forgotten Man" by journalist and former WSJ editorialist Amity Shlaes, but decided to read this one instead. The few scholarly people whose reviews of the Shlae's book I found online weren't impressed with it as the author clearly used selected statistics to try to make an ideological point. I wanted to read something by a historian who was a respected scholar in the field so I picked this book. This book is jammed full of facts as to the political, economic and social environment and as a result it is somewhat slow reading. However, it is an excellent and thorough book. The author clearly doesn't idolize or villify FDR - which makes him more credible than many other authors who have written about this period.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sagar Jethani on October 26, 2011
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William E. Leuchtenburg's "Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal" is a shrewd appraisal of the legacy of one of the most controversial efforts ever undertaken by the federal government. It is hard to read Leuchtenburg's history without drawing parallels to the perils now facing the United States in late 2011. It may be fairly said that an American's views on FDR and the New Deal serve as accurate predictors of his politics--liberals applaud the New Deal and its effect on improving the lives of millions crushed by the depression, while conservatives criticize it as ineffectual and the primary cause of the massive federal deficits which vex us today. Although an avowed admirer of Roosevelt, Leuchtenburg has studiously avoided producing a mere homage to liberalism. Through a dispassionate observation of what actually took place during the tumultuous years of 1932-1940, he paints a picture that is nearly as often at odds with cherished liberal principles as it is with common caricatures of FDR and the New Deal which abound on the right.

Many Americans today cannot appreciate the magnitude of the crisis which followed the stock market crash of 1929. National income had been halved. Over 5,000 banks had crashed, wiping out nine million savings accounts. Millions suffered the effects of hunger and malnutrition. "We are like the drounding [sic] man, grabbing at every thing that flotes by, trying to save what little we have," reported a North Carolinian. Fifty hungry men in Chicago fought over a barrel of garbage left outside the back of a restaurant. Men in Stockton, California waded through the city dump in search of rotted vegetables. Hundreds of children were kept out of school nationwide due to a lack of clothes. Hundreds of World War I veterans occupied buildings outside of Washington D.
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Format: Paperback
A former Senate Historian (Dr. Alan Baker) observed that since the 1960s the number of books by historians on big topics dealing with American government and politics declined drastically. Political scientists who moved in to fill the gap tended to take up fragmented theoretical themes. Trade and popular books have tended to have biases of one kind or other or fail to provide the kind of breadth and documentation that has been traditional for historians.

In short, counterintuitiely, information on earlier history of the U.S. available in modern sources is harder to find and less reliable than in older literature. As the other positive reviewers suggest, Leuchtenburg's book on the New Deal is therefore an indispensable source of detailed and balanced information on that critical time in American history. Fore me it's among a handful of essential volumes on American government and politics. Others that can be mentioned include Paul van Riper, The History of the U.S. Civil Service, 1958, Eric Foner on the Reconstruction Period, and Richard Morris and William Greenleaf "USA The History of a Nation, Volume 2" , 1967. for history from the Civil War to Truman. I have been unable to find and buy a copy of v. 1- let me know if anyone can help. The best more modern (relatively) U.S. history I have found that gets into contemporary issues of race, feminism, newer research on the role of disease in decimating American Indian populations, etc. is Alan Brinkley's "The Unfinished Nation", 1993. However, Brinkley almost totally omits much of Gilded Age politics, corruption, reform movements culminating in the Progressive Era, and takes a somewhat fashion-oriented liberal view of the New Deal.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Todd Carlsen on August 18, 2013
Format: Paperback
The best book on the New Deal is The New Deal: A Modern History. It is balanced and extremely well researched by a Pulitzer Prize-winning business journalist. I advise that book first as a near masterpiece of historical writing. It is far and away the best book.

This book, Franklin D Roosevelt and the New Deal, is the next best book on the New Deal. Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 also is good but I would read "The New Deal: A Modern History first."

I also recommend a great FDR biography, such as the ones by Jean Edward Smith, H.W. Brands, Conrad Black, Frank Freidel and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
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By Frank C. Turner on December 24, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book after reading "New Deal or Raw Deal" and wanted to learn more about Roosevelt's presidency. This book was very thorough in presenting the policies of the president amidst the bad economy.
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