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FDR Essay, Research Paper

FDR’s Influence as president Some have called him the best president yet.

Others have even claimed that he was the world’s most influential and successful

leader of the twentieth century. Those claims can be backed up by the

overwhelming support that he received from his citizens throughout his four

terms in office. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began a new era in American

history by ending the Great Depression that the country had fallen into in 1929.

His social reforms gave people a new perspective on government. Government was

not only expected to protect the people from foreign invaders, but to protect

against poverty and joblessness. Roosevelt had shown his military and diplomatic

skill as the Commander in Chief during World War II. This wartime leadership and

international relations policy won him an award in the hearts of many Americans.

Roosevelt threw his hat in the ring in 1931 in order to prepare for the election

of 1932. Democratic Party chairman James A Farley directed his campaign. He

started a nationwide radio address, outlining a program to meet the economic

problems of the nation. He coined the term "forgotten man" to mean all

of those who had been hard hit by the evils of the depression. These radio

addresses were the start to what he called the "fireside chats".

Overall, Roosevelt was the most energetic and dynamic candidate, and he was

nominated by the party on the fourth ballot. Although he displayed excellent

characteristics, his competition was fairly tough. He was up against John Nance

Garner of Texas (who would be his Vice Presidential running mate); Newton D.

Baker of Ohio, who was former Secretary of War; and former Governor Alfred E.

Smith of New York. For three ballots, Roosevelt held a large lead, but lacked

the two- thirds margin necessary for victory. Farley then promised John Garner

the vice presidential nomination, which he accepted grudgingly. Then FDR took

the presidential nomination on the fourth ballot. One of the purposes of the

national convention is to bring the party together in a movement of support

behind the nominated candidate. Although there was rough competition during the

choosing process, most party leaders were happy with the Roosevelt choice. It

would help pull votes from the urban-Eastern region of the country. Also,

Roosevelt made a dashing introduction at the Chicago convention by being the

first nominee to ever write an acceptance speech. In this speech, he brought

emotions from the audience in his last line, "I pledge to you, I pledge to

myself, to a new deal for the American people." During the November

campaign against Hoover, Roosevelt suggested a few parts of the so called

"New Deal". He spoke of relief and public works money. He wanted to

develop a plan to cut agricultural overproduction. He was for public power,

conservation and unemployment insurance. The repeal of prohibition and stock

exchange regulation were also big items on his platform. However, other than the

aforementioned items, Roosevelt was quite vague about other plans. He mentioned

little about his plans for industrial recovery or labor laws. As much foreign

policy experience as he had, he talked very little of it during the campaign.

Many believe that he was simply trying to home in on the problems that the

American public saw most prominent at the time. When it came to election day,

Roosevelt was the only viable alternative to Hoover, who many blamed for the

Great Depression, although critics argue that it was the presidents preceding

the Hoover Administration. The outcome reflected this thinking: Roosevelt won

22,821,857 votes compared to Hoover’s 15, 761,841. Roosevelt also won the

electoral 472 to 59. The voters had sent large majorities of Democrats to both

houses as well, which would enable Roosevelt to accomplish more by pushing

through more bills. Roosevelt’s second election was in 1936. The Democratic

National Convention re-nominated him by acclamation– no vote was even taken.

Vice President Garner was also nominated. The Republican opponents were Governor

Alfred M. Landon of Kansas and Frank Knox, a newspaper publisher. Republicans,

seeing Roosevelt’s overwhelming popularity, were reaching for a tomato to throw.

They claimed that he had not kept his promise to the people to balance the

budget. Roosevelt replied by pointing to the actions of fighting the depression

and returning the nation to prosperity to precedence over the budget. As

expected, Roosevelt won by a landslide. He received 27,751,491 popular votes and

carried 46 states with 523 electoral votes. His opponent only received

16,679,491 popular votes and 2 states with 8 electorals. This reflected the

nation’s confidence in the man and his leadership ability. However, the nation

still had a long way to go. He stated in his inauguration address, "I see

one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished". After

another over-all successful term, Roosevelt ran again in 1940. The Democratic

Party broke precedent with his re-nomination. There were some party members that

felt it was unfair to elect him again, so his margins of popularity fell

slightly. This time, he was not the only one up for the nomination. There was

James Farley, who received 72 13/30 votes, previous Vice President John Nance

Garner, receiving 61 votes; Millard Tydings of Maryland, receiving 9 1/2 votes;

and Cordell Hull, former Secretary of State, who received only 5 2/3 votes.

Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace was chosen as a Vice Presidential

running mate. The Republicans nominated Wendell Wilkie of Indiana, a corporation

president, to oppose the Roosevelt/Wallace team. The two candidates had some

similar views. Wilkie supported Roosevelt’s foreign policy and favored many New

Deal programs already in effect. However, Wilkie opposed the controls that the

Democratic Administration had put on business. To obtain more Republican support

for this campaign, Roosevelt used his executive power of appointment to appoint

two republicans to his Cabinet in 1940. The first was Henry L. Stimson for

Secretary of War, who held the office under the Taft Administration. He also

held the office of Secretary of State under President Hoover. Stimson replaced

Harry Woodring who was regarded as isolationist. Roosevelt’s previous opponent

who ran for as Vice President on the republican side, newspaper publisher Frank

Knox, was placed as the Secretary of the Navy. The Republicans based their

campaign on the tradition that no President had ever gone for a third term in

succession. To counter this, Roosevelt put the spotlight on his administration’s

achievements. Because of the risky situation abroad, many felt that Roosevelt’s

expertise was needed if war occurred. The election results were closer this time

than the previous two times. Roosevelt received 27,243,466 popular votes and 449

electoral votes. Wilkie received 22,334,413 popular votes and 82 electoral

votes. When it was time for Roosevelt’s third term to end, he initially said he

wanted to retire. However, he later declared that he felt it was his duty to

serve if his country called on him. Much of this feeling was based on the idea

that it would be a bad thing for the country to change leadership in the middle

of the war. Many of the president’s advisors felt he would not live through a

fourth term, considering his heart disease, hypertension, and other cardiac

problems. Because of his condition, the Vice President nomination for the 1944

election was of utmost importance. Roosevelt was persuaded to drop Henry

Wallace, whom many regarded as too liberal and emotionally unsuited to be

president. Harry Truman of Missouri was chosen to fill the spot. Although

Roosevelt received party nomination on the first ballot, there were two other

candidates: Harry Byrd (89 votes) and James Farley–again– (1 vote). The

Republicans nominated Thomas Dewey of New York for President and John Bricker of

Ohio for Vice President. Again, their argument was term length. No President

should serve for 16 years, they declared. The opposing argument by the Democrats

was that no country should "change horses in mid-stream". Roosevelt

drove around the streets of New York City in a rainstorm and then made a speech

to show that his health was not a major issue. The election outcome was even

slimmer this time, but Roosevelt still captured a hearty vote. Roosevelt

received 25,602,505 votes and 432 electoral votes and his Republican opponent

received 22,013,372 popular votes and 99 electoral votes. Many of the advisers

who helped Roosevelt during his presidential campaigns continued to aid him

after he entered the White House. Below are the four cabinets: By the time

Roosevelt was inagurated on March 4, 1933, the economic situation was desperate.

Between 13 and 15 million Americans were unemployed. Of these, between 1 and 2

million people were wandering about the country looking for jobs. Thousands

lived in cardboard shacks called "hoovervilles". Even more were

standing in bread lines hoping to get a few crumbs for their family.

Panic-stricken people hoping to rescue their deposits had forced 38 states to

close their banks. The Depression hit all levels of the social scale– heads of

corporations and Wall Street bankers were left on the street begging–

"brother, can you spare a dime?" became the catch phrase of the era.

Roosevelt’s action would be two parted: restore confidence and rebuild the

economic and social structure. In one of his addresses, he pushed confidence

with his statement, "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself".

It is here where he would push his presidential powers farther than almost any

other president in history during peacetime. He made the bold request to

Congress to allow him "broad executive power to wage a war against the

emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were invaded by

a foreign foe." One of his first steps was to take action upon the bank

problem. Because of the Depression, there were "runs" to the bank that

people were making to pull their deposits out in return for paper cash and gold.

Many banks were not fit to handle this rush. Roosevelt declared a "bank

holiday" that began on March 6, 1933 and lasted for four days. All banks in

the nation were closed until the Department of Treasury could examine each one’s

fiscal situation. Those that were determined to be in sound financial condition

were allowed to reopen. Those that were questionable were looked at more deeply.

Those banks who had been badly operated were not allowed to reopen. During the

FDR administration, 5,504 banks had closed and deposits of nearly $3.5 billion

dollars were lost. Shortly after the President restored confidence in the banks,

what is now known as the "100 days" began on March 9 and ended on June

16, 1933. The President at once began to submit recovery and reform laws for

congressional approval. Congress passed nearly all the important bills that he

requested, most of them by large majorities. The fact that there was a

Democratic party majority in both houses helped speed things along. What emerged

from these 100 days was a 3-fold focus, RELIEF-RECOVERY-REFORM. One of the

relief actions was known as the Emergency Relief Act. This established the

Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) and he pushed an appropriation of

$500 million to be spent immediately for quick relief. Harry Hopkins was

appointed to the head of FERA as the Federal Relief Administrator. The

Reforestation Act of 1933 killed two birds with one stone. First it helped stop

and repair some of the environmental damage that had occurred as a result of the

industrial revolution. More importantly, however, it created the Civilian

Conservation Corps, which eventually employed more than 2 1/2 million men at

various camps. Projects included reforestation, road construction, soil erosion

and flood control as well as national park development. The Agricultural

Adjustment Act (AAA) was designed to raise crop prices and raise the standard of

living for American farmers. Production was cut to increase demand, therefore

raising the price. Also, various subsides were set up to add to the farmers

income. It also gave the president the power to inflate the currency by

devaluating its gold content or the free coinage of silver and issue about $3

billion in paper currency. The AAA was later struck down as unconstitutional by

the US Supreme Court– US vs. Butler. The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA),

another recovery measure, was designed to balance the interests of business and

labor and consumers/workers and to reduce unemployment. This act set codes of

anti-trust laws and fair competition, as well as setting a new standard–

minimum wage. Section 7A of the law guaranteed collective bargaining rights to

workers. NIRA also established the Public Works Administration (PWA), which

supervised the building of roads and public buildings at a cost of $3.3 billion

to Uncle Sam. A new idea came about in those 100 days, it was known as the

federal corporation. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was the first agency

to work much like a private enterprise. The goal of the TVA was to reform one of

the poorest parts of the country, the Tennessee River Valley. The TVA was

responsible for the construction and management of power plants, dams,

electricity, flood control systems and the development of navigation systems.

The Federal Securities Act required the government to register and approve all

issues of stocks and bonds. This act also created the Securities and Exchange

Commission (SEC), which regulates exchanges and transactions of securities.

Other reforms included the Home Owners Refinancing Act, which established

mortgage money for homeowners to refinance and the Banking Act of 1933, which

created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It was empowered to guarantee

individual bank deposits up to $5000. After the initial 100 days, reform

continued throughout the first part of the Roosevelt Administration. In

November, 1933, the Civil Works Administration was created by executive order,

which provided temp jobs during the winter of 1933-34. The Gold Reserve Act

helped fix some of the problems of the economy at the roots. First all gold was

transferred from the Federal Reserve to the National Treasury. FDR was also

empowered to fix the values of the dollar by weighing its value in gold. He

later set the price of gold at $35 per ounce, which in turn stabilized markets.

The Silver Purchase Act followed, allowing the government to have not only gold

in the Treasury, but Silver as well– valued at 1/3 the price of gold. The

Communications Act of 1934 established one of the most active federal agencies

today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It general purpose was to

monitor radio, telegraph, and telephone communications. In Roosevelt’s Annual

Address to Congress on January 4, 1935, he outlined phase two of the New Deal,

whose main component would be the establishment of the modern welfare system.

The federal government would withdraw from the direct relief, leaving it up to

state and local governments. A program of social reforms would also be included

in the second half of the New Deal. This would include social security for the

aged, unemployed and ill, as well as slum clearance and better housing. One of

the first acts of the New Deal, Phase II was the Emergency Relief Act. By

Executive Order, Roosevelt created three new relief agencies in 1935. The first

would be the Work Progress Administration (WPA), which would spend $11 billion

on temporary construction jobs. Schools, theaters, museums, airfields, parks and

post offices were constructed as a result. This increased the national

purchasing power. Another part of the Emergency Relief Act was the Resettlement

Administration (RA). Its goals were to improve the condition of farm families

not already benefiting from AAA, prevent waste by unprofitable farming

operations or improper land use and projects such as flood control and

reforestation. This agency also resettled poor families in "subsistence

homestead communities". These were basic suburbs constructed for the city’s

poor workers. Many times, these communities were known as "greenbelt

towns" because of their proximity to open space. Two model suburbs were set

up– Greenbelt in Washington DC and Greenhills in Cincinnati. Another aid to the

farmer was the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). Its goals were to

provide electricity to isolated areas where private utility companies did not

see it profitable to run lines and set up service. The year of 1935 brought with

it numerous reform efforts. These were the final efforts of the New Deal before

the nation geared up for war. Included in this was the National Labor Relations

Act, whose most important function was to set up the National Labor Relations

Board (NLRB), which monitored corporations to ensure worker rights and safety.

The National Housing Act created the US Housing Authority (USHA) to administer

low-interest 60-year loans to small communities for slum clearance and

construction projects. This agency also gave subsidies to those landlords

willing to offer low-income housing. A Revenue Act of 1935 capped off the New

Deal with a tax on the rich, and a tax break on the middle classmen. One of the

most important and lasting effects of the Roosevelt Administration was his into

push for the Social Security Act of 1935. This was an innovative plan that was

supposed to lead to a nation-wide retirement system. It also established a

cooperative federal-state welfare system/unemployment system. A tax was levied

on the employee, which was met dollar for dollar by the employer. This tax went

into a special fund operated by the Social Security Administration. Later in

life, when a person reached retirement, they could draw the money out of this

account that they had placed in for the last few decades. The Supreme Court was

fairly conservative, and attempted to shoot holes in many of Roosevelt’s New

Deal Programs. It felt that Roosevelt had taken his legislative presidential

power to recommend legislation too far, and that Congress was equally

responsible for allowing him to usurp the powers for reasons of what Roosevelt

claimed was a "national emergency". In a statement made in May of

1935, one of the Supreme Court Justices announced that "Congress had

delegated virtually unfettered powers to the [Roosevelt] Administration.–

something truly inconsistent with the constitutional prerogatives and duties of

Congress." The Supreme Court even went as far as to strike the entire AAA

program down, claiming that it violated state’s rights. FDR was infuriated at

the actions of the Court. He thought of them as nine old men who were living in

days gone by– far too conservative to see the economic and social needs of

today. He soon began to plan retribution, however in secrecy. Two days after

inviting the Justices to a formal social function at the White House, he called

upon his staff to write up the Judicial Reform Act of 1937. Essentially, this

document alleged that the Judicial Branch of the federal government was

overwhelmed. The Act described a desperate situation in which reform and

recovery issues were not flowing through government on a timely basis–simply

because the Supreme Court was backed up. His answer to solve the dilemma was to

use his executive power of appointment and place more Justices on the Court.

Another section of the Act suggested that at age 70 (most of the Justices were

above this age), each Justice would be supplemented with an additional Justice.

This meant up to 15 Supreme Court Justices serving at one time. Roosevelt hoped

to load the Court with social liberal Democrats who would not oppose his New

Deal Programs. This became known as his "Court Packing Scheme". The

President can appoint Justices, however, they must be approved by Congress.

After a long period of embarrassing debate, the Senate rejected Roosevelt’s

proposal. This, in turn, caused Roosevelt to reject the Senate. He set out on a

mission to purge the Democratic party of the moderate type thinker, replacing

him with the ultra-liberal. Roosevelt used his diplomatic and military powers in

the later part of his Administration nearly as much as he used his executive and

legislative powers in the first half. At the time Roosevelt took office, the

nation was suprisingly isolationistic. This started in the late nineteenth

century, and continued up to the Roosevelt Administration. When the Great

Depression hit in the 1930’s, America became even more concerned with its own

problems. However, seeing the importance of a global view and seeing the

possible impact of World War II, Roosevelt directed the country toward nations

abroad. Roosevelt described his foreign policy as that of a good neighbor. The

phrase came to be used to describe the US attitude toward the countries of Latin

America. Under the policy, the United States took a stronger lead in promoting

good will among these nations. The Platt Amendment of 1901 gave the US the right

to intervene in the affairs of Cuba. In May of 1934, the government repealed

this amendment. It also withdrew American occupation forces from some Caribbean

republics, and settled long- standing oil disputes with Mexico. Roosevelt was

the first to sign reciprocal trade agreements with the Latin American countries,

including Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and

Nicaragua. In 1935, the US signed treaties of non-aggression and conciliation

with six Latin American nations. This desire to spread ties across the Western

Hemispheres led to reciprocal trade agreements with Canada. Roosevelt also used

personal diplomacy by taking trips to various Latin American nations. In July,

1934, he became the first American president to visit South American in his trip

to Columbia. In 1936, he attended the Inter-American Conference for the

Maintenance of Peace, in Buenos Aires. Roosevelt used his diplomatic power of

recognition to resume trading between the Soviet Union and the US The

recognition was given to the Soviet government in November of 1933. This was the

first attempt at civil relations since the Russian Revolution in 1917. In 1933,

for the first time in 16 years, the two nations exchanged representatives. In

1937, Japan, at war with China, attacked a US river gunboat, the USS Panay, on

the Yangtze River, killing two US citizens. This event infuriated the American

public as well as the Roosevelt Administration. However, the US protested the

Japanese action rather than demanding action taken against them. Roosevelt used

his diplomatic power and refused to recognize the Japanese puppet state of

Manchukuo in Northern China until there was an official apology. Shortly after

Roosevelt’s statement, Japan made an official apology to the US and offend to

pay for the damages in full. Although Roosevelt set his sights upon a global

society, many Americans disagreed. This school of thought led to the Neutrality

Acts of the 1930’s. These acts, passed by Congress, prohibited the US from

furnishing weapons or supplies to any nation at war. President Roosevelt hoped

that any more of these laws that would be enacted in the future would allow more

flexibility. He disliked the fact that these Acts treated all nations the same,

whether a country had attacked another or not. World War II began on September

1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. Still, many Americans did not agree that

the situation was as dangerous


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