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Franklin Delano Roosevelt And The Depression Sources Question Essay, Research Paper

1. Source A is a speech made by Governor F. D. Roosevelt in 1930, when the Depression was really beginning to bite. He says that Central Government has a responsibility to those citizens who are in real trouble, or even starving, to help those people.

Source B is another speech from Gov. Roosevelt, this time in 1932, while campaigning to become President. He says that the times call for bold, sweeping changes that will involve the forgotten man at the bottom of the pyramid. He is promising to rebuild the nation, bottom up.

Both these sources show that Roosevelt believed in the welfare state, in helping those not as fortunate as yourself, and in equality in society. This was in sharp contrast to the ‘rugged individualism’ policies operated by President Hoover and Congress. 2. Source C is another speech from Gov. Roosevelt during the ´32 election campaign. He says that, should anything like the Depression happen again, and to solve the problems he should be forced to go into or stay in debt, he will inform the people of the whole truth, the whole horror of the situation, THEN ask them to authorise the spending of that money.

Source D is an accusation from Gov. Roosevelt, 1932. He says that the current administration has been ‘the greatest spending Administration of all time´, and then criticises them for not spending enough to get the country out of depression.

Both come from the 1932 election campaign. C is basically meaningless political rhetoric. It says that he will rebuild the nation, and include the forgotten man, and consult the people, and do what Hoover doesn´t, but he never says how he´s going to rebuild the nation. It´s like the Labour posters that appeared in 1997 during the election promising ‘WE WILL CUT NHS WAITING LISTS´ and ‘WE WILL CUT CLASS SIZES´. C doesn´t actually show exactly how Roosevelt will go about doing all this stuff he´s promising. It also shows his general, pragmatic approach, and when he took office, his Hundred Days were him pushing through as much as possible, and keeping what worked – to use a very good analogy I picked up, throwing as much excrement at the wall as possible and seeing what stuck. In D, he simply attacks the Hoover administration to discredit them and boost himself. 3. In Source E, Walter Lippman is highly sceptical about Roosevelt. He patronises Roosevelt, saying that while he´s a nice person, Roosevelt has no real reason for being in the White House – he´d just like to do it.

By the time he writes Source I, Lippman has been completely converted. The Hundred days are up, and Lippman is singing the praises of Roosevelt as far as he can go. He says that Roosevelt is the best thing to happen to the US in a long time. He mentions that Roosevelt has restored the faith of the people, and has acted quickly and decisively. Why did Lippman change his tune? There are 3 sources to find out…

Source F is President Roosevelt´s inaugural address on March 3 1933, or 3.3.33. He says that the only thing to fear is fear itself, and that the people should regain their confidence. To help get things done, he will attempt to be granted ‘sweeping executive power, equal to that…if we were indeed invaded by a foreign foe´. This speech certainly inspired the American people, and it is highly likely Lippman was inspired by it as well.

Source G was written a year after Roosevelt died in 1946, by Frances Perkins, the first woman in a US Cabinet and personal friend of Roosevelt himself. It tells of Roosevelt broadcasting his ‘fireside chats´, in which he would tell the people what he was doing, and explain it. It says that ‘his face would light up, and his hands would move in natural gestures, as though he was sitting…with them. People felt this…bonded them to him in affection´. This is showing two things. The obvious message is that Roosevelt was popular with the people, and that his broadcasts drew millions of listeners. The secondary message is ‘Roosevelt was not a fraud. He cared’. We can see this by referencing the phrases ’simple, natural, comfortable gestures’, and by her observation of ‘how clearly his mind was focused on the people listening on the other end’. The main problem with this source is its source. It comes from the first woman to be in a Cabinet. This probably means that she might be feeling a debt of gratitude to Roosevelt which she’s trying to repay somewhat by writing nice things about him. If the majority of the American people felt good things about him, which they did, then it is likely that Lippman felt good things about him because of these broadcasts.

The final source is part of another speech by President Roosevelt. He says that society must not be controlled by people whose idea of a good state of society is ‘me making fat wads of cash, sod the rest of them’. Lippman could easily have agreed with this view. 4. J is a column published in ‘Time’, a US magazine. The one thing magazines and newspapers want to do above all else is sell copies. Printing views like the one there is sure to spark controversy, start arguments…and sell copies. The interesting thing is its wording ‘the so-called upper class’ which might indicate a certain dislike of the upper class on the part of the writer.

K is a satirical cartoon, depicting a young boy writing ‘Roosevelt’ on the pavement, and being told off for it. It is attempting to get a cheap laugh at Roosevelt’s expense, but it also shows just how low Roosevelt’s star was among the middle and upper classes.

L is a speech from Herbert Hoover in 1937. Hitler is beginning to pursue his Lebensraum. Mussolini is making threatening noises. Stalin is being as Communist as ever. Hoover is very worried, and so he made a speech denouncing Roosevelt. He likens him to the European dictators. He says that the American people ‘must stop when it is proposed to lay hands on the Supreme Court. It is the last safeguard of free men’. He is referring to Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the Court with his own men when it began blocking his New Deal legislation. Hoover is implying that once Roosevelt controls the Supreme Court, he has his dictatorship that he’s always been wanting. He is also complaining again about Central Government interfering with state governmental affairs. There is an undertone to this speech – ‘People! Wake up…and see the light’.

M is a speech from President Roosevelt during his 1940 election campaign. He had suffered large amounts of popularity loss during his second term because of the Supreme Court affair and his ‘arsenal of democracy’ interventionist war policy. He is at the opening of a dam in the Tennessee Valley, a product of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), one of Roosevelt’s alphabet agencies. He goes through the pro-democracy routine, stating that everyone was consulted about the plans, got their chance to complain, and that nobody who built the dam was made to do so on unfair hours or for less than a fair wage. Because of the already-mentioned popularity loss, he is trying to save face somewhat.

Source J is trying to appeal to all. It publishes the view of one group to sell to them, but puts it in a way to sell to another completely different group as well. Source K is a very middle/upper class view, and it shows the general loathing as such. Source H attacks Roosevelt in the political manner, that of attacking an opponent but also giving reasons to discredit him as well. Source L is Roosevelt himself. He will obviously try to boost himself and so it’s completely different. 5. ‘It was the hopeful voice of FDR that got us out of the swamps’. So wrote an American. What exactly does ‘the swamps’ mean? It could mean the general feeling of apathy and hopelessness felt during the Hoover administration. It could mean the Depression itself. I do agree that Roosevelt lifted that apathetic feeling and got America feeling good about itself again. However, it was World War II that finally pushed America around the corner.

Roosevelt did many things during his time. He built the people’s confidence with his fireside chats, the effects of which are mentioned by Frances Perkins in Source G. He managed to show the people what could be done in just 100 days. It all helped build the nation’s confidence, and got the nation on his side. An example of this can be found in the difference between Sources E and I. Before, Lippman was apathetic about Roosevelt’s ability. After, he was singing Roosevelt’s praises all the way.

Roosevelt also reduced unemployment significantly – from 1932 to 1940, unemployment steadily dropped, except in 1937 when many government officials were laid off. However, it is worth noting two things. First, that unemployment never dropped below 10 million until World War II. Second, that Roosevelt never used the ‘GI Buster’ system utilised by Hitler etc. to drop unemployment. All you had to do was increase your armed forces in size and bingo – unemployment suddenly dropped. Instead, he concentrated on his New Deal legislation and the alphabet agencies (TVA, WPA, CCC etc.) to get people back in work and give the cycle of recovery a jump-start.

However, it was not Roosevelt who ended the Depression. It was World War II that removed unemployment. It was World War II that got America trading overseas again. It’s like a car and a hilly region. The Car of America is trundling along quite nicely when wham! Bang! The brakes fail, the car hits a rock and falls down the Cliff of Depression to the Mud Field of Despair. Its driver, Hoover, attempts to fob the problem off on several dodgy garage owners, but all the engine does is sputter and choke. Then Engineer Roosevelt of the local repair and recovery service arrives. He changes the spark plugs and gets some jump leads, gets it started again and off they go out towards the Road of National Recovery, which is filled with deep ravines and hairpin corners with no barriers. Roosevelt has just hit a particularly boggy patch, but along comes the Japanese wing of the WWII Tow Truck Co. which tows them up a short cut and back onto the Roman Road of Being Well-Off, and Harry F.Truman takes over in the driver’s seat while Roosevelt has a little nap. And they’ve been happily trundling along there ever since. The point is, without Roosevelt nobody would have bothered to get up and do something, as there would have been nobody to provide that voice of hope. So, if the swamp was the Depression, all credit to WWII. If it was the general mood of apathy, all credit to Roosevelt.


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