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Fdr Essay, Research Paper


Assuming the Presidency at the depth of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt helped the American people regain faith in themselves. He brought hope as he promised prompt, vigorous action, and asserted in his Inaugural Address, “the

only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Born in 1882 at Hyde Park, New York–now a national historic site–he attended

Harvard University and Columbia Law School. On St. Patrick’s Day, 1905, he married Eleanor Roosevelt. Following the example of his fifth cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, whom he greatly admired, Franklin D. Roosevelt entered public service through politics, but as a Democrat. He won election to the New York Senate in 1910. President Wilson appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and he was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1920. In the summer of 1921, when he was 39, disaster struck him with poliomyelitis. Demonstrating indomitable courage, he fought to regain the use of his legs, particularly through swimming. At the 1924 Democratic Convention he dramatically appeared on crutches to nominate Alfred E. Smith as “the Happy Warrior.” In 1928 Roosevelt became Governor of New York. He was elected President in November 1932, to the first of four terms. By March there were 13,000,000 unemployed, and almost every bank was closed. In his first “hundred days,” he proposed, and Congress enacted, a sweeping program to bring recovery to business and agriculture, relief to the unemployed and to those in danger of losing farms and homes, and reform, especially through the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority. By 1935 the Nation had achieved some measure of recovery, but businessmen and bankers were turning more and more against Roosevelt’s New Deal program. They feared his experiments, were appalled because he had taken the Nation off the gold standard and allowed deficits in the budget, and disliked the concessions to labor. Roosevelt responded with a new program of reform: Social Security, heavier taxes on the wealthy, new controls over banks and public utilities, and an enormous work relief program for the unemployed.

In 1936 he was re-elected by a top-heavy margin. Feeling he was armed with a popular mandate, he sought legislation to enlarge the Supreme Court, which had been invalidating key New Deal measures. Roosevelt lost the Supreme Court battle, but a revolution in constitutional law took place. Thereafter the Government could legally regulate the economy. Roosevelt had pledged the United States to the “good neighbor” policy, transforming the Monroe Doctrine from a unilateral American manifesto into arrangements for mutual action against aggressors. He also sought through neutrality legislation to keep the United States out of the war in Europe, yet at the same time to strengthen nations threatened or attacked. When France fell and England came under siege in 1940, he began to send Great Britain all possible aid short of actual military involvement. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt directed organization of the Nation’s manpower and resources for global war. Feeling that the future peace of the world would depend upon relations between the United States and Russia, he devoted much thought to the planning of a United Nations, in which, he hoped, international difficulties could be settled. As the war drew to a close, Roosevelt’s health deteriorated, and on April 12, 1945, while at Warm Springs, Georgia, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Chapter One: The Great Depression

While the economic depression damaged Hoover and the Republicans, Roosevelt’s bold efforts to combat it in New York enhanced his reputation. Following his reelection as governor in 1930, Roosevelt began to campaign for the presidency. In Chicago in 1932, Roosevelt won the nomination as the Democratic Party candidate for president.1 He broke with tradition and flew to Chicago to accept the nomination in person. He then campaigned energetically calling for government intervention in the economy to provide relief, recovery and reform. His activist approach and personal charm helped to defeat Hoover in November 1932 by seven million votes.

The Depression worsened in the months preceding Roosevelt’s inauguration, March 4, 1933. Factory closings, farm foreclosures, and bank failures increased, while unemployment soared.2 Roosevelt faced the greatest crisis in American history since the Civil War. He undertook immediate actions to initiate his New Deal. To halt depositor panics, he closed the banks temporarily. Then he worked with a special session of Congress during the first “100 days” to pass recovery legislation which set up alphabet agencies such as AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration) to support farm prices and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) to employ young men.3 Other agencies assisted business and labor, insured bank deposits, regulated the stock market, subsidized home and farm mortgage payments, and aided the unemployed. These measures revived confidence in the economy. Banks reopened and direct relief saved millions from starvation. But the New Deal measures also involved government directly in areas of social and economic life as never before and resulted in greatly increased spending and unbalanced budgets which led to criticisms of Roosevelt’s programs.4 However, the

nation-at-large supported Roosevelt, electing additional Democrats to state legislatures and governor ships in the mid-term elections.

Another flurry of New Deal legislation followed in 1935 including the establishment of the Works Projects Administration (WPA) which provided jobs not only for laborers but also artists, writers, musicians, and authors, and the Social Security Act which provided unemployment compensation and a program of old-age and survivors’ benefits.5 Roosevelt easily defeated Alfred M. Landon in 1936 and went on to defeat by lesser margins, Wendell Willkie in 1940 and Thomas E. Dewey in 1944.6 He thus became the only American president to serve more than two terms. After his overwhelming victory in 1936, Roosevelt took on the critics of the New Deal, namely, the Supreme Court which had declared various legislation unconstitutional, and members of his own party. In 1937 he proposed to add new justices to the Supreme Court, but critics said he was “packing” the Court and undermining the separation of powers.7 His proposal was defeated, but the Court began to decide in favor of New Deal legislation. During the 1938 election he campaigned against many Democratic opponents, but this backfired when most were reelected to Congress. These setbacks, coupled with the recession that occurred mid-way through his second term, represented the low-point in Roosevelt’s presidential career. By 1939 Roosevelt was concentrating increasingly on foreign affairs with the outbreak of war in Europe. New Deal reform legislation diminished, and the ills of the Depression would not fully abate until the nation mobilized for war. When Hitler attacked Poland in September 1939, Roosevelt stated that, although the nation was neutral, he did not expect America to remain inactive in the face of Nazi aggression.8 Accordingly, he tried to make American aid available to Britain, France, and China and to obtain an amendment of the Neutrality Acts which rendered such assistance difficult. He also took measures to build up the armed forces in the face of isolationist opposition. With the fall of France in 1940, the American mood and Roosevelt’s policy changed dramatically.9 Congress enacted a draft for military service and Roosevelt signed a “lend-lease” bill in March 1941 to enable the nation to furnish aid to nations at war with Germany and Italy.10 America, though a neutral in the war and still at peace, was becoming the “arsenal of democracy”, as its factories began producing as they had in the years before the Depression.11 The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, followed four days later by Germany’s and Italy’s declarations of war against the United States, brought the nation irrevocably into the war.12 Roosevelt became the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, a role he actively carried out. He worked with and through his military advisers, overriding them when necessary, and took an active role in choosing the principle field commanders and in making decisions regarding wartime strategy. He moved to create a “grand alliance” against the Axis powers through “The Declaration of the United Nations”, January 1, 1942, in which all nations fighting the Axis agreed not to make a separate peace and pledged themselves to a peace-keeping organization (now the United Nations) on victory.13 He gave priority to the western European front and had General George Marshall, Chief of Staff, plan a holding operation in the Pacific and organize an expeditionary force for an invasion of Europe. The United States and its allies invaded North Africa in November 1942 and Sicily and Italy in 1943. The D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches in France, June 6, 1944, were followed by the allied invasion of Germany six months later. By April 1945 victory in Europe was certain. The unending stress and strain of the war literally wore Roosevelt out. By early 1944 a full medical examination disclosed serious heart and circulatory problems; and although his physicians placed him on a strict regime of diet and medication, the pressures of war and domestic politics weighed heavily on him.14

During a vacation at Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945 he suffered a massive stroke and died two and one-half hours later without regaining consciousness. He was 63 years old. His death came on the eve of complete military victory in Europe and within months of victory over Japan in the Pacific. President Roosevelt was buried in the Rose Garden of his estate at Hyde Park, New York.

Chapter Two: What More Could FDR Could Have Done?

The Great Depression was an unfortunate period of economic hard times that citizens of the United States struggled through. This Depression was cast on the U.S. from 1929 through 1941.15 Significant factors for the Depression were overproduction, over borrowing, and the uneven distribution of wealth. People did almost anything to survive these atrocities; such as widespread hunger, resulting in a great deal of emotional suffering. During Franklin Delano Roosevelt s presidency he attempted to replenish our nation from the setbacks of this Depression. His main solution to thrusting the nation out of the Great Depression was his New Deal. There were different opinions surrounding the effectiveness of this New Deal. The New Deal was an effective answer to the Great Depression. However, it was not the correct solution for the Great Depression. When supplied with the facts and opinions it is easy to base an opinion about the New Deal, as to whether or not it was significant.

Roosevelt was capable of defeating this depression. He had room for success, because certain pieces the New Deal were not entirely new. These pieces included increasing farmer s income, centralized economic planning, social insurance and labor reform.16 The plan to increase farmer s income originated from Woodrow Wilson s farm credit acts, and then Herbert Hoover s Agricultural Marketing Act pushed it along even further. Centralized economic planning, embodied in the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), came directly from Wilson s War Industries Board. Roosevelt chose a veteran of the board, Hugh Johnson, to head the National Recovery Administration (NRA).17 Social Insurance also existed within certain states before the Federal Government became involved. Likewise, labor reform found its way through the work of state legislatures. Congress and the public saw little reason not to support the New Deal, partially due to its start in successful programs attempted earlier under different conditions.

Even though some of the New Deal was formed from past plans, there were significant new plans implemented. These new programs for the New Deal came from Roosevelt and his supportive Brain Trust, which consisted of a number of advisors from prominent universities and lawyers. Those who were working, and the circumstances and conditions in which they worked under changed during the Depression. In 1935, Roosevelt took major steps in aiding the worker, by establishing the Wagner Act, giving workers the right to join unions and bargain collectively.18 In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act was established, setting minimum wages and maximum hours for employees. These strides by Roosevelt could only improve the working condition of the U.S. He desperately tried to limit monopolies and their influence on businesses, in hopes of improving the life of working Americans. Within ten years sweatshops were eliminated, child labor was highly restricted and enforceable standards for working hours, wages and working conditions were established.19 Important recovery plans included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Federal Emergency Relief Act (FERA). The CCC offered outdoor work to unemployed single men ages 18 to 25. They were paid 30 dollars per month and 22 dollars went back to their families. This group of over three million men built reservoirs, stopping erosion, planted trees, and fought forest fires. FERA gave 500 million dollars to replenish city funds. They primarily provided a dole, direct gifts of, money, food, and clothing. There were many other acts, which Roosevelt introduced that helped Americans a great deal. The important thing about the CCC and FERA is that America now had a “big” government. They took control; instead of just letting the people work out there own problems, as had been the custom for some time.

Even though the economic policies of the New Deal were not as successful as had been anticipated, they did implant numerous “stabilizers,” preventing future depressions of this nature. Certain reform plans, which were established within the Alphabet Agency, were the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The FDIC increased government supervision of banks, drastically lowering the amount of bank failures. It protected people’s money by insuring their ban deposits up to $2,500 at first and then to $5,000.20 The SEC s main purpose was to supervise regulate the stock market, with J. P. Kennedy at the head of the organization. These two plans, along with the Bank Holiday, restored the confidence in the people to put their money back into banks, and to invest.

The New Deal did not revolve around its specific reforms and social programs. He was upset because the U.S. failed to recover from the depression while the policies were active under Roosevelt. He felt that it was tragic for the unemployed, and millions of others depending on government aid. On top of this, it displayed the U.S. as an unstable country at a very bad time, with WWII surfacing. The president did not provide the depression with deserved amount of attention. It is also felt that Roosevelt s reluctance to embrace in Keynesian spending contributed to the failure of recovery.21 While other recovered countries represented a variety of economic systems, including state ownership and free enterprise. They succeeded because of the motivation provided for industrial enterprise, rather than relying on deficit spending. If Roosevelt followed the other countries leads the U.S. would have been out of the Depression sooner.

A belief is that a wise president should have and would have done everything possible to produce the conditions and psychology most helpful to business recovery. Mainly encouraging businesses to expand production and lenders and investors to supply the financing and capital that are required. The most humane goal for a liberal government in a depression would be to restore wealth and reemployment of the inactive in real jobs.

The unemployment rate from 1929-1940 was a mere estimate; the federal government did not monitor the number of unemployed during those years.22 Even though it was only an estimate he found it surprising that with the war in Europe underway that unemployment rate was as high as it was, at 14.6 percent. Compared to other nations, in 1929, the states had the lowest unemployment rate of the seven listed countries. By 1938, after over five years with the New Deal, only three other countries had a higher rate.

It is stated that Roosevelt raised the prices of U.S. industrial and agricultural products, and he suffered the ramifications in the U.S. balance of trade. It made it difficult for these goods to compete in the world market, and the U.S. was opened to cheaper foreign markets. Other than a deficit in 1888 this was the only U.S. trade deficit from 1870 to the 1970 s.23

Roosevelt s successes on improving the suffering of the depression are deservedly well known, however, his liability for extending the suffering is not. Roosevelt s function in supplying long-overdue and desperately needed social economic legislation is in every high school American history textbook, but the expenses for the U.S. of his eight-year-long battle against business recovery are absent. Only modest recovery from the lowest depths of the depression was attained before the start of WWII. All pieces of the New Deal should be exposed, especially how the suffering lasted longer than it should have. The policies and aid likely to have been delivered out of the New Deal, such as truth in securities, aid for farmers, and industrial self-regulation were disguised. With broad grants of power to the executive branch of the government, the legislation handed the regulatory power of the U.S. economy into the hands of the New Dealers. Their aim was pure selfishness. Rather than focusing on recovery they worked for drastic altercations in the economic system.

The Supreme Court ruled the NRA and the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), part of the Second New Deal, to be unconstitutional. The AAA, passed in March 1933, was to stop overproduction of agricultural products, by paying farmers not to produce crops, such as cotton, wheat, tobacco, corn, and hogs.24 Either Roosevelt s New Deal is responsible for the thankful conclusion of the Great Depression, or he went about the situation all wrong. Roosevelt did the best he or anyone else of that time could have; given the unfortunate situation the country was in. Particular programs and positive changes resulted from the New Deal. The U.S. is extremely well off and for it to worry about petty things such as another countries unemployment rates would be considered a waste of time, given our own issues

It was inevitable that misfortunes would result from the New Deal. So much had gone wrong with the depression that it would take a miracle to get the U.S. back on its feet again. Surely, the positives created by the New Deal outweigh the negatives. Although the success of the New Deal was for the most part limited, it did not in any way, set America on the rode to ruin. If anything put America on that road, it was the depression itself. All of the Acts, Reforms and Relief programs changed how each citizen thought. The country went through many changes and the government had say in what businesses do and how the Stock Market works. The government placed the unemployed in some form of work so they were able to earn money and contribute to the economy, decreasing the unemployment rate. That is why the economy did not fall to pieces, although the main reason for the U.S. getting out of the depression was WWII. The economy was doing great prior to the stock market crash. People were investing and the country was on the rise. But with such problems as bad investments, bad income distribution, bad banking, bad foreign trade, and over-expansion of credit the stock market crashed and the U.S. found itself in a depression. President Roosevelt accepted the challenge of defeating the Depression and he succeeded.

Roosevelt accomplished some extraordinary achievements for this nation. He took our economic system when it had entirely broken down and helped revive it with vigor. He took over the political system while at its weakest and reconstructed it to full strength. Roosevelt put himself on the side of the underprivileged masses, and transferred power from the great corporate executives to the simple working people of this nation. He also managed to control the escapades on Wall Street, and gave security to modest men and women of the country.


The New Deal has been criticized, some of it with reason. The government did what’s called deficit spending, they spent more money than the they raised in taxes, and left the US with 300 billion dollars in national debt. Although, the New Deal made lasting effects on American life on three major points: government more involved to help citizens, workers and the environment and helped to preserve American democracy. To sum it up, the New Deal had mixed success in fighting depression, but it certainly eased personal suffering and preserved the nation’s stability. The United Stated had to wait a few years to be fully back on it’s feet, WW2 managed to do what FDR had been trying to do for so long.

In the late 1930s, the Great Depression was weakening, but many Americans were still poverty stricken. Americans watched as German forces became more powerful and took over neighboring countries. With the invasion of Poland, World War II erupted in Europe. The suffering American economy was given a boost when the fighting countries needed supplies and looked to America to make them. After Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, America entered the war. The U.S. enlisted more than 10 million men and women into the military. Since so many were fighting in the war, it was left for those left at home to work in the factories to make supplies for the war effort.

The desperate need for soldiers, pilots, and workers to make ammunition, weaponry, and air/sea craft all contributed to the end of the Great Depression. The economy of America skyrocketed and was on the road to restoration.

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