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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.


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);


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,


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.


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


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


of fighting the depression and returning the nation to prosperity to precedence over the


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


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


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


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


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


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:


March 4, 1933-January 20, 1937



Secretary of State: Cordell Hull, TN 3/4/33

Secretary of Treasury: William Hartman Woodin, NY3/4/33

Henry Morganthau, Jr., NY 1/1/34

Secretary of War: George Henry Dern, UT 3/4/33

Harry Woodring, KA 9/25/36-5/6/37

Attorney General: Homer Stille Cummings, CN 3/4/33

Postmaster General: James A. Farley, NY 3/4/33

Secretary of the Navy: Claude A. Swanson, VA 3/4/33

Secretary of Interior: Harold Ickes, IL** 3/4/33

Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace, IW 3/4/33

Secretary of Commerce: Daniel Calhoun Roper, SC 3/4/33

Secretary of Labor: Frances Perkins, NY* 3/4/33

* first female to be appointed to the Cabinet

**previously the leader of the Chicago NAACP


January 20, 1937-January 20, 1941



Secretary of State Cordell Hull, TN from previous admn.

Secretary of Treasury: Henry Morgenthau, Jr., NY from previous admn.

Secretary of War: Harry Woodring from previous-5/6/37

Henry L. Stimson, NY 7/10/40

Attorney General: Homer Stille Cummings, CN from


Robert Houghwout Jackson, NY 1/18/40

Postmaster General: James A. Farley, NY from previous-9/1/40

Frank C. Walker, PA 9/10/40

Secretary of Navy: Claude Swanson, VA from previous-7/7/39

Charles Edison, NJ 8/5/39-1/12/40

Frank Knox, IL 7/10/40

Secretary of the Interior:Harold Ickes, IL from previous

Secretary of Agriculture: Henry A. Wallace, IW from previous

Claude Raymond Wickard, IN8/27/40

Secretary of Commerce: Daniel C. Roper, SC from previous

Harry Hopkins, NY 12/24/38

Jesse Jones, TX 9/16/40

Secretary of Labor: Francis Perkins, NY from previous


January 20, 1941-January 20, 1945



Secretary of State: Cordell Hull, TN from previous

Edward Stettinius, VA 11/30/44

Secretary of Treasury: Henry Morgenthau, Jr., NY from previous

Secretary of War: Henry L. Stimson, NY from previous

Attorney General: Robert Jackson, NY from previous

Francis Biddle, PA 9/5/41

Postmaster General: Frank Walker, PA from previous

Secretary of the Navy: Frank Knox, IL from previous-4/28/44

James Vincent Forrestal, NY 6/18/44

Secretary of the Interior:Harold Ickes, IL from previous

Secretary of Agriculture: Claude Wickard, IN from previous

Secretary of Commerce: Jesse Jones, TX from previous

Secretary of Labor: Francis Perkins, NY from previous


January 20, 1945- April 12, 1945



Secretary of State: Edward Stettinius, VA from previous

Secretary of Treasury: Henry Morganthau, Jr. NY from previous

Secretary of War: Henry Stimson, NY from previous

Attorney General: Francis Biddle, PA from previous

Postmaster General: Frank Walker, PA from previous

Secretary of the Navy: James Forrestal, NY from previous

Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, IL from previous

Secretary of Agriculture: Claude Wickard, IN from previous

Secretary of Commerce: Jesse Jones, TX from previous

Henry Wallace 3/1/45

Secretary of Labor: Frances Perkins, NY from previous

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


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.


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


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


What emerged from these 100 days was a 3-fold focus,


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


[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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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 dangerou

Word Count: 4281

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