Franklin D. Roosevelt Reports to the New American Congress

Franklin D. Roosevelt Reports to the New American Congress

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The new American Congress, chosen by the people during Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, gathered at the Capitol to hear his inspiring message of courage and hope.

Tag: President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Harris & Ewing, “Louis Ludlow,” 1937, photograph, Harris & Ewing photograph collection, courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Describing the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt for the 2014 Ken Burns documentary The Roosevelts, conservative political writer George E. Will stated:

The presidency is like a soft leather glove, and it takes the shape of the hand that’s put into it. And when a very big hand is put into it and stretches the glove — stretches the office — the glove never quite shrinks back to what it was. So we are all living today with an office enlarged permanently by Franklin Roosevelt. [1]

Seventy-five years after President Roosevelt’s death, the debate continues over how much power the president should have, especially in regards to taking military action against a foreign power. On January 9, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to restrict that power, requiring congressional authorization for further action against Iran. The issue now moves to the Senate.

But the arguments over this balance of war powers are not new. In fact, in 1935, Indiana congressmen Louis Ludlow forwarded a different solution altogether – an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow a declaration of war only after a national referendum, that is, a direct vote of the American people. Had the Ludlow Amendment passed, the U.S. would only engage militarily with a foreign power if the majority of citizens agreed that the cause was just. Ludlow’s ideas remain interesting today as newspaper articles and op-eds tell us the opinions of our Republican and Democratic representatives regarding the power of the legislative branch versus the executive branch in declaring war or military action. But what do the American people think, especially those who would have to fight? According to Brown University’s Cost of War Project, “The US government is conducting counterterror activities in 80 countries,” and the New York Times reported last year that we now have troops in “nearly every country.” [2] But what does it mean to say “we” have troops in these countries? And does that mean that we are at war? Do the American people support the deployment of troops to Yemen? Somalia? Syria? Niger? Does the average American even know about these conflicts?

Stephanie Savell and 5W Infographics, “This Map Shows Where in the World the U.S. Military Is Combatting Terrorism,” Smithsonian Magazine, January 2019.

Expanding Executive War Power

Many don’t know, partly because the nature of war has changed since WWII. We have a paid professional military as opposed to drafted private citizens, which removes the realities of war from the daily lives of most Americans. Drone strikes make war seem even more obscure compared to boots on the ground, while cyber warfare abstracts the picture further. [3] But Americans also remain unaware of our military actions because “U.S. leaders have studiously avoided being seen engaging in ‘war,’” according to international news magazine the Diplomat. [4] In fact, Congress has not officially declared war since World War II. [5] Instead, today, Congress approves “an authorization of the use of force,” which can be “fuzzy” and “open-ended.” [6] Despite the passage of the War Powers Act of 1973, which was intended to balance war powers between the president and Congress, presidents have consistently found ways to deploy troops without congressional authorization. [7] And today, the Authorization for Use of Military Force Joint Resolution, passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks, justified an even greater extension of executive power in deploying armed forces.[8]

“To Give to the People the Right to Decide . . .”

Indiana congressman Louis L. Ludlow (Democrat – U.S. House of Representatives, 1929-1949), believed the American people should have the sole power to declare war through a national referendum. [9] After all, the American people, not Congress and not the President, are tasked with fighting these wars. Starting in the 1930s, Representative Ludlow worked to amend the Constitution in order to put such direct democracy into action. He nearly succeeded. And as the debate continues today over who has the power to send American troops into combat and what the United States’ role should be in the world, his arguments concerning checks and balances on war powers remain relevant.

“Portrait of Indiana Politician Louis Ludlow, Indiana,” photograph, 1929, accessed Indiana Album.

Ludlow maintained two defining viewpoints that could be easily misinterpreted, and thus are worth examining up front. First, Ludlow was an isolationist, but not for the same reasons as many of his peers, whose viewpoints were driven by the prevalent xenophobia, racism, and nativism rooted in the 1920s. In fact, Ludlow was a proponent of equal rights for women and African Americans throughout his career. [10] Ludlow’s isolationism was instead influenced by the results of a post-WWI congressional investigation showing the influence of foreign propaganda and munitions and banking interests in profiting off the conflict. [11]

Second, Ludlow was not a pacifist. He believed in just wars waged in the name of freedom, citing the American Revolution and the Union cause during the American Civil War. [12] He supported the draft during WWI and backed the war effort through newspaper articles. [13] Indeed, he even voted with his party, albeit reluctantly, to enter WWII after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. [14] He believed a direct attack justified a declaration of war and included this caveat in his original resolution. What he did not believe in was entering war under the influence of corporations or propaganda. He wanted informed citizens, free of administrative or corporate pressure, to decide for themselves if a cause was worth their lives. He wrote, “I am willing to die for my beloved country but I am not willing to die for greedy selfish interests that want to use me as their pawn.” [15]

So, who was Louis Ludlow and how did he come to advocate for this bold amendment?

“I Must and Would Prove My Hoosier Blood”

Ludlow described himself as a “Hoosier born and bred” in his 1924 memoir of his early career as a newspaper writer. [16] He was born June 24, 1873 in a log cabin near Connersville, Fayette County, Indiana. His parents encouraged his interests in politics and writing, and after he graduated high school in 1892, he went to Indianapolis “with food prepared by his mother and a strong desire to become a newspaperman.” [17]

He landed his first job with the Indianapolis Sun upon arrival in the Hoosier capital but quickly realized he needed more formal education. He briefly attended Indiana University before becoming seriously ill and returning to his parents’ home. After he recovered, he spent some time in New York City, but returned to Indianapolis in 1895. He worked for two newspapers, one Democratic (Sentinel) and one Republican (Journal) and the Indianapolis Press from 1899-1901. While he mainly covered political conventions and campaign speeches, he interviewed prominent suffrage worker May Wright Sewall and former President Benjamin Harrison, among other notables. He also became a correspondent for the (New York) World. [18]

In 1901, the Sentinel sent Ludlow to Washington as a correspondent, beginning a twenty-seven-year career of covering the capital. During this time, he worked long hours, expanded his political contacts, and distributed his stories to more and more newspapers. He covered debates in Congress during World War I and was influenced by arguments that membership in the League of Nations would draw the U.S. further into conflict.[19] By 1927 he was elected president of the National Press Club. He was at the height of his journalistic career and had a good rapport and reputation within the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Ludlows Vote Early,” Indianapolis Star, November 7, 1928, 11, accessed

With the backing of Democratic political boss Thomas Taggart, Ludlow began his first congressional campaign at the end of 1927 and announced his candidacy officially on February 23, 1928. [20] The Greencastle Daily Herald quoted part of Ludlow’s announcement speech, noting that the candidate stated, “some homespun honesty in politics is a pressing necessity in Indiana.” [21] He won the Democratic primary in May 1928 and then campaigned against Republican Ralph E. Updike, offering Hoosiers “redemption” from the influence of the KKK. [22] Ludlow “swept to an impressive victory” over Updike in November 1928, as the only Democrat elected from 269 Marion County precincts. [23] He took his seat as the Seventh District U.S. Representative from Indiana on March 4, 1929. [24]

The Indianapolis Star noted that while Ludlow was only a freshman congressman, his many years in Washington as a correspondent had made him “familiar with the workings of the congressional machinery” and “well known to all [House] members,” earning him the “confidence and respect of Republicans and Democrats alike.” [25] The Star claimed: “Perhaps no man ever entering Congress has had the good will of so many members on both sides of the aisle.” [26] This claim was supported by Ludlow’s colleagues on the other side of that aisle. Republican senator James E. Watson of Indiana stated in 1929, “Everybody has a fondness for Louis Ludlow, and as a congressional colleague, he shall have the co-operation of my office in the advancement of whatever he considers in the interest of his constituency.” [27] Republican representative John Cable of Ohio agreed stating:

Louis Ludlow has character and ability. He is the sort of a man who commands the respect and confidence of men and women without regard to party lines. He will have the co-operation of his colleagues of Congress, Republican as well as Democrats, and no doubt will render a high class service for his district.[28]

Cable went so far as to recommend Ludlow for the vice-presidential candidate for the 1932 election.

Ludlow achieved some modest early economic successes for his constituents, including bringing a veterans hospital and an air mail route to Indianapolis. By 1930, however, he set his sights on limiting government bureaucracy and became interested in disarmament as a method to reduce government spending. Concurrently, he threw his support behind the London Naval Treaty which limited the arms race, and he became a member of the Indiana World Peace Committee. During the 1930 election, he stressed his accomplishments and appealed to women, African American, Jews, veterans, businessmen, and labor unions. He was easily reelected by over 30,000 votes. [29]

Back at work in the House, he sponsored an amendment to the Constitution in 1932 to give women “equal rights throughout the United States” which would have addressed legal and financial barriers to equality. He was unsuccessful but undaunted. He introduced an equal rights amendment in 1933, 1936, 1939, 1943, and 1945. [30] [A separate post would be needed to do justice to his work on behalf of women’s rights.] He also worked to make the federal government responsible for investigating lynching, as opposed to the local communities where the injustice occurred. He introduced several bills in 1938 that would have required FBI agents to investigate lynchings as a deterrent to this hate crime, but they were blocked by Southern Democrats. His main focus between 1935 and 1945 was advocating for the passage of legislation to restrict the government’s war powers and end corporate war profiteering.

“To Remove The Profit Incentive to War”

[McAllen, Texas] Monitor, January 11, 1938, 1, accessed In 1934 the Special Committee on Investigation of the Munitions Industry, known as the Nye Committee after its chairman Senator Gerald Nye (R-ND), began to investigate the undue influence of munitions interests on U.S. entry into WWI. Like many Americans, Ludlow was profoundly disturbed by the committee’s conclusions. As Germany rearmed and Hitler’s power grew during the 1930s, Ludlow worried that the threat of a second world war loomed and the U.S. government, especially the executive branch was vulnerable to the influence of profiteers, as highlighted by the Nye Committee reports. He stated:

I am convinced from my familiarity with the testimony of the Nye committee and my study of this question that a mere dozen – half a dozen international financiers and half a dozen munitions kings, with a complaisant President in the White House at Washington – could maneuver this country into war at any time, so great are their resources and so far reaching is their power. I pray to God we may never have a President who will lend himself to such activities, but, after all, Presidents are human, and many Presidents have been devoted to the material aggrandizement of our country to the exclusion of spiritual values . . . [31]

Although he admired President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s diplomatic abilities Ludlow thought, as historian Walter R. Griffin asserted, that “it was entirely possible that a future President might very well possess more sordid motives and plan to maneuver the country into war against the wishes of the majority of citizens.” [32] As a protection against the susceptibility of the legislative and especially the executive branches to financial pressures of the munitions industry, Ludlow introduced a simple two-part resolution [HR-167] before the House of Representatives in January 1935. It would amend the Constitution to require a vote of the people before any declaration of war. He summed up the two sections of his bill in a speech before the House in February 1935: “First. To give the people who have to pay the awful costs of war the right to decide whether there shall be war. Second. To remove the profit incentive to war.” [33] He believed that the resolution gave to American citizens “the right to a referendum on war, so that when war is declared it will be the solemn, consecrated act of the people themselves, and not the act of conscienceless, selfish interests using the innocent young manhood of the Nation as its pawns.”[34]

More specifically, Section One stated that unless the U.S. was attacked, Congress could not declare war without a majority vote in a national referendum. And Section Two provided that once war was declared, all properties, factories, supplies, workers, etc. necessary to wage war would be taken over by the government. Those companies would then be reimbursed at a rate not exceeding 4% higher than their previous year’s tax values. [35] This would remove the profit incentive and thus any immoral reasons for a declaration of war.

In an NBC Radio address in March 19235, Ludlow told the public:

The Nye committee has brought out clearly, plainly and so unmistakably that it must hit every thinking persons in the face, the fact that unless we write into the constitution of the United States a provision reserving to the people the right to declare war and taking the profits out of war we shall wake up to find ourselves again plunged into the hell of war . . . [36]

He added that “a declaration of war is the highest act of sovereignty. It is a responsibility of such magnitude that it should rest on the people themselves . . .” [37]

Ludlow’s resolution, soon known as the Ludlow Amendment, was immediately referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. During committee hearings in June 1935, no one spoke in opposition to the bill and yet the committee did not report on the resolution to the House before the end of the first session in August, nor when they reconvened in 1936. Ludlow attempted to force its consideration with a discharge petition but couldn’t round up enough congressional signatures. Congress was busy creating a second round of New Deal legislation intended to combat the Great Depression and was less concerned with the war clouds gathering over Europe. Despite Ludow’s passionate advocacy both in the House and to the public, his bill languished in committee. In February 1937, he made a fresh attempt, dividing Sections One and Two into separate bills. The same obstacles persisted, and despite gathering more congressional support for his discharge petition, these resolutions too remained in committee. [38]

Harris & Ewing, “Louis Ludlow,” photograph, Harris & Ewing photograph collection, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress caption: Denouncing the present war-declaring mechanism as ‘autocratic,’ Rep. Louis Ludlow appealed for approval of a constitutional amendment requiring a Nat’l referendum on participation in a foreign war.

“What Might Have Been”

During a special session called by Roosevelt in November 1937 (to introduce what has become known as the “court-packing plan”), Ludlow was able to obtain the necessary signatures to release his resolution from committee. While congressional support for the Ludlow Amendment had increased, mainly due to the advocacy of its namesake, opposition had unified as well. Opponents argued that it would reduce the power of the president to the degree that the president would lose the respect of foreign powers and ultimately make the U.S. less safe. Others argued that it completely undermined representative government by circumventing Congress and thus erode U.S. republican democracy. Veterans’ organizations like the American Legion were among its opponents, and National Commander Daniel J. Doherty combined these arguments into a public statement before the January 1939 House vote. He stated that the bill “would seriously impair the functions and utility of our Department of State, the first line of our national defense.” He continued: “The proposed amendment implies lack of confidence on the part of our people in the congressional representatives. This is not in accord with the facts. Other nations would readily interpret it as a sign of weakness.” [39] The Indianapolis Star compared the debates over the resolution to “dynamite” in the House of Representatives. And while Ludlow had the backing of “1,000 nationally known persons,” who issued statements of support, his opponents had the backing of President Roosevelt who continued to expand the powers of the executive branch. In a final vote the Ludlow Amendment was defeated 209-188. [40]

Ludlow continued to be a supporter of Roosevelt and when Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Indiana congressman voted to declare war, albeit reluctantly. He stated:

Japan has determined my vote in the present situation. If the United States had not been attacked I would not vote for a war declaration but we have been attacked . . . American blood has been spilled and American lives have been lost . . . We should do everything that is necessary to defend ourselves and to see that American lives and property are made secure. That is the first duty and obligation of sovereignty. [41]

[Indianapolis] Jewish Post, November 3, 1944, 4, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles. After the close of World War II, Louis Ludlow continued his work for peace at an international level, calling on the United Nations to ban the atomic bomb. But he no longer advocated for his bill, stating that with the introduction of the bomb and other advanced war technology it was “now too late for war referendums.” [42] He told Congress in 1948:

Looking backward, I cannot escape the belief that the death of the resolution was one of the tragedies of all time. The leadership of the greatest and most powerful nation on earth might have deflected the thinking of the world into peaceful channels. Instead, we went ahead with tremendous pace in the invention of destruction . . . I cannot help thinking what might have been. [43]

Ludlow continued his service as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives until January 1949 after choosing not to seek reelection. Instead of retiring, he returned to the Capitol press gallery where his career had begun some fifty years earlier. And before his death in 1950, he wrote a weekly Washington column for his hometown newspaper, the Indianapolis Star.

“The People . . . Need to Have a Major Voice in the Use of Force . . .”

Ludlow’s eighty-five-year-old argument for giving Americans a greater voice in declaring war gives us food for thought in the current debate over war powers. Today, the conversation has veered away from Ludlow’s call for a direct referendum, but the right of the people’s voices to be heard via their elected representatives is being argued over heatedly in Congress. Many writers for conservative-leaning journals such as the National Review agree with their liberal counterparts at magazines like the New Yorker, that Congress needs to reassert their constitutional right under Article II to declare war and reign in the powers of the executive branch. This, they argue, is especially important in an era where the “enemy” is not as clearly defined as it had been during the World Wars. Writing for the National Review in 2017, Andrew McCarthy argued:

The further removed the use of force is from an identifiable threat to vital American interests, the more imperative it is that Congress weighs in, endorses or withholds authorization for combat operations . . . to ensure that military force is employed only for political ends that are worth fighting for, and that the public will perceive as worth fighting for. [44]

Writing for the New Yorker in 2017, Jeffery Frank agreed, stating:

The constitution is a remarkable document, and few question a President’s power to respond if the nation is attacked. But the founders could not have imagined a world in which one person, whatever his rank or title, would have the authority to order the preemptive use of nuclear weapons – an action that . . . now seems within the realm of possibility. [45]

And in describing the nonpartisan legal group Protect Democracy’s work to create a “roadmap” for balancing congressional and executive powers, conservative writer David French wrote for the National Review that “requiring congressional military authorizations in all but the most emergency of circumstances will grant the public a greater voice in the most consequential decisions any government can make.” [46]

So, if many liberals and conservatives agree that Congress should hold the balance of war powers, who is resisting a return to congressional authorization for military conflicts? According to the Law Library of Congress, the answer would be all modern U.S. Presidents. The library’s website explains that “U.S. Presidents have consistently taken the position that War Powers Resolution is an unconstitutional infringement upon the power of the executive branch” and found ways to circumvent its constraints. [47]

This bloating of executive war power is exactly what Ludlow feared. When his proposed amendment was crushed by the force of the Roosevelt administration, Ludlow held no personal resentment against FDR. He believed that this particular president would always carefully weigh the significance of a cause before risking American lives. Instead, Ludlow’s feared how expanded executive war powers might be used by some future president. In a January 5, 1936 letter, Ludlow wrote:

No stauncher friend of peace ever occupied the executive office than President Roosevelt, but after all, the period of one President’s service is but a second in the life of a nation, and I shudder to think what might happen to our beloved country sometime in the future if a tyrant of Napoleonic stripe should appear in the White House, grab the war power, and run amuck. [48]

A bridge between Ludlow’s argument and contemporary calls for Congress to reassert its authority can be found in the words of more recent Hoosier public servants. Former Democratic U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton and Republican Senator Richard Lugar testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on April 28, 2009 on “War Powers in the 21 st Century.” Senator Lugar stated:

Under our Constitution, decisions about the use of force involve the shared responsibilities of the President and the Congress, and our system works best when the two branches work cooperatively in reaching such decisions. While this is an ideal toward which the President and Congress may strive, it has sometimes proved to be very hard to achieve in practice . . . The War Powers Resolution has not proven to be a panacea, and Presidents have not always consulted formally with the Congress before reaching decisions to introduce U.S. force into hostilities . . . [49]

In 2017, in words that echo Rep. Ludlow’s arguments, Rep. Hamilton reiterated that “the people who have to do the fighting and bear the costs need to have a major voice in the use of force, and the best way to ensure that is with the involvement of Congress.”[50] While the “enemy” may change and while technology further abstracts war, the questions about war powers remain remarkably consistent: Who declares war and does this reflect the will of the people who will fight in those conflicts? By setting aside current political biases and looking to the past, we can sometimes see more clearly into the crux of the issues. Ludlow would likely be surprised that the arguments have changed so little and that we’re still sorting it out.

Further Reading:

Stephen L. Carter, “The Constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution,” Faculty Scholarship Series, January 1, 1984, accessed Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository.

Richard F. Grimmet, “War Powers Resolution: Presidential Compliance,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, September 25, 2012, accessed Federation of American Scientists.

Walter R. Griffin, “Louis Ludlow and the War Referendum Crusade, 1935-1941” Indiana Magazine of History 64:4 (December 1968), 270-272, accessed Indiana University Scholarworks.

[1] The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, A Film by Ken Burns, Premiered September 14, 2014, accessed Public Broadcasting Service.

[2] “Costs of War,” Watson Institute for International & Public Affairs, Brown University The Editorial Board, “America’s Forever Wars,” New York Times, October 22, 2017. The Times cites the Defense Manpower Data Center, a division of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

[3] Sarah E. Kreps, “America’s War and the Current Accountability Crisis,” The Diplomat, June 8, 2018.

Kreps writes that this “light footprint warfare,” made possible by technological advancement, creates a “gray zone” in which it’s unclear which actors are responsible for what results, thus fragmenting opposition.

[6] Garance Franke-Tura, “All the Previous Declarations of War,” The Atlantic, August 31, 2013 Robert P. George and Michael Stokes Paulsen, “Authorize Force Now,” National Review, February 26, 2014.

Franke-Tura wrote about congressional use of force in Syria in 2013: “If history is any guide, that’s going to be a rather open-ended commitment, as fuzzy on the back-end as on the front.” Writing for the National Review in 2014, Robert P. George and Michael Stokes Paulsen agreed that in all cases of engaging in armed conflict not in response to direct attack, the president’s power to engage U.S. in military conflict (without an attack on the U.S.) is “sufficiently doubtful” and “dubious.”

[7] “War Powers,” Law Library of Congress Jim Geraghty, “Is There A War Powers Act on the Books or Not?,” National Review, August 29, 2013.

While the purpose of the War Powers Resolution, or War Powers Act, was to ensure balance between the executive and legislative branches in sending U.S. armed forces into hostile situations, “U.S. Presidents have consistently taken the position that War Powers Resolution is an unconstitutional infringement upon the power of the executive branch” and found ways to circumvent its constraints, according to the Law Library of Congress. Examples include President Reagan’s deployment of Marines to Lebanon starting in 1982, President George H. W. Bush’s building of forces for Operation Desert Shield starting in 1990, and President Clinton’s use of airstrikes and peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s.

Writer and National Review editor Jim Geraghty wrote in 2013: “There are those who believe the War Powers Act is unconstitutional – such as all recent presidents . . .” Journals as politically diverse as the National Review and its liberal counterpart the New Yorker, are rife with articles and opinion pieces debating the legality and constitutionality of the Act. Despite their leanings, they are widely consistent in calling on Congress to reassert its constitutional authority to declare war and reign in the war powers of the executive branch.

According to the Law Library of Congress, in 2001, Congress transferred more war power to President George W. Bush through Public Law 107-40, authorizing him to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against nations, groups, or even individuals who aided the September 11 attacks.

[9] Louis Ludlow, Hell or Heaven (Boston: The Stratford Company, 1937).

[10] Walter R. Griffin, “Louis Ludlow and the War Referendum Crusade, 1935-1941,” Indiana Magazine of History 64, no. 4 (December 1968), 270-272, accessed Indiana University Scholarworks. Griffin downplays Ludlow’s early congressional career, however, he pushed for many Progressive Era reforms. Ludlow worked for an equal rights amendment for women, an anti-lynching bill, and the repeal of Prohibition.

[11] Ibid. United States Congress,“Report of the Special Committee on Investigation of the Munitions Industry (The Nye Report),” Senate, 74 th Congress, Second Session, February 24, 1936, 3-13, accessed Mount Holyoke College.

[12] “Speech of Hon. Louis Ludlow of Indiana, in the U.S. House of Representatives,” February 19, 1935, Congressional Record, 74 th Congress, First Session, Pamphlets Collection, Indiana State Library.

[13] Ernest C. Bolt, Jr., “Reluctant Belligerent: The Career of Louis Ludlow” in Their Infinite Variety: Essays on Indiana Politicians, eds. Robert Barrows and Shirley S. McCord, (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1981): 363-364.

[15] Louis Ludlow, Public Letter, March 8, 1935, Ludlow War Referendum Scrapbooks, Lilly Library, Indiana University, cited in Griffin, 273.

[16] Louis Ludlow, From Cornfield to Press Gallery: Adventures and Reminiscences of a Veteran Washington Correspondent (Washington D.C., 1924), 1. The section title also comes from this source and page. Ludlow was referring to the Hoosier tendency to write books exhibited during the Golden Age of Indiana Literature.

[20] “Evans Wollen Is Best of the Democrats,” Greencastle Herald, November 7, 1927, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles Charles J. Arnold, “Say!,” Greencastle Herald, February 24, 1928, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

[23] “G.O.P. Wins in Marion County,” Greencastle Herald, November 7, 1927, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles “Ludlow Wins Congress Seat,” Indianapolis Star, November 27, 1928, 1, accessed

[24] Everett C. Watkins, “Ludlow Will Leap from Press Gallery to Floor of Congress,” Indianapolis Star, March 3, 1929, 13, accessed

[28] “Republican Advances Ludlow’s Name as 1932 Vice Presidential Candidate,” Indianapolis Star, January 4, 1929, 10, accessed

[30] “Discuss Women’s Rights,” Nebraska State Journal, March 24, 1932, 3, accessed “Women Argue in Favor of Changes in Nation’s Laws,” Jacksonville (Illinois) Daily Journal, March 24, 1932, 5, accessed “Woman’s Party Condemns Trial of Virginia Patricide,” Salt Lake Tribune, December 2, 1925, 1, accessed “Equal Rights Demanded,” Ada (Oklahoma) Weekly News , January 5, 1939, 7, accessed Bolt, 383.

The National League of Women Voters crafted the language of the original bill which Ludlow then sponsored and introduced. In 1935, the organization passed a resolution that “expressed gratitude . . . to Representative Louis Ludlow of Indiana for championing women’s rights.”

[31] “Ludlow Asks War Act Now,” Indianapolis Star, March 13, 1935, 11, accessed

[33] “Speech of Hon. Louis Ludlow of Indiana, in the U.S. House of Representatives,” February 19, 1935, Congressional Record, 74 th Congress, First Session, Pamphlets Collection, Indiana State Library.

[36] “Ludlow Asks War Act Now,” Indianapolis Star, March 13, 1935, 11, accessed

[38] “To Amend the Constitution with Respect to the Declaration of War,” Hearing before Subcommittee No. 2 of the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives, 74 th Congress, First Session, On H. J. Res. 167, accessed HathiTrust Griffin, 274-275.

[39] Everett C. Watkins, “Ludlow Bill ‘Dynamite’ in House Today,” Indianapolis Star, January 10, 1938, 1, accessed

[41] “Indiana’s Votes Solid for War,” Indianapolis News, December 8, 1941, 4, accessed

[42] Congressional Record, 80 th Congress, Second Session, Appendix, 4853, in Griffin, 287-8.

[44] Andrew C. McCarthy, “War Powers and the Constitution in Our Body Politic,” National Review, July 8, 2017.

[45] Jeffery Frank, “The War Powers of President Trump,” New Yorker, April 26, 2017.

[46] David French, “Can Congress Get Its War Powers Back?,” National Review, July 5, 2018.

Annual Message to Congress (1936)

Nineteen thirty-six was an election year. President Roosevelt was eager to fight the campaign, and saw it as a referendum on all that he and the New Deal had done. He was optimistic that he would win re-election. The economy had grown since his election in 1932 income was up, as were stock prices by more than 80 percent. Six million new jobs had opened up, bringing unemployment down by a third. Most of those unemployed had at least some work through various New Deal programs. Roosevelt began his campaign with his Annual Message to Congress, delivered to a special evening session, the first one a President had addressed. He opened his speech by discussing the rising danger of autocratic and aggressive powers overseas. He then launched into a blistering attack on his domestic political opponents, accusing them of being aggressive autocrats ganging up against the people’s liberties like the autocrats overseas. Against these domestic autocrats, whom Roosevelt described as greedy and selfish, he held up the new “economic constitutional order” that his administration had put in place since 1932. Roosevelt concluded his message to Congress by quoting an inspirational passage that spoke of the present “generation whose lips are touched by fire,” an allusion to Isaiah 6:6-7.

Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Annual Message to Congress,” January 3, 1936. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

. . . I realize that I have emphasized to you the gravity of the situation which confronts the people of the world. This emphasis is justified because of its importance to civilization and therefore to the United States. Peace is jeopardized by the few and not by the many. Peace is threatened by those who seek selfish power. The world has witnessed similar eras – as in the days when petty kings and feudal barons were changing the map of Europe every fortnight, or when great emperors and great kings were engaged in a mad scramble for colonial empire. We hope that we are not again at the threshold of such an era. But if face it we must, then the United States and the rest of the Americas can play but one role: through a well-ordered neutrality to do naught to encourage the contest, through adequate defense to save ourselves from embroilment and attack, and through example and all legitimate encouragement and assistance to persuade other Nations to return to the ways of peace and good-will.

The evidence before us clearly proves that autocracy in world affairs endangers peace and that such threats do not spring from those Nations devoted to the democratic ideal. If this be true in world affairs, it should have the greatest weight in the determination of domestic policies.

Within democratic Nations the chief concern of the people is to prevent the continuance or the rise of autocratic institutions that beget slavery at home and aggression abroad. Within our borders, as in the world at large, popular opinion is at war with a power-seeking minority.

That is no new thing. It was fought out in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. From time to time since then, the battle has been continued, under Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

In these latter years we have witnessed the domination of government by financial and industrial groups, numerically small but politically dominant in the twelve years that succeeded the World War. The present group of which I speak is indeed numerically small and, while it exercises a large influence and has much to say in the world of business, it does not, I am confident, speak the true sentiments of the less articulate but more important elements that constitute real American business.

In March, 1933, I appealed to the Congress of the United States and to the people of the United States in a new effort to restore power to those to whom it rightfully belonged. The response to that appeal resulted in the writing of a new chapter in the history of popular government. You, the members of the Legislative branch, and I, the Executive, contended for and established a new relationship between Government and people.

What were the terms of that new relationship? They were an appeal from the clamor of many private and selfish interests, yes, an appeal from the clamor of partisan interest, to the ideal of the public interest. Government became the representative and the trustee of the public interest. Our aim was to build upon essentially democratic institutions, seeking all the while the adjustment of burdens, the help of the needy, the protection of the weak, the liberation of the exploited and the genuine protection of the people’s property.

It goes without saying that to create such an economic constitutional order, more than a single legislative enactment was called for. We, you in the Congress and I as the Executive, had to build upon a broad base. Now, after thirty-four months of work, we contemplate a fairly rounded whole. We have returned the control of the Federal Government to the City of Washington.

To be sure, in so doing, we have invited battle. We have earned the hatred of entrenched greed. The very nature of the problem that we faced made it necessary to drive some people from power and strictly to regulate others. I made that plain when I took the oath of office in March, 1933. I spoke of the practices of the unscrupulous money-changers who stood indicted in the court of public opinion. I spoke of the rulers of the exchanges of mankind’s goods, who failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence. I said that they had admitted their failure and had abdicated.

Abdicated? Yes, in 1933, but now with the passing of danger they forget their damaging admissions and withdraw their abdication.

They seek the restoration of their selfish power. They offer to lead us back round the same old corner into the same old dreary street.

Yes, there are still determined groups that are intent upon that very thing. Rigorously held up to popular examination, their true character presents itself. They steal the livery of great national constitutional ideals to serve discredited special interests. As guardians and trustees for great groups of individual stockholders they wrongfully seek to carry the property and the interests entrusted to them into the arena of partisan politics. They seek – this minority in business and industry – to control and often do control and use for their own purposes legitimate and highly honored business associations they engage in vast propaganda to spread fear and discord among the people – they would “gang up” against the people’s liberties.

The principle that they would instill into government if they succeed in seizing power is well shown by the principles which many of them have instilled into their own affairs: autocracy toward labor, toward stockholders, toward consumers, toward public sentiment. Autocrats in smaller things, they seek autocracy in bigger things. “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

If these gentlemen believe, as they say they believe, that the measures adopted by this Congress and its predecessor, and carried out by this Administration, have hindered rather than promoted recovery, let them be consistent. Let them propose to this Congress the complete repeal of these measures. The way is open to such a proposal.

Let action be positive and not negative. The way is open in the Congress of the United States for an expression of opinion by yeas and nays. Shall we say that values are restored and that the Congress will, therefore, repeal the laws under which we have been bringing them back? Shall we say that because national income has grown with rising prosperity, we shall repeal existing taxes and thereby put off the day of approaching a balanced budget and of starting to reduce the national debt? Shall we abandon the reasonable support and regulation of banking? Shall we restore the dollar to its former gold content?

Members of the Congress, let these challenges be met. If this is what these gentlemen want, let them say so to the Congress of the United States. Let them no longer hide their dissent in a cowardly cloak of generality. Let them define the issue. We have been specific in our affirmative action. Let them be specific in their negative attack.

But the challenge faced by this Congress is more menacing than merely a return to the past – bad as that would be. Our resplendent economic autocracy does not want to return to that individualism of which they prate, even though the advantages under that system went to the ruthless and the strong. They realize that in thirty-four months we have built up new instruments of public power. In the hands of a people’s Government this power is wholesome and proper. But in the hands of political puppets of an economic autocracy such power would provide shackles for the liberties of the people. Give them their way and they will take the course of every autocracy of the past – power for themselves, enslavement for the public.

Their weapon is the weapon of fear. I have said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That is as true today as it was in 1933. But such fear as they instill today is not a natural fear, a normal fear it is a synthetic, manufactured, poisonous fear that is being spread subtly, expensively and cleverly by the same people who cried in those other days, “Save us, save us, lest we perish.”

I am confident that the Congress of the United States well understands the facts and is ready to wage unceasing warfare against those who seek a continuation of that spirit of fear. The carrying out of the laws of the land as enacted by the Congress requires protection until final adjudication by the highest tribunal of the land. The Congress has the right and can find the means to protect its own prerogatives.

We are justified in our present confidence. Restoration of national income, which shows continuing gains for the third successive year, supports the normal and logical policies under which agriculture and industry are returning to full activity. Under these policies we approach a balance of the national budget. National income increases tax receipts, based on that income, increase without the levying of new taxes. That is why I am able to say to this, the Second Session of the 74th Congress, that it is my belief based on existing laws that no new taxes, over and above the present taxes, are either advisable or necessary.

National income increases employment increases. Therefore, we can look forward to a reduction in the number of those citizens who are in need. Therefore, also, we can anticipate a reduction in our appropriations for relief.

In the light of our substantial material progress, in the light of the increasing effectiveness of the restoration of popular rule, I recommend to the Congress that we advance that we do not retreat. I have confidence that you will not fail the people of the Nation whose mandate you have already so faithfully fulfilled.

I repeat, with the same faith and the same determination, my words of March 4, 1933: “We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of national unity with a clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values with a clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young alike. We aim at the assurance of a rounded and permanent national life. We do not distrust the future of essential democracy.”

I cannot better end this message on the state of the Union than by repeating the words of a wise philosopher at whose feet I sat many, many years ago.

“What great crises teach all men whom the example and counsel of the brave inspire is the lesson: Fear not, view all the tasks of life as sacred, have faith in the triumph of the ideal, give daily all that you have to give, be loyal and rejoice whenever you find yourselves part of a great ideal enterprise. You, at this moment, have the honor to belong to a generation whose lips are touched by fire. You live in a land that now enjoys the blessings of peace. But let nothing human be wholly alien to you. The human race now passes through one of its great crises. New ideas, new issues – a new call for men to carry on the work of righteousness, of charity, of courage, of patience, and of loyalty. . . . However memory bring back this moment to your minds, let it be able to say to you: That was a great moment. It was the beginning of a new era. . . . This world in its crisis called for volunteers, for men of faith in life, of patience in service, of charity and of insight. I responded to the call however I could. I volunteered to give myself to my Master – the cause of humane and brave living. I studied, I loved, I labored, unsparingly and hopefully, to be worthy of my generation.” 1

Study Questions

A. What did Roosevelt mean when he spoke of an “economic constitutional order”? How would such an order differ from the one that existed when Roosevelt took office?

B. How does the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Butler affect the new order Roosevelt was trying to build? Are Al Smith’s criticisms of the New Deal criticisms of this new economic order? What are Smith’s criticisms?

Speech to Congress on Social Security

Many primary documents relate to multiple themes in American history and government and are curated by different editors for particular collections. In the dropdown menu, we provide links to variant excerpts of the document, with study questions relevant to particular themes.


Democrats made impressive gains in the midterm elections of 1934, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt interpreted as a popular mandate for the New Deal that he had launched upon taking office in 1933. In 1935, therefore, he placed before Congress a series of measures on a wide variety of subjects in what has become known as the “Second New Deal.” Perhaps the most important of these was the Social Security Act, which provided for unemployment insurance and old-age pensions to be paid through a six percent payroll tax divided between employers and employees. The revenues generated from these payroll taxes would be more than sufficient to provide for the current elderly the surplus would be deposited in a special fund that would – theoretically, at least – maintain the program in perpetuity. Other aspects of the plan directed that federal money would also be passed along to the states to support assistance programs for the blind, the disabled, and families with dependent children. While the benefits to the elderly would be managed at the federal level by a Social Security Administration, unemployment insurance and other assistance programs would remain under the control of the states.

The Social Security Act appeared sufficiently moderate that it aroused little real opposition, except from a few die-hard conservatives such as Republican Representative James W. Wadsworth of New York, who feared that it would destroy incentives to work and save. Others claimed that the proposed payroll tax was excessive not only would it retard recovery, but they feared that the resulting surplus might be used to fund other attempts at New Deal “social engineering.” In spite of such criticism the bill passed both houses by wide margins, and Roosevelt signed it into law on August 14, 1935.

Liberals felt the Act did not go far enough. They had hoped that the program would be funded from revenues generated by the income tax, so that it might redistribute wealth from rich to poor.

One of Roosevelt’s most prominent opponents on the left was Huey P. Long, who as a popular and reform-minded Democratic governor of Louisiana took on the oil industry and built a powerful state political organization. After being elected to the U.S. Senate (in 1930, although he did not take his seat until 1932), he used his national standing to issue frequent denunciations of the wealthy and the banking system. In 1932 he supported Roosevelt’s presidential campaign and supported most of the measures of the early New Deal. However, the personalities of the two men immediately clashed, and the New York patrician and the colorful, rural senator known as the “Kingfish” (after a character in the popular radio show Amos & Andy) came to loathe one another.

Long’s greatest complaint about the New Deal was that to his mind it did not go far enough in reducing the great inequalities of wealth in American society. In March 1933 he proposed a series of bills that would have seized all fortunes greater than $100 million, as well as all annual income in excess of $1 million. When these laws failed – as did, indeed, everything Long proposed as senator – he established a national organization called the Share Our Wealth Society. By 1935 the society boasted 27,000 chapters nationwide, with a total membership of 7.5 million. Long hoped to use this group as a launching pad for a presidential run in 1936 however, in September 1935 he was assassinated by the son of one of his many political enemies.

Social Security has been one of the most enduring legacies of the New Deal. Roosevelt insisted on funding Social Security through payroll taxes because it would give recipients “a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those [payroll] taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.”

The program began paying out old-age benefits in 1940, when there were 159.2 taxpayers for every recipient. By 2013, however, according to the Social Security Administration, demographic patterns and longer life expectancy had changed the ratio to 2.8 taxpayers for every recipient. Without major changes, some have suggested that the Social Security system cannot remain solvent.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Speech to Congress on Social Security, January 17, 1935, The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Volume Four, The Court Disapproves, 1935 with a special introduction and explanatory notes by President Roosevelt (New York: Random House, 1938), 43–46. Available at

In addressing you on June 8, 1934, I summarized the main objectives of our American program. Among these was, and is, the security of the men, women, and children of the nation against certain hazards and vicissitudes of life. This purpose is an essential part of our task. In my annual message to you I promised to submit a definite program of action. This I do in the form of a report to me by a Committee on Economic Security, appointed by me for the purpose of surveying the field and of recommending the basis of legislation. . . .

It is my best judgment that this legislation should be brought forward with a minimum of delay. Federal action is necessary to, and conditioned upon, the action of States. Forty-four legislatures are meeting or will meet soon. In order that the necessary State action may be taken promptly, it is important that the Federal Government proceed speedily.

The detailed report of the Committee sets forth a series of proposals that will appeal to the sound sense of the American people. It has not attempted the impossible, nor has it failed to exercise sound caution and consideration of all of the factors concerned: the national credit, the rights and responsibilities of States, the capacity of industry to assume financial responsibilities and the fundamental necessity of proceeding in a manner that will merit the enthusiastic support of citizens of all sorts. . . . can we get rid of the orphans

Three principles should be observed in legislation on this subject. First, the system adopted, except for the money necessary to initiate it, should be self-sustaining in the sense that funds for the payment of insurance benefits should not come from the proceeds of general taxation. Second, excepting in old-age insurance, actual management should be left to the States subject to standards established by the Federal Government. Third, sound financial management of the funds and the reserves, and protection of the credit structure of the nation should be assured by retaining Federal control over all funds through trustees in the Treasury of the United States.

At this time, I recommend the following types of legislation looking to economic security:

1. Unemployment compensation.

2. Old-age benefits, including compulsory and voluntary annuities.

3. Federal aid to dependent children through grants to States for the support of existing mothers’ pension systems and for services for the protection and care of homeless, neglected, dependent, and crippled children.

4. Additional Federal aid to State and local public-health agencies and the strengthening of the Federal Public Health Service. I am not at this time recommending the adoption of so-called “health insurance,” although groups representing the medical profession are cooperating with the Federal Government in the further study of the subject and definite progress is being made.

With respect to unemployment compensation, I have concluded that the most practical proposal is the levy of a uniform Federal payroll tax, 90 percent of which should be allowed as an offset to employers contributing under a compulsory State unemployment compensation act. The purpose of this is to afford a requirement of a reasonably uniform character for all States cooperating with the Federal Government and to promote and encourage the passage of unemployment compensation laws in the States. The 10 percent not thus offset should be used to cover the costs of Federal and State administration of this broad system. Thus, States will largely administer unemployment compensation, assisted and guided by the Federal Government. An unemployment compensation system should be constructed in such a way as to afford every practicable aid and incentive toward the larger purpose of employment stabilization. This can be helped by the intelligent planning of both public and private employment. It also can be helped by correlating the system with public employment so that a person who has exhausted his benefits may be eligible for some form of public work as is recommended in this report. Moreover, in order to encourage the stabilization of private employment, Federal legislation should not foreclose the States from establishing means for inducing industries to afford an even greater stabilization of employment.

In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, noncontributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps 30 years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans. . . .

The establishment of sound means toward a greater future economic security of the American people is dictated by a prudent consideration of the hazards involved in our national life. No one can guarantee this country against the dangers of future depressions but we can reduce these dangers. We can eliminate many of the factors that cause economic depressions, and we can provide the means of mitigating their results. This plan for economic security is at once a measure of prevention and a method of alleviation.

We pay now for the dreadful consequence of economic insecurity – and dearly. This plan presents a more equitable and infinitely less expensive means of meeting these costs. We cannot afford to neglect the plain duty before us. I strongly recommend action to attain the objectives sought in this report.

Study Questions

A. What does Roosevelt’s Social Security plan entail? How is it to be funded? Why does the president believe it is necessary? What misgivings does Representative Wadsworth have regarding how Social Security is to be funded? Why does he think it poses a danger to the republic? How does he predict the program will develop? Have his predictions come true? How might Roosevelt respond to Wadsworth’s criticisms? What does Huey Long regard as the fundamental cause of the Depression? In what ways does he think the New Deal has fallen short? What does he propose as a remedy? How does he seek to justify his program?

B. How does the New Deal compare to Reconstruction or the passage of the Civil Rights Act? What vision of the legitimate purposes and power of government are presented in each case? What connections, if any, do you see among the various policies? How does Long’s understanding of what society owes to its poorest members relate to the eugenics movement’s vision of what society owes to its weakest members?

C. How do the visions of a community of shared responsibility for the financial security of all presented in this chapter compare to those presented in Volume 1, Chapter 2? How do the concerns raised by conservative critics of the New Deal reflect those raised by Brutus during the Ratification debates?

Seventy Years On: Franklin D. Roosevelt's D-Day Prayer

Franklin D. Roosevelt perfected the art of speaking directly to the American people. Unlike presidents before him, the invention and availability of the radio allowed Americans from New York to California to hear his voice-all at the same time. The radio transformed America in the 1930s and '40s, and transformed presidential politics.

Able to communicate directly, the president could inform, cajole, and persuade unimaginable numbers of Americas with one speech. And in the persuasive hands of FDR, the radio became an invaluable tool during the dark and difficult days of the Great Depression and World War II. In his famous "Fireside Chats" - his "conversations with America" - FDR would inform the people about what was happening in the country and around the world, and what the United States government was doing about it.

On December 8, 1941, many Americans heard the then familiar voice of President Roosevelt crackle over the radio asking Congress for a declaration of war. Three years later, on June 6, 1944, on what would become one of the greatest days in American history - the invasion to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany - Americans stared at the amber glow of their radios and listened to President Roosevelt deliver another impassioned plea.

This time it wasn't a speech, it was a prayer. Roosevelt didn't ask the country to honor a moment of silence. He didn't ask the nation to pray before turning in for the night. He, the President of the United States of America, did what would be unthinkable today - he asked the American people to "join" him in prayer. As he led the nation in a solemn petition for the lives of thousands of American and Allied men - boys, really - who were crossing the English Channel and landing on the bloody beaches of Normandy, France, he asked for God's will to be done in the great endeavor that was D-Day.

It is fitting, on this seventieth anniversary of that great and terrible day, to remember once again President Roosevelt's prayer, and make it our own even as a new generation of young Americans shoulder a rifle and stand a lonely post in far away places far from home.

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer.

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tired, by night and by day, without rest - until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home - fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them - help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too - strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee faith in our sons faith in each other faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment - let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace - a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Roosevelt’s First 100 Days in Office

Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) persuaded Congress to pass the following legislation as part of his New Deal:

The Emergency Banking Act

  • 4 March declared as a bank holiday
  • It gave experts time to examine the accounts of US banks
  • 9 March passed Emergency Banking Act
  • This forced weak banks out of business
  • Allowed government to help stronger banks
  • FDR assured people that their money was safe in banks
  • They were encouraged to deposit their money into banks (wages, savings etc)
  • The Act gave government more control over banking

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

  • This was set up and this insured deposits in banks
  • Banned use of clients’ money in investment on Stock Exchange
  • Gave people confidence in banking system

Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA)

  • Set up with $500 million for cash relief for the poor and to aid local authorities’ poor relief schemes
  • FDR also used Hoover’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC)

Economy Act


Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

  • To provide work for the unemployed
  • People aged 18-25 could join for 6 months to work on afforestation schemes etc
  • Paid $30 a month - & send $25 home to parents and wives
  • 1933,300,000 joined
  • 1940, had risen to 2 million – many had re-joined after first 6 months
  • Many found work after 6 months
  • Employers welcomed the effort they had made by joining the Corps

Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA)

  • Purpose – to help farmers
  • They were asked to set up co-operative marketing schemes
  • Gave loans to stop evictions
  • Advisers helped them improve soil and methods
  • Asked to reduce output because of effect of overproduction on prices
  • In return they received a subsidy from new taxes
  • Tax on cotton spinning subsidised farmers who stopped cotton production
  • Flour-milling tax for those who cut wheat production

National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA)

  • As an extension of AAA the Act set up the Public Works Administration
  • Cash provided for public works schemes by government and local authorities
  • National Recovery Administration (NRA) was set up to establish codes for industrial relations: child labour abolished, shorter working week and fixed minimum wage
  • Participating employers could display a ‘Blue Eagle’ – people were encouraged to buy from these firms
  • Workers given right to form unions

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

  • Set up during the ‘Hundred Days’
  • Tennessee River runs through seven states
  • The valley was one of the most backward parts of USA
  • Its agriculture suffered from: over-cropping causing soil erosion (wind blew top soil away) floods washed away remaining topsoil little industry in this region to provide alternative employment
  • Senator Norris asked Hoover in 1930 to set up an authority deal with the problems of the Tennessee Valley
  • It was to deal with problems too big for individual states, construct dams to prevent floods and provide hydroelectric power for industry and employment and provide fertiliser factories to improve farm soil
  • Hoover had refused though
  • FDR’s decision to do it provided thousands of jobs
  • 16 dams were built and 5 more enlarged
  • The river was also made navigable
  • This work covered 7 states
  • 1928, 48 ton-miles of traffic on the river 1941, 161 million ton-miles
  • The dams ended flood damage and the hydroelectricity helped farms, industries and towns

Second New Deal

The flood of legislation and new agencies showed FDR genuine wish to solve US’s problems:

Past Daily

Had more than a few prophetic words for our state of affairs, even in 1948.

October of 1948, aside from everything else going on in the world, was also a Presidential campaign month. The Democrats had Harry Truman running for re-election (actually, election since he had assumed the Presidency when Franklin Roosevelt died in office in April 1945) and the Republicans had Thomas Dewey, running again after a devastating loss to FDR in 1944. Henry Wallace was FDR’s vice-President in 1940 and prior to that was Secretary of Agriculture.

But Wallace broke with the Democratic Party over Truman’s leadership and struck out on his own as a third party candidate. Since Third parties have never really been recognized much in the mainstream media, or even considered viable alternatives by the D.C. establishment, Wallace had an uphill battle.

But there was always that hope something would change, some miraculous event that would alter the course of history. In the case of 1948, it was the stunning upset by President Truman over Thomas Dewey – but that was the DC establishment.

Wallace followed his own course, and was roundly lambasted by both established parties as being pro-Socialist, pro-Moscow, a subversive bent on destroying the fragile fabric of American politics with radical ideas.

Trouble was, we were rapidly falling into a Cold War with the Soviet Union, coupled with a wave of newly independent nations and we needed some new thinking of our Foreign Policy to go along with these new problems. The danger was, there were many on Capitol Hill who were urging an armed confrontation, and the possibility that this new confrontation would inevitably lead to nuclear war was a terrifying prospect to most Americans.

So in this campaign talk, Wallace discussed the issue of America in danger of losing the peace and what could be done about it. As someone who didn’t feel Russia was either equipped or had the desire to engage in another war, Wallace felt it was urgent to engage in negotiation, to find a settlement to the question of Germany and to find some enduring path to peace not based on armed aggression.

Needless to say, Wallace’s case made great fodder for both Democrats and Republicans who felt strongly that Wallace was playing into the Communist hands and he was largely dismissed as being a Communist sympathizer.

But for all the accusations of Wallace’s motives and ideas, the one fact remained true we were rapidly growing into the Military-Industrial complex Eisenhower would later warn us about, and our fear of Communist domination blind-sided us from the real issues taking shape and into a state of perpetual fear and anxiety, and it shaped our society and our political motives for decades.

If Wallace had, by some miracle, won the Presidency, his vision would have been almost impossible to accomplish just by the sheer frustration of having a Congress uniformly against you. If Truman complained of a “do-nothing Congress” in 1948, Wallace would be relegated to figurehead status, since a third party majority in both houses, or in either house, would have been practically impossible to achieve. Which may give some indication as to why certain fringe parties, like The Tea Party, decided it was best to join an established base (like the Republicans) and hijack that party, rather than establish themselves as a Third Party, realizing what the outcome would be.

I suppose that says something about the Two-Party system. But even more, it gives some idea how difficult it is to promote real change, particularly in Washington, and why subverting an established political party is easier than slugging it out on your own.

And in 1948 we had some indication just how impossible that could be.

Here is that address by Progressive Candidate Henry Wallace, given on October 4, 1948.

Franklin Roosevelt’s Subversion From Within

Stalin’s Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt’s Government, by M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein, New York: Threshold Editions, 2012, 304 pages, hardcover.

“Communists and fellow travelers on official rosters in case after case were agents of the Soviet Union, plighting their troth to Moscow and striving to promote the cause of the dictator Stalin,” write M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein in their new book, Stalin’s Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt’s Government. They make the case that while the United States was allied with Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in World War II, the government of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was heavily infiltrated by members of the Communist Party USA and other pro-Red operatives. These communists and Soviet agents were, according to the authors, working to sabotage U.S. policy in favor of the interests of Moscow.

“This is of course contrary to the notion that American Reds were simply idealistic do-gooders, perhaps a bit misguided but devoted to peace and social justice, and thus shouldn’t have been ousted from government jobs just because of their opinions,” Evans and Romerstein acknowledge. Yet, they maintain: “In countless instances, we know that domestic Communists in official posts were actively working on behalf of Russia, and thus were the minions of a hostile foreign power.” Evans and Romerstein provide ample documentation to make their case.

Among the resources Evans and Romerstein drew from are the declassified Venona decrypts. These decrypts were originally compiled by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, which monitored the secret communiqués between the Soviet Union and their spies in America in the 1940s. These files were declassified by the U.S. government in 1995, and have since provided additional evidence to the claims made by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and other anti-communists in the 1950s of individuals suspected of having been in the Communist Party and working for Moscow.

The authors also draw from once-confidential documents of the FBI, which tracked and recorded the activities of communists and Soviet agents as early as the 1930s, and the personal papers of FDR Secretary of State Edward Stettinius. Further documented materials were also accessed from declassified Soviet and other Eastern-bloc archives, as well as the recently disclosed Vassiliev papers.

Named after former KGB intelligence operative Alexander Vassiliev, who defected to the United Kingdom in 1996, the Vassiliev papers are a collection of eight notebooks and loose pages kept by Vassiliev while researching in the KGB archives. His research was originally conducted as part of an SVR (Russian external intelligence service, successor to the KGB) book project on Soviet espionage in America. When Vassiliev defected to the U.K., he took his papers with him and donated the original copies to the Library of Congress, where they currently reside.

Using these and other sources, Evans and Romerstein leave no doubt that the amount of communist and pro-Soviet penetration of the U.S. government during World War II and the early years of the Cold War was extensive. Communist penetration, as they outline in their book, extended into the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, State, Treasury, and War, as well as the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, precursor to the CIA), the Foreign Economic Administration (FEA), the Farm Security Administration (FSA), and the White House.

This is a history that has commonly been overlooked or minimized in its importance by prevailing academics and scholars, who continue to dismiss the idea that there was any such communist penetration of the government or, if they acknowledge it at all, claim it was minuscule at most.

Horrible Hopkins

Using all of the aforementioned sources, Evans and Romerstein are able to provide a refreshingly honest account of the communist subversion in Roosevelt’s government. Among the various communist and other pro-Red apparatchiks in the FDR government was Harry Hopkins, who served as the secretary of commerce under Roosevelt. Hopkins was also FDR’s closest advisor and a major architect of the New Deal. During the war, he was Roosevelt’s key advisor on U.S. relations with the Soviet Union and was at FDR’s side at the Yalta wartime summit between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin in 1945.

During the Yalta summit, a deadlock occurred over the issue of “reparations,” or monetary repayment for the war damages inflicted on the Allied powers, particularly to the Soviet Union. At this point Hopkins passed a handwritten note to Roosevelt that read: “Mr. President, the Russians have given in so much at this conference I don’t think we should let them down. Let the British disagree if they want — and continue their disagreement at Moscow.”

Ironically, it was not Stalin who had made concessions at Yalta. In fact, even FDR loyalists applaud Roosevelt for agreeing to give the Soviet Union three votes in the still-to-be-created UN General Assembly as a supposed diplomatic victory for “winning” Stalin’s support for creating the UN. After gaining Stalin’s promise to declare war on Japan, “FDR agreed to a vast array of benefits for Moscow.” These included “sanctioning Soviet control of Outer Mongolia, ceding to Russia the southern part of Sakhalin Island north of Japan and the Kurile chain that stretches between Japan and Russia, plus de facto control of seaports and railways in Manchuria, the main industrial zone and richest part of China,” Evans and Romerstein write.

As Evans and Romerstein note, Hopkins was complicit in the communization of Poland and Eastern Europe. Though at the outset of WWII the Soviets were partnered with the Nazis in the invasion of Poland, Stalin insisted to western Allies that he be allowed to keep the territories seized by the Red Army and allowed to liquidate elements in Poland, as reparations. To these proposals, Hopkins sided with Stalin. When anti-communist Polish-Americans attempted to protest what they saw as the communization of their native homeland, Hopkins and his staff hindered their efforts. The authors provide further details about this betrayal in their book.

Furthermore, in the spring of 1945, following Roosevelt’s death, Hopkins remained in the White House and was sent to Moscow by newly sworn-in President Harry Truman in order to “reassure” Stalin and the Soviets of the United States’ non-belligerence toward Moscow and its post-war Soviet interests. At the Hopkins-Stalin meeting, when Stalin aggressively stated that the British did not want a “Poland friendly to the Soviet Union,” Hopkins responded, as he did at Yalta, that the U.S. position was different from Britain’s. Hopkins said, “The United States would desire a Poland friendly to the Soviet Union, and in fact desired to see friendly countries all along the Soviet borders.” Stalin replied, “if this be so we can easily come to terms regarding Poland,” which would in fact turn out to be the case as the USSR established a puppet communist regime there under the de-facto control of the Soviet Union without a shot being fired. Evans and Romerstein do not provide a detailed account as to how Hopkins influenced Truman’s policies in regard to the Russians, but claimed that it was Hopkins’ pro-Soviet sympathies that led Truman to abandon Poland to the mercy of Stalin.

Also noted by Evans and Romerstein is a Venona entry concerning a Roosevelt-Churchill meeting from May 1943, in which a Soviet informant, identified as “No. 19,” told the Russians via a KGB (then NKVD) report of what the two leaders discussed. The message suggests that “No. 19” was in the room at the time of the conference, and since Hopkins was the go-between person for Roosevelt and foreign leaders, such as Churchill, it is plausible to believe that No. 19 was in fact Hopkins.

The authors further note that KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky identified Hopkins as a Soviet intelligence agent, and veteran KGB operative Iskhak Akhmerov claimed that Hopkins was “the most important of all Soviet wartime agents in the United States.” Evans and Romerstein also reveal how “Hopkins was instrumental in blocking U.S. and British aid to Polish fighters who at the instigation of the Russians had risen up against the Nazis occupying Warsaw.” The Soviets encouraged the Poles to rise up against the Nazis only to let both the Poles and Nazis slaughter each other without any Allied intervention. The authors suggest that the Soviet Union was anxious to see both sides finish each other off, in order to secure an eventual Soviet victory over both the Nazis and Poland, with as few Red Army casualties as possible. Stalin’s Secret Agents provides further detail of Hopkins’ subterfuge and other subversive activities within the Roosevelt administration, as well as his ties with other pro-communist agents of influence around the president.

Bit of a Speedbump

There are a couple flaws with the book. The authors presume that Soviet or Russian spying and subversion no longer take place. The authors fail to explain how this penetration ended, if it ever did. The reader must suppose that those spies and subversives merely faded out of history. The authors also promote the mainstream viewpoint that the collapse of the Soviet Union put an end to the threat of communism from Moscow, which is contrary to the Anatoly Golitsyn theory — and conflicts with ever-emerging evidence — that the collapse of communism and subsequent fall of the Soviet empire was a staged KGB deception. Furthermore, the book itself, as a whole, is written for someone who has forehand knowledge of the accusations of communist and Soviet espionage during World War II, and who is familiar with many of the names of individuals mentioned.

The Mythology of Roosevelt and the New Deal

The Great Depression was a watershed in American history. Soon after Herbert Hoover assumed the presidency in 1929, the economy began to decline, and between 1930 and 1933 the contraction assumed catastrophic proportions never experienced before or since in the United States. Disgusted by Hoover’s inability to stem the collapse, in 1932 the voters elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt, along with a heavily Democratic Congress, and set in motion the radical restructuring of government’s role in the economy known as the New Deal.

With few exceptions, historians have taken a positive view of the New Deal. They have generally praised such measures as the massive relief programs for the unemployed the expanded federal regulation of agriculture, industry, finance, and labor relations the establishment of a legal minimum wage and the creation of Social Security with its old-age pensions, unemployment insurance, and income supplements for dependent children in single-parent families, the aged poor, the physically handicapped, and the blind. In the construction of the American regulatory and welfare state, no one looms larger than FDR.

For this accomplishment, along with his wartime leadership, historians and the general public alike rank Franklin D. Roosevelt among the greatest of American presidents. Roosevelt, it is said repeatedly, restored hope to the American people when they had fallen into despair because of the seemingly endless depression, and his policies “saved capitalism” by mitigating its intrinsic cruelties and inequalities.

This view of Roosevelt and the New Deal amounts to a myth compounded of ideological predisposition and historical misunderstanding. In a 1936 book called The Menace of Roosevelt and His Policies, Howard E. Kershner came closer to the truth when he wrote that Roosevelt

took charge of our government when it was comparatively simple, and for the most part confined to the essential functions of government, and transformed it into a highly complex, bungling agency for throttling business and bedeviling the private lives of free people. It is no exaggeration to say that he took the government when it was a small racket and made a large racket out of it. [1]

As this statement illustrates, not everyone admired FDR during the 1930s. Although historians have tended to view Roosevelt’s opponents as self-interested reactionaries, the legions of “Roosevelt haters” actually had a clearer view of the economic consequences of the New Deal. The nearly 17 million men and women who, even in Roosevelt’s moment of supreme triumph in 1936, voted for Alf Landon could not all have been plutocrats.

Prolonging the Depression

The irony is that even if Roosevelt did help to lift the spirits of the American people in the depths of the depression—an uplift for which no compelling documentation exists—this achievement only led the public to labor under an illusion. After all, the root cause of the prevailing malaise was the continuation of the depression. Had the masses understood that the New Deal was only prolonging the depression, they would have had good reason to reject it and its vaunted leader.

In fact, as many observers claimed at the time, the New Deal did prolong the depression. Had Roosevelt only kept his inoffensive campaign promises of 1932—cut federal spending, balance the budget, maintain a sound currency, stop bureaucratic centralization in Washington—the depression might have passed into history before his next campaign in 1936. But instead, FDR and Congress, especially during the congressional sessions of 1933 and 1935, embraced interventionist policies on a wide front. With its bewildering, incoherent mass of new expenditures, taxes, subsidies, regulations, and direct government participation in productive activities, the New Deal created so much confusion, fear, uncertainty, and hostility among businessmen and investors that private investment, and hence overall private economic activity, never recovered enough to restore the high levels of production and employment enjoyed in the 1920s.

In the face of the interventionist onslaught, the American economy between 1930 and 1940 failed to add anything to its capital stock: net private investment for that eleven-year period totaled minus $3.1 billion. [2] Without capital accumulation, no economy can grow. Between 1929 and 1939 the economy sacrificed an entire decade of normal economic growth, which would have increased the national income 30 to 40 percent.

The government’s own greatly enlarged economic activity did not compensate for the private shortfall. Apart from the mere insufficiency of dollars spent, the government’s spending tended, as contemporary critics aptly noted, to purchase a high proportion of sheer boondoggle. In the words of the common-man’s poet, Berton Braley,

A dollar for the services

(And a dollar for experiments

And the savers and the thrifty—

(And a dollar for the wasters,

Under heavy criticism, FDR himself eventually declared that he was “not willing that the vitality of our people be further sapped by the giving of doles, of market baskets, by a few hours of weekly work cutting grass, raking leaves, or picking up papers in the public parks.” [4] Nevertheless, the dole did continue.

Buying Votes

In this madness, the New Dealers had a method. Despite its economic illogic and incoherence, the New Deal served as a massive vote-buying scheme. Coming into power at a time of widespread destitution, high unemployment, and business failures, the Roosevelt administration recognized that the president and his Democratic allies in Congress could appropriate unprecedented sums of money and channel them into the hands of recipients who would respond by giving political support to their benefactors. As John T. Flynn said of FDR, “it was always easy to interest him in a plan which would confer some special benefit upon some special class in the population in exchange for their votes,” and eventually “no political boss could compete with him in any county in America in the distribution of money and jobs.” [5]

In buying votes, the relief programs for the unemployed, especially the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Works Progress Administration, loomed largest, though many other programs promoted the same end. Farm subsidies, price supports, credit programs, and related measures won over much of the rural middle class. The labor provisions of the National Industrial Recovery Act and later the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act purchased support from the burgeoning ranks of the labor unions. Homeowners supported the New Deal out of gratitude for the government’s refinancing of their mortgages and its provision of home-loan guarantees. Even blacks, loyal to the Republican Party ever since the Civil War, abandoned the GOP in exchange for the pittances of relief payments and the tag ends of employment in the federal work-relief programs. Put it all together and you have what political scientists call the New Deal Coalition—a potent political force that remained intact until the 1970s.

Inept, Arrogant Advisers

Journalists titillated the public with talk of Roosevelt’s “Brain Trust”—his coterie of policy advisers before and shortly after his election in 1932, of whom the most prominent were the Columbia University professors Raymond Moley, Rexford Guy Tugwell, and Adolph A. Berle. In retrospect it is obvious that these men’s ideas about the causes and cure of the depression ranged from merely wrongheaded to completely crackpot.

Like most other New Dealers, they viewed the collapse of prices as the cause of the depression, and therefore they regarded various means of raising prices, especially cartelization and other measures to restrict market supply, as appropriate in the circumstances. Raise farm prices, raise industrial prices, raise wage rates, raise the price of gold. Only one price should fall, namely, the price (that is, the purchasing power) of money. Thus, all favored inflation and, as a means to this end, the abandonment of the gold standard, which had previously kept inflation more or less in check.

Subsequent advisers, the “happy hot dogs” (after their mentor and godfather, Harvard law professor Felix Frankfurter), such as Tom Corcoran, Ben Cohen, and James Landis, who rose to prominence during the mid-1930s, had no genuine economic expertise. But they contributed mightily to FDR’s swing away from accommodating business interests and toward assaulting investors as a class, whom he dubbed “economic royalists” and blamed for the depression and other social evils.

Early and late, the president’s advisers shared at least one major opinion: that the federal government should intervene deeply and widely in economic life that government spending, employing, and regulating, all directed by “experts” such as themselves, could repair the various perceived defects of the market system and restore prosperity while achieving greater social justice. Even at the time, many thoughtful onlookers found the overweening arrogance of these deluded policy advisers to be their most distinctive trait. As James Burnham wrote of them in his 1941 book, The Managerial Revolution, “they are, sometimes openly, scornful of capitalists and capitalist ideas. . . . They believe that they can run things, and they like to run things.” [6] More recently, even a sympathetic left-liberal historian, Alan Brinkley, wrote that the hardcore New Dealers embraced government planning “with almost religious veneration.” [7]

The Misleading Analogy of War

Many of the New Dealers, including FDR himself (as assistant secretary of the navy), had been active in the wartime administration of Woodrow Wilson. Ruminating on how to deal with the depression, they seized on an analogy: the war was a national emergency, and we dealt with it by creating government agencies to control and mobilize the private economy the depression is a national emergency, and therefore we can deal with it by creating similar agencies. Hence arose a succession of government organizations modeled on wartime precedents. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration resembled the Food Administration the National Recovery Administration resembled the War Industries Board the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (created under Hoover but greatly expanded under Roosevelt) resembled the War Finance Corporation the National Labor Relations Board resembled the War Labor Board the Tennessee Valley Authority resembled the Muscle Shoals project the Civilian Conservation Corps resembled the army itself. The list went on and on.

In his first inaugural speech, Roosevelt declared, “we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline.” He warned that should Congress fail to act to his satisfaction, he would seek “broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency as great as the power that would be given me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.” However stirring the rhetoric, this approach to dealing with the depression rested on a complete misapprehension. The requisites of successfully prosecuting a war had virtually nothing in common with the requisites of getting the economy out of a depression. (Moreover, the President and his supporters greatly overestimated how successful their wartime measures had been—the war had ended before the many defects of those measures became widely understood.)

A Pure Political Opportunist

Roosevelt did not trouble himself with serious thinking. Flynn referred to an aspect of his character as “the free and easy manner in which he could confront problems about which he knew very little.” [8] Nor did he care that he knew very little his mind sailed on the surface.

Fundamentally he was without any definite political or economic philosophy. He was not a man to deal in fundamentals. . . . The positions he took on political and economic questions were not taken in accordance with deeply rooted political beliefs but under the influence of political necessity. . . . He was in every sense purely an opportunist. [9]

An indifferent student and later a wealthy, handsome, and popular young man about town, FDR had distinguished himself mainly by his amiable and charming personality. A born politician—which is to say, he was devious, manipulative, and mendacious—Roosevelt had a flair for campaigning and for posturing before and propagandizing the public. Though millions hated him with a white-hot passion, there is no gainsaying that far more loved him, and millions regarded him as a savior—as the New York Times editorialized on June 18, 1933, “the Heaven-sent man of the hour.” [10]

If demagoguery were a powerful means of creating prosperity, then FDR might have lifted the country out of the depression in short order. But in 1939, ten years after its onset and six years after the commencement of the New Deal, 9.5 million persons, or 17.2 percent of the labor force, remained officially unemployed (of whom more than 3 million were enrolled in emergency government make-work projects). Roosevelt was a masterful politician, but unfortunately for the American people subjected to his policies, he had no idea how to end the depression other than to “try something” and, when that didn’t work, to try something else. His ill-conceived, politically shaped experiments so disrupted the operation of the market economy and so discouraged the accumulation of capital that they impeded the full recovery that otherwise would have occurred. His followers revered him then, and many people revere him still, as a great leader. But what does it avail a lost and thirsty man if his leader only wanders about in the desert?


Although Roosevelt and the New Dealers failed to end the depression, they succeeded in revolutionizing the institutions of American political and economic life and changing the country’s dominant ideology. Even today, 60 years after the New Deal ran out of steam, its legacies remain, still hampering the successful operation of the market economy and diminishing individual liberties.

One need look no further than an organization chart of the federal government. There one finds such agencies as the Export-Import Bank, the Farm Credit Administration, the Rural Development Administration (formerly the Farmers Home Administration), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Housing Administration, the National Labor Relations Board, the Rural Utility Service (formerly the Rural Electrification Administration), the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Social Security Administration, and the Tennessee Valley Authority—all of them the offspring of the New Deal. Each in its own fashion interferes with the effective operation of the free market. By subsidizing, financing, insuring, regulating, and thereby diverting resources from the uses most valued by consumers, each renders the economy less productive than it could be—and all in the service of one special interest or another.

Once the New Deal had burst the dam between 1933 and 1938, ample precedent had been set for virtually any government program that could gain sufficient political support in Congress. Limited constitutional government, especially after the Supreme Court revolution that began in 1937, became little more than an object of nostalgia for classical liberals.

But in the wake of the New Deal, the ranks of the classical liberals diminished so greatly that they became an endangered species. The legacy of the New Deal was, more than anything else, a matter of ideological change. Henceforth, nearly everyone would look to the federal government for solutions to problems great and small, real and imagined, personal as well as social. After the 1930s, opponents of a proposed federal program might object to its structure, its personnel, or its cost, but hardly anyone objected on the grounds that the program was by its very nature improper to undertake at the federal level of government.

“People in the mass,” wrote H.L. Mencken, “soon grow used to anything, including even being swindled. There comes a time when the patter of the quack becomes as natural and as indubitable to their ears as the texts of Holy Writ, and when that time comes it is a dreadful job debamboozling them.” [11] Six decades after the New Deal, Americans overwhelmingly take for granted the expansive, something-for-nothing character of the federal government established by the New Dealers. For Democrats and Republicans alike, Franklin Delano Roosevelt looms as the most significant political figure of the twentieth century.

But however significant his legacies, Roosevelt deserves no reverence. He was no hero. Rather, he was an exceptionally resourceful political opportunist who harnessed the extraordinary potential for personal and party aggrandizement inherent in a uniquely troubled and turbulent period of American history. By wheeling and dealing, by taxing and spending, by ranting against “economic royalists” and posturing as the friend of the common man, he got himself elected time after time. But for all his undeniable political prowess, he prolonged the depression and fastened on the country a bloated, intrusive government that has been trampling on the people’s liberties ever since.

Collection Historical Note

Franklin D. Roosevelt, as administrative head of the Executive branch of the United States Government, had the assistance of several secretaries, administrative assistants and special assistants as well as a personal secretary. During the Roosevelt administration, the White House received an average of 3,000 letters a day. Mail addressed to the White House was routed by the Assistant Executive Clerk either to the President, through his personal secretary to an assistant with a specific area of responsibility to the Office of the Chief of Correspondence for the preparation of a routine reply or, if appropriate, routinely referred to another government agency for action. The correspondence that went to the President directly was either answered personally by him or sent to another agency for the preparation of a draft reply. Occasionally Roosevelt would merely initial his approval on an original letter and return it to its sender.

After the White House mail had been answered, it was routed to the Office of the Chief of Files for filing. At this time a record was also kept of all correspondence referred elsewhere. This White House office maintained what was known as the White House Central Files the filing system used was that originally developed in 1906 during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.

The Central Files were divided into four categories of material. The Alphabetical File contained copies of letters of acknowledgment for mail referred elsewhere, copies of forwarding letters, lists of forwarded mail, abstracts of documents placed in the other filing categories, as well as some routine correspondence. Material in this file was arranged alphabetically by correspondent or subject.

The Official File was intended to consist of correspondence and other material related to the policy-making activities of the President. It includes correspondence, memoranda, and reports from government officials and other public and private individuals. Within this group of papers are files on government departments and agencies subjects of concern to the President important organizations and individuals as well as files on less important persons or subjects. These files are arranged numerically by subject or individual concerned.

The President's Personal File was set up to contain correspondence concerned with matters in which the President took a personal interest. It includes files on gifts received by the President, birthday and holiday greetings, honorary memberships, fraternal organizations and philanthropic societies as well as files on personal friends and political associates of the President. This file is also arranged numerically by subject or individual concerned.

The fourth group of papers in the Central Files was known as the Confidential File. It contained material similar to that found in the other filing categories which had been designated confidential by the President or one of his secretaries or assistants. It was arranged alphabetically by subject. The boundaries between these file groupings were often vague and similar material can be found in both the Official File and the President's Personal File. In many cases both groups of paperswill contain files on a particular subject or individual. Researchers should thus consult both files to be assured of seeing all the material on their topic.

To facilitate the use of the Central Files, the Office of the Chief of Files prepared an index of important individuals and subjects and also-adopted a system of inserting cross reference sheets in other related files throughout the four groups of papers. When correspondence was received by the Office a classifier determined the appropriate file for the original document and so marked the covering letter. Notations were also made on the document to indicate the other files where abstracts of that particular correspondence would be-placed. The correspondence then passed to a typist for the preparation of the required number of abstracts. Subsequently, filing clerks would file both the original papers and the abstracts.

With a few exceptions, all of the mail received at the White House (or a record thereof) would thus end up in the Central Files. Occasionally large amounts of correspondence concerning a particular subject would be referred to another agency without a record being kept. Secretaries and administrative assistants might also retain small amounts of correspondence in their own files. The President's personal secretary, while sending ordinary correspondence to the Central Files, also maintained a file of documents deemed special and confidential by the President.

The correspondence retained by the personal secretary was arranged alphabetically by subject into a Diplomatic File, containing confidential reports from American representatives abroad a Department File, containing material from various government agencies a Famous People File Secret File with correspondence from individuals such as Winston S. Churchill and Joseph Stalin a Special Studies File and a General File. This material plus the Confidential File of the Central Files has been incorporated into what is known as the President's Secretary's File.

After the United States' entry into World War II, a White House Map Room was established in January 1942 under the supervision of the President's Naval Aide. This office also maintained files, arranged by subject, which are now known as the Map Room Papers. Included are wartime messages sent and received by the President, including those exchanged with Churchill, Stalin, and Chiang Kai-shek, as well as a number of documents sent by the War and Navy Department for the President's information. President Roosevelt began shipping those portions of his White House files which were not in current use to the Roosevelt Library in August 1940. Additional accessions were received throughout his presidency. After his death, the remainder of the Central Files were received from his estate in December 1947. Security classified material in the President's Secretary's File and the Map Room Papers was received from storage in the National Archives in November 1951.

Watch the video: USS Franklin D Roosevelt CVA-42 1971 Med Cruise


  1. Roka

    Right! I completely share your point of view.

  2. Murisar

    I will abstain from comments.

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