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Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York. Roosevelt came from the same line that produced Theodore Roosevelt. Franklin’s father James was a graduate of Harvard, and took over the family’s coal and transportation holdings. He then moved to Hyde Park, an estate on the Hudson River. When his first wife died in 1876, he met and married Sara Delano. She attended school abroad, in London, China, and Paris. Franklin had a secure childhood. His half -brother was a grown man when Franklin was born, so he had all the attention from his parents.

During summers he traveled to Europe, New England or Campobello island, where he developed a love for sailing. Franklin’s academic record was ordinary, and he wasn’t good at sports. He was called the “feather-duster” by some of his classmates who thought he was shallow. Roosevelt then attended Harvard. There he didn’t do much better, but his previous education had prepared him so well that he was able to get his degree in only three years. However, he showed little excitement about his studies. While at Harvard, Roosevelt fell in love with Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, his fifth cousin once removed.

She was the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt’s brother. By the age of ten both of Eleanor’s parents had died. She was raised by her grandmother, and because of her emotionally abusive parents, she grew up feeling rejected, thinking she was ugly and fat. So, when Franklin, a Harvard man who was two years older than she was, paid her attention she was flattered. On March 17, 1905, the two Roosevelts were married. Eleanor’s uncle, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, gave her away. In the following eleven years Eleanor had five children.

Having been born into wealth, the Roosevelts never lacked money, and moved easily among the upper class. Although, Eleanor was often unhappy in the relationship. She had to live with Franklin’s widowed and domineering mother, who made her do things around the house while Franklin was out with friends, enjoying life. Later, during World War I, Eleanor found out that Franklin was having an affair with their social secretary, a Virginian named Lucy Mercer. Through even this, Eleanor stayed married and loyal to Franklin throughout the 40 years of their marriage.

When Franklin contracted polio in 1921, she worked hard to help him in restoring his emotional health and to help him regain his political aspirations. She served as his eyes and ears while he was confined to a wheelchair. In Franklin’s professional life he felt unfulfilled. He went to the Columbia Law School until 1907. He passed the New York State bar examination, and then quit school, foregoing the degree. He then took a job with the Wall Street Law Firm. Much of their practice was in corporate law, and Roosevelt found the work tedious.

By 1910 he was 28, and he was not happy with his profession. He felt politics gave him purpose, so he ran for the New York State Senate in 1910. Party leaders recognized that he had no political experience, but he had two important things. He had the wealth to run a political campaign, and the most well-known political name in the United States. However, it was the democratic party asking Roosevelt to run. He had voted Republican and Theodore Roosevelt was Republican, but his father was a Democrat. He knew it would be an exciting, worthwhile experience, so he decided to do it.

During the campaign, Roosevelt worked as never before. He bought a car and drove all over the county, acquiring support. He got advice from political veterans, and showed skill with his willingness to listen and his ability to make himself agreeable to voters. One thing that he felt like a great asset to him was his growth away from the Republican party, which was badly split in 1910. With the brilliant use of all these things, Roosevelt was won impressively. He took direct action, and made an immediate impact in the legislative session.

At that time, United State senators from New York were elected by legislative officials, not by the majority vote of the people. The Democrats had all but decided on William F. Sheehan, who was the choice of Tammany Hall, New York’s powerful political machine. A small minority of Democrats objected to this choice. Roosevelt became the leader of this minority within the Democratic party. Not only did Roosevelt dislike the choice of this party, he didn’t like the fact that Tammany Hall had such an influence on the decisions of the Democrats.

Tammany Hall then recanted their support toward Sheehan and directed it toward Judge James O’Gorman, who was a former Tammany Grand Sachem. O’Gorman eventually won the seat to the house, but Roosevelt and allies took some consolation, because they forced a withdrawal of Sheehan and drew national attention in doing so. Roosevelt evoked mixed reactions from other United States officials. Progressive reformers liked his devotion, courage and willingness to work hard. Although, party regulators like Alfred Smith and Robert Wagner considered Roosevelt a lightweight and a headline-seeker.

In 1912 Roosevelt defied Tammany Hall again. He Supported Gov. Woodrow Wilson for the Democratic presidential nomination. When Wilson won Roosevelt ran for re-election to the state senate. During the campaign, Roosevelt contracted Typhoid fever, but he was helped to victory by Louis Howe, who would become his most loyal aide. Roosevelt was offered a more attractive job, assistant secretary of the Navy. Theodore Roosevelt had held this position fifteen years before. Roosevelt accepted the offer and moved to Washington DC in 1913. During his term as assistant secretary, Roosevelt reminded many people of Theodore Roosevelt.

He advocated a big Navy, preparedness, a strong presidency, and an active foreign policy. Roosevelt served as assistant secretary for seven years, and during that stint he gained experience and connections all over Washington. By the time this term had ended Roosevelt had lost some of his haughtiness. He now was exuberant, and become charming and projected vitality. With all these new qualities and experiences under his belt, Roosevelt became a popular choice for the Democratic vice-presidential nomination. In 1920 he ran with Governor of Ohio, James M. Cox.

They were beaten by Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. With the Republicans having a hold on the political scene, Roosevelt returned to private life. He started a law firm in New York City and became vice president of Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland, a surety bonding firm. Roosevelt contracted polio in August, 1921, but he fought back with the help of Eleanor and Louis Howe. In 1924 he went to the medicinal waters of Warm Springs in western Georgia, in the hopes that it would help relieve his paralysis. He had other business endeavors but his interest remained in politics.

Throughout his “off time” from politics, Roosevelt broadened his contacts in Washington by stopping by on his way to Warm Springs, or writing letters to help fuse the chasm that was prevalent in the Democratic party. In 1924 he gave an eloquent nomination speech for Alfred Smith. Smith was not nominated by the Democratic party to run for president, but he was reelected as governor of New York in 1926. Again, in 1928 Alfred Smith ran for president, and this time he was elected as the Democratic candidate. Then Roosevelt agreed to run for governor of New York, against the advice of Eleanor and Louis Howe.

Roosevelt won by a narrow margin, and Smith lost to Herbert Hoover. Roosevelt now had succeeded Smith as governor of New York. Roosevelt declared that he was going to mold his own administration by replacing Smith’s key associates with his own. Smith had been involved in a series of important reforms, and Roosevelt had the problem of developing his own programs, and making a name for himself. So he began work in the fields of conservation and tax relief for farmers, which were areas of interest shared by his Republican Legislature. In October of 1929, the stock market crashed.

This caused mass depression among the people of New York and all over the country. Some people owed millions of dollars, because of buying on margin, which drove many to suicide. Roosevelt now knew he had new problems to face, and in 1930, he was reelected as governor of New York. Roosevelt, being the head of the nation’s most populous state, was automatically a candidate for the presidency. He had proven that his disability was had no effect on how he governed. Also, Hoover’s popularity was down because of the economic state of the country.

It looked like it was the Democrat’s year to take the presidency. Being a front-runner for the nomination of Democratic party, Roosevelt needed to make his name known all over the country, and not just the east coast. A man named Aloyius Farley traveled across the country in the summer of 1931, and made friends for Roosevelt. He said that in all the states he traveled to, Roosevelt was the popular choice, except for California. A very powerful newspaper editor in California was not for Roosevelt, his support was towards the Speaker of the House, John Nance Garner.

So in his writing, he tore Roosevelt apart and lifted up Garner, which effected the views of the people. To ensure that Garner would not target Roosevelt, he denounced the United States’ entry into the League of Nations. Those who ran against Roosevelt never could organize enough to get the two-thirds of the vote that was needed to be nominated. Roosevelt was nominated on the fourth ballot, after Garner accepted his offer to run for vice-president. Roosevelt broke tradition and flew to Chicago to accept his nominee personally, rather than waiting weeks to reply, as was the custom.

In his acceptance speech, he talked about a “New Deal” that would make the government much more involved in national, social, and economic affairs. Roosevelt won the election in a landslide. His eloquence and ease at campaigning made the American people love him. He used depression against Hoover and blamed the Republicans for it. He was a great speaker and a great motivator, which helped him gain acceptance. Out of the forty-eight states, Roosevelt lost in only six which only proved more that he was the choice of the people.

When Roosevelt became President, the Depression was at its worst. Millions had been out of work for a year, and the banking system of the United States was on the verge of collapse. Whether Roosevelt could bring America out of this tragedy or not was to be the deciding factor of the American people’s view of him. He would be the hero or the goat depending on how he handled this situation. Roosevelt’s inaugural speech assured the people that he would wage war on the depression. This is what brought about his legendary phrase, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Roosevelt seemed to offer hope to the people. Franklin Roosevelt brought a new style to the Presidency of the United States. He, against the will of the Democrats, asked for the support of the Republicans. Also, he got help from people not associated with politics. He had a group called the Brain Trust. It consisted of faculty members from Harvard and Columbia. He also conferred with many different people who held many different views to broaden his stance on certain issues. Roosevelt kept his promise about solving the problem of the depression.

In the summer of 1933 he called a special session to rid the country of this problem. In a time period called the “Hundred Days,” a term that is still used, a remarkable turn of events took place. A legislature that was passed by congress, was a record breaking event in the number of bills passed. Up to that time, no congress session had ever covered such an important topic in such a short amount of time. Roosevelt had few opponents during his efforts in solving the problems caused by the depression. Most, Democratic and Republican, agreed with what he was doing with American economy.

Those who did oppose him wanted him to take the opportunity to move towards socialism, which is the government’s involvement in the economy of the nation. Roosevelt, however, wanted to focus the New Deal. It consisted of three main points, relief, recovery, and reform. Throughout the recovery process of the American economy, the New Deal was very effective. Although, once the economy began to recover, the Supreme Court declared the New Deal unconstitutional. So he lost support on the New Deal. In the election of 1936, Roosevelt won his most successful campaign by receiving sixty percent of the vote.

However, shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling on the New Deal, it was rethought and much of it was permitted to stay in effect. In the election of 1940, it was thought that Roosevelt would not run again. The tradition was that a president would only serve for two terms. But when by the time October came, America was having an economic depression. Because of Roosevelt’s experience in economic troubles, he received his third Democratic nomination. He ended up winning the Presidential election over Wendell Willkie, but not in nearly as grand of fashion as he had the two previous elections.

Roosevelt accepted two new ideas. First the Stimson doctrine, which stated that the United States would not recognize the Japanese efforts to dominate east Asia. Furthermore it declared that we would not join the League of Nations. Secondly, in the Good Neighbor Policy, Roosevelt stated that he would not intervene in the fight for American policy in Latin America. Roosevelt withdrew support of dictatorship of Cuba, and he withdrew the last of the Marine posts in Haiti. In 1938 a war seemed to be close at hand. The Germans were beginning to take land in Europe, specifically Austria and Czechoslovakia.

Soon after the Germans made a treaty with the USSR that said if Germany goes to war with France or Britain, that the Russians would stay out of it. Roosevelt then asked congress to lift the embargo on the sale of weapons. Congress agreed and now the United States allowed citizens to sell their weapons to nations who were able to pay for them in cash. Roosevelt did not try to hide his bias against the Germans. He did not like what Hitler and the Nazis were doing, and he considered them a threat to the security of the United States. He appointed Republican leaders who shared his concern of the Nazis, to head up his war defense efforts.

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Home » Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, (1882-1945), 32nd of the United States. Roosevelt became president in March 1933 at the depth of the Great Depression, was reelected for an unprecedented three more terms, and died in office in April 1945, less than a month before the surrender of Germany in World War II. Despite an attack of poliomyelitis, which paralyzed his legs in 1921, he was a charismatic optimist whose confidence helped sustain the American people during the strains of economic crisis and world war. He was one of America’s most controversial leaders.

Conservatives claimed that he undermined states’ rights and individual liberty. Though Roosevelt labored hard to end the Depression, he had limited success. It was not until 1939 and 1940, with the onset of heavy defense spending before World War II, that prosperity returned. Roosevelt also displayed limitations in his handling of foreign policy. In the 1930’s he was slow to warn against the menace of fascism, and during the war he relied too heavily on his charm and personality in the conduct of diplomacy.

Still, Roosevelt’s historical reputation is deservedly high. In attacking the Great Depression he did much to develop a partial welfare state in the United States and to make the federal government an agent of social and economic reform. His administration indirectly encouraged the rise of organized labor and greatly invigorated the . His foreign policies, while occasionally devious, were shrewd enough to sustain domestic unity and the allied coalition in World War II. Roosevelt was a president of stature.

The future president was born on Jan. , 1882, at the family estate in Hyde Park, N. Y. His father, James (1828-1900), was descended from Nicholas Roosevelt, whose father had emigrated from Holland to New Amsterdam in the 1640’s. One of Nicholas’ two sons, Johannes, fathered the line that ultimately produced President Theodore Roosevelt. The other son, Jacobus, was James’ great-great-grandfather. James graduated from Union College (1847) and Harvard Law School, married, had a son, and took over his family’s extensive holdings in coal and transportation.

Despite substantial losses in speculative ventures, he remained wealthy enough to journey by private railroad car, to live graciously on his Hudson River estate at Hyde Park, and to travel extensively. Four years after his first wife died in 1876, James met and married Sara Delano, a sixth cousin. She, too, was a member of the Hudson River aristocracy. Her father, one of James’ business associates, had made and lost fortunes in the China trade before settling with his wife and 11 children on the west bank of the Hudson.

Sara had sailed to China as a girl, attended school abroad, and moved in high social circles in London and Paris. Though only half her husband’s age of 52 at the time of her marriage in 1880, she settled in happily at Hyde Park. Their marriage was serene until broken by James’ death in 1900. His record at Harvard, which he attended between 1900 and 1904, was only slightly more impressive. Thanks to his excellent preparation at Groton, he was able to complete his course of study for his B. A. in 1903, in only three years. During his fourth year he served as editor of the Crimson, the college newspaper.

However, he was not accepted for Porcellian, Harvard’s most prestigious social club, and he did not receive much stimulation in the classroom. As at Groton, his grades were mediocre, and he showed no excitement about his studies. At this point politics gave him a sense of purpose. The Democratic organization in Dutchess county, the area around Hyde Park, needed a candidate for the New York state Senate in 1910. Party leaders recognized that although Roosevelt had no political experience he had assets as a candidate: the wealth to finance a campaign, and the best-known political name in the United States.

Roosevelt worked as never before during the campaign. Acquiring a car, he crisscrossed the county in his quest for support. He showed skill at making himself agreeable to voters and a willingness to listen to the advice of political veterans. As at Groton and Harvard, during his political career he proved open and adaptable. For all these reasons Roosevelt won impressively in the usually Republican district. Roosevelt made an immediate impact in the legislative session of 1911. At that time U. S. senators from New York were elected by the legislature,not by popular vote.

The Democrats, with majorities in both houses, prepared to select William F. Sheehan, a transportation and utilities magnate who was the choice of Tammany Hall, New York City’s powerful political machine. A few Democrats balked at the choice. Roosevelt joined them and became their leader. But Roosevelt and his allies took some consolation in having forced the withdrawal of Sheehan and in attracting nationwide attention. It was an auspicious start to a career in politics. As assistant secretary (1913-1920), Franklin Roosevelt reminded many people of TR.

He advocated a big Navy, preparedness, a strong presidency, and an active foreign policy. In 1917 he enthusiastically supported war against Germany, and in 1918 he took pleasure in visiting the front in Europe. Sometimes he clashed with Daniels, a progressive with pacifist leanings. But Daniels was tolerant of his subordinate. The secretary appreciated Roosevelt’s dexterous handling of admirals, departmental employees, and labor unions, which were active in naval yards, and his opposition to the collusive bidding and price-fixing practiced by defense contractors.

FDR’s years of service as assistant secretary gave him administrative experience and a host of contacts in Washington and the Democratic party. In 1928, Roosevelt vaulted suddenly to national prominence. After helping Smith get the presidential nomination, he set off for Warm Springs, where he looked forward to weeks of therapy. But Smith urgently needed a strong gubernatorial candidate on the Democratic ticket in New York, and he pressured Roosevelt into running. Smith lost the election to Herbert , the Republican presidential candidate, who carried New York by 100,000 votes.

Roosevelt, more popular upstate than Smith, successfully bridged the urban-rural gap in the Democratic party and beat his opponent, state Attorney General Albert Ottinger, by 25,000 votes. It was a striking triumph in an otherwise Republican year. During his two terms, Governor Roosevelt battled a Republican legislature for many progressive measures. These included reforestation, state-supported old-age pensions and unemployment insurance, legislation regulating working hours for women and children, and public development of electric power.

He named skilled people to important positions, including James Farley, a New York City contractor, as chairman of the state Democratic Committee; Frances Perkins, a social worker, as state industrial commissioner; and Samuel Rosenman, an able young lawyer, as his speech writer and counsel. All became important aides during Roosevelt’s presidency. In 1931, when the Depression was serious, Roosevelt became the first governor to set up an effective state relief administration. Harry Hopkins, a social worker who later served as his closest adviser in Washington, directed it.

In a series of “fireside chats” Governor Roosevelt also proved a persuasive speaker over the new medium of radio. He was reelected in 1930 by 750,000 votes, the largest margin in state history. By March 4, 1933, when Roosevelt was inaugurated at the age of 51, the economic situation was desperate. Between 13 and 15 million Americans were unemployed. Of these, between 1 and 2 million persons were wandering about the country looking for jobs. Hundreds of thousands squatted in tents or ramshackle dwellings in “Hoovervilles,” makeshift villages on the outskirts of cities.

Panic-stricken people hoping to rescue their deposits had forced 38 states to close their banks. From the beginning, Roosevelt tried to restore popular confidence. “The only thing we have to fear,” he said in his inaugural address, “is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror. ” He added that he would not stand by and watch the Depression deepen. If necessary, he would “ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis–broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.

He then closed the rest of the banks–declaring a “bank holiday”–and called Congress into special session. His first legislative requests were conservative. He began by securing passage of an emergency banking bill. Instead of nationalizing the banks–as a few reformers wished–it offered aid to private bankers. A few days later the president forced through an Economy Act that cut $400 million from government payments to veterans and $100 million from the salaries of federal employees. This deflationary measure hurt purchasing power.

FDR concluded his early program by securing legalization of beer of 3. 2% alcoholic content by weight. By the end of 1933, ratification of the 21st Amendment to the U. S. had ended prohibition altogether. His relief program was more far-reaching. A series of measures took the nation off the gold standard, thereby offering some assistance to debtors and exporters. He also got Congress to appropriate $500 million in federal relief grants to states and local agencies. Harry Hopkins, who headed the newly created Federal Emergency Relief Administration, quickly spent the money.

By early 1935 he had supervised the outlay of $1. 5 billion more in direct grants, and in work relief under the Civil Works Administration (CWA) of 1933-1934. In 1933, Congress also approved funding for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC), and the Public Works Administration (PWA). The CCC eventually employed more than 2. 5 million young men on valuable conservation work. The HOLC offered desperately needed assistance to mortgagors and homeowners. The PWA, while slow to act, ultimately pumped billions into construction of large-scale projects.

Though left-wing critics demanded higher appropriations, most Americans were grateful for these measures. The relief programs of them gave hope to the have-nots–blacks and the unemployed–and did much to restore confidence in the government. FDR placed his hopes for economic recovery in two agencies created in the productive “100 Days” of the 1933 special session of Congress. These were the National Recovery Administration (NRA) and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). The NRA encouraged management and labor to establish codes of fair competition within each industry.

These codes outlined acceptable pricing and production policies and guaranteed labor the rights of collective bargaining, minimum wages, and maximum hours. The AAA focused on raising farm prices, a goal to be achieved through the setting of production quotas approved by farmers in referenda. Once the quotas limiting production were established, farmers who cooperated would receive subsidies. After a promising start the NRA lost its effectiveness. Union spokesmen grumbled that the courts undercut the labor guarantees. Progressives complained that the NRA exempted monopolies from antitrust prosecution.

Small businessmen protested that the codes favored large corporations. Some employers were slow to sign the codes, and others evaded them. If the PWA and other spending agencies had moved more quickly to promote purchasing power, these liabilities might not have been serious. As it was, the PWA was slow to spend its funds, hard times persisted, and evasion spread. Well before the Supreme Court declared the agency unconstitutional in May 1935, the NRA had failed in its aims of sponsoring government-business cooperation and promoting recovery. The AAA was a little more successful.

Agricultural income increased by 50% in Roosevelt’s first term. Some of this increase, however, was attributable to terrible droughts. These, ruining thousands of farmers in the Great Plains, caused cuts in supply and contributed to higher prices for crops produced elsewhere. AAA acreage quotas also led some landlords to evict tenants from their lands. Moreover, as the AAA improved farm prices, it forced consumers, millions of whom lacked adequate food and decent clothing, to pay more for the necessities of life. Roosevelt, it seemed, was fighting scarcity with more scarcity.

These early measures displayed Roosevelt’s strengths and weaknesses as an economic thinker. On the one hand, he showed that he was flexible, that he would act, and that he would use all his executive powers to secure congressional cooperation. Frequent press conferences, speeches, and fireside chats–and the extraordinary charisma that he displayed on all occasions–instilled a measure of confidence in the people and halted the terrifying slide of 1932 and 1933. These were important achievements that brought him and his party the gratitude of millions of Americans.

FDR also refrained from large-scale deficit spending or from tax policies that would have redistributed income. Purchasing power, essential to rapid recovery, therefore failed to increase substantially. Roosevelt, a practical political leader and a moderate in economics, helped preserve capitalism without significantly correcting its abuses or ending the Depression. In 1935, Roosevelt turned slightly to the left. He sponsored bills aimed at abolishing public-utility holding companies, at raising taxes on the wealthy, and at shifting control of monetary policy from Wall Street bankers to Washington.

When Congress balked, Roosevelt compromised. The bills revealed Roosevelt’s loss of faith in government-business cooperation. They helped undercut demagogues like Sen. Huey Long (D-La. ), who was agitating for tougher laws against the rich. But they did not signify a commitment to radical, antibusiness policies. While these struggles were taking place, Roosevelt worked successfully for three significant acts passed in 1935. One, a relief appropriation, led to creation of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA disbursed some $11 billion in work relief to as many as 3. 2 million Americans a month between 1935 and 1942.

The second measure, the Wagner Act, set up the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which effectively guaranteed labor the right to bargain collectively on equal terms with management. In part because of the Wagner Act, in part because of overdue militance by spokesmen for industrial unionism, the labor movement swelled in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The third reform was social security. The law provided for federal payment of old-age pensions and for federal-state cooperation in support of unemployment compensation and relief of the needy blind, of the disabled, and of dependent children.

The act, though faulty in many ways, became the foundation of a partial welfare state with which later administrations dared not tamper. Controversy disrupted the president’s second term. His troubles began in February 1937, when he called for a “court reform” plan that would have permitted him to add up to six judges to the probusiness U. S. Supreme Court. The court’s conservative majority had angered FDR by declaring some New Deal legislation, including the NRA and AAA, unconstitutional. Congress, reflecting widespread reverence for the court, refused to do his bidding.

At the time, militant workers staged “sit-down” strikes in factories. Though Roosevelt opposed the sit-downs, conservatives were quick to blame him for the growing activism of organized labor. In the fall of 1937 a sharp recession, caused in large part by cuts in federal spending earlier in the year, staggered the country. Taken aback, Roosevelt waited until the spring of 1938 before calling for increased federal spending to recharge purchasing power. His procrastination revealed again his reluctance to resort to deficit spending.

These developments in 1937 and 1938 severely damaged his standing in Congress, which had grown restive under his strong leadership as early as 1935. In FDR’s second term, therefore, the lawmakers proved cooperative only long enough to approve measures calling for public housing, fair labor standards, and aid to tenant farmers. None of these acts, however, was generously funded or far-reaching. Meanwhile, Congress cut back presidential requests for relief spending and public works. After Republican gains in the 1938 elections, a predominantly rural conservative coalition in Congress proved still more hostile.

Henceforth it rejected most of the urban and welfare measures of Roosevelt’s administrations. Cordell Hull of Tennessee served as secretary of state from 1933 to 1944, but Roosevelt’s desire to engage in personal diplomacy left Hull in a reduced role. In 1933 the president’s “bombshell message” to the London Economic Conference, saying that the United States would not participate in international currency stabilization, ended any immediate hope of achieving that objective. In the same year he extended diplomatic recognition to the USSR, still a relative outcast in world diplomacy.

Roosevelt and Hull worked smoothly in behalf of reciprocal trade agreements and in making the United States the “good neighbor” of the Latin American. By the mid-1930’s dictatorial regimes in Germany, Japan, and Italy were casting their shadows across the blank pages of the future. In 1936, in his speech accepting renomination as president, Roosevelt had said, “This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny. ” By 1938, Roosevelt was spending increasing amounts of time on international affairs. Until then he had acquiesced in congressional “neutrality” acts designed to keep the United States out of another world war.

Roosevelt did not share the isolationist sentiments that lay behind such legislation. But he hoped very much to avoid war, and he dared not risk his domestic program by challenging Congress over foreign policy. For these reasons he was slow to warn the people about the dangers of German fascism. Germany’s aggressiveness in 1939 forced Roosevelt to take a tougher stance. Early in the year he tried unsuccessfully to secure revision of a neutrality act calling for an embargo on armaments to all belligerents, whether attacked or attacker.

When Hitler overran Poland in September and triggered the formal beginning of World War II, Roosevelt tried again for repeal of the embargo, and succeeded. In 1940 he negotiated an unneutral deal with Britain whereby the British leased their bases in the Western Hemisphere to the United States in return for 50 overaged American destroyers. Roosevelt also secured vastly increased defense expenditures, which brought about domestic economic recovery at last. But he still hoped to keep out of the war and to appease the anti-interventionists in Congress.

Thus he remained cautious. To protect the supplies against German submarines, U. S. destroyers began escorting convoys of Allied ships part way across the Atlantic. In the process the destroyers helped pinpoint the location of submarines, which Allied warships duly attacked. Roosevelt did not tell the people about America’s unneutral actions on the high seas. When a German submarine fired a torpedo at the American destroyer Greer in September 1941, he feigned surprise and outrage and ordered U. S. warships to shoot on sight at hostile German ships.

By December the United States and Germany were engaged in an undeclared war on the Atlantic. Most historians agree that Hitler was a menace to Western civilization, that American intervention was necessary to stop him, and that domestic isolationism hampered the president’s freedom of response. But they regret that Roosevelt, in seeking his ends, chose to deceive the people and to abuse his powers. Historians also debate Roosevelt’s policies toward Japan, whose leaders were bent on expansion in the 1930’s.

Hoping to contain this expansion, the president gradually tightened an embargo of vital goods to Japan. He also demanded that Japan halt its aggressive activities in China and Indochina. Instead of backing down, the militarists who controlled Japan decided to fight, by attacking Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, and by assaulting the East Indies. These moves left no doubt about Japan’s aggressive intentions. In asking for a declaration of war, the president called December 7 “a date which will live in infamy. ” He brought a united America into World War II.

By December 11, the United States was at war with Germany and Italy. Some historians argue, however, that Roosevelt should not have been so unbudging regarding the integrity of China and Indochina, which lay outside America’s national interest–or power to protect. If Roosevelt had adopted a more flexible policy toward Japan, he might have postponed a conflict in Asia at a time when war with Hitler was about to erupt. Roosevelt’s military policies also provoked controversy. In 1941 critics blamed him for leaving Pearl Harbor unprepared.

Extremists even claimed that he invited the Japanese attack in order to have a pretext for war. In 1942 liberals complained when he cooperated with Jean Darlan, the Vichy French admiral who until then had been collaborating with the Axis, in planning the Allied invasion of North Africa. In 1943, FDR’s opponents grumbled that his policy of unconditional surrender for the enemy discouraged the anti-Hitler resistance within Germany. Other critics complained that he relied too heavily on strategic bombing. His own generals were angry because he postponed the “second front” against Hitler until June 1944.

Such delay, critics added later, infuriated the Soviet Union, which had to carry the brunt of the fighting against Hitler between 1941 and 1944, and sowed the seeds of the Cold War. Some of these criticisms were partly justified. Poor communications between Washington and Hawaii helped the Japanese achieve surprise at Pearl Harbor. Dealing with Darlan was probably not necessary to ensure success in North Africa. Strategic bombing killed millions of civilians and was not nearly so effective as its advocates claimed. The delay in the second front greatly intensified Soviet suspicions of the West.

But it is easy to second-guess and to exaggerate Roosevelt’s failings as a military leader. The president neither invited nor welcomed the Pearl Harbor attack, which was a brilliantly planned maneuver by Japan. He worked with Darlan in the hope of preventing unnecessary loss of Allied lives. Unconditional surrender, given American anger at the enemy, was a politically logical policy. It also proved reassuring to the Soviet Union, which had feared a separate German-American peace. Establishing the second front required control of the air and large supplies of landing craft, and these were not assured until 1944.

In many of these decisions Roosevelt acted in characteristically pragmatic fashion–to win the war as effectively as possible and to keep the wartime alliance together. In these aims he was successful. By 1945, Roosevelt was 63 years old. The events early in that year added to the strains on his heart, and on April 12, 1945, he died suddenly at Warm Springs, Ga. Three days later he was buried at Hyde Park. Despite his limitations, he had been a strong, decent, and highly popular president for more than 12 years.

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