One of the oldest Dutch families in New York State, the Roosevelts distinguished themselves in areas other than politics. One ancestor, Isaac Roosevelt, had served with the New York militia during the American Revolution. Roosevelt attended events of the New York society Sons of the American Revolution, and joined the organization while he was president. His paternal family had become prosperous early on in New York real estate and trade, and much of his immediate family's wealth had been built by FDR's maternal grandfather, Warren Delano, Jr., in the China trade, including opium and tea.
Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, in the Hudson Valley town of Hyde Park, New York to businessman James Roosevelt I (1828–1900) and Sara Ann Delano (1854–1941). His parents were sixth cousins and both were from wealthy old New York families. They were of mostly English descent; Roosevelt's patrilineal great-grandfather, Jacobus Roosevelt III, was of Dutch ancestry, and his mother's maiden name, Delano, could be traced to a French Huguenot immigrant ancestor of the 17th century. Their only child was to have been named Warren, but Sara's infant nephew of that name had recently died. Their son was named for Sara's uncle Franklin Hughes Delano.
Roosevelt grew up in an atmosphere of privilege. (Reportedly, when James Roosevelt took his five-year-old son to visit President Grover Cleveland in the White House, the busy president told Franklin, "I have one wish for you, little man, that you will never be President of the United States.") Sara was a possessive mother; James, 54 when Franklin was born, was considered by some as a remote father, though biographer James MacGregor Burns indicates James interacted with his son more than was typical at the time. Sara was the dominant influence in Franklin's early years; she once declared, "My son Franklin is a Delano, not a Roosevelt at all." Frequent trips to Europe—he made his first at the age of two, and went with his parents every year from the ages of seven to 15—helped Roosevelt become conversant in German and French; being arrested with his tutor by police four times in one day in the Black Forest for minor offenses may have affected the future president's view of German character. He learned to ride, shoot, row, and play polo and lawn tennis. Roosevelt also took up golf in his teen years, becoming a skilled long hitter. He learned to sail, and his father gave him a sailboat at the age of 16 which he named "New Moon".
Roosevelt attended Groton School, an Episcopal boarding school in Massachusetts; 90% of the students were from families on the social register. He was strongly influenced by its headmaster, Endicott Peabody, who preached the duty of Christians to help the less fortunate and urged his students to enter public service. Forty years later Roosevelt said of Peabody, "It was a blessing in my life to have the privilege of [his] guiding hand", and the headmaster remained a strong influence throughout his life, officiating at his wedding and visiting Roosevelt as president. Peabody recalled Roosevelt as "a quiet, satisfactory boy of more than ordinary intelligence, taking a good position in his form but not brilliant", while a classmate described Roosevelt as "nice, but completely colorless"; an average student, he only stood out in being the only Democratic student, continuing the political tradition of his side of the Roosevelt family. Roosevelt remained consistent in his politics; immediately after his fourth election to the Presidency, he defined his domestic policy as "a little left of center".
Like all but two of his 21 Groton classmates, Roosevelt went to Harvard College, where he lived in a suite which is now part of Adams House, in the "Gold Coast" area populated by wealthy students. Again an average student academically, Roosevelt later declared, "I took economics courses in college for four years, and everything I was taught was wrong." He was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity and the Fly Club. While undistinguished as a student or athlete, he became editor-in-chief of The Harvard Crimson daily newspaper, a position which required great ambition, energy, and ability to manage others. While he was at Harvard, his fifth cousin Theodore "T. R." Roosevelt, Jr. (1858–1919) became President of the United States; his vigorous leadership style and reforming zeal made him Franklin's role model and hero. The younger Roosevelt remained a Democrat, campaigning for Theodore's opponent William Jennings Bryan. In mid-1902, Franklin was formally introduced to his future wife Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962), Theodore's niece, on a train to Tivoli, New York, although they had met briefly as children. Eleanor and Franklin were fifth cousins, once removed. She was the daughter of Elliott Bulloch Roosevelt (1860–94) and Anna Rebecca Hall (1863–92) of the Livingston family. At the time of their engagement, Roosevelt was twenty-two and Eleanor nineteen. Roosevelt graduated from Harvard in 1903 with an A.B. in history. He later received an honorary LL.D. from Harvard in 1929.
Roosevelt entered Columbia Law School in 1904, dropping out in 1907 after passing the New York State Bar exam. He later received a posthumous J.D. from Columbia Law School. In 1908, he took a job with the prestigious Wall Street firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn, dealing mainly with corporate law. He was first initiated in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and was initiated into Freemasonry on October 11, 1911, at Holland Lodge No. 8, New York City.
On March 17, 1905, Roosevelt married Eleanor in New York City, despite the fierce resistance of his mother; he was 23 and she was 21. While she did not dislike Eleanor, Sara Roosevelt was very possessive of her son; believing he was too young, she several times attempted to break the engagement. Eleanor's uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, stood in at the wedding for Eleanor's deceased father Elliott, as Eleanor was his favorite niece. (Eleanor had lost both parents by age ten.)
The young couple moved into Springwood, his family's estate at Hyde Park, where Roosevelt's mother became a frequent house guest, much to Eleanor's chagrin. The home was owned by Roosevelt's mother until her death in 1941 and was very much her home as well. In addition, Franklin Roosevelt and his mother Sara did the planning and furnishing of a town house she had built for the young couple in New York City; she had a twin house built alongside, with connections on every floor. Eleanor never felt it was her house.
Biographer James MacGregor Burns says young Roosevelt was self-assured and at ease in the upper class. In contrast, Eleanor at the time was shy and disliked social life, and at first stayed at home to raise their several children. Although Eleanor had an aversion to sexual intercourse, and considered it "an ordeal to be endured", they had six children, the first four in rapid succession:Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (May 3, 1906 – December 1, 1975)James Roosevelt II (December 23, 1907 – August 13, 1991)Franklin Roosevelt (March 18, 1909 – November 7, 1909)Elliott Roosevelt (September 23, 1910 – October 27, 1990)Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. (August 17, 1914 – August 17, 1988)John Aspinwall Roosevelt II (March 13, 1916 – April 27, 1981)
Roosevelt liked fatherhood, and the parents suffered greatly when their third child, named for Franklin, died of heart disease in infancy in 1909. Eleanor soon was pregnant again and gave birth to another son, Elliott, less than a year later. The fifth child and fourth son, born in 1914, was also named for Franklin. Their sixth child, John, was their fifth son.
Roosevelt had extra-marital affairs, including one with Eleanor's social secretary Lucy Mercer, which began soon after she was hired in early 1914. In September 1918, Eleanor found letters revealing the affair in Roosevelt's luggage, when he returned from World War I. Franklin had contemplated divorcing Eleanor, but Lucy would not agree to marry a divorced man with five children. Franklin and Eleanor remained married, and FDR promised never to see Lucy again. Eleanor never truly forgave him, and their marriage from that point on was more of a political partnership. His mother Sara told Franklin that if he divorced his wife, it would bring scandal upon the family, and she "would not give him another dollar."
Franklin broke his promise to Eleanor. He and Lucy maintained a formal correspondence, and began seeing each other again in 1941, perhaps earlier. The Secret Service gave Lucy the code name "Mrs. Johnson" . Lucy was with FDR on the day he died. Despite this, FDR's affair was not widely known until the 1960s. Roosevelt's son Elliott said that Franklin also had a 20-year affair with his private secretary Marguerite "Missy" LeHand. Another son, James, stated that "there is a real possibility that a romantic relationship existed" between his father and Princess Martha of Sweden, who resided in the White House during part of World War II. Aides began to refer to her at the time as "the president's girlfriend", and gossip linking the two romantically appeared in the newspapers.
The effect of these flirtations or affairs upon Eleanor Roosevelt is difficult to estimate. "I have the memory of an elephant. I can forgive, but I cannot forget," she wrote to a close friend. After the Lucy Mercer affair, any remaining intimacy left their relationship. Eleanor soon thereafter established a separate house in Hyde Park at Val-Kill, and increasingly devoted herself to various social and political causes independently of her husband. The emotional break in their marriage was so severe that when Roosevelt asked Eleanor in 1942—in light of his failing health—to come back home and live with him again, she refused. He was not always aware of when she visited the White House, and for some time she could not easily reach him on the telephone without his secretary's help; he, in turn, did not visit her New York City apartment until late 1944.
When Roosevelt was President, his dog, Fala, also became well known as his companion during his time in the White House. Fala was called the "most photographed dog in the world."
In the state election of 1910, Roosevelt ran for the New York State Senate from the district around Hyde Park in Dutchess County, which was strongly Republican, having elected one Democrat since 1856. The local party chose him as a paper candidate because his Republican cousin Theodore was still one of the country's most prominent politicians, and a Democratic Roosevelt was good publicity; the candidate could also pay for his own campaign. Surprising almost everyone, due to his aggressive and effective campaign, the Roosevelt name's influence in the Hudson Valley, and the Democratic landslide that year, Roosevelt won the election.
Taking his seat on January 1, 1911, Roosevelt immediately became the leader of a group of "Insurgents" who opposed the bossism of the Tammany machine dominating the state Democratic Party. The U.S. Senate election, which began with the Democratic caucus on January 16, 1911, was deadlocked by the struggle of the two factions for 74 days, as the new legislator endured what a biographer later described as "the full might of Tammany" behind its choice, William F. Sheehan. (Popular election of US Senators did not occur until after a constitutional amendment.) On March 31 compromise candidate James A. O'Gorman was elected, giving Roosevelt national exposure and some experience in political tactics and intrigue; one Tammany leader warned that Roosevelt should be eliminated immediately, before he disrupted Democrats as much as his cousin disrupted the Republicans. Roosevelt soon became a popular figure among New York Democrats, though he had not as yet become an eloquent speaker. News articles and cartoons began depicting "the second coming of a Roosevelt" that sent "cold shivers down the spine of Tammany".
Despite a bout of typhoid fever, and thanks to the help of Louis McHenry Howe who ran his campaign, Roosevelt was re-elected for a second term in the state election of 1912, and served as chairman of the Agriculture Committee. His success with farm and labor bills was a precursor to his New Deal policies twenty years later. By this time he had become more consistently progressive, in support of labor and social welfare programs for women and children; cousin Theodore was of some influence on these issues. Roosevelt, again in opposition to Tammany Hall, supported southerner Woodrow Wilson's successful bid in the 1912 presidential election, and thereby earned an informal designation as an original Wilson man.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy
Roosevelt's support of Wilson led to his appointment in 1913 as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels. Roosevelt had a lifelong affection for the Navy—he had already collected almost 10,000 naval books and claimed to have read all but one—and was more ardent than his boss Daniels in supporting a large and efficient naval force. As assistant secretary, Roosevelt worked to expand the Navy and founded the United States Navy Reserve. Against reactionary older officers such as Admiral William Benson—who claimed he could not "conceive of any use the fleet will ever have for aviation"—Roosevelt personally ordered the preservation of the navy's Aviation Division after the war, despite publicly opining that Billy Mitchell's warnings of bombs capable of sinking battleships were "pernicious". Roosevelt negotiated with Congressional leaders and other government departments to get budgets approved. He opposed the Taylor "stop-watch" system, which was hailed by shipbuilding managers but opposed by the unions. Not a single union strike occurred during his seven-plus years in the office, during which Roosevelt gained experience in labor issues, government management during wartime, naval issues, and logistics, all valuable areas for future office.
Roosevelt was still relatively obscure, but his friends were already speaking of him as a future president; he reportedly began talking about being elected to the presidency as early as 1907. In 1914, Roosevelt made an ill-conceived decision to run for the U.S. Senate seat for New York. The decision was doomed for lack of Wilson administration backing. He was determined to take on Tammany again at a time when Wilson needed them to help marshal his legislation and secure his future re-election. He was soundly defeated in the Democratic primary election for the United States Senate by Tammany Hall-backed James W. Gerard, by a margin of 3-to-1. Roosevelt learned a valuable lesson, that federal patronage alone, without White House support, could not defeat a strong local organization.
In March 1917, after Germany initiated its submarine warfare campaign, Roosevelt asked Wilson for permission, which was denied, to fit the naval fleet out for war. He became an enthusiastic advocate of the submarine and of means to combat the German submarine menace to Allied shipping: he proposed building a mine barrier across the North Sea from Norway to Scotland. In 1918, he visited Scotland, England, Wales, and France to inspect American naval facilities. Roosevelt wanted to provide arms to the merchant marine; knowing that a sale of arms was prohibited, he asked Wilson for approval to lease the arms to the mariners. Wilson ultimately approved this by executive order, and a precedent was set for Roosevelt to take similar action in 1940.
During these war years, Roosevelt worked to make peace with the Tammany Hall forces, and in 1918 the group supported others in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade him to run for Governor of New York. He very much wanted to get into a military uniform, but the armistice took shape before this could materialize; Wilson reportedly ordered Roosevelt to not resign. With the end of World War I in November 1918, Roosevelt was in charge of demobilization, although he opposed plans to completely dismantle the Navy.
In 1918, Roosevelt was sickened during the 1918 flu pandemic, and survived. In 1919, newspapers in Newport, Rhode Island criticized Roosevelt over his handling of what came to be known as the Newport sex scandal. Much more threatening was the fact that Roosevelt and his wife, then living in Washington, D.C. across the street from Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer, narrowly missed becoming casualties of an anarchist's bomb that exploded at Palmer's house, which they had walked past just minutes before. Their own residence was close enough that one of the bomber's body parts landed on their doorstep.
The 1920 Democratic National Convention chose Roosevelt by acclamation as the vice-presidential candidate with its presidential candidate, Governor James M. Cox of Ohio. Although his nomination surprised most people, Roosevelt was considered as bringing balance to the ticket as a moderate, a Wilsonian, and a prohibitionist with a famous name. Roosevelt had just turned 38, four years younger than Theodore had been when he received the same nomination from his party. The Cox-Roosevelt ticket was defeated by Republicans Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge in the presidential election by a wide margin. Roosevelt returned to New York to practice law and joined the newly organized New York Civitan Club.
In August 1921, while the Roosevelts were vacationing at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, Roosevelt fell ill and was diagnosed with polio. It left him with permanent paralysis from the waist down. Following the illness, Roosevelt remained out of the public eye for several years, turning his attention away from politics and toward his legal practice. For the rest of his life, Roosevelt refused to accept that he was permanently paralyzed. He tried a wide range of therapies, including hydrotherapy. In 1926, he purchased a resort at Warm Springs, Georgia, where he founded a hydrotherapy center for the treatment of polio patients; it still operates as the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. In 1938, FDR founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, now known as the March of Dimes.
At the time, Roosevelt convinced many people that he was improving, which he believed to be essential prior to running for public office again. He laboriously taught himself to walk short distances while wearing iron braces on his hips and legs by swiveling his torso, supporting himself with a cane. He was careful never to be seen using his wheelchair in public, and great care was taken to prevent any portrayal in the press that would highlight his disability. Few photographs of FDR in his wheelchair are known; they include two taken by his cousin and confidante Margaret Suckley, another taken by a sailor aboard the USS Indianapolis in 1933, and another published in a 1937 issue of Life magazine. Film clips of the "walk" he achieved after his illness are equally rare. He usually appeared in public standing upright, supported on one side by an aide or one of his sons. FDR used a car with specially designed hand controls, providing him further mobility.
A 2003 retrospective diagnosis of Roosevelt's paralytic illness favored Guillain–Barre syndrome rather than polio, a conclusion criticized by other researchers.
Roosevelt maintained contacts and mended fences with the Democratic Party during the 1920s, especially in New York. Although he initially had made his name as an opponent of New York City's Tammany Hall machine, Roosevelt moderated his stance against that group as well. He helped Alfred E. Smith win the election for governor of New York in 1922, and in 1924 was a strong supporter of Smith against his cousin, Republican Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Roosevelt gave nominating speeches for Smith at the 1924 and 1928 Democratic conventions; the speech at the 1924 election marked a return to public life following his illness and convalescence.
As the Democratic Party presidential nominee in the 1928 election, Smith in turn asked Roosevelt to run for governor in the state election. Roosevelt was nominated by the Democrats by acclamation. While Smith lost the Presidency in a landslide, and was defeated in his home state, Roosevelt was narrowly elected governor, by a one-percent margin. As a reform governor, he established a number of new social programs, and was advised by Frances Perkins and Harry Hopkins. In April 1929, a bomb was found addressed to him at the Albany, New York post office. A porter kicked the package, causing the fuse to sputter. The device was dropped in a pail of water where it failed to go off.
In May 1930, as he began his run for a second term, Roosevelt reiterated his doctrine from the campaign two years before: "that progressive government by its very terms, must be a living and growing thing, that the battle for it is never ending and that if we let up for one single moment or one single year, not merely do we stand still but we fall back in the march of civilization." In this campaign for re-election, Roosevelt needed the good will of the Tammany Hall machine in New York City to succeed; but, his Republican opponent, Charles H. Tuttle, used Roosevelt's connection with Tammany Hall's corruption as an election issue. As the election approached, Roosevelt began preemptive efforts by initiating investigations of the sale of judicial offices. He was directly involved, as he had made a routine short-term court appointment of a Tammany Hall man who was alleged to have paid Tammany $30,000 for the position. His Republican opponent could not overcome the public's criticism of the Republican Party for current economic distress in the Great Depression, and Roosevelt was elected to a second term by a margin of fourteen percent.
Roosevelt's strong base in the most populous state made him an obvious candidate for the Democratic nomination, which was hotly contested in light of incumbent Herbert Hoover's vulnerability. Al Smith was supported by some city bosses, but had lost control of the New York Democratic party to Roosevelt. Roosevelt built his own national coalition with personal allies such as newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Irish leader Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and California leader William Gibbs McAdoo. When Texas leader John Nance Garner announced his support of FDR, he was given the vice-presidential nomination.
Breaking with tradition of the time, Roosevelt traveled to Chicago to accept the nomination in person. In his acceptance speech, Roosevelt declared, "I pledge you, I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people... This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms." The election campaign was conducted under the shadow of the Great Depression in the United States, and the new alliances which it created. Roosevelt and the Democratic Party mobilized the expanded ranks of the poor as well as organized labor, ethnic minorities, urbanites, and Southern whites, crafting the New Deal coalition. At that time, African Americans in the South were still disfranchised, as they had been since the turn of the century. Southern states had passed a variety of requirements making voter registration more difficult, which served to exclude most blacks and many poor whites from the political system.
Economist Marriner Eccles observed that "given later developments, the campaign speeches often read like a giant misprint, in which Roosevelt and Hoover speak each other's lines." Roosevelt denounced Hoover's failures to restore prosperity or halt the downward slide, and he ridiculed Hoover's huge deficits. Roosevelt campaigned on the Democratic platform advocating "immediate and drastic reductions of all public expenditures," "abolishing useless commissions and offices, consolidating departments and bureaus, and eliminating extravagances" and for a "sound currency to be maintained at all hazards." On September 23, Roosevelt made the gloomy evaluation that, "Our industrial plant is built; the problem just now is whether under existing conditions it is not overbuilt. Our last frontier has long since been reached." Hoover damned that pessimism as a denial of "the promise of American life... the counsel of despair." The prohibition issue solidified the "wet vote" for Roosevelt, who noted that repeal would bring in new tax revenues.
Roosevelt won 57 percent of the vote and carried all but six states. Historians and political scientists consider the 1932–36 elections a realigning election that created a new majority coalition for the Democrats, made up of organized labor, northern blacks, and ethnic Americans such as Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans and Jews. This transformed American politics and started what is called the "New Deal Party System" or (by political scientists) the Fifth Party System.
After the election, Roosevelt refused Hoover's requests for a meeting to develop a joint program to stop the downward spiral and calm investors, claiming publicly it would tie his hands, and that Hoover had all the power to act if necessary. Unofficially, he told reporters that "it is not my baby". The economy spiraled downward until the banking system began a complete nationwide shutdown as Hoover's term ended. In February 1933, Roosevelt escaped an assassination attempt. Giuseppe Zangara, who expressed a "hate for all rulers," attempted to shoot Roosevelt. He shot and killed Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak who was sitting alongside Roosevelt, but his attempt to murder Roosevelt failed when an alert spectator, Lillian Cross, hit his arm with her purse and deflected the bullet. Roosevelt leaned heavily on his "brain trust" of academic advisers, especially Raymond Moley, when designing his policies; he offered cabinet positions to numerous candidates, but some declined. The cabinet member with the strongest independent base was Cordell Hull at State. William Hartman Woodin – at Treasury – was soon replaced by the much more powerful Henry Morgenthau, Jr.
Roosevelt appointed powerful men to top positions but made certain he made all the major decisions, regardless of delays, inefficiency or resentment. Analyzing the president's administrative style, historian James MacGregor Burns concludes:
The president stayed in charge of his administration...by drawing fully on his formal and informal powers as Chief Executive; by raising goals, creating momentum, inspiring a personal loyalty, getting the best out of people...by deliberately fostering among his aides a sense of competition and a clash of wills that led to disarray, heartbreak, and anger but also set off pulses of executive energy and sparks of creativity...by handing out one job to several men and several jobs to one man, thus strengthening his own position as a court of appeals, as a depository of information, and as a tool of co-ordination; by ignoring or bypassing collective decision-making agencies, such as the Cabinet...and always by persuading, flattering, juggling, improvising, reshuffling, harmonizing, conciliating, manipulating.
When Roosevelt was inaugurated March 4, 1933, the U.S. was at the nadir of the worst depression in its history. A quarter of the workforce was unemployed. Farmers were in deep trouble as prices fell by 60%. Industrial production had fallen by more than half since 1929. Two million people were homeless. By the evening of March 4, 32 of the 48 states – as well as the District of Columbia – had closed their banks. The New York Federal Reserve Bank was unable to open on the 5th, as huge sums had been withdrawn by panicky customers in previous days. Beginning with his inauguration address, Roosevelt began blaming the economic crisis on bankers and financiers, the quest for profit, and the self-interest basis of capitalism:
Primarily this is because rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence... The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Historians categorized Roosevelt's program as "relief, recovery and reform." Relief was urgently needed by tens of millions of unemployed. Recovery meant boosting the economy back to normal. Reform meant long-term fixes of what was wrong, especially with the financial and banking systems. Through Roosevelt's series of radio talks, known as fireside chats, he presented his proposals directly to the American public. In 1934, FDR paid a visit to retired Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who mused about the President: "A second class intellect. But a first class temperament."
Roosevelt's "first 100 days" concentrated on the first part of his strategy: immediate relief. From March 9 to June 16, 1933, he sent Congress a record number of bills, all of which passed easily. To propose programs, Roosevelt relied on leading Senators such as George Norris, Robert F. Wagner, and Hugo Black, as well as his Brain Trust of academic advisers. Like Hoover, he saw the Depression caused in part by people no longer spending or investing because they were afraid.
Roosevelt's inauguration on March 4, 1933, occurred in the middle of a bank panic, hence the backdrop for his famous words: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." The very next day he declared a "bank holiday" and called for a special session of Congress to start March 9, at which Congress passed the Emergency Banking Act. This was his first proposed step to recovery. To give Americans confidence in the banks, Roosevelt signed the Glass–Steagall Act that created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to underwrite savings deposits.
Relief measures included the continuation of Hoover's major relief program for the unemployed under its new name: Federal Emergency Relief Administration. The most popular of all New Deal agencies – and Roosevelt's favorite – was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which hired 250,000 unemployed young men to work on rural local projects.
Congress also gave the Federal Trade Commission broad new regulatory powers and provided mortgage relief to millions of farmers and homeowners. Roosevelt expanded a Hoover agency, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, making it a major source of financing for railroads and industry. Roosevelt made agricultural relief a high priority and set up the first Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). The AAA tried to force higher prices for commodities by paying farmers to take land out of crops and to cut herds.
Reform of the economy was the goal of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933. It tried to end cutthroat competition by forcing industries to come up with codes that established the rules of operation for all firms within specific industries, such as minimum prices, agreements not to compete, and production restrictions. Industry leaders negotiated the codes which were approved by NIRA officials. Industry needed to raise wages as a condition for approval. Provisions encouraged unions and suspended anti-trust laws. The NIRA was found to be unconstitutional by unanimous decision of the US Supreme Court on May 27, 1935. Roosevelt opposed the decision, saying, "The fundamental purposes and principles of the NIRA are sound. To abandon them is unthinkable. It would spell the return to industrial and labor chaos." In 1933, major new banking regulations were passed. In 1934, the securities and Exchange Commission was created to regulate Wall Street, with 1932 campaign fundraiser Joseph P. Kennedy in charge.
Roosevelt wanted a federal minimum wage as part of the NIRA, arguing that. "No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country". The Nation finally adopted the minimum wage in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the last major domestic reform measure of the New Deal.
Recovery was pursued through "pump-priming" (that is, federal spending). The NIRA included $3.3 billion of spending through the Public Works Administration to stimulate the economy, which was to be handled by Interior Secretary Harold Ickes. Roosevelt worked with Republican Senator George Norris to create the largest government-owned industrial enterprise in American history — the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) — which built dams and power stations, controlled floods, and modernized agriculture and home conditions in the poverty-stricken Tennessee Valley. The repeal of prohibition also brought in new tax revenues and helped Roosevelt keep a major campaign promise. Executive Order 6102 declared that all privately held gold of American citizens was to be sold to the US Treasury and the price raised from $20 to $35 per ounce. The goal was to counter the deflation which was paralyzing the economy.
Roosevelt tried to keep his campaign promise by cutting the federal budget — including a reduction in military spending from $752 million in 1932 to $531 million in 1934 and a 40% cut in spending on veterans' benefits — by removing 500,000 veterans and widows from the pension rolls and reducing benefits for the remainder, as well as cutting the salaries of federal employees and reducing spending on research and education. But, the veterans were well organized and strongly protested; most benefits were restored or increased by 1934, but FDR vetoed their efforts to get a cash bonus. The benefit cuts also did not last. In June 1933, Roosevelt restored $50 million in pension payments, and Congress added another $46 million more. Veterans groups such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars won their campaign to transform their benefits from payments due in 1945 to immediate cash when Congress overrode the President's veto and passed the Bonus Act in January 1936. It pumped sums equal to 2% of the GDP into the consumer economy and had a major stimulus effect.
Roosevelt also kept his promise to push for repeal of Prohibition. On March 23, 1933, he signed the Cullen–Harrison Act redefining 3.2% alcohol as the maximum allowed. That act was preceded by Congressional action in the drafting and passage of the 21st Amendment, which was ratified later that year.
After the 1934 Congressional elections, which gave Roosevelt large majorities in both houses, his administration drafted a fresh surge of New Deal legislation. These measures included the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which set up a national relief agency that employed two million family heads. At the height of WPA employment in 1938, unemployment was down from 20.6% in 1933 to only 12.5%, according to figures from Michael Darby. The Social Security Act established Social Security and promised economic security for the elderly, the poor and the sick. Senator Robert Wagner wrote the Wagner Act, which officially became the National Labor Relations Act. The act established the federal rights of workers to organize unions, to engage in collective bargaining, and to take part in strikes.
While the First New Deal of 1933 had broad support from most sectors, the Second New Deal challenged the business community. Conservative Democrats, led by Al Smith, fought back with the American Liberty League, savagely attacking Roosevelt and equating him with Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. But Smith overplayed his hand, and his boisterous rhetoric let Roosevelt isolate his opponents and identify them with the wealthy vested interests that opposed the New Deal, strengthening Roosevelt for the 1936 landslide. By contrast, the labor unions, energized by the Wagner Act, signed up millions of new members and became a major backer of Roosevelt's reelections in 1936, 1940 and 1944.
Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen disagree with the prevailing belief that there were two New Deals in the Roosevelt administration. They argue that there is no evidence of any such blueprint for Roosevelt's programs, and that abundant evidence shows FDR's policies were formulated and executed haphazardly, fluctuating in the hands of a revolving cast of presidential advisors. Biographer James M. Burns suggests that Roosevelt's policy decisions were guided more by pragmatism than ideology, and that he "was like the general of a guerrilla army whose columns, fighting blindly in the mountains through dense ravines and thickets, suddenly converge, half by plan and half by coincidence, and debouch into the plain below." Roosevelt argued that such apparently haphazard methodology was necessary. "The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation," he wrote. "It is common sense to take a method and try it; if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something."
Government spending increased from 8.0% of gross national product (GNP) under Hoover in 1932 to 10.2% of the GNP in 1936. The national debt as a percentage of the GNP had more than doubled under Hoover from 16% to 40% of the GNP in early 1933. It held steady at close to 40% as late as fall 1941, then grew rapidly during the war.
Deficit spending had been recommended by some economists, most notably by John Maynard Keynes of Britain. The GNP was 34% higher in 1936 than in 1932 and 58% higher in 1940 on the eve of war. That is, the economy grew 58% from 1932 to 1940 in 8 years of peacetime, and then grew 56% from 1940 to 1945 in 5 years of wartime.
Unemployment fell dramatically in Roosevelt's first term, from 25% when he took office to 14.3% in 1937. However, it increased slightly to 19.0% in 1938 ("a depression within a depression") and fell to 17.2% in 1939, and then dropped again to 14.6% in 1940 until it reached 1.9% in 1945 during World War II. Total employment during Roosevelt's term expanded by 18.31 million jobs, with an average annual increase in jobs during his administration of 5.3%. Roosevelt considered his New Deal policies as central to his legacy, and in his 1944 State of the Union Address, he advocated that Americans should think of basic economic rights as a Second Bill of Rights.
Roosevelt did not raise income taxes before World War II began; however payroll taxes were introduced to fund the new Social Security program in 1937. He also convinced Congress to spend more on many various programs never before seen in American history. Under the revenue pressures brought on by the depression, most states added or increased taxes, including sales as well as income taxes. Roosevelt's proposal for new taxes on corporate savings were highly controversial in 1936–37, and were rejected by Congress. During the war he pushed for even higher income tax rates for individuals (reaching a marginal tax rate of 91%) and corporations and a cap on high salaries for executives. He also issued Executive Order 9250 in October 1942, later to be rescinded by Congress, which raised the marginal tax rate for salaries exceeding $25,000 (after tax) to 100%, thereby limiting salaries to $25,000 (about $362,000 today). To fund the war, Congress not only broadened the base so that almost every employee paid federal income taxes, but also introduced withholding taxes in 1943.
The rejection of the League of Nations treaty in 1919 marked the dominance of isolationism from world organizations in American foreign policy. Despite Roosevelt's Wilsonian background, he and Secretary of State Cordell Hull acted with great care not to provoke isolationist sentiment. Roosevelt's "bombshell" message to the world monetary conference in 1933 effectively ended any major efforts by the world powers to collaborate on ending the worldwide depression, and allowed Roosevelt a free hand in economic policy. Roosevelt was a lifelong free-trader and anti-imperialist. Ending European colonialism was one of his objectives.
The main foreign policy initiative of Roosevelt's first term was the Good Neighbor Policy, which was a re-evaluation of U.S. policy towards Latin America. Since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, this area had been seen as an American sphere of influence. American forces were withdrawn from Haiti, and new treaties with Cuba and Panama ended their status as U.S. protectorates. In December 1933, Roosevelt signed the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, renouncing the right to intervene unilaterally in the affairs of Latin American countries.
The isolationist movement was bolstered in the early to mid-1930s by U.S. Senator Gerald Nye and others who succeeded in their effort to stop the "merchants of death" in the U.S. from selling arms abroad. This effort took the form of the Neutrality Acts; the president asked for, but was refused, a provision to give him the discretion to allow the sale of arms to victims of aggression. In the interim, Italy under Benito Mussolini proceeded to overcome Ethiopia, and the Italians joined Nazi Germany in supporting the General Franco and the Nationalist cause in the Spanish Civil War. In 1936 Germany and Japan signed a Anti-Comintern Pact, but they never coordinated their strategies. Congress passed, and the president signed, a mandatory arms embargo at a time when dictators in Europe and Asia were girding for world war.
In the 1936 presidential election, Roosevelt campaigned on his New Deal programs against Kansas Governor Alf Landon, who accepted much of the New Deal but objected that it was hostile to business and involved too much waste. Roosevelt and Garner won 60.8% of the vote and carried every state except Maine and Vermont. The New Deal Democrats won even larger majorities in Congress. Roosevelt was backed by a coalition of voters which included traditional Democrats across the country, small farmers, the "Solid South" (mostly white Democrats), Catholics, big city political machines, labor unions, northern African Americans (southern ones were still disfranchised), Jews, intellectuals and political liberals. This coalition, frequently referred to as the New Deal coalition, remained largely intact for the Democratic Party until the 1960s. Roosevelt's popularity generated massive volumes of correspondence that had to be responded to. He once told his son James, "Two short sentences will generally answer any known letter."
In contrast to his first term, little major legislation was passed during Roosevelt's second term. There was the Housing Act of 1937, a second Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, which created the minimum wage. When the economy began to deteriorate again in late 1937, Roosevelt asked Congress for $5 billion in WPA relief and public works funding. This managed to eventually create as many as 3.3 million WPA jobs by 1938. Projects accomplished under the WPA ranged from new federal courthouses and post offices, to facilities and infrastructure for national parks, bridges and other infrastructure across the country, and architectural surveys and archeological excavations — investments to construct facilities and preserve important resources. Beyond this, however, Roosevelt recommended to a special congressional session only a permanent national farm act, administrative reorganization and regional planning measures, which were leftovers from a regular session. According to Burns, this attempt illustrated Roosevelt's inability to decide on a basic economic program.
The Supreme Court became Roosevelt's primary focus during his second term, after the court overturned many of his programs. In particular in 1935, the Court unanimously ruled that the National Recovery Act (NRA) was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to the president. Roosevelt stunned Congress in early 1937 by proposing a law to allow him to appoint up to six new justices, what he referred to as a "persistent infusion of new blood." This "court packing" plan ran into intense political opposition from his own party, led by Vice President Garner, since it upset the separation of powers and gave the President control over the Court. Roosevelt's proposal to expand the court failed; but by 1941, Roosevelt had appointed eight of the nine justices of the court, a change in membership which resulted in a court that began to ratify his policies.
Roosevelt at first had massive support from the rapidly growing labor unions, but they split into bitterly feuding AFL and CIO factions, the latter led by John L. Lewis. Roosevelt pronounced a "plague on both your houses," but labor's disunity weakened the party in the elections from 1938 through 1946.
Determined to overcome the opposition of conservative Democrats in Congress (mostly from the South), Roosevelt became involved in the 1938 Democratic primaries, actively campaigning for challengers who were more supportive of New Deal reform. His targets denounced Roosevelt for trying to take over the Democratic party and to win reelection, using the argument that they were independent. Roosevelt failed badly, managing to defeat only one target, a conservative Democrat from New York City.
In the November 1938 election, Democrats lost six Senate seats and 71 House seats. Losses were concentrated among pro-New Deal Democrats. When Congress reconvened in 1939, Republicans under Senator Robert Taft formed a Conservative coalition with Southern Democrats, virtually ending Roosevelt's ability to get his domestic proposals enacted into law. The minimum wage law of 1938 was the last substantial New Deal reform act passed by Congress. Following the autumn Congressional elections in 1938, Congress was now dominated by conservatives, many of whom feared that Roosevelt was "aiming at a dictatorship," according to the historian Hugh Brogan. In addition, as noted by another historian, after the 1938 election increased the strength of Republicans,
"conservative Democrats held the balance of power between liberals and Republicans, and they used it to prevent completion of the structure of the Second New Deal."
Roosevelt had always belonged to the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party. He sought a realignment that would solidify liberal dominance by means of landslides in 1932, 1934 and 1936. During the 1932 campaign he predicted privately, "I'll be in the White House for eight years. When those years are over, there'll be a Progressive party. It may not be Democratic, but it will be Progressive." When the third consecutive landslide in 1936 failed to produce major legislation in 1937, his recourse was to purge his conservative opponents in 1938.
The aggressive foreign policy of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in Germany after 1933 aroused fears of a New World war. Americans wanted to keep out of it and in 1937 Congress passed an even more stringent Neutrality act. But when Japan invaded China in 1937, public opinion strongly favored China, and Roosevelt found various ways to assist that nation.
In October 1937, Roosevelt gave the Quarantine Speech aiming to contain aggressor nations. He proposed that warmongering states be treated as a public health menace and be "quarantined." Meanwhile, he secretly stepped up a program to build long-range submarines that could blockade Japan.
At the time of the Munich Agreement in 1938 — with the U.S. not represented — Roosevelt said the country would not join a "stop-Hitler bloc" under any circumstances. He made it quite clear that, in the event of German aggression against Czechoslovakia, the U.S. would remain neutral. Roosevelt said in 1939 that France and Britain were America's "first line of defense" and needed American aid, but because of widespread isolationist sentiment, he reiterated the US itself would not go to war. In the spring of 1939, Roosevelt allowed the French to place huge orders with the American aircraft industry on a cash-and-carry basis, as allowed by law. Most of the aircraft ordered had not arrived in France by the time of its collapse in May 1940, so Roosevelt arranged in June 1940 for French orders to be sold to the British.
When World War II began in September 1939 with Germany's invasion of Poland, Roosevelt rejected the Wilsonian neutrality stance and sought ways to assist Britain and France militarily. At first he gave only covert support to repeal of the arms embargo provisions of the Neutrality Act. He began a regular secret correspondence with the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill in September 1939 — the first of 1,700 letters and telegrams between them — discussing ways of supporting Britain. Roosevelt forged a close personal relationship with Churchill, who became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in May 1940.
His relations with Charles de Gaulle, leader of Free France, were more strained, for a long time he refused to recognize de Gaulle as the representative of France, preferring to deal with representatives of the Vichy government. Roosevelt did not recognize de Gaulle's provisional government until late 1944.
In April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway, followed by invasions of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France in May. The German victories left Britain isolated in Western Europe. Roosevelt, who was determined that Britain not be defeated, took advantage of the rapid shifts of public opinion. The fall of Paris shocked American opinion, and isolationist sentiment declined. A consensus was clear that military spending had to be dramatically expanded. There was no consensus on how much the US should risk war in helping Britain. In July 1940, FDR appointed two interventionist Republican leaders, Henry L. Stimson and Frank Knox, as Secretaries of War and the Navy, respectively. Both parties gave support to his plans for a rapid build-up the American military, but the isolationists warned that Roosevelt would get the nation into an unnecessary war with Germany. Congress authorized the nation's first peacetime draft.
Roosevelt used his personal charisma to build support for intervention. America should be the "Arsenal of Democracy", he told his fireside audience. On September 2, 1940, Roosevelt openly defied the Neutrality Acts by passing the destroyers for Bases Agreement, which, in exchange for military base rights in the British Caribbean Islands, gave 50 WWI American destroyers to Britain. The U.S. also received free base rights in Bermuda and Newfoundland, allowing British forces to be moved to the sharper end of the war; the idea of an exchange of warships for bases such as these originated in the cabinet. Hitler and Mussolini responded to the deal by joining with Japan in the Tripartite Pact.
The agreement with Britain was a precursor of the March 1941 Lend-Lease agreement, which began to direct massive military and economic aid to Britain, the Republic of China, and later the Soviet Union. For foreign policy advice, Roosevelt turned to Harry Hopkins, who became his chief wartime advisor. They sought innovative ways short of going to war to help Britain, whose financial resources were exhausted by the end of 1940. Congress, where isolationist sentiment was waning, passed the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941, allowing the U.S. to give Wales, England, Scotland, China, and later the Soviet Union military supplies. The legislation had hit a logjam until Senators Byrd, Byrnes and Taft added a provision subjecting it to appropriation by Congress. Congress voted to commit to spend $50 billion on military supplies from 1941 to 1945. In sharp contrast to the loans of World War I, there would be no repayment after the war. Until late in 1941, Roosevelt refused Churchill's urgent requests for armed escort of ships bound for Britain, insisting on a more passive patrolling function in the western Atlantic.
The two-term tradition had been an unwritten rule (until the 22nd Amendment after Roosevelt's presidency) since George Washington declined to run for a third term in 1796. Both Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt were attacked for trying to obtain a third non-consecutive term. Roosevelt systematically undercut prominent Democrats who were angling for the nomination, including Vice President John Nance Garner and two cabinet members, Secretary of State Cordell Hull and James Farley, Roosevelt's campaign manager in 1932 and 1936, the Postmaster General and the Democratic Party chairman. Roosevelt moved the convention to Chicago where he had strong support from the city machine (which controlled the auditorium sound system). At the convention the opposition was poorly organized, but Farley had packed the galleries. Roosevelt sent a message saying that he would not run unless he was drafted, and that the delegates were free to vote for anyone. The delegates were stunned; then the loudspeaker screamed "We want Roosevelt... The world wants Roosevelt!" The delegates went wild and he was nominated by 946 to 147 on the first ballot. The tactic employed by Roosevelt was not entirely successful, as his goal had been to be drafted by acclamation. The new vice-presidential nominee was Henry Agard Wallace, a liberal intellectual who was Secretary of Agriculture.
In his campaign against Republican Wendell Willkie, Roosevelt stressed both his proven leadership experience and his intention to do everything possible to keep the United States out of war. In one of his speeches he declared to potential recruits that "you boys are not going to be sent into any foreign war." He won the 1940 election with 55% of the popular vote and 38 of the 48 states, and thus winning almost 85% of the electoral vote (449 to 82). A shift to the left within the Administration was shown by the naming of Henry A. Wallace as Vice President in place of the conservative Texan John Nance Garner, who had become a bitter enemy of Roosevelt after 1937.
Roosevelt tried to avoid repeating what he saw as Woodrow Wilson's mistakes in World War I. He often made exactly the opposite decision. Wilson called for neutrality in thought and deed, while Roosevelt made it clear his administration strongly favored Britain and China. Unlike the loans in World War I, the United States made large-scale grants of military and economic aid to the Allies through Lend-Lease, with little expectation of repayment. Wilson did not greatly expand war production before the declaration of war; Roosevelt did. Wilson waited for the declaration to begin a draft; Roosevelt started one in 1940. Wilson never made the United States an official ally but Roosevelt did. Wilson never met with the top Allied leaders but Roosevelt did. Wilson proclaimed independent policy, as seen in the 14 Points, while Roosevelt always had a collaborative policy with the Allies. In 1917, United States declared war on Germany; in 1941, Roosevelt waited until the enemy attacked at Pearl Harbor. Wilson refused to collaborate with the Republicans; Roosevelt named leading Republicans to head the War Department and the Navy Department. Wilson let General George Pershing make the major military decisions; Roosevelt made the major decisions in his war. He rejected the idea of an armistice and demanded unconditional surrender. Roosevelt often mentioned his role in the Wilson administration, but added that he had profited more from Wilson's errors than from his successes.
Roosevelt's third term was dominated by World War II. Roosevelt slowly began re-armament in 1938, although he was facing strong isolationist sentiment from leaders like Senators William Borah and Robert A. Taft. By 1940, re-armament was in high gear, with bipartisan support, partly to expand and re-equip the Army and Navy and partly to become the "Arsenal of Democracy" supporting Britain, France, China and (after June 1941), the Soviet Union. As Roosevelt took a firmer stance against the Axis Powers, American isolationists (including Charles Lindbergh and America First) vehemently attacked the President as an irresponsible warmonger. Roosevelt initiated FBI and Internal Revenue Service investigations of his loudest critics, though no legal actions resulted. Unfazed by these criticisms and confident in the wisdom of his foreign policy initiatives, FDR continued his twin policies of preparedness and aid to the Allied coalition. On December 29, 1940, he delivered his Arsenal of Democracy fireside chat, in which he made the case for involvement in the war directly to the American people. A week later he delivered his famous Four Freedoms speech laying out the case for an American defense of basic rights throughout the world.
The homefront was subject to dynamic social changes throughout the war, though domestic issues were no longer Roosevelt's most urgent policy concern. The military buildup spurred economic growth. Unemployment fell in half from 7.7 million in spring 1940 (when the first accurate statistics were compiled) to 3.4 million in fall 1941 and fell in half again to 1.5 million in fall 1942, out of a labor force of 54 million. There was a growing labor shortage, accelerating the second wave of the Great Migration of African Americans, farmers and rural populations to manufacturing centers. African Americans from the South went to California and other West Coast states for new jobs in the defense industry. To pay for increased government spending, in 1941 FDR proposed that Congress enact an income tax rate of 99.5% on all income over $100,000; when the proposal failed, he issued an executive order imposing an income tax of 100% on income over $25,000, which Congress rescinded.
When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Roosevelt agreed to extend Lend-Lease to the Soviets. Thus, Roosevelt had committed the U.S. to the Allied side with a policy of "all aid short of war." Execution of the aid fell victim to foot dragging in the administration so FDR appointed a special assistant, Wayne Coy, to expedite matters. Later that year, a German submarine fired on the U.S. destroyer Greer, and Roosevelt declared that the U.S. Navy would assume an escort role for Allied convoys in The Atlantic as far east as Great Britain and would fire upon German ships or submarines (U-boats) of the Kriegsmarine if they entered the U.S. Navy zone. This "shoot on sight" policy effectively declared naval war on Germany and was favored by Americans by a margin of 2-to-1.
Roosevelt and Churchill conducted a highly secret bilateral meeting in Argentia, Newfoundland, and on August 14, 1941, drafted the Atlantic Charter, conceptually outlining global wartime and postwar goals. All the Allies endorsed it. This was the first of several wartime conferences; Churchill and Roosevelt would meet ten more times in person. In July 1941, Roosevelt had ordered Secretary of War Henry Stimson, to begin planning for total American military involvement. The resulting "Victory Program" provided the Army's estimates necessary for the total mobilization of manpower, industry, and logistics to defeat Germany and Japan. The program also planned to dramatically increase aid to the Allied nations and to have ten million men in arms, half of whom would be ready for deployment abroad in 1943. Roosevelt was firmly committed to the Allied cause, and these plans were formulated before Japan's Attack on Pearl Harbor.
Congress was debating a modification of the Neutrality Act in October 1941, when the USS Kearny, along with other ships, engaged a number of U-boats south of Iceland; the Kearny took fire and lost eleven crewmen. As a result, the amendment of the Neutrality Act to permit the arming of the merchant marine passed both houses, though by a slim margin.
In 1942, with the United States now in the conflict, war production increased dramatically, but fell short of the goals established by the President, due in part to manpower shortages. The effort was also hindered by numerous strikes by union workers, especially in the coal mining and railroad industries, which lasted well into 1944. The White House became the ultimate site for labor mediation, conciliation or arbitration. One particular battle royal occurred, between Vice-President Wallace, who headed the Board of Economic Warfare, and Jesse Jones, in charge of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation; both agencies assumed responsibility for acquisition of rubber supplies and came to loggerheads over funding. FDR resolved the dispute by dissolving both agencies.
In 1944, the President requested that Congress enact legislation which would tax all unreasonable profits, both corporate and individual, and thereby support his declared need for over $10 billion in revenue for the war and other government measures. The Congress passed a revenue bill raising $2 billion, which FDR vetoed, though Congress in turn overrode him.
When Japan occupied northern French Indochina in late 1940, FDR authorized increased aid to the Republic of China, a policy that won widespread popular support. In July 1941, after Japan occupied the remainder of Indo-China, he cut off the sale of oil to Japan, which thus lost more than 95 percent of its oil supply. Roosevelt continued negotiations with the Japanese government, primarily through Secretary Hull. Japan Premier Fumimaro Konoye desired a summit conference with FDR which the US rejected. Konoye was replaced with Minister of War Hideki Tojo. Meanwhile, Roosevelt started sending long-range B-17 bombers to the Philippines.
FDR felt that an attack by the Japanese was probable – most likely in the Dutch East Indies or Thailand. On December 4, 1941, The Chicago Tribune published the complete text of "Rainbow Five", a top-secret war plan drawn up by the War Department. It dealt chiefly with mobilization issues, calling for a 10-million-man army.
The great majority of scholars have rejected the conspiracy thesis that Roosevelt, or any other high government officials, knew in advance about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had kept their secrets closely guarded. Senior American officials were aware that war was imminent, but they did not expect an attack on Pearl Harbor.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese struck the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor with a surprise attack, knocking out the main American battleship fleet and killing 2,403 American servicemen and civilians. Roosevelt called for war in his famous "Infamy Speech" to Congress, in which he said: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."
In 1942 Roosevelt set up a new military command structure with Admiral Ernest J. King as Chief of Naval Operations in complete control of the Navy and Marines; General George C. Marshall in charge of the Army and in nominal control of the Air Force, which in practice was commanded by General Hap Arnold. Roosevelt formed a new body, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which made the final decisions on American military strategy. The Joint Chiefs was a White House agency and was chaired by Admiral William D. Leahy. When dealing with Europe, the Joint Chiefs met with their British counterparts and formed the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Unlike the political leaders of the other major powers, Roosevelt rarely overrode his military advisors. His civilian appointees handled the draft and procurement of men and equipment, but no civilians – not even the secretaries of War or Navy, had a voice in strategy. Roosevelt avoided the State Department and conducted high level diplomacy through his aides, especially Harry Hopkins. Since Hopkins also controlled $50 billion in Lend Lease funds given to the Allies, they paid attention to him.
After Pearl Harbor, antiwar sentiment in the United States evaporated overnight. On December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, which responded in kind. Roosevelt and his military advisers implemented a war strategy with the objectives of halting the German advances in the Soviet Union and in North Africa; launching an invasion of western Europe with the aim of crushing Nazi Germany between two fronts; and saving China and defeating Japan. Public opinion, however, gave priority to the destruction of Japan, so American forces were sent chiefly to the Pacific in 1942.
In the opening weeks of the war, Japan had conquered the Philippines, and the British and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia, capturing Singapore in February 1942. Furthermore, Japan cut off the overland supply route to China.
Roosevelt met with Churchill in late December and planned a broad informal alliance among the U.S., Britain, China and the Soviet Union. This included Churchill's initial plan to invade North Africa (called Operation Gymnast) and the primary plan of the U.S. generals for a western Europe invasion, focused directly on Germany (Operation Sledgehammer). An agreement was also reached for a centralized command and offensive in the Pacific theater called ABDA (American, British, Dutch, Australian) to save China and defeat Japan. Nevertheless, the Atlantic First strategy was intact, to Churchill's great satisfaction. On New Year's Day 1942, Churchill and FDR issued the "Declaration by United Nations", representing 26 countries in opposition to the Tripartite Pact of Germany, Italy and Japan.
When the war began, the danger of a Japanese attack on the coast led to growing pressure to move people of Japanese descent away from the coastal region. This pressure grew due to fears of terrorism, espionage, and/or sabotage; it was also related to anti-Japanese competition and discrimination. On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which relocated hundreds of thousands of the "Issei" (first generation of Japanese immigrants who did not have U.S. citizenship) and their children, "Nisei" (who had dual citizenship). They were forced to give up their properties and businesses, and transported to hastily built camps in interior, harsh locations.
After both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy declared war on the United States in December 1941, many German and Italian citizens who had not taken out American citizenship were arrested or interned.
The "Big Three" (Roosevelt, Churchill, and Joseph Stalin), together with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, cooperated informally on a plan in which American and British troops concentrated in the West; Soviet troops fought on the Eastern front; and Chinese, British and American troops fought in Asia and the Pacific. The Allies formulated strategy in a series of high-profile conferences as well as contact through diplomatic and military channels. Roosevelt guaranteed that the U.S. would be the "Arsenal of Democracy" by shipping $50 billion of Lend Lease supplies, primarily to Britain and to the USSR, China and other Allies.
In October 1942, the President was advised that military resources were desperately needed at Guadalcanal to prevent overrunning by the Japanese. FDR heeded the advice, redirected armaments and the Japanese Pacific offensive was stalled.
The Allies undertook the invasions of French Morocco and Algeria (Operation Torch) in November 1942. FDR very much desired the assault be initiated before election day, but did not order it. FDR and Churchill had another war conference in Casablanca in January 1943; Stalin declined an invitation. The Allies agreed strategically that the Mediterranean focus be continued, with the cross-channel invasion coming later, followed by concentration of efforts in the Pacific. Roosevelt also championed General Henri Giraud as leader of Free France against General Charles de Gaulle. Hitler reinforced his military in North Africa, with the result that the Allied efforts there suffered a temporary setback; Allied attempts to counterbalance this were successful, but resulted in war supplies to the USSR being delayed, as well as the second war front. Later, their assault pursued into Sicily (Operation Husky) followed in July 1943, and of Italy (Operation Avalanche) in September 1943. In 1943, it was apparent to FDR that Stalin, while bearing the brunt of Germany's offensive, had not had sufficient opportunity to participate in war conferences. The President made a concerted effort to arrange a one-on-one meeting with Stalin, in Fairbanks. However, when Stalin learned that Roosevelt and Churchill had postponed the cross-channel invasion a second time, he cancelled. The strategic bombing campaign was escalated in 1944, pulverizing all major German cities and cutting off oil supplies. It was a 50–50 British-American operation. Roosevelt picked Dwight D. Eisenhower, and not George Marshall, to head the Allied cross-channel invasion, Operation Overlord that began on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Some of the most costly battles of the war ensued after the invasion, and the Allies were blocked on the German border in the "Battle of the Bulge" in December 1944. When Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, Allied forces were closing in on Berlin.
Meanwhile, in the Pacific, the Japanese advance reached its maximum extent by June 1942, when the U.S. Navy scored a decisive victory at the Battle of Midway. American and Australian forces then began a slow and costly progress called island hopping or leapfrogging through the Pacific Islands, with the objective of gaining bases from which strategic airpower could be brought to bear on Japan and from which Japan could ultimately be invaded. In contrast to Hitler, Roosevelt took no direct part in the tactical naval operations, though he approved strategic decisions. FDR gave way in part to insistent demands from the public and Congress that more effort be devoted against Japan; he always insisted on Germany first.
By late 1943, it was apparent that the Allies would ultimately defeat the enemy, so it became increasingly important to make high-level political decisions about the course of the war and the postwar future of Europe. Roosevelt met with Churchill and the Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek at the Cairo Conference in November 1943, and then went to the Tehran Conference to confer with Churchill and Stalin. While Churchill warned of potential domination by a Stalin dictatorship over eastern Europe, Roosevelt responded with a statement summarizing his rationale for relations with Stalin: "I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man. ... I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace." At the Tehran Conference, Roosevelt and Churchill discussed plans for a postwar international organization. For his part, Stalin insisted on redrawing the frontiers of Poland. Stalin supported Roosevelt's plan for the United Nations and promised to enter the war against Japan 90 days after Germany was defeated.
By the beginning of 1945, however, with the Allied armies advancing into Germany and the Soviets in control of Poland, the postwar issues came into the open. In February, Roosevelt met with Churchill at Malta and traveled to Yalta, in Crimea, to meet again with Stalin and Churchill. While Roosevelt maintained his confidence that Stalin would keep his Yalta promises regarding free elections in eastern Europe, one month after Yalta ended, Roosevelt's Ambassador to the USSR Averell Harriman cabled Roosevelt that "we must come clearly to realize that the Soviet program is the establishment of totalitarianism, ending personal liberty and democracy as we know it." Two days later, Roosevelt began to admit that his view of Stalin had been excessively optimistic and that "Averell is right."
Roosevelt, who was a chain-smoker, had been in declining health since at least 1940, and by 1944 he was noticeably fatigued. In March 1944, shortly after his 62nd birthday, he underwent testing at Bethesda Hospital and was found to have high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease causing angina pectoris, and congestive heart failure. Hospital physicians and two outside specialists ordered Roosevelt to rest. His personal physician, Admiral Ross McIntire, created a daily schedule that banned business guests for lunch and incorporated two hours of rest each day. During the 1944 election campaign, McIntire denied several times that Roosevelt's health was poor; on October 12, for example, he announced that "The President's health is perfectly OK. There are absolutely no organic difficulties at all." Prior to the election, Roosevelt may have used his authority over the Office of Censorship to quash press reports of his declining physical health.
Roosevelt, aware that most publishers were opposed to him, issued a decree in 1943 that blocked all publishers and media executives from visits to combat areas; he put General Marshall in charge of enforcement. The main target was Henry Luce, the powerful publisher of Time and Life magazines. Historian Alan Brinkley argues the move was "badly mistaken", for had Luce been allowed to travel, he would have been an enthusiastic cheerleader for American forces around the globe. But stranded in New York City, Luce's frustration and anger expressed itself in hard-edged partisanship.
Party leaders insisted that Roosevelt drop Henry A. Wallace, who had been erratic as Vice President. James F. Byrnes of South Carolina, a top FDR aide, was considered ineligible because he had left the Catholic Church and many Catholic voters would not vote for him. Roosevelt replaced Wallace with Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman, best known for his battle against corruption and inefficiency in wartime spending. The Republicans nominated Thomas E. Dewey, the liberal governor of New York. The opposition lambasted FDR and his administration for domestic corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, tolerance of Communism, and military blunders. Labor unions, which had grown rapidly in the war, threw their all-out support behind Roosevelt. Roosevelt and Truman won the 1944 election by a comfortable margin, defeating the Dewey and his running mate John W. Bricker with 53.4% of the popular vote and 432 out of the 531 electoral votes. The President campaigned in favor of a strong United Nations, so his victory symbolized support for the nation's future participation in the international community.
Due to the President's declining health, the small-scale fourth inauguration on January 20, 1945, was held on the White House lawn.
The President left the Yalta Conference on February 12, 1945, flew to Egypt and boarded the USS Quincy operating on the Great Bitter Lake near the Suez Canal. Aboard Quincy, the next day he met with Farouk I, king of Egypt, and Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia. On February 14, he held a historic meeting with King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, a meeting some historians believe holds profound significance in U.S.-Saudi relations even today. After a final meeting between Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Quincy steamed for Algiers, arriving February 18, at which time Roosevelt conferred with American ambassadors to Britain, France and Italy. At Yalta, Lord Moran, Winston Churchill's physician, commenting on Roosevelt's ill health, said that he was a dying man.
When Roosevelt returned to the United States, he addressed Congress on March 1 about the Yalta Conference, and many were shocked to see how old, thin and frail he looked. He spoke while seated in the well of the House, an unprecedented concession to his physical incapacity. Roosevelt opened his speech by saying, "I hope that you will pardon me for this unusual posture of sitting down during the presentation of what I want to say, but... it makes it a lot easier for me not to have to carry about ten pounds of steel around on the bottom of my legs." Still in full command mentally, he firmly stated "The Crimean Conference ought to spell the end of a system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliances, the spheres of influence, the balances of power, and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries– and have always failed. We propose to substitute for all these, a universal organization in which all peace-loving nations will finally have a chance to join."
During March 1945, he sent strongly worded messages to Stalin accusing him of breaking his Yalta commitments over Poland, Germany, prisoners of war and other issues. When Stalin accused the western Allies of plotting a separate peace with Hitler behind his back, Roosevelt replied: "I cannot avoid a feeling of bitter resentment towards your informers, whoever they are, for such vile misrepresentations of my actions or those of my trusted subordinates."
On March 29, 1945, Roosevelt went to the Little White House at Warm Springs, Georgia, to rest before his anticipated appearance at the founding conference of the United Nations. On the afternoon of April 12, Roosevelt said, "I have a terrific pain in the back of my head." He then slumped forward in his chair, unconscious, and was carried into his bedroom. The president's attending cardiologist, Dr. Howard Bruenn, diagnosed a massive cerebral hemorrhage (stroke). At 3:35 p.m. that day, Roosevelt died. As Allen Drury later said, "so ended an era, and so began another." After Roosevelt's death, an editorial by The New York Times declared, "Men will thank God on their knees a hundred years from now that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House".
At the time he collapsed, Roosevelt had been sitting for a portrait painting by the artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff, known as the famous Unfinished Portrait of FDR.
In his later years at the White House, when Roosevelt was increasingly overworked, his daughter Anna Roosevelt Boettiger had moved in to provide her father companionship and support. Anna had also arranged for her father to meet with his former mistress, the now widowed Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd. Shoumatoff, who maintained close friendships with both Roosevelt and Mercer, rushed Mercer away to avoid negative publicity and implications of infidelity.
On the morning of April 13, Roosevelt's body was placed in a flag-draped coffin and loaded onto the presidential train. After a White House funeral on April 14, Roosevelt was transported back to Hyde Park by train. As was his wish, Roosevelt was buried in the Rose Garden of the Springwood estate, the Roosevelt family home in Hyde Park on April 15. Eleanor, who died in November 1962, is interred next to him.
Roosevelt's death was met with shock and grief across the US and around the world. His declining health had not been known to the general public.
Less than a month after his death, on May 8, the war in Europe ended. President Harry S. Truman dedicated Victory in Europe Day and its celebrations to Roosevelt's memory, and kept the flags across the U.S. at half-staff for the remainder of the 30-day mourning period, saying that his only wish was "that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day."
President Roosevelt appointed eight Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States, more than any other President except George Washington, who appointed ten. By 1941, eight of the nine Justices were Roosevelt appointees. Harlan Fiske Stone was elevated to Chief Justice from the position of Associate Justice by Roosevelt.
Roosevelt's appointees would not share ideologies, and some, like Hugo Black and Felix Frankfurter, would become "lifelong adversaries." Frankfurter even labeled his more liberal colleagues Rutledge, Murphy, Black, and Douglas as part of an "Axis" of opposition to his judicial restraint agenda.
Roosevelt was a hero to major minority groups, especially African Americans, Catholics, and Jews, and was highly successful in attracting large majorities of these voters into his New Deal coalition. He won strong support from Chinese Americans and Filipino Americans, but not Japanese Americans, as he was responsible for their losses due to internship in concentration camps during the war. Roosevelt's understanding and awareness of problems in the world of the American Indians was questioned during the Hopi Hearings which were held in 1955.
African Americans and Native Americans fared well in two New Deal relief programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Indian Reorganization Act, respectively. Sitkoff reported that the WPA "provided an economic floor for the whole black community in the 1930s, rivaling both agriculture and domestic service as the chief source" of income.
Another significant change was establishment in 1941 of the Fair Employment Practices Committee, to implement Executive Order 8802 prohibiting racial and religious discrimination in employment among defense contractors. This was the first national program directed against employment discrimination. African Americans who gained defense industry jobs in the 1940s shared in the higher wages; in the 1950s they had gained in relative economic position, about 14% higher than other blacks who were not in such industries. Their moves into manufacturing positions was critical to their success.
Roosevelt needed the support of the powerful white Southern Democrats for his New Deal programs, and blacks were still disenfranchised in the South. He decided against pushing for federal anti-lynching legislation. It was not likely to pass and the political fight might threaten his ability to pass his highest priority programs—though he did denounce lynchings as "a vile form of collective murder". The frequency of lynchings had declined since the early decades of the century, in part due to the African Americans' Great Migration out of the South; millions were still leaving it behind.
Historian Kevin J. McMahon claims that strides were made for the civil rights of African Americans. In Roosevelt's Justice Department, the Civil Rights Section worked closely with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Roosevelt worked with other civil rights groups on cases dealing with police brutality, lynching, and voting rights abuses.
Beginning in the 1960s, FDR was charged with not acting decisively enough to prevent or stop the Holocaust. Critics cite instances such as the 1939 episode in which 936 Jewish refugees on the SS St. Louis were denied asylum and not allowed into the United States because of strict laws passed by Congress.
The issue of desegregating the armed forces did not arise, but in 1940 Roosevelt appointed former federal judge William H. Hastie, an African American, to be a civilian aide to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. On the home front on June 25, 1941, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, forbidding discrimination on account of "race, creed, color, or national origin" in the hiring of workers in defense related industries. This was a precursor to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to come decades later.
Enemy aliens and people of Japanese ancestry fared badly. On February 19, 1942, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 that applied to everyone classified as an "enemy alien", including people who had dual citizenship living in designated high-risk areas that covered most of the cities on the West Coast. With the U.S. at war with Italy, some 600,000 Italian aliens (citizens of Italy who did not have U.S. citizenship) were subjected to strict travel restrictions; the restrictions were lifted in October 1942.
Some 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were forced to leave the West Coast. From 1942 to 1945, they lived in internment camps inland. Those outside the West Coast, and in Hawaii, were not affected.
During his presidency, and continuing to a lesser extent today, there has been much criticism of Roosevelt, some of it intense. Critics have questioned not only his policies and positions, consolidation of power that occurred due to his responses to the crises of the Depression, and World War, but also his breaking with tradition by running for a third term as president.
By the middle of his second term, much criticism of Roosevelt centered on fears that he was heading toward a dictatorship, by attempting to seize control of the Supreme Court in the Court-packing incident of 1937, by attempting to eliminate dissent within the Democratic party in the South during the 1938 elections, and by breaking the tradition established by George Washington of not seeking a third term when he again ran for re-election in 1940. As two historians explain, "In 1940, with the two-term issue as a weapon, anti-New Dealers...argued that the time had come to disarm the 'dictator' and to dismantle the machinery."
As President, Roosevelt was hit from both the right and the left. He came under attack for his supposed anti-business policies, for being a "warmonger", for being a "Fascist" and for being too friendly to Joseph Stalin. Long after his death, new lines of attack criticized his policies regarding helping the Jews of Europe, incarcerating the Japanese on the West Coast, and opposing anti-lynching legislation.
A majority of polls rank Roosevelt as the second or third greatest president, consistent with other surveys. Roosevelt is the sixth most admired person from the 20th century by U.S. citizens, according to Gallup. Roosevelt was also widely beloved for his role in repealing Prohibition.
The rapid expansion of government programs that occurred during Roosevelt's term redefined the role of the government in the United States, and Roosevelt's advocacy of government social programs was instrumental in redefining liberalism for coming generations.
Roosevelt firmly established the United States' leadership role on the world stage, with his role in shaping and financing World War II. His isolationist critics faded away, and even the Republicans joined in his overall policies. After his death, his widow continued to be a forceful presence in US and world politics, serving as delegate to the conference which established the United Nations and championing civil rights and liberalism generally. Many members of his administration played leading roles in the administrations of Truman, Kennedy and Johnson, each of whom embraced Roosevelt's political legacy.
Reflecting on Roosevelt's presidency, "which brought the United States through the Great Depression and World War II to a prosperous future", said FDR's biographer Jean Edward Smith in 2007, "He lifted himself from a wheelchair to lift the nation from its knees."
Both during and after his terms, critics of Roosevelt questioned not only his policies and positions, but even more so the consolidation of power in the White House at a time when dictators were taking over Europe and Asia. Many of the New Deal programs were abolished during the war by FDR's opponents. The powerful new wartime agencies were set up to be temporary and expire at war's end.
Roosevelt's home in Hyde Park is now a National Historic Site and home to his Presidential library. His retreat at Warm Springs, Georgia is a museum operated by the state of Georgia. His summer retreat on Campobello Island is maintained by the governments of both Canada and the United States as Roosevelt Campobello International Park; the island is accessible by way of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge.
Washington D.C. hosts two memorials to the former president. The largest, the 7.50-acre Roosevelt Memorial, is located next to the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin. A much more modest memorial, a block of marble in front of the National Archives building, was erected in 1955 and adheres to President Roosevelt's explicit suggestion as to what his memorial should be.
Three public sculptures of Roosevelt sitting in a wheelchair are known to exist. Two are at the Roosevelt Memorial, one of FDR sitting in a chair with small wheels – mostly obscured by his cape, another of FDR in a wheelchair at the entrance to the memorial; a third statue, unveiled in April 2008, is part of the "Paseo de los Presidentes" on the south side of Puerto Rico's Capitol Building, which honors the nine presidents who have visited the US territory while in office. Another statue is installed at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island.
Roosevelt's leadership in the March of Dimes is one reason he is commemorated on the American Dime.
Many parks and schools, as well as an aircraft carrier and a Paris subway station and hundreds of streets and squares both across the U.S. and the rest of the world have been named in his honor.
Roosevelt was a strong supporter of scouting, beginning in 1915.
Roosevelt was honored by the United States Postal Service with a Prominent Americans series 6¢ postage stamp, issue of 1966. He also appears on several other U.S. Postage stamps. Roosevelt was a devoted philatelist from the age of ten, spending some time almost every day with his collection of 1.25 million stamps. As president government agencies sent Roosevelt unusual stamps they received in the mail, and the hobby gave him an unusually thorough knowledge of world geography which benefited him during the war. After his death the collection was sold for $250,000. Among the items was a group of envelopes Roosevelt saved that he received as president; those with compliments were addressed "To the Greatest Man in the World" and "God's Gift to the U.S.A.", while less favorable letters arrived in envelopes labeled "F.D. Russianvelt, President of U.S.A., C.I.O.", "Benedict Arnold 2nd", and "Rattlesnake Roosevelt".
The airport of the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatius is named F.D. Roosevelt Airport after Roosevelt, whose ancestors lived on the island in the 18th century. Most of the arms and supplies for General Washington's fight against the British came to North America through St. Eustatius. When in the port of the island in 1939, Roosevelt presented the inhabitants with a plaque commemorating that in 1776 "Here the sovereignty of the United States of America was first formally acknowledged to a national vessel by a foreign official", the famous "First Salute". The plaque hangs on the flag pole of the island's Fort Oranje.