Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt

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The presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt began on March 4, 1933, when he was inaugurated as the 32nd President of the United States, and ended upon his death on April 12, 1945, a span of 12 years, 39 days (4,422 days).[a] Roosevelt assumed the presidency in the midst of the Great Depression. Starting with his landslide victory over Republican President Herbert Hoover in the 1932 election, he would go on to win a record four presidential terms, and became a central figure in world affairs during World War II. His program for relief, recovery and reform, known as the New Deal, involved a great expansion of the role of the federal government in the economy. Under his steady leadership, the Democratic Party built a "New Deal Coalition" of labor unions, big city machines, white ethnics, African Americans, and rural white Southerners, that would significantly realign American politics for the next several decades in the Fifth Party System and also define modern American liberalism.

During his first hundred days in office, Roosevelt spearheaded unprecedented major legislation and issued a profusion of executive orders that instituted the New Deal—a variety of programs designed to produce relief (government jobs for the unemployed), recovery (economic growth), and reform (through regulation of Wall Street, banks and transportation). He created numerous programs to support the unemployed and farmers, and to encourage labor union growth while more closely regulating business and high finance. The repeal of Prohibition in 1933 added to his popularity, helping him win re-election by a landslide in 1936. The economy improved rapidly from 1933 to 1937, but then relapsed into a deep recession in 1937–38. The bipartisan Conservative Coalition that formed in 1937 prevented his attempted packing of the Supreme Court, and blocked most of his legislative proposals, aside from the Fair Labor Standards Act. When the war began and unemployment largely became a non-issue, conservatives in Congress repealed the two major relief programs, the WPA and CCC, but kept most of the regulations on business. Along with several smaller programs, major surviving programs from the New Deal include the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Wagner Act, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Social Security.

A potential worldwide war loomed after 1937, with the Japanese invasion of China and the aggression of Nazi Germany, which invaded Poland in September 1939. Roosevelt remained officially neutral but gave strong diplomatic and financial support to China, the United Kingdom, Free France, and the Soviet Union via initiatives such as the Lend-Lease programs. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt sought and obtained a declaration of war upon Japan. A few days later, he sought and obtained a declaration of war upon the other major Axis powers, Germany and Italy. Assisted by his top aide Harry Hopkins, and with very strong national support, he worked closely with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in leading the Allies during World War II. He supervised the mobilization of the U.S. economy to support the war effort, and the war saw the end of the massive unemployment that characterized the Great Depression. Roosevelt sought to desegregate the federal workforce with the Fair Employment Practice Committee, but he also controversially ordered the internment of 100,000 Japanese American civilians. As an active military leader, Roosevelt implemented a war strategy on two fronts that ended in the defeat of the Axis Powers and the development of the world's first nuclear bomb. Though he died months before the end of the war, his work on the post-war order shaped the new United Nations and the Bretton Woods international financial system. Roosevelt's health seriously declined during the war years, and he died three months into his fourth term. He was succeeded by Vice President Harry S. Truman. It was on Roosevelt's watch that the Democratic Party was returned to dominance, prosperity returned, and two great military enemies were destroyed.

Scholars, historians and the public typically rank Roosevelt alongside Abraham Lincoln and George Washington as one of the three greatest U.S. Presidents.


Election of 1932

With the economy ailing after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, many Democrats hoped that the 1932 elections would see the election of the first Democratic president since Woodrow Wilson, who left office in 1921. Roosevelt's 1930 gubernatorial re-election victory established him as the front-runner for the 1932 Democratic presidential nomination. With the help of allies such as Louis Howe, James Farley, and Edward M. House, Roosevelt rallied the progressive supporters of the Wilson while also appealing to many conservatives, establishing himself as the leading candidate in the South and West. The chief opposition to Roosevelt's candidacy came from Northeastern conservatives such as Al Smith, the 1928 Democratic presidential nominee. Smith hoped to deny Roosevelt the two-thirds support necessary to win the party's presidential nomination 1932 Democratic National Convention, and then emerge as the nominee after multiple rounds of balloting. Roosevelt entered the convention with a delegate lead due to his success in the 1932 Democratic primaries, but most delegates entered the convention unbound to any particular candidate. On the first presidential ballot of the convention, Roosevelt received the votes of more than half but less than two-thirds of the delegates, with Smith finishing in a distant second place. Speaker of the House John Nance Garner, who controlled the votes of Texas and California, threw his support behind Roosevelt after the third ballot, and Roosevelt clinched the nomination on the fourth ballot. With little input from Roosevelt, Garner won the vice presidential nomination. Roosevelt flew in from New York after learning that he had won the nomination, becoming the first major party presidential nominee to accept the nomination in person.[1]

1932 electoral vote results

In the general election, Roosevelt faced incumbent Republican President Herbert Hoover. Engaging in a cross-country campaign, Roosevelt promised to increase the federal government's role in the economy and to lower the tariff as part of a "New Deal." Hoover argued that the economic collapse had chiefly been the product of international disturbances, and he accused Roosevelt of promoting class conflict with his novel economic policies. Already unpopular due to the bad economy, Hoover's re-election hopes were further hampered by the Bonus March 1932, which ended with the violent dispersal of thousands of protesting veterans. Roosevelt won 472 of the 531 electoral votes and 57.4% of the popular vote, making him the first Democratic presidential nominee since the Civil War to win a majority of the popular vote. In the concurrent Congressional elections, the Democrats took control of the Senate and built upon their majority in the House. The election marked the end of the Fourth Party System, during which time Republicans had generally dominated national elections.[2][3]


The Roosevelt Cabinet
Office Name Term
President Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933–1945
Vice President John Nance Garner 1933–1941
Henry Agard Wallace 1941–1945
Harry S. Truman 1945
Secretary of State Cordell Hull 1933–1944
Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. 1944–1945
Secretary of Treasury William H. Woodin 1933–1934
Henry Morgenthau, Jr. 1934–1945
Secretary of War George H. Dern 1933–1936
Harry H. Woodring 1936–1940
Henry L. Stimson 1940–1945
Attorney General Homer S. Cummings 1933–1939
Frank Murphy 1939–1940
Robert H. Jackson 1940–1941
Francis B. Biddle 1941–1945
Postmaster General James A. Farley 1933–1940
Frank C. Walker 1940–1945
Secretary of the Navy Claude A. Swanson 1933–1939
Charles Edison 1940
Frank Knox 1940–1944
James V. Forrestal 1944–1945
Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes 1933–1945
Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace 1933–1940
Claude R. Wickard 1940–1945
Secretary of Commerce Daniel C. Roper 1933–1938
Harry L. Hopkins 1939–1940
Jesse H. Jones 1940–1945
Henry A. Wallace 1945
Secretary of Labor Frances C. Perkins 1933–1945

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 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 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 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.[4]

For his first Secretary of State, Roosevelt selected Cordell Hull, a prominent Tennessean who had served in the House and Senate. Though Hull had not distinguished himself as a foreign policy expert, he was a long-time advocate of tariff reduction, was respected by his Senate colleagues, and did not hold ambitions for the presidency. Roosevelt's inaugural cabinet included several influential Republicans, including Secretary of the Treasury William H. Woodin, a well-connected industrialist who was personally close to Roosevelt, Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, a progressive Republican who would play an important role in the New Deal, and Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace, who had advised the Roosevelt campaign on farm policies. Roosevelt also appointed the first female Cabinet member, Secretary of Labor Frances C. Perkins. Farley became Postmaster General, while Howe became Roosevelt's personal secretary until his death in 1936.[5] The selections of Hull, Woodin, and Secretary of Commerce Daniel C. Roper reassured the business community, while Wallace, Perkins, and Ickes appealed to Roosevelt's left-wing supporters.[6] Most of Roosevelt's cabinet selections would remain in place until 1936, but ill health forced Woodin to resign in 1934, and he was succeeded by Henry Morgenthau Jr.[7]

Roosevelt was the first president to have more than two vice presidents. Former Speaker of the House John Nance Garner of Texas, his first vice president, was added to the ticket as part of a deal at the 1932 Democratic National Convention which clinched the presidential nomination for Roosevelt.[8] Garner and Postmaster General James Farley tried to challenge Roosevelt for the presidential nomination at the 1940 Democratic National Convention, but Roosevelt won the nomination and chose Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace as his running mate.[8] Wallace was unpopular among many Democrats, who successfully replaced Wallace with Senator Harry S. Truman of Missouri at the 1944 Democratic National Convention. Truman would succeed Roosevelt as president after Roosevelt's death in April 1945.[9]

Judicial appointments

Supreme Court appointments

Supreme Court Appointments by President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Position Name Term
Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone 1941–1946
Associate Justice Hugo Black 1937–1971
Stanley Forman Reed 1938–1957
Felix Frankfurter 1939–1962
William O. Douglas 1939–1975
Frank Murphy 1940–1949
James F. Byrnes 1941–1942
Robert H. Jackson 1941–1954
Wiley Blount Rutledge 1943–1949

After four years of increasingly bitter battles between the White House and the Supreme Court, Roosevelt finally had his opportunity to appoint his own people starting in 1937.[10] Even before the appointments, the Court started moving left, as exemplified by Justice Owen J. Roberts who in 1937 made "a switch in time saved nine." From then on, Roosevelt had little risk of major Court reversals of his policies.[11] Roosevelt's appointees upheld his policies,[12] but often disagreed in other areas, especially after Roosevelt's death.[13] William O. Douglas and Hugo Black served until the 1970s and joined or wrote many of the major decisions of the Warren Court, while Robert H. Jackson and Felix Frankfurter advocated judicial restraint and deference to elected officials.[14][15]

Felix Frankfurter for years had the ear of the president, especially in terms of highly talented young appointees, so his own appointment to the court was not a surprise.[16] FDR's decision to appoint Douglas was influenced by journalist Arthur Krock and adviser Thomas G. Corcoran, as well as Roosevelt's desire to appoint a Westerner.[17]

Other judicial nominees

Roosevelt made 51 appointments to the United States courts of appeals and 134 appointments to the United States district courts. He made more appointments to either court than any of his predecessors.

First and second terms (1933–41)

First New Deal, 1933–34

Outgoing president Hoover and Roosevelt on Inauguration Day, 1933

When Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933, the economy had hit bottom. In the midst of the Great Depression, a quarter of the American workforce was unemployed, two million people were homeless, and industrial production had fallen by more than half since 1929.[18] By the evening of March 4, 32 of the 48 states – as well as the District of Columbia – had closed their banks.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21]

Historians categorize Roosevelt's program to address the Great Depression into three categories: "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.[22] 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.[23]

Banking reform

Banking reform was perhaps the single most urgent task facing the newly inaugurated Roosevelt administration. Thousands of banks had failed or were on the verge of failing, and panicked depositors sought to remove their savings from banks for fear that they would lose their deposits after a bank failure. In the months after Roosevelt's election, several governors declared bank holidays, temporarily closing banks so that their deposits could not be withdrawn. On March 5, Roosevelt declared a federal bank holiday, closing every bank in the nation. Though some questioned Roosevelt's constitutional authority to declare a bank holiday, his action received little immediate political resistance in light of the severity of the crisis.[24]

He called for a special session of Congress to start March 9, at which Congress quickly passed the Emergency Banking Act. Drafted by the Roosevelt administration, the bill received little opposition in Congress and was passed before the end of Congress's first day of session. Rather than nationalizing the financial industry, as some radicals hoped and many conservatives feared, the bill used federal assistance to stabilize privately owned banks.[25] The ensuing "First 100 Days" of the 73rd United States Congress saw an unprecedented amount of legislation[26] and set a benchmark against which future presidents would be compared.[27] When the banks reopened on Monday, March 15, stock prices rose by 15 percent and bank deposits exceeded withdrawals, thus ending the bank panic.[28]

In another measure designed to give Americans confidence in the financial system, Congress enacted the Glass–Steagall Act, which curbed speculation by limiting the investments commercial banks could make and ending affiliations between commercial banks and securities firms.[29] Depositors in open banks received insurance coverage from the new Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), while depositors in permanently closed banks were eventually repaid 85 cents on the dollar. Roosevelt himself was dubious about insuring bank deposits, saying, "We do not wish to make the United States Government liable for the mistakes and errors of individual banks, and put a premium on unsound banking in the future." But public support was overwhelmingly in favor, and the number of bank failures dropped to near zero.[30]

Relief for unemployed

Relief for the unemployed was a major priority for the New Deal, and Roosevelt copied the programs he had initiated as governor of New York.[31][32] FERA, the largest program from 1933 to 1935, involved giving money to localities to operate work relief projects to employ those on direct relief. FERA was led by Harry Hopkins, who had helmed a similar program under Roosevelt in New York.[33] Another agency, the Public Works Administration (PWA), was created to fund infrastructure projects, and was led by Harold Ickes.[34] Seeking to increase the federal role in providing work relief, Hopkins successfully pushed for the creation of the Civil Works Administration (CWA), which would provide employment for anyone who was unemployed. In less than four months, the CWA hired four million people, and during its five months of operation, the CWA built and repaired 200 swimming pools, 3,700 playgrounds, 40,000 schools, 250,000 miles (400,000 km) of road, and 12 million feet of sewer pipe.[35] The CWA was widely popular, but Roosevelt canceled it in March 1934 due to cost concerns and the fear of establishing a precedent that the government would serve as a permanent employer of last resort.[36]

Poster by Albert M. Bender, Illinois WPA Art Project Chicago (1935)

The most popular of all New Deal agencies – and Roosevelt's favorite– was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).[37] The CCC hired 250,000 unemployed young men to work for six months on rural projects. It was directed by Robert Fechner, a former union executive who promised labor unions that the enrolees would not be trained in skills that would compete with unemployed union members. Instead, they did unskilled construction labor, building roads and recreational facilities in state and national parks. Each CCC camp was administered by a U.S. Army reserve officer. Food, supplies, and medical services were purchased locally. The young men who worked at CCC camps were paid a dollar a day, most of which went to their parents. Blacks were enrolled in their own camps, and the CCC operated an entirely separate division for Indians.[38]


Roosevelt made agricultural needs a high priority,[39] and he kept in close touch with national and state leaders of farm organizations. Leadership of the farm programs of the New Deal lay with Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace, a dynamic, intellectual reformer.[40][41] The persistent farm crisis of the 1920s was further exacerbated by the onset of the Great Depression, and foreclosures were common among debt-ridden farms.[42] In the 1930s, Midwestern farmers would additionally have to contend with a series of severe dust storms known as the Dust Bowl, provoking migration from the affected regions.[43]

The 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act created the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). The act reflected the demands of leaders of major farm organizations, especially the Farm Bureau, and reflected debates among Roosevelt's farm advisers such as Wallace, M.L. Wilson, Rexford Tugwell, and George Peek.[44] The aim of the AAA was to raise prices for commodities through artificial scarcity. The AAA used a system of "domestic allotments", setting total output of corn, cotton, dairy products, hogs, rice, tobacco, and wheat. The farmers themselves had a voice in the process of using government to benefit their incomes. The AAA paid land owners subsidies for leaving some of their land idle; funding for the subsidies was provided by a new tax on food processing. The goal was to force up farm prices to the point of "parity", an index based on 1910–1914 prices. To meet 1933 goals, 10 million acres (40,000 km2) of growing cotton was plowed up, bountiful crops were left to rot, and six million piglets were killed and discarded.[45] Farm incomes increased significantly in the first three years of the New Deal, as prices for commodities rose.[46] However, some tenants and sharecroppers suffered under the new system, as some landowners pocketed the federal subsidies distributed for keeping lands fallow.[47]

A migrant farm family in California, March 1935. Photo by Dorothea Lange.

The AAA established a long-lasting federal role in the planning of the entire agricultural sector of the economy, and was the first program on such a scale on behalf of the troubled agricultural economy.[48] In 1936, the Supreme Court declared the AAA to be unconstitutional for technical reasons. With the passage of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, the AAA was replaced by a similar program that did win Court approval. Instead of paying farmers for letting fields lie barren, the new program subsidized them for planting soil enriching hay crops such as alfalfa that would not be sold on the market. Federal regulation of agricultural production has been modified many times since then, but together with large subsidies the basic philosophy of subsidizing farmers remains in effect.[49]

Rural relief

Modern methods had not reached the backwoods such as Wilder, Tennessee (Tennessee Valley Authority, 1942)

Many rural people lived in severe poverty, especially in the South. Agencies such as the Resettlement Administration and its successor, the Farm Security Administration (FSA), represented the first national programs to help migrants and marginal farmers, whose plight gained national attention through the 1939 novel and film The Grapes of Wrath. New Deal leaders resisted demands of the poor for loans to buy farms, as many leaders thought that there were already too many farmers.[50] The Roosevelt administration made a major effort to upgrade the health facilities available to a sickly population.[51] The Farm Credit Administration refinanced many mortgages, reducing the number of displaced farming families.[52] In 1935, the administration created the Rural Electrification Administration, a work-relief program which built electric lines in rural areas.[53] Roosevelt appointed John Collier to lead the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Collier presided over a shift in policy towards Native Americans that de-emphasized cultural assimilation.[54] Native Americans worked in the CCC and other New Deal programs, including the newly formed Soil Conservation Service.[55]

In 1933, the administration launched the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a project involving dam construction planning on an unprecedented scale in order to curb flooding, generate electricity, and modernize the very poor farms in the Tennessee Valley region of the Southern United States.[56][57] Under the leadership of Arthur Ernest Morgan, the TVA built planned communities such as Norris, Tennessee that were designed to serve as models of cooperative, egalitarian living. Though the more ambitious experiments of the TVA generally failed to take hold, by 1940, the TVA had become the largest producer of electric power in the country.[58]


Reform of the economic waste was the goal of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933, which established both the PWA and the National Recovery Administration (NRA).[59] The Roosevelt launched the NRA as one of the two major programs designed to restore economic prosperity, along with the AAA.[60] The NRA 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, minimum wages, agreements not to compete, and production restrictions. Industry leaders negotiated the codes which were approved by NIRA officials. Other provisions encouraged the formation of unions and suspended anti-trust laws.[61]

Roosevelt appointed former General Hugh S. Johnson as the first head of the NRA. The NRA won the pledges of two million businesses to create and follow NRA codes, and Blue Eagle symbols, which indicated that a company cooperated with the NRA, became ubiquitous.[62] The NRA targeted ten essential industries deemed crucial to an economic recovery, starting with textile industry and next turning to coal, oil, steel, automobiles, and lumber. Though unwilling to dictate the codes to industries, the administration pressured companies to agree to the codes and urged consumers to purchase products from companies in compliance with the codes.[61] As each NRA code was unique to a specific industry, NRA negotiators held a great deal of sway in setting the details of the codes. Many NRA negotiators had been successful businessmen, and many of the codes favored managers over workers.[63] The NRA became increasingly unpopular among the general public due to its micromanagement, and many within the administration began to view it as ineffective.[64] The Supreme Court found the NRA to be unconstitutional by unanimous decision in May 1935.[65]

Fiscal policy

U.S. federal government revenues and expenditures during the 1930s

Roosevelt argued that the emergency spending programs for relief were temporary, and he rejected the deficit spending proposed by economists such as John Maynard Keynes.[66] He kept his campaign promise to cut the regular federal budget — including a reduction in military spending from $752 million in 1932 to $531 million in 1934. He made 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. The veterans were well organized and strongly protested, and most benefits were restored or increased by 1934.[67] In June 1933, Roosevelt restored $50 million in pension payments, and Congress added another $46 million more.[68] 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.[69][70] The Bonus Act pumped sums equal to 2% of the GDP into the consumer economy and had a major stimulus effect.[71] Government spending increased from 8.0% of gross national product (GNP) under Hoover in 1932 to 10.2% of the GNP in 1936.[72]

Securities regulation

The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 established the independent Securities and Exchange Commission to end irresponsible market manipulations, and dissemination of false information about securities.[73] Roosevelt named Joseph P. Kennedy, a famously successful speculator himself, to head the SEC and clean up Wall Street. Kennedy appointed a hard-driving team with a mission for reform that included William O. Douglas, and Abe Fortas, both of whom were later named to the U.S. Supreme Court.[74] The SEC had four missions. First and most important was to restore investor confidence in the securities market, which had practically collapsed because of doubts about its internal integrity, and the external threats supposedly posed by anti-business elements in the Roosevelt administration. Second, in terms of integrity, the SEC had to get rid of the penny ante swindles based on false information, fraudulent devices, and unsound get-rich-quick schemes. Thirdly, and much more important than the frauds, the SEC had to end the million-dollar insider maneuvers in major corporations, whereby insiders with access information about the condition of the company knew when to buy or sell their own securities. Finally, the SEC had to set up a complex system of registration for all securities sold in America, with a clear-cut set of rules and guidelines that everyone had to follow. The SEC succeeded in its four missions, and Kennedy reassured the American business community that they would no longer be deceived and tricked and taken advantage of by Wall Street.[75]

As part of the first hundred days, Roosevelt fostered the passage of the Securities Act of 1933. The act expanded the powers of the Federal Trade Commission and required companies issuing securities to disclose information regarding the securities they issued.[76] Another major securities law, the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, broke up large public utility holding companies. The law arose from concerns that the holding companies had used elaborate measures to extract profits from subsidiary utility companies while taking advantage of customers.[77]

Ending prohibition

Roosevelt had generally avoided the Prohibition issue, but when his party and the general public swung against Prohibition in 1932, he campaigned for repeal. During the Hundred Days he signed the Cullen–Harrison Act redefining weak beer (3.2% alcohol) as the maximum allowed. The 21st Amendment was ratified later that year; he was not involved in the amendment but was given much of the credit. The repeal of prohibition brought in new tax revenues to federal, state and local governments and helped Roosevelt keep a campaign promise that attracted widespread popular support. It also weakened the big-city criminal gangs that had profited heavily from illegal liquor sales.[78]


The New Deal approach to education was a radical departure from previous practices. It was specifically designed for the poor and staffed largely by women on relief. It was not based on professionalism, nor was it designed by experts. Instead it was premised on the anti-elitist notion that a good teacher does not need paper credentials, that learning does not need a formal classroom and that the highest priority should go to the bottom tier of society. Leaders in the public schools were shocked: they were shut out as consultants and as recipients of New Deal funding. They desperately needed cash to cover the local and state revenues that it disappeared during the depression, they were well organized, and made repeated concerted efforts in 1934, 1937, and 1939, all to no avail. The federal government had a highly professional Office of Education; Roosevelt cut its budget and staff, and refused to consult with its leader John Ward Studebaker.[79] The CCC programs were deliberately designed not teach skills that would put them in competition with unemployed union members. The CCC did have its own classes. They were voluntary, took place after work, and focused on teaching basic literacy to young men who had quit school before high school.[80]

The relief programs did offer indirect help to public schools. The CWA and FERA focused on hiring unemployed people on relief, and putting them to work on public buildings, including public schools. It built or upgraded 40,000 schools, plus thousands of playgrounds and athletic fields. It gave jobs to 50,000 teachers to keep rural schools open and to teach adult education classes in the cities. It gave a temporary jobs to unemployed teachers in cities like Boston.[81][82] Although the New Deal refused to give money to impoverished school districts, it did give money to impoverished high school and college students. The CWA used "work study" programs to fund students, both male and female.[83]

The National Youth Administration (NYA), a semi-autonomous branch of the WPA under Aubrey Williams developed apprenticeship programs and residential camps specializing in teaching vocational skills. It was one of the first agencies to set up a “Division of Negro Affairs" and make an explicit effort to enroll black students. Williams believed that the traditional high school curricula had failed to meet the needs of the poorest youth. In opposition, the well-established National Education Association (NEA) saw NYA as a dangerous challenge to local control of education NYA expanded Work-study money to reach up to 500,000 students per month in high schools, colleges, and graduate schools. The average pay was $15 a month.[84][85] However, in line with the anti-elitist policy, the NYA set up its own high schools, entirely separate from the public school system or academic schools of education.[86][87] Despite appeals from Ickes and Eleanor Roosevelt, Howard University–the federally operated school for blacks—saw its budget cut below Hoover administration levels.[88]

Second New Deal, 1935–36

Social Security

Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into law, August 14, 1935.

The United States had been the only modern industrial country where people faced the Depression without any national system of social security, though a handful of states had old age insurance laws.[89] The federal government had provided pensions to veterans in the aftermath of the Civil War and other wars, and some states had established voluntary old-age pension systems, but otherwise the United States had little experience with social insurance programs.[90] Physician Francis Townsend galvanized support for his pension proposal, which called for the federal government to issue direct $200-a-month payments to the elderly. Roosevelt viewed this proposal as fiscally unsound, and in 1934 he appointed a commission to study alternative social insurance measures.[91]

After the 1934 Congressional elections, which gave Democrats large majorities in both houses, the Roosevelt administration introduced a second wave of New Deal legislation. Roosevelt proposed a government pension system that covered individuals regardless of that individual's wealth.[92] Job categories that were not covered by the act included workers in agricultural labor, domestic service, government employees, and many teachers, nurses, hospital employees, librarians, and social workers.[93] During the congressional debate over Social Security, the program was expanded to provide payments to widows and dependents of Social Security recipients.[94] Roosevelt insisted that the program have its own funding system, and the program was funded through a newly established a payroll tax which later became known as the Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (FICA tax). The FICA tax would be collected from employers by the states, with employers and employees contributing equally to the tax.[92] Compared with the social security systems in western European countries, the Social Security Act of 1935 was rather conservative. But for the first time the federal government took responsibility for the economic security of the aged, the temporarily unemployed, dependent children and the handicapped.[95]

The decision was made by Roosevelt not to include a large-scale health insurance program. The problem was not an attack by any organized opposition, such as the opposition from the American Medical Association that derailed Truman's proposals in 1949. Instead, there was a lack of active popular, congressional, or interest group support. Roosevelt's strategy was to wait for a demand and a program to materialize, and then if he thought it popular enough to throw his support behind it. His Committee on Economic Security (CES) deliberately limited the health segment of Social Security to the expansion of medical care and facilities. Roosevelt assured the medical community that medicine would be kept out of politics. Jaap Kooijman writes that Roosevelt succeeded in "pacifying the opponents without discouraging the reformers." During World War II, a group of Congressmen introduced the Wagner-Murray-Dingell Bill, which would provide federally funded universal health care. Roosevelt never endorsed it and with the Conservative Coalition in control it had no chance. Health insurance was proposed in Truman's Fair Deal, but it was defeated.[96][97]


Roosevelt expanded unemployment relief through the establishment of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).[98] The WPA financed a variety of projects such as hospitals, schools, and roads, and employed more than 8.5 million workers who built 650,000 miles of highways and roads, 125,000 public buildings, as well as bridges, reservoirs, irrigation systems, and other projects.[99] Ickes's PWA continued to function, but the WPA became the primary New Deal work relief program,[100] and FERA was discontinued.[101] Though nominally charged only with undertaking construction projects that cost over $25,000, the WPA provided grants for other programs, such as the Federal Writers' Project.[102] \\

One semi-autonomous unit was the National Youth Administration (NYA). The NYA worked closely with high schools and colleges to set up work-study programs, and even operated its own coeducational high schools, reaching 400,000 students.[103][104]

The CWA, WPA, and CCC typically favored collaboration with local government, which often provided the plans and the site, as well as the heavy equipment, while the federal government provided the labor. Building new recreational facilities in public parks fit the model, and tens of thousands of recreation and sports facilities were built in both rural and urban areas. These projects had the main goal of providing jobs for the unemployed, but they also played to a widespread demand at the time for bodily fitness and the need of recreation in a healthy society. Roosevelt was a strong supporter of the recreation and sports dimension of his programs. The WPA spent $941 million on recreational facilities. including 5900 athletic fields and playgrounds, 770 swimming pools 1700 parks and 8300 recreational buildings. WPA spent an additional $229 million on sports and recreational staff workers.[105][106]

National Labor Relations Act

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935, also known as the Wagner Act, guaranteed workers the rights to collective bargaining through unions of their own choice. The act also established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to facilitate wage agreements and to suppress the repeated labor disturbances. The Wagner Act did not compel employers to reach agreement with their employees, but it opened possibilities for American labor.[107] The result was a tremendous growth of membership in the labor unions, especially in the mass-production sector.[108] When the Flint sit-down strike threatened the production of General Motors, Roosevelt broke with the precedent set by many former presidents and refused to intervene; the strike ultimately led to the unionization of both General Motors and its rivals in the American automobile industry.[109]

Supreme Court fight

The Supreme Court became Roosevelt's primary domestic focus during his second term after the court overturned many of his programs, including NIRA. The more conservative members of the court upheld the principles of the Lochner era, which saw numerous economic regulations struck down on the basis of freedom of contract.[110] Roosevelt proposed the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, which would have allowed him to appoint an additional Justice for each incumbent Justice over the age of 70; in 1937, there were six Supreme Court Justices over the age of 70. The size of the Court had been set at nine since the passage of the Judiciary Act of 1869, and Congress had altered the number of Justices six other times throughout U.S. history.[111] Roosevelt's "court packing" plan ran into intense political opposition from his own party, led by Vice President Garner, since it upset the separation of powers.[112] A bipartisan coalition of liberals and conservatives of both parties opposed the bill, and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes broke with precedent by publicly advocating defeat of the bill. Any chance of passing the bill ended with the death of Senate Majority Leader Joseph Taylor Robinson in July 1937, after Roosevelt had expended crucial political capital on the failed bill.[113] The Court packing fight had cost him the support of some liberals, such as Montana Senator Burton K. Wheeler[114] and commentator Walter Lippmann.[115]

Starting with the 1937 case of West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, the court began to take a more favorable view of economic regulations. By 1941, eight of the nine Justices were Roosevelt appointees. Of the justices on the court when Roosevelt took office, only Owen Roberts and Harlan Fiske Stone (who Roosevelt elevated to Chief Justice) would outlast Roosevelt.[116] After Parish, the Court shifted its focus from judicial review of economic regulations to the protection of civil liberties.[117]

Second term legislation

Unemployment rate in the U.S. 1910–60, with the years of the Great Depression (1929–39) highlighted; counts people with WPA & CCC jobs as "unemployed."

With Roosevelt's influence on the wane following the failure of the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, conservative Democrats joined with Republicans to block the implementation of further New Deal regulatory programs.[118] Roosevelt did manage to pass some legislation as long as it had enough Republican support. The Housing Act of 1937 built 270,000 public housing units by 1939 before shift to preparations for war. The second Agricultural Adjustment Act had bipartisan support from the farm lobby.[119] The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, which was the last major piece of New Deal legislation. The FLSA outlawed child labor, established a federal minimum wage, and required overtime pay for certain employees who work in excess of forty-hours per week.[120] It had support from some Northern Republicans worried about the competition from low-wage Southern factories.[121]

GDP annual pattern and long-term trend, 1920–40, in billions of constant dollars[122]

Recession of 1937–38

The stock market suffered a major drop in 1937, marking the start of an economic downturn within the Great Depression known as the Recession of 1937–38. Influenced by economists such as Keynes, Marriner Stoddard Eccles, and William Trufant Foster, Roosevelt abandoned his fiscally conservative positions in favor of economic stimulus funding. By increasing government spending, Roosevelt hoped to increase consumption, which in turn would allow private employers to hire more workers and drive down the unemployment rate. In mid-1938, Roosevelt authorized new loans to private industry by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and he won congressional approval for over $4 billion in appropriations for the WPA, the FSA, the PWA, and other programs.[123]


In 1936, Roosevelt appointed the Brownlow Committee to recommend changes to the structure of the executive branch.[124] The Brownlow Committee warned that the agencies had grown increasingly powerful and independent, and proposed reforms designed to tighten the president's control over these agencies. The committee proposed a plan to consolidate over 100 agencies into 12 departments and allowed the president to appoint several assistants. After winning the approval of Congress, Roosevelt signed the Reorganization Act of 1939. Roosevelt then established the Executive Office of the President, which increased the president's control over the executive branch. Roosevelt combined several government public works and welfare agencies into the Federal Works Agency and the Federal Security Agency. He also transferred the powerful Bureau of the Budget from the Treasury Department to the Executive Office of the President.[125] The new law also made possible in 1940, the Office of Emergency Management, which enabled the immediate creation of numerous wartime agencies. The reorganization is best known for allowing the President to appoint numerous assistants and advisers. Those who built a network of support in Congress became virtually independent "czars" in their specialized domains.[126]

Conservation and the environment

Roosevelt had a lifelong interest in the environment and conservation starting with his youthful interest in forestry on his family estate. Although FDR was never an outdoorsman or sportsman on TR's scale, his growth of the national systems were comparable. FDR created 140 national wildlife refuges (especially for birds) and established 29 national forests and 29 national parks and monuments.[127][128] His favorite agency, the CCC, expended most of its effort on environmental projects. In the dozen years after its creation, the CCC built 13,000 miles of trails, planted two billion trees, and upgraded 125,000 miles of dirt roads. Every state had its own state parks, and Roosevelt made sure that WPA and CCC projects were set up to upgrade them as well as the national systems.[129][130] Roosevelt was particularly supportive of water management projects, which could provide hydroelectricity, improve river navigation, and supply water for irrigation. His administration initiated the construction of numerous dams located in the South and the West. } Although proposals to replicate the Tennessee Valley Authority in the Pacific Northwest were not acted upon, the administration completed the All-American Canal and launched the Central Valley Project, both of which irrigated dramatically increased agricultural production in California's Central Valley. Roosevelt also presided over the establishment of conservation programs and laws such as the Soil Conservation Service, the Great Plains Shelterbelt, and the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934.[131]

Throughout his first two terms there was a fierce turf battle over control of the United States Forest Service, which Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace insisted on keeping, but Interior Secretary Harold Ickes wanted so he could merge it with the National Park Service. The Brownlow Committee report on administrative management convinced Roosevelt to propose the creation of a new Department of Conservation to replace the Department of the Interior; the new department that would include the Forest Service. For Ickes, the land itself had a higher purpose than mere human usage; Wallace wanted the optimum economic productivity of public lands Both Interior and Agriculture had very strong supporters in Congress, and Roosevelt's plan went nowhere. The status quo triumphed.[132][133]


First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

Women received symbolic recognition but there was no effort to deal with their special needs. In relief programs, they were eligible for jobs only if they were the breadwinner in the family. During the 1930s there was a strong national consensus that in times of job shortages, it was wrong for the government to employ both a husband and his wife.[134] Nevertheless, relief agencies did find jobs for women, and the WPA employed about 500,000. The largest number, 295,000, worked on sewing projects, producing 300 million items of clothing and mattresses for people on relief and for public institutions such as orphanages. Many other women worked in school lunch programs.[135][136][137] Between 1929 and 1939, the percentage of female government employees increased from 14.3 percent to 18.8 percent, and women made up nearly half of the workforce of the WPA.[138]

Roosevelt appointed more women to office than any previous president, headed by the first woman to the cabinet, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. His wife Eleanor played a highly visible role in support of relief programs. In 1941, Eleanor became co-head of the Office of Civil Defense, the major civil defense agency. She tried to involve women at the local level, but she feuded with her counterpart Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, and had little impact on policy.[139] Historian Alan Brinkley states:

Nor did the New Deal make much more than a symbolic effort to address problems of gender equality....New Deal programs (even those designed by New Deal women) continued most mostly to reflect traditional assumptions about women's roles and made few gestures toward the aspirations of women who sought economic independence and professional opportunities. The interest in individual and group rights that became so central to the postwar liberalism... was faint, and at times almost invisible, within the New Deal itself.[140]

Foreign policy

Roosevelt's first inaugural address contained just one sentence devoted to foreign policy, indicative of the domestic focus of his first term.[141] The main foreign policy initiative of Roosevelt's first term was what he called the Good Neighbor Policy, which continued the move begun by Coolidge and Hoover toward a more non-interventionist policy in Latin America. American forces were withdrawn from Haiti, and new treaties with Cuba and Panama ended their status as 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.[142][143] Aided by the passage of the Reciprocal Tariff Act and the creation of the Export–Import Bank, Roosevelt also pursued closer trade relations with Latin America. Trade between the U.S. and Latin America more than tripled between 1931 and 1941.[144]

The American rejection of the League of Nations treaty in 1919 marked a refusal to use world organizations in American foreign policy. Learning from Wilson's mistakes, Roosevelt and Secretary of State Hull acted with great care not to provoke isolationist sentiment.[145] Roosevelt's "bombshell" message to the London Economic 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.[146] Though Roosevelt favored low tariffs, he was unwilling to accept a fixed exchange-rate system or to reduce European debts incurred during World War I.[147] In 1934, Roosevelt signed the Reciprocal Tariff Act, which allowed the president to negotiate trade reciprocity treaties with other countries. Over the next six years, the U.S. signed agreements with 21 countries, resulting in a significant reduction of tariff levels.[148]

Recognition of Russia

By the late 1920s, the Soviet Union was no longer a pariah in European affairs, and had normal diplomatic and trade relations with most countries. By 1933, old American fears of Communist threats had faded, and the business community, as well as newspaper editors, were calling for diplomatic recognition. Roosevelt was eager for large-scale trade with Russia, and hoped for some repayment on the old tsarist debts. He negotiated with the Soviets, and they promised there would be no espionage so Roosevelt used presidential authority to normalized relations in November 1933.[149] There were few complaints about the move.[150]

There was no progress on the debt issue, however, and the Kremlin set up an active espionage program.[151] Many American businessmen had expected a bonus in terms of large-scale trade, but it never materialized.[152] Historians Justus D. Doenecke and Mark A. Stoler note that, "Both nations were soon disillusioned by the accord."[153] Roosevelt named William Bullitt as ambassador from 1933 to 1936. Bullitt arrived in Moscow with high hopes for Soviet–American relations, his view of the Soviet leadership soured. By the end of his tenure, Bullitt was openly hostile to the Soviet government. He remained an outspoken anti-communist for the rest of his life.[154]

Isolationism grows

The 1930s marked the high point of American isolationism. The country had a long tradition of non-interventionism, but isolationists in the 1930s sought to keep the U.S. out of world affairs to an unprecedented degree. Isolationist sentiment stemmed from a desire to focus on domestic issues, bitterness over World War I and unpaid debts stemming from that war, and a general detachment from, and reluctance to become involved in, the growing crises in East Asia and Europe.[155] 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.[156] Isolationists passed 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.[157] Though he privately opposed them, Roosevelt signed the Neutrality Acts in order to preserve his political capital for his domestic agenda.[158] Isolationists also derailed U.S. accession to the World Court.[159]

Territorial control in the Western Pacific Rim in 1939

War clouds

In 1931, the Empire of Japan invaded the Manchuria, despite historic Chinese claims. It established the puppet state of Manchukuo. The United States and the League of Nations both condemned the invasion, but none of the great powers made any move to evict Japan from the region, and the Japanese appeared poised to further expand their empire. In a direct challenge to the Western power, Japan proclaimed the Amau doctrine, which stated that Japan alone held responsibility for maintaining order in East Asia.[160] In 1933, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came into power in Germany. At first, many in the United States thought of Hitler as a something of a comic figure, but Hitler quickly consolidated his power in Germany and attacked the post-war order established by the Treaty of Versailles. In 1936, Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, though they never coordinated their strategies.[161] Roosevelt saw the threat that both of these rising powers posed, but focused on reviving the U.S. economy during the early part of his presidency.[162] Roosevelt also sought cooperation with Britain in opposition to Germany, but the Neutrality Acts undercut U.S. credibility and relations with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain were particularly bad.[163]

Foreign affairs became a more prominent issue by 1935.[164] Italy, under a fascist regime led by Benito Mussolini, invaded Ethiopia, earning international condemnation.[165] In reaction to the invasion, the U.S. and the League of Nations both sanctioned Italy, to limited effect, as Italy took over all of Ethiopia. The Italians also joined Nazi Germany in supporting General Francisco Franco and the Nationalist right-wing cause in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). American public opinion was split. The Far Left, along with many liberals embraced the faction opposed to Franco, but Catholics and the big city Democratic organizations generally supported the Nationalists. Britain took the lead in organizing a global embargo on arms shipments--one that was flouted by Germany, Italy and the USSR. In January 1937, Roosevelt recommended to Congress a nondiscriminatory arms embargo, and won near-unanimous approval. Dominic Tierney has argued that at this point FDR and the State Department were genuinely neutral. Roosevelt was especially cautious because he feared the Spanish crisis might escalate to a full-scale European war. The embargo might help avert that disaster.[166] By spring 1938, however, Roosevelt was no longer neutral and was considering a plan to sell American warplanes to the Spanish government by secretly using French intermediaries, but nothing came of it.[167] Franco's Nationalists won decisively in early 1939 and he remained in power for four more decades.[168]

Japan invaded China in 1937 and the resulting Nanking Massacre and USS Panay incident both outraged Americans, but isolationist laws blocked arms sales to China. Roosevelt gained world attention with his October 1937 Quarantine Speech, which called for an international "quarantine" against the "epidemic of world lawlessness." He did not at this point seek sanctions against Japan, but he did begin strategic planning to build long-range submarines that could blockade Japan.[169][170][171][172]

The Roosevelts with George VI and Queen Elizabeth, sailing from Washington, D.C., to Mount Vernon on the USS Potomac during the first U.S. visit of a reigning British Monarch (June 9, 1939)

Germany remilitarized the Rhineland in 1936 in defiance of the Versailles Treaty, as Britain and France looked away.[173] Hitler began large-scale re-armament, and quickly built up the Luftwaffe as the world's strongest and most modern air force. In 1938, Germany demanded the annexation of German-speaking parts of Czechoslovakia. In a last desperate effort to keep the peace, Britain and France agreed to German demands at Munich in 1938. Roosevelt supported Britain and France, and insisted on American neutrality in Europe.[174][175][176] He began small-scale efforts to help Jewish refugees escape from Hitler, but American public opinion was strongly opposed to allowing additional immigration, even of refugees.[177]

Roosevelt realized that war was imminent in 1939, after Germany violated the Munich Agreement. He feared that German air power could eventually threaten the United States.[178] He ordered an increase in aircraft production, with a concentration on long-range bombers especially the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.[179] He sought a partial repeal of the Neutrality Acts to aid France and Britain, but as a presumed lame duck, he was unable to win the necessary congressional support. In the spring of 1939, Roosevelt allowed the French to place large 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.[180]

New Deal political coalition

Roosevelt enjoyed support among the traditional Democratic base of Northern Catholics and Southern whites, but his 1936 re-election depended on mobilizing new voters and retaining the votes of those who had been alienated by Hoover.[181] Roosevelt forged a coalition that the Democratic state party organizations, city machines, labor unions, blue collar workers, minorities (racial, ethnic and religious), farmers, white Southerners, people on relief, long-time middle class and business class Democrats, and intellectuals. The New Deal coalition, as it became known, made the Democratic Party the majority party in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s. The American political system that incorporated the coalition and its opposition is characterized by scholars as the Fifth Party System.[182][183] The New Deal coalition had the most dramatic effect in the North, as the Democrats became competitive throughout the region for the first time since the end of the Civil War.[184]

Northern whites

The impact of the Prohibition issue, the Great Depression, the New Deal and World War II on white ethnic groups (mostly Catholics and Jews) was enormous. Political participation was low among the "new" immigrants who arrived after 1890; the established machines did not need their votes. The Depression hit these new immigrants hard, for they had low skill levels and were concentrated in heavy industry. They strongly responded to work relief programs and other aspects of the New Deal, becoming one of the largest and most critical voting blocs in the New Deal coalition. Roosevelt scored large majorities among the main Catholics groups up to 1940. In particular he largely retained the support the Irish, who included most of the ethnic political leaders, despite Al Smith's repudiation of the New Deal.[185]

Roosevelt also won over working class Protestant voters and progressive Republicans. Many of these progressives continued to vote for Republican congressional candidates, but others joined the Democratic Party. In western states like North Dakota, progressive voters defected en masse to the Democratic Party and became influential in the state party organization. At the same time, many conservative, rural voters returned to the Republican Party after 1932, diminishing the influence of conservative Northern Democrats.[186]

African American politics

Roosevelt, aided especially by his wife, Eleanor and his Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, made systematic efforts to transform the African-American political community from a Republican voting bloc into a part of the New Deal coalition. They largely succeeded, and blacks voted increasingly Democratic in the North, as large-scale immigration brought hundreds of thousands of new voters into the northern cities every year. During the war, Roosevelt issued an executive order that theoretically required corporations with government contracts to treat blacks and whites equally. Jobs in munitions factories were very high-paying.[187] The transition to the Democratic party played out in major cities in the North.[188] However, Roosevelt needed the support of the powerful white Southern Democrats for his New Deal programs, and blacks were still disenfranchised in most of the South. He decided against pushing for federal anti-lynching legislation that would make lynching a federal crime. It could not pass over a Southern filibuster and the political fight would threaten his ability to pass his priority programs.[189] He did denounce lynchings as "a vile form of collective murder".[190]

Labor unions

1936 re-election handbill for Roosevelt promoting his economic policy.

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.[191] Roosevelt won large majorities of the union votes, even in 1940 when John L. Lewis of the CIO and the UMW (the coal miners' union) took an isolationist position on Europe, as demanded by far-left union elements. Lewis denounced Roosevelt as a power-hungry war monger, and endorsed Republican Wendell Willkie.[192][193]


Though he put together a powerful new political coalition, Roosevelt also alienated various groups. 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.[194] 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, contributing to Roosevelt's 1936 landslide.[195] Early in Roosevelt's term, many Republicans supported New Deal programs, but as progressives left the party or suffered electoral defeat, they became increasingly unified in opposition to Roosevelt.[196] Roosevelt also drew the opposition of some individuals who had been part of the Progressive Movement in the early 20th century, as many of these former progressives distrusted large government such as the NRA.[197] Another group, led by Huey Long, Father Charles Coughlin, and Francis Townsend, attempted to launch a political party to challenge Roosevelt from the left. They launched a short-lived party known as the Union Party to challenge Roosevelt in 1936, but it quickly collapsed.[198]

Third and fourth terms (1941–45)

The world war dominated the entire period after 1939. Historians have always paid special attention to his very close relationship with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, as well as his distant but highly important relationship with Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator.[199][200] When he was not meeting in person, he exchanged thousands of cables and sometimes made international phone calls; he also relied on personal visits from top aides, especially Harry Hopkins and to a lesser extent W. Averell Harriman.[201][202] As World War II approached, Roosevelt appointed new individuals to key positions. Frank Knox, the 1936 Republican vice presidential nominee, became Secretary of the Navy while former Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson became Secretary of War. Roosevelt began convening a "war cabinet" consisting of Hull, Stimson, Knox, Chief of Naval Operations Harold Rainsford Stark, and Army Chief of Staff George Marshall.[203] In 1942 Roosevelt set up a new military command structure with Admiral Ernest J. King (Stark's successor) as in complete control of the Navy and Marines. Marshall was in charge of the Army and nominally led 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.[204] The Joint Chiefs was a White House agency and was chaired by his old friend Admiral William D. Leahy. When dealing with Europe, the Joint Chiefs met with their British counterparts and formed the Combined Chiefs of Staff.[205][206] Unlike the political leaders of the other major powers, Roosevelt rarely overrode his military advisors.[207] 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 $40 billion in Lend-Lease funds given to the Allies, they paid attention to him.[208]


Up until Pearl Harbor, Congress played a very active role in foreign and military policy, dealing with neutrality laws, the draft, and Lend Lease. As with the general public Congressional sentiment was very hostile toward Germany and Japan, favorable toward China, and somewhat less favorable toward Britain. Congressman with strong German, Irish Catholic, or Scandinavian constituencies generally supported isolationist policies, as did most Republicans. After Pearl Harbor, isolationism disappeared in Congress and was not a factor in the 1942 or 1944 elections. Some leading isolationists, most notably Senators Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan and Warren Austen of Vermont, along with Congressman Everett Dirksen of Illinois, became leading internationalists.[209][210] Robert A. Taft stayed quiet on foreign and defense issues. Most energetic isolationists of the 1930s were in poor physical or political health, including senators Hiram Johnson of California, George Norris of California, William Borah of Idaho, and Robert LaFollett, Jr. of Wisconsin. During the war, Congress was no better informed than the average newspaper reader. There were no secret briefings. Congressman did pay attention to military installations in their district, but rarely raised issues of broader military or diplomatic scope. Relations with the state department were friendly. There was some discussion of a postwar United Nations.[211]

Debates on domestic policy were as heated as ever, but the major Republican gains in Congress in 1938 in 1942 gave the Conservative Coalition the dominant voice on most issues, such as repealing new deal agencies, or converting them to pro-business activity. Congress control taxation policy, and made sure that the income tax reached the entire middle class and deep into the working-class. It rejected Roosevelt's demands for hundred percent tax rate on high incomes over $25,000.[212][213]

World War II begins in Europe

World War II began in September 1939 with Germany's invasion of Poland, as France and Britain declared war in response. Western leaders were stunned when the Soviet Union and Germany split control of Poland; the two powers had reached a secret non-aggression pact in August 1939.[214] The United States would remain officially neutral until December 1941, but Roosevelt sought ways to assist Britain and France militarily.[215] 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.[216] Roosevelt forged a close personal relationship with Churchill, who became prime minister in May 1940. Germany invaded Denmark and Norway in April 1940 and invaded the Low Countries and France in May. As France's situation grew increasingly desperate, Churchill and French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud appealed to Roosevelt for an American entry into the war, but Roosevelt was unwilling to challenge the isolationist sentiment in the United States.[217] France surrendered on June 22, resulting in the division of France into a German-controlled zone and a partially occupied area known Vichy France. Roosevelt tried to work with Vichy France in 1940–42 to keep it neutral, with scant success.[218]

With the fall of France, Britain and its dominions became the lone major force at war with Germany in 1940–41. 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, leading to a decline in isolationist sentiment.[219] Radio coverage of the Battle of Britain further galvanized American public opinion behind Britain.[220] A consensus was clear that military spending had to be dramatically expanded, though there was no consensus as to how much the U.S. should risk war in helping Britain.[219] 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.[221] Congress authorized the nation's first peacetime draft.[222] Polls show that Roosevelt's foreign policies won majority support throughout 1940.[223]

Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced the plan for a bill of social and economic rights in January, 1944. (excerpt)

On September 2, 1940, Roosevelt defied the spirit of the Neutrality Acts by an executive agreement that did not require Congressional approval. The Destroyers for Bases Agreement exchanged use of British military bases in the British Caribbean Islands, for 50 old WWI American destroyers to defend against German submarines.[224] Hitler and Mussolini responded to the deal by joining with Japan in the Tripartite Pact, and the three countries became known as the Axis powers.[225] After the start of the war in Europe, Japan grew increasingly assertive in the Pacific, demanding that the French and British colonies close their borders with China.[226] 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. In turn they were denounced as anti-Semitic dupes of the Nazis. Reviewer Richard S. Faulkner paraphrases Lynne Olson in arguing that, "Lindbergh was far from the simple anti-Semite and pro-Nazi dupe that the Roosevelt administration and pro-intervention press often portrayed him to be, but was rather a man whose technical and clinical mind had him convinced that Britain could not win the war and America’s lack of military preparedness meant that intervention was immoral, illogical, and suicidal."[227] The debate was intense, especially in the isolationist strongholds of the Midwest. Roosevelt watched the polls closely, especially as support for Britain grew, but he was careful not to get too far ahead of public opinion.[228] Roosevelt initiated FBI and Internal Revenue Service investigations of his loudest critics, though no legal actions resulted.[229]

After his victory over Willkie in the 1940 election, Roosevelt engaged in a public campaign to win congressional support for aid to the British. In December 1940, Roosevelt delivered a speech in which he called for the United States to serve as the "Arsenal of Democracy," supplying aid to those resisting Germany and other aggressors.[230] With his January 1941 Four Freedoms speech, Roosevelt laid out the case for an American defense of basic rights throughout the world.[231] Assisted by Willkie, Roosevelt won Congressional approval of the Lend-Lease program, which directed massive military and economic aid to Britain and China.[232] In sharp contrast to the loans of World War I, there would be no repayment after the war.[233]

Prelude to war: 1941

The geopolitical disposition of Europe in 1941. The grey area represents Nazi Germany, its allies, and countries under its firm control.

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."[234] Some Americans were reluctant to aid the Soviet Union, but Roosevelt believed that they would be indispensable in the defeat of Germany.[235] Execution of the aid fell victim to foot dragging in the administration so FDR appointed a special assistant, Wayne Coy, to expedite matters.[236] 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.[237] The Roosevelt administration peacefully established U.S. control over Greenland and Ireland, which provided a useful naval bases in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Seeking to bolster U.S. power in the Western Hemisphere against German influence, the Roosevelt administration increased military, commercial, and cultural engagement with Latin America.[238]

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;[239] Churchill and Roosevelt met 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 the U.S. entered the war.[234]

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.[240] However, neither the Kearny incident nor an attack on the USS Reuben James changed public opinion as much as Roosevelt hoped they might.[241]

In his role as the leader of the United States before and during World War II, Roosevelt tried to avoid repeating what he saw as Woodrow Wilson's mistakes in World War I.[242] 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 sought 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 including the "Europe first" strategy. He rejected the idea of an armistice and demanded unconditional surrender. Roosevelt often mentioned his role as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the Wilson administration, but added that he had profited more from Wilson's errors than from his successes.[243][244][245][246] Robert E. Sherwood argues:

Roosevelt could never forget Wilson's mistakes....there was no motivating force in all of Roosevelt's wartime political policy stronger than the determination to prevent repetition of the same mistakes.[247]

Entrance into the war

Roosevelt signing declaration of war against Japan (left) on December 8 and against Germany (right) on December 11, 1941.

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 Indochina, 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 U.S. rejected. Konoye was replaced with Minister of War Hideki Tojo.[248] Meanwhile, Roosevelt bolstered the defenses of the Philippines, which were under the control of the United States. After a long, internal debate, Japanese leaders decided to launch a campaign against the United States as part of a campaign to take control of Southeast Asia.[249]

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. FDR felt that an attack by the Japanese was probable – most likely in the Dutch East Indies, Thailand, or the Philippines.[250][203] 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, and while senior American officials were aware that war was imminent, they did not expect an attack on Pearl Harbor.[251]

Map of Japanese military advances, until mid-1942

After Pearl Harbor, antiwar sentiment in the United States evaporated overnight. For the first time since the early 19th century, foreign policy became the top priority for the American public.[252] 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." On December 8, Congress voted almost unanimously to declare war against Japan.[253] On December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, which responded in kind.[254] Roosevelt portrayed the war as a crusade against the aggressive dictatorships that threatened peace and democracy throughout the world.[255] He 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. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan conquered the Philippines, as well as the British and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia, capturing Singapore in February 1942. Furthermore, Japan cut off the overland supply route to China.[256]

War strategy

In late December 1941 Churchill and Roosevelt met at the Arcadia Conference, which established a joint strategy between the U.S. and Britain. Both agreed on a Europe first strategy that would prioritize the defeat of Germany before Japan. The U.S. and Britain established the Combined Chiefs of Staff to coordinate military policy and the Combined Munitions Assignments Board to coordinate the allocation of supplies.[257] An agreement was also reached to establish a centralized command in the Pacific theater called ABDA, named for the American, British, Dutch, and Australian forces in the theater.[258] On January 1, 1942, the United States, Britain, China, the Soviet Union, and twenty-two other countries issued the Declaration by United Nations, in which each nation pledged to defeat the Axis powers. These countries opposed to the Axis would be known as the Allied Powers.[259]

Roosevelt coined the term "Four Policemen" to refer the "Big Four" Allied powers of World War II, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and China. Roosevelt, Churchill, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and Chinese 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.[260] Roosevelt had a close relationship with Churchill, but he and his advisers quickly lost respect for Chiang's government, viewing it as hopelessly corrupt.[261] U.S. and Soviet leaders distrusted each other throughout the war, and relations further suffered after 1943 as both sides supported sympathetic governments in liberated territories.[262] By the end of the war, several other states aside from the Four Policemen, including all of Latin America, had joined the Allies.[263] The U.S. paid particularly close attention to its oil-rich allies in the Middle East, marking the start of sustained American engagement in the region.[264] Beginning in May 1942, the Soviets urged an Anglo-American invasion of German-occupied France in order to divert troops from the Eastern front.[265] Concerned that their forces were not yet ready for an invasion of France, Churchill and Roosevelt decided to delay such an invasion until at least 1943 and instead focus on a landing in North Africa, known as Operation Torch.[266]

Declaring economic warfare: Lend Lease

The main American role in the war, beyond the military mission itself, was financing the war and providing large quantities of munitions and civilian goods. Lend lease, as passed by Congress in 1941, was a declaration of economic warfare." [267] Roosevelt believed that the financing of World War I through loans to the Allies, with the demand for repayment after the war, was a bad mistake. He set up a Lend Lease system that provided the supplies without the accompanying postwar problems. It was entirely a war program, and was financed through the military budget. As soon as the war with Japan ended it was terminated.[268] The president chose the leadership—Hopkins and Edward Stettinius Jr. played major roles—and exercised close oversight and control.[269] One problem that bedeviled the program in 1942 was the strictly limited supply of munitions that had to be divided between Land Lease and American forces. Roosevelt insisted to the military that Russia was to get all the supplies he had promised it.[270]

The U.S. spent about $40 billion on Lend Lease aid to the British Empire, the Soviet Union, France, China, and some smaller countries. That amounted to about 11% of the cost of the war to the U.S.. It received back about $7.8 billion in goods and services provided by the recipients to the United States, especially the cost of food and rent for American installations abroad.[271] Lend Lease aid was usually not dollars that the recipient could use for any purpose.[272] Instead it was supplies and services counted by the dollar value of military and naval munitions as well as civilian supplies such as freighters, oil, food, chemicals, metals, machinery, rent and shipping services. The total given to the British Empire, 1940-45 was $30.0 billion. This includes supplies to India, Australia, and the other dominions and colonies. Canada did not need financial help and was never part of Lend Lease – indeed it had its own program of financial aid to Britain. Russia received $10.7 billion, and all other countries $2.9 billion (notably China $$, and France $$.[273] The question of repayment came up, and Roosevelt repeatedly insisted the United States did not want a postwar debt problem of the sort that had troubled relations after the first world war. A small fraction of goods that were still useful – such as merchant ships – were returned to the United States. The recipients provided bases and supplies to American forces on their own soil. The cost, including rents, was called "Mutual Aid" officially and informally "Reverse Lend Lease"; it was The financial value of aid provided to American forces, such as food, facilities, and rent for American forces abroad. It came to $7.8 billion overall, of which 86% came from the British Empire.[274] Canada operated a similar program on behalf of Great Britain, and Britain itself operated a similar one for the Soviet Union. In terms of repaying Washington after the war ended, the policy became one of fair shares. In the end, no one paid for the goods it received, although they did pay for goods in transit that were received after the program ended . Roosevelt told Congress in June 1942:[275]

The real costs of the war cannot be measured, nor compared, nor paid for in money. They must and are being met in blood and toil.... If each country devotes roughly the same fraction of its national production to the war, then the financial burden of war is distributed equally among the United Nations in accordance wih their ability to pay.


The home front 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 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.[b] To pay for increased government spending, in 1941 Roosevelt 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.[277] The Revenue Act of 1942 instituted top tax rates as high as 94% (after accounting for the excess profits tax), greatly increased the tax base, and instituted the first federal withholding tax.[278] In 1944, Roosevelt 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. Congress overrode Roosevelt's veto to pass a smaller revenue bill raising $2 billion.[279] Congress also abolished several New Deal agencies, including the CCC and the WPA.[280]

In June 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.[281] This was a precursor to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to come decades later.[282] Roosevelt established the Fair Employment Practices Committee to implement Executive Order 8802. This was the first national program directed against employment discrimination.[283] A labor shortage accelerated the second wave of the Great Migration, which saw African Americans move from rural Southern areas to manufacturing centers outside of the South.[277] 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 were critical to their success.[283]

To coordinate war production and other aspects of the homefront, Roosevelt established several agencies, including the War Production Board, the War Shipping Administration, the Office of Price Administration, the Board of Economic Warfare, and the War Labor Board.[284] War production increased dramatically after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but that production fell short of the goals established by the president, due in part to manpower shortages.[285] The effort was also hindered by numerous strikes, especially among union workers in the coal mining and railroad industries, which lasted well into 1944.[286][287] Nonetheless, between 1941 and 1945, the United States produced 2.4 million trucks, 300,000 military aircraft, 88,400 tanks, and 40 billion rounds of ammunition. The production capacity of the United States dwarfed that of other countries; for example, in 1944, the United States produced more military aircraft than the combined production of Germany, Japan, Britain, and the Soviet Union.[288] The United States suffered from inflation during the war, and the administration instituted price and wage controls.[289] In 1943, Roosevelt established the Office of War Mobilization to oversee the home front; the agency was led by James F. Byrnes, who came to be known as the "assistant president" due to his influence.[290] As inflation continued to present a major challenge, the administration expanded a rationing program that covered an increasing number of consumer goods.[291]

Roosevelt's 1944 State of the Union Address advocated that Americans should think of basic economic rights as a Second Bill of Rights.[292] In the most ambitious domestic proposal of his third term, Roosevelt proposed the G.I. Bill, which would create a massive benefits program for returning soldiers. Roosevelt was out-maneuvered by conservatives on bill; he wanted a much narrower bill focused more on poor people, but the American Legion pushed for comprehensive coverage, regardless of income or combat experience, that would avoid the prolonged disputes in the 1920s and 1930s over the aid to veterans. Benefits included tuition and living expense to attend high school or college, a year of unemployment pay at $20 a week, and low-cost loans to buy homes, farms and businesses.[293] The G.I. Bill passed unanimously in both houses of Congress and was signed into law in June 1944. Of the fifteen million Americans who served in World War II, more than half would benefit from the educational opportunities provided for in the G.I. Bill.[294]

Civil liberties and the Holocaust

A typical living quarters of a barrack apartment at the Manzanar internment camp in 1942.

Roosevelt had cultivated a friendly relationship with the domestic press throughout his presidency, and his good relations with the press helped ensure favorable coverage of his war-time policies without resorting to heavy-handed censorship. During World War I, the U.S. had passed acts such as the Sedition Act of 1918 to crack down on dissent, but Roosevelt largely avoided such harsh measures. He did order FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to increase its investigations of dissidents and signed the Smith Act, which made it a crime to advocate the overthrow of the federal government.[295]

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 Italy declared war on the United States in December 1941, many German and Italian aliens who had not taken out American citizenship, and who were outspoken for Mussolini or Hitler were warned, or in some cases arrested and interned.[296]

Roosevelt's order to intern Japanese-Americans during the war remains a controversial decision, and is considered a blemish on his legacy.[297] The United States government has officially apologized for the actions, and in 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted reparations of $20,000 to each surviving internee.

After Kristallnacht in 1938, Roosevelt helped expedite Jewish immigration from Germany and allowed Austrian and German citizens already in the United States to stay indefinitely. He was prevented from accepting more Jewish immigrants by the restrictive Immigration Act of 1924, the prevalence of nativism and antisemitism among voters and members of Congress, and some resistance in the American Jewish community to the acceptance of Eastern European Jewish immigrants.[298] Hitler chose to implement the "Final Solution"–the extermination of Jewish population–by January 1942, and American officials learned of the scale of the Nazi extermination campaign in the following months. Against the objections of the State Department, Roosevelt convinced the other Allied leaders to jointly issue the Joint Declaration by Members of the United Nations, which condemned the ongoing Holocaust and promised to try its perpetrators as war criminals. In January 1944, Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board to aid Jews and other victims of Axis atrocities. Aside from these actions, Roosevelt believed that the best way to help the persecuted populations of Europe was to end the war as quickly as possible. Top military leaders and War Department leaders rejected any campaign to bomb the extermination camps or the rail lines leading to the camps, fearing it would be a diversion from the war effort. According to biographer Jean Edward Smith, there is no evidence that anyone ever proposed such a campaign to Roosevelt himself.[299]

Nuclear program

In August 1939, Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein sent the Einstein–Szilárd letter to Roosevelt, warning of the possibility of a German project to develop nuclear weapons. Szilard realized that the recently discovered process of nuclear fission could be used to create a nuclear chain reaction that could be used as a weapon of mass destruction.[300] Roosevelt feared the consequences of allowing Germany to have sole possession of the technology, and authorized preliminary research into nuclear weapons.[c] After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Roosevelt administration secured the funds needed to continue research and selected General Leslie Groves to oversee the Manhattan Project, which was charged with developing the first nuclear weapons. Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to jointly pursue the project, and Roosevelt helped ensure that American scientists cooperated with their British counterparts.[302]

Course of the war

The two alliances of World War II, with the Axis Powers in blue and the Allied Powers in green

Upon entering the war, the U.S. entered the Battle of the Atlantic, which consisted of the blockade of Germany and German attacks on Allied shipping. In 1942, the Axis powers also launched offensives against Southeast Asia, the Suez Canal, and Stalingrad. With the U.S. still mobilizing, Allied leaders feared that the Axis would link up in the Middle East, seizing crucial oil fields in the process.[303]

Roosevelt took special interest in new agencies that reported to him, such as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the Office of War Information, and the Board of Economic Warfare. The OSS was run by his old friend Wild Bill Donovan and opened branches for Secret Intelligence (spies), Counter-Intelligence (dubbed X2, for double cross), Special Operations (commando units), and Research and Analysis; it sent spies and saboteurs behind enemy lines in Europe.[304] Roosevelt cut the flow of munitions to U/S. forces to maximize Lend-Lease shipments to allies, which were more fully engaged. It was not until late 1942 that the U.S. launched its first major ground offensive.[305]

The Allies invaded French North Africa in November 1942, securing the quick surrender of local Vichy French forces.[306] At the January 1943 Casablanca Conference, the Allies agreed to defeat Axis forces in North Africa and then launch an invasion of Sicily, with an attack on France to take place in 1944. At the conference, Roosevelt also announced that he would only accept the unconditional surrender of Germany, Japan, and Italy.[307] In February 1943, the Soviet Union turned the tide on the eastern front by winning a decisive victory at the Battle of Stalingrad. In May 1943, the Allies secured the surrender of over 250,000 German and Italian soldiers in North Africa, ending the North African Campaign.[308] The Allies launched an invasion of Sicily in July 1943, capturing the island by the end of the following month.[290] Italy ousted Mussolini and switched sides. In September 1943, the Allies secured an armistice from the new Italian Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio, but Germany quickly restored Mussolini to power and set up a puppet state in northern Italy.[290] The Allied invasion of mainland Italy commenced in September 1943, but the Italian Campaign moved slowly until 1945.[309]

To command the invasion of France, Roosevelt passed over Marshall and chose General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had successfully commanded a multinational coalition in North Africa and Sicily.[310] Eisenhower launched Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944. Supported by 12,000 aircraft that provided complete control of the air, and the largest naval force ever assembled, the Allies successfully established a beachhead in Normandy and then advanced further into France.[311] Though reluctant to back an unelected government, Roosevelt recognized Charles de Gaulle's Provisional Government of the French Republic as the de facto government of France in July 1944. After most of France had been liberated from German occupation, Roosevelt granted formal recognition to de Gaulle's government in October 1944.[312] Over the following months, the Allies liberated more territory from Nazi occupation and began the invasion of Germany. By April 1945, Nazi resistance was crumbling in the face of advances by both the Western Allies and the Soviet Union.[313]

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.[314] Roosevelt gave way in part to insistent demands from the public and Congress that more effort be devoted against Japan, but he always insisted on Germany first. The strength of the Japanese navy was decimated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and by April 1945 the Allies had re-captured much of their lost territory in the Pacific.[315]

Latin America

Roosevelt's policy was to pay special attention to Latin America, to fend off German influence and to build a united front on behalf of the war effort, and then to support the United Nations.[316] British intelligence had tricked him in 1941 by producing a fake map that indicated German plans for taking over South America.[317] His appointment of young Nelson Rockefeller to head the new, well-funded Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs provided energetic leadership; in practice Rockefeller reported to Roosevelt and largely ignored the State Department.[318] Anti-fascist propaganda was a major project across Latin America, and was run by Rockefeller's office. It spent millions on radio broadcasts and motion pictures, hoping to reach a large audience. Madison Avenue techniques generated a push back in Mexico, especially, where well-informed locals resisted heavy-handed American influence.[319] Nevertheless, Mexico was a valuable ally in the war. A deal was reached whereby 250,000 Mexican citizens living in the United States served in the American forces; over 1000 were killed in combat.[320] In addition to propaganda, large sums were allocated for economic support and development. On the whole the Roosevelt policy was a political success, except in Argentina, which tolerated German influence, and refused to follow Washington's lead until the war was practically over.[321][322]

Post-war planning

Churchill, FDR, and Stalin at Yalta, two months before Roosevelt's death

In late 1943, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin agreed to meet to discuss strategy and post-war plans, and at the Tehran Conference, Roosevelt met with Stalin for the first time.[323] At the conference, Britain and the United States committed to opening a second front against Germany in 1944, while Stalin committed to entering the war against Japan at an unspecified date.[324] Post-war plans increasingly came to the fore as the Allies won several major victories in 1944. The wartime economic boom and the experience of the Great Depression convinced many Americans of the need for low trade barriers. Lend-Lease agreements included provisions for eliminating tariffs, and the U.S. especially desired the dismantlement of the British Imperial Preference system. At the Bretton Woods Conference, the Allies agreed to the creation of the International Monetary Fund, which would provide for currency stabilization, and the World Bank, which would fund post-war rebuilding.

Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met for a second time at the February 1945 Yalta Conference. With the end of the war in Europe approaching, Roosevelt's primary focus was on convincing Stalin to enter the war against Japan; the Joint Chiefs had estimated that an American invasion of Japan would cause as many as one million American casualties. In return for the Soviet Union's entrance into the war against Japan, the Soviet Union was promised control of Asian territories such as Sakhalin Island. The three leaders agreed to hold a conference in 1945 to establish the United Nations, and they also agreed on the structure of the United Nations Security Council, which would be charged with ensuring international peace and security. Roosevelt did not push for the immediate evacuation of Soviet soldiers from Poland, but he won the issuance of the Declaration on Liberated Europe, which promised free elections in countries that had been occupied by Germany. Germany itself would not be dismembered, but would be jointly occupied by the United States, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union.[325] Against Soviet pressure, Roosevelt and Churchill refused to consent to imposing huge reparations and deindustrialization on Germany after the war.[326] Roosevelt's role in the Yalta Conference has been controversial; critics charge that he naively trusted the Soviet Union to allow free elections in Eastern Europe, while supporters argue that there was little more that Roosevelt could have done for the Eastern European countries given the Soviet occupation and the need for cooperation with the Soviet Union during and after the war.[327][328]

Founding the United Nations

Roosevelt considered his most important legacy the creation of the United Nations, making a permanent alliance out of the wartime Allied coalition. He provided continuous backstage political support inside the United States, and with Churchill and Stalin abroad. He made sure that leading Republicans were on board, especially Senators Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan,[329] and Warren Austin of Vermont.[330] He went public with strong advocacy in the 1944 presidential campaign, and turn detailed planning over to the State Department, or Sumner Welles and Secretary Hull worked on the project. The Allies agreed to the basic structure of the new body at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in 1944.[324] The Big Four of the United States, Britain, Soviet Union and China made the major decisions, with France added later to provide permanent members of the all-powerful Security Council. Each had a veto power, thus avoiding the fatal weakness of the League of Nations, which theoretically could order its members to act in defiance of their own parliaments.[331]


Roosevelt distrusted empires—especially the British Empire, which he wanted disbanded. His motives included principled opposition to colonialism, practical concern for the outcome of the war, and the need to build support for the U.S. in a future independent India. Churchill was deeply committed to imperialism and pushed back hard. Because the U.S. needed British cooperation in India to support China, Roosevelt had to draw back on his anti-colonialism.[332] That annoyed Indian nationalist leaders, though most of those leaders were in British prisons for the duration because they would not support the war against Japan.[333][334] Roosevelt also sought the decolonization of French Indochina, arguing that the nation should become a trustee on the model of the Philippines. Roosevelt promised to return Chinese territories seized by Japan since 1895, and ended the practice of American special rights in China.[335]

Final days and death

Roosevelt meets with King Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia on board the USS Quincy at the Great Bitter Lake (February 14, 1945)
Last photograph of Roosevelt, taken the day before his death (April 11, 1945)
Roosevelt's funeral procession in Washington, D.C., watched by 300,000 spectators (April 14, 1945)

After returning to the United States from the Yalta Conference, Roosevelt addressed Congress on March 1,[336] 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. 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."[337]

Roosevelt 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 and was found to have high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease causing angina pectoris, and congestive heart failure.[338][339][340]

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).[341] 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".[342]

Less than a month after his death, on May 8, the war in Europe ended. Harry Truman, who had become president upon Roosevelt's death, dedicated Victory in Europe Day and its celebrations to Roosevelt's memory. Truman 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."[343] With the defeat of Germany, only Japan remained as a belligerent, and their surrender in September 1945 ended World War II.

List of international trips

FDR made one international trip while president-elect and 20 during his presidency.[344] His early travels were by ship, frequently for fishing vacations to the Bahama Banks, Canadian Maritimes or Newfoundland Island. In 1943 he became the first incumbent president to fly by airplane across the Atlantic Ocean during his secret diplomatic mission to Casablanca.

Countries visited by Franklin Roosevelt during his presidency.
Dates Country Locations Details
1 February 6–14, 1933 The Bahamas The Bahamas Fishing trip. (Visit made as President-elect.)
2 June 29 – July 1, 1933  Canada Campobello Island Vacation.
3 March 29 – April 11, 1934 The Bahamas The Bahamas Elbow Cay,
Gun Cay.[345]
Fishing trip.
4 July 5–6, 1934  Haiti Cap Haitien Informal visit en route to vacation in Hawaii.
July 10, 1934  Colombia Cartagena
July 11–12, 1934  Panama Panama City
5 March 27 – April 6, 1935 The Bahamas The Bahamas Cat Cays,
Lobos Cay,
Great Inagua Island,
Crooked Island[345]
Fishing trip.
6 October 16, 1935  Panama Balboa Informal visit with President Harmodio Arias Madrid while returning to Washington, D.C. from the U.S. West Coast.
7 March 24 – April 7, 1936 The Bahamas The Bahamas Great Inagua Island,
Fishing trip. Luncheon with Governor Bede Clifford and the President of the Legislative Council, George Johnson.[346]
8 July 28–30, 1936  Canada Campobello Island Vacation.
July 31, 1936 Quebec city Official visit. Met with Governor General John Buchan.
9 November 21, 1936 Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Port of Spain Stopped on the way to South America.
November 27, 1936  Brazil Rio de Janeiro Addressed Brazilian Congress.
November 30 –
December 2, 1936
 Argentina Buenos Aires Attended session of Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace.
December 3, 1936  Uruguay Montevideo Official visit. Met with President Gabriel Terra.
December 11, 1936 Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Port of Spain Stopped while returning to the United States.
10 August 4–5, 1938  Panama Balboa Informal visit with President Juan Demóstenes Arosemena during vacation in the Caribbean.
11 August 18, 1938  Canada Kingston Received honorary degree from Queen's University and together with Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Albert Edward Matthews, dedicated the Thousand Islands Bridge.
12 August 14–16, 1939  Canada Campobello Island,
August 17–20, 1939 Dominion of Newfoundland Red Ensign.svg Newfoundland Bay of Islands,
Bonne Bay
August 21–23, 1939  Canada Halifax
13 February 27, 1940  Panama Cristóbal,
Met informally with President Augusto Samuel Boyd during vacation.
14 December 5, 1940  Jamaica Kingston Inspected British base sites for possible American use.
December 8, 1940  Saint Lucia Inspected British base sites for possible American use.
December 8, 1940 France Martinique Fort Saint Louis Conferred with U.S. officials.
December 9, 1940  British Leeward Islands Antigua Inspected British base sites for possible American use.
December 12–13, 1940 The Bahamas The Bahamas Eleuthera Island Inspected British base sites for possible American use. Met with the Governor, H.R.H. the Duke of Windsor. Returned to the U.S. on December 14.
15 August 9–12, 1941 Dominion of Newfoundland Red Ensign.svg Newfoundland Argentia Conferred with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill aboard ship (HMS Prince of Wales and USS Augusta) in Placentia Bay. At the conclusion of the conference they issued the Atlantic Charter.[347]
16 January 11, 1943 Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Port of Spain Overnight stop en route to Africa.
January 12, 1943  Brazil Belém
January 13, 1943 The Gambia The Gambia Bathurst
January 14–25, 1943  Morocco Casablanca Attended Casablanca Conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
January 25, 1943 The Gambia The Gambia Bathurst Overnight stop en route from Casablanca.
January 26–27, 1943  Liberia Monrovia Informal visit. Met with President Edwin Barclay.
January 28, 1943  Brazil Natal Informal visit. Met with President Getúlio Vargas.
January 29, 1943 Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Port of Spain Overnight stop en route from Casablanca.
17 April 20, 1943  Mexico Monterrey Part of an exchange of visits with President Manuel Ávila Camacho across the border.
18 August 17–25, 1943  Canada Quebec City
Attended First Quebec Conference with Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Addressed senators, Members of Parliament, and the general public outside the houses of parliament.[348]
19 November 20–21, 1943 France Algeria Oran Disembarked.
November 21–22, 1943 France Tunisia Tunis Overnight stop.
November 22–26, 1943  Egypt Cairo Attended First Cairo Conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek.
November 27 –
December 2, 1943
 Iran Tehran Attended Tehran Conference with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
December 2–7, 1943  Egypt Cairo Attended Second Cairo Conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Turkish President İsmet İnönü.
December 7–9, 1943 France Tunisia Tunis Conferred with General Dwight Eisenhower.
December 8, 1943  Malta Valletta Visited Allied military installations
December 8, 1943  Italy Castelvetrano Visited Allied military installations
December 9, 1943 France Senegal Dakar Re-embarked for the U.S.
20 September 11–16, 1944  Canada Quebec City Attended Second Quebec Conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff.
21 February 2, 1945  Malta Floriana Attended Malta Conference with Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
February 3–12, 1945  Soviet Union Yalta Attended Yalta Conference with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
February 13–15, 1945  Egypt Great Bitter Lake,
Suez Canal,
Met with King Farouk, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, Saudi Arabian King Ibn Saud, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
February 18, 1945 France Algeria Algiers Briefed U.S. Ambassadors to the United Kingdom, France, and Italy on the Yalta Conference.


Democratic seats in Congress
Congress Senate House
73rd 59 313
74th 69 322
75th 67 258
76th 75 333
77th 66 267
78th 57 222
79th 57 243

1934 midterm elections

Although midterm elections normally see the party in control of the presidency lose seats in Congress, the 1934 elections resulted in major Democratic gains in the Senate and minor gains in the House. Roosevelt's New Deal policies were bolstered and several Democrats won in Northern, urban areas outside of the party's traditional base in the South. After the elections, the Democratic Party controlled over two-thirds of the seats in both the House and the Senate.[349]

Election of 1936

1936 electoral vote results

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.[350] The New Deal Democrats won even larger majorities in Congress. Roosevelt was backed by his New Deal coalition, which included traditional Democrats across the country, small farmers, the "Solid South", Catholics, big city political machines, labor unions, northern African Americans, Jews, intellectuals and political liberals.[351] The 1936 Democratic National Convention also saw the abolition of the "two-thirds rule," which had required that the Democratic presidential nominee win two-thirds of the delegates rather than a simple majority.[352]

1938 midterm elections

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.[353]

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.[354]

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.[355] 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.[356]

Election of 1940

1940 electoral vote results

The two-term tradition had been an unwritten rule (until the ratification 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[357] and two cabinet members, Secretary of State Hull and Postmaster General James Farley. 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.[358] The new vice-presidential nominee was Henry Agard Wallace, a liberal intellectual who was Secretary of Agriculture.[359]

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. Attacked as a war-monger, he reassured mothers:

I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: that your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.[360]

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).[361] The Democrats retained their Congressional majorities, but the conservative coalition largely controlled domestic legislation and remained "leery of presidential extensions of executive power through social programs."[362]

1942 midterm elections

The 1942 midterm election saw sizable Republican gains in both houses of Congress, particularly the House of Representatives. The election bolstered the strength of the conservative coalition.[363] Voter turnout was just 33.9%, lower than any subsequent national election (as of 2014).[364][365]

Election of 1944

1944 electoral vote results

Roosevelt faced little opposition from his own party during his 1944 re-election campaign. He easily won the presidential nomination of the 1944 Democratic National Convention, making him the first person to serve as a major party nominee in four separate presidential elections. However, 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 Dewey and his running mate John W. Bricker with 53.4% of the popular vote and 432 out of the 531 electoral votes.[366] Roosevelt led government planning for the new United Nations, which was designed to avoid all of the policy mistakes that Wilson had made with the League of Nations in 1919. United States would have veto power over all UN decisions. His 1944 reelection campaign emphasized the value of the United Nations, and his careful cultivation of public and Republican support guaranteed its approval.[367]


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.[368] Roosevelt also 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.[369] 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.[370]

A majority of polls rank Roosevelt as the second or third greatest president, consistent with other surveys.[371][372][373] Roosevelt is the sixth most admired person from the 20th century by U.S. citizens, according to Gallup.[374] Roosevelt was also widely beloved for his role in repealing Prohibition.[375]

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.[376] 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.[377] The internment of Japanese-Americans is frequently criticized as a major stain on Roosevelt's record.[378]

See also


  1. ^ The 20th Amendment (ratified in 1933) moved Inauguration Day from March 4 to January 20. The 1937 presidential inauguration, Roosevelt's 2nd inauguration, was the first to take place on the new date.
  2. ^ WPA workers were counted as unemployed by this set of statistics.[276]
  3. ^ The Germans stopped research on nuclear weapons in 1942, choosing to focus on other projects. Japan gave up its own program in 1943.[301]


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  2. ^ Reichley, A. James (2000). The Life of the Parties (Paperback ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 8–12. 
  3. ^ Brands 2009, pp. 255–265.
  4. ^ James MacGregor Burns (1970). The Soldier of Freedom: Roosevelt. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 347–48. 
  5. ^ Brands 2009, pp. 290–295.
  6. ^ Dallek 2017, pp. 130–131.
  7. ^ Dallek 2017, p. 191.
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  9. ^ Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 189-90, 247, 330, Random House, New York, NY. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
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  16. ^ Sujit Raman, "Felix Frankfurter and his Protégés: Re‐examining the “Happy Hot Dogs”." Journal of Supreme Court History 39#1 (2014): 79-106.
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Works cited

  • Alter, Jonathan (2006), The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope (popular history), ISBN 978-0-7432-4600-2 .
  • Black, Conrad (2005) [2003], Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom  1276ppinterpretive detailed biography
  • Brands, HW (2009), Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt 
  • Burns, James MacGregor (1956). Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox.  scholarly biography to 1940; online.
  • Burns, James MacGregor (1970). Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ISBN 978-0-15-178871-2. 
  • Churchill, Winston (1977). The Grand Alliance. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0-395-41057-6. 
  • Dallek, Robert (2017). Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life. Viking. ISBN 9780698181724. 
  • Dallek, Robert (1995). Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932–1945. Oxford University.  a standard scholarly history; online free
  • Hawley, Ellis (1995). The New Deal and the Problem of Monopoly. Fordham University Press. ISBN 0-8232-1609-8. 
  • Herman, Arthur. (2012) Freedom's Forge: How American Business produced victory in World War II (2012) ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4
  • Larrabee, Eric, Commander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War, ISBN 978-0-06-039050-1 . Detailed history of how FDR handled the war.
  • Leuchtenburg, William E. (1963). Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932–1940. Harpers. , widely cited survey; online free
  • Leuchtenburg, William (2015). The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton. Oxford University Press. 
  • McJimsey, George (2000). The Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1012-9. ; online free
  • Sainsbury, Keith (1994). Churchill and Roosevelt at War: The War They Fought and the Peace They Hoped to Make. New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-7991-3. 
  • Smith, Jean Edward (2007). FDR. New York: Random House.  858pp

Further reading


  • Black, Conrad (2005) [2003], Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom  1276pp interpretive detailed biography; online free
  • Freidel, Frank. (1956) Franklin D. Roosevelt The Triumph (Little, Brown, 1956) vol 3 of 4-vol detailed scholarly biography covers 1929–32 online
  • Freidel, Frank. (1956) Franklin D. Roosevelt: Launching the New Deal (1973) vol 4 of 4-vol detailed scholarly biography covers Nov. 1932 to July 1933. online review; online free
  • Freidel, Frank. (1991) Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny, complete biography to 1945. 710pp excerpt; also online free
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns (1994). No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. Simon and Schuster. 
  • Hamby, Alonzo. For the survival of democracy: Franklin Roosevelt and the world crisis of the 1930s (2004) online free
  • Pederson, William D (2011), A Companion to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Companions to American History, Blackwell ; 35 essays by scholars emphasizing historiography. online; excerpt at Google

Scholarly topical studies

  • Badger, Anthony. he New Deal: The Depression Years, 1933–1940 (2002).
  • Biles, Roger. A New Deal for the American People (Northern Illinois UP, 1991).
  • Brinkley, Douglas G. Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America (2016) excerpt; On FDR's environmental and conservation beliefs & policies.
  • Clarke, Jeanne Nienaber. Roosevelt's Warrior: Harold L. Ickes and the New Deal (1996)
  • Gosnell, Harold. Champion Campaigner Franklin D Roosevelt (1952) online
  • Hamby, Alonzo L. ed. The New Deal, Analysis & Interpretation (Longman Publishing Group, 1981). short excerpts from 14 scholars; online in TIF format
  • Howard, Donald S. WPA and federal relief policy (1943), 880pp; highly detailed report by the independent Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Leuchtenburg, William E (2005), "Showdown on the Court", Smithsonian (fulltext), 36 (2): 106–13, ISSN 0037-7333 ; 1937 Supreme Court fight
  • Meriam; Lewis. Relief and Social Security The Brookings Institution. 1946. Highly detailed analysis and statistical summary of all New Deal relief programs; 900 pages online
  • Morris, Charles R. A Rabble of Dead Money: The Great Crash and the Global Depression: 1929–1939 (PublicAffairs, 2017), 389 pp. online review
  • Pederson, William D (2011), A Companion to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 9781444330168 , 768 pages; essays by scholars covering major historiographical themes. online
  • Purcell, Aaron D. ed The New Deal and the Great Depression (Kent State UP, 2014) 234pp online review
  • Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr (1957–60), The Age of Roosevelt , the 3-volume classic narrative history. Strongly supports FDR.
    • Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. The Age of Roosevelt vol 1: The Crisis Of The Old Order (1919–1933) (1956) online to March 1933
    • Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. The Age Of Roosevelt vol 2: The Coming of the New Deal (1958) online covers 1933–34
    • Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. The Age of Roosevelt vol 3: The Age of Upheaval (1960); online
  • Sitkoff, Harvard (1978). A New Deal for Blacks. ISBN 0-19-502418-4. 

Foreign policy and World War II

  • Barron, Gloria J. Leadership in Crisis: FDR and the Path to Intervention (1973).
  • Berthon, Simon; Potts, Joanna (2007). Warlords: An Extraordinary Re-creation of World War II Through the Eyes and Minds of Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-81538-9. 
  • Beschloss, Michael (2002). The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman, and the destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941–1945. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-81027-0. 
  • Feis, Herbert. Churchill Roosevelt Stalin: Churchill-Roosevelt-Stalin: The War they waged and the Peace they sought (1957) online
  • Feis, Herbert. China Tangle: The American Effort in China from Pearl Harbor to the Marshall Mission (1953). ch 1-6 online
  • Heinrichs, Waldo H. Threshold of war: Franklin D. Roosevelt and American entry into World War II (Oxford UP, 1989) online free
  • Herring, George C. (2008). From Colony to Superpower; U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507822-0. 
  • Jordan, David M (2011), FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, ISBN 9780253356833 .
  • Marks, Frederick W. Wind over sand : the diplomacy of Franklin Roosevelt (1988) online free
  • Miscamble, Wilson D. (2007). From Roosevelt to Truman: Potsdam, Hiroshima, and the Cold War. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-86244-2. 
  • Sherwood, Robert E (1949), Roosevelt and Hopkins: an Intimate History , Pulitzer Prize; published in England as The White House Papers Of Harry L. Hopkins Vol. I (1948); online
  • Tierney, Dominic. FDR and the Spanish Civil War: Neutrality and Commitment in the Struggle That Divided America (Duke University Press, 2007).
  • Tierney, Dominic. "Franklin D. Roosevelt and Covert Aid to the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–39." Journal of Contemporary History 39.3 (2004): 299-313. online
  • Woolner, D., W. Kimball and D. Reynolds, eds. FDR's World: War, Peace, and Legacies (2008) essays by scholars excerpt


  • Doenecke, Justus D; Stoler, Mark A (2005), Debating Franklin D. Roosevelt's Foreign Policies, 1933–1945, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 0847694151 . 248 pp.
  • Flynn, John T (1948), The Roosevelt Myth , former FDR supporter condemns all aspects of FDR.
  • Smiley, Gene (1993), Rethinking the Great Depression (short essay)  by libertarian economist who blames both Hoover and FDR.

Primary sources

  • Statistical Abstract of the United States (PDF), Bureau of the Census, 1951 ; full of useful data
  • Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970, Bureau of the Census, 1976 . online
  • Cantril, Hadley; Strunk, Mildred, eds. (1951), Public Opinion, 1935–1946 , massive compilation of many public opinion polls from the USA; also some from Europe and Canada; online
  • Gallup, George Horace, ed. (1972), The Gallup Poll; Public Opinion, 1935–1971 , 3 vol, summarizes results of each poll as reported to newspapers.
  • Loewenheim, Francis L; Langley, Harold D, eds. (1975), Roosevelt and Churchill: Their Secret Wartime Correspondence .
  • Moley, Raymond (1939), After Seven Years (memoir)  by key Brain Truster
  • Nixon, Edgar B, ed. (1969), Franklin D Roosevelt and Foreign Affairs  (3 vol), covers 1933–37. 2nd series 1937–39 available on microfiche and in a 14 vol print edition at some academic libraries.
  • Roosevelt, Franklin Delano (1945) [1938], Rosenman, Samuel Irving, ed., The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt (public material only (no letters); covers 1928–1945), 13 volumes . online free
  • ——— (1946), Zevin, BD, ed., Nothing to Fear: The Selected Addresses of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1932–1945 (selected speeches) .
  • ——— (2005) [1947], Taylor, Myron C, ed., Wartime Correspondence Between President Roosevelt and Pope Pius XII (reprint), Prefaces by Pius XII and Harry Truman, Kessinger Publishing, ISBN 1-4191-6654-9 .
  • The Documentary History of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidency (47 vol. ed by George McJimsey; University Publications of America, 2001–2008.) table of contents
U.S. Presidential Administrations
Preceded by
F. D. Roosevelt Presidency
Succeeded by
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