January 30, 1882
Hyde Park, New York
Died April 12, 1945 (age 63)
Warm Springs, Georgia
Political party Democratic
Spouse Eleanor Roosevelt
Roosevelt signing war declaration against Japan in 1941
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945),
often referred to by his initials FDR, was the 32nd President of the
United States. Elected to four terms in office, he served from 1933
to 1945, and is the only U.S. president to have served more than two
terms. A central figure of the 20th century, he has consistently been
ranked as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents in scholarly surveys.
During the Great
Depression of the 1930s, Roosevelt created the New Deal to provide relief
for the unemployed, recovery of the economy, and reform of the economic
system. His most famous legacies include the Social Security system
and the regulation of Wall Street. His aggressive use of an active federal
government reenergized the Democratic Party. Roosevelt built the New
Deal coalition that dominated politics into the 1960s. He and his wife,
Eleanor Roosevelt, remain touchstones for modern American liberalism.
The conservatives vehemently fought back, but Roosevelt consistently
prevailed until he tried to pack the Supreme Court in 1937. Thereafter,
the new Conservative coalition successfully ended New Deal expansion,
and closed most programs like the WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps,
arguing that unemployment had disappeared.
After 1938, Roosevelt
championed re-armament and led the nation away from isolationism as
the world headed into World War II. He provided extensive support to
Winston Churchill and the British war effort before the attack on Pearl
Harbor pulled the U.S. into the fighting. During the war, Roosevelt,
working closely with his aide Harry Hopkins, provided decisive leadership
against Nazi Germany and made the United States the principal arms supplier
and financier of the Allies who defeated Germany, Italy and Japan. Roosevelt
led the United States as it became the Arsenal of Democracy and put
16 million American men into uniform.
On the homefront
his term saw the vast expansion of industry, the achievement of full
employment, restoration of prosperity, new taxes that affected all income
groups, price controls and rationing, 120,000 Japanese and Japanese
Americans, as well as thousands of Italian Americans, sent to relocation
camps, and new opportunities opened for African Americans and women.
As the Allies neared victory, Roosevelt played a critical role in shaping
the post-war world, particularly through the Yalta Conference and the
creation of the United Nations. Roosevelt's administration redefined
liberalism for subsequent generations and realigned the Democratic Party
based on his New Deal coalition of labor unions, farmers, ethnic, religious
and racial minorities, intellectuals, the South, big city machines,
and the poor and workers on relief.
See also: Roosevelt family and Delano family
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park,
in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. His father, James Roosevelt,
Sr., and his mother, Sara Ann Delano, were each from wealthy old New
York families, of Dutch and French ancestry respectively. Franklin was
their only child. His maternal grandfather, Warren Delano, Jr., made
a fortune in the opium trade in China.
Young Franklin Roosevelt, with his father and Helen R. Roosevelt, sailing
in 1899Roosevelt grew up in an atmosphere of privilege. Sara was a possessive
mother, while James was an elderly and remote father (he was 54 when
Franklin was born). Sara was the dominant influence in Franklin's early
years. Frequent trips to Europe made Roosevelt conversant in German
and French. He learned to ride, shoot, row, and play polo and lawn tennis.
Roosevelt went to
Groton School, an Episcopal boarding school in Massachusetts. He was
heavily influenced by the headmaster, Endicott Peabody, who preached
the duty of Christians to help the less fortunate and urged his students
to enter public service. Roosevelt completed his undergraduate studies
at Harvard, where he lived in luxurious Adams House and was a member
of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. While at Harvard, he saw his fifth
cousin Theodore Roosevelt become president, and Theodore's vigorous
leadership style and reforming zeal made him Franklin's role model and
hero. In 1902, he met his future wife Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Theodore's
niece, at a White House reception. (They had previously met as children,
but this was their first serious encounter.) Eleanor and Franklin were
fifth cousins, once removed. They were both descended from the Dutchman
Claes Martensz. van Rosenvelt (Roosevelt) who arrived in New Amsterdam
(Manhattan) from the Netherlands in the 1640s. Roosevelt's two grandsons,
Johannes and Jacobus, began the Oyster Bay and Hyde Park branches of
the Roosevelt family. Eleanor and President Theodore Roosevelt were
descended from the Johannes branch, while FDR was descended from the
Franklin and Eleanor
married two years later in 1905.
Columbia Law School in 1905, and, never graduating, he dropped out after
only two years in 1907, because he had passed the New York State Bar
exam. In 1908 he took a job with the prestigious Wall Street firm of
Carter, Ledyard and Milburn, dealing mainly with corporate law.
Marriage and family life
See also: Roosevelt family
Roosevelt married Eleanor over the fierce resistance of his mother.
They were married March 17, 1905, with Theodore Roosevelt standing in
for Eleanor's deceased father Elliott. The young couple moved into a
house bought for them by Roosevelt's mother, who became a frequent house
guest, much to Eleanor's chagrin. Roosevelt was a charismatic, handsome,
and socially active man. In contrast, Eleanor was shy and disliked social
life, and at first stayed at home to raise their children. They had
six children in rapid succession:
Anna Eleanor (1906–1975),
Franklin Delano, Jr. (March 3, 1909–November 7, 1909),
a second Franklin Delano, Jr. (1914–1988), and
John Aspinwall (1916–1981).
Franklin and Eleanor at Campobello Island in 1905The five surviving
Roosevelt children all led tumultuous lives overshadowed by their famous
parents. They had among them nineteen marriages, fifteen divorces and
twenty-nine children. All four sons were officers in World War II and
were decorated, on merit, for bravery. Their postwar careers, whether
in business or politics, were disappointing. Two of them were elected
to the U.S. House of Representatives (FDR, Jr. served three terms representing
the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and James served six terms representing
the 26th district in California) but none were elected to higher office
despite several attempts.
romantic outlets outside his marriage. One of these was with Eleanor's
social secretary Lucy Mercer, with whom Roosevelt began an affair soon
after she was hired in early 1914. In September 1918, Eleanor found
letters in Franklin's luggage that revealed the affair. Eleanor confronted
him with the letters and demanded a divorce. While the marriage survived,
Eleanor established a separate house in Hyde Park at Valkill.
Early political career
In 1910, Roosevelt ran for the New York State Senate from the district
around Hyde Park (Dutchess County), which had not elected a Democrat
since 1884. He entered the Roosevelt name, with its associated wealth,
prestige and influence in the Hudson Valley, and the Democratic landslide
that year carried him to the state capital of Albany, New York. Roosevelt
entered the state house, January 1, 1911. He became a leader of a group
of reformers who opposed Manhattan's Tammany Hall machine which dominated
the state Democratic Party. Roosevelt soon became a popular figure among
New York Democrats. Reelected for a second term November 5, 1912, he
resigned from the New York State Senate on March 17, 1913.
FDR as Assistant Secretary for the Navy
Assistant Secretary of the Navywas appointed Assistant Secretary of
the Navy by Woodrow Wilson in 1913. He served under Secretary of the
Navy, Josephus Daniels. In 1914, he was defeated in the Democratic primary
for the United States Senate by Tammany Hall-backed James W. Gerard.
From 1913 to 1917, Roosevelt worked to expand the Navy and founded the
United States Navy Reserve. Wilson sent the Navy and Marines to intervene
in Central American and Caribbean countries. In a series of speeches
in his 1920 campaign for Vice President, Roosevelt claimed that he,
as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, had played a significant role in
Latin American politics and had even written the constitution which
the U.S. imposed on Haiti in 1915.
a life-long affection for the Navy. He showed great administrative talent
and quickly learned to negotiate with Congressional leaders and other
government departments to get budgets approved. He became an enthusiastic
advocate of the submarine and also of means to combat the German submarine
menace to Allied shipping: he proposed building a mine barrage across
the North Sea from Norway to Scotland. In 1918, he visited Britain and
France to inspect American naval facilities; during this visit he met
Winston Churchill for the first time. With the end of World War I in
November 1918, he was in charge of demobilization, although he opposed
plans to completely dismantle the Navy. In July 1920, Roosevelt resigned
as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
Campaign for Vice-President
The 1920 Democratic National Convention chose Roosevelt as the candidate
for Vice President of the United States on the ticket headed by Governor
James M. Cox of Ohio, helping build a national base, but the Cox-Roosevelt
ticket was heavily defeated by Republican Warren Harding in the presidential
election. Roosevelt then retired to a New York legal practice, but few
doubted that he would soon run for public office again.
Main article: Franklin D. Roosevelt's paralytic illness
In August 1921, while the Roosevelts were vacationing at Campobello
Island, New Brunswick, Roosevelt contracted an illness, at the time
believed to be polio, which resulted in Roosevelt's total and permanent
paralysis from the waist down. For the rest of his life, Roosevelt refused
to accept that he was permanently paralyzed. He tried a wide range of
therapies, including hydrotherapy, and, in 1926, he purchased a resort
at Warm Springs, Georgia, where he founded a hydrotherapy center for
the treatment of polio patients which still operates as the Roosevelt
Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. After he became President,
he helped to found the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now
known as the March of Dimes). His leadership in this organization is
one reason he is commemorated on the dime.
At the time, when
the private lives of public figures were subject to less scrutiny than
they are today, Roosevelt was able to convince many people that he was
in fact getting better, which he believed was essential if he was to
run for public office again. Fitting his hips and legs with iron braces,
he laboriously taught himself to walk a short distance by swiveling
his torso while supporting himself with a cane. In private, he used
a wheelchair, but he was careful never to be seen in it in public. He
usually appeared in public standing upright, supported on one side by
an aide or one of his sons.
In 2003, a peer-reviewed
study found that it was more likely that Roosevelt's paralytic illness
was actually Guillain-Barré syndrome, not poliomyelitis.
Governor of New York, 1928-1932
Main article: Franklin D. Roosevelt's terms as Governor of New York
Governor Roosevelt poses with Al Smith for a publicity shot in Albany,
New York, 1930By 1928, Roosevelt believed he had recovered sufficiently
to resume his political career. He had been careful to maintain his
contacts in the Democratic Party and had allied himself with Alfred
E. Smith, the current governor and the Democratic Party presidential
nominee in the 1928 election.
To gain the Democratic
nomination for the election, Roosevelt had to make his peace with the
Tammany Hall machine, which he did with some reluctance. Roosevelt was
elected Governor by a narrow margin, and came to office in 1929 as a
reform Democrat. As Governor, he established a number of new social
programs, and began gathering the team of advisors he would bring with
him to Washington four years later, including Frances Perkins and Harry
The main weakness
of Roosevelt's gubernatorial administration was the corruption of the
Tammany Hall machine in New York City. Roosevelt had made his name as
an opponent of Tammany, but needed the machine's goodwill to be re-elected
in 1930. As the 1930 election approached, Roosevelt set up a judicial
investigation into the corrupt sale of offices. In 1930, Roosevelt was
elected to a second term by a margin of more than 700,000 votes, defeating
Republican Charles H. Tuttle.
1932 presidential election
Roosevelt's strong base in the most populous state made him an obvious
candidate for the Democratic nomination, which was hotly contested since
it seemed that incumbent Herbert Hoover would be vulnerable in the 1932
election. Al Smith was supported by some city bosses, but had lost control
of the New York Democratic party to Roosevelt. Roosevelt built his own
national coalition with personal allies such as newspaper magnate William
Randolph Hearst, Irish leader Joseph P. Kennedy, and California leader
William G. McAdoo. When Texas leader John Nance Garner switched to FDR,
he was given the vice presidential nomination.
The election campaign
was conducted under the shadow of the Great Depression in the United
States, and the new alliances which it created. Roosevelt and the Democratic
Party mobilized the expanded ranks of the poor as well as organized
labor, ethnic minorities, urbanites, and Southern whites, crafting the
New Deal coalition. During the campaign, Roosevelt said: "I pledge
you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people", coining
a slogan that was later adopted for his legislative program as well
as his new coalition.
Anton Cermak, seated to the left of Roosevelt, moments before he is
shot.Economist Marriner Eccles observed that "given later developments,
the campaign speeches often read like a giant misprint, in which Roosevelt
and Hoover speak each other's lines." Roosevelt denounced Hoover's
failures to restore prosperity or even halt the downward slide, and
he ridiculed Hoover's huge deficits. Roosevelt campaigned on the Democratic
platform advocating "immediate and drastic reductions of all public
expenditures," "abolishing useless commissions and offices,
consolidating bureaus and eliminating extravagances reductions in bureaucracy,"
and for a "sound currency to be maintained at all hazards."
On September 23, Roosevelt made the gloomy evaluation that, "Our
industrial plant is built; the problem just now is whether under existing
conditions it is not overbuilt. Our last frontier has long since been
reached." Hoover damned that pessimism as a denial of "the
promise of American life . . . the counsel of despair." The
prohibition issue solidified the wet vote for Roosevelt, who noted that
repeal would bring in new tax revenues.
Roosevelt won 57%
of the vote and carried all but six states. After the election, Roosevelt
refused Hoover's requests for a meeting to come up with a joint program
to stop the downward spiral, claiming it would tie his hands. The economy
spiralled downward until the banking system began a complete nationwide
shutdown as Hoover's term ended. In February 1933, an assassin, Giuseppe
Zangara, fired five shots at Roosevelt, missing him but killing Chicago
Mayor Anton Cermak; historians agree that FDR, not the mayor, was the
First term, 1933-1937
See also: New Deal
President and Mrs. Roosevelt on Inauguration Day, 1933When Roosevelt
was inaugurated in March 1933, the U.S. was at the nadir of the worst
depression in its history. A quarter of the workforce was unemployed.
Farmers were in deep trouble as prices fell by 60%. Industrial production
had fallen by more than half since 1929. In a country with limited government
social services outside the cities, two million were homeless. The banking
system had collapsed completely. Beginning with his inauguration address,
he began blaming the economic downturn on businessmen, 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. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers.
They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
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.
Roosevelt's program as "relief, recovery and reform". Relief
was urgently needed by tens of millions of unemployed. Recovery meant
boosting the economy back to normal. Reform meant long-term fixes of
what was wrong, especially with the financial and banking systems. Roosevelt's
series of radio talks, known as fireside chats, presented his proposals
directly to the American public.
First New Deal, 1933-1934
Roosevelt's "First 100 Days" concentrated on the first part
of his strategy: immediate relief. From March 9 to June 16, 1933, he
sent Congress a record number of bills, all of which passed easily.
To propose programs, Roosevelt relied on leading Senators such as George
Norris, Robert F. Wagner and Hugo Black, as well as his own Brain Trust
of academic advisers. Like Hoover, he saw the Depression as partly a
matter of confidence, caused in part by people no longer spending or
investing because they were afraid to do so. He therefore set out to
restore confidence through a series of dramatic gestures.
FDR's natural air
of confidence and optimism did much to reassure the nation. His inauguration
on March 4, 1933 occurred in the middle of a bank panic, hence the backdrop
for his famous words: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
The very next day he announced a plan to allow banks to reopen, which
they largely did by the end of the month. This was his first proposed
step to recovery.
Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother depicts destitute pea pickers during
the depression in California, centering on Florence Owens Thompson,
a mother of seven children, age 32, March 1936.Relief measures included
the continuation of Hoover's major relief program for the unemployed
under the new name, Federal Emergency Relief Administration. The most
popular of all New Deal agencies, and Roosevelt's favorite, was the
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which hired 250,000 unemployed young
men to work on rural local projects. Congress also gave the Federal
Trade Commission broad new regulatory powers and provided mortgage relief
to millions of farmers and homeowners. Roosevelt expanded a Hoover agency,
the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, making it a major source of
financing to railroads and industry. Roosevelt made agriculture relief
a high priority and set up the first Agricultural Adjustment Administration
(AAA). The AAA tried to force higher prices for commodities by paying
farmers to take land out of crops and to cut herds.
Reform of the economy was the goal of the National Industrial Recovery
Act (NIRA) of 1933. It tried to end cutthroat competition by forcing
industries to come up with codes that established the rules of operation
for all firms within specific industries, such as minimum prices, agreements
not to compete, and production restrictions. Industry leaders negotiated
the codes which were then approved by NIRA officials. Industry needed
to raise wages as a condition for approval. Provisions encouraged unions
and suspended anti-trust laws. The NIRA was found to be unconstitutional
by unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on May 27, 1935. Roosevelt
opposed the decision, saying "The fundamental purposes and principles
of the NIRA are sound. To abandon them is unthinkable. It would spell
the return to industrial and labor chaos." In 1933, major new
banking regulations were passed. In 1934, the Securities and Exchange
Commission was created to regulate Wall Street, with 1932 campaign fundraiser
Joseph P. Kennedy in charge.
Recovery was pursued through "pump-priming" (that is, federal
spending). The NIRA included $3.3 billion of spending through the Public
Works Administration to stimulate the economy, which was to be handled
by Interior Secretary Harold Ickes. Roosevelt worked with Republican
Senator George Norris to create the largest government-owned industrial
enterprise in American history, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA),
which built dams and power stations, controlled floods, and modernized
agriculture and home conditions in the poverty-stricken Tennessee Valley.
The repeal of prohibition also brought in new tax revenues and helped
him keep a major campaign promise.
Roosevelt tried to keep his campaign promise by cutting the regular
federal budget, including 40% cuts to veterans' benefits and cuts in
overall military spending. He removed 500,000 veterans and widows from
the pension rolls and slashed benefits for the remainder. Protests erupted,
led by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Roosevelt held his ground, but
when the angry veterans formed a coalition with Senator Huey Long and
passed a huge bonus bill over his veto, he was defeated. He succeeded
in cutting federal salaries and the military and naval budgets. He reduced
spending on research and education—there was no New Deal for science
until World War II began.
Roosevelt also kept
his promise to push for repeal of Prohibition. In April 1933, he issued
an Executive Order redefining 3.2% alcohol as the maximum allowed. That
order was followed up by Congressional action in the drafting and passage
of the 21st Amendment later that year.
Second New Deal, 1935-1936
Dust storms were frequent during the depression; this one occurred in
Texas in 1935.After the 1934 Congressional elections, which gave Roosevelt
large majorities in both houses, there was a fresh surge of New Deal
legislation. These measures included the Works Progress Administration
(WPA) which set up a national relief agency that employed two million
family heads. However, even at the height of WPA employment in 1938,
unemployment was still 12.5% according to figures from Michael Darby.The
Social Security Act, established Social Security and promised economic
security for the elderly, the poor and the sick. Senator Robert Wagner
wrote the Wagner Act, which officially became the National Labor Relations
Act. The act established the federal rights of workers to organize unions,
to engage in collective bargaining, and to take part in strikes.
While the First
New Deal of 1933 had broad support from most sectors, the Second New
Deal challenged the business community. Conservative Democrats, led
by Al Smith, fought back with the American Liberty League, but it failed
to mobilize much grass roots support. By contrast,
the labor unions, energized by the Wagner Act, signed up millions of
new members and became a major backer of Roosevelt's reelections in
1936, 1940 and 1944.
See also: Unemployment and the New Deal and Effects of the Great Depression
increased from 8.0% of gross national product (GNP) under Hoover in
1932 to 10.2% of the GNP in 1936. Because of the depression, the national
debt as a percentage of the GNP had doubled under Hoover from 16% to
33.6% of the GNP in 1932. While Roosevelt balanced the "regular"
budget, the emergency budget was funded by debt, which increased to
40.9% in 1936, and then remained level until World War II, at which
time it escalated rapidly.
had been recommended by some economists, most notably by John Maynard
Keynes of Britain. Some economists in retrospect have argued that the
National Labor Relations Act and Agricultural Adjustment Administration
were ineffective policies because they relied on price fixing. The
GNP was 34% higher in 1936 than in 1932 and 58% higher in 1940 on the
eve of war. That is, the economy grew 58% from 1932 to 1940 in 8 years
of peacetime, and then grew 56% from 1940 to 1945 in 5 years of wartime.
However, the economic recovery did not absorb all the unemployment Roosevelt
inherited. In his first term, unemployment fell by two-thirds from 25%
when he took office to 9.1% in 1937 but then stayed high until it vanished
during the war.
During the war,
the economy operated under such different conditions that comparison
with peacetime is impossible. However, Roosevelt saw the New Deal policies
as central to his legacy, and in his 1944 State of the Union Address,
he advocated that Americans should think of basic economic rights as
a Second Bill of Rights.
The U.S. economy
grew rapidly during Roosevelt's term. However, coming out of the
depression, this growth was accompanied by continuing high levels of
unemployment; as the median joblessness rate during the New Deal was
17.2%. Throughout his entire term, including the war years, average
unemployment was 13%. Total employment during Roosevelt's term
expanded by 18.31 million jobs, with an average annual increase in jobs
during his administration of 5.3%.
income taxes on individuals and corporations only slightly before the
war began, although payroll taxes were introduced to fund the new Social
Security program in 1937. However, under the revenue pressures brought
on by the depression, most states added or increased taxes, including
sales as well as income taxes. Roosevelt's proposal for new taxes on
corporate savings were highly controversial in 1936-37, and were rejected
by Congress. During the war he pushed for higher income tax rates for
individuals and corporations and a cap on high salaries for executive.
In order to fund the war, Congress broadened the base so that almost
every employee paid federal income taxes, and introduced withholding
taxes. The national debt, which had soared under Hoover, remained fairtly
stable until the war. 
The rejection of the League of Nations treaty in 1919 marked the dominance
of isolationism from world organizations in American foreign policy.
Despite Roosevelt's Wilsonian background, he and Secretary of State
Cordell Hull acted with great care not to provoke isolationist sentiment.
Roosevelt's "bombshell" message to the world monetary conference
in 1933 effectively ended any major efforts by the world powers to collaborate
on ending the worldwide depression, and allowed Roosevelt a free hand
in economic policy.
The main foreign
policy initiative of Roosevelt's first term was the Good Neighbor Policy,
which was a re-evaluation of U.S. policy towards Latin America. Since
the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, this area had been seen as an American
sphere of influence. American forces were withdrawn from Haiti, and
new treaties with Cuba and Panama ended their status as United States
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.
Landslide re-election, 1936
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 61% of the vote and carried every
state except Maine and Vermont. The New Deal Democrats won even larger
majorities in Congress. Roosevelt was backed by a coalition of voters
which included traditional Democrats across the country, small farmers,
the "Solid South", Catholics, big city machines, labor unions,
northern African Americans, Jews, intellectuals and political liberals.
This coalition, frequently referred to as the New Deal coalition, remained
largely intact for the Democratic Party until the 1960s.
Second term, 1937-1941
Roosevelt's ebullient public personality helped bolster the nation's
confidence.In dramatic contrast to the first term, very little major
legislation was passed in the second term. There was a United States
Housing Authority (1937), a second Agricultural Adjustment Act and the
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, which created the minimum wage.
When the economy began to deteriorate again in late 1937, Roosevelt
responded with an aggressive program of stimulation, asking Congress
for $5 billion for WPA relief and public works. This managed to eventually
create a peak of 3.3 million WPA jobs by 1938.
The Supreme Court
was the main obstacle to Roosevelt's programs during his first term,
overturning many of his programs. In particular in 1935 the Court unanimously
ruled that the National Recovery Act (NRA) was an unconstitutional delegation
of legislative power to the president. Roosevelt stunned Congress in
early 1937 by proposing a law allowing him to appoint five new justices,
a "persistent infusion of new blood".  This "court
packing" plan ran into intense political opposition from his own
party, led by Vice President Garner, since it seemed to upset the separation
of powers and give the President control over the Court. Roosevelt's
proposals were defeated. The Court also drew back from confrontation
with the administration by finding the Labor Relations and Social Security
Acts to be constitutional. Deaths and retirements on the Supreme Court
soon allowed Roosevelt to make his own appointments to the bench with
little controversy. Between 1937 and 1941, he appointed eight liberal
justices to the court.
Roosevelt had massive
support from the rapidly growing labor unions, but now 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 the
disunity weakened the party in the elections from 1938 through 1946.
Determined to overcome
the opposition of conservative Democrats in Congress (mostly from the
South), Roosevelt involved himself 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 used the argument that they were independent
to win reelection. Roosevelt failed badly, managing to defeat only one
target, a conservative Democrat from New York City. 
In the November
1938 election, Democrats lost six Senate seats and 71 House seats. Losses
were concentrated among pro-New Deal Democrats. When Congress reconvened
in 1939, Republicans under Senator Robert Taft formed a Conservative
coalition with Southern Democrats, virtually ending Roosevelt's ability
to get his domestic proposals enacted into law. The minimum wage law
of 1938 was the last substantial New Deal reform act passed by Congress.
Foreign policy, 1937-1941
The rise to power of Adolf Hitler in Germany aroused fears of a new
world war. In 1935, at the time of Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, Congress
passed the Neutrality Act, applying a mandatory ban on the shipment
of arms from the U.S. to any combatant nation. Roosevelt opposed the
act on the grounds that it penalized the victims of aggression such
as Ethiopia, and that it restricted his right as President to assist
friendly countries, but public support was overwhelming so he signed
it. In 1937, Congress passed an even more stringent act, but when the
Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, public opinion favored China, and
Roosevelt found various ways to assist that nation.
In October 1937,
he gave the Quarantine Speech aiming to contain aggressor nations. He
proposed that warmongering states be treated as a public health menace
and be "quarantined."Meanwhile he secretly stepped up
a program to build long range submarines that could blockade Japan.
When World War II broke out in 1939, Roosevelt rejected the Wilsonian
neutrality stance and sought ways to assist Britain and France militarily.
He began a regular secret correspondence with Winston Churchill discussing
ways of supporting Britain.
to Harry Hopkins for foreign policy advice, who became his chief wartime
advisor. They sought innovative ways to help Britain, whose financial
resources were exhausted by the end of 1940. Congress, where isolationist
sentiment was in retreat, passed the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941, allowing
the U.S. to give Britain, Russia, China and others $50 billion of military
supplies 1941-45. In sharp contrast to the loans of World War I, there
would be no repayment after the war. Roosevelt was a lifelong free trader
and anti-imperialist, and ending European colonialism was one of his
objectives. Roosevelt forged a close personal relationship with Churchill,
who became Prime Minister of the UK in May 1940.
In May 1940, a stunning
German blitzkrieg overran Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium,
Luxembourg, and France, leaving Britain vulnerable to invasion. Roosevelt,
who was determined to defend Britain, took advantage of the rapid shifts
of public opinion. A consensus was clear that military spending had
to be dramatically expanded. There was no consensus on how much the
U.S. should risk war in helping Britain. FDR appointed two interventionist
Republican leaders, Henry L. Stimson and Frank Knox, as Secretaries
of War and the Navy respectively. The fall of Paris shocked American
opinion, and isolationist sentiment declined. Both parties gave support
to his plans to rapidly build up the American military, but the isolationists
warned that Roosevelt would get the nation into an unnecessary war with
Germany. He successfully urged Congress to enact the first peacetime
draft in United States history in 1940 (it was renewed in 1941 by one
vote in Congress). Roosevelt was supported by the Committee to Defend
America by Aiding the Allies, and opposed by the America First Committee.
Roosevelt used his
personal charisma to build support for intervention. America should
be the "Arsenal of Democracy," he told his fireside audience.
In August, Roosevelt openly defied the Neutrality Acts by passing the
Destroyers for Bases Agreement, which gave 50 American destroyers to
Britain in exchange for base rights in the British Caribbean islands.
This was a precursor of the March 1941 Lend-Lease agreement which began
to direct massive military and economic aid to Britain, the Republic
of China and the Soviet Union.
Third term, 1941-1945
The two-term tradition had been an unwritten rule since George Washington
declined to run for a third term in 1796, and both Ulysses S. Grant
and Theodore Roosevelt were attacked for trying to obtain a third non-consecutive
term. FDR systematically undercut prominent Democrats who were angling
for the nomination, including two cabinet members, Secretary of State
Cordell Hull and James Farley, Roosevelt's campaign manager in 1932
and 1936, Postmaster General and Democratic Party chairman. Roosevelt
moved the convention to Chicago where he had strong support from the
city machine (which controlled the auditorium sound system). At the
convention the opposition was poorly organized but Farley had packed
the galleries. Roosevelt sent a message saying that he would not run,
unless he was drafted, and that the delegates were free to vote for
anyone. The delegates were stunned; then the loud speaker screamed "WE
WANT ROOSEVELT...THE WORLD WANTS ROOSEVELT!" The delegates went
wild and Roosevelt was nominated by 946 to 147. The new vice president
was Henry A. Wallace, the liberal intellectual who was Secretary of
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. Roosevelt won the 1940 election with
55% of the popular vote and 38 of the 48 states. A shift to the left
within the Administration was shown by the naming of Henry A. Wallace
as Vice President in place of the conservative Texan John Nance Garner,
who had become a bitter enemy of Roosevelt after 1937.
Roosevelt and Winston Churchill meet at Argentia, Newfoundland aboard
HMS Prince of Wales during their 1941 secret meeting to develop the
Atlantic Charter.Roosevelt's third term was dominated by World War II,
in Europe and in the Pacific. Roosevelt slowly began re-armament in
1938 since he was facing strong isolationist sentiment from leaders
like Senators William Borah and Robert Taft who supported re-armament.
By 1940, it was in high gear, with bipartisan support, partly to expand
and re-equip the United States Army and Navy and partly to become the
"Arsenal of Democracy" supporting Britain, France, China and
(after June 1941), the Soviet Union. As Roosevelt took a firmer stance
against the Axis Powers, American isolationists—including Charles
Lindbergh and America First—attacked the President as an irresponsible
warmonger. Unfazed by these criticisms and confident in the wisdom of
his foreign policy initiatives, FDR continued his twin policies of preparedness
and aid to the Allied coalition. On December 29, 1940, he delivered
his Arsenal of Democracy fireside chat, in which he made the case for
involvement directly to the American people, and a week later he delivered
his famous Four Freedoms speech in January 1941, further laying out
the case for an American defense of basic rights throughout the world.
The military buildup
caused nationwide prosperity. By 1941, unemployment had fallen to under
1 million. There was a growing labor shortage in all the nation's major
manufacturing centers, accelerating the Great Migration of African-American
workers from the Southern states, and of underemployed farmers and workers
from all rural areas and small towns. The homefront was subject to dynamic
social changes throughout the war, though domestic issues were no longer
Roosevelt's most urgent policy concerns.
When Germany invaded
the Soviet Union in June 1941, Roosevelt extended Lend-Lease to the
Soviets. During 1941, Roosevelt also agreed that the U.S. Navy would
escort Allied convoys as far east as Britain and would fire upon German
ships or submarines if they attacked Allied shipping within the U.S.
Navy zone. Moreover, by 1941, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers were secretly
ferrying British fighter planes between the UK and the Mediterranean
war zones, and the British Royal Navy was receiving supply and repair
assistance at American naval bases in the United States.
Thus, by mid-1941,
Roosevelt had committed the U.S. to the Allied side with a policy of
"all aid short of war." Roosevelt met with Churchill on
August 14, 1941, to develop the Atlantic Charter in what was to be the
first of several wartime conferences. In July 1941, Roosevelt ordered
Secretary of War Henry Stimson to begin planning for total American
military involvement. The resulting "Victory Program," under
the direction of Albert Wedemeyer, provided the President with the estimates
necessary for the total mobilization of manpower, industry, and logistics
to defeat the "potential enemies" of the United States.
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 had been formulated before the Japanese
attacked Pearl Harbor.
Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Germany, December 1941See
also: Attack on Pearl Harbor and Europe first
Roosevelt tried to keep Japan out of the war. After Japan occupied northern
French Indo-China in late 1940, he authorized increased aid to the Republic
of China. In July 1941, after Japan occupied the remainder of Indo-China,
he cut off the sales of oil. Japan thus lost more than 95% of its oil
supply. Roosevelt continued negotiations with the Japanese government
in the hope of averting war. Meanwhile he started shifting the long-range
B-17 bomber force to the Philippines, where it could threaten to fire-bomb
On December 7, 1941,
the Japanese attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, destroying or
damaging most of it and killing more than 2,400 American military personnel
and civilians. The Japanese took advantage of their preemptive destruction
of most of the Pacific Fleet to rapidly occupy the Philippines and the
British and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia, taking Singapore in February
1942 and advancing through Burma to the borders of British India by
May, cutting off the overland supply route to the Republic of China.
Antiwar sentiment in the United States evaporated overnight and the
country united behind Roosevelt.
Despite the wave
of anger that swept across the U.S. in the wake of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt
decided from the start that the defeat of Nazi Germany had to take priority.
On December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.
Roosevelt met with Churchill in late December and planned a broad informal
alliance between the U.S., Britain, China and the Soviet Union, 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
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek of China, Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill
at the Cairo Conference in 1943See also: Origins of the Cold War
The "Big Three" (Roosevelt, Churchill, and Joseph Stalin),
together with Chiang Kai-shek cooperated informally in which American
and British troops concentrated in the West, Russian troops fought on
the Eastern front, and Chinese, British and American troops fought in
the Pacific. The Allies formulated strategy in a series of high profile
conferences as well as contact through diplomatic and military channels.
Roosevelt guaranteed that the U.S. would be the "Arsenal of Democracy"
by shipping $50 billion of Lend Lease supplies, primarily to Britain
and also to the USSR, China and other Allies.
The Pentagon (that
is the Joint Chiefs of Staff) took the view that the quickest way to
defeat Germany was to invade France across the English Channel. Churchill,
wary of the casualties he feared this would entail, favored a more indirect
approach, advancing northwards from the Mediterranean Sea. Roosevelt
rejected this plan. Stalin advocated opening a Western front at the
earliest possible time, as the bulk of the land fighting in 1942-44
was on Soviet soil.
The Allies undertook
the invasions of French Morocco and Algeria (Operation Torch) in November
1942, of Sicily (Operation Husky) in July 1943, and of Italy (Operation
Avalanche) in September 1943. The strategic bombing campaign was escalated
in 1944, pulverizing all major German cities and cutting off oil supplies.
It was a 50-50 British-American operation. Roosevelt picked Dwight D.
Eisenhower, and not George Marshall, to head the Allied cross-channel
invasion, Operation Overlord that began on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Some
of the most costly battles of the war ensued after the invasion, and
the Allies were blocked on the German border in the "Battle of
the Bulge" in December 1944; when Roosevelt died Allied forces
were closing in on Berlin.
Meanwhile, in the
Pacific, the Japanese advance reached its maximum extent by June 1942,
when the U.S. Navy scored a decisive victory at the Battle of Midway.
American (and Australian) forces then began a slow and costly progress
through the Pacific islands, with the objective of gaining bases from
which strategic air power could be brought to bear on Japan and from
which Japan could ultimately be invaded. Roosevelt gave way in part
to insistent demands from the public and Congress that more effort be
devoted against Japan; he always insisted on Germany first.
By late 1943, it was apparent that the Allies would ultimately defeat
Nazi Germany, and it became increasingly important to make high-level
political decisions about the course of the war and the postwar future
of Europe. Roosevelt met with Churchill and the Chinese leader Chiang
Kai-shek at the Cairo Conference in November 1943, and then went to
Tehran to confer with Churchill and Stalin. At the Tehran Conference,
Roosevelt and Churchill told Stalin about the plan to invade France
in 1944, and Roosevelt also discussed his plans for a postwar international
organization. For his part, Stalin insisted on the redrawing the frontiers
of Poland. Stalin supported Roosevelt's plan for the United Nations
and promised to enter the war against Japan 90 days after Germany was
The "Big Three" Allied leaders (left to right) at Yalta in
February, 1945: Churchill, Roosevelt and StalinBy the beginning of 1945,
however, with the Allied armies advancing into Germany and the Soviets
in control of Poland, the issues had to come out into the open. In February,
Roosevelt, despite his steadily deteriorating health, traveled to Yalta,
in the Soviet Crimea, to meet again with Stalin and Churchill. After
the war Polish Americans criticized the Yalta Conference for legitimizing
Soviet control of Eastern Europe. However, Roosevelt had already lost
control of the situation, and put all his hopes on postwar deals with
Fourth term and death, 1945
Roosevelt, only 62 in 1944, was in declining health since at least 1940.
The strain of his paralysis and the physical exertion needed to compensate
for it for over 20 years had taken their toll, as had many years of
stress and a lifetime of chain-smoking. He had high blood pressure and
long-term heart disease. Aware of the risk that Roosevelt would die
during his fourth term, the party regulars insisted that Henry A. Wallace,
who was seen as too pro-Soviet, be dropped as Vice President. After
considering James F. Byrnes of South Carolina, Roosevelt replaced Wallace
with the little known Senator Harry S. Truman. In the 1944 election,
Roosevelt and Truman won 53% of the vote and carried 36 states, against
New York Governor Thomas Dewey.
When he addressed
Congress on his return from Yalta, many were shocked to see how old,
thin and sick he looked. He spoke while seated in the well of the House,
an unprecedented concession to his physical incapacity. But mentally
he was still in full command. "The Crimean Conference," he
said firmly, "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."
Roosevelt's funeral processionDuring March and early April 1945, he
sent strongly worded messages to Stalin accusing him of breaking his
Yalta commitments over Poland, Germany, prisoners of war and other issues.
When Stalin accused the western Allies of plotting a separate peace
with Hitler behind his back, Roosevelt replied: "I cannot avoid
a feeling of bitter resentment towards your informers, whoever they
are, for such vile misrepresentations of my actions or those of my trusted
On March 30, 1945,
Roosevelt went to Warm Springs to rest before his anticipated appearance
at the founding conference of the United Nations. On the morning of
April 12, Roosevelt said, "I have a terrific headache." He
was to never speak again. The doctor diagnosed that he had suffered
a massive cerebral hemorrhage, and as Allen Drury once said “so
ended an era, and so began another”. Lucy Mercer, his former mistress,
was with him at the time of his death. In his latter years at the White
House, Roosevelt was increasingly overworked and his daughter Anna Roosevelt
Boettiger had moved in to provide her father companionship and support.
Anna had also arranged for her father to meet with the now widowed Lucy
Mercer Rutherfurd. When Eleanor heard about her husband's death, she
was also faced with the hurtful news that Anna had been arranging these
meetings with Lucy and that Lucy had been with Franklin when he died.
was met with shock and grief across the U.S. and around the world. At
a time when the press did not pry into the health or private lives of
presidents, his declining health had not been known to the general public.
Roosevelt had been President for more than 12 years, longer than any
other person, and had led the country through some of its greatest crises
to the impending defeat of Nazi Germany and to within sight of the defeat
of Japan as well.
Roosevelt was interred
at the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site at Hyde Park in
Dutchess County, New York. It is interesting to note that FDR was laid
to rest in the same town where he was born.
Less than a month
after his death, on May 8, came the moment Roosevelt fought for: V-E
Day. President Harry Truman dedicated V-E Day and its celebrations to
Roosevelt's memory, paying tribute to his commitment towards ending
the war in Europe.
Civil rights issues
See also: Franklin D. Roosevelt's record on civil rights
Roosevelt's record on civil rights has been the subject of much controversy.
He was a hero to large minority groups, especially African-Americans,
Catholics and Jews. African-Americans and Native Americans fared well
in the New Deal relief programs, although they were not allowed to hold
significant leadership roles in the WPA and CCC. Roosevelt needed the
support of Southern Democrats for his New Deal programs, and therefore
decided not to push for anti-lynching legislation that might threaten
his ability to pass his highest priority programs. Roosevelt was highly
successful in attracting large majorities of African-Americans, Jews
and Catholics into his New Deal Coalition. Beginning in 1941 Roosevelt
issued a series of executive orders designed to guarantee racial, religious
and ethnic minorities a fair share of the new wartime jobs. He pushed
for admission of African-Americans into better positions in the military.
In 1942 Roosevelt made the final decision in ordering the internment
of Japanese Americans and other ethnic groups during World War II. Beginning
in the 1960s he was charged with not acting decisively enough to
prevent or stop the Holocaust which killed 6 million Jews. Critics cite
episodes such as when in 1939, the 950 Jewish refugees on board the
SS St. Louis were denied asylum and not allowed into the United States.
A 1999 survey of academic historians by CSPAN found that historians
consider Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Roosevelt the three
greatest presidents by a wide margin, and other surveys are consistent.
Roosevelt is the sixth most admired person from the 20th century by
US citizens, according to Gallup.
The Four Freedoms engraved on a wall at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Memorial in WashingtonBoth during and after his terms, critics of Roosevelt
questioned not only his policies and positions, but also the consolidation
of power that occurred because of his lengthy tenure as president, his
service during two major crises, and his enormous popularity. 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.
established the United States' leadership role on the world stage, with
pronouncements such as his Four Freedoms speech forming a basis for
the active role of the United States in the war and beyond. The decisions
made at the Yalta Conference established international alliances and
boundaries that continue to affect world diplomacy today.
death, Eleanor Roosevelt continued to be a forceful presence in U.S.
and world politics, serving as delegate to the conference which established
the United Nations and championing civil rights. Many members of his
administration played leading roles in the administrations of Truman,
John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson, each of whom embraced Roosevelt's
in Hyde Park is now a National historic site and home to his Presidential
library. His retreat at Warm Springs, Georgia is a museum operated by
the state of Georgia. The Franklin D. Roosevelt American Heritage Center
Museum, with a large collection of Roosevelt and New Deal materials,
is in Worcester, Massachusetts.
The Roosevelt memorial
is located in Washington, D.C. next to the Jefferson Memorial on the
Tidal Basin, and Roosevelt's image appears on the Roosevelt dime. Many
parks, schools, roads, an aircraft carrier and a Paris Métro
station have been named in his honor, as well as smaller places such
as a high school in Puerto Cortés, Honduras. Twelve days after
his death in 1945, Thomas Jefferson College in Chicago was renamed after
FDR with Eleanor's blessing.
He was the fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, and the fourth cousin
once removed of Ulysses S. Grant.
His wife Eleanor, the daughter of one of Theodore Roosevelt's brothers,
was his "fifth cousin once removed" in genealogical terminology.
His coat of arms features roses and ostrich plumes, and is similar to
that of Theodore Roosevelt.
"It is becoming increasingly clear that peace by fear has no higher
or more enduring quality than peace by the sword.There can be no peace
if the reign of law is to be replaced by a recurrent sanctification
of sheer force.There can be no peace if national policy adopts as a
deliberate instrument the threat of war.There can be no peace if national
policy adopts as a deliberate instrument the dispersion all over the
world of millions of helpless and persecuted wanderers with no place
to lay their heads.There can be no peace if humble men and women are
not free to think their own thoughts, to express their own feelings,
to worship God. There can be no peace if economic resources that ought
to be devoted to social and economic reconstruction are to be diverted
to an intensified competition in armaments which will merely heighten
the suspicions and fears and threaten"
Franklin D. Roosevelt
32nd President of the United States
was born in Hyde Park, New York on January 30, 1882, the son of James
Roosevelt and Sara Delano Roosevelt. His parents and private tutors
provided him with almost all his formative education. He attended Groton
(1896-1900), a prestigious preparatory school in Massachusetts, and
received a BA degree in history from Harvard in only three years (1900-03).
Roosevelt next studied law at New York's Columbia University. When he
passed the bar examination in 1907, he left school without taking a
degree. For the next three years he practiced law with a prominent New
York City law firm. He entered politics in 1910 and was elected to the
New York State Senate as a Democrat from his traditionally Republican
In the meantime,
in 1905, he had married a distant cousin, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, who
was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt. The couple had six children,
five of whom survived infancy: Anna (1906), James (1907), Elliott (1910),
Franklin, Jr. (1914) and John (1916).
Roosevelt was reelected
to the State Senate in 1912, and supported Woodrow Wilson's candidacy
at the Democratic National Convention. As a reward for his support,
Wilson appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913, a position
he held until 1920. He was an energetic and efficient administrator,
specializing in the business side of naval administration. This experience
prepared him for his future role as Commander-in-Chief during World
War II. Roosevelt's popularity and success in naval affairs resulted
in his being nominated for vice-president by the Democratic Party in
1920 on a ticket headed by James M. Cox of Ohio. However, popular sentiment
against Wilson's plan for US participation in the League of Nations
propelled Republican Warren Harding into the presidency, and Roosevelt
returned to private life.
at Campobello Island, New Brunswick in the summer of 1921, Roosevelt
contracted poliomyelitis (infantile paralysis). Despite courageous efforts
to overcome his crippling illness, he never regained the use of his
legs. In time, he established a foundation at Warm Springs, Georgia
to help other polio victims, and inspired, as well as directed, the
March of Dimes program that eventually funded an effective vaccine.
With the encouragement
and help of his wife, Eleanor, and political confidant, Louis Howe,
Roosevelt resumed his political career. In 1924 he nominated Governor
Alfred E. Smith of New York for president at the Democratic National
Convention, but Smith lost the nomination to John W. Davis. In 1928
Smith became the Democratic candidate for president and arranged for
Roosevelt's nomination to succeed him as governor of New York. Smith
lost the election to Herbert Hoover; but Roosevelt was elected governor.
Following his reelection
as governor in 1930, Roosevelt began to campaign for the presidency.
While the economic depression damaged Hoover and the Republicans, Roosevelt's
bold efforts to combat it in New York enhanced his reputation. In Chicago
in 1932, Roosevelt won the nomination as the Democratic Party candidate
for president. He broke with tradition and flew to Chicago to accept
the nomination in person. He then campaigned energetically calling for
government intervention in the economy to provide relief, recovery,
and reform. His activist approach and personal charm helped to defeat
Hoover in November 1932 by seven million votes.
The Depression worsened
in the months preceding Roosevelt's inauguration, March 4, 1933. Factory
closings, farm foreclosures, and bank failures increased, while unemployment
soared. Roosevelt faced the greatest crisis in American history since
the Civil War. He undertook immediate actions to initiate his New Deal.
To halt depositor panics, he closed the banks temporarily. Then he worked
with a special session of Congress during the first "100 days"
to pass recovery legislation which set up alphabet agencies such as
the AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration) to support farm prices
and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) to employ young men. Other
agencies assisted business and labor, insured bank deposits, regulated
the stock market, subsidized home and farm mortgage payments, and aided
the unemployed. These measures revived confidence in the economy. Banks
reopened and direct relief saved millions from starvation. But the New
Deal measures also involved government directly in areas of social and
economic life as never before and resulted in greatly increased spending
and unbalanced budgets which led to criticisms of Roosevelt's programs.
However, the nation-at-large supported Roosevelt, elected additional
Democrats to state legislatures and governorships in the mid-term elections.
Another flurry of
New Deal legislation followed in 1935 including the establishment of
the Works Projects Administration (WPA) which provided jobs not only
for laborers but also artists, writers, musicians, and authors, and
the Social Security act which provided unemployment compensation and
a program of old-age and survivors' benefits.
defeated Alfred M. Landon in 1936 and went on to defeat by lesser margins,
Wendell Willkie in 1940 and Thomas E. Dewey in 1944. He thus became
the only American president to serve more than two terms.
After his overwhelming
victory in 1936, Roosevelt took on the critics of the New deal, namely,
the Supreme Court which had declared various legislation unconstitutional,
and members of his own party. In 1937 he proposed to add new justices
to the Supreme Court, but critics said he was "packing" the
Court and undermining the separation of powers. His proposal was defeated,
but the Court began to decide in favor of New Deal legislation. During
the 1938 election he campaigned against many Democratic opponents, but
this backfired when most were reelected to Congress. These setbacks,
coupled with the recession that occurred midway through his second term,
represented the low-point in Roosevelt's presidential career.
By 1939 Roosevelt
was concentrating increasingly on foreign affairs with the outbreak
of war in Europe. New Deal reform legislation diminished, and the ills
of the Depression would not fully abate until the nation mobilized for
When Hitler attacked
Poland in September 1939, Roosevelt stated that, although the nation
was neutral, he did not expect America to remain inactive in the face
of Nazi aggression. Accordingly, he tried to make American aid available
to Britain, France, and China and to obtain an amendment of the Neutrality
Acts which rendered such assistance difficult. He also took measures
to build up the armed forces in the face of isolationist opposition.
With the fall of
France in 1940, the American mood and Roosevelt's policy changed dramatically.
Congress enacted a draft for military service and Roosevelt signed a
"lend-lease" bill in March 1941 to enable the nation to furnish
aid to nations at war with Germany and Italy. America, though a neutral
in the war and still at peace, was becoming the "arsenal of democracy",
as its factories began producing as they had in the years before the
The Japanese surprise
attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, followed four days later by
Germany's and Italy's declarations of war against the United States,
brought the nation irrevocably into the war. Roosevelt exercised his
powers as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, a role he actively
carried out. He worked with and through his military advisers, overriding
them when necessary, and took an active role in choosing the principal
field commanders and in making decisions regarding wartime strategy.
He moved to create
a "grand alliance" against the Axis powers through "The
Declaration of the United Nations," January 1, 1942, in which all
nations fighting the Axis agreed not to make a separate peace and pledged
themselves to a peacekeeping organization (now the United Nations) on
He gave priority
to the western European front and had General George Marshall, Chief
of Staff, plan a holding operation in the Pacific and organize an expeditionary
force for an invasion of Europe. The United States and its allies invaded
North Africa in November 1942 and Sicily and Italy in 1943. The D-Day
landings on the Normandy beaches in France, June 6, 1944, were followed
by the allied invasion of Germany six months later. By April 1945 victory
in Europe was certain.
The unending stress
and strain of the war literally wore Roosevelt out. By early 1944 a
full medical examination disclosed serious heart and circulatory problems;
and although his physicians placed him on a strict regime of diet and
medication, the pressures of war and domestic politics weighed heavily
on him. During a vacation at Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945,
he suffered a massive stroke and died two and one-half hours later without
regaining consciousness. He was 63 years old. His death came on the
eve of complete military victory in Europe and within months of victory
over Japan in the Pacific. President Roosevelt was buried in the Rose
Garden of his estate at Hyde Park, New York .