Franklin D. Roosevelt

Summary

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

A graduate of Harvard University and a member of the Democratic Party, he was elected governor of New York State in 1928 before winning the U.S. presidential election in 1932. Faced with the Great Depression (1929-1939), Roosevelt implemented the New Deal, a program to stimulate the economy and fight unemployment. He reformed the American banking system and founded Social Security. He created numerous government agencies such as the Work Projects Administration, the National Recovery Administration and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. He succeeded in developing a new model of presidency, more interventionist and more active, thanks to his team of advisors called Brain Trust.

Roosevelt was one of the main actors in the Second World War, breaking with the traditional isolationism of his country. Before the United States entered the war, he launched the Lend-Lease program to provide the Allied countries with war material. After the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, he fully assumed his duties as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Army and largely prepared the Allied victory. He played a leading role in the transformation of the world after the conflict, inspiring the founding of the United Nations. He left a strong imprint on the history of his country and the world. The longevity of his presidency remains unique. He died shortly after the beginning of his fourth term, at the age of 63. His vice-president, Harry S. Truman, succeeded him as president.

A central figure of the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the only U.S. president to be elected four times; two years after his death, the U.S. Congress passed the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which set a limit of two terms for a U.S. president, consecutive or not. He was also the third U.S. president with a majority of Dutch ancestors, after Martin Van Buren and Theodore Roosevelt, being from the same family as the latter.

Family origins and youth

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, a community in the Hudson Valley about 100 miles north of New York City. His parents belonged to two old patrician families of New York.

Among her ancestors was Philippe de La Noye, whose name was derived from Lannoy, a commune near Tourcoing, and who later moved to the Netherlands following his conversion to Protestantism. Emigrating to North America with the settlers financed by the Amsterdam company under the direction of Pierre Minuit de Tournai, Philippe de La Noye had descendants who allied themselves with the Dutch, the Roosevelts. The name of La Noye having been altered to Delano, the Delano Roosevelt family claimed this old ancestry, James Roosevelt I, father of the future president and wealthy entrepreneur, traced the foundation of the family to the Dutch ancestor, Nicholas Roosevelt, who settled in New Amsterdam. His descendants would give another American president, Theodore Roosevelt. The future president Franklin Delano married Theodore’s niece, Eleanor. Through his mother, Sara Ann Delano, he had Walloon ancestors, her father Warren Delano Jr. who had made his fortune in the opium trade with China, being a descendant of Philippe de La Noye (1602-1681), one of the passengers on the Fortune that docked at Plymouth in November 1621, joining the first settlers on the Mayflower. Among Philippe de La Noye’s many descendants was another U.S. president, General Ulysses S. Grant, a few decades earlier. Grant. Franklin, for his part, had convinced himself that he was descended from one of the oldest families of French and Belgian Flanders, the Counts of Lannoy, an ancient family of the county of Flanders, like Charles de Gaulle’s maternal grandmother, Julia Delannoy.

Franklin Roosevelt was an only child who grew up under the influence of a possessive mother and had a happy and solitary childhood. He often vacationed at his family’s home on Campobello Island in Canada. Through extensive travel in Europe, Roosevelt became familiar with the German and French languages. He received an aristocratic education, learned to ride a horse, played many sports such as polo, rowing, tennis and shooting.

At the age of fourteen, he entered an elitist private school in Massachusetts, the Groton School. During his studies, he was influenced by his teacher, the Reverend Endicott Peabody, who taught him the Christian duty of charity and the notion of service for the common good. In 1899, Franklin Roosevelt continued his studies first at Harvard University where he resided in the luxurious Adams House and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He joined the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity and contributed to the student newspaper The Harvard Crimson. He lost his father who died in 1900. At that time, his distant cousin and uncle by marriage Theodore Roosevelt became president of the United States and, although a Republican, became his political role model. This was the beginning of the Progressive Era that was reshaping the American political landscape, and it was within the Democratic Party that he entered politics. He also belonged to the Freemasons and was initiated in New York on October 11, 1911.

In 1902, at a White House reception, Franklin Roosevelt met his future wife Eleanor Roosevelt, who was also the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt. Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt had a common ancestor, the Dutchman Claes Martenzen van Roosevelt, who landed in New Amsterdam (later New York) in the 1640’s. His two grandsons, Johannes and Jacobus, founded both the Oyster Bay and Hyde Park branches of the family. Eleanor and Theodore Roosevelt descended from the elder branch, while Franklin Roosevelt came from the younger, Jacobus branch. In 1904, Franklin Roosevelt entered Columbia University Law School but dropped out in 1907 without graduating. He passed the New York State Bar Examination and was hired in 1908 by a prestigious Wall Street law firm, Carter Ledyard & Milburn.

Family life

Franklin Roosevelt married Eleanor on March 17, 1905 in New York City, despite her mother’s opposition. At the ceremony, Theodore Roosevelt stood in for the bride’s deceased father, Elliott Roosevelt. The young couple then moved to the family estate at Springwood in Hyde Park. While Franklin was a charismatic and sociable man, his wife was shy at the time and stayed away from social events to raise her children:

Franklin Roosevelt had several love affairs during his marriage: he had an affair with his wife’s secretary, Lucy Page Mercer Rutherfurd, as early as 1914. In September 1918, Eleanor found the written correspondence of lovers in the affairs of her husband. She threatened to divorce him. Under pressure from his mother and wife, Roosevelt agreed not to see Lucy Mercer again and the couple kept up appearances. Eleanor moved to a separate house in Valkill, but continued to see her husband.

The couple’s children had tumultuous lives: 19 marriages, 15 divorces and 22 children for all five children. All four sons served in World War II as officers and were decorated for their bravery in combat. After the conflict, they pursued careers in business and politics. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. represented the Upper West Side in Congress for three terms and James Roosevelt for California’s 26th District for six terms.

Political beginnings (1910-1920)

Roosevelt did not particularly like his legal career and did not finish the law school he started at Columbia University. He turned to politics at the first opportunity. In 1910, he ran for the Democratic Senate seat for New York’s 26th district. He was elected and took office on January 1, 1911 in the Albany Senate. He quickly became the leader of a caucus of reformers who opposed the cronyism of Tammany Hall, the political “machine” of the Democratic Party in New York. Roosevelt became a popular figure among state Democrats and was re-elected on November 5, 1912 with the support of journalist Louis McHenry Howe, before resigning on March 17. In 1914, he ran in the primary election for state senator but was defeated by Tammany Hall endorsed candidate James W. Gerard.

In 1913, Roosevelt was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President Woodrow Wilson and worked for Josephus Daniels, the United States Secretary of the Navy. Between 1913 and 1917, he worked to develop the U.S. Navy and founded the United States Naval Reserve. During the First World War, Roosevelt paid particular attention to the Navy and pushed for the development of submarines. In order to counter German submarine attacks on Allied ships, he supported the project to install a mine barrage in the North Sea between Norway and Scotland.

During the Viviani Joffre Mission in 1917, Deputy Secretary of the Navy and several politicians welcomed Marshal Joffre and Senator René Viviani upon their arrival in Washington.

In 1918, he inspected American naval equipment in Britain and went to the front in France. During his visit, he met Winston Churchill for the first time. After the armistice of November 11, 1918, he was charged with overseeing demobilization and left his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in July 1920.

In 1920, the Democratic National Convention chose Franklin Roosevelt as its candidate for vice president of the United States, along with Ohio Governor James Middleton Cox. In a speech in Butte, Montana, on August 18, 1920, he highlighted his role in writing the constitution imposed on Haiti in 1915: “I wrote the constitution of Haiti myself, and I think it is a pretty good one. The Cox-Roosevelt ticket was defeated by the Republican Warren G. Harding, who became president. After this failure, he retired from politics and worked in New York: he was vice-president of a stock company and director of a business law firm.

“Crossing the desert” and illness (1921-1928)

In August 1921, while vacationing on Campobello Island, Roosevelt contracted what was then thought to be poliomyelitis. The result was paralysis of his lower limbs: he was 39 years old. He never resigned himself to accepting the disease and showed courage and optimism. He tried many treatments: in 1926, he bought a property in Warm Springs, Georgia, where he founded a hydrotherapy center for polio patients, the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, which is still in operation. On the day of his first presidential inauguration, he personally received paralyzed children. During his presidency, he helped establish the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. Roosevelt hid his deteriorating health in order to be re-elected (as did two of his predecessors and later Dwight D. Eisenhower and Kennedy). In other words, being in good health is, in fact, a strong political argument that maximizes his popularity with American voters. In public, he walked with braces or a cane; in private, he used a wheelchair. In public appearances, he was supported by one of his sons or an aide. A 2003 study showed that Roosevelt did not have polio but Guillain-Barré syndrome. The search is complicated, however, because nearly all of Roosevelt’s medical records, though kept in a safe at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, disappeared shortly after his death. It is assumed that the records were destroyed by the president’s personal physician, Admiral Ross McIntire.

Governor of New York (1928-1932)

Roosevelt was careful to maintain his relationship with the Democratic Party and allied himself with Al Smith, former governor of New York. He became close to Tammany Hall and was eventually elected governor of New York State by a narrow margin and had to live with a Republican-majority Congress.

He took office as governor in 1929 and immediately embarked on an innovative and daring policy for the time: he acted in favor of the countryside (reforestation, soil conservation), established social programs such as the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration, which granted direct financial aid to the unemployed. Two strong concepts, besides a remarkable pragmatism, dominated his public action. First, the idea that it was often necessary to substitute collective freedom for individual freedom, but also his great mistrust of the idea of unconstrained competition (“cooperation must intervene where competition ceases” and competition “can be useful up to a certain limit but not beyond”). Thus, he reduced the working hours for women and children, launched a program to improve hospitals and prisons and strengthened public authority.

His critics accused him of being a “socialist” in a pejorative sense. Roosevelt was indeed very tolerant of immigration and religion, as evidenced by his reservations about quotas, prohibition, and the internal quarrels within the Democratic Party between Jews, Catholics and Protestants.

It was at this time that Roosevelt began to assemble a team of advisors, including Frances Perkins and Harry Hopkins, in preparation for his election as president. The main weakness of his term was the corruption of Tammany Hall in New York. Roosevelt was re-elected in 1930 against Republican Charles Egbert Tuttle for a second term as governor of New York State.

That same year, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) presented him with the highest award for an adult, the Silver Buffalo Award, in honor of his commitment to youth. Roosevelt supported the first Jamboree and became honorary president of the BSA.

Presidential election of 1932

Roosevelt replaced the Catholic Al Smith as leader of the New York Democratic Party in 1928. Roosevelt’s popularity in the most populous state in the Union made him a potential presidential candidate in 1932. His opponents for the nomination, Albert Ritchie, the governor of Maryland, and William Henry Murray, the governor of Oklahoma, were local and less credible. John Nance Garner, a candidate of the conservative wing of the party, gave up the nomination in exchange for the position of vice-president, which he held until 1941. Roosevelt continued to face hostility from party chairman John Jakob Raskob, but received financial support from William Randolph Hearst, Joseph P. Kennedy (the father of future President John F. Kennedy), William Gibbs McAdoo and Henry Morgenthau.

The presidential election took place against the backdrop of the Great Depression (1929-1939) and the new political alliances that resulted from it. By 1932, Roosevelt had recovered physically from his illness, except for the use of his legs, and he did not hesitate to embark on an exhausting election campaign. In his many campaign speeches, Roosevelt attacked the failures of incumbent President Herbert Hoover and denounced his inability to lead the country out of the crisis. He addressed in particular the poor, the workers, the ethnic minorities, the city dwellers and the Southern whites by elaborating a program described as the New Deal: he had pronounced this expression at the Democratic Convention in Chicago on July 2, 1932. He focused on economic issues and proposed a reduction of the bureaucracy and a partial abolition of Prohibition. Roosevelt’s program was not ideologically driven, although it was social democratic and Keynesian in inspiration, and was not specific about how it would help the poorest Americans.

Roosevelt’s campaign was a success for several reasons. First of all, the candidate was very educational and was able to convince the Americans with his oratory skills. He traveled nearly 50,000 miles across the country to convince his voters. Moreover, Roosevelt had matured politically under the influence of personalities such as Louis McHenry Howe, one of his associates, or Josephus Daniels, his minister of the Navy. Nor should we neglect the role of the governor’s advisors, such as Raymond Moley, Rexford Tugwell, and Adolf Augustus Berle, all three of whom were researchers and academics, generally from Columbia, approached by Samuel Irving Rosenman, Roosevelt’s speechwriter. These men, along with Bernard Baruch, a financier and former head of the War Industries Board during World War I, and Harry Hopkins, his confidant, later formed the president’s famous “Brain Trust. But Roosevelt’s success was mainly due to the extreme unpopularity of President Hoover and his “laissez-faire” policy, which had greatly aggravated the 1929 crisis.

On November 8, 1932, Roosevelt won 57 per cent of the vote and the Electoral College favoured him in 42 of the 48 states. The Congress went to the Democratic Party. Western, Southern and rural states favoured him. Historians and political scientists consider that the 1932-36 elections founded a new coalition around the Democrats and the fifth party system.

On February 15, 1933, Roosevelt escaped an assassination attempt while delivering an impromptu speech from the back of his convertible car in Bayfront Park, Miami, Florida. The shooter was Giuseppe Zangara, an Italian anarchist whose motives were personal. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison, and later to death, because Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak died of injuries sustained during the attack.

President of the United States (1933-1945)

When Franklin Roosevelt took office as President of the United States on March 4, 1933, the country was in the midst of a severe economic crisis: 24.9 percent of the workforce, or more than 12 million people, were unemployed, and two million Americans were homeless. Between 1930 and 1932, 773 banks failed. Roosevelt chose three economists from the Simon Patten school as his advisors and hid the Glass-Steagall Act, which, among other things, allowed the destruction of speculative accounts that put pressure on American society. Then Roosevelt allowed the creation of a public national bank, creating money for future production, which subsidized the National Industrial Recovery Act. In his inaugural address, Roosevelt denounced the responsibility of bankers and financiers for the crisis; he presented his program directly to the American people in a series of radio discussions known as fireside chats. The first cabinet in the Roosevelt administration included a woman for the first time in American political history: Frances Perkins, who served as Secretary of Labor until June 1945.

Early in his term, Roosevelt took many steps to reassure the public and to turn the economy around. Between March 4 and June 16, he proposed 15 new laws that were all passed by Congress. The first New Deal was not a socialist policy and Roosevelt governed more in the center. Between March 9 and June 16, 1933, a period of one hundred days that corresponds to the length of the session of the American Congress, he passed a record number of bills that were easily adopted thanks to the Democratic majority, the support of senators such as George William Norris, Robert F. Wagner or Hugo Black, but also thanks to the action of his Brain Trust, the team of his advisers, most of whom came from Columbia University. To explain these political successes, historians also invoke Roosevelt’s capacity for seduction and his ability to use the media.

Like his predecessor Herbert Hoover, Roosevelt saw the economic crisis as the result of a lack of confidence that translated into a decline in consumption and investment. He therefore tried to be optimistic. At the time of the bank failures of March 4, 1933, his inaugural address, heard on the radio by some two million Americans, included the famous statement: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. The next day, the president declared a vacation for the banks to stem the panic caused by the failures and announced a plan for their upcoming reopening.

On March 9, 1933, the Emergency Banking Act was passed in Congress, followed on April 5 by Presidential Executive Order 6102, requiring gold coin holders to return their coins to the U.S. Treasury. Within thirty days, one-third of the gold in circulation was returned to the Treasury. On August 28, President Roosevelt issued another order requiring all gold owners to register their holdings with the Treasury.

Roosevelt continued Hoover’s unemployment program under the newly created Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). He also took over the Reconstruction Finance Corporation as a major source of financing for railroads and industry. Among Roosevelt’s most popular new agencies was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which employed 250,000 unemployed youth in various local projects. Congress gave new regulatory powers to the Federal Trade Commission and mortgage loans to millions of farmers and homeowners. In addition, on January 31, 1934, the dollar was devalued by 75 per cent against gold, from $20 an ounce to $35, which boosted exports. The resulting inflow of foreign exchange led to an improvement in the balance of trade, and even more so in the balance of payments.

Economic reforms were undertaken through the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933. However, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in a decision of May 27, 1935. The NIRA established economic planning, a minimum wage and a reduction in working hours to 36 hours per week. The NIRA also established more freedom for trade unions. The expected goals of this regulatory agent were essentially to control economic activity, to support the purchasing power of the population, to create jobs and to respect the rights of both workers and employers.

Roosevelt injected huge amounts of government money into the economy: the NIRA spent $3.3 billion through the Public Works Administration under Harold LeClair Ickes. The President worked with Republican Senator George William Norris to create the largest government industrial enterprise in American history, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which built dams and hydroelectric stations, modernized agriculture and improved living conditions in the Tennessee Valley. In April 1933, the repeal of the Volstead Act, which defined prohibition, allowed the state to levy new taxes.

Roosevelt tried to keep his campaign pledge to reduce government spending: but he raised opposition from World War I veterans by cutting their pensions (he lowered the pay and number of civil servants with the Economy Act on March 20, 1933). He also cut spending on education and research.

The recovery of agriculture was one of Roosevelt’s priorities, as evidenced by the first Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), which was intended to raise agricultural prices by reducing agricultural supply. His action was criticized because it forced the destruction of crops while part of the population was malnourished. In addition to the destruction of agricultural resources (fallowing of land and destruction of crops when the fall in the price of agricultural products was deemed too great), the subsidies granted to farmers were financed by a tax levied on the consumption of agricultural products; these supports only benefited the owners and not or very little the agricultural workers. In addition, the Farm Credit Act was passed to reduce the debt of farmers.

Following the harsh winter of 1933-34, the Civil Works Administration was founded and employed up to 4.5 million people; the agency hired workers for a wide variety of activities such as archaeological excavations and mural painting. Despite its successes, it was dissolved after the winter.

Roosevelt was severely attacked during the first part of his presidency by business elites, the press and former leaders of his own party. He was regularly described in the press as a dictator, a communist or a fascist. The Chicago Tribune kept a countdown of the time remaining before the 1936 election, stating on its front page, “Only X Days Left to Save Our Country.”

From 1934 onwards, Franklin Roosevelt’s policies moved to the left with the creation of the Welfare State.

The 1934 general election gave Roosevelt a large majority in both houses of Congress. The president was able to continue his reforms to boost consumption and reduce unemployment. However, the unemployment rate remained at a very high level (12.5 per cent in 1938). On May 6, 1934, the president created the Work Projects Administration, headed by Harry Hopkins. It employed up to 3.3 million people in 1938 on various construction sites: roads, bridges, public buildings, etc. Teachers taught English to immigrants, actors performed plays in small towns, and painters like Jackson Pollock were commissioned. The National Youth Administration was founded in June 1935 to reduce youth unemployment and encourage education. The Resettlement Administration was established in April 1935 under the direction of Rexford Tugwell to alleviate poverty among farmers. It was replaced by the Farm Security Administration in 1937.

On May 28, 1934, Roosevelt met with the English economist John Maynard Keynes, a meeting that did not go well, as Keynes felt that the American president did not understand economics.

On June 6, 1934, the Securities Exchange Act created the Securities and Exchange Commission to regulate and control the financial markets. Roosevelt appointed Joseph P. Kennedy, father of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, as the first chairman of the SEC.

The Social Security Act provided for the first time at the federal level for the establishment of social security for the retired, the poor and the sick. The Pension Act was signed into law on August 14, 1935. It was to be financed by contributions from employers and employees so as not to increase federal government spending.

Senator Robert Wagner wrote the Wagner Act, which was later passed as the National Labor Relations Act. The act, signed into law on July 5, 1935, established the federal right for workers to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining. It established the National Labor Relations Board to protect employees from employer abuse. The number of union members rose sharply from that point on.

The second New Deal was attacked by demagogues such as Father Coughlin, Huey Pierce Long and Francis Townsend. But it was also opposed by the more conservative Democrats led by Al Smith. With the American Liberty League, Smith criticized Roosevelt and compared him to Karl Marx and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. On May 27, 1935, the U.S. Supreme Court vetoed one of the New Deal laws giving the federal government power over industrialists. It unanimously ruled that the National Recovery Act (NRA) was unconstitutional because it gave legislative power to the president. This was an initial setback for Roosevelt, but also for the federal government in the face of state and individual interests. The business community was also hostile to the “White House type. Finally, Roosevelt was criticized for increasing the federal budget deficit from $2.6 billion in 1933 to $4.4 billion in 1936.

Roosevelt, who favored a pay-as-you-go system, told a reporter who suggested that pensions should be financed by taxes: “I suppose you’re right on an economic level, but financing is not an economic problem. It is a purely political issue. We introduced payroll taxes to give contributors a legal, moral and political right to their pensions. With these contributions, no damn politician will ever be able to dismantle my social security.

After four years as president, the economy had improved but was still fragile. In 1937, 7.7 million Americans were unemployed, representing 14 percent of the workforce. In the presidential election of November 1936, Roosevelt was confronted with a Republican candidate of no real stature, Alf Landon, whose party was disunited. He succeeded in uniting under his banner all the forces opposed to “financiers, bankers and reckless speculators”. This multi-ethnic, multi-religious and essentially urban electorate then became the Democratic Party’s voting pool. Roosevelt was re-elected to a second term. His landslide victory in 46 of the 48 states, achieved by a margin of 11 million votes, contradicted all the polls and press forecasts. It indicated strong popular support for his New Deal policies and resulted in a Democratic supermajority in both houses of Congress (75 per cent of the seats were held by Democrats).

Compared to his first term, few major laws were passed in the second term: the United States Housing Authority, which was part of the New Deal (1937), a second adjustment for agriculture, and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, which created a minimum wage. When the economy deteriorated again at the end of 1937, Roosevelt launched an aggressive program to stimulate it by asking Congress for $5 billion to launch public works in order to create 3.3 million jobs in 1938.

The U.S. Supreme Court was the main obstacle to Roosevelt’s programs. Roosevelt stunned Congress in 1937 by proposing legislation that would allow him to appoint five new justices (known as the court-packing plan). This request was met with widespread opposition, including members of his own party, such as Vice President John Nance Garner, because it seemed to violate the separation of powers. Roosevelt’s proposals were thus rejected. Deaths and retirements of members of the Supreme Court, however, allowed Roosevelt to appoint new justices relatively quickly with little controversy. Between 1937 and 1941, he appointed eight justices to the Supreme Court.

The stock market plummeted in the summer of 1937, production collapsed and unemployment rose to 19 per cent of the workforce in 1938. In 1938, the president reacted by asking Congress for more money, introducing a law on housing assistance, and helping farmers (second AAA in February 1938). On June 25, 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed. The weekly working hours were lowered to 44 hours and then to 40 hours.

Roosevelt obtained the support of the American Communists and the union of the trade unions which were then experiencing a strong progression, but they split up following internal quarrels within the AFL and the CIO led by John L. Lewis. These disputes weakened the Democratic Party in the elections of 1938 to 1946.

Roosevelt’s second term was marked by the rise of opposition. Opposition was expressed first in the checks and balances, the Supreme Court and Congress, including in the Democratic ranks, but also in the newspapers, where cartoons and editorials were not afraid to criticize the president’s actions. The press reported on scandals involving the president’s family. Conservatives accused him of being too close to the Communists and attacked the WPA. Fascist groups and leaders, such as Father Coughlin’s Christian Front, launched a crusade against the Jew Deal, but it got little traction.

Determined to overcome conservative opposition among congressional Democrats (mostly from southern states), Roosevelt himself became involved in the 1938 primaries by supporting those who favoured New Deal reform. Roosevelt succeeded only in destabilizing the conservative Democrat in New York City. He had to preserve the political balance in order to keep his majority and he spared the Democrats in the South by not questioning segregation against blacks.

In the November 1938 mid-term elections, the Democrats lost seven seats in the Senate and 72 seats in the House of Representatives. The losses were concentrated among pro-New Deal Democrats. When Congress reconvened in early 1939, Republicans led by Senator Robert Taft formed a conservative coalition with conservative southern Democrats that prevented Roosevelt from turning his programs into law. The Minimum Wage Act of 1938 was the last New Deal reform to be passed by Congress.

The effectiveness of the New Deal in economic matters remains debated today, since this policy was primarily aimed at fighting the crisis, which lasted until America mobilized its economy for the Second World War. On the other hand, it was an undeniable success on the social level. President Franklin Roosevelt’s policies changed the country through reform, not revolution.

Economically, the situation was better than in 1933, which had been the most difficult moment of the crisis: industrial production had recovered its 1929 level. Taking the 1929 situation as a base of 100, GNP in constant prices was 103 in 1939, 96 for GNP

The New Deal also ushered in a period of state interventionism in many sectors of the American economy: although there were no nationalizations as in Popular Front France, federal agencies had expanded their activities and employed more university-educated civil servants. Thus, the New Deal measures laid the foundations for the future American superpower. Politically, the executive branch and the presidential cabinet had strengthened their influence, without turning the country into a dictatorship. Roosevelt was able to establish a direct link with the people, through the numerous press conferences he held, but also through the use of radio (weekly “fireside chats”). The New Deal allowed a democratization of culture and the reconciliation of artists with society. The spirit of the New Deal permeated the country: cinema and literature were more interested in the poor and in social problems. The Work Projects Administration (1935) initiated many projects in the field of arts and literature, in particular the five programs of the famous Federal One. The WPA allowed the realization of 1,566 new paintings, 17,744 sculptures, 108,099 oil paintings and to develop art education. At the end of the New Deal, the results were mixed: if American artists had been supported by public funds and had gained national recognition, this cultural policy was interrupted by the Second World War and the death of Roosevelt in 1945.

Between Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and the United States’ entry into the war, Roosevelt had to take a position on various international issues, taking into account Congress and American opinion. He was torn between the interventionism defined by President Wilson and the isolationism that consisted in keeping his country out of European affairs. Roosevelt’s foreign policy was the subject of much controversy.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew Europe, Latin America and China well. At the beginning of his political career, he was at first a supporter of interventionism and concerned about American influence abroad: in the 1920s, he was in favor of Wilsons’ ideas. In 1933, he chose Cordell Hull, who opposed economic protectionism and American withdrawal, as his Secretary of State. On November 16, 1933, the U.S. government officially recognized the Soviet Union and established diplomatic relations with that country.

However, Roosevelt quickly changed his position under pressure from Congress, pacifism or nationalism of the public opinion, and made the United States enter a phase of isolationism, while morally condemning the aggressions of fascist dictatorships.

The president inaugurated the “Good Neighboring policy” with Latin America and moved away from the Monroe Doctrine that had prevailed since 1823. In December 1933, he signed the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States and renounced the right to unilateral interference in South American affairs. In 1934, he had the Platt Amendment repealed, which allowed Washington to intervene in the internal affairs of the Republic of Cuba. The United States abandoned the protectorate over Cuba that had resulted from the war against Spain. In the same year, the Marines left Haiti and Congress voted for the transition to independence for the Philippines, which did not take effect until July 4, 1946. In 1936, the right of intervention in Panama was abolished, ending the American protectorate over that country.

Faced with the risk of war in Europe, Roosevelt had an attitude that may have seemed ambiguous: he officially strove to keep the United States neutral, while making speeches that suggested that the president wished to help the democracies and countries under attack.

On August 31, 1935, he signed the U.S. Neutrality Act at the time of the Second Italo-Ethiopian War: it prohibited the supply of arms to the belligerents. It was applied to the Italian-Ethiopian War and later to the Spanish Civil War. Roosevelt disapproved of this decision because he felt that it penalized aggressed countries and limited the right of the American president to help friendly states. The Neutrality Act was renewed with more restrictions on February 29, 1936 (banning loans to belligerents) and May 1, 1937 (cash and carry clause, which allowed customers to pick up goods in the United States and pay cash). In January 1935, Roosevelt proposed that the United States participate in the Permanent Court of International Justice; the Senate, however, with a Democratic majority, refused to commit the country.

Faced with Congressional isolationism and his own willingness to intervene that clouded American foreign policy, Roosevelt declared, “The United States is neutral, but no one forces the citizens to be neutral.” Indeed, thousands of American volunteers fought in the Spanish War (others fought in China in the American Volunteer Group that formed Claire Lee Chennault’s “Flying Tigers” and later the Eagle Squadrons volunteers in the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain. When the Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, public opinion in favor of China allowed Roosevelt to help that country in several ways.

On October 5, 1937, in Chicago, Roosevelt made a speech in favor of quarantining all aggressor countries that would be treated as a threat to public safety. In December 1937, at the time of the Nanking massacre in China, Japanese planes sank the American gunboat Panay on the Yangtze River. Washington received an apology, but tensions quickly rose between the United States and the Empire of the Rising Sun. In May 1938, Congress passed appropriations for rearmament. The American president publicly expressed his indignation at the anti-Semitic persecutions in Germany (Kristallnacht, 1938), but the United States refused to allow the 908 German Jewish refugees from the liner Saint Louis to disembark in the United States (they were welcomed by France, Belgium, Great Britain and the Netherlands). He recalled his ambassador in Berlin but did not close the diplomatic representation. From 1938 onwards, American opinion gradually became aware that war was inevitable and that the United States would have to participate in it. Roosevelt prepared the country for war, without directly entering the conflict. Thus, he secretly launched the construction of long-range submarines that could have blocked Japanese expansionism.

When World War II broke out in September 1939, Roosevelt rejected the country’s proposal for neutrality and sought ways to help the Allied countries in Europe. He made October 11, 1939 Pulaski Day in support of the Poles. On November 4, 1939, Roosevelt obtained the repeal of the automatic embargo on arms and ammunition. He also began a secret correspondence with Winston Churchill to determine American support for the United Kingdom.

Roosevelt turned to Harry Hopkins who became his chief wartime advisor. They came up with innovative solutions to help the United Kingdom, such as sending financial resources at the end of 1940. Congress gradually shifted its focus to aiding the countries under attack and allocated $50 billion in arms aid to various countries including the Republic of China and the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1945. Unlike the First World War, this aid did not have to be repaid after the war. Throughout his life, one of Roosevelt’s wishes was to see an end to European colonialism. He forged an excellent relationship with Churchill who became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in May 1940.

That same May, Nazi Germany invaded Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, leaving the United Kingdom alone to face the danger of a German invasion. Following these lightning victories in Europe, Hitler’s Germany turned eastward to the Soviet Union. The German invasion forced the Soviet Union into the conflict. Although the United States, thanks to its geographical position, did not fear any attack for the time being, the Soviet Union’s entry into the war was a major turning point in the United States’ decision to participate in the war. Indeed, Germany was in conflict on two fronts, which completely changed the scenario of the war. Yet the role of the United States was not yet defined. Faced with many uncertainties, Roosevelt questioned whether to enter the war, and if so, in what way. His fears centered on several points: As a capitalist country, should the United States help the Communists? Is the United States strong enough to confront Germany? Does Japan pose a threat to the United States?

In July 1940, Roosevelt appointed two Republican leaders, Henry Lewis Stimson and Frank Knox, as Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy. The fall of Paris shocked the American public and the feeling of isolationism gradually declined. Everyone agreed to strengthen the U.S. military, but some reluctance to enter the war remained for a while. Roosevelt asked Congress to draft the country’s first peacetime troops in September 1940. He did it again in 1941.

In 1940, the United States sought to avoid a new global conflict.

Roosevelt was aware of this fearful atmosphere. He knew, however, that no request to Congress would follow without the United States being forced to do so. He therefore had to wait for a major event that would persuade the isolationists to enter the war officially.

When the Soviet Union was attacked by Germany on June 22, 1941, its demand for additional armaments, created a divided popular opinion. For many it was an ideological debate. The conflict between Hitler’s totalitarian regime and Stalin’s communist regime was seen as a good thing. Moreover, a majority believed that Hitler would soon be finished with the USSR.

Indeed, the decision to help the Soviet Union was not an easy one. Although this choice was of great importance, it should not be forgotten that a majority was against the idea of giving aid to the Soviet Union and that if Russia had not stood up to Germany, this choice would have had great repercussions on Roosevelt and his policy. He would have lost a lot of popularity, so he had to be strong and convincing, because according to him, helping the Soviet Union was a logical choice.

Indeed, if the USSR lost to Germany, Hitler would only have to fight on one front. He could have focused entirely on Great Britain, which was counting on the help of the United States. Even if the UK had fought Germany, it would have had few resources and would have eventually lost or been forced to negotiate. At that point, all of Europe would have been under Nazi domination, which would have made Roosevelt’s job more difficult. Indeed, the United States would surely have been Hitler’s next target.

Thus, time was running out before the Soviet Union fell into the hands of Hitler.

The conflict of ideology was not the only uncertainty. In 1940-41, the United States was not sufficiently armed to enter the war. This fear was confirmed in the July 2, 1941, diary entry of U.S. Secretary of War Stimson: “The real problem will increasingly be whether we are really strong enough, sincere enough and dedicated enough to take on the Germans. Thus, in the aftermath of Nazi Germany’s meteoric advance, this fear affected not only someone close to the president, his Secretary of War, but also much of the United States. This part was opposed to a potential declaration of war. For this, time was an indispensable factor in the decision.

In addition, uncertainty about the reliability of the USSR and Great Britain to resist Germany was compounded by the fear of a German offensive in North Africa and the Middle East. The United States feared that Germany would invade Africa, as it was one of the quickest ways to reach South America and attack the United States through it. Faced with these threats, Roosevelt was forced to be cautious in his decision making.

Moreover, Hitler’s ally, Japan, posed a threat on another front. Even though Japan had not yet attacked the United States before the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the president and those close to him were vigilant. In June 1941, Japan wanted to take advantage of the German invasion by attacking the Soviet Union from the east, which would have weakened the USSR’s chances of survival. This led Roosevelt to practice “a policy of extreme caution in helping Stalin. Roosevelt preferred to keep Japan quiet to avoid having to fight on two fronts, if the United States declared war on Germany. However, in July, Japan confirmed its choice of southward expansion. It would not attack the USSR, “at least not until we are certain of Hitler’s decisive victory. “This increased Stalin’s chances of survival. Thus, it allowed the United States to observe the continuation of the conflict and to consider a potential declaration of war.

On 4 September 1941, the USS Greer, an American destroyer, decided to pursue a German submarine. It attacked it, without authorization, with the help of a British bomber. After a few hours, the submarine’s commander decided to reverse the roles and launched two torpedoes towards the Greer. The incident was immediately reported to Washington. The next day, the president spoke of a submarine attack against the Greer. Thus, the United States introduced the escort of convoys (KE 460-461), especially those from Canada, which had been sending goods to Great Britain since June 1940. Isolationists protested, but public opinion approved of “shoot on sight” by 62 percent to 28 percent. Following the submarine attacks on the Pink Star and the Kearny in September and October 1941, Roosevelt pointed out the inadequacies of the Neutrality Act of 1939, which prohibited the arming of merchant ships. However, the president did not obtain permission to declare war on Germany from Congress, which was still too isolationist. The only solution was to continue the undeclared war.

The German advance in the Soviet Union also slowed down in September 1941. Hitler had attacked Stalin on June 22, 1941. He had misjudged the resistance of the Soviet Union and when winter came, the German army was faced with weather conditions for which it was not equipped. This turn of events facilitated Roosevelt’s decision to provide equipment to the USSR to help it persist against Germany. In addition, following Hopkins’ visit to Moscow in July-August 1941, a more positive image of Stalin and Russia was circulating in the United States. The number of Americans wanting to participate in the war increased and public opinion pushed Roosevelt to decide in favor of the USSR. Thus, the United States and Great Britain “agreed to meet Stalin’s demands as much as possible, offering aircraft, tanks, aluminum, 90,000 jeeps and trucks and more. The first delivery agreement was signed on October 1, 1941. There remained the problem of transport and payment. On November 7, 1941, a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Soviet Union was admitted to the $1 billion in loan-lease assistance, repayable without interest over ten years starting five full years after the end of the war. Roosevelt seemed determined in the fall of 1941 to continue an undeclared war with Germany as long as possible. He knew, however, that sending convoys to Europe was not enough to defeat Hitler. The United States had to enter the war. They had to send men in. It was inevitable. However, the event that would upset isolationist views in Congress came sooner than expected.

On December 29, 1940, Roosevelt spoke in a radio address about converting the U.S. economy for the war effort: the country was to become “The Arsenal of Democracy. On January 6, 1941, he delivered his speech on the Four Freedoms presented as fundamental in his State of the Union address: freedom of speech, religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear. The next day, the president created the Office of Production Management (other agencies were later founded to coordinate policy: Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply, Office of War Mobilization in May 1943. The federal government thus strengthened its prerogatives, which provoked reactions among the Republicans, but also in Roosevelt’s own camp: in August 1941, Democratic Senator Harry Truman submitted a report on the wastefulness of the federal government.

The Lend-Lease program was intended to provide the Allies with war materials without directly intervening in the conflict. The Lend-Lease Act was signed into law on March 11, 1941, and authorized the President of the United States to “sell, assign, exchange, lease, or otherwise provide” any defense equipment to any government “whose defense the President considers vital to the defense of the United States.

On July 7, 1941, Washington sent some 7,000 Marines to Iceland to prevent a German invasion. Convoys of supplies to England were escorted by American forces.

In August 1941, Roosevelt met secretly with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Atlantic Conference, held aboard a warship off the coast of Newfoundland. The two men signed the Atlantic Charter on August 14, 1941, which reiterated and expanded on Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech, “undertakes to lay the foundation for a new international policy.

On September 11, 1941, Roosevelt ordered his air force to attack Axis ships caught in U.S. territorial waters. Five days later, compulsory military service in peacetime was introduced. On October 27, 1941, after two American warships were torpedoed by German submarines, Roosevelt declared that the United States had been attacked. Unlike in World War I, the United States had had time to prepare for the conflict. All that remained was to wait for the spark that would trigger the entry into the war: it came from Japan and not from Nazi Germany as Roosevelt thought.

On July 26, 1941, the Philippine military forces, still under American control, were nationalized and General Douglas MacArthur was put in charge of the Pacific Theater. Relations with Japan began to deteriorate.

In May 1941, Washington supported China by granting a loan-lease. Following Japan’s refusal to withdraw from Indochina and China, excluding Manchukuo, the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands decreed a complete embargo on oil and steel and the freezing of Japanese assets on American soil.

On December 7, 1941, Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the largest American naval base in the Pacific Ocean. The attack killed 2,403 people and wounded 1,178. Many warships and military aircraft were damaged or destroyed. Japanese forces also attacked not only Hong Kong and Malaya that same day, but also the U.S. territories of Guam, Wake Island and the Philippines. On the morning of December 8, the Japanese also launched an attack against Midway.

The Japanese had planned to make a formal declaration of war before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but due to various setbacks, it was not presented to the State Department until after the attack had begun. On December 8, 1941, President Roosevelt said on the radio, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will go down in history as a day of infamy, the United States was deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The U.S. Congress declared war on Japan almost unanimously and Roosevelt signed the declaration the same day. On December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.

With the Conscription Act of December 20, 1941, mobilization was extended to all Americans between the ages of 20 and 40. On December 22, 1941, the Arcadia Conference began, during which Churchill and Roosevelt decided to join forces against Nazi Germany. The Declaration of the United Nations of January 1, 1942 provided for the creation of the UN. The entry of the United States into the war marked a turning point in the globalization of the conflict.

A controversial thesis asserts that Roosevelt knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor and that he let it happen to provoke public indignation and bring his country into the war. This theory was first put forward by officers who had been deposed by the commissions of inquiry: Husband E. Kimmel claimed to be the victim of a plot to hide the responsibility of the government and the general staff. He spread this idea in his Memoirs, published in 1955. This thesis was then taken up by the opponents of Roosevelt and his foreign policy. Later, several American historians, such as Charles Beard, Charles C. Tansill tried to prove the involvement of the president.

Facts cited in support of this theory include the supposedly providential absence from Pearl Harbor of the three aircraft carriers (priority targets of the Japanese) that were maneuvering at sea on the day of the attack and therefore were not hit, the fact that the numerous warning messages were ignored, and finally local negligence. Some suspect that the American government did not receive the Japanese declaration of war until after the bombing. Proponents of this theory are convinced that Roosevelt pushed the Japanese into war throughout the 1930s in order to convince the neutral American people.

However, it is difficult to imagine that Roosevelt would have allowed so many naval vessels to be destroyed in order to engage his country in the war. Indeed, the tactical value of aircraft carriers was unknown in 1941, even though the Japanese and Americans had high hopes for this new type of naval unit, given the investments made. It was still the battleship that was the major vessel in the war fleet, and even Admiral Yamamoto envisaged the final confrontation between the two countries as a battle between battleships. Therefore, any operational decision-maker aware of the attack would have made sure that the battleships would have been sheltered and would have sailed out to sea, and that the aircraft carriers would have been sacrificed instead; however, the battleships at anchor on the day of the attack were all old.

And it is not impossible that the Americans were aware of the planned Japanese raid but underestimated the size of the raid and the extent of the possible damage and losses.

Therefore, there is no evidence that Roosevelt was aware of the attack on Pearl Harbor, although there is little doubt that he accumulated acts contrary to neutrality during the 1930s. However, economic sanctions were primarily aimed at the Germans and the American president gave priority to the European theater of operations, as shown for example by the Arcadia conference, and the war against Japan was never his priority.

If Roosevelt and his entourage were aware of the risks of war caused by the policy of supporting the United Kingdom, the USSR and China, there is no indication that he wanted the attack on Pearl Harbor. The disaster was caused by careful Japanese preparation, a series of local oversights, and circumstances particularly unfavorable to the Americans.

The tradition of a two-term limit for the presidency was an unwritten rule, but one that had been in place since George Washington declined a third term in 1796. Thus, Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt were attacked for trying to obtain a third (non-consecutive) term as president. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, however, cut off Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Postmaster General James Aloysius Farley, two members of his presidential cabinet, from the Democratic nomination in the new election. Roosevelt traveled to the 1940 Democratic National Convention where he received strong support from his party. The opposition to FDR was poorly organized despite the efforts of James Farley. At the meeting, Roosevelt explained that he would not run for re-election unless he was endorsed by the party delegates who were free to vote for whomever they wished. The delegates were stunned for a moment, but then the room shouted, “We want Roosevelt… The world wants Roosevelt!” The delegates went wild and the incumbent president was nominated by 946 votes to 147. The new nominee for vice president was Henry Wallace, an intellectual who later became Secretary of Agriculture.

The Republican candidate, Wendell Willkie, was a former member of the Democratic Party who had previously supported Roosevelt. His platform was not really different from that of his opponent. In his election campaign, Roosevelt emphasized his experience in power and his intention to do everything possible to keep the United States out of the war. Roosevelt won the 1940 presidential election with 55 percent of the vote and a margin of 5 million votes. He won a majority in 38 of the country’s 48 states at the time. A shift to the left in the country’s politics was felt in the administration following the appointment of Henry Wallace as vice-president in place of Texas conservative John Nance Garner, who had become an enemy of Roosevelt after 1937. On June 27, 1941, perhaps for the first time since the withdrawal of Northern troops from the South in 1877, a federal measure banning racial segregation was enacted. But it affected only employment in the defense industry.

If in the American institutions, the president is the head of the army, Roosevelt was not passionate about strictly military affairs. He delegated this task and placed his trust in his entourage, in particular General George Marshall and Admiral Ernest King. A single intelligence agency was set up in 1942, the Office of Strategic Services (which was replaced by the CIA in 1947). The president later created the Office of War Information, which developed war propaganda and monitored film production. He authorized the FBI to use wiretaps to uncover spies. On January 6, 1942, Roosevelt announced a “Victory Program” that provided for a major war effort (construction of tanks, planes, etc.).

Finally, Roosevelt became interested in the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. In 1939, he was alerted by a letter from Albert Einstein that Nazi Germany was working on an equivalent project. The decision to produce the bomb was made in secret in December 1942. In August 1943, the Quebec Agreement was signed, an Anglo-American agreement on atomic cooperation. According to Secretary of War Henry Lewis Stimson, Roosevelt never wavered on the need to use the atomic bomb. But it was his successor Harry Truman who took the initiative for the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, several months after Roosevelt’s death.

Even before the outbreak of World War II, Roosevelt had denounced the oppression and the Nuremberg Laws. Yet he also felt that he could not intervene directly in Germany’s internal affairs. He did not lobby Congress to increase the intake of Jewish refugees. During the war, the American president did not seek to help the Jews of Europe, considering that the main objective should be the crushing of the Nazi regime. Despite pressure from American Jews, his wife, and American public opinion, the president did not deviate from this direction. He was not informed of the plans to bomb Auschwitz or the railroads.

Roosevelt was one of the main actors in the inter-allied conferences and tried to defend the interests of the United States while making compromises. In 1942, he gave priority to the European front while containing the Japanese advance in the Pacific. He came under pressure from Stalin, who demanded the opening of a second front in Western Europe, whereas Churchill was not in favor of this and preferred the implementation of a peripheral strategy.

Roosevelt had the great merit, although his country’s involvement in this war was primarily the result of the Japanese attack, of directing the American response primarily towards Europe, once the conflict had been balanced on the Pacific front by the naval air victory at the Midway Islands.

His accurate assessment of the enormity of the Hitlerian danger and the need to prevent the USSR from sinking certainly justified this choice. But in order to impose it, he had to overcome the post-isolationist preferences of the majority of Americans, for whom the main enemy was Japan. This is how the United States came into line with the British, first with the landing in North Africa (November 1942), then in Europe with the successive landings in Italy (1943) and Normandy (June 1944).

At the Anfa Conference (Casablanca, January 1943), Roosevelt obtained to demand the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. The Allies decided to invade Italy. On August 11-24, 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill met in Canada to prepare the landing in France planned for the spring of 1944. During the Teheran conference (November 1943), several major decisions were taken: organization of a landing in Normandy, rejection by Stalin and Roosevelt of the British project of an offensive through the Mediterranean and the Balkans. On the political level, Stalin accepted the principle of creating an international organization, proposed by Roosevelt. The Big Three also agreed on the principle of dismembering Germany. They did not determine the exact new borders of Poland, because Roosevelt did not want to offend the millions of Americans of Polish origin. During this conference, with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, the Allied secret services discovered Operation Big Jump, a plan to assassinate the participants. Between July 1 and 22, 1944, representatives of 44 nations met in Bretton Woods and created the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund). Post-war monetary policy was greatly affected by this decision. At the Dumbarton Oaks conference (August-October 1944), Roosevelt succeeded in imposing a project he was very keen on: the United Nations.

It was at the initiative of Roosevelt that the Yalta conference was held in February 1945. The president arrived in the Crimean resort very tired and ill. He had to make important concessions to the USSR because he needed Moscow to defeat the Japanese. Roosevelt trusted Stalin at the time. “If I give him (i.e. Stalin), he estimated, all that it will be possible to give me without demanding anything in return, noblesse oblige, he will not try to annex anything and will work to build a world of democracy and peace.

The Allies also discussed the UN again and fixed the veto power of the Security Council, the project that Roosevelt was so keen on. They agreed on the holding of free elections in the liberated European states, the entry of the Soviet Union into the war against Japan after the defeat of Germany, the division of Germany into zones of occupation, the movement of Poland to the west.

After the Yalta Conference, Roosevelt flew to Egypt and met with King Farouk and Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia aboard the USS Quincy, where on February 14, he met with King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, and they are said to have concluded the “Quincy Pact” (U.S. protection for the Saudi regime in exchange for access to oil).

Of France’s complex situation during World War II, Roosevelt wrote to Churchill that it was their “common headache. His foreign policy was widely challenged and pressured by the State Department and by his diplomats Leahy and Murphy. At first, the American president maintained diplomatic contacts with the French state: he thought this would prevent the French fleet from falling into the hands of the Third Reich and give him information about France. He also refused to recognize the authority and legitimacy of General de Gaulle, to whom he had a personal antipathy. At the beginning of 1942, he opposed the participation of Free France in the United Nations before the elections in France. As early as 1941, however, some Americans protested against the State Department’s complacency towards the Vichy regime. The American press was also favorable to Free France.

But in April 1942, the return of Laval to power led to the departure of the American ambassador. Washington then opened a consulate in Brazzaville, then the “capital” of Free France. But the mistrust of De Gaulle did not dissipate: for the State Department, the character was only an “apprentice dictator” and Roosevelt was convinced that the Gaullists would divulge the secret operations of the Allied armies. Roosevelt successively supported Admiral Darlan, then General Giraud, despite their upholding of Vichy laws in liberated Africa, and he tried to block the action of the French Committee for National Liberation in Algiers, then to place liberated France under American military occupation (AMGOT).

De Gaulle was not informed of the Normandy landing until the last minute. Roosevelt did not recognize the GPRF until October 1944. France was not invited to the Yalta conference. Churchill insisted that France should be responsible for an occupation zone in Germany. But the American president finally realized that De Gaulle was the man who could counter the communist threat in France, (with a downside for the British Empire), he wanted French Indochina to be placed under the supervision of the United Nations, after having proposed for a while to Chiang Kai-shek to invade it, but he finally had to give up this idea under the pressure of the State Department, the British and General de Gaulle. In general, Roosevelt believed that the defeat of France and the collaboration of the Vichy government with Germany deprived the latter of any political authority to retain its colonial empire. However, although he and Cordell Hull gave an unprecedented impetus to the decolonization movement in 1942, he was forced to moderate his anti-colonialism in the last months of his life, due to military security considerations.

On the economic front, Roosevelt took measures against inflation and for the war effort. In the spring of 1942, he pushed through the General Maximum Act, which raised income taxes and froze wages and farm prices to limit inflation. This tax policy was reinforced by the Revenue Act (en) in October 1942. The conversion of the economy was rapid: between December 1941 and June 1944, the United States produced 171,257 aircraft and 1,200 warships, which led to the growth of the military-industrial complex. However, food and consumer goods were in short supply, although the situation was not as difficult as in Europe. A mixed economy, combining capitalism and state intervention, was set up to meet the needs of the war. Socially, the countryside experienced a rural exodus and agricultural overproduction. African Americans in the South migrated to the urban and industrial centers of the Northeast. In the labor world, the period was marked by numerous strikes due to the wage freeze and the increase in working hours. Unemployment fell as a result of the mobilization and the employment rate of women rose.

Discrimination against African Americans persisted even in the military, which is why Executive Order 8802 banned them from national defense plants. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States grew. As a result, 110,000 Japanese and Japanese American citizens were rounded up and monitored in internment camps (War Relocation Centers). On January 14, 1942, Roosevelt signed an executive order to register Italian, German and Japanese Americans suspected of intelligence with the Axis. Presidential decree 9066 of February 19, 1942 was promulgated by Roosevelt and concerned the West of the country where the Japanese population was concentrated in guarded camps.

On November 7, 1944, Franklin Roosevelt ran for the presidency with the support of almost all of his party. He was again opposed by a Republican candidate, Thomas Dewey, whose program was not in total contradiction with Roosevelt’s policies. Roosevelt, despite his age and fatigue, campaigned by asking the American people not to change pilots in midstream. He was re-elected to a fourth term with a narrow majority of 53% (25,602,505 votes) but more than 80% of the Electoral College vote (432 terms).

Death and Succession

During his speech to Congress on March 1, 1945, Roosevelt appeared thin and aged; he left on March 30 for Warm Springs, a small spa in Georgia where he had a residence (the “Little White House”) to rest before the United Nations conference that was to take place two weeks later in San Francisco. On April 12, 1945, he collapsed complaining of a terrible headache while Elizabeth Shoumatoff was painting his portrait. He died at 3:35 p.m. at the age of 63 from a cerebral hemorrhage.

Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, the president’s former mistress, was present with Roosevelt and left quickly to avoid scandal. His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, took the first plane to Warm Springs. The president’s body was taken by train to the capital, and thousands of people, including African Americans, gathered along the tracks to pay their respects. The casket was taken to the White House and then to the family home in Hyde Park. Franklin Roosevelt’s sons were drafted and were unable to attend the funeral except for Elliott. The president was buried on April 15, 1945, at his Springwood estate in Hyde Park, which later became the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site.

Roosevelt’s death caused great excitement at home and abroad. His health had been concealed by his entourage and by the White House doctors. Roosevelt had been president for more than 12 years, a longevity never equaled by any American president. In the USSR, the Soviet flag was edged in black and dignitaries attended the ceremony at the embassy. Stalin believed that the American president had been poisoned. The Italian Prime Minister declared three days of mourning.

In Germany, the news made Goebbels cheerful. When he learned of Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, invoking the spirits of Frederick II of Prussia, who had been saved from a desperate military situation by the death of Empress Elisabeth Petrovna in 1762, Hitler celebrated the event and, walking around like a man possessed, his hand shaking, said to anyone who would listen: “Here! You refused to believe it! Who is right?”

In accordance with the U.S. Constitution, Vice President Harry Truman became the 33rd President of the United States, even though he had been left out of the policy-making process and did not go to Yalta. Truman dedicated the May 8, 1945 ceremony to Roosevelt’s memory. Two years after his death, on March 21, 1947, the U.S. Congress adopted the XXIInd Amendment to its constitution, setting the number of terms a U.S. president could serve, consecutive or not, at two.

The main traits of Roosevelt’s character appear from the time of his first presidential campaign: his optimism, especially in the face of the seriousness of his illness, since he had the will to recover from it; also his demands on himself as well as on his collaborators. His optimism was also nourished by his faith since he was deeply religious. One of his favorite films was Gregory La Cava’s Gabriel Over the White House (1933), which he had screened at the White House. As for entertainment, he did not enjoy the theater and collected postage stamps.

Roosevelt was intuitive, warm and even charming, and knew how to disarm critics with humor. Roosevelt was a gifted communicator and even an eloquent speaker, not so much in meetings as in small gatherings, hence the undeniable success of his fireside chats, in which he spoke simply and directly to Americans. In 1939, Roosevelt became the first president to appear on television. He also made extensive use of radio. With his warm and melodious voice, he knew how to address the public as well as the journalists.

He was genuinely concerned about the most disadvantaged Americans and was sensitive to injustice and oppression in all its forms. In this respect, he benefited from his wife’s popularity. But Roosevelt could also be a hesitant politician, a manipulative tactician, capable of being unabashedly sentimental in pursuit of his goals, selfish and attached to his independence. His Secretary of the Interior, Harold LeClair Ickes, once told him, “You are a wonderful person, but you are a difficult man to work with. You never speak frankly even with people who are devoted to you and whose loyalty you know.

Franklin Roosevelt was concerned with public opinion: he was interested in the polls of the Gallup Institute. As President of the United States, his decisions were motivated by a concern for pragmatism and a scrupulous respect for democracy, which was the reason for his distrust of Charles de Gaulle.

According to a ranking by historians for The Atlantic Monthly magazine, he is the third most influential American in history, behind Lincoln and Washington. However, Roosevelt is considered the greatest American president of the 20th century. He modernized American institutions: he passed the 20th Amendment in 1933, which moved the inauguration of the newly elected president from early March to January 21. He strengthened the executive branch by personalizing it and bringing it into the era of the technostructure: the number of civil servants increased significantly. Roosevelt’s legacy on American political life was considerable: he consecrated the end of isolationism, the defense of liberties and the status of superpower of the United States. But Roosevelt was also very much contested by both the Republicans and the American New Left who felt that the New Deal had not gone far enough. Roosevelt remained a role model in the second half of the 20th century. Eleanor Roosevelt continued to exert her influence in American politics and world affairs: she participated in the San Francisco Conference and was a strong advocate for civil rights. Many members of the Roosevelt administration went on to political careers with Harry S. Truman, John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Truman tried to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor by launching the Fair Deal. But it was Johnson who was the most Rooseveltian of American presidents and he liked to compare his social policies to the New Deal.

Roosevelt’s birthplace is a National Historic Landmark and houses the presidential library. The Warm Springs residence (Little White House) is a museum operated by the State of Georgia. Campobello Island Vacation Villa is administered by Canada and the United States (Campobello Roosevelt International Park). It has been accessible, since 1962, by the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge.

The Roosevelt Memorial is located in Washington D.C., next to the Jefferson Memorial. The plans were designed by architect Lawrence Halprin. The bronze sculptures represent the great moments of the presidency, accompanied by several excerpts from Roosevelt’s speeches.

Many schools are named after the president, as well as an aircraft carrier. The reservoir behind the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State is called Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, which presided over the completion of the dam. In Paris, his name was given to an avenue on the Champs-Élysées traffic circle (Avenue Franklin-D.-Roosevelt), and consequently to the metro station that serves it (Franklin D. Roosevelt). The temple of the Grande Loge de France is named after him, which reminds us that the American president was a Freemason.

The Lycée Joli-Coeur in Reims, France, where the German surrender was signed, was renamed Lycée Franklin-Roosevelt in his honor.

Roosevelt is one of the most represented presidents in American fiction. The writer John Dos Passos makes him a manipulative man in his novel The Grand Design (1966). In The Master of the High Castle (1962), Philip K. Dick imagines Roosevelt dying in the 1933 Miami bombing, an event that forms the point of divergence in his uchrony.

Franklin Roosevelt’s portrait appears on the 10-cent coin. Monaco issued several tribute stamps during the second half of the 1940s. One of them shows Roosevelt in front of his stamp collection. The hand holding the tweezers was drawn with six fingers. Roosevelt is one of the leaders of American civilization in the game Civilization IV, along with George Washington.

In the film The Fall of Berlin (Падение Берлина, Padeniye Berlina: 1949), his role was played by Oleg Frvelich, in Pearl Harbor (2001), by Jon Voight, in Warm Springs (2005), by Kenneth Branagh, in Weekend Royal (Hyde Park on Hudson: 2012), by Bill Murray, in the TV series Atlantic Crossing, by Kyle MacLachlan, and in the TV series The First Lady by Kiefer Sutherland.

In the 21st century, President Joe Biden, had the portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt hung in the place of honor, majestically above the fireplace, in the Oval Office at the White House.

Indicative bibliography

By alphabetical order of family name    Document used as a source for the writing of this article.

External links

Sources

  1. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  3. Prononciation en anglais américain retranscrite selon la norme API.
  4. Detlef Junker: Franklin D. Roosevelt. Macht und Vision: Präsident in Krisenzeiten. Göttingen 1979, S. 9.
  5. a b Richard Overy: Die Wurzeln des Sieges. Warum die Alliierten den Zweiten Weltkrieg gewannen, München 2000, S. 368–369.
  6. Alan Posener: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1999, ISBN 3-499-50589-4, S. 20 ff.
  7. Smith 2007 5-6. oldal
  8. Smith 2007 71. oldal
  9. ^ Charles Faber, The American Presidents Ranked by Performance, Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Co., 2000.
  10. ^ Jean Edward Smith, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, p. 17
  11. ^ Smith, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, p. 10,
  12. ^ Jones, p. 393.
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