Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt

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For a chronological guide to this subject, see Timeline of the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt began on March 4, 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was Inaugurated as President of the United States, and ended when he died on April 12, 1945, a span of 12 years and 39 days.[a] Roosevelt, the 32nd United States president, took office while the nation was in the depths of the Great Depression. Starting with his defeat of incumbent President Herbert Hoover in the 1932 presidential election, he won a record four presidential elections, and became a central figure in world affairs during World War II. His program for relief, recovery and reform, known as the New Deal, involved a great expansion of the role of the federal government in the economy. Under his steady leadership, the Democratic Party built a "New Deal Coalition" of labor unions, big city machines, white ethnics, African Americans, and rural white Southerners, that would significantly realign American politics for the next several decades and also define modern American liberalism.

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 When the war began and unemployment largely became a non-issue, conservatives in Congress repealed the two major relief programs, the WPA and CCC, but kept most of the regulations on business.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

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

Roosevelt's health seriously declined during the war years, and he died three months into his fourth term. He was succeeded by Vice President Harry S. Truman. It was on Roosevelt's watch that the Democratic Party was returned to dominance, prosperity returned, and two great military enemies were destroyed. Scholars typically rate him alongside Abraham Lincoln and George Washington in their historical rankings of Presidents of the United States.


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

Cabinet and personnel[edit]

Roosevelt was the first president to have more than two vice presidents. Former Speaker of the House John Nance Garner of Texas, his first vice president, was added to the ticket as part of a deal at the 1932 Democratic National Convention which clinched the presidential nomination for Roosevelt.[1] Garner and Postmaster General (and former Roosevelt campaign manager) James Farley tried to challenge Roosevelt for the presidential nomination at the 1940 Democratic National Convention, but Roosevelt won the nomination and chose Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace as his running mate.[1] Wallace was unpopular among many Democrats, who successfully replaced Wallace with Senator Harry S. Truman of Missouri at the 1944 Democratic National Convention. Truman would succeed Roosevelt as president after Roosevelt's death in April 1945. James F. Byrnes was of the most powerful individuals in Roosevelt's administration, and Byrnes became known as the "Assistant President" during World War II for his importance in leading the war effort.[2]

Roosevelt appointed powerful men to top positions but made certain he made all the major decisions, regardless of delays, inefficiency or resentment. Analyzing the president's administrative style, historian James MacGregor Burns concludes:

The president stayed in charge of his drawing fully on his formal and informal powers as Chief Executive; by raising goals, creating momentum, inspiring a personal loyalty, getting the best out of deliberately fostering among his aides a sense of competition and a clash of wills that led to disarray, heartbreak, and anger but also set off pulses of executive energy and sparks of handing out one job to several men and several jobs to one man, thus strengthening his own position as a court of appeals, as a depository of information, and as a tool of co-ordination; by ignoring or bypassing collective decision-making agencies, such as the Cabinet...and always by persuading, flattering, juggling, improvising, reshuffling, harmonizing, conciliating, manipulating.[3]

Judicial appointments[edit]

Supreme Court appointments[edit]

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

Roosevelt's New Deal policies often ran into opposition from the Supreme Court, especially from the conservative Four Horsemen. The more conservative members of the court upheld the principles of the Lochner era, which saw numerous economic regulations struck down on the basis of freedom of contract.[4] Roosevelt attempted to increase the size of the Court so that he could appoint more favorable justices, but Roosevelt's plan was defeated by his own party.[5] However, starting with the 1937 West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, the court began to take a more favorable view of economic regulations, and most of the conservative justices left the court after 1937. By 1941, eight of the nine Justices were Roosevelt appointees, and Roosevelt appointed more justices than any president other than George Washington. Of the justices on the court when Roosevelt took office, only Owen Roberts and Harlan Fiske Stone (who Roosevelt elevated to Chief Justice) outlasted Roosevelt.[6]

Roosevelt's appointees upheld his policies,[7] but often disagreed in other areas, especially after Roosevelt's death.[8] Douglas and Black served until the 1970s and joined or wrote many of the major decisions of the Warren Court, while Jackson and Frankfurter advocated judicial restraint and deference to elected officials.[9][10]

Other judicial nominees[edit]

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

First term (1933–37)[edit]

Main article: New Deal
1932 presidential election results by county.
Outgoing president Herbert Hoover and Roosevelt on Inauguration Day, 1933.

When Roosevelt was inaugurated on March 4, 1933, the U.S. was at the nadir of the worst depression in its history. Following the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the relative prosperity of the "Roaring Twenties" gave way to what became known as the Great Depression, a severe worldwide depression. A quarter of the American workforce was unemployed. Farmers were in deep trouble as prices fell by 60%. Industrial production had fallen by more than half since 1929. Two million people were homeless. By the evening of March 4, 32 of the 48 states – as well as the District of Columbia – had closed their banks.[11] The New York Federal Reserve Bank was unable to open on the 5th, as huge sums had been withdrawn by panicky customers in previous days.[12] Beginning with his inauguration address, Roosevelt began blaming the economic crisis on bankers and financiers, the quest for profit, and the self-interest basis of capitalism:

Primarily this is because rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence... The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.[13]

Historians categorized Roosevelt's program as "relief, recovery and reform." Relief was urgently needed by tens of millions of unemployed. Recovery meant boosting the economy back to normal. Reform meant long-term fixes of what was wrong, especially with the financial and banking systems. Through Roosevelt's series of radio talks, known as fireside chats, he presented his proposals directly to the American public.[14]

First New Deal, 1933–34[edit]

Roosevelt's "First 100 Days" concentrated on the first part of his strategy: immediate relief. From March 9 to June 16, 1933, he sent Congress a record number of bills, all of which passed easily. To propose programs, Roosevelt relied on leading Senators such as George Norris, Robert F. Wagner, and Hugo Black, as well as his Brain Trust of academic advisers. Like Hoover, he saw the Depression caused in part by people no longer spending or investing because they were afraid.

Roosevelt's inauguration on March 4, 1933, occurred in the middle of a bank panic, hence the backdrop for his famous words: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."[13] The very next day he declared a "bank holiday" and called for a special session of Congress to start March 9, at which Congress passed the Emergency Banking Act.[15] This was his first proposed step to recovery. To give Americans confidence in the banks, Roosevelt signed the Glass–Steagall Act that created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to underwrite savings deposits. The act also sought to curb speculation by limiting commercial bank securities activities and affiliations between commercial banks and securities firms.

Relief measures included the continuation of Hoover's major relief program for the unemployed under its new name: Federal Emergency Relief Administration. The most popular of all New Deal agencies – and Roosevelt's favorite – was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which hired 250,000 unemployed young men to work on rural local projects.[16]

Congress also gave the Federal Trade Commission broad new regulatory powers and provided mortgage relief to millions of farmers and homeowners. Roosevelt expanded a Hoover agency, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, making it a major source of financing for railroads and industry. Roosevelt made agricultural relief a high priority and set up the first Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). The AAA tried to force higher prices for commodities by paying farmers to take land out of crops and to cut herds.[17]

Reform of the economy was the goal of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933. It tried to end cutthroat competition by forcing industries to come up with codes that established the rules of operation for all firms within specific industries, such as minimum prices, agreements not to compete, and production restrictions. Industry leaders negotiated the codes which were approved by NIRA officials. Industry needed to raise wages as a condition for approval. Provisions encouraged unions and suspended anti-trust laws. The NIRA was found to be unconstitutional by unanimous decision of the US Supreme Court on May 27, 1935. Roosevelt opposed the decision, saying, "The fundamental purposes and principles of the NIRA are sound. To abandon them is unthinkable. It would spell the return to industrial and labor chaos."[18] 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.[19]

Recovery was pursued through "pump-priming" (that is, federal spending).[20] The NIRA included $3.3 billion of spending through the Public Works Administration to stimulate the economy, which was to be handled by Interior Secretary Harold Ickes. Roosevelt worked with Republican Senator George Norris to create the largest government-owned industrial enterprise in American history — the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) — which built dams and power stations, controlled floods, and modernized agriculture and home conditions in the poverty-stricken Tennessee Valley. The repeal of prohibition also brought in new tax revenues and helped Roosevelt keep a major campaign promise. Executive Order 6102 declared that all privately held gold of American citizens was to be sold to the US Treasury and the price raised from $20 to $35 per ounce. The goal was to counter the deflation which was paralyzing the economy.[21]

Roosevelt tried to keep his campaign promise by cutting the federal budget — including a reduction in military spending from $752 million in 1932 to $531 million in 1934 and a 40% cut in spending on veterans' benefits — by removing 500,000 veterans and widows from the pension rolls and reducing benefits for the remainder, as well as cutting the salaries of federal employees and reducing spending on research and education. But, the veterans were well organized and strongly protested; most benefits were restored or increased by 1934, but FDR vetoed their efforts to get a cash bonus.[22] The benefit cuts also did not last. In June 1933, Roosevelt restored $50 million in pension payments, and Congress added another $46 million more.[23] Veterans groups such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars won their campaign to transform their benefits from payments due in 1945 to immediate cash when Congress overrode the President's veto and passed the Bonus Act in January 1936.[24][25] It pumped sums equal to 2% of the GDP into the consumer economy and had a major stimulus effect.[26]

Roosevelt had generally avoided the Prohibition issue, but when his party and the general public swung against Prohibition in 1932, he campaigned for repeal. During the Hundred Days he signed the Cullen–Harrison Act redefining weak beer (3.2% alcohol) as the maximum allowed. The 21st Amendment was ratified later that year; he was not involved in the amendment but was given much of the credit.[27]

Roosevelt was a hero to major minority groups, especially African Americans, Catholics, and Jews, and was highly successful in attracting large majorities of these voters into his New Deal coalition.[28] Native Americans fared well in two New Deal relief programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Indian Reorganization Act, respectively. The federal relief programs, blacks receive the same wages as everyone else, and were hired in proportion to their share of the population, even though it was lower than their share of the need. Sitkoff reported that the WPA "provided an economic floor for the whole black community in the 1930s, rivaling both agriculture and domestic service as the chief source" of income.[29] However, Roosevelt needed the support of the powerful white Southern Democrats for his New Deal programs, and blacks were still disenfranchised in most of the South. He decided against pushing for federal anti-lynching legislation that would make lynching a federal crime. It could not pass over a Southern filibuster and the political fight would threaten his ability to pass his priority programs.[30] He did denounce lynchings as "a vile form of collective murder".[31]

Second New Deal, 1935–36[edit]

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

After the 1934 Congressional elections, which gave Roosevelt large majorities in both houses, his administration drafted a fresh surge of New Deal legislation. The most important program of 1935, and perhaps the New Deal as a whole, was the Social Security Act, drafted by Frances Perkins. It established a permanent system of universal retirement pensions (Social Security), unemployment insurance, and welfare benefits for the handicapped and needy children in families without a father present.[32] The United States had been the only modern industrial country where people faced the Depression without any national system of social security, though a handful of states had old age insurance laws.[33] Roosevelt insisted that it should be funded by payroll taxes rather than from the general fund; he said, "We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program."[34] Compared with the social security systems in western European countries, the Social Security Act of 1935 was rather conservative. But for the first time the federal government took responsibility for the economic security of the aged, the temporarily unemployed, dependent children and the handicapped.[35]

Roosevelt nationalized unemployment relief through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), headed by close friend Harry Hopkins. Roosevelt had insisted that the projects had to be costly in terms of labor, long-term beneficial, and the WPA was forbidden to compete with private enterprises (therefore the workers had to be paid smaller wages).[36] The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created to return the unemployed to the work force.[37] The WPA financed a variety of projects such as hospitals, schools, and roads, and employed more than 8.5 million workers who built 650,000 miles of highways and roads, 125,000 public buildings, as well as bridges, reservoirs, irrigation systems, and other projects.[38]

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935, also known as the Wagner Act, guaranteed workers the rights to collective bargaining through unions of their own choice. The Act also established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to facilitate wage agreements and to suppress the repeated labor disturbances. The Wagner Act did not compel employers to reach agreement with their employees, but it opened possibilities for American labor.[39] The result was a tremendous growth of membership in the labor unions, especially in the mass-production sector,[40] composing the American Federation of Labor. Labor thus became a major component of the New Deal political coalition.

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

While the First New Deal of 1933 had broad support from most sectors, the Second New Deal challenged the business community. Conservative Democrats, led by Al Smith, fought back with the American Liberty League, savagely attacking Roosevelt and equating him with Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.[41] But Smith overplayed his hand, and his boisterous rhetoric let Roosevelt isolate his opponents and identify them with the wealthy vested interests that opposed the New Deal, strengthening Roosevelt for the 1936 landslide.[41] 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.[42]

Second term (1937–41)[edit]

In contrast to his first term, little major legislation was passed during Roosevelt's second term. There was the Housing Act of 1937, a second Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, which created the minimum wage and was the last major domestic reform measure of the New Deal.[43] When the economy began to deteriorate again in late 1937, Roosevelt asked Congress for $5 billion in WPA relief and public works funding. This managed to eventually create as many as 3.3 million WPA jobs by 1938. Projects accomplished under the WPA ranged from new federal courthouses and post offices, to facilities and infrastructure for national parks, bridges and other infrastructure across the country, and architectural surveys and archeological excavations — investments to construct facilities and preserve important resources. Beyond this, however, Roosevelt recommended to a special congressional session only a permanent national farm act, administrative reorganization and regional planning measures, which were leftovers from a regular session. According to Burns, this attempt illustrated Roosevelt's inability to decide on a basic economic program.[44]

The Supreme Court became Roosevelt's primary focus during his second term, after the court overturned many of his programs. In particular in 1935, the Court unanimously ruled that the National Recovery Act (NRA) was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to the president. Roosevelt stunned Congress in early 1937 by proposing a law to allow him to appoint up to six new justices, what he referred to as a "persistent infusion of new blood."[45] This "court packing" plan ran into intense political opposition from his own party, led by Vice President Garner, since it upset the separation of powers and gave the President control over the Court. Roosevelt's proposal to expand the court failed;[5] but by 1941, Roosevelt had appointed seven of the nine justices of the court, a change in membership which resulted in a court that began to ratify his policies.[46][47]

Roosevelt at first had massive support from the rapidly growing labor unions, but they split into bitterly feuding AFL and CIO factions, the latter led by John L. Lewis. Roosevelt pronounced a "plague on both your houses," but labor's disunity weakened the party in the elections from 1938 through 1946.[48]

Economic policies[edit]

Government spending increased from 8.0% of gross national product (GNP) under Hoover in 1932 to 10.2% of the GNP in 1936. The national debt as a percentage of the GNP had more than doubled under Hoover from 16% to 40% of the GNP in early 1933. It held steady at close to 40% as late as fall 1941, then grew rapidly during the war.[49]

Unemployment rate in the U.S. 1910–60, with the years of the Great Depression (1929–39) highlighted.

Deficit spending had been recommended by some economists, most notably by John Maynard Keynes of Britain. The GNP was 34% higher in 1936 than in 1932 and 58% higher in 1940 on the eve of war. That is, the economy grew 58% from 1932 to 1940 in 8 years of peacetime, and then grew 56% from 1940 to 1945 in 5 years of wartime.[49]

Unemployment fell dramatically in Roosevelt's first term, from 25% when he took office to 14.3% in 1937. However, it increased slightly to 19.0% in 1938 ("a depression within a depression") and fell to 17.2% in 1939, and then dropped again to 14.6% in 1940 until it reached 1.9% in 1945 during World War II.[50] 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%.[51][52] Roosevelt considered his New Deal policies as central to his legacy, and in his 1944 State of the Union Address, he advocated that Americans should think of basic economic rights as a Second Bill of Rights.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced the plan for a bill of social and economic rights in the State of the Union address broadcast on January 11, 1944. (excerpt)

Roosevelt did not raise income taxes before World War II began; however payroll taxes were introduced to fund the new Social Security program in 1937. He also convinced Congress to spend more on many various programs never before seen in American history. Under the revenue pressures brought on by the depression, most states added or increased taxes, including sales as well as income taxes. Roosevelt's proposal for new taxes on corporate savings were highly controversial in 1936–37, and were rejected by Congress. During the war he pushed for even higher income tax rates for individuals (reaching a marginal tax rate of 91%) and corporations and a cap on high salaries for executives. He also issued Executive Order 9250 in October 1942, later to be rescinded by Congress, which raised the marginal tax rate for salaries exceeding $25,000 (after tax) to 100%, thereby limiting salaries to $25,000 (about $366,000 today).[53][54][55] To fund the war, Congress not only broadened the base so that almost every employee paid federal income taxes, but also introduced withholding taxes in 1943.

Conservation and the environment[edit]

Roosevelt had a lifelong interest in the environment and conservation starting with his youthful interest in forestry on his family estate. As governor and president, he launched numerous projects for conservation, in the name of protecting the environment, and providing beauty and jobs for the people. He was strengthened in his resolve by the model of his cousin Theodore Roosevelt. Although FDR was never an outdoorsman or sportsman on TR's scale, his growth of the national systems were comparable. FDR created 140 national wildlife refuges (especially for birds) and established 29 national forests and 29 national parks and monuments.[56][57] He thereby achieved the vision he had set out in 1931:

Heretofore our conservation policy has been merely to preserve as much as possible of the existing forests. Our new policy goes a step further. It will not only preserve the existing forests, but create new ones.[58]

As president he was active in expanding, funding, and promoting the National Park and National Forest systems. He used relief agencies to upgrade the facilities. Their popularity soared, from three million visitors a year at the start of the decade, to 15.5 million in 1939.[59] His favorite agency was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which expended most of its effort on environmental projects. The CCC in a dozen years enrolled 3.4 million young men; they built 13,000 miles of trails, planted two billion trees and upgraded 125,000 miles of dirt roads. Every state had its own state parks, and Roosevelt made sure that WPA and CCC projects were set up to upgrade them as well as the national systems.[60][61] Roosevelt heavily funded the system of dams to provide flood control, electricity, and modernization of rural communities through the Tennessee Valley Authority, as well as less famous projects transforming western rivers. He was a great dam builder, although 21st century critics would see this as the antithesis of conservation.[62]

Foreign policy[edit]

Under President Woodrow Wilson, the United States had entered World War I on the side of the Triple Entente, but 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.[63] Roosevelt was a lifelong free-trader and anti-imperialist. Ending European colonialism was one of his objectives.[64]

The main foreign policy initiative of Roosevelt's first term was the Good Neighbor Policy, which was a move toward a more non-interventionist U.S. policy in Latin America. Since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, this area had been seen as an American sphere of influence. American forces were withdrawn from Haiti, and new treaties with Cuba and Panama ended their status as U.S. protectorates. In December 1933, Roosevelt signed the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, renouncing the right to intervene unilaterally in the affairs of Latin American countries.[65]

The isolationist movement was bolstered in the early to mid-1930s by U.S. Senator Gerald Nye and others who succeeded in their effort to stop the "merchants of death" in the U.S. from selling arms abroad.[66] This effort took the form of the Neutrality Acts; the president asked for, but was refused, a provision to give him the discretion to allow the sale of arms to victims of aggression.[67] In the interim, Italy under Benito Mussolini proceeded to overcome Ethiopia, and the Italians joined Nazi Germany in supporting the General Franco and the Nationalist cause in the Spanish Civil War.[68] In 1936 Germany and Japan signed a Anti-Comintern Pact, but they never coordinated their strategies.[69] Congress passed, and the president signed, a mandatory arms embargo at a time when dictators in Europe and Asia were girding for world war.[70] When Japan invaded China in 1937, public opinion strongly favored China, and Roosevelt found various ways to assist that nation.[71] Meanwhile, he secretly stepped up a program to build long-range submarines that could blockade Japan.[72]

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

In 1938, Germany demanded the annexation of parts of Czechoslovakia, resulting in the Munich Agreement among the great powers of Europe. At the time of the Munich Agreement, Roosevelt said the country would not join a "stop-Hitler bloc" under any circumstances. He made it quite clear that, in the event of German aggression against Czechoslovakia, the U.S. would remain neutral.[73][74] Roosevelt said in 1939 that France and Britain were America's "first line of defense" and needed American aid, but because of widespread isolationist sentiment, he reiterated the US itself would not go to war.[75] In the spring of 1939, Roosevelt allowed the French to place huge orders with the American aircraft industry on a cash-and-carry basis, as allowed by law. Most of the aircraft ordered had not arrived in France by the time of its collapse in May 1940, so Roosevelt arranged in June 1940 for French orders to be sold to the British.[76]

In August 1939, Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein sent the Einstein–Szilárd letter to Roosevelt, warning the United States of the possibiity of a German project to develop nuclear weapons. Szilard realized that the recently-discovered process of nuclear fission could be used to create a nuclear chain reaction that could be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Roosevelt established the Advisory Committee on Uranium, which eventually evolved into the Manhattan Project, which created the first nuclear weapons.

World War II began in September 1939 with Germany's invasion of Poland, with France and Britain declaring war on Germany after the beginning of the invasion. Roosevelt sought ways to assist Britain and France militarily.[77] At first he gave only covert support to repeal of the arms embargo provisions of the Neutrality Act.[78] He began a regular secret correspondence with the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill in September 1939 — the first of 1,700 letters and telegrams between them — discussing ways of supporting Britain.[79] Roosevelt forged a close personal relationship with Churchill, who became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in May 1940. In April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway, followed by invasions of the Low Countries and France in May. The Allies were trapped and barely rescued their soldiers. After the surrender Vichy France became a neutral country partially occupied and controlled by Germany. Roosevelt tried to work with it in 1940-42 to keep it neutral, with scant success.[80]

Britain and its dominions became the lone major force at war with Germany in 1940-41. In September 1940, Germany, Japan, and Italy signed the Tripartite Pact, and the three countries became known as the Axis powers. Roosevelt, who was determined that Britain not be defeated, took advantage of the rapid shifts of public opinion. The fall of Paris shocked American opinion, and isolationist sentiment declined. A consensus was clear that military spending had to be dramatically expanded. There was no consensus on how much the US should risk war in helping Britain.[81] In July 1940, FDR appointed two interventionist Republican leaders, Henry L. Stimson and Frank Knox, as Secretaries of War and the Navy, respectively. Both parties gave support to his plans for a rapid build-up the American military, but the isolationists warned that Roosevelt would get the nation into an unnecessary war with Germany.[82] Congress authorized the nation's first peacetime draft.[83]

Roosevelt used his personal charisma to build support for intervention. America should be the "Arsenal of Democracy", he told his fireside audience.[84] On September 2, 1940, Roosevelt openly defied the Neutrality Acts by passing the Destroyers for Bases Agreement, which, in exchange for military base rights in the British Caribbean Islands, gave 50 WWI American destroyers to Britain. The U.S. also received free base rights in Bermuda and Newfoundland, allowing British forces to be moved to the sharper end of the war; the idea of an exchange of warships for bases such as these originated in the cabinet.[85] Hitler and Mussolini responded to the deal by joining with Japan in the Tripartite Pact.[86]

The agreement with Britain was a precursor of the March 1941 Lend-Lease agreement, which began to direct massive military and economic aid to Britain, the Republic of China, and later the Soviet Union. For foreign policy advice, Roosevelt turned to Harry Hopkins, who became his chief wartime advisor. They sought innovative ways short of going to war to help Britain, whose financial resources were exhausted by the end of 1940.[87] Congress, where isolationist sentiment was waning, passed the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941, allowing the U.S. to give Wales, England, Scotland, China, and later the Soviet Union military supplies. The legislation had hit a logjam until Senators Byrd, Byrnes and Taft added a provision subjecting it to appropriation by Congress.[88] Congress voted to commit to spend $50 billion on military supplies from 1941 to 1945. In sharp contrast to the loans of World War I, there would be no repayment after the war. Until late in 1941, Roosevelt refused Churchill's urgent requests for armed escort of ships bound for Britain, insisting on a more passive patrolling function in the western Atlantic.[89]

Third term (1941–45)[edit]

Roosevelt's third and fourth terms were dominated by World War II. Roosevelt slowly began re-armament in 1938, although he was facing strong isolationist sentiment from leaders like Senators William Borah and Robert A. Taft. By 1940, re-armament was in high gear, with bipartisan support, partly to expand and re-equip the Army and Navy and partly to become the "Arsenal of Democracy" supporting Britain, France, China and (after June 1941), the Soviet Union.[90] As Roosevelt took a firmer stance against the Axis Powers, American isolationists (including Charles Lindbergh and America First) vehemently attacked the President as an irresponsible warmonger.[91] Roosevelt initiated FBI and Internal Revenue Service investigations of his loudest critics, though no legal actions resulted.[92] Unfazed by these criticisms and confident in the wisdom of his foreign policy initiatives, FDR continued his twin policies of preparedness and aid to the Allied coalition. On December 29, 1940, he delivered his Arsenal of Democracy fireside chat, in which he made the case for involvement in the war directly to the American people. A week later he delivered his famous Four Freedoms speech laying out the case for an American defense of basic rights throughout the world.

Roosevelt and Winston Churchill aboard HMS Prince of Wales for 1941 Atlantic Charter meeting.

Prelude to war[edit]

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Roosevelt agreed to extend Lend-Lease to the Soviets. Thus, Roosevelt had committed the U.S. to the Allied side with a policy of "all aid short of war."[93] Execution of the aid fell victim to foot dragging in the administration so FDR appointed a special assistant, Wayne Coy, to expedite matters.[94] Later that year, a German submarine fired on the U.S. destroyer Greer, and Roosevelt declared that the U.S. Navy would assume an escort role for Allied convoys in the Atlantic as far east as Great Britain and would fire upon German ships or submarines (U-boats) of the Kriegsmarine if they entered the U.S. Navy zone. This "shoot on sight" policy effectively declared naval war on Germany and was favored by Americans by a margin of 2-to-1.[95]

Roosevelt and Churchill conducted a highly secret bilateral meeting in Argentia, Newfoundland, and on August 14, 1941, drafted the Atlantic Charter, conceptually outlining global wartime and postwar goals. All the Allies endorsed it. This was the first of several wartime conferences;[96] Churchill and Roosevelt met ten more times in person. In July 1941, Roosevelt had ordered Secretary of War Henry Stimson, to begin planning for total American military involvement. The resulting "Victory Program" provided the Army's estimates necessary for the total mobilization of manpower, industry, and logistics to defeat Germany and Japan. The program also planned to dramatically increase aid to the Allied nations and to have ten million men in arms, half of whom would be ready for deployment abroad in 1943. Roosevelt was firmly committed to the Allied cause, and these plans were formulated before Japan's Attack on Pearl Harbor.[93]

Congress was debating a modification of the Neutrality Act in October 1941, when the USS Kearny, along with other ships, engaged a number of U-boats south of Iceland; the Kearny took fire and lost eleven crewmen. As a result, the amendment of the Neutrality Act to permit the arming of the merchant marine passed both houses, though by a slim margin.[97]

In his role as the leader of the United States before and during World War II, Roosevelt tried to avoid repeating what he saw as Woodrow Wilson's mistakes in World War I.[98] He often made exactly the opposite decision. Wilson called for neutrality in thought and deed, while Roosevelt made it clear his administration strongly favored Britain and China. Unlike the loans in World War I, the United States made large-scale grants of military and economic aid to the Allies through Lend-Lease, with little expectation of repayment. Wilson did not greatly expand war production before the declaration of war; Roosevelt did. Wilson waited for the declaration to begin a draft; Roosevelt started one in 1940. Wilson never made the United States an official ally but Roosevelt did. Wilson never met with the top Allied leaders but Roosevelt did. Wilson proclaimed independent policy, as seen in the 14 Points, while Roosevelt sought a collaborative policy with the Allies. In 1917, United States declared war on Germany; in 1941, Roosevelt waited until the enemy attacked at Pearl Harbor. Wilson refused to collaborate with the Republicans; Roosevelt named leading Republicans to head the War Department and the Navy Department. Wilson let General George Pershing make the major military decisions; Roosevelt made the major decisions in his war including the "Europe first" strategy.[99] He rejected the idea of an armistice and demanded unconditional surrender. Roosevelt often mentioned his role as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the Wilson administration, but added that he had profited more from Wilson's errors than from his successes.[100][101][102][103]

Entrance into the war[edit]

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

When Japan occupied northern French Indochina in late 1940, FDR authorized increased aid to the Republic of China, a policy that won widespread popular support. In July 1941, after Japan occupied the remainder of Indo-China, he cut off the sale of oil to Japan, which thus lost more than 95 percent of its oil supply. Roosevelt continued negotiations with the Japanese government, primarily through Secretary Hull. Japan Premier Fumimaro Konoye desired a summit conference with FDR which the US rejected. Konoye was replaced with Minister of War Hideki Tojo.[104] Meanwhile, Roosevelt started sending long-range B-17 bombers to the Philippines.

FDR felt that an attack by the Japanese was probable – most likely in the Dutch East Indies or Thailand.[105] On December 4, 1941, The Chicago Tribune published the complete text of "Rainbow Five", a top-secret war plan drawn up by the War Department. It dealt chiefly with mobilization issues, calling for a 10-million-man army. The great majority of scholars have rejected the conspiracy thesis that Roosevelt, or any other high government officials, knew in advance about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had kept their secrets closely guarded. Senior American officials were aware that war was imminent, but they did not expect an attack on Pearl Harbor.[106]

On the morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese struck the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor with a surprise attack, knocking out the main American battleship fleet and killing 2,403 American servicemen and civilians. Roosevelt called for war in his famous "Infamy Speech" to Congress, in which he said: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."

After Pearl Harbor, antiwar sentiment in the United States evaporated overnight. On December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, which responded in kind.[107] Roosevelt and his military advisers implemented a war strategy with the objectives of halting the German advances in the Soviet Union and in North Africa; launching an invasion of western Europe with the aim of crushing Nazi Germany between two fronts; and saving China and defeating Japan. Public opinion, however, gave priority to the destruction of Japan, so American forces were sent chiefly to the Pacific in 1942.[108]

Map of Japanese military advances, until mid-1942

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan conquered the Philippines, and the British and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia, capturing Singapore in February 1942. Furthermore, Japan cut off the overland supply route to China.

Roosevelt met with Churchill in late December and planned a broad informal alliance among the U.S., Britain, China and the Soviet Union. This included Churchill's initial plan to invade North Africa (called Operation Gymnast) and the primary plan of the U.S. generals for a western Europe invasion, focused directly on Germany (Operation Sledgehammer). An agreement was also reached for a centralized command and offensive in the Pacific theater called ABDA (American, British, Dutch, Australian) to save China and defeat Japan. Nevertheless, the Atlantic First strategy was intact, to Churchill's great satisfaction.[109] On New Year's Day 1942, Churchill and FDR issued the "Declaration by United Nations", representing 26 countries in opposition to the Tripartite Pact of Germany, Italy and Japan.[110]


The homefront was subject to dynamic social changes throughout the war, though domestic issues were no longer Roosevelt's most urgent policy concern. The military buildup spurred economic growth. Unemployment fell in half from 7.7 million in spring 1940 (when the first accurate statistics were compiled) to 3.4 million in fall 1941 and fell in half again to 1.5 million in fall 1942, out of a labor force of 54 million.[111] There was a growing labor shortage, accelerating the second wave of the Great Migration of African Americans, farmers and rural populations to manufacturing centers. African Americans from the South went to California and other West Coast states for new jobs in the defense industry. To pay for increased government spending, in 1941 FDR proposed that Congress enact an income tax rate of 99.5% on all income over $100,000; when the proposal failed, he issued an executive order imposing an income tax of 100% on income over $25,000, which Congress rescinded.[112]

In June 1941, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, forbidding discrimination on account of "race, creed, color, or national origin" in the hiring of workers in defense related industries.[113] This was a precursor to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to come decades later.[114] Roosevelt established the Fair Employment Practices Committee to implement Executive Order 8802. This was the first national program directed against employment discrimination. African Americans who gained defense industry jobs in the 1940s shared in the higher wages; in the 1950s they had gained in relative economic position, about 14% higher than other blacks who were not in such industries. Their moves into manufacturing positions were critical to their success.[115]

In 1942, with the United States now in the conflict, war production increased dramatically, but fell short of the goals established by the President, due in part to manpower shortages.[116] The effort was also hindered by numerous strikes by union workers, especially in the coal mining and railroad industries, which lasted well into 1944.[117][118] The White House became the ultimate site for labor mediation, conciliation or arbitration.[119] One particular battle royal occurred, between Vice-President Wallace, who headed the Board of Economic Warfare, and Jesse Jones, in charge of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation; both agencies assumed responsibility for acquisition of rubber supplies and came to loggerheads over funding. FDR resolved the dispute by dissolving both agencies.[120]

In 1944, the President requested that Congress enact legislation which would tax all unreasonable profits, both corporate and individual, and thereby support his declared need for over $10 billion in revenue for the war and other government measures. The Congress passed a revenue bill raising $2 billion, which FDR vetoed, though Congress in turn overrode him.[121]

Internment of Germans, Japanese and Italians[edit]

When the war began, the danger of a Japanese attack on the coast led to growing pressure to move people of Japanese descent away from the coastal region. This pressure grew due to fears of terrorism, espionage, and/or sabotage; it was also related to anti-Japanese competition and discrimination. On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which relocated hundreds of thousands of the "Issei" (first generation of Japanese immigrants who did not have U.S. citizenship) and their children, "Nisei" (who had dual citizenship). They were forced to give up their properties and businesses, and transported to hastily built camps in interior, harsh locations. After both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy declared war on the United States in December 1941, many German and Italian citizens who had not taken out American citizenship were arrested or interned.[122]

War strategy[edit]

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

The "Big Three" (Roosevelt, Churchill, and Joseph Stalin), together with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, cooperated informally on a plan in which American and British troops concentrated in the West; Soviet troops fought on the Eastern front; and Chinese, British and American troops fought in Asia and the Pacific. The Allies formulated strategy in a series of high-profile conferences as well as contact through diplomatic and military channels. Roosevelt guaranteed that the U.S. would be the "Arsenal of Democracy" by shipping $50 billion of Lend Lease supplies, primarily to Britain and to the USSR, China and other Allies. Roosevelt coined the term "Four Policemen" to refer this "Big Four" Allied powers of World War II, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and China.[123][124]

In 1942 Roosevelt set up a new military command structure with Admiral Ernest J. King as Chief of Naval Operations in complete control of the Navy and Marines; General George C. Marshall in charge of the Army and in nominal control of the Air Force, which in practice was commanded by General Hap Arnold. Roosevelt formed a new body, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which made the final decisions on American military strategy.[125] The Joint Chiefs was a White House agency and was chaired by his old friend Admiral William D. Leahy. When dealing with Europe, the Joint Chiefs met with their British counterparts and formed the Combined Chiefs of Staff.[126][127] Unlike the political leaders of the other major powers, Roosevelt rarely overrode his military advisors.[128] His civilian appointees handled the draft and procurement of men and equipment, but no civilians – not even the secretaries of War or Navy, had a voice in strategy. Roosevelt avoided the State Department and conducted high level diplomacy through his aides, especially Harry Hopkins. Since Hopkins also controlled $50 billion in Lend Lease funds given to the Allies, they paid attention to him.[129]

The Allies undertook the invasions of French Morocco and Algeria (Operation Torch) in November 1942. FDR very much desired the assault be initiated before election day, but did not order it. FDR and Churchill had another war conference in Casablanca in January 1943; Stalin declined an invitation. The Allies agreed strategically that the Mediterranean focus be continued, with the cross-channel invasion coming later, followed by concentration of efforts in the Pacific.[130] Roosevelt also championed General Henri Giraud as leader of Free France against General Charles de Gaulle.[131] Hitler reinforced his military in North Africa, with the result that the Allied efforts there suffered a temporary setback; Allied attempts to counterbalance this were successful, but resulted in war supplies to the USSR being delayed, as well as the second war front.[132] Later, their assault pursued into Sicily (Operation Husky) followed in July 1943, and of Italy (Operation Avalanche) in September 1943. In 1943, it was apparent to FDR that Stalin, while bearing the brunt of Germany's offensive, had not had sufficient opportunity to participate in war conferences. The President made a concerted effort to arrange a one-on-one meeting with Stalin, in Fairbanks. However, when Stalin learned that Roosevelt and Churchill had postponed the cross-channel invasion a second time, he cancelled.[133] The strategic bombing campaign was escalated in 1944, pulverizing all major German cities and cutting off oil supplies. It was a 50–50 British-American operation. Roosevelt picked Dwight D. Eisenhower, and not George Marshall, to head the Allied cross-channel invasion, Operation Overlord that began on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Some of the most costly battles of the war ensued after the invasion, and the Allies were blocked on the German border in the "Battle of the Bulge" in December 1944. When Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, Allied forces were closing in on Berlin.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific, the Japanese advance reached its maximum extent by June 1942, when the U.S. Navy scored a decisive victory at the Battle of Midway. American and Australian forces then began a slow and costly progress called island hopping or leapfrogging through the Pacific Islands, with the objective of gaining bases from which strategic airpower could be brought to bear on Japan and from which Japan could ultimately be invaded. In contrast to Hitler, Roosevelt took no direct part in the tactical naval operations, though he approved strategic decisions.[134] FDR gave way in part to insistent demands from the public and Congress that more effort be devoted against Japan; he always insisted on Germany first.

Post-war planning[edit]

Further information: Tehran Conference and Yalta Conference
Churchill, FDR, and Stalin at Yalta, two months before Roosevelt's death

By late 1943, it was apparent that the Allies would ultimately defeat the enemy, so it became increasingly important to make high-level political decisions about the course of the war and the postwar future of Europe. Roosevelt met with Churchill and the Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek at the Cairo Conference in November 1943, and then went to the Tehran Conference to confer with Churchill and Stalin. While Churchill warned of potential domination by a Stalin dictatorship over eastern Europe, Roosevelt responded with a statement summarizing his rationale for relations with Stalin: "I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man. [...] I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace."[135] At the Tehran Conference, Roosevelt and Churchill discussed plans for a postwar international organization. For his part, Stalin insisted on redrawing the frontiers of Poland. Stalin supported Roosevelt's plan for the United Nations and promised to enter the war against Japan 90 days after Germany was defeated. The 1944 Bretton Woods Conference laid the foundation for economic cooperation after the war.

By the beginning of 1945, with the Allied armies advancing into Germany and the Soviets in control of Poland, the postwar issues came into the open. In February, Roosevelt met with Churchill at Malta[136] and traveled to Yalta, in Crimea, to meet again with Stalin and Churchill. While Roosevelt maintained his confidence that Stalin would keep his Yalta promises regarding free elections in eastern Europe, one month after Yalta ended, Roosevelt's Ambassador to the USSR Averell Harriman cabled Roosevelt that "we must come clearly to realize that the Soviet program is the establishment of totalitarianism, ending personal liberty and democracy as we know it."[137] Two days later, Roosevelt began to admit that his view of Stalin had been excessively optimistic and that "Averell is right."[137]

Fourth term and death (1945)[edit]

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

The President left the Yalta Conference on February 12, 1945, flew to Egypt and boarded the USS Quincy operating on the Great Bitter Lake near the Suez Canal. Aboard Quincy, the next day he met with Farouk I, king of Egypt, and Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia. On February 14, he held a historic meeting with King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, a meeting some historians believe holds profound significance in U.S.–Saudi relations even today.[138] After a final meeting between Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Quincy steamed for Algiers, arriving February 18, at which time Roosevelt conferred with American ambassadors to Britain, France and Italy.[139] At Yalta, Lord Moran, Winston Churchill's physician, commenting on Roosevelt's ill health, said that he was a dying man.[140]

When Roosevelt returned to the United States, he addressed Congress on March 1 about the Yalta Conference,[141] and many were shocked to see how old, thin and frail he looked. He spoke while seated in the well of the House, an unprecedented concession to his physical incapacity. Roosevelt opened his speech by saying, "I hope that you will pardon me for this unusual posture of sitting down during the presentation of what I want to say, but... it makes it a lot easier for me not to have to carry about ten pounds of steel around on the bottom of my legs." Still in full command mentally, he firmly stated "The Crimean Conference ought to spell the end of a system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliances, the spheres of influence, the balances of power, and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries– and have always failed. We propose to substitute for all these, a universal organization in which all peace-loving nations will finally have a chance to join."[142]

Roosevelt had been in declining health since at least 1940, and by 1944 he was noticeably fatigued. In March 1944, shortly after his 62nd birthday, he underwent testing and was found to have high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease causing angina pectoris, and congestive heart failure.[143][144][145] Hospital physicians and two outside specialists ordered Roosevelt to rest. His personal physician, Admiral Ross McIntire, created a daily schedule that banned business guests for lunch and incorporated two hours of rest each day. During the 1944 election campaign, McIntire falsified Roosevelt's poor health; on October 12, for example, he announced that "The President's health is perfectly OK. There are absolutely no organic difficulties at all."[146] Prior to the election, Roosevelt may have used his authority over the Office of Censorship to quash press reports of his declining physical health.[147]

On March 29, 1945, Roosevelt went to the Little White House at Warm Springs, Georgia, to rest before his anticipated appearance at the founding conference of the United Nations. On the afternoon of April 12, Roosevelt said, "I have a terrific pain in the back of my head." He then slumped forward in his chair, unconscious, and was carried into his bedroom. The president's attending cardiologist, Dr. Howard Bruenn, diagnosed a massive cerebral hemorrhage (stroke).[148] At 3:35 p.m. that day, Roosevelt died. As Allen Drury later said, "so ended an era, and so began another." After Roosevelt's death, an editorial by The New York Times declared, "Men will thank God on their knees a hundred years from now that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House".[149]

On the morning of April 13, Roosevelt's body was placed in a flag-draped coffin and loaded onto the presidential train. After a White House funeral on April 14, Roosevelt was transported back to Hyde Park by train. As was his wish, Roosevelt was buried in the Rose Garden of the Springwood estate, the Roosevelt family home in Hyde Park on April 15. Roosevelt's death was met with shock and grief across the US and around the world. His declining health had not been known to the general public.[150]

Less than a month after his death, on May 8, the war in Europe ended. President Harry S. Truman dedicated Victory in Europe Day and its celebrations to Roosevelt's memory, and kept the flags across the U.S. at half-staff for the remainder of the 30-day mourning period, saying that his only wish was "that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day."[151] World War II ended in September 1945 with the surrender of Japan.

List of international trips[edit]

FDR made one international trip while president-elect and 20 during his presidency.[152] His early travels were by ship, frequently for fishing vacations to the Bahama Banks, Canadian Maritimes or Newfoundland Island. In 1943 he became the first incumbent president to fly by airplane across the Atlantic Ocean during his secret diplomatic mission to Casablanca.

Countries visited by Franklin Roosevelt during his presidency.
Dates Country Locations Details
1 February 6–14, 1933 The Bahamas The Bahamas Fishing trip. (Visit made as President-elect.)
2 June 29 – July 1, 1933  Canada Campobello Island Vacation.
3 March 29 – April 11, 1934 The Bahamas The Bahamas Elbow Cay,
Gun Cay.[153]
Fishing trip.
4 July 5–6, 1934  Haiti Cap Haitien Informal visit en route to vacation in Hawaii.
July 10, 1934  Colombia Cartagena
July 11–12, 1934  Panama Panama City
5 March 27 – April 6, 1935 The Bahamas The Bahamas Cat Cays,
Lobos Cay,
Great Inagua Island,
Crooked Island[153]
Fishing trip.
6 October 16, 1935  Panama Balboa Informal visit with President Harmodio Arias Madrid while returning to Washington, D.C. from the U.S. West Coast.
7 March 24 – April 7, 1936 The Bahamas The Bahamas Great Inagua Island,
Fishing trip. Luncheon with Governor Bede Clifford and the President of the Legislative Council, George Johnson.[154]
8 July 28–30, 1936  Canada Campobello Island Vacation.
July 31, 1936 Quebec city Official visit. Met with Governor General John Buchan.
9 November 21, 1936 Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Port of Spain Stopped on the way to South America.
November 27, 1936  Brazil Rio de Janeiro Addressed Brazilian Congress.
November 30 –
December 2, 1936
 Argentina Buenos Aires Attended session of Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace.
December 3, 1936  Uruguay Montevideo Official visit. Met with President Gabriel Terra.
December 11, 1936 Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Port of Spain Stopped while returning to the United States.
10 August 4–5, 1938  Panama Balboa Informal visit with President Juan Demóstenes Arosemena during vacation in the Caribbean.
11 August 18, 1938  Canada Kingston Received honorary degree from Queen's University and together with Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Albert Edward Matthews, dedicated the Thousand Islands Bridge.
12 August 14–16, 1939  Canada Campobello Island,
August 17–20, 1939 Dominion of Newfoundland Red Ensign.svg Newfoundland Bay of Islands,
Bonne Bay
August 21–23, 1939  Canada Halifax
13 February 27, 1940  Panama Cristóbal,
Met informally with President Augusto Samuel Boyd during vacation.
14 December 5, 1940  Jamaica Kingston Inspected British base sites for possible American use.
December 8, 1940  Saint Lucia Inspected British base sites for possible American use.
December 8, 1940 France Martinique Fort Saint Louis Conferred with U.S. officials.
December 9, 1940  British Leeward Islands Antigua Inspected British base sites for possible American use.
December 12–13, 1940 The Bahamas The Bahamas Eleuthera Island Inspected British base sites for possible American use. Met with the Governor, H.R.H. the Duke of Windsor. Returned to the U.S. on December 14.
15 August 9–12, 1941 Dominion of Newfoundland Red Ensign.svg Newfoundland Argentia Conferred with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill aboard ship (HMS Prince of Wales and USS Augusta) in Placentia Bay. At the conclusion of the conference they issued the Atlantic Charter.[155]
16 January 11, 1943 Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Port of Spain Overnight stop en route to Africa.
January 12, 1943  Brazil Belém
January 13, 1943 The Gambia The Gambia Bathurst
January 14–25, 1943  Morocco Casablanca Attended Casablanca Conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
January 25, 1943 The Gambia The Gambia Bathurst Overnight stop en route from Casablanca.
January 26–27, 1943  Liberia Monrovia Informal visit. Met with President Edwin Barclay.
January 28, 1943  Brazil Natal Informal visit. Met with President Getúlio Vargas.
January 29, 1943 Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Port of Spain Overnight stop en route from Casablanca.
17 April 20, 1943  Mexico Monterrey Part of an exchange of visits with President Manuel Ávila Camacho across the border.
18 August 17–25, 1943  Canada Quebec City
Attended First Quebec Conference with Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Addressed senators, Members of Parliament, and the general public outside the houses of parliament.[156]
19 November 20–21, 1943 France Algeria Oran Disembarked.
November 21–22, 1943 France Tunisia Tunis Overnight stop.
November 22–26, 1943  Egypt Cairo Attended First Cairo Conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek.
November 27 –
December 2, 1943
 Iran Tehran Attended Tehran Conference with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
December 2–7, 1943  Egypt Cairo Attended Second Cairo Conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Turkish President İsmet İnönü.
December 7–9, 1943 France Tunisia Tunis Conferred with General Dwight Eisenhower.
December 8, 1943  Malta Valletta Visited Allied military installations
December 8, 1943  Italy Castelvetrano Visited Allied military installations
December 9, 1943 France Senegal Dakar Re-embarked for the U.S.
20 September 11–16, 1944  Canada Quebec City Attended Second Quebec Conference with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff.
21 February 2, 1945  Malta Floriana Attended Malta Conference with Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
February 3–12, 1945  Soviet Union Yalta Attended Yalta Conference with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
February 13–15, 1945  Egypt Great Bitter Lake,
Suez Canal,
Met with King Farouk, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, Saudi Arabian King Ibn Saud, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
February 18, 1945 France Algeria Algiers Briefed U.S. Ambassadors to the United Kingdom, France, and Italy on the Yalta Conference.


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

Election of 1932[edit]

Having served as Governor of New York since 1929, Roosevelt won the presidential nomination of the 1932 Democratic National Convention on the third ballot, prevailing over his gubernatorial predecessor, Al Smith. In the general election, the Roosevelt-Garner ticket defeated the incumbent Republican ticket of Herbert Hoover and Charles Curtis. The third of three consecutive Republican presidents, Hoover's popularity had plummeted after the onset of the Great Depression. Roosevelt won 472 of the 531 electoral votes and 57.4% of the popular vote, making him the first Democratic presidential nominee since the Civil War to win a majority of the popular vote. In the concurrent Congressional elections, the Democrats took control of the Senate and built upon their majority in the House. The election marked the end of the Fourth Party System, during which time Republicans had generally dominated national elections.[157]

1934 midterm elections[edit]

Although midterm elections normally see the party in control of the presidency lose seats in Congress, the 1934 elections resulted in major Democratic gains in the Senate and minor gains in the House. Roosevelt's New Deal policies were bolstered and several Democrats won in Northern, urban areas as outside of the party's traditional base in the South. After the elections, the Democratic Party controlled over 2/3 of the seats in both the House and the Senate.[158]

Election of 1936[edit]

1936 presidential election results by county.

In the 1936 presidential election, Roosevelt campaigned on his New Deal programs against Kansas Governor Alf Landon, who accepted much of the New Deal but objected that it was hostile to business and involved too much waste. Roosevelt and Garner won 60.8% of the vote and carried every state except Maine and Vermont.[159] The New Deal Democrats won even larger majorities in Congress. Roosevelt was backed by a coalition of voters which included traditional Democrats across the country, small farmers, the "Solid South" (mostly white Democrats), Catholics, big city political machines, labor unions, northern African Americans, 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.[160] The 1936 Democratic National Convention also saw the abolition of the "two-thirds rule," which had required that the Democratic presidential nominee win two thirds of the delegates rather than as a simple majority.[161]

1938 midterm elections[edit]

Roosevelt had always belonged to the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party. He sought a realignment that would solidify liberal dominance by means of landslides in 1932, 1934 and 1936. During the 1932 campaign he predicted privately, "I'll be in the White House for eight years. When those years are over, there'll be a Progressive party. It may not be Democratic, but it will be Progressive." When the third consecutive landslide in 1936 failed to produce major legislation in 1937, his recourse was to purge his conservative opponents in 1938.[162]

Roosevelt became involved in the 1938 Democratic primaries, actively campaigning for challengers who were more supportive of New Deal reform. His targets denounced Roosevelt for trying to take over the Democratic party and to win reelection, using the argument that they were independent. Roosevelt failed badly, managing to defeat only one target, a conservative Democrat from New York City.[163]

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.[164] Following the autumn Congressional elections in 1938, Congress was now dominated by conservatives, many of whom feared that Roosevelt was "aiming at a dictatorship," according to the historian Hugh Brogan.[165]

Election of 1940[edit]

1940 presidential election results by county.

The two-term tradition had been an unwritten rule (until the 22nd Amendment after Roosevelt's presidency) since George Washington declined to run for a third term in 1796. Both Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt were attacked for trying to obtain a third non-consecutive term. Roosevelt systematically undercut prominent Democrats who were angling for the nomination, including Vice President John Nance Garner[166] and two cabinet members, Secretary of State Cordell Hull and James Farley, Roosevelt's campaign manager in 1932 and 1936, the Postmaster General and the Democratic Party chairman. Roosevelt moved the convention to Chicago where he had strong support from the city machine (which controlled the auditorium sound system). At the convention the opposition was poorly organized, but Farley had packed the galleries. Roosevelt sent a message saying that he would not run unless he was drafted, and that the delegates were free to vote for anyone. The delegates were stunned; then the loudspeaker screamed "We want Roosevelt... The world wants Roosevelt!" The delegates went wild and he was nominated by 946 to 147 on the first ballot. The tactic employed by Roosevelt was not entirely successful, as his goal had been to be drafted by acclamation.[167] The new vice-presidential nominee was Henry Agard Wallace, a liberal intellectual who was Secretary of Agriculture.[168]

In his campaign against Republican Wendell Willkie, Roosevelt stressed both his proven leadership experience and his intention to do everything possible to keep the United States out of war. Attacked as a war-monger, he reassured mothers:

I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: that your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.[169]

He won the 1940 election with 55% of the popular vote and 38 of the 48 states, and thus winning almost 85% of the electoral vote (449 to 82).[170] The Democrats kept nominal control of Congress but the Conservative Coalition largely controlled domestic legislation and it was "leery of presidential extensions of executive power through social programs."[171]

1942 midterm elections[edit]

The 1942 midterm election saw sizable Republican gains in both houses of Congress, particularly the House of Representatives. The election bolstered the strength of the conservative coalition.[172] Voter turnout was just 33.9%, lower than any subsequent national election (as of 2014).[173][174]

Election of 1944[edit]

1944 presidential election results by county.

Roosevelt faced little opposition from his own party during his 1944 re-election campaign. He easily won the presidential nomination of the 1944 Democratic National Convention, making him the first person to serve as a major party nominee in four separate presidential elections. However, party leaders insisted that Roosevelt drop Henry A. Wallace, who had been erratic as Vice President. James F. Byrnes of South Carolina, a top FDR aide, was considered ineligible because he had left the Catholic Church and many Catholic voters would not vote for him. Roosevelt replaced Wallace with Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman, best known for his battle against corruption and inefficiency in wartime spending. The Republicans nominated Thomas E. Dewey, the liberal governor of New York. The opposition lambasted FDR and his administration for domestic corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, tolerance of Communism, and military blunders. Labor unions, which had grown rapidly in the war, threw their all-out support behind Roosevelt. Roosevelt and Truman won the 1944 election by a comfortable margin, defeating Dewey and his running mate John W. Bricker with 53.4% of the popular vote and 432 out of the 531 electoral votes.[175] Roosevelt led government planning for the new United Nations, which was designed to avoid all of the policy mistakes that Wilson had made with the League of Nations in 1919. United States would have veto power over all UN decisions. His 1944 reelection campaign emphasized the value of the United Nations, and his careful cultivation of public and Republican support guaranteed its approval.[176]


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.[177] Roosevelt also firmly established the United States' leadership role on the world stage, with his role in shaping and financing World War II. His isolationist critics faded away, and even the Republicans joined in his overall policies.[178] After his death, his widow continued to be a forceful presence in US and world politics, serving as delegate to the conference which established the United Nations and championing civil rights and liberalism generally. Many members of his administration played leading roles in the administrations of Truman, Kennedy and Johnson, each of whom embraced Roosevelt's political legacy.[179]

A majority of polls rank Roosevelt as the second or third greatest president, consistent with other surveys.[180][181][182] Roosevelt is the sixth most admired person from the 20th century by U.S. citizens, according to Gallup.[183] Roosevelt was also widely beloved for his role in repealing Prohibition.[184]

Both during and after his terms, critics of Roosevelt questioned not only his policies and positions, but even more so the consolidation of power in the White House at a time when dictators were taking over Europe and Asia.[185] Many of the New Deal programs were abolished during the war by FDR's opponents. The powerful new wartime agencies were set up to be temporary and expire at war's end.[186] The internment of Japanese-Americans is frequently criticized as a major stain on Roosevelt's record.[187]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The 20th Amendment (ratified in 1933) moved Inauguration Day from March 4 to January 20. The 1937 presidential inauguration, Roosevelt's 2nd inauguration, was the first to take place on the new date. As a result, his first term in office (1933–1937) was only 1,418 days long, which is 43 days shorter than a normal term.


  1. ^ a b "VP John Garner". US Senate. US Senate. Retrieved 7 October 2015. 
  2. ^ Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 189-90, 247, 330, Random House, New York, NY. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  3. ^ James MacGregor Burns (1970). The Soldier of Freedom: Roosevelt. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 347–48. 
  4. ^ Kalman, Laura (October 2005). "The Constitution, the Supreme Court, and the New Deal". The American Historical Review. 110 (4): 1052–1080. JSTOR 10.1086/ahr.110.4.1052. 
  5. ^ a b Burns (1956), p. 312.
  6. ^ Leuchtenberg, William E. (May 2005). "When Franklin Roosevelt Clashed with the Supreme Court – and Lost". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2016. 
  7. ^ Renstrom, Peter (2001). The Stone Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy. ABC-CLIO. pp. 179–180. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  8. ^ Ball 2006, p. 9.
  9. ^ Michael R. Belknap, The Supreme Court under Earl Warren, 1953-1969 (2005) pp. 13-14
  10. ^ Urofsky, Melvin (1988). "CONFLICT AMONG THE BRETHREN". Duke Law Journal. 37 (1): 81–84. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  11. ^ Alter, Jonathan, p. 190.
  12. ^ Kennedy, Susan Estabrook (March 13, 1933). "Bottom: The Banking Crisis of 1933". Time. Retrieved March 2, 2008. 
  13. ^ a b Roosevelt, Franklin D. "First Inaugural Address". Bartleby. Retrieved March 2, 2008. 
  14. ^ Burns 1956, p. 157, 167-68.
  15. ^ McJimsey, George. The Bank Holiday and the Emergency Banking Act. p. xxviii. 
  16. ^ Smith 2007, pp. 319–22.
  17. ^ Smith 2007, pp. 318–23.
  18. ^ Hawley 1995, p. 124.
  19. ^ Smith 2007, p. 346.
  20. ^ Savage, Sean J. (1991). Roosevelt: The Party Leader, 1932–1945. University Press of Kentucky. p. 160. ISBN 978-0-8131-1755-3. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  21. ^ Freidel 1952–73, pp. 4: 320–39.
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  23. ^ "Economy's End." Time. August 26, 1935.
  24. ^ "Bonus Bill Becomes Law". The New York Times. January 28, 1936. 
  25. ^ Gary Dean Best, FDR and the Bonus Marchers, 1933–1935 (1992).
  26. ^ Joshua K. Hausman, "Fiscal Policy and Economic Recovery: The Case of the 1936 Veterans' Bonus." Berkeley Economic History Lab Working Paper WP2013-06 (2013) online
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  32. ^ Sitkoff, ed. Fifty Years Later: The New Deal Evaluated (1984)
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  99. ^ Arkes, Hadley (1997). The return of George Sutherland : restoring a jurisprudence of natural rights. Princeton University Press. p. 196. ISBN 9780691016283. 
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  111. ^ Statistical Abstract, US: Bureau of the Census, 1946, p. 173  Note that WPA workers were counted as unemployed.
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  113. ^ "Text of Executive Order 8802". Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs. June 25, 1941. Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
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Scholarly topical studies[edit]

  • Alter, Jonathan (2006), The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope (popular history), ISBN 978-0-7432-4600-2 .
  • Brinkley, Douglas G. Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America (2016) excerpt; On hisenvironmental and conservation beliefs & policies.
  • Jordan, David M (2011), FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, ISBN 9780253356833 .
  • Leuchtenburg, William E. (1963). Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932–1940. Harpers. ISBN 978-0-06-133025-4. 
  • ——— (2005), "Showdown on the Court", Smithsonian (fulltext), Ebsco, 36 (2): 106–13, ISSN 0037-7333 .
  • Miscamble, Wilson D. (2007). From Roosevelt to Truman: Potsdam, Hiroshima, and the Cold War. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-86244-2. 
  • Pederson, William D (2011), A Companion to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 9781444330168 , 768 pages; essays by scholars covering major historiographical themes. online
  • Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr (1957–60), The Age of Roosevelt, 3 volumes, OCLC 466716 , the classic narrative history. Strongly supports FDR.
  • Sitkoff, Harvard (1978). A New Deal for Blacks. ISBN 0-19-502418-4. 

Foreign policy and World War II[edit]


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

Primary sources[edit]

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