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1 The Collision Of Cultures
2 Britain And Its Colonies
3 Colonial Ways Of Life
4 The Imperial Perspective
5 From Empire To Independence
6 The American Revolution
7 Shaping A Federal Union
8 The Federalist Era
9 The Early Republic
10 Nationalism And Sectionalism
11 The Jacksonian Impulse
12 The Dynamics Of Growth
13 An American Renaissance: Religion, Romanticism, And Reform
14 Manifest Destiny
15 The Old South
16 The Crisis Of Union
17 The War Of The Union
18 Reconstruction: North And South
19 New Frontiers: South And West
20 Big Business And Organized Labor
21 The Emergence Of Urban America
22 Gilded-age Politics And Agrarian Revolt
23 An American Empire
24 The Progressive Era
25 America And The Great War
26 The Modern Temper
27 Republican Resurgence And Decline
28 New Deal America
29 From Isolation To Global War
30 The Second World War
31 The Fair Deal And Containment
32 Through The Picture Window: Society And Culture, 19451960
33 Conflict And Deadlock: The Eisenhower Years
34 New Frontiers: Politics And Social Change In The 1960s
35 Rebellion And Reaction In The 1960s And 1970s
36 A Conservative Insurgency
37 Triumph And Tragedy: America At The Turn Of The Century

New Deal America - Document Overview

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During the 1932 election campaign, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt promised the American people a "new deal" and "bold persistent experimentation" to help pull the nation out of the Great Depression. His charismatic personality and infectious energy struck a resonant chord. Roosevelt bested Hoover in a landslide, and he brought with him large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. On March 4, 1933, millions of Americans huddled around their radios to hear Roosevelt deliver his inaugural address. He promised them immediate action—and he delivered. No sooner did the former New York governor move into the White House than he began making an unprecedented series of executive decisions and signing new legislation that served to transform the very nature of the federal government.

During the "First Hundred Days" of his presidency, Roosevelt and the Democratic Congress repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, ending the thirteen-year experiment with prohibition of alcoholic beverages, intervened to shore up the banking industry, drafted new regulations for the stock market, and created an array of new federal agencies and programs designed to reopen factories, raise farm prices, put people back to work, and relieve the distress created by chronic unemployment.

The flurry of governmental activity and Roosevelt's uplifting rhetoric helped restore hope to many among the desperate and destitute, but the depression persisted. The honeymoon of expectation that Roosevelt enjoyed immediately after his election gave way to strident criticism from both ends of the political spectrum. Conservatives accused him of assaulting the freedoms undergirding capitalism. In 1934 disgruntled conservative Democrats formed the American Liberty League to organize opposition to Roosevelt's "socialistic" programs. Roosevelt denounced the Liberty League as a group of "economic royalists" indifferent to the misery of the masses. "I welcome their hatred," he declared.

Other critics lambasted Roosevelt for not doing enough to help the poor and unemployed. The desperate economic conditions gave new life to the Socialist and Communist parties, both of which had fielded candidates in the 1932 presidential election . Many prominent writers, artists, and academics gravitated to the radical Left, and several labor unions began to witness the effects of communist agitators.

The volatile social tensions of the 1930s also helped spawn a diverse array of "neo-populist" demagogues. The most prominent of these independent operators was Democratic Senator Huey P. Long of Louisiana. In late 1934 he launched his own "Share Our Wealth" program as an alternative to the New Deal. Using rabble-rousing techniques that he had refined as governor, Long called for a 100 percent tax on all personal income over $1 million and all fortunes over $5 million. He promised to use the revenue from these new taxes to provide every American with a home, a car, retirement benefits, and free educational opportunities. By 1935 Long boasted almost 8 million followers around the country and was preparing to launch a challenge to Roosevelt's reelection. In September, however, he was gunned down in Louisiana by the relative of a disgruntled political opponent.

Another landslide victory in 1936 emboldened Roosevelt to broaden the scope of his New Deal initiatives. He launched new programs for the unemployed, created the first minimum wage, reorganized the executive branch, and began urban redevelopment programs that included public housing for the homeless. Still, millions of Americans continued to live in squalor, especially in the rural South, where tenants and sharecroppers rarely benefited from the new government programs. By 1938, amid a new recession, the momentum of the New Deal began to wane. Roosevelt had expended most of his creativity and political capital. In the November Congressional elections, the Republicans made deep inroads into the Democratic majorities in both houses. Foreign crises began to distract the attention of the Administration and the nation, and Roosevelt began to focus on international diplomacy and military preparedness.

Even more so than her husband, Eleanor Roosevelt understood the human impact of the Depression, and she used her platform as First Lady to minister to the needs of the destitute and to reach out to disadvantaged minorities. She broke precedent to hold her own weekly press conferences, traveled throughout the country to meet with people of all walks of life, gave numerous lectures and radio addresses, and expressed her candid opinions in a daily syndicated newspaper column entitled "My Day." In the process of such ceaseless agitation, Eleanor Roosevelt became a beloved symbol of the New Deal's concern for common folk and their daily distress.


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