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FDR ~ a Extra-ordinary man and leader

Seventy years today ~ 12 April 1945 ~ in Warm Springs, Georgia Franklin D. Roosevelt died.  On this anniversary of his death we take this opportunity to remember the man who was born into wealth, educated in the best schools and rose to the presidency; and, to  led the United States  through one of worst economic crisis and world war experienced since its independence in 1776.

“Let us be clear at the  outset that the liberty of individuals to carry on their business should not be abrogated unless the larger interests of the many are concerned.  It is the purpose of government to see that not only the legitimate interests of the few are protected but that the welfare and rights of  the many are conserved.  These are the principals which must be remembered in any consideration of this question.  This, I take it, is sound government- not politics.”

Franklin was born in Hyde Park, New York on January 30, 1882, the  son of James and Sara Delano Roosevelt.  He attended Groton, a prestigious preparatory school in Massachusetts (1896-1900), and received a BA degree in history from Harvard in only three years (1900-03).  He next studied law at New York’s Columbia University and passed the bar examination in 1907.  He left school without taking a degree.  For the next three years he practiced law with a prominent New York City law firm.

In 1905 he married a distant cousin, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt.  They had six children, five of whom survived infancy ~ Anna, James, Elliott, Franklin, Jr., and John.

“If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.”

Franklin entered politics in 1910 and was elected to the New York Senate from his traditionally Republican home district.  He was reelected to the State Senate in 1912, and supported Woodrow Wilson’s candidacy at the Democratic National Convention.  As a reward for his support, Wilson appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913, a position he held until 1920.

“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace – business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.  They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs and we know now that a government by organized money is just as  bad as a government by organized mob.”

He was an energetic and efficient administrator, specializing in the business side of naval administration. Roosevelt’s popularity and success in naval affairs resulted in his being nominated for vice-president by the Democratic Party in 1920 on a ticket headed by James M. Cox of Ohio.  However, popular sentiment against Wilson’s plan for US participation in the League of Nations propelled Republican Warren Harding into the presidency, and Roosevelt returned to private life.

  1. “We know that equality of individual ability has never existed and never will, but we do insist that equality of opportunity still must be sougth.”

  2. “As a nation we may take pride in the fact that we are softhearted; but we cannot afford to be soft-headed.”

  3. “People, like charity, begins at home.”

  4. “Cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.”

In 1921 , while vacationing at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, he contracted poliomyelitis (infantile paralysis).  He strove to over come this illness, he never regained the use of his legs.  Later in life he established a foundation at Warm Springs, Georgia to help other polio victims, and inspired, as well as directed, the March of Dimes program that eventually funded an effective vaccine.

“There is a mysterious cycle in human events.  To some generations much is given.  Of other generations much is expected.  This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.  In this world of ours in other lands, there are some people, who, in times past, have lived and fought for freedom, and seem to have grown too weary to carry on the fight. They have sold their heritage of freedom for the illusion of a living.  They have yeileded their democracy.  I believe in my heart that only our success can stir their ancient hope.  They begin to know that here in America we are waging a war against want and destitution and economic demoralization.  It is more that that; it is a war for the survival of democracy.  We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.”

Encouraged and helped by Eleanor, and political confidant, Louis Howe, Franklin resumed his political career.  In 1924 he nominated Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York for president at the Democratic National Convention.  Governor Smith lost the nomination to John W. Davis.  In 1928 Smith became the Democratic candidate for president and arranged for Roosevelt’s nomination to succeed him as governor of New York.  Smith lost the election to Herbert Hoover; but Roosevelt was elected governor.

  1. “We cannot always build a future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future.”

  2. “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance  of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

  3. “A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.  Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”

Franklin was re-elected as New York State’s governor in 1930 and soon began to campaign for the presidency.  The growing national economic depression hurt Hoover and the Republican party.  Franklin new and bold actions in the state to combat the growing economic crisis enhanced his reputation.  In 1932 he won the Democratic Party’s nominated for president.  He campaigned energetically calling for government intervention in the economy to provide relief, recovery, and reform.  His activist approach and personal charm helped to defeat Hoover in November  ’32 by seven million votes.

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 “….two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people:  the first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself.  That, in its essence, is Fascism – ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.  The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such as way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.”  “…This concentration is seriously impairing the economic effectiveness of private enterprise as a way of providing employment for labor and capital and as a way of assuring a more equitable distribution of income and earnings among the people of the nation as a whole.”

Before Roosevelt’s inauguration, March 4, 1933, factory closings, farm foreclosures, and bank failures increased, while unemployment soared.  Quickly, and working with Congress initiated, a number of actions that were formed under the collective banner as  “New Deal.” A few of the “alphabet agencies” were:  AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration) to support farm prices; CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) to employ young men; WPA ( Works Projects Administration) provided jobs for laborers, artists, writers, musicians, and authors.  At this time the Social Security act was also begun that provided unemployment compensation and a program of old-age and survivors’ benefits.

These measures revived confidence in the economy, but they also involved government directly in areas of  social and economic life as never before and resulted in greatly increased spending and unbalanced budgets which led to criticisms of Roosevelt’s programs.

“It is to real advantage of every producer, every manufacturer and every merchant to cooperate in the improvement of working conditions, because the best customer of American industry is the well-paid worker.”

Franklin defeated Alfred M. Landon in 1936 and in the next two presidential elections won over his opponents:  – 1940 (Wendell Willkie) and 1944 (Thomas E. Dewey0.  He was the only American president to serve more than two terms.

In September 1939 Hitler attacked Poland, Roosevelt stated that, although the nation was neutral, he did not expect America to remain inactive in the face of Nazi aggression.  Accordingly, he tried to make American aid available to Britain, France, and China and to obtain an amendment of the Neutrality Acts which rendered such assistance difficult.  He also took measures to build up the armed forces in the face of isolationist opposition.

The fall of France in 1940, the American mood and Roosevelt’s policy changed dramatically.  Congress enacted a draft for military service and Roosevelt signed a “lend-lease” bill in March, 1941 to enable furnishing aid to nations at war with Germany and Italy.

“Yesterday, December 7th, 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.  The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.”

He moved to create a “grand alliance” against the Axis powers through “The Declaration of the United Nations.” January 1, 1942, in which all nations fighting the Axis agreed not to make a separate peace and pledged themselves to a peace-keeping organization (United Nations) upon victory.

Initially he gave priority to the western Europ0ean front and had General George George Marshall, Chief of Staff, plan a holding operation in the Pacific and organize an expeditionary force for an invasion of Europe.  The Untied States and its allies invaded North Africa in November 1942 and Sicily and Italy in 1943.  The D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches in France, June 6, 1944, were followed by theallied invasion of Germany six months later.  By April 1945 victory in Europe was certain.  (After Roosevelt’s death, the war against Japan was under the direction of President Truman.  After the dropping of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan surrendered formally on the battleship USS Missouri on 2 September 1945.)

“We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace: that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of nations far away.  We have learned that we must live as men, and not as ostriches nor as  dogs in the manger.  We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.”

The unending stress and strain of the war wore Roosevelt out.  Early in 1944 a full medical examination disclosed serious heart and circulatory problems. It was during a vacation at Warm Springs that on April 12, 1945, he suffered a massive stroke and died.  Franklin was 63 years old.  President Roosevelt was buried in the Rose Garden of his estate at Hyde Park, New York.

“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

(The historical biography was edited from an article taken from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Many of the photographs are from the same source.)

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In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, the Ticonderoga Historical Society will have new exhibits and programs at the Hancock House.    All are welcomed to a very special program on August 29th, 2015 when we will present a WWII USO style entertainment program on the Hancock House lawn.  We are looking for sponsors and seeking volunteers to help in this endeavor.  Please contact THS if you have an interest in assisting us making this program one to remember. 

4/12/2015 wgd

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