That Man: An Insider's Portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt

That Man: An Insider's Portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt

by Robert H. Jackson, John Q. Barrett, William E. Leuchtenburg
     
 

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Robert H. Jackson was one of the giants of the Roosevelt era: an Attorney General, a still revered Supreme Court Justice and, not least important, one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's close friends and advisers. His intimate memoir of FDR, written in the early 1950s before Jackson's untimely death, has remained unpublished for fifty years. Here is that newly

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Overview

Robert H. Jackson was one of the giants of the Roosevelt era: an Attorney General, a still revered Supreme Court Justice and, not least important, one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's close friends and advisers. His intimate memoir of FDR, written in the early 1950s before Jackson's untimely death, has remained unpublished for fifty years. Here is that newly discovered memoir.
Written with skill and grace, this is truly a unique account of the personality, conduct, greatness of character, and common humanity of "that man in the White House," as outraged conservatives called FDR. Jackson simply but eloquently provides an insider's view of Roosevelt's presidency, including such crucial events as FDR's Court-packing plan, his battles with corporate America, his decision to seek a third term, and his bold move to aid Britain in 1940 with American destroyers. He also offers an intimate personal portrait of Roosevelt—on fishing trips, in late-night poker games, or approving legislation while eating breakfast in bed, where he routinely began his workday. We meet a president who is far-sighted but nimble in attacking the problems at hand; principled but flexible; charismatic and popular but unafraid to pick fights, take stands, and when necessary, make enemies.
That Man is not simply a valuable historical document, but an engaging and insightful look at one of the most remarkable men in American history. In reading this memoir, we gain not only a new appreciation for Roosevelt, but also admiration for Jackson, who emerges as both a public servant of great integrity and skill and a wry, shrewd, and fair-minded observer of politics at the highest level.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Barrett has done an admirable and even heroic job, partly by interpolating some of Jackson's other writing, including unpublished materials and excerpts from an oral history, in which Jackson answered detailed questions about his life and his career. As a result, there is now a genuine book, one that contains some illuminating discussion of historical events. Most important, the book offers a fresh occasion for considering the personality and career of the greatest leader of the twentieth century, memorably described by Isaiah Berlin as the only statesman in the world upon whom 'no cloud rested.'"—Cass Sunstein, New Republic

"Lively, revealing and suddenly relevant.... Jackson's memoir sheds new light—not always flattering—on important events and on a president who too often appears only in silhouette: a felt fedora, an upward-tilting chin, a cigarette holder clenched in a grin."—Jeff Shesol, New York Times Book Review

"The publication of this slender but meaty book is that rare and happy event: a voice speaking to us from the past, a voice we had not expected to hear and that brings the past to life as not even the best of historians can do."—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

"An intimate and inspiring portrait of Roosevelt. He is seen as both charming and determined, while often elusive and enigmatic.... Understanding Franklin Roosevelt better is a constant challenge for students of history: He has been scrutinized a great deal but not often with the benefit of such a vantage point."—Wall Street Journal

"A thoughtful, fresh, useful look at FDR. With powerful respect, even awe, for the man, Jackson nevertheless insisted on seeing him in a very human way—filled with greatness, yet flawed like all of us. It's a memoir that reflects the best of Jackson: candid, honest and tellingly expressed."—Stanley Kutler, Los Angeles Times

"A winning memoir—the story of Jackson's life in the White House; a powerful portrait of our 32nd president; and, most of all, a tribute to the humanity and the vision that stood at the heart of the Roosevelt administration.... A unique historical find.... It contains a trove of new information about Roosevelt's life."—Matthew Dallek, The Washington Monthly

"That Man is a great find—the last memoir of Franklin D. Roosevelt by someone who worked with him and knew him well. Next to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Robert H. Jackson was the best writer on the Supreme Court in the 20th century, and his portrait of 'that man in the White House' is filled with astute insights and warm recollections. It is a book no fan of FDR can do without."—Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

"Franklin D. Roosevelt was the dominant political figure of the last century. Robert H. Jackson, Supreme Court Justice, was one of the essential figures in his life. Professor John Q. Barrett, a highly qualified authority on the subject, has now brought this relationship fully to light. I urge this volume for all who would know more of what could be the greatest days of Washington. I use the term cautiously: an indispensable book."—John Kenneth Galbraith

"These superbly eloquent chapters provide intimate glimpses of Roosevelt operating on many different levels. Through Jackson's informed lens, we are shown FDR as president, politician, lawyer, commander-in-chief, administrator, populist leader and companion. Jackson's account is not only of infinite value for the new light it sheds on 'that man,' but also for unique glimpses of Harold Ickes, Tommy 'The Cork' Corcoran, Harry Hopkins and the other New Deal stalwarts."—Publishers Weekly

"Painstakingly, insightfully—even lovingly—assembled from notes and fragments found in a dusty closet belonging to Robert H. Jackson's recently deceased son, this remarkable and eminently readable volume—a newly available first-hand account of FDR as politician, lawyer, administrator, and commander in chief, written by an astute participant and brilliant observer who also happened to be the most piercingly eloquent writer ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court—will intrigue and inform anyone interested in the history of America's involvement in World War II or in the American presidency and the West Wing under FDR in an era a half century old that turns out to bear a surprising resemblance to our own."—Laurence H. Tribe, Ralph S. Tyler, Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School

"Intelligent, informed thoughts on FDR's presidency.... The intimate look into the way decisions were made brings Roosevelt very much into human focus."—Kirkus Review

"A long lost gem has been unearthed after a half century. Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson's first hand portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt is as close as we are likely to get to deciphering the enigma that was FDR. Jackson, associate and friend, confidante and poker playing pal of the President, was perceptive enough to recognize the genius and honest enough to admit the flaws beneath his subject's seductive geniality. We are further indebted to the book's editor, John Q. Barrett, for rescuing this priceless memoir from an obscurity that would have left us poorer in our understanding of America's towering 20th Century statesman." —Joseph E. Persico, author of Roosevelt's Secret War

"For those with enough time and interest in the subject to warrant going through a study of much more than a thousand pages, [Conrad] Black's biography is worth reading. But most readers, as well as professional historians, will find Justice Jackson's "insider's portrait" of Roosevelt of greater interest."—Robert S. McElvaine, Professor of History, Millsaps College, Jackson, MS, and author of The Great Depression:America, 1929-1941

"Well worth reading...is the fascinating discovery, long after his death, of the reminiscences by Robert Jackson, FDR's Attorney General, a Supreme Court Justice, and maybe the closest friend of the president to have written about him. That Man is not only personally fascinating but of real historical interest on the subject of Lend-Lease."— Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The Spectator

The New York Times
That Man displays none of the affectations of intimacy, the straining for a seat at the table, that cheapen so many presidential memoirs past and present. Jackson's relationship with Roosevelt was genuinely close and candid. One of the delights of this book is a memo that Jackson dictated for his files in late 1937, after a 10-day yachting trip with Roosevelt and a handful of advisers. Jackson offers a rare glimpse of F.D.R. at ease, back before presidential vacations became a sort of public theater, performed in denim workshirts in front of photographers. On the yacht, Roosevelt ''was away from curious eyes,'' Jackson recalls. ''We were completely isolated.'' Roosevelt mixes martinis and takes his men sightseeing but is never far from his work -- he combs through pages of news, reads the mail that is dropped twice daily by naval plane and considers ways to keep Fiorello La Guardia, the mayor of New York, out of the governor's mansion. ''In fishing contests, playing cards and conversation,'' Jackson writes, Roosevelt ''was and wanted to be an equal. He asked no favors and granted none. He played the game on its merits. He was able to avoid all pose.'' — Jeff Shesol
The Washington Post
The publication of this slender but meaty book is that rare and happy event: a voice speaking to us from the past, a voice we had not expected to hear and that brings the past to life as not even the best of historians can do. The voice is that of Robert H. Jackson, whom William E. Leuchtenburg accurately describes in the first sentence of his introduction as "the most important figure of the 20th century no one has ever heard of," yet one who "deserves, even commands our attention." It is perhaps too much to hope that this book will restore him to the eminence he once enjoyed, but at least it brings him out from the shadows. — Jonathan Yardley
Publishers Weekly
Robert H. Jackson was one of the ultimate FDR insiders. Nominated by Roosevelt to the Supreme Court as an associate justice in 1941, Jackson had previously served the president as attorney general, solicitor general and in other posts. More importantly from the standpoint of this book, FDR and Jackson were great personal friends: poker pals who had known and respected each other since their days as young Democrats exploring the possibilities of Albany politics. Thus Jackson's never-before-published memoir (unearthed only recently by St. John's University Law School professor Barrett) is a rare find. Written not long before Jackson's untimely death in 1954, these superbly eloquent chapters provide intimate glimpses of Roosevelt operating on many different levels. Through Jackson's informed lens, we are shown FDR as president, politician, lawyer, commander-in-chief, administrator, populist leader and companion. Jackson's account is not only of infinite value for the new light it sheds on "that man," but also for unique glimpses of Harold Ickes, Tommy "the cork" Corcoran, Harry Hopkins and other New Deal stalwarts. A foreword by noted historian Leuchtenburg does a thorough job of setting Jackson's prose in historical context. Of equal value are the contributions of Jackson biographer Barrett, who has artfully illuminated Jackson's text with necessary and unobtrusive notations. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
While conducting research for a biography on Robert H. Jackson, Franklin D. Roosevelt's solicitor general, attorney general, and appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Barrett (law, St. John's Univ.) discovered Jackson's unfinished manuscript on the president dating from the early 1950s. Here, he supplements that text with excerpts from Jackson's unpublished autobiography and oral interviews. Though most of the narrative lacks Jackson's usual eloquence, there are flashes of it. In discussing FDR as a politician, lawyer, commander in chief, administrator, economist, and human being, Jackson indirectly reveals himself. He was essentially a lawyer, while FDR was a politician despite his law degree. The president encouraged the electoral entrance of his decade-younger protege, but Jackson admits his happiest days during the Roosevelt administration were spent as the solicitor general, his least political position. Barely mentioned in the editor's endnotes and biographical sketches is Jackson's subsequent self-destruction as the leading candidate for the chief justiceship to replace Harlan Fiske Stone. Nonetheless, Jackson viewed FDR and Charles Evans Hughes as the two greatest men of his era. His insights into FDR's personality confirm those presented in the best biographies of the president. Highly recommended for academic libraries with presidential and judicial collections.-William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Intelligent, informed thoughts on FDR’s presidency by a close associate: Solicitor General, Attorney General, and finally Supreme Court Justice Jackson (1892–1954). Written in the early 1950s but only recently discovered by editor Barrett among Jackson’s personal papers, the manuscript considers FDR in separate chapters as a politician, lawyer, commander-in-chief, administrator, economist, leader, and friend. Although the text has a finished quality, it also has the brevity of quick notes jotted down with examples of Roosevelt’s strengths and weaknesses in each department. Jackson promises readers the "testimony of an interested witness" and takes seasoned measure of a man so often "the subject of undiscriminating idolatry or of unreasoning hate." What the author saw was a self-confident gentleman, brimming with intellectual capital, informal but dignified, capable of being mercurial and of trespassing on legislative turf, as when he tried to remove policymakers outside executive agencies. Jackson unveils episodes of step-by-step policy formation, as when the administration exchanged destroyers for naval and air stations in the Atlantic, bypassing (with dubious constitutionality) Congressional approval. He also points out, again with examples, Roosevelt's shortcomings: FDR was "impatient of the slow and exacting judicial process"—impatient, indeed, with anything that was slow and exacting—and Jackson remarks that, for someone who effected radical changes on the economic landscape, his friend’s vision "did not impress me as being grounded in economic theory or practice." Rather, FDR made his decisions based on political judgment and social philosophy, which he was able tocommunicate to the man on the street. Jackson writes smoothly and manages to compress many angles of complex material into a brief text. Not profoundly revelatory, but the intimate look into the way decisions were made brings Roosevelt very much into human focus. (24 halftones, not seen) Book-of-the-Month Club/History Book Club main selection

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195177572
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
11/01/2004
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
980,664
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Robert H. Jackson was Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1941 to his death in 1954. A major figure in American legal history, he also served as Solicitor General and Attorney General of the United States, and the American Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trial. Author of the best-selling The Nürnberg Case, he is considered by many to be the finest writer ever to sit on the Supreme Court. John Q. Barrett is Professor of Law at St. John's University in New York and Elizabeth S. Lenna Fellow at the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, New York. He formerly served in the office of Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh investigating Iran-Contra, and in the U.S. Department of Justice. He discovered the manuscript of That Man among Jackson's papers while researching a biography of the Justice. William E. Leuchtenburg, the leading historian of Roosevelt and the New Deal, has contributed a foreword discussing Jackson's relationship with FDR.

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