Franklin D. Roosevelt: Road to the New Deal, 1882-1939
Franklin D. Roosevelt: Road to the New Deal, 1882-1939

Franklin D. Roosevelt: Road to the New Deal, 1882-1939

by Roger Daniels


$24.81 $24.95 Save 1% Current price is $24.81, Original price is $24.95. You Save 1%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, January 24

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780252083808
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Publication date: 08/06/2018
Pages: 568
Sales rank: 813,301
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Roger Daniels is the Charles Phelps Taft Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Cincinnati. His many books include Prisoners without Trial: Japanese Americans in World War II.

Read an Excerpt

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Road to the New Deal, 1882â"1939

By Roger Daniels


Copyright © 2015 Roger Daniels
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-252-09762-1




FROM LATE IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY until the middle decades of the twentieth, three Roosevelts — Theodore (1858–1919), Franklin Delano (1882–1945), and (Anna) Eleanor (1884–1962) — played major and often dominatingroles in American politics. The first Roosevelt in the New World, a shadowy figure named Claes Martenzen van Rosenvelt (d. 1659), was settled in Manhattan by 1649. Obviously Dutch, Claes probably came from a village on Tholen Island in Zeeland's Scheldt Estuary. He seems to have arrived with enough capital to purchase a farm of some forty-eight acres whose southern boundary was about where Twenty-Ninth Street is now. He and his son, Nicholas (1658–1742), were the only male American ancestors that Franklin shared with Theodore and Eleanor. Nicholas, the first to spell the name Roosevelt, was also the first to hold political office: he became a city alderman in 1700. His two sons, Johannes (1689–1750) and Jacobus (1692–1776), are ancestors of Theodore and Franklin, respectively. Each branch of the family got rich largely through the efforts of one outstanding entrepreneur.

For Franklin's branch of the family, the moneymaker was Jacobus's son Isaac (1726–1794), who was also the lone member of either branch who could be called even a minor founding father: he served in the first New York provincial assembly in 1775, the first state constitutional convention in 1777, and the first state senate, and was a member of the New York convention that ratified the federal Constitution in 1788. In family legend, he is referred to as "Isaac the Patriot." More important for the family, he became wealthy as one of the major sugar refiners in New York. His ties to Caribbean plantations meant that, like so many well-to-do New Yorkers, Franklin's Roosevelt wealth had its roots in slavery.

On Theodore's side of the family, significant wealth did not arrive until the nineteenth century. His grandfather Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt (1794–1871) made a good deal of money in New York real estate and established a major plate-glass business: at his death, he was described as having "amassed a fortune of many millions."

Although it is common to refer to the two branches of the Roosevelt family as the Hyde Park Democrats and the Oyster Bay Republicans, both families remained in Manhattan into the nineteenth century, and before Theodore's generation there were Democrats in each branch. Franklin's great-grandfather James Roosevelt (1760–1847) broke the residential pattern by moving from the city and building a large house, Mount Hope, on the outskirts of Poughkeepsie in 1818. The family lived in it until it burned down while Franklin's father, James Roosevelt (1828–1900), and his first wife were in Europe in 1855. Rather than rebuild, they purchased and remodeled an existing house and grounds a few miles north on the west bank of the Hudson, called Springwood, on the southern edge of the village of Hyde Park. This is the house in which Franklin was born and raised; the first modern presidential library is on its grounds, and he and Eleanor are buried there. As for the Oyster Bay branch, Theodore and Eleanor's forebears stayed in the city; the first purchase of what became the Sagamore Hill estate near Oyster Bay on Long Island was made by Theodore shortly after his first marriage in 1880.

Many Roosevelts of both branches, as was customary for their class, had performed public roles: two of them served one term each in Congress as Democrats. Theodore, however, the first family member to become a major political figure, entered New York City Republican politics near the lowest level. His meteoric career took off when Franklin was a teenager and was such an influence on and advantage for Franklin's choices and opportunities that some account of "cousin Theodore's" rise should be given here.

Intellectually adventuresome, Theodore ranked 21st in his Harvard class of 171, and, as he put it, "second among the gentlemen." He earned a Phi Beta Kappa key and went on to take a master's degree in history. A year after his 1880 graduation and marriage, he won election to the lower house of the New York Legislature from Manhattan, not a normal habitat for gentlemen, where he served from 1882 to 1884. Energetic, ambitious, egocentric, and a mild reformer, he fought against the nomination of the corrupt spoilsman James G. Blaine for president in 1884. But when "the continental liar from the state of Maine" won the nomination, Theodore supported him. Many of the so-called mugwumps, largely gentlemen reformers of Theodore's own class who bolted to support the Democratic victor, Grover Cleveland, never forgave him for what they thought was his political apostasy, and he never forgave them for questioning his reform convictions.

His unbroken party regularity won him appointment to the U.S. Civil Service Commission by President Benjamin Harrison in 1889. He served for almost six years, became its chair, and helped make the commission at least marginally effective with his activism and genius for publicity and self-promotion.

In 1895 he returned to New York City politics, accepting appointment as head of the city's police department in the reform administration of Republican mayor William L. Strong (1827–1900). His two years there brought energy and real reform to the department, and, mentored in part by the muckraking Danish American journalist Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914), he gained some insight into the lives of the city's poor.

William McKinley's triumph over William Jennings Bryan in the epochal presidential election of 1896 gave Roosevelt the opportunity to return to the national scene, though it took extensive maneuvering by friends, particularly Henry Cabot Lodge (1850–1924), in his first term as a senator (R-MA) after three terms in the House, to get him appointed assistant secretary of the navy. At that moment, in May 1897, no one could have imagined the circumstances that would conspire to make Roosevelt president in a little more than four years.

The crisis with Spain over its oppressive rule of Cuba made Theodore's position in the Navy Department more significant than it would have been a decade earlier. He applied his habitual energy to the job, to which he brought a number of preconceptions. Two of his mother's brothers had served with distinction in the Confederate navy, and he had published an expanded version of his Harvard master's thesis, The Naval War of 1812; or, The History of the United States Navy during the Last War with Great Britain (1882). In addition, along with his friend Lodge, he had been converted to the navalism of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840–1914), whose The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783 (1890) became a part of the intellectual baggage of a generation or two of American thinkers who wished to end what they regarded as the nation's isolationism, an isolationism exemplified by Grover Cleveland's nullification of the de facto annexation of Hawaii in 1893.

Even before the explosion that sank the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, Theodore had been eager for war with Spain. The issue was its colonial rule in Cuba where an insurrection for independence had raged, intermittently, since the 1870s. He quickly announced his conviction, as headlined by William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal two days later, that "the Explosion of the War Ship Was Not an Accident." Hearst's editors commissioned a drawing of the Maine with an explosive mine shown moored underneath, accompanied by a story headlined "Naval Officers Think the Maine Was Destroyed by a Spanish Mine."

The same day's New York Times, conversely, merely mentioned Roosevelt's name in a story headlined "Naval Experts Confer," which reported that the cause of the explosion was unknown. It was the sensational story that was more widely believed, and the slogan "Remember the Maine" became the watchword of an all but politically irresistible furor for war. (We now know that the Maine blew up from an internal explosion and that its class of battleships had a design flaw — the boilers and ammunition lockers were in too close proximity.) On February 25, Theodore, technically acting secretary of the navy in the temporary absence of his chief, on his own initiative, cabled George Dewey (1837–1917), commander of a small American naval force based in Hong Kong, that if war with Spain came, he should "see that the Spanish squadron does not leave the Asiatic coast, and then [undertake] offensive operations in Philippine Islands."

On April 11, President William McKinley asked Congress to authorize "forcible intervention" by the United States to establish peace in Cuba. Nine days later, on April 20, after considerable debate and over the objections of a number of doves, Congress passed a series of resolutions, often called war resolutions but which did not declare war. Instead, Congress recognized the independence of Cuba, demanded the withdrawal of all Spanish armed forces from Cuba, empowered the president to use the army and navy to carry out these demands, and in the so-called Teller Amendment, named for Senator Henry M. Teller (R-CO), disclaimed any intent to annex Cuba and promised to give Cuba independence after the Spanish had gone.

McKinley signed this joint resolution the day it was passed. Madrid was informed that if its terms were not met, Washington would take steps to see that they were carried out. The next day, April 21, Spain broke relations with the United States; on April 22, the United States announced a naval blockade of Cuban ports. Two days later, on April 24, Spain declared war, a blockade being one of the traditional ways of beginning a war. On April 25, Congress also declared war and made it retroactive to April 21.

Unlike most politicians who instigate wars, Theodore was himself ready to take risks. Although thirty-nine years of age and father of six children under the age of fifteen, he helped Leonard Wood (1860–1927) organize the First United States Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, popularly known as the Rough Riders, and on May 6 resigned his desk job to become its second in command. Wood's promotion shortly after their regiment's arrival in Cuba in June left Roosevelt, who had just three years of part-time military experience in the New York National Guard, which involved little training beyond close-order drill, in command. On July 1, he led his unmounted troopers into the brief victorious battle for Kettle Hill, outside of Santiago. Sixteen days later, the Spanish army in Cuba surrendered.

Meanwhile, Dewey's squadron steamed to Manila Bay as instructed, and there on May 1 it destroyed the outgunned Spanish flotilla in a battle that was essentially target practice. When troops dispatched from California after the naval battle arrived in the islands, they and Filipino insurgents led by Emilio Aguinaldo (1869–1964) quickly overcame light resistance. The Spanish authorities in Manila surrendered on August 17. Early the next month, the Rough Riders were mustered out on Long Island, and soon thereafter Theodore, an authentic war hero, obtained the Republican nomination for governor, despite the initial reluctance of the state party boss, Thomas Collier Platt (1833–1910). Franklin's father, forsaking his traditional Democratic affiliation, voted for Theodore. Such family loyalty was not shown by Theodore's descendants when Franklin later ran for national office.

Theodore, running as a reformer/war hero with former Rough Riders as part of his campaign entourage, won a victory by 17,794 votes out of more than 1.3 million cast. He ran ahead of the Republican ticket, and Platt himself later observed that "no man beside Roosevelt" could have won in 1898. On the other hand, Theodore knew that he could not have won without the party machine. Although sincerely dedicated to good government, he was a self-styled practical reformer, who, in the eyes of some, compromised himself by association with corrupt machine politicians. Although Platt, then a U.S. senator, had no constitutional role in New York state government, Theodore, during his term as governor, openly breakfasted with him at his Manhattan hotel on many Saturday mornings and devoted much of the chapter on his governorship in his autobiography trying to justify his ongoing relationship with Platt and the machine.

Despite his accommodations, Roosevelt was a stronger governor than the machine wanted. When the death of McKinley's vice president Garret A. Hobart (1844–1899), at a time when there was no way to appoint a replacement, created a vacancy on the McKinley ticket in 1900, Platt decided to push Theodore for the job. Theodore issued a statement saying that he would stay in New York and run for another term as governor. But when he made a conspicuous late entrance to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia wearing a broad-brimmed civilian version of his Cuban campaign hat, one veteran politician whispered correctly that it was "an Acceptance Hat." He was nominated unanimously two days later. There had been serious opposition from Marcus Alonzo Hanna (1837–1904), McKinley's manager, who famously muttered about the recklessness of putting "that damned cowboy" a heartbeat away from the presidency, but, outmaneuvered by Platt, he bowed to the inevitable. Theodore campaigned vigorously against Bryan, probably without significantly affecting the result, which was a second McKinley victory by a slightly larger percentage of both the popular and the electoral vote than in 1896.

Once the excitement of the campaign and the inauguration was over, Theodore began to realize what he should have known from the outset: his position as vice president was ornamental and the vice presidency was then largely a blind alley. As one of his successors, John Nance Garner, Franklin Roosevelt's first vice president, remarked, "The vice presidency is not worth a bucket of warm spit." This belated realization caused a kind of depression unusual for the normally ebullient Theodore. He contemplated resuming the study of law and speculated that his public career was probably over. Some three weeks after his inauguration as vice president, he wrote a friend, "I have always thought that I might end as a professor of history, but if possible I should prefer a more active life."

Less than six months later, everything changed. On September 6, 1901, the American-born anarchist Leon Czolgosz (1873–1901) managed to get into a public receiving line to shake hands with President McKinley at an exposition in Buffalo, New York, while carrying a pistol concealed by a handkerchief wrapped around his gun hand as if it were a bandage. When the president clasped the other hand, the assassin fired into McKinley's stomach. The wound was not immediately fatal, and doctors issued reports of the president's expected recovery. But infection set in, and he died on September 14. Theodore took the presidential oath in Buffalo that day. Mark Hanna's worst nightmare had become reality.

Roosevelt, while outwardly correct, rejoiced privately. As he put it in a letter to "Dear Cabot" nine days after McKinley's death, "It is a dreadful thing to come into the Presidency this way; but it would be a far worse thing to be morbid about it."

He had found his niche. For the next seven and a half years, Theodore would contribute importantly to the creation of the modern presidency, a creation significantly augmented by Woodrow Wilson between 1913 and 1921 and transformed by Franklin between 1933 and 1945. For decades historians wrote off William McKinley, blinded by Theodore's brilliance and savoring his disloyal, cruel, and inaccurate put-down of McKinley as having "no more backbone than a chocolate éclair." In recent decades, however, many historians, led by H. Wayne Morgan, have suggested that McKinley was the first of the new presidents rather that the last of the old ones. But what cannot be doubted is that many elite contemporaries, including young Franklin, saw in Theodore not only a leader but a role model, whose example suggested to them that a career in politics was possible and not a dream, even though a cynic like Henry Adams might scoff. Eleanor remembered Adams saying to Franklin when they visited him in his house on Lafayette Square sometime in the early Wilson administration, "Young man, I have lived in this house many years and seen the occupants of that White House across the square come and go, and nothing that you minor officials or the occupants of that house can do will affect the history of the world for long!"


Excerpted from Franklin D. Roosevelt by Roger Daniels. Copyright © 2015 Roger Daniels. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


PREFACE, xiii,
1 Beginnings, 1649–1905, 1,
2 Roosevelt Enters Politics, 1905–20, 21,
3 Roosevelt and the Old Order, 1921–28, 49,
4 Running the Empire State, 1929–31, 71,
5 Winning the White House, 1931–32, 91,
6 The Interregnum, 1932–33, 113,
7 Improvising the New Deal, 1933, 131,
8 Getting the New Deal Moving, 1933–34, 159,
9 Advancing Reform, 1934, 193,
10 The Triumph of Reform, 1935, 219,
11 Landslide, 1936, 253,
12 Foreign Affairs, 1933–36, 291,
13 The Battle about the Court, 1937, 317,
14 Roosevelt's Recession, 1937–38, 335,
15 Economic Progress, Political Setback, 1938–39, 363,
NOTES, 387,
INDEX, 499,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews