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See World History II.25 for more on Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin

See United States History II.12 for more on the New Deal

Franklin D. Roosevelt

January 30, 1882 - April 12, 1945

external image Essener_Feder_01.pngFranklin Roosevelt was elected President in November 1932, to the first of four terms. By March there were 13,000,000 unemployed, and almost every bank was closed. In his first "hundred days," he proposed, and Congress enacted, a sweeping program to bring recovery to business and agriculture, relief to the unemployed and to those in danger of losing farms and homes, and reform, especially through the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

"The Presidency as we know it today begins with Franklin Delano Roosevelt," noted historian William E. Leuchtenberg. For more see, The FDR Years: On Roosevelt and His Legacy.

By 1935 the nation had achieved some measure of recovery, but businessmen and bankers were turning more and more against Roosevelt's New Deal program. They feared his experiments, were appalled because he had taken the Nation off the gold standard and allowed deficits in the budget, and disliked the concessions to labor. Roosevelt responded with a new program of reform: Social Security, heavier taxes on the wealthy, new controls over banks and public utilities, and an enormous work relief program for the unemployed.

In 1936 he was re-elected by a wide margin. Feeling he was armed with a popular mandate, he sought legislation to enlarge the Supreme Court, which had been invalidating key New Deal measures. Roosevelt lost the Supreme Court battle, but a revolution in constitutional law took place. Thereafter the Government could legally regulate the economy.

Roosevelt had pledged the United States to the "good neighbor" policy, transforming the Monroe Doctrine from a unilateral American manifesto into arrangements for mutual action against aggressors. He also sought through neutrality legislation to keep the United States out of the war in Europe, yet at the same time to strengthen nations threatened or attacked. When France fell and England came under siege in 1940, he began to send Great Britain all possible aid short of actual military involvement.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt directed organization of the Nation's manpower and resources for global war. Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S’s subsequent entry into the War, Roosevelt tried to provide as much support as possible short of actually entering. As a wartime president, Roosevelt had wide latitude to demonstrate his executive leadership by guiding the country through a victorious struggle against the fascist powers. Never before had a president been given the opportunity to lead his people to a triumph of these global dimensions, and it seems improbable, given the nature of nuclear weapons, that such a circumstance will ever arise again.

As commander-in-chief, a position he was said to prefer to all others, Roosevelt not only supervised the mobilization of men and resources against the Axis but also made a significant contribution to fashioning a postwar settlement and creating the structure of the United Nations. "He overcame both his own and the nation's isolationist inclination to bring a united America into the coalition that saved the world from the danger of totalitarian conquest," Robert Divine has concluded. "His role in insuring the downfall of Adolf Hitler is alone enough to earn him a respected place in history.

For good or ill, also, the United States first became a major military power during Roosevelt's presidency. Under FDR, Congress established peacetime conscription and after Pearl Harbor put millions of men and women into uniform. His long tenure also saw the birth of the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, and the atomic bomb.