The Life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

After assuming the Presidency in the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought to give the American people a sense of self worth. 

President Roosevelt brought hope to the United States in the form of swift, vigorous action.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, New York in 1882. He graduated from Harvard and later from Columbia University with a law degree. He married Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the daughter of Elliot Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt’s younger brother, on March 17, 1905.

FDR’s Early Career

FDR chose to follow in the footsteps of his cousin, Theodore Roosevelt and enter politics. In 1910, FDR was elected to the New York State Senate. In 1920, he became Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Wilson. That same year, he also became the Democratic candidate for Vice President.

In 1921, at the age of 39, FDR contracted polio. He underwent extensive physiotherapy and eventually regained limited use of his legs. Roosevelt appeared on crutches in 1924 to nominate Alfred Smith as the Democratic presidential candidate. In 1928, FDR was elected Governor of New York.

FDR’s Presidency

FDR and the Great Depression

In November, 1932, Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover and became the 32nd President of the United States, winning the first of four terms in office. By the time of his inauguration in March, 1933, 13,000,000 people were unemployed and virtually every bank in the United States was closed. During his first hundred days in office, Roosevelt proposed a sweeping program of recovery based on legislation that had been introduced by President Hoover, just before the end of his term. This legislation, called the New Deal, was designed to provide recovery for businesses, relief for the unemployed and called for the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federally owned corporation that provides economic development for the Tennessee Valley.

In 1935, signs of economic recovery were seen in the United States. In spite of this, bankers and business owners began to object to the New Deal. They feared Roosevelt’s economic experiments and objected to the decision to take the United States off the gold standard, as well as Roosevelt’s willingness to run a budgetary deficit. Roosevelt responded by introducing Social Security, heavier taxes for the wealthy and tighter controls over banks. Roosevelt also initiated a massive work relief program for the unemployed.

In 1936, FDR was re-elected. Feeling that he had a popular mandate, Roosevelt introduced legislation calling for the enlargement of the Supreme Court, which opposed a number of New Deal measures. Roosevelt failed in his bid to expand the Supreme Court, but in attempting to do so, he also triggered a revolution in American constitutional law. From that point on it became legally possible in the United States for the government to directly regulate the economy.

FDR and World War II

As World War II loomed on the horizon, Roosevelt pledged the United States to what he called the “good neighbour” policy. In doing so, he transformed the Monroe Doctrine from a unilateral American manifesto to a series of mutual agreements with allied nations against common enemies. Roosevelt also sought to keep the United States out of the war in Europe, yet at the same time tried to strengthen nations that were under threat of attack by the Germans. Following the surrender of France to the Nazis in the summer of 1940, Roosevelt did everything possible to support Britain, short of committing troops to combat. The result was the Lend-Lease agreement with Britain, in which Roosevelt allowed the British government to lease arms and equipment from the United States for the duration of the war. This equipment was to be returned when the war ended, or failing that, the British government was to pay for its replacement.

Following the Japanese air strike on Pearl Harbour, on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history when he asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan, calling Dec. 7 “a date which will live in infamy.”

As an allied victory became certain in 1943 and 44, Roosevelt began to believe that the future of the world would depend on maintaining good relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. To that end, he devoted much thought and effort to the founding of the United Nations. FDR saw the UN as a forum for the discussion of international issues.

The Death of FDR

By the time that World War II had entered its final weeks, Roosevelt’s health was failing. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia on April 12, 1945, leaving Harry Truman as President of the United States.


Franklin D Roosevelt. The White House. US Government. Jan.10/1o


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