Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a distant cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, was born in Hyde Park, New York on 30th January, 1882. The Roosevelts were a wealthy family and was educated by home tutors until attending Groton School at 14. He was a successful student and did well at Harvard University and Columbia Law Schools, before being admitted to the New York bar in 1907.
In 1905 Franklin married his cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt. Her father, Elliott Roosevelt, was the brother of Theodore Roosevelt, president of the United States (1901-1909). Like her husband, Eleanor was a Democrat and took a strong interest in politics.
In 1910 Roosevelt was elected to the New York Senate. Frances Perkins was one of those who was not impressed by his activities during this period: "Tall and slender, very active and alert, moving around the floor, going in and out of committee rooms, rarely talking with the members, not particularly charming (that came later), rarely smiling, with an unforunate habit - so natural he was unaware of it - of throwing his head up. This, combined with his pince-nez and great height, gave him the appearance of looking down his nose at most people."
Roosevelt upset the party bosses by supporting a rebel Democrat as New York's senator. Roosevelt's dissent group received a lot of publicity and he became a well known figure in New York politics. Roosevelt's abilities were brought to the attention of President Woodrow Wilson and in 1913 he appointed him as assistant secretary of the navy, a post he held for the next six years.
Woodrow Wilson and other Democrat leaders were impressed with Roosevelt's achievements during this difficult period. By the time the United States had entered the First World War in 1917, Roosevelt had the country's naval plants and yards working efficiently. During the war he helped to devise the plans for the battle of the North Sea which broke the effectiveness of German U-boat warfare. Roosevelt attended the Paris Peace Conference but was highly critical of the Versailles Treaty. He believed the "the effort to make the world safe for democracy had resulted in making the world safe for the old empires".
In 1920 the Democrat candidate for president, James Middleton Cox, selected Roosevelt as his running-mate. Warren Harding, the Republican Party candidate, won the election by a wide margin, 16,144,093 (60.3%)to 9,139,661 (34.2%). However, Roosevelt was considered by many to have been an effective campaigner and was picked out as a future president.
In the summer of 1921, Roosevelt became seriously ill. He was eventually diagnosed as suffering from poliomyelitis. He was almost totally paralyzed and he was never again to recover full use of his legs. Frances Perkins believed that this illness changed Roosevelt's personality and in doing so, made him into a better man. "Roosevelt underwent a spiritual transformation during the years of his illness. I noticed when he came back that the years of pain and suffering had purged the slightly arrogant attitude he had displayed on occasion before he was stricken. The man emerged completely warmhearted, with humility of spirit and with a deeper philosophy. Having been to the depths of trouble, he understood the problems of people in trouble."
In 1924 Roosevelt joined forces with Basil O'Connor to establish their own law firm. They also founded the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation in order to raise funds to support poliomyelitis patients. Although confined to a wheelchair, Roosevelt returned to politics in 1928 to help his friend, Alfred Smith, in his unsuccessful attempt to beat Herbert Hoover in the presidential election.
The following year Roosevelt was elected as governor of New York. While in ths post he met people such as Rose Schneiderman, Harold Ickes, Frances Perkins and Harry Hopkins, who held radical views on how America could solve its economic problems. Their influence turned Roosevelt into one of America's most progressive politicians.
The Wall Street Crash in October 1929, created the worst depression in American history. President Herbert Hoover was slow to provide federal relief to farmers and stubbornly refused to give help to the unemployed in urban areas. Hoover vetoed a bill that would have created a federal unemployment agency and also opposed a plan to create a public works programme.
As governor of New York, Roosevelt made strenuous attempts to help those without work. He set up the New York State Emergency Relief Commission and appointed the respected Harry Hopkins to run the agency. Another popular figure with a good record for helping the disadvantaged, Frances Perkins, was recruited to the team as state industrial commissioner. With the help of Hopkins and Perkins, Roosevelt introduced help for the unemployed and those too old to work.
Roosevelt was seen as great success as governor of New York and he was the obvious choice as the Democratic presidential candidate in 1932. William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963): "Liberal Democrats were somewhat uneasy about Roosevelt's reputation as a trimmer, and disturbed by the vagueness of his formulas for recovery, but no other serious candidate had such good claims on progressive support. as governor of New York, he had created the first comprehensive system of unemployment relief, sponsored an extensive program for industrial welfare, and won western progressives by expanding the work Al Smith had begun in conservation and public power."
Roosevelt attacked President Herbert Hoover for over-spending. In September 1932, Roosevelt made a speech at Souix City where he argued: "I accuse the present Administration of being the greatest spending Administration in peace times in all our history. It is an Administration that has piled bureau on bureau, commission on commission, and has failed to anticipate the dire needs and the reduced earning power of the people." The following month he declared in Pittsburgh: "I regard reduction in Federal spending as one of the most important issues of this campaign. In my opinion, it is the most direct and effective contribution that Government can make to business." One of Roosevelt's supporters, Marriner Eccles, admitted: "Given later developments, the campaign speeches often read like a giant misprint, in which Roosevelt and Hoover speak each other's lines."
Charlie Chaplin commented: "The lugubrious Hoover sat and sulked, because his disastrous economic sophistry of allocating money at the top in the belief that it would percolate down to the common people had failed. And amidst all this tragedy he ranted in the election campaign that if Franklin Roosevelt got into office the very foundations of the American system - not an infallible system at that moment - would be imperilled."
Samuel Rosenman became one of his political advisers. He suggested that Roosevelt should recruit help from the universities: "You have been having good experiences with college professors. If we can get a small group together willing to give us some time, they can prepare memoranda for you. You'll want to talk with them yourself, and maybe out of all the talk some concrete ideas will come." Roosevelt took his advice and Rexford Guy Tugwell, Adolf Berle and Raymond Moley joined the team. Basil O'Connor, Roosevelt's legal partner, also became a member of what later became known as the Brains Trust. It has been argued by Patrick Renshaw, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt (2004): "Politically, Tugwell was on the left with Berle on the right. Moley chaired regular meetings of the brains trust, which Samuel Rosenman and Basil O'Connor also attended. FDR was not an intellectual, but enjoyed their company and was in his element at the free-wheeling discussions which hammered out the New Deal."
Roosevelt selected John Nance Garner as his running mate. Although Roosevelt was vague about what he would do about the economic depression, he easily beat his unpopular Republican rival, Herbert Hoover. William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963), has argued: "Franklin Roosevelt swept to victory with 22,800,000 votes to Hoover's 15,750,000. With a 472-59 margin in the Electoral College, he captured every state south and west of Pennsylvania. Roosevelt carried more counties than a presidential candidate had ever won before, including 282 that had never gone Democratic. Of the forty states in Hoover's victory coalition four years before, the President held but six."
Before taking office Roosevelt attended a rally at Bayfront Park in Miami with his friend Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago. An Italian immigrant, Guiseppe Zangara, fired five shots at Roosevelt. They all missed the president but one hit Cermak in the stomach. On the way to the hospital Cermak told Roosevelt, "I'm glad it was me and not you, Mr. President." Cermak died three weeks later on 6th March 1933.
Roosevelt's first act as president was to deal with the country's banking crisis. Since the beginning of the depression, a fifth of all banks had been forced to close. As a consequence, around 15% of people's life-savings had been lost. By the beginning of 1933 the American people were starting to lose faith in their banking system and a significant proportion were withdrawing their money and keeping it at home. The day after taking office as president, Roosevelt ordered all banks to close. He then asked Congress to pass legislation which would guarantee that savers would not lose their money if there was another financial crisis.
During the election campaign, Roosevelt promised to bring an early end to prohibition. In February 1933, Congress voted to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment. While the Twenty-first Amendment was making its way through the states, Roosevelt requested quick action to amend the Volstead Act by legalizing beer of 3.2 per cent alcoholic content by weight. Within a week both houses passed the beer bill, and added wine for good measure. On 22nd March 1933, Roosevelt signed the bill.
After he was elected President Roosevelt initially opposed massive public works spending. However, by the spring of 1933, the needs of more than fifteen million unemployed had overwhelmed the resources of local governments. In some areas, as many as 90 per cent of the people were on relief and it was clear something needed to be done. His close advisors and colleagues, Frances Perkins, Harry Hopkins, Rexford Tugwell, Robert LaFollette Jr. Robert Wagner, Fiorello LaGuardia, George Norris and Edward Costigan eventually won him over.
On 9th March 1933, Roosevelt called a special session of Congress. He told the members that unemployment could only be solved "by direct recruiting by the Government itself." For the next three months, Roosevelt proposed, and Congress passed, a series of important bills that attempted to deal with the problem of unemployment. The special session of Congress became known as the Hundred Days and provided the basis for Roosevelt's New Deal.
William E. Leuchtenburg has argued: "The air of casual gaiety, of evasiveness, had vanished - the ring of his voice, the swing of his shoulders, his call for sacrifice, discipline, and action demonstrated he was a man confident in his powers as leader of the nation. In declaring there was nothing to fear but fear, Roosevelt had minted no new platitude... Roosevelt had made his greatest single contribution to the politics of the 1930's: the instillation of hope and courage in the people. He made clear that the time of waiting was over, that he had the people's interests at heart, and that he would mobilize the power of the government to help them. In the next week, nearly half a million Americans wrote their new President." The journalist, William Allen White admitted he had been wrong about Roosevelt: "As Governor of New York, I thought he was a good, two-legged Governor of the type that used to flourish in the first decade of the century... Instead of which he developed magnitude and poise, more than all, power!"
Charles Edison told his workers: "President Roosevelt has done his part: now you do something. Buy something - buy anything, anywhere; paint your kitchen, send a telegram, give a party, get a car, pay a bill, rent a flat, fix your roof, get a haircut, see a show, build a house, take a trip, sing a song, get married. It does not matter what you do - but get going and keep going. This old world is starting to move."
Frances Perkins explained in her book, The Roosevelt I Knew (1946): In one of my conversations with the President in March 1933, he brought up the idea that became the Civilian Conservation Corps. Roosevelt loved trees and hated to see them cut and not replaced. It was natural for him to wish to put large numbers of the unemployed to repairing such devastation. His enthusiasm for this project, which was really all his own, led him to some exaggeration of what could be accomplished. He saw it big. He thought any man or boy would rejoice to leave the city and work in the woods. It was characteristic of him that he conceived the project, boldly rushed it through, and happily left it to others to worry about the details."
On 21st March, 1933, sent an unemployment relief message to Congress. It took only eight days to create the Civilian Conservation Corps. It authorized half a billion dollars in direct federal grants to the states for relief. The CCC was a program designed to tackle the problem of unemployed young men aged between 18 and 25 years old. The organisation was based on the armed forces with officers in charge of the men. The pay was $30 dollars a month with $22 dollars of it being sent home to dependents. The men planted trees, built public parks, drained swamps to fight malaria, restocked rivers with fish, worked on flood control projects and a range of other work that helped to conserve the environment.
Rexford Tugwell pointed out: "During the late spring the Civilian Conservation Corps got underway with some awkwardness. What had begun as a simple notion that the experienced foresters would take under their care and direction a certain number of idle young men turned out in practice to be not so simple. There were problems of recruiting; who was to be chosen? There were problems of housing; who was to build the camps? It was finally decided that all those sent to camps should come from families on relief. It was also decided, when pacifying the unions had become something of an issue, that the boys would not build their own camps but that union labour would do it."
Marriner Eccles, an advocate of the economic ideas of John Maynard Keynes and Lauchlin Currie, worked at the Treasury Department under the treasury secretary Henry Morgenthau. Eccles went before the Senate Finance Committee in 1933. According to Patrick Renshaw, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt (2004): "Though the young Mormon banker from Utah claimed never to have read Keynes he had nevertheless jolted Senate finance committee hearings in 1933 by urging that the federal government forget about trying to balance budgets during the depression and instead spend heavily on relief, public works, the domestic allotment plan and refinancing farm mortgages, while cancelling what remained of war debt."
The government employed people to carry out a range of different tasks. These projects included the Works Projects Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the National Youth Administration (NYA), the National Recovery Act (NRA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA). As well as trying to reduce unemployment, Roosevelt also attempted to reduce the misery for those who were unable to work. One of the bodies Roosevelt formed was the Federal Emergency Relief Administration which provided federal money to help those in desperate need.
Emanuel Celler later explained: "The first days of the Roosevelt Administration charged the air with the snap and the zigzag of electricity. I felt it. We all felt it. It seemed as it you could hold out your hand and close it over the piece of excitement you had ripped away. It was the return of hope. The mind was elastic and capable of crowding idea into idea. New faces came to Washington - young faces of bright lads who could talk. It was contagious. We started to talk in the cloak rooms; we started to talk in committees. The shining new faces called on us and talked. In March of 1933 we had witnessed a revolution - a revolution in manner, in mores, in the definition of government. What before had been black or white sprang alive with color. The messages to Congress, the legislation; even the reports on the legislation took on the briskness of authority."
As soon as Roosevelt became president he recruited Harry Hopkins to implement his various social welfare programs. As John C. Lee has pointed out: "On the whole, it is apparent that the mission of the Civil Works Administrator had been accomplished by 15th February 1934. His program had put over four million persons to work, thereby directly benefiting probably twelve million people otherwise dependent upon direct relief. The program put some seven hundred million dollars into general circulation. Such losses as occurred were negligible, on a percentage basis, and even those losses were probably added to the purchasing power of the country." Frances Perkins later recalled: "Hopkins became not only Roosevelt's relief administrator but his general assistant as no one had been able to be. There was a temperamental sympathy between the men which made their relationship extremely easy as well as faithful and productive. Roosevelt was greatly enriched by Hopkins knowledge, ability, and humane attitude toward all facets of life."
Other legislation passed by Roosevelt included the Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933), National Housing Act (1934), the Federal Securities Act (1934). In August 1935 the Social Security Act was passed. This act set up a national system of old age pensions and co-ordinated federal and state action for the relief of the unemployed. The British journalist, Henry N. Brailsford, argued that Roosevelt was doing what David Lloyd George had done between 1906 and 1914, but at a quicker tempo. According to William E. Leuchtenburg: "The British reforms, which rested on the conviction that the profit system was compatible with aid to the underdog, had rendered working-class life less precarious and was one of the important reasons that the depression struck Britain less heavily than America." Roosevelt told Anne O'Hare McCormick: "In five years I think we have caught up twenty years. If liberal government continues over another ten years we ought to be contemporary somewhere in the late Nineteen Forties."
The NAACP hoped that the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 would bring an end to lynching. Two African American campaigners against lynching, Mary McLeod Bethune and Walter Francis White, had been involved in helping Roosevelt to obtain victory. His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, had also been a long-time opponent of lynching.
Roosevelt persuaded Congress to pass the Wealth Tax Act in August, 1935. It was a progressive tax that took up to 75 percent on incomes over $5 million. In a speech he made in October 1936 Roosevelt claimed that the tax had created a great deal of hostility: "The forces of organized money... are unanimous in their hate for me - and I welcome their hatred. I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match."
Many wealthy people used loopholes in the existing tax code to evade these taxes. According to William E. Leuchtenburg, the author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (1963): "The outcry from high-income brackets obscured the fact that much of Roosevelt's tax program was sharply regressive. His insistence on payroll levies to help finance social security cut into low-income groups, and his emphasis on local responsibility for unemployables helped stimulate the spread of the regressive sales tax. The share of upper-income groups remained fairly constant through the thirties, and the share of the top 1 per cent even increased a bit after the passage of the Wealth Tax Act."
Robert F. Wagner and Edward Costigan agreed to draft an anti-lynching bill. The legislation proposed federal trials for any law enforcement officers who failed to exercise their responsibilities during a lynching incident. In 1935 attempts were made to persuade Roosevelt to support the Costigan-Wagner Bill. However, Roosevelt refused to speak out in favour of the bill. He argued that the white voters in the South would never forgive him if he supported the bill and he would therefore lose the next election. The editor of the NAACP journal, Crisis, wrote: "The Negro ought to realize by now that the powers-that-be in the Roosevelt administration have nothing for them." Charles Houston of Howard University asked: "Is the Democratic Party determined to make it impossible for self-respecting Negroes to support it in 1936?"
Frances Perkins, was Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor. In her autobiography The Roosevelt I Knew (1946) she argued: "Franklin Roosevelt was not a simple man. That quality of simplicity which we delight to think marks the great and noble was not his. He was the most complicated human being I ever knew; and out of this complicated nature there sprang much of the drive which brought achievement, much of the sympathy which made him like, and liked by, such oddly different types of people, much of the detachment which enabled him to forget his problems in play or rest, and much of the apparent contradiction which so exasperated those associates of his who expected 'crystal clear' and unwavering decisions. But this very complicated of his nature made it possible for him to have insight and imagination into the most varied human experiences, and this he applied to the physical, social, geographical, economic and strategic circumstances thrust upon him as responsibilities by his times." William Phillips, Roosevelt's Under Secretary of State, argued. "To describe Roosevelt you would have to describe three or four men for he had at least three or four different personalities. He could turn from one personality to another with such speed that you often never knew where you were or to which personality you were talking."
In 1935 Marriner Eccles and Lauchlin Currie drafted a new banking bill to secure radical reform of the central bank for the first time since the formation of the Federal Reserve Board in 1913. It emphasized budget deficits as a way out of the Great Depression and it was fiercely resisted by bankers and the conservatives in the Senate. The banker, James P. Warburg commented that the bill was: "Curried Keynes... a large, half-cooked lump of J. Maynard Keynes... liberally seasoned with a sauce prepared by professor Lauchlin Currie." With strong support from California bankers eager to undermine New York City domination of national banking, the 1935 Banking Act was passed by Congress.
The journalist Anne O'Hare McCormick interviewed Franklin Roosevelt in June, 1936: "On none of his predecessors has the office left so few marks as on Mr. Roosevelt. He is a little heavier, a shade grayer; otherwise he looks harder and in better health than on the day of his inauguration. His face is so tanned that his eyes appear lighter, a cool Wedgwood blue; after the four grilling years since the last campaign they are as keen, curious, friendly and impenetrable as ever."
Out of power, Herbert Hoover opposed Roosevelt's New Deal programme. He told the New York Times on 31st October, 1936: "I rejected the schemes of economic planning to regiment and coerce the farmer. That was born of a Roman despot 1400 years ago and grew into the AAA. I refused national plans to put government into business in competition with its citizens. That was born of Karl Marx. I vetoed the idea of recovery through stupendous spending to prime the pump. That was born of a British Professor (John Maynard Keynes)."
During the 1936 Presidential Election, Roosevelt was attacked for not keeping his promise to balance the budget. The National Labour Relations Act was unpopular with businessmen who felt that it favoured the trade unions. Some went as far as accusing Roosevelt of being a communist. However, the New Deal was extremely popular with the electorate and Roosevelt easily defeated the Republican Party candidate, Alfred M. Landon, by 27,751,612 votes to 16,681,913.
In 1937 Roosevelt appointed Joseph Kennedy as United States Ambassador to Britain. Joseph E. Persico, the author of Roosevelt's Secret War (2001) has argued: "The President may have had an ulterior motive. Joe Kennedy had proved something of a misguided missile in Washington. The right wing saw him as a renegade, a businessman who attacked his own kind. The left painted him as a man who could be troublesome for labor. Within the administration, he was counted a power-hungry publicity hound, a harsh critic of the administration when it suited him, and a man whose business dealings might not stand up to close scrutiny." Henry Morgenthau was upset by the appointment and demanded a meeting with Roosevelt. He later claimed that Roosevelt told him: "Kennedy is too dangerous to have around here... I have made arrangements to have Joe Kennedy watched hourly and the first time he opens his mouth and criticizes me, I will fire him."
Roosevelt had had problems with the Supreme Court. The Chief justice, Charles Hughes, had been the Republican Party presidential candidate in 1916. Herbert Hoover appointed Hughes in 1930 and had led the court's opposition to some of the proposed New Deal legislation. This included the ruling against the National Recovery Administration (NRA), the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) and ten other New Deal laws.
On 2nd February, 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt made a speech attacking the Supreme Court for its actions over New Deal legislation. He pointed out that seven of the nine judges (Charles Hughes, Willis Van Devanter, George Sutherland, Harlan Stone, Owen Roberts, Benjamin Cardozo and Pierce Butler) had been appointed by Republican presidents. Roosevelt had just won re-election by 10,000,000 votes and resented the fact that the justices could veto legislation that clearly had the support of the vast majority of the public.
Roosevelt suggested that the age was a major problem as six of the judges were over 70 (Charles Hughes, Willis Van Devanter, James McReynolds, Louis Brandeis, George Sutherland and Pierce Butler). Roosevelt announced that he was going to ask Congress to pass a bill enabling the president to expand the Supreme Court by adding one new judge, up to a maximum off six, for every current judge over the age of 70.
Charles Hughes realised that Roosevelt's Court Reorganization Bill would result in the Supreme Court coming under the control of the Democratic Party. His first move was to arrange for a letter written by him to be published by Burton K. Wheeler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. In the letter Hughes cogently refuted all the claims made by Roosevelt.
However, behind the scenes Hughes was busy doing deals to make sure that Roosevelt's bill would be defeated in Congress. On 29th March, Owen Roberts announced that he had changed his mind about voting against minimum wage legislation. Hughes also reversed his opinion on the Social Security Act and the National Labour Relations Act (NLRA) and by a 5-4 vote they were now declared to be constitutional.
Then Willis Van Devanter, probably the most conservative of the justices, announced his intention to resign. He was replaced by Hugo Black, a member of the Democratic Party and a strong supporter of the New Deal. In July, 1937, Congress defeated the Court Reorganization Bill by 70-20. However, Roosevelt had the satisfaction of knowing he had a Supreme Court that was now less likely to block his legislation.
In December 1939, Joseph Kennedy, the United States Ambassador in London informed Roosevelt that Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, was "ruthless and scheming" and was in close touch with an "American clique... notably, certain strong Jewish leaders" who wanted the United States to intervene in the conflict. Two months later Harold Ickes claimed that Kennedy informed William Bullitt that at a meeting with Joseph M. Patterson and Doris Fleeson of the New York Daily News: "Before long he (Kennedy) was saying that Germany would win, that everything in France and England would go to hell, and that his one interest was in saving his money for his children. He began to criticize the President very sharply, whereupon Bill (Bullitt) took issue with him... Bill told him that he was disloyal and that he had no right to say what he had before Patterson and Fleeson."
Kennedy soon came to the conclusion that the island was a lost cause and he considered aid to Britain fruitless. Kennedy, an isolationist, consistently warned Roosevelt "against holding the bag in a war in which the Allies expect to be beaten." Averell Harriman later explained the thinking of Kennedy and other isolationists: "After World War I, there was a surge of isolationism, a feeling there was no reason for getting involved in another war... We made a mistake and there were a lot of debts owed by European countries. The country went isolationist.
Tyler Kent was a cypher clerk at the American Embassy in London. In February 1940, Kent met Anna Wolkoff. The Wolfoff family ran the Russian Tea Room in South Kensington, a place where members of the secret society, the Right Club, used to meet. Wolkoff introduced Kent to Archibald Ramsay, the leader of the organization. Wolkoff, Kent and Ramsay talked about politics and agreed that they all shared the same political views. Unknown to Kent, MI5 agent, Joan Miller, had infiltrated the Right Club. She later recorded that "he appeared strongly anti-Communist and pro-Fascist in outlook." Kent was concerned that the American government wanted the United States to join the war against Germany. He said he had evidence of this as he had been making copies of the correspondence between Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Kent invited Wolkoff and Ramsay back to his flat to look at these documents. This included secret assurances that the United States would support France if it was invaded by the German Army. Kent later argued that he had shown these documents to Ramsay in the hope that he would pass this information to American politicians hostile to Roosevelt.
On 13th April 1940 Anna Wolkoff went to Kent's flat and made copies of some of these documents. Joan Miller and Marjorie Amor were later to testify that these documents were then passed on to Duco del Monte, Assistant Naval Attaché at the Italian Embassy. Soon afterwards, MI8, the wireless interception service, picked up messages between Rome and Berlin that indicated that Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence (Abwehr), now had copies of the Roosevelt-Churchill correspondence. Soon afterwards Wolkoff asked Miller if she would use her contacts at the Italian Embassy to pass a coded letter to William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) in Germany. The letter contained information that he could use in his broadcasts on Radio Hamburg. Before passing the letter to her contacts, Miller showed it to Maxwell Knight. On 18th May, Knight told Guy Liddell about the Right Club spy ring. Liddell immediately had a meeting with Joseph Kennedy, the American Ambassador in London. Kennedy agreed to waive Kent's diplomatic immunity.
Tyler Kent was arrested on 20th May, 1940. According to Joseph E. Persico, the author of Roosevelt's Secret War (2001): "They found 1,929 U.S. embassy documents, including secret correspondence between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The content of these messages was such that their exposure to the public could harm the President and the Prime Minister, and jeopardize America's presumed neutrality in the European war. What they revealed could also influence the upcoming U.S. presidential election."
Roosevelt enjoyed a good relationship with J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI. Roosevelt's attorney general, Robert Jackson commented, "The two men liked and understood each other." Roosevelt asked J. Edgar Hoover to investigate Charles Lindbergh, one of the leaders of the American First Committee. He willingly did so for he had been upset by Lindbergh's critical comments about the failures of the FBI investigation into the kidnapping and murder of his infant son. He also provided detailed reports on isolationists such as Burton K. Wheeler, Gerald Nye and Hamilton Fish.
Roosevelt wrote to Hoover thanking him for this information. "I have intended writing you for some time to thank you for the many interesting and valuable reports that you have made to me regarding the fast moving situations of the last few months." Hoover replied on 14th June, 1940: "The letter is one of the most inspiring messages which I have ever been privileged to receive; and, indeed, I look upon it as rather a symbol of the principles for which our Nation stands. When the President of our country, bearing the weight of untold burdens, takes the time to express himself to one of his Bureau heads, there is implanted in the hearts of the recipients a renewed strength and vigor to carry on their tasks."
In July, 1940, Roosevelt appointed two leading figures in the Republican Party to his cabinet. Frank Knox became Secretary of the Navy and Henry Stimson, took the post of Secretary of War. Jean Edward Smith, the author of FDR (2008) has argued that Roosevelt was determined to get the timing of the decision right: "It was important to stress the bipartisan nature of the defense effort, he told Knox. Even more important, if the GOP nominated an isolationist candidate, Knox and Stimson would be deemed guilty of bad sportsmanship in joining FDR's team afterward." Knox was allowed to bring in another Republican, James V. Forrestal, an investment banker, as his undersecretary.
Although Knox disagreed with Roosevelt on domestic policy, he did share his views on the dangerous threat posed by Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. After the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe, Knox argued that if Britain was defeated, the United States would be Hitler's next target. Knox stated at the time: "In public speeches I have warned the American people that if Britain is defeated, we ought then to be fully prepared to repel attempts by Germany to seize bases on this side of the Atlantic. Germany would use these bases either to attack us directly or else first to establish herself solidly in South America. Many of our people and many of the speakers who have opposed giving ample aid to Great Britain apparently believe it fantastic to think that there is any real danger of invasion. I disagree with such people and believe that a victorious Germany would move over to this hemisphere just as soon as she could accumulate the strength to do so, and certainly very soon unless we now take the steps to check her career of reckless aggression."
Frank Knox worked tirelessly to provide help for the British in their lone fight with Nazi Germany. Lord Lothian, the British ambassador in Washington, informed Knox on 28th July, 1940, that Britain had entered the war with 176 destroyers and that only 70 of these were still afloat. He requested 40 to 100 destroyers and 100 flying boats. Robert Jackson, the Attorney General, pointed out that at the cabinet meeting on the following day: "Knox opened the discussion by relating how Lord Lothian had pleaded with him for the destroyers on the previous evening. Knox had countered with an inquiry whether the British had ever considered selling parts of their Atlantic and Caribbean possessions. Lothian said they had not. This, so far as I know and so far as I can learn, was the first mention of the American need for bases in connection with the British need for destroyers."
In the summer of 1940 Charles Lindbergh made several critical speeches of Roosevelt. After one particularly objectionable speech, he told Henry Morgenthau, "If I should die tomorrow, I want you to know this. I am absolutely convinced that Lindbergh is a Nazi." He wrote to Henry Stimson and claimed that: "When I read Lindbergh's speech, I felt that it could not have been better put if it had been written by Goebbels himself. What a pity that this youngster has completely abandoned his belief in our form of government and has accepted Nazi methods because apparently they are efficient."
In September, 1940, Japan and Germany signed the German-Japanese Pact. Allied secret services soon discovered that Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister, had sent a telegram to Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister, where he pointed out that the alliance was to be directed towards the United States and not the Soviet Union. "Its exclusive purpose is to bring the elements pressing for America's entry into the war to their senses by conclusively demonstrating to them if they enter the present struggle they will automatically have to deal with the three great powers as adversaries."
Frank Knox was now convinced that eventually that the United States would be attacked by the Axis powers. He worked closely with William Allen White, the founder of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (CDAAA). White gave an interview to Knox's newspaper, the Chicago Daily News, where he argued: "Here is a life and death struggle for every principle we cherish in America: For freedom of speech, of religion, of the ballot and of every freedom that upholds the dignity of the human spirit... Here all the rights that common man has fought for during a thousand years are menaced... The time has come when we must throw into the scales the entire moral and economic weight of the United States on the side of the free peoples of Western Europe who are fighting the battle for a civilized way of life."
In 1940 Henry A. Wallace, Harry Hopkins, Harold Ickes and Thomas Corcoran called on Roosevelt to seek a third term. Roosevelt would therefore became the first person to break the unwritten rule that presidents do not stand for more than two-terms in succession. John Nance Garner, the vice-president openly declared his opposition to a third term for Roosevelt. Garner suggested that the Democratic Party candidate should be Jesse H. Jones, the conservative and powerful head of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.
Roosevelt accepted the nomination and selected Wallace as his running-mate. He told a friend the reason for his decision was that Wallace was a genuine New Dealer, an internationalist, in good health with plenty of energy and a loyalist on the Supreme Court and other controversial issues. James Farley , who had become disillusioned with the New Deal, argued against the decision: "Henry Wallace won't add a bit of strength to the ticket... He won't bring you the support you may expect in the farm belt and he will lose votes for you in the East... He has always been most cordial and cooperative with me, but I think you must know that the people look on him as a wild-eyed fellow." Harold Ickes also warned Roosevelt not to select Wallace and instead suggested Robert Maynard Hutchins.
At the Democratic Convention in Chicago Roosevelt was challenged by Garner and Farley for the nomination. The delegates gave Roosevelt 946 votes, Garner 61 and Farley 52. Wallace was challenged by John Hollis Bankhead of Alabama and despite the backroom efforts of James F. Byrnes and Paul McNutt, he won with 626 votes to 329. However, the decision was greeted with boos. The veteran journalist, Arthur Krock, wrote: "Mr. Wallace deserved a better fate than the boos that greeted the mention of his name and the distaste of the delegates over nominating him. He is able, thoughtful, honorable - the best of the New Deal type."
At Philadelphia in 1940 the Republican Party chose Wendell Willkie as their presidential candidate. His running-mate, Charles L. McNary, was a well-know isolationist. During the campaign Paul Block, publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, managed to get hold of some letters written by Wallace to Nicholas Roerich in 1933-34. The content of the letters suggested that Wallace held left-wing views and unconventional opinions on religion. Harry Hopkins contacted Block and told him if he published the letters they would reveal that Willkie was having an affair with Irita Van Doren, the literary editor of the New York Herald Tribune. As a result, Block did not publish the letters.
During the campaign Willkie attacked the New Deal as being inefficient and wasteful. However, he refused to take advantage of Roosevelt's decision to prepare for possible war with Nazi Germany. In one speech Henry A. Wallace had argued: "It is strength only that Hitler respects. By preparedness we can win and hold our peace." Willkie agreed with Roosevelt's decision to spend $5.2 billion to build 7 battleships and 201 other ships of war. At the election Roosevelt beat Willkie by 27,244,160 (54.7%) votes to 22,305,198 (44.8%). Norman Thomas, the candidate of the American Socialist Party received only 116,599 votes.
In January 1941, the Commander in Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto began planning for a surprise attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbour. Yamamoto feared that he did not have the resources to win a long war against the United States. He therefore advocated a surprise attack that would destroy the US Fleet in one crushing blow. Yamamoto's plan was eventually agreed by the Japanese Imperial Staff in the autumn and the strike force under the command of Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo sailed from the Kurile Islands on 26th November, 1941.
Richard Sorge, a German journalist working as a Soviet agent in Tokyo, discovered details of the plan for the attack on Pearl Harbor. However, this information does not seem to have been passed onto the United States. US Army intelligence. Harold Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, feared a Japanese attack on the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor but by the end of 1941 became convinced that the initial attack on the US Navy would come in the Far East.
Military intelligence did intercept two cipher messages from Tokyo to Kichisaburo Normura, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, that suggested an imminent attack, but Richmond Turner, in charge of evaluating and dissemination, did not pass on warnings of the proposed attack to Admiral Husband Kimmel.
Nagumo's fleet was positioned 275 miles north of Oahu. On Sunday, 7th December, 1941, 105 high-level bombers, 135 dive-bombers and 81 fighter aircraft attacked the the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor. In their first attack the Japanese sunk the Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia and California. The second attack, launched 45 minutes later, hampered by smoke, created less damage. In two hours 18 warships, 188 aircraft and 2,403 servicemen were lost in the attack. Luckily, the navy's three aircraft carriers, Enterprise, Lexington and Saratoga, were all at sea at the time. The following day, President Roosevelt and a united US Congress declared war on Japan.
Robert Jackson, the Attorney General, has argued that Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, had assured Roosevelt that after the United States entered the war, the US Navy would "knock Japan out of the water" in no time. "When questions had arisen such as stockpiling rubber, Knox, with great assurance, had said that our naval forces in the Pacific were so superior to those of Japan that we would have a very brief interruption of our rubber supply. Of course at Pearl Harbor the losses were very serious, much more than the public realized. The naval force was very much reduced. But even so, I was surprised that we were faced with such a serious problem in the Pacific."
Roosevelt appointed William Leahy as his new Military Chief of Staff. As Leahy admitted in his autobiography, I Was There (1951): "There were many of his domestic policies which I, being of a conservative mind, had little liking for... I had seen him almost every morning since he appointed me his Military Chief of Staff... The range of his mind was infinite. The official matters I had selected to bring to his attention usually were disposed of quickly, and he listened attentively as I talked... I remembered partisan criticism that he had made this or that war move with an eye on the date of a national election. Franklin Roosevelt was the real Commander-in-Chief of our Navy, Army, and Air Force. He had fought this war in close co-operation with his military staff. To my knowledge, he never made a single military decision with any thought of his own personal political fortunes."
The journalist, Raymond Gram Swing, met Roosevelt for the first time on 24th May, 1942, and came about through his friendship with Harry Hopkins. "As a talker Mr. Roosevelt went rapidly from one subject to another, almost by a kind of compulsiveness, not actually conversing with me or with Mr. Hopkins. I had the impression that in his way he was garrulous, which is certainly no fault, but it nevertheless astonished me to find a trace of it in as great a man as Franklin Roosevelt."
Elected president for the fourth time in 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt died three weeks before Germany surrendered on 7th May, 1945. Frances Perkins later claimed that Eleanor Roosevelt told her that people would stop her on the street and say "they missed the way the President used to talk to them". They would say "he used to talk to me about my government". Eleanor added: "There was a real dialogue between Franklin and the people. That dialogue seems to have disappeared from the government since he died."