Franklin Delano Roosevelt served as the 32nd U.S president between 1933 and1945. It is during this period when the great depression was experienced not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world. The great depression was a period of global economic meltdown that followed the smash of the stock market in 1929.
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During this time, most businesses collapsed, and joblessness persisted for a longer period. The Great Depression resulted in overwhelming impacts in both rich and poor nations. In his first inaugural address to the people on March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt affirms that in the “dark hour” of the nation, the economy was in dire straits (p.40).
Accepting that values had “fallen to fantastic levels,” the economy was in great pressure, and the government was facing “serious curtailment of income” with raising taxes, frozen exchanges, and dented savings and high rate of unemployment (p.40), approximately five million (p 50). Franklin Roosevelt was committed to ending the great depression in the United States of America by introducing “a definite program for putting people to work” (p 50).
Roosevelt’s propositions to end the plight of distress caused by the great depression centered on the themes of recovery, relief, and reform. Most of the plans and strategies commenced following his introduction of a “new order of things (p 48).
He outlined “a wide field” of work including “clearance of slums”, “rural electrification”, “reforestation of the great watersheds, “constructing national highways designed to handle modern traffic”, extension of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and other important projects, “mostly self liquidating and highly useful to the local divisions of the government” (p 52).
Roosevelt’s plans were intended to provide relief from the great depression, increase jobs and ensure the safety of the environment through conservation and restoration. The potpourris of policy initiatives proposed by Roosevelt were aimed at the general welfare of the people.
His relief policies aimed primarily at the task of providing jobs to the unemployed through the construction of dams, parks and other infrastructure projects which Roosevelt believed would create 3.5 million jobs and cost 5 million (p 47). Roosevelt developed proper plans to boost the farmers’ incomes. These plans comprised of, amongst other activities, controlling the farm production.
Franklin took several initiatives for evolving and implementing codes of unbiased commercial activities. Among the several programs Roosevelt’s administration undertook to revive the economy, was the “cutting back or eliminating federal welfare programs” (intro 47) by making the daring statement in his speech that the “Federal government must and shall quit this burden of relief” (p51).
Roosevelt’s plans of opening new parks, constructing new dams influenced the Congress to enact several laws and regulations, which were intended to provide liberation to individuals who were worst hit by the Depression, and restructuring the commercial, economic, as well as agricultural practices. However, during the second election, Roosevelt daringly confessed in his speech that “people want more than promises” (p 56).
His address to the people affirms that some of the plans had not met the desired expectations. Nevertheless, Roosevelt’s promise of continued efforts “to improve working conditions for the workers of America”, “to increase wages”, “to end the labor of children” was greeted by roaring enthusiastic crowds who had been lifted out of their sagging spirits from the great depression, welcomed Roosevelt’s second term with open arms.
Roosevelt spelt out his plans for a better America to the people by promising to continue to “stop every effort to end monopoly in business, to support collective bargaining, to stop unfair competition, to abolish dishonorable trade practices” (p 56). Outlining more specific plans than ever, Roosevelt appealed with the assertion of continued efforts for cheaper electricity and transportation, low rates of interests and better banking facilities for the people.
This speech, more than ever, is a clear indication of the clear set of plans Roosevelt’s administration had a set of plans for ending the great depression, not exactly consistent, but aimed at the general welfare of the people of America.
Polenberg, Richard. The Era of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933-1945: A Brief History with Documents. Bedford Books.