FDR's First Hundred Days | The Nation

FDR's First Hundred Days

"So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

With that immortal sentence delivered during his inaugural address on March 4, 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's whirlwind first hundred days began. The astonishing amount of ideas and action that began pouring from the White House even before FDR finished his speech was unprecedented in American history -- and it remains so. More than 70 years later, America is still benefiting from Roosevelt's exuberance, social concern and farsightedness.

While the new Administration hit the ground running, FDR, with his confident smile and engaging manner, may not have had a choice. For three years, the country had been caught in the vice grip of a Depression that was only getting worse. In the interregnum after the 1932 election, desperation rapidly turned into anger. Organized groups intimidated officials who attempted to foreclose on lands or buildings when mortgage payments were overdue. In Iowa, the Farmers Holiday Association blockaded roads to boost food prices in urban markets. "They say blockading the highway's illegal," one member declared. "I says, 'Seems to me there was a tea party in Boston that was illegal too.' " Rex Tugwell, one of Roosevelt's original Brain Trusters, took the threat seriously. "There is no doubt in my mind that during the spring of 1933, the Army felt that the time was approaching when it might have to 'take over,' " he wrote.

So the New Dealers set out to work, and within months, Americans were learning a whole new alphabet: the AAA, CCC, WPA, NRA, TVA and more were just some of the dizzying number of new federal programs designed to get the country on its feet again. Some helped, some didn't, but together they brought hope to a country that had none.

But Roosevelt offered the country more than just a new deal -- it was a new way of thinking. No longer was the business of the government business, as Republican Calvin Coolidge once said. Under Roosevelt, the federal government for the first time viewed as its primary responsibility the social welfare of its citizens. Commerce would be supported but regulated. The needs of the people would not be sacrificed for profits. Business groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, hated Roosevelt for it. They fought back then, and in fact still are. Gradually, they have chipped away at many of the New Deal's reforms, but it's a tribute to the power of Roosevelt's ideas and his personality that those fateful 100 days still remain the standard by which subsequent administrations have been judged -- but never equaled.

In This Pack

Calvin Coolidge
Oswald Garrison Villard.
As Franklin Roosevelt prepared to take office, the man considerd his ideological opposite died. The Nation assesses his legacy (January 18, 1933).

By Bus Through the Middle West
Oswald Garrison Villard.
The author travels through the heartland to gauge firsthand the anger and desperation that has engulfed the country as a result of the Depression (March 1, 1933).

Wanted: Strong Men and Radical Measures
Paul Y. Anderson.
The author believes the makeup of FDR's cabinet bodes well. He also adds a few thoughts about the outgoing Hoover Administration -- none of them complimentary (March 15, 1933).

Congress Votes for a Bill
Oswald Garrison Villard
. Cowed by FDR's popularity in the wake of his inaguration, Congress approves the first New Deal legislation -- a bill designed to reopen the nation's banks -- without having read it (March 22, 1933).

Like a hurricane FDR's New Deal is blowing away Washington's old line powerbrokers on the strength of FDR's personality and his ability to use the radio to get his message across to the American people. Reference is also made to addressing unemployment and the end of Prohibition (March 22, 1933).

The New Bank Law
According to the author, the new bank law will save many of the nation's banks -- but not all -- and as a result many depositers will suffer. The new law also means that the contentious gold standard has been abandoned (March 22, 1933).

The author believes the new farm bill with its promise of subsidies for farmers won't solve the present agricultural crisis (March 29, 1933).

The Honeymoon Is Over
Paul Y. Anderson.
As the administration readies new bills to combat the Depression, the author reports that Congress is beginning to develop more of a backbone in its dealings with FDR (April 12, 1933).

What Has Roosevelt Accomplished?
Norman Thomas.
The leader of the Socialist Party says that while the President has brought about some impressive changes, many of them do not go far enough and others are actually harmful in terms of bringing an end to the nation's economic problems.

Will Wonders Never Begin?
Paul Y. Anderson.
According to the author, the Administration so far has not had much of an impact in bringing about an end to the Depression. Anderson also discusses the coming unemployment bill and what he says is the relatively conservative makeup of FDR's cabinet (April 26, 1933).

The White House Mysteries
Paul Y. Anderson.
The author says that those who for years were calling for a dictator are now miserable now that they have one in the form of FDR. He also notes the coming public works bill and discusses proposed legislation for a thirty-hour work week (May 10, 1933).

Where Do We Go From Here?
Paul Y. Anderson.
FDR presents his long-awaited public works bill (May 24, 1933).

Mr. Roosevelt -- So Far
A hundred days after he took office, The Nation assesses the Administration's accomplishments and the challenges that lay ahead (June 28, 1933).

The Roosevelt Legislative Record
Mauritz A. Hallgren.
In analyzing the legislation to emerge during the New Deal's first hundred days, the author says, "whether or not we agree with its every detail," the Administration's legislative record "must be considered an astounding performance" (June 28, 1933).




  • Share
  • Decrease text size Increase text size

If you like this article, consider making a donation.