Franklin Delano Roosevelt biography

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt biography

32nd President of the United States (1933-1945); he was the only United States president elected for four terms, he was one of the 20th century's most skilful political leaders guiding the nation for 12 years. His New Deal programme was a response to the Great Depression. Then, in World War II, he led the Allies in their defeat of the Axis powers. Although he was crippled by polio at age 39, he continued his political career, which spanned 35 years.

Early Life

Born at Hyde Park, New York, on January 30, 1882, he was the only child of James Roosevelt and Sara Delano Roosevelt. His father was a cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States. Although they were not wealthy, the Roosevelts of Hyde Park led a comfortable existence, and young Franklin's life was sheltered. A handsome youth, he was an excellent athlete, expert at boating and swimming, and he also collected stamps, birds, and model ships-hobbies that he pursued all his life.
His formal education began at the Groton School in Massachusetts. After graduation from Harvard University in 1904, Roosevelt attended Columbia University Law School without taking a degree and was admitted to the New York State bar in 1907. In 1905 he married a distant cousin, Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Beginning of Roosevelt's Political Career

Franklin Roosevelt's political career began with his election to the New York State Senate as a Democrat in 1910. He quickly gained attention as the leader of an upstate coalition that fought the influence of New York's Democratic machine (the Tammany Society). His support of Woodrow Wilson's candidacy as the Democratic presidential nominee in 1912 resulted in his appointment to the post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy, which he held during World War I. Roosevelt faced the greatest personal crisis of his life when he was stricken by poliomyelitis at his Canadian summer home on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, in 1921. He rejected his mother's advice that he abandon politics and become a country squire at Hyde Park. Encouraged by Eleanor, he resumed his career by nominating Alfred E. Smith for the presidency at the Democratic convention in 1924. In 1928, Roosevelt won a narrow victory in a campaign for the governorship in New York State.

Governor of New York

During two terms as Governor of New York (1929-1933), Roosevelt established a reputation as a reforming politician in the Theodore Roosevelt tradition and as a supporter of the impoverished upstate farmers. His greatest struggle aimed at providing cheaper electricity for the rural consumer. As the Great Depression deepened, he assembled the "Brain Trust", a group of faculty members from Columbia University, to formulate with him a comprehensive programme for resolving the economic collapse that had begun in 1929. In 1932, Roosevelt won the party's presidential nomination, then easily defeated Hoover in the national election.

Roosevelt as President

The Effort to Restore Prosperity

His first three months in office, known as the Hundred Days, were marked by innovative legislation originating in the executive branch. In a period of massive unemployment (25 per cent of the work force), a collapsed stock market, thousands of bank closings, and agricultural prices that had fallen below the cost of production, Congress, at Roosevelt's request, passed a series of emergency measures calculated to provide liquidity for banking institutions and relief for the individual and to prevent business bankruptcy. In addition to relief measures, the New Deal aimed at long-range economic solutions to problems stemming from World War I. The farm depression, a result of overproduction, had begun in 1921 and sent millions to the cities during the 1920s; Roosevelt regarded it as the root cause of the economic collapse of the late 1920s. He responded with a broad agricultural programme framed by the Agricultural Adjustment Acts of 1933 and 1938. This legislation introduced production controls for certain basic commodities in order to create a balance between supply and demand. The programme included construction of dams to produce hydroelectric power and construction of hospitals and schools. New industries attracted by low-cost electricity and labour diversified the southern economy and benefited an impoverished area.

The New Deal Coalition

Many legal acts were adopted within the New Deal Programme, such as :
· National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA, 1933)
· strict securities-issue and stock exchange regulation (enforced by the new Securities and Exchange Commission)
· Social Security Act
· Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938
They were accepted differently by business community and workers, blacks and urban minorities.

The support received was reflected in forming the so-called New Deal Coalition, the basis of Democratic party support for the following 50 years.

Second Term

After winning a victory in the 1936 presidential election, Roosevelt tried to neutralize the US Supreme Court by proposing the appointment of new justices, but Congress rejected this "court-packing" plan in 1937. In the subsequent years a congressional coalition of conservative Republicans and Democrats tried to curtail expansion of federal power into areas traditionally reserved to the states and checked the New Deal's momentum. The US involvement in the war in Europe drew attention away from the president's domestic defeats and made possible his victories over Republican candidates Wendell L. Willkie in 1940 and Thomas E. Dewey in 1944.

Pre-war Foreign Policy

Roosevelt was a pragmatist in his diplomatic views in the inter-war period. He pursued rather isolationism in the foreign policy in the 1920s. Then, in the late 1930s, spurred by Adolf Hitler's aggression in Europe and Japanese expansionism in the Pacific, Roosevelt moved the United States back towards engagement in world affairs. He was restrained, however, by the persistence of strong isolationist sentiment among the voters and by congressional passage of a series of neutrality laws intended to prevent American involvement in a second world war. Roosevelt won the contest when, alarmed by Germany's defeat of France in 1940, Congress passed his lend-lease legislation to help Great Britain's continued resistance to the Germans. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, brought the United States into the war on the side of Britain and the Soviet Union.

World War II

Roosevelt framed his diplomatic objectives as wartime leader in a series of wartime conferences. In collaboration with Winston Churchill he explained Anglo-American war aims in August 1941 in the form of the Atlantic Charter. It denied territorial ambitions, favoured self-government and liberal international trade arrangements, and pledged freedom from want and permanent security against aggression. The goals of the conferences can be summarized as follows:
· Casablanca, Morocco, in January 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill insisted on Germany's unconditional surrender as a means of preventing the enemy's future military resurgence
· Quebec Conference (August 1943) planned the Normandy invasion
· Moscow (October 1943) the Allied foreign ministers approved in principle a post-war organization for world security. · Tehran (November-December 1943) and Quebec (September 1944) served for discussion of the military strategy and the problem of post-war Germany
· Yalta in the USSR (February 1945), Roosevelt, Churchill, and Joseph Stalin broached their plans for a post-war world.

Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill, the leaders of the three major Allied powers, came to be known as the "Big Three".
In the process, Roosevelt pressed for the admission of China to the Allied councils as a major power, liberalization of international trade as a means of preventing future wars, and creation of a United Nations organization as a mechanism for preserving peace. He did not, however, see the end of the war. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage at Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945.
Roosevelt's vision of a peaceful and stable post-war world foundered on national ambition. Although he bypassed Churchill and a weakened Great Britain to deal with Stalin at Yalta, it became apparent on the eve of his death that Soviet ambitions included the occupation of eastern and central Europe. His faith in the ability of the UN to keep the peace through the collaboration of the former wartime Allies proved unworkable in the era of the cold war.
The New Deal Coalition lasted for many years after Roosevelt's death. In addition, his long tenure in office during the crisis years of the Great Depression and World War II laid the groundwork for what later became known as the "imperial presidency".

In this famous speech, President Roosevelt lists unprovoked attacks by Japan and details the United States' reasons for declaring war. After the devastation at Pearl Harbor, the United States could no longer remain detached from the events in Europe and Asia. After this speech and the ensuing congressional vote, the United States entered the fray of World War II.


FDR'S Pearl Harbor Speech
TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941-a date which will live in infamy-the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost.

In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will be remembered the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces-with the unbounding determination of our people-we will gain the inevitable triumph-so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

THE WHITE HOUSE,

December 8, 1941.

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