Tuesday, March 4, 2014

FDR's First Inauguration ~ March 4, 1933

When Roosevelt was inaugurated March 4, 1933 (32 days after Hitler, FDR's World War II nemesis, was appointed Chancellor of Germany), the U.S. was at the nadir of the worst depression in its history. A quarter of the workforce was unemployed. Farmers were in deep trouble as prices fell by 60%. Industrial production had fallen by more than half since 1929. Two million were homeless. Due to the lack of employment, organized crime and outlaws were on the rise, such as John Dillinger. By the evening of March 4, 32 of the 48 states, as well as the District of Columbia had closed their banks. The New York Federal Reserve Bank was unable to open on the 5th, as huge sums had been withdrawn by panicky customers in previous days. Beginning with his inauguration address, Roosevelt began blaming the economic crisis on bankers and financiers, the quest for profit, and the self-interest basis of capitalism:

"Primarily this is because rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence....The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."

Historians categorized Roosevelt's program as "relief, recovery and reform." Relief was urgently needed by tens of millions of unemployed. Recovery meant boosting the economy back to normal. Reform meant long-term fixes of what was wrong, especially with the financial and banking systems. Roosevelt's series of radio talks, known as fireside chats, presented his proposals directly to the American public.
FDR's first inauguration was the last inauguration to be held in March. The 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution moved up the date for future inaugurations to January 20th. It was just too long to wait for a transfer of power, especially during a Great Depression.
Today is also the 151st anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's first inauguration. Of course, after Washington almost every President was inaugurated on March 4th (except when it occured on a Sunday) up until 1933.

1 comment:

機基差差 said...


Titian in the Frari (Venezia)