Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term as president came during the darkest days of twentieth century America, yet within three days of taking office he had inspired the nation to look optimistically toward the future. He seized and exercised political power and became the central focus of the nation’s recovery and relief. It was Roosevelt’s heroic and messianic presence, not simply the New Deal Programs, which was needed to revitalize the economy.
Roosevelt’s program to combat the Depression helped to establish his reputation as a savior of free enterprise. At the same time, Roosevelt helped to delay power shifts in American society which many, including his supporters, expected him to bring about. The hodgepodge of legislation known as the New Deal provided immediate relief, but America did not assume a role of leadership in a world moving toward global war.
Roosevelt was not without his critics--men such as Huey Long of Louisiana, Francis E. Townsend, and the Reverend Charles E. Coughlin. Although none posed any serious threat to Roosevelt’s popularity, Long’s Share Our Wealth clubs provided alternatives which pushed the administration to implement social insurance. Social recovery occurred despite Roosevelt’s conservative approach--a reality which, Kenneth S. Davis suggests, has been blurred in subsequent decades.
Davis, a career journalist, is the author of two other volumes on Roosevelt covering his early years in public life and his two terms as governor of New York. A fourth volume is planned to complete the biography. This lively account provides a fresh analysis of Roosevelt as a first-term President.