President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) uttered this famous quote during his First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1933. The expression "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" is actually a misquote, and not what Roosevelt actually said. Roosevelt's quote was
"... the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
Roosevelt was no doubt referring to the nation's dismal economic condition during the midst of the Great Depression, trying to instill a bit of hope during the hard times faced by Americans. Roosevelt may have borrowed this line from Sir Francis Bacon, who once said,
"There is nothing to fear but fear."
It was misquoted by Martin Luther King in his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech.