Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Early Life and Career
Roosevelt went on to study law at Columbia University Law School and passed the bar exam in , though he didn't receive a degree. For the next three years, he practiced corporate law in New York, living the typical upper-class life. But Roosevelt found law practice boring and restrictive.
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He set his sights on greater accomplishments. Roosevelt married Eleanor Roosevelt , his fifth cousin and the niece of Theodore Roosevelt, on March 17, Except for John, who chose a career as a businessman, all of the Roosevelts' children had careers in politics and public service. In , at age 28, Roosevelt was invited to run for the New York state senate.
He ran as a Democrat in a district that had voted Republican for the past 32 years. Through hard campaigning and the help of his name, he won the seat in a Democratic landslide. As a state senator, Roosevelt opposed elements of the Democratic political machine in New York.
Theodore Roosevelt | Miller Center
This won him the ire of party leaders but gained him national notoriety and valuable experience in political tactics and intrigue. During this time, he formed an alliance with Louis Howe, who would shape his political career for the next 25 years. Roosevelt was re-elected to the state senate in and served as chair of the agricultural committee, passing farm and labor bills and social welfare programs. During the National Democratic Convention, Roosevelt supported presidential candidate Woodrow Wilson and was rewarded with an appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the same job Theodore Roosevelt had used to catapult himself to the presidency.
Roosevelt was an energetic and efficient administrator. He specialized in business operations, working with Congress to get budgets approved and systems modernized, and he founded the U. Naval Reserve. But he was restless in the position as "second chair" to his boss, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, who was less enthusiastic about supporting a large and efficient naval force. In , Roosevelt decided to run for the U. Senate seat for New York. The proposition was doomed from the start, as he lacked White House support.
President Wilson needed the Democratic political machine to get his social reforms passed and ensure his re-election. He could not support Roosevelt, who had made too many political enemies among New York Democrats. Roosevelt was soundly defeated in the primary election and learned a valuable lesson that national stature could not defeat a well-organized local political organization. Still, Roosevelt took to Washington politics and found his career thriving as he developed more personal relationships. At the Democratic Convention, he accepted the nomination for vice president, as James M.
Cox's running mate. The pair was soundly defeated by Republican Warren G. Harding in the general election, but the experience gave Roosevelt national exposure. Roosevelt repaired his relationship with New York's Democratic political machine. He appeared at the and Democratic National Conventions to nominate New York governor Al Smith for president, which increased his national exposure.
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When Eleanor discovered the affair, she gave Franklin an ultimatum in to stop seeing Lucy or she would file for divorce. Roosevelt agreed to stop seeing Mercer romantically, but years later began secretly see Mercer again. She was, in fact, with him at the time of his death. In , at the age of 39, Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio while vacationing at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada. At first, refusing to accept that he was permanently paralyzed, Roosevelt tried numerous therapies and even bought the Warm Springs resort in Georgia seeking a cure.
Despite his efforts, he never regained the use of his legs. He later established a foundation at Warm Springs to help others and instituted the March of Dimes program that eventually funded an effective polio vaccine. For a time, Roosevelt was resigned to being a victim of polio, believing his political career to be over.
But his wife Eleanor and political confidante Louis Howe encouraged him to continue on. Over the next several years, Roosevelt worked to improve his physical and political image. He taught himself to walk short distances in his braces. And he was careful not to be seen in public using his wheelchair. Roosevelt was narrowly elected, and the victory gave him confidence that his political star was rising.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
As governor, FDR believed in progressive government and instituted a number of new social programs. Following the stock market crash of , Republicans were being blamed for the Great Depression. Sensing opportunity, Roosevelt began his run for the presidency by calling for government intervention in the economy to provide relief, recovery and reform. His upbeat, positive approach and personal charm helped him defeat Republican incumbent Herbert Hoover in November When FDR ran for his second term in , he was re-elected to office on November 3, , in a landslide against Alfred M.
Early in , Roosevelt had not publicly announced that he would run for an unprecedented third term as president. At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Roosevelt swept aside all challengers and received the nomination. In November , he won the presidential election against Republican Wendell Willkie. Roosevelt selected Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman as his running mate, and together they defeated Republican candidate Thomas E.
Dewey in the presidential election of , carrying 36 of the 48 states. On March 12, , just eight days after first taking office, Roosevelt initiated his first of more than 30 fireside chats. Within his first days after taking office in March of , Roosevelt called for a "New Deal" for Americans, proposing sweeping economic reforms to address the Great Depression. The greatest crisis in American history since the Civil War , 13 million Americans were unemployed and hundreds of banks were closed.
Roosevelt ordered the temporary closure on all banks to halt the run on deposits. He formed a "Brain Trust" of economic advisers who designed the "alphabet agencies" such as the AAA Agricultural Adjustment Administration , to support farm prices by reducing agricultural production through subsidies; the CCC Civilian Conservation Corps , to employ young unmarried men to work refurbishing public lands and national parks; and the NRA National Recovery Administration , which regulated wages and prices. Dissents by Stone and other justices, notably Louis Brandeis and Benjamin Cardozo, persuaded Roosevelt that he need not undertake the arduous route of a constitutional amendment, for it was not the Constitution that required changing but the composition of the bench.
Naming a few more judges like Stone, the president believed, would do the trick. FDR recognized, though, that a direct assault on the court must be avoided; he could not simply assert that he wanted judges who would do his bidding. Six of the justices were 70 or older; a scurrilous book on the court, The Nine Old Men, by Drew Pearson and Robert Allen, was rapidly moving up the bestseller lists.
But Roosevelt kept Congressional leaders, his cabinet save for Cummings and the American people in the dark, deceiving even the shrewdest experts. Three days later, on February 5, , Roosevelt shocked Congress, his closest advisers and the country by unleashing a thunderbolt. He asked Congress to empower him to appoint an additional justice for any member of the court over age 70 who did not retire. He sought to name as many as six additional Supreme Court justices, as well as up to 44 judges to the lower federal courts.
Aconstant and systematic addition of younger blood will vitalize the courts. It also triggered the most intense debate about constitutional issues since the earliest weeks of the Republic. For days, the country was mesmerized by the controversy, which dominated newspaper headlines, radio broadcasts and newsreels, and spurred countless rallies in towns from New England to the PacificCoast.
Members of Congress were so deluged by mail that they could not read most of it, let alone respond.
Both sides believed the future of the country was at stake. If Roosevelt lost, his supporters countered, a few judges appointed for life would be able to ignore the popular will, destroy programs vital to the welfare of the people, and deny to the president and Congress the powers exercised by every other government in the world. Despite widely publicized expressions of hostility, political pundits expected the legislation to be enacted. Roosevelt had high expectations, too, for the House of Representatives, where Democrats held a 4 to 1 advantage. That prospect drove opponents of the plan to a fury of activity: protest meetings, bar association resolutions and thousands upon thousands of letters to editors.
That argument, however, was more subtle and harder to explain to the public. They saw it as a ruse to conceal his real, and in their eyes, nefarious objective, and as a display of gross disrespect for the elderly. Can you calculate the loss to the world if such as these had been compelled to retire at 70? One is to take them out and shoot them, as they are reported to do in at least one other country. The other way is more genteel, but no less effective. They are kept on the public payroll but their votes are canceled.
In a letter read by the Montana Democratic senator Burton K. The court, however, would spring some surprises of its own. Parrish, it validated a minimum wage law from the state of Washington, a statute essentially no different from the New York state act it had struck down only months before. As a result, a hotel in Wenatchee, Washington, would be required to pay back wages to Elsie Parrish, a chambermaid.
Two weeks later, in several 5 to 4 rulings, the court sustained the National Labor Relations Act. A tribunal that in had held that coal mining, although conducted in many states, did not constitute interstate commerce, now gave so broad a reading to the Constitution that it accepted intervention by the federal government in the labor practices of a single Virginia clothing factory.
On May 24, the court that in had declared that Congress, in enacting a pension law, had exceeded its powers, found the Social Security statute constitutional. This set of decisions came about because one justice, Owen Roberts, switched his vote.