Presidents, Politics, & Scripture: Franklin D. Roosevelt

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By James R. Patrick, Founder of The MacArthur Institute
Excerpted from the “Foundations of Liberty” Series

An Overview of “The New Deal”

“He has great imagination. . .  If he had been President at the time when the Treasury was overflowing, he would have gone down in history as the greatest builder since the world began,” so stated interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes in 1934 of Franklin D. Roosevelt. 1

Former President Herbert Hoover did not agree.  He stated, “Along with currency manipulation, the New Deal introduced to America the spectacle of fascist dictation to business, labor, and agriculture.” 2

Curtis B. Dall, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s son-in-law, made these comments:

“Speaking politically, I regard Woodrow Wilson as a man who sold his soul to the internationalists’ program, to the One World Debt-Finance Forces, and thereby opened the first big holes in our Constitutional and financial “dikes.”  I regard Franklin Roosevelt, after 1932, as likewise selling his political soul to the same One-World, Internationalist Debt-Finance Forces and, under their coercion; he made larger the Woodrow Wilson “holes in the dike.” The net result, devoid of political and ideological fanfare, if such could ever happen, is obvious.  Both men failed in providing a sound leadership for America, but succeeded in furthering themselves and a pattern of policy which advanced various alien backed programs, our Foreign Policy.  This result was especially noticeable in respect to FDR as his health began to fail and his Advisers took over.” 3

Adlai E. Stevenson said of Franklin Roosevelt:

The Democratic Party took over when the nation was almost in a state of receivership in 1933.  Fortunately, we had a great and revered leader, Franklin Roosevelt. Under his leadership the Democratic Party dedicated itself to improving opportunity and security for all citizens.” 4

Journalist H. L. Mencken provides us with a different slant.

“If [President Roosevelt] became convinced tomorrow that coming out for cannibalism would get him the votes he so sorely needs, he would begin fattening a missionary in the White House backyard come Wednesday.” 5

It is obvious that he, more than the average President, tended to bring raves of approval or highly critical remarks.  Roosevelt sent mixed signals.  It was hard to discern where he really stood and what he really believed.  To the casual listener, he seemed to be conservative in philosophy with a clear understanding of the Constitution, but if you listened closely to what he said, you would find his choice of words implied a belief that government needed to add just a little bit more to the kettle of freedom.

After carefully reading the measures passed into law (The Social Security Act), it is obvious that Franklin Roosevelt does not stand on par with the original intent of the Founding Fathers.  They envisioned a limited constitutional republic wherein the federal branch of government would be very limited in authority.  They envisioned federal union wherein the states would retain all powers not specifically granted to the federal branch.  The responsibility of the government was to provide for the people a shield of defense, but they were bringing about their own success.

By contrast, President Roosevelt believed that the government best served the people when it assisted their efforts.  He saw the state as a benevolent helper, advisor, guide, or an overseer.  To him, the master planners were wiser in that they could direct the total program.  To accomplish that feat would require unlimited power and control over the national treasury-and that is the material of which despots are made.

FDR’s First Inaugural Address

President Hoover, Mr. Chief Justice, my friends:

This is a day of national consecration, and I am certain that my fellow-Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our nation impels.

This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly.  Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.  This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.

So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.  I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.  I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties.  They concern, thank God, only material things.  Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen, government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.

More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return.  Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance.  We are stricken by no plague of locusts.  Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered, because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for.  Nature still offers her bounty, and human efforts have multiplied it.  Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply.

Primarily, this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the courts 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.  They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers.

They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

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.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.

The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits.  These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow-men.

Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing.

Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance.  With them it cannot live.  [speech continues…]

In the field of world policy, I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor – the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others – the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.

If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never before, our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take, but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline, no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective.

We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good.

This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.

With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people, dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.

Action in this image and to this end is feasible under the form of government which we have inherited from our ancestors.

Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes to emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form.

That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced.  It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations.

It is to be hoped that the normal balance of executive and legislative authority may be wholly adequate to meet the unprecedented task before us.  But it may be that an unprecedented demand and need for undelayed action may call for temporary departure from the normal balance of public procedure.

I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require.

These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption.

But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me.

I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis – broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency as great as the power that would be given me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.

For the trust reposed in me I will return the courage and the devotion that befit the time.  I can do no less.

We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stern performance of duty by old and young alike.

We aim at the assurance of a rounded and permanent national life.

We do not distrust the future of essential democracy.  The people of the United States have not failed.  In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action.

They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership.  They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift, I take it.

In this dedication of a nation we humbly ask the blessing of God.  May He protect each and every one of us!  May He guide me in the days to come.

(Editor’s Note: All underlined portions represent the “Bible-speak” then understood by a Biblically literate population.  Although Roosevelt represented a great shift left in American politics, even the left, were fully aware of his Scriptural references.  Too bad even the political right is devoid of such ‘Bible-speak’ today.  The greater population are in the dark regarding even a rudimentary understanding of the Bible.  The Bible Nation Society seeks to remedy this sad circumstance by an energetic advocacy.)

James R. Patrick founded the Victory Baptist Church in 1967 and the East Moline Christian School in 1978.  He is the Director of the MacArthur Institute which publishes the Foundation of Liberty Series, an extensive conservative curriculum for homes, schools and churches.  For more information or to order materials write to:

The MacArthur Institute,  900  46th Avenue,  East Moline, Illinois 61244-4406. 

Footnotes:
1 The Secret Diary of Harold L. Ickes: The First Thousand Days, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1953, p. 206
2 Memoirs of Herbert Hoover, New York: Macmillan, 1951-1952, Vol. III, p. 408.
3  F.D.R.-My Exploited Father-in-Law, Curtis B. Dall, pp. 134-135.
4  Bert Cochran, Adelai Stevenson: Patrician among the Politicians, New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1969, p. 217.
5  Coley Taylor and Samuel Middlebrook, The Eagle Screams, New York: Macauley, 1936, p. 171.

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