Groton - · A small boys' school in western Massachusetts, started
under the leadership of Reverend Endicott Peabody. The school had
the support of many of the leading men in America, including J.P. Morgan,
and attracted the children of the wealthiest and most prominent
families in America, including young Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
who was sent to Groton at the age of fourteen.
Harvard - · One of America's first institutions of higher learning,
this was the place where most of the country's most prominent individuals,
including Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, received their
Tammany Hall - · Originally one of many patriotic societies set up in
many American societies, the one in New York City was the only
one that endured. The party gained power by seducing the new immigrant
vote with patronage in the form of food, clothing, jobs, and fuel.
Though plagued by corruption on every level, the party's leaders
or "bosses" were heavily influential in New York politics for decades.
FDR's struggle and reconciliation with the bosses of Tammany Hall
was one of the defining characteristics of his time in the New
Progressivism - · As the country became increasingly aware of the problems
of rapid urbanization and industrialization in the late 19th and early
20th centuries, the Progressive movement responded to these changes
by advocating urban reform and attacking corruption. Progressivism
in state and national government, a movement in which FDR played
a large role, succeeded under the leadership of Woodrow Wilson in
fighting trusts and monopolies, reforming the currency system and
restricting child labor. Progressivism finally lost its momentum
in the wake of WWI, and it was not until the New Deal that the
spirit of reform once again entered the nation.
New Deal - · A term first used in Roosevelt's speech at the Democratic nomination
convention in Chicago in 1932, the New Deal was the name given
to his program of reforms. The legislation that comprised the New
Deal was passed in two rounds. The legislation passed during the
first Hundred Days was aimed at recovery and relief, and included
the AAA, CCC, PWA, and the NRA. The second round of legislation
comprised of more long-term reform such as the Social Security
System, labor reform, and farmers' subsidies. The New Deal was the
signal of a substantial change in the role of American government
in its citizens' lives. For the first time, the government took responsibility
for the basic welfare of its citizens, a radical departure from
its earlier structure.
Isolationism - · After the shocking horrors of World War I, in which
thousands of men died in a war across the seas, the country became
prey to isolationist tendencies. Woodrow Wilson faced a country
so adamant to close its eyes to the world beyond its borders that
he could not convince the nation to join the League of Nations,
which eventually collapsed without US participation. The late entry
of the United States into the Second World War was due to the isolationist
sentiment that gripped the nation.
Brain Trust - · The Brain Trust was the nickname coined by New York newspapers
for the group of political advisors that Roosevelt gathered together
to help him gain the presidential nomination in 1932. The group
included political scientist Raymond Moley and the lawyer Adolf
Berle. They wrote the momentous "Forgotten Man" speech, which Roosevelt
delivered in 1932, confirming his progressive agenda and gaining
him much positive publicity.
Hundred Days - · Immediately upon entering office, the enthusiastic
President Roosevelt called Congress to an Emergency Session that
lasted from March 9 through June 16, 1933, in which the body passed all
the major legislation of the first New Deal. This included the creation
of the CCC, the AAA, the NRA, and the Emergency Banking Act.
Fireside Chats - · Roosevelt had employed the radio to good advantage
since his days as governor of New York. He used the radio to speak directly
to the people, using his skill at oratory to good advantage. The
first Fireside Chat delivered the weekend before the banks were
to reopen set the standard for those to follow. He explained his
reasoning behind the proposed legislation and the intended beneficial
effects. He also used the medium to convey his perennial optimism
to the people. When the banks reopened the next morning, deposits
outranked withdrawals for the first time in months, revealing that
FDR's assurances were received with trust and his boundless optimism
was contagious. The Fireside Chats are one of the most memorable
features of Roosevelt's Presidency.
Court-packing plan - · Roosevelt proposed the bill in the afterglow of his
1936 landslide election, miscalculating the public's reaction to
an attack on what most people considered to be one of the pillars
of American democracy. Roosevelt proposed that he be allowed to add
another member to the Supreme Court for every member over seventy
who had not retired, under the pretense that the Court was not
able to handle its caseload. This bill was quickly vetoed by his
own party and greatly decreased Roosevelt's power.
duck period - · Before amendments were passed that changed this situation, there
was a period of more than four months between the time that presidents
were elected and the time that they were inaugurated. During this
period the old President had very little power in office because
of his impending departure, hence his title of lame duck.
Lend-Lease - · When WWII broke out in Europe, an isolationist Congress passed
a series of Neutrality Acts to guarantee that the US would not
get involved in another bloody conflict, one of which stated that
munitions would only be sold to warring nations on a cash and carry
policy. FDR was a staunch supporter of aid to Britain, if not of
full out war, and invented the lend-lease plan to circumvent the
Neutrality Acts when he received a letter from Churchill desperately
pleading for more arms. Roosevelt decided that rather than selling
munitions to Britain, Americans could lend or lease resources as
necessary. This plan allowed Britain to continue fighting the war.
World War I - An assassination of the Archduke of Austria by a young
Serbian sparked a war that was to be termed the "Great War" by
those who lived through it. World War I began in Europe because
of the number of secret alliances and treaties made between the various
states. America's entry into the war in 1917 provided useful training
for FDR, the future war President who was then Assistant Secretary
of the Navy.
Newport Sex Scandal - Roosevelt was accused by Republican legislators of involvement in
a homosexuality scandal at a Newport navy base that had been under
his control during his time at the Navy department. It was testament
to his political wiles that he managed to escape this ordeal with
his political cachet intact.
Polio - Roosevelt was vacationing with his family at Campobello
during one of his rare times without a political position when
he was suddenly paralyzed by polio. Although doctors were initially optimistic,
they soon realized that Roosevelt would never walk again without
help. Many cite this event as changing profoundly Roosevelt's basic
nature, giving him the humanity and empathy that he had previously
Great Depression - Although it had all the characteristics of traditional
economic crises, the Great Depression was singularly long and powerful, inflicting
poverty and suffering on a scale heretofore unseen in the business
cycle in America. Possible causes include the unequal distribution
of wealth during the 1920s, unsound investment practices, and severe
cutback in foreign trade due to both worldwide depression and the
institution of high tariffs. The Great Depression only ended with
the advent of war in the 1940s, when the burgeoning munitions industries
ended rampant unemployment.
Yalta Conference - This meeting of Churchill, Stalin, and FDR in the Black
Sea city of Yalta (from February 4–11, 1945) was held to discuss
the shape of the post-war world. The Yalta conference was buoyed by
impending Allied victory in Europe. The conferees reaffirmed their
commitment to unconditional surrender from Germany, made plans
for dividing Germany for occupation, made compromises on the future
of Poland and the other Eastern European states, and agreed that
Russia would enter the war in Asia if needed after the end of war
on the Continent. The shape of the United Nations was also agreed
upon as well as the voting procedures. Russia was given two extra
votes to mollify Stalin's complaint that America and Britain had
a far greater number of countries in their sphere of influence.
FDR was sharply criticized for his inability to prevent Russian
takeover of Eastern Europe and for allowing the creation of the
foundation of the Cold War.
Pearl Harbor - Japanese planes hit this harbor on the Southern Coast
of the island of Oahu in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. In this devastating
attack on the United States, eight battleships, eleven other naval
vessels, and 188 aircraft were destroyed. The death toll was 2,280
soldiers and sixty-eight civilians, and 1,109 people were wounded.
Although FDR was accused by some historians of being complicit in
the attack on Pearl Harbor as a means of inciting the country into
entering the war, the toll taken on American life and military
equipment is far too much for Roosevelt to have even known about
the attack beforehand and allowed it to happen. The day after the
incident, the US declared war on Japan. Three days later, Germany
and Italy declared war on the US.
- A wealthy American who lived his life approximating
that of an English country gentleman, James Roosevelt went out
of his way to ensure that he had nothing to do with politics. He
met Sara Delano, who was many years his junior, and married her immediately.
FDR was their only son.
Known for her beauty and wealth, Sara Delano came from a family
that rivaled the Roosevelt name for prestige. She married very
young and her near-death during Franklin's birth prevented her
from having any more children. She doted on FDR, especially after
the death of her husband, and often tried to keep him under her
control by controlling his purse strings.
- Theodore Roosevelt was
the 26th President of the United States. He is famous for his enormous personality,
a trait that outranks his acts as President in the memory of most
Americans. He was a firm believer in the extension of America's
sphere of influence, adding the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine,
which allowed him to intervene in the private affairs of Latin
American and Caribbean countries. Although Roosevelt handpicked
his successor, Taft, he grew angry with his policies and ran against
him and Woodrow Wilson in the next election. By splitting the Republican
vote, he gave Wilson the win.
- After a difficult childhood, Eleanor married FDR
when they were both very young. Initially constrained by the duties
of being a wife and a mother, Eleanor's discovery that her husband
was having an affair freed her to come into her own politically.
Her liberal thinking and progressive ideals pushed FDR to further
extremes in his policies. She often embraced causes and figures
that he had overlooked and used her position to get them national
attention. She was the first socially conscious and active First
Lady, and set a fine example for all presidential spouses after
her to follow.
Wilson was the 28th President of the United States. He began his
career in academia, becoming president of Princeton University,
and his academic air was obvious his speeches and his ideals. He
was one of the most morally upright presidents in American history.
He passed laws by directly addressing Congress, the first President
to do so since Jefferson's time, and speaking directly to the public
to gain their support. His achievements include leading the country
through WWI, fighting trusts and monopolies at home, and implementing
reforms such as child labor laws and solutions for the problems
of urbanization. His biggest disappointment, which he carried with
him to the grave, was his inability to convince an isolationist
America and Congress to enter the League of Nations after the war.
met Howe when Howe interviewed him about his involvement in the
insurgency against Tammany Hall. Howe presented the case in Roosevelt's
favor in the papers, but both saw more potential in each other, as
friends and as political allies. Howe's first success as FDR's
campaign manager was running his campaign for the Senate without
a candidate (Roosevelt was sick with typhoid). The partnership
and friendship eventually led to the White House, where Roosevelt
considered Howe his most trusted and objective advisor. The partnership
did not end until Howe finally succumbed to a lifetime of gnawing
illness, and Roosevelt never found an advisor who he trusted as much,
a great drawback to him especially in the court-packing case.
- Daniels had been appointed by Wilson to be Secretary
of the Navy, and asked Roosevelt on the morning of the inauguration
whether he wanted to be his assistant. Daniels was the opposite
of everything that Roosevelt was. He was a Southern, while FDR was
a blueblood Yankee. He had no knowledge of ships, whereas FDR was
an avid sailor. He also staunchly opposed Roosevelt's policies
during WWI. Unlike FDR, who believed that military preparedness was
essential, Daniels, like most Americans who watched the war across
the Atlantic with detachment, did not believe in preparing for
a war that the country was not planning to enter.
- Lucy Mercer came from a distinguished family whose fortune
had dwindled and was forced to work for society women in order
to make her means. She became Eleanor Roosevelt's social secretary
while she was in Washington for the first time during her husband's tenure
as Assistant Secretary of War. During this time, Lucy began a love
affair with FDR, which was abruptly ended when Eleanor discovered
their letters upon FDR's return from Europe. Lucy eventually married
Lord Rutherford, a widower many years her senior. Near the end
of his life, FDR rekindled his acquaintance with her, this time
probably as a strong friendship. Regardless of the nature of their relationship,
what is sure is that Lucy provided companionship to FDR during
his loneliest years in the White House, a service that his daughter
Anna Roosevelt, and other members of his family, greatly appreciated.
- Perkins was Roosevelt's Secretary of Labor from 1933
to 1945. She had built up her career in New York as a reformist,
becoming the authority on factory hygiene and safety, and lobbying
for shorter hours and safer workplaces for New York's workers.
Governor Al Smith initially appointed her to his administration, but
it was FDR who appointed her to significant positions of power
among his cabinet. Her appointment as Secretary of Labor marked
the first female in the presidential Cabinet in the United States, and
was roundly criticized by conservative leaders throughout the nation.
Her most important achievement in office was the Social Security
John Nance Garner
- Garner was a Senator from Texas who served as Roosevelt's
vice president for his first two terms. Garner was also a candidate
for the presidency in the 1932 election, and the Democratic Party
convention was bitterly divided on which candidate to choose. Rather
than see his party fall victim to division, Garner gave his 100
votes to Roosevelt, giving him the nomination. Although he had no
interest in the Vice-presidency, thinking it rightly a powerless
job, Roosevelt offered him the post in return and he accepted for
- Churchill first made a
name for himself as a journalist covering the Boer War. He was
first elected to Parliament in 1900 as a Conservative. His party
affiliation soon changed to Liberal, and he reached the position
of chancellor of the exchequer while a Constitutionalist. He was
chosen Prime Minister in 1940. Neither a financial innovator–his
conservatism was known to rankle John Maynard Keynes–nor a supporter
of labor nor colonial self- determination, his popularity as a British
statesman came from his masterful handling of the Second World
War. His refusal to back down from Hitler inspired his countrymen,
and his excellent relationship with Roosevelt, in which he gracefully
acknowledged his position of the leader of the less powerful nation,
was the keystone of the Great Alliance. He also attended a great
number of international conferences and negotiated a place of importance
for Great Britain in the twentieth century and beyond.
- Hitler began his career as a high school dropout
and art school reject. He was always violently anti-Semitic and
blamed the loss of WWI, in which he fought for the Bavarian army,
on the Jews and Marxists. He became chairman of a political group
of nationalist veterans called the National Socialists, or the Nazis.
In 1923, he was arrested after leading the "beer hall Putsch,"
an attempted coup in Munich. In prison, he wrote his famous treatise Mein
) which was full of
lust for power and anti-Semitic sentiments. Upon his release from
prison, he began in speeches to provide Germans suffering from
rabid inflation and war debt, scapegoats and dreams of world domination.
By 1933 he had been appointed chancellor of a coalition cabinet,
which he changed into a dictatorship by killing off his opposition. Frenzied
German supporters addressed him as the Fuhrer, and with the death
of his President, all leadership of the country was embodied in
Hitler's diminutive person. Hitler was now poised to pursue his
plans for world domination. He became first Mussolini's ally and
turned Italy effectively into a German satellite. He signed a non-aggression
pact with Stalin to invade Poland, but violated it in 1941 by invading
Russia. By this time, Hitler had taken complete control of military
strategy to disastrous consequences. By July of 1944, the German
army was wasted and his former colleagues attempted to assassinate
him. Finally on April 30, 1945, Hitler and his mistress, Eva Braun,
committed suicide in the basement of a bunker rather than face
the complete defeat of Germany.
- Although Mussolini was originally a member of the
Socialist party, he abruptly turned nationalist during WWI, and
rose to the rank of corporal in the Italian army. In the postwar
period he and his followers practiced aggressive nationalism and practiced
terrorism during times of unrest in Italy. He finally was asked
by King Emmanuel III to form a cabinet. He quickly turned his role
as premier into a fascist dictatorship, and organized the country
along those lines. Mussolini's followers addressed him as "il Duce,"
or "leader." His ambition to restore Italy to its former glory
was expressed in his instatement of monuments and support to extreme
nationalist groups. His attack on Ethiopia led to Italy's isolation
from the rest of Europe and drove Mussolini to join ranks with Hitler
in his plans to annex Austria. His implementation of Hitler's anti-Semitic
and other policies in Italy were not greeted with support and he
was eventually denounced by the Fascist council and arrested, and
- Stalin rose to power in the administration under Lenin.
The relationship between Stalin and Lenin is not well understood,
and although Lenin regarded Stalin as a good administrator, he
was not considered a great theoretician or leader. After Lenin's
death, Stalin outmaneuvered Trotsky and a number of other contenders
for the leadership of the Communist party and rose to power. Under
Stalin's rule, the totalitarian state was glorified rather than
the state disappearing as Marx envisioned. He maintained his power
by destroying all opposition brutally in the famous political purges
of the 1930s. Stalin signed the non-aggression treaty with Hitler
because he desperately desired to stay out of WWII. The attack from
Germany in 1941 took him entirely by surprise. Stalin proved to be
an able military leader and diplomat in WWII, fighting the only
front in Europe for most of the war, and negotiating in the conferences
at Tehran and Yalta for the creation of satellite states to protect
Russian borders in the future.
Hopkins was an eager social worker in New York. While Roosevelt
was governor of New York, he put Hopkins in charge of the Temporary
Emergency Relief Administration. Hopkins willingness to spend federal
money freely for welfare during hard times endeared him to Roosevelt.
Hopkins soon became one of Roosevelt's most trusted advisors, running
the successful Civil Works Administration which helped Americans
survive the harsh winter from 1933–1934 and the Works Progress
Administration, which put millions to work, including writers and
artists such as Steinbeck and de Kooning on projects for public display.
Hopkins lived in the White House until Roosevelt's last term when
he married and left, and remained to his death, one of FDR's closest
- By trade a businessman in
the mining industry, Hoover first made a political name for himself
chairing the Commission for Relief in Belgium during the First World
War. He later became Secretary of Commerce for Harding and Coolidge.
He became the 31st President of the United States in 1928, and
it was not long before the country fell into the depths of the
Great Depression. Hoover, a staunch conservative who firmly believed
in the basic soundness of the economy, was reluctant to increase
federal involvement. He did approve the Reconstruction Finance
Corporation, which gave out loans not available elsewhere. However,
most Americans saw him as impotent against the economic crisis.
He was roundly defeated in the election of 1932 by an optimistic
and, most importantly, vigorous Roosevelt.