A Troubled Nation,
March 4, 1933, the inaugural date of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was a cloudy, blustery day with only occasional speckles of sunlight. That morning before the ceremonies the president-elect attended church services at St. John's Episcopal, Roosevelt's place of worship on his earlier tour of duty in Washington when Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Reverend Endicott Peabody, the headmaster of Groton where Roosevelt had gone to prep school, officiated at the services. All this was appropriate. As Frances Perkins observed, "If ever a man wanted to pray, that was the day." And for Franklin Roosevelt the presence of Peabody as minister was probably more than an acknowledgment of his indebtedness to his boyhood hero. Peabody had then emphasized for Roosevelt that religious devotion and prayer were essential for responsible leadership in government and life. It is likely that the incoming president sought Peabody's invocation and counsel as reassurance because, though usually a very confident person, he may have been beset by fears as he neared the moment when he would have ultimate responsibility for the nation he loved—a nation adrift in the throes of a relentless Depression.
For all previous presidents, even those who presided over earlier depressions, images of America still included prosperous farms or bustling river traffic or growing shops, factories, and use of engines—symbols of progress. However, in the early months of 1933 these images included deserted factories, unprecedented numbers of embittered men on city streets, and farmers frightened that they would soon lose their farms, defiantly withholding milk and grain because sale prices had fallen below costs of production. The New York Stock Exchange and the Chicago Commodity Exchange were closed and the country's banking system, including its state banks, was collapsing or closed. "What if there are to be no more normal times?" inquired