Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal

By Bernard Sternsher | Go to book overview
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7. Tugwell versus Hoover:
The Twenty-Five-Year Debate

Roosevelt did not live to enjoy a retirement in which he might have answered Hoover's criticism, but others defended his actions. Tugwell not only replied to Hoover's condemnation of Roosevelt's conduct in the lame-duck interlude, but he also rebutted Hoover's charge that the New Deal delayed recovery. Tugwell, it is true, shared Hoover's desire for quicker recovery. He believed that the policies which he personally preferred would have produced a faster upturn, but he vehemently rejected Hoover's implication that a continuation of the policies of the years 1929-1933 would have revived the economy more effectively than the New Deal.

In late February, 1933, Hoover, in a letter confirming a telephone conversation, specifically blamed Tugwell for contributing to the banking crisis of that month--a crisis that Hoover considered the last phase of a decline which Roosevelt's unco-operativeness had set in motion. A reference to this letter was first published in 1934, Hoover alluded to it in 1952 in his Memoirs, and Tugwell commented on it in 1954. In his Memoirs Hoover also pronounced judgment on the New Deal. Tugwell criticized this assessment in several articles in the late 1940's and early 1950's--particularly in an article of 1953, "The Protagonists: Roosevelt and Hoover"--and in The Democratic Roosevelt in 1957.


On February 25, 1933, Tugwell had lunch with James H. Rand, Jr., Chairman of the Board, Remington Rand, Incorporated. Rand telephoned to the White House a summary of their conversation. Hoover repeated Rand's message in a confirming letter. References to this letter appeared in books by Hoover's secretary ( 1934), Lawrence Sullivan ( 1936), William I. Myers and Walter H. Newton ( 1936), John T. Flynn ( 1948), and Hoover himself ( 1952). Myers and Newton gave the complete text:

I beg to acknowledge your telephone message received through Mr. Joslin, as follows: "ProfessorTugwell, adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt, had lunch with me. He said they were fully aware of the bank situation and that it would undoubtedly collapse in a few days, which would place the responsibility in the lap of President Hoover. He said, 'We should worry about anything except rehabilitating the country after March 4th. Then there would be several moves; first, an embargo on exportation of yellow chips; second, suspension of specie


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