Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal

By Bernard Sternsher | Go to book overview
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15. The Agricultural Adjustment Act: 1932-1933

I

The promotional activities in the early 1930's of the advocates of the domestic-allotment plan took on added significance after the Democrats nominated a presidential candidate who, if elected, would sign a farm- relief bill. In August, 1931, a Conference on Economic Policy for American Agriculture met at the University of Chicago. M. L. Wilson summarized the Conference in a pamphlet, Land Utilization. Tugwell wrote Wilson that he liked his line of reasoning.1 Within a year the two professors would meet. That was after Tugwell had become a Brain Truster and, with Henry Morgenthau, Jr., had taken charge of the Brain Trust's agricultural division. Tugwell learned about the latest version of the domestic-allotment plan in the spring of 1932 from Beardsley Ruml and spoke to Roosevelt about it, although not in detail.2 Meanwhile, in April, a group of allotment supporters met in Chicago, creating a promotion committee of five men, including Wallace and Wilson.3 Wilson then went to Washington to publicize the plan in the last full session of a Hoover Congress. It was at this juncture that Ruml introduced Wilson to Tugwell. According to Russell Lord, the two professors "took to each other at once."4

They met again at a meeting of agricultural economists which opened in Chicago on June 23. After the general session Tugwell and Wilson had a private discussion, during which Tugwell had to struggle to keep Wilson on the narrow subject in which Roosevelt was interested.5 Tugwell also conferred with Wallace, Ezekiel, and several others. "And," he recalled, "to show how close a margin we worked on," what he learned from them "went to Albany by wire; and it came back to Chicago by plane--incorporated in Mr. Roosevelt's acceptance speech."6

In the acceptance address of July 2 Roosevelt spoke in general terms, referring to "reasonable" tariff protection for export staples, in return for which the farmers would "agree ultimately to such planning of their production as would reduce the surpluses. . . ." Tugwell was disappointed. He had urged a statement of Wilson's plan in specific terms, and he continued to insist that Roosevelt should give the farmers a program rather than vice versa.7 But, Tugwell later explained, Roosevelt, the politician, wanted assurances of practicability and wide consent.8 The farm leaders had been arguing for years over the relative merits of various plans. This was no time to push on them a new plan

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