Herbert H. Lehman and New York's Little New Deal

By Robert P. Ingalls | Go to book overview

bipartisan coalition of liberal Republicans and Democrats, most of whom represented urban areas. However, throughout this period the Old Guard blocked enactment of the most radical proposals such as unemployment insurance and public development of the state's hydroelectric resources. 14

Yet in spite of the fears of conservatives, Hughes, Smith, and Roosevelt favored a limited role for government in New York. All three rejected the idea of laissez-faire, but they exercised caution when enlarging public functions. Many of their proposals focused on negative state action such as restrictions on women's labor and prohibitions like those contained in the 1907 pure drug law. Positive government intervention was usually confined to improving traditional public services such as schools and hospitals. Al Smith devoted much of his time to creating a statewide network of parks. Although FDR had a more flexible and expansive view of government than his predecessor, he too emphasized the construction of public facilities, especially prisons to reduce overcrowding. Under the impact of the Depression, Roosevelt initiated state aid for unemployment relief, and he called for old age insurance. But his welfare program did not go much beyond this. With the possible exception of workmen's compensation, the Empire State generally failed to undertake activities which in any way guaranteed New Yorkers a minimum standard of living as a matter of right. Indeed, committed to the principle of balanced budgets, the state's liberal chief executives hesitated to increase current spending. Governor Smith cut taxes while supporting bond issues for needed public works. Not until 1932 did Roosevelt reluctantly give up the cherished policy of pay-as-you-go to borrow for unemployment relief. 15 In 1938, Roosevelt himself acknowledged that "during the twenties, I in common with most liberals did not at the start visualize the effects of the period, or the drastic changes which were even then necessary for a lasting economy." 16

Most New Yorkers did not accept the need for "drastic changes" until the Depression hit bottom. By then FDR had moved to Washington, and his lieutenant governor, Herbert H. Lehman, had taken over the reins of government in Albany. His predecessors had generated a momentum for reform, but the question remained whether Lehman would follow the lines set down by Hughes, Smith, and Roosevelt or would venture in new directions.


NOTES
1.
Hughes served as governor for four years ( 1907-10), Smith eight years ( 1919-20, 1923-28), and Roosevelt four years ( 1929-32). Most historians exclude Theodore Roosevelt, who held the office from 1899 to 1901, from the list of progressive governors. "During the progressive era, Roosevelt was the only New Yorker to gain greater renown [than Hughes] as a progressive; but Roosevelt owed his reputation to his activities in Washington rather than in New York." David M. Ellis et al., A History of New York State ( Ithaca, N.Y., 1967), p. 385.
2.
For discussions of Progressivism generally, see Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform from Bryan to F.D.R. ( New York, 1955); Robert H. Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877-1920 ( New York, 1967); George E. Mowry, The Era of Theodore Roosevelt and theBirth of Modern America, 1900-1912

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Herbert H. Lehman and New York's Little New Deal
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Preface ix
  • Notes xi
  • Contents xiii
  • Illustrations xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • Notes xix
  • I- from Wall Street to State Street 1
  • Notes 24
  • II- Emergency Unemployment Relief 31
  • Notes 42
  • III- From Emergency Relief to the Welfare State 48
  • Notes 66
  • IV- The Search for Security 71
  • Notes 94
  • V- Defending the Defenseless 102
  • Notes 123
  • VI- Lending Labor a Hand 131
  • VII- The Promise of Parity 148
  • Notes 172
  • VIII- The Advent of Public Housing 182
  • IX- Battling the Utilities 210
  • Notes 226
  • X- The End of an Era 231
  • Notes 244
  • Notes 255
  • Bibliography 257
  • Index 275
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