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

By Robert P. Ingalls | Go to book overview
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Americans who had not fared as well as he, Lehman, unlike most New Yorkers of his class, saw "no inconsistency between being a business man, and a liberal." 19 He listened to social workers and union leaders who presented government-sponsored remedies for economic exploitation and dependency, and then in his unspectacular manner the governor fought doggedly for legislative approval. Organized labor and social welfare groups frequently carried the burden of the struggle, but Lehman lent an air of legitimacy to radical proposals, some of which the state had rejected in the past. His accomplishments evoked praise from the political left and right. One man wrote the governor in 1936: "Being a socialist, I could hardly be expected to approve the acts of your administration. . . . Yet candor compels the admission that you have given the citizens of New York an honest, efficient, humane and enlightened administration." 20 "The State has made progress toward a businesslike humanitarianism," the New York Times reflected editorially in 1938. "For much of that progress our modest, hard-working and undramatic Governor can take credit. He has guided us in a labor and social program transcending any ever executed in America." 21

HHL Address, April 25, 1936, Public Papers, 1936, p. 876. A recent history of New York State agreed with Lehman. "The welfare program adopted during Lehman's administration as governor reflected a basic change in the public's attitude toward the government's responsibility to the people of New York. Poverty, which had once been a mark of opprobrium, was now considered a misfortune for which the individual was nor responsible. Public relief, which many people had earlier referred to as a 'dole,' was now generally accepted as a more equitable and efficacious method than private charity for relieving human misery. What had once been considered 'socialistic' and 'un-American' [was] now accepted as commonplace." David M. Ellis et al., A History of New York State ( Ithaca, N.Y., 1967), p. 426.
For a discussion of the concept of the Welfare State, see Leonard Krieger, "The Idea of the Welfare State in Europe and the United States," Journal of the History of Ideas, XXIV ( October-December 1963 ): 553-68.
Quoted in Merlo J. Pusey, Charles Evans Hughes, ( 2 vols.; New York, 1951 ), 1: 216.
HHL Address, January 1, 1937, Public Papers, 1937, p. 13.
HHL Address, October 24, 1936, Public Papers, 1936, p. 984.
The Nation, January 13, 1940, p. 30.
Samuel I. Rosenman Memoir, COHC, p. 21. See also Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Memoir, COHC, p. 2.
For studies of federalism which emphasize its cooperative elements, see Jane Perry Clark, The Rise of a New Federalism: Federal-State Cooperation in the United States ( New York, 1938); Daniel J. Elazar, American Federalism: A View from the States ( New York, 1966); Morton Grodzins, The American System: A View of Government in the United States, ed. by Daniel J. Elazar ( Chicago, 1966).
HHL Address, February 13, 1934, Public Papers, 1934, p. 699.


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