Selected Papers of Homer Cummings, Attorney General of the United States, 1933-1939

By Carl Brent Swisher; Homer S. Cummings | Go to book overview
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1. Extension of Federal Authority

[The special session of Congress which met March 9, 1933, pursuant to the call of the President to cope with the depression crisis, enacted at his request a number of broad regulatory measures. These included the Emergency Banking Relief Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, the Securities Act of 1933, and the National Industrial Recovery Act. In these measures were included provisions for the regulation of industry, labor, agriculture, financial institutions, and the monetary system of the country. Appropriations for direct relief for the unemployed, for public works, and for the extensions of credit in a number of fields called further attention to the display of power on the part of the federal government as it girded itself for the task of promoting recovery. Broad grants of power were phrased in general terms. The press, even when fully sympathetic with the various enactments, referred to them freely as measures conferring "dictatorial" powers. Ed.]


From an address entitled "Modern Tendencies and the Law," delivered at a meeting of the American Bar Association at Grand Rapids, Michigan, August 31, 1933, anticipating the constitutional debates which were to reach their climax in 1937:

WE AMERICANS are much given to quick generalizations. We have a weakness for headlines. In a certain fashion we realize that we are apt to be misled by them, but that does not seem to shake our faith in them. We generalize our hopes, fears, vices, virtues, plans, and ideals--give them a name, and then think more of the name than of the substance. We talk of "economic law," "inherent rights," "fundamental liberty," "equality of opportunity," and "social justice" until these concepts register more as abstractions than as realities. For this reason we are apt to be bewildered when some movement like the "New Deal" comes along and seeks to treat ideas and principles as living and vital things.

It is interesting to note that already this movement presents, in some of its aspects, a slightly distorted picture, because of the

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