Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-Packing Crisis of 1937

Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-Packing Crisis of 1937

Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-Packing Crisis of 1937

Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-Packing Crisis of 1937

Synopsis

This important book is a detailed reinterpretation of one of the most explosive events in modern American politics - Franklin Roosevelt's controversial attempt in 1937 to "pack" the Supreme Court by adding justices who supported his New Deal policies. McKenna traces in unprecedented detail the origins of FDR's plan, its secret history, and the President's final failure. Drawing on a remarkable range of sources McKenna provides the definitive account of a turning point in American politicaland legal history.

Excerpt

This book presents a full-blown history of the New Deal in its relation to the federal judiciary, with emphasis on the origin, evolution, and fate of Roosevelt's so-called 1937 judicial reorganization bill, otherwise known as the court-packing plan. the opening five chapters of the book combine an account of the origin and implementation of some of the New Deal's social and economic legislation that transformed the United States in a difficult period in its history with the inevitable court challenges to that legislation which ensued. the resulting clash these laws encountered with the federal judiciary at all levels formed the prelude to Roosevelt's decision to "reform" the judiciary. Ultimately, it brought about the involvement of the Supreme Court in a titanic struggle with the executive.

After his stunning electoral victory in 1936, Roosevelt plunged more deeply into the game of power politics than in his first term. As a result, many of his policies, especially court-packing, caused him to make enemies of former allies, ended his ability to dominate Congress, and halted further New Deal initiatives. Effectively, 1938 brought an end to the New Deal. the court bill fight began at a stage in Roosevelt's presidency when he was at the apogee of his power. a modified version of the bill went down to a humiliating defeat six months later. the resulting decline in his leadership power and prestige, along with the immediate and long-term results of the court-packing fiasco, form a coda to this saga. in many ways, the story of FDR's court-packing scheme serves as a sobering lesson in how a popular political leader can climb to dizzying heights, but within a short time plunge to an all-time low. Roosevelt tied his political fortunes to his court bill, fought long and hard for its passage with all the considerable resources the White House could command, and in the end lost badly.

In January 1935, as a supporter of the World Court, Roosevelt . . .

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