Conservative Constraints: North Carolina and the New Deal

Conservative Constraints: North Carolina and the New Deal

Conservative Constraints: North Carolina and the New Deal

Conservative Constraints: North Carolina and the New Deal


"The New Deal poured millions of dollars into North Carolina, improved tobacco prices, and brought the state substantial uplift through public works projects. Yet by the end of the decade it is curious how little of North Carolina's society, economy, and politics had been changed. Conservative Constraints, the first detailed book-length study of this phenomenon, comprehensively assesses the New Deal and its remarkable effects upon the Tarheel State. Focused primarily upon political and administrative history, it reveals a harsh truth. Despite their great expense and urgent social fervor the progressive New Deal programs were neutralized in North Carolina by the forces of conservatism. Since early in this century North Carolina has enjoyed a reputation as one of the most progressive of southern states. The accuracy of this image, however, has been tested by recent political incidents and by the perspectives of notable figures from North Carolina whose political platforms can be traced to roots in the thirties. In Conservative Constraints North Carolina's traditional image of liberalism, which emerged during the period of the New Deal, is shown in a new light. As imparted in this book's extensive research of primary and secondary resources, the history of the time shows in fact that impediments from the political right blocked progressive policies and that New Deal reforms were negated or modified. The history of the period reveals that probusiness politicians dominated state government and thwarted change on several fronts, from gubernatorial to congressional. Though tobacco and cotton farmers embraced agricultural policies that meant higher prices, this same group resisted New Deal efforts at rural and urban relief. Moreover, when conservatives expressed enthusiasm for the New Deal agendas, too often their fervor merely cloaked economic self-interests." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Scholars have examined the workings of the New Deal in most states and large cities, but North Carolina, a leading southern state in population, agriculture, and business, has not received book-length treatment. This book is an effort to meet that need, considering primarily political and administrative history, although with attention to economic, social, and black history.

Not every aspect of North Carolina's experience in the Depression and New Deal could be developed fully, and topics such as relief, blacks, women, and the impact of New Deal programs on cities and counties warrant separate studies. My work concludes with 1940, except for finishing stories of agencies that had begun before that year. The Tennessee Valley Authority had no impact on North Carolina until after 1940 and therefore is not included.

Organizing a book on the New Deal is a challenge because so much happened at once. The focus is on the activities of both New Deal agencies and state government. New Deal strategies of relief, recovery, and reform were addressed at the state level. Throughout the 1930s, three men symbolized the diverse reactions in North Carolina to the New Deal: Senator Josiah W. Bailey, staunch opponent; ambassador and newspaperman Josephus Daniels, avid New Dealer; and governor, lawyer, and lobbyist O. Max Gardner, pragmatic conservative torn between cooperation and resistance.

I am happy to acknowledge my debts to many people and organizations. Bob Jones University granted me a generous leave and financial assistance. The history department of the University of Maryland awarded me a Hearst Fellowship to assist in one summer's research. Participation in George B. Tindall's National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar and William E. Leuchtenburg's Project '87 seminar aided research on this project. Library staffs in New York, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, and South Carolina were gracious and helpful, especially the staff members at the National Archives, who kindly assisted . . .

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