Roosevelt and Hopkins, an Intimate History

By Robert E. Sherwood | Go to book overview

PART 1: BEFORE 1941—THE EDUCATION
OF HARRY HOPKINS

CHAPTER I
Foreword

During the years when Harry Hopkins lived as a guest in the White House, he was generally regarded as a sinister figure, a backstairs intriguer, an Iowan combination of Machiavelli, Svengali and Rasputin. Hostility toward him was by no means limited to those who hated Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There were many of Roosevelt's most loyal friends and associates, in and out of the Cabinet, who disliked Hopkins intensely and resented the extraordinary position of influence and authority which he held. He was unquestionably a political liability to Roosevelt, a convenient target for all manner of attacks directed at the President himself, and many people wondered why Roosevelt kept him around.

But the Presidential aide who developed in the war years—and of whom General (later Secretary of State) George C. Marshall said, "He rendered a service to his country which will never even vaguely be appreciated"—was in large measure Roosevelt's own creation. Roosevelt deliberately educated Hopkins in the arts and sciences of politics and of war and then gave him immense powers of decision for no reason other than that he liked him, trusted him and needed him. A welfare worker from the Cornbelt, who tended to regard money (his own as well as other people's) as something to be spent as quickly as possible, a studiously unsuave and often intolerant and tactless reformer, Hopkins was widely different from Roosevelt in birth, breeding and manners. But there were qualities in him, including some of the regrettable ones, which Roosevelt admired and enjoyed, perhaps partly because they were so different. One of the best statements of this relationship was written by the perceptive Raymond Clapper in 1938:

-1-

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