Roosevelt and Hopkins, an Intimate History

By Robert E. Sherwood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
The Relief Program

Adolf hitler became Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, and some Americans who had read Mein Kampf and had taken seriously its implications were frightened as they tried to peer into the heavily clouded future. It was not that there was any immediate prospect of war, for Germany still seemed to be prostrate militarily and faith in the precautionary measures of the Treaty of Versailles still persisted. Far more immediate as a threat was the deeply disquieting suspicion that it could happen here. The dragon's teeth of Fascism and Communism were being sown throughout the world and in that winter of closing banks, of "scrip" currency and interminable breadlines, it was all too possible to fear that these destructive seeds might take root in American soil. The people as a whole knew very little of the true character of the new man who was coming into the White House on March 4. What if he should prove to be another Man on Horseback? Under the existing circumstances, it might not have been difficult for him to seize dictatorial power.

The American people were literally starved for leadership. Herbert Hoover, who had appeared to possess exceptional qualifications for the Presidency, had failed lamentably under the stress of major emergency. Although he had been honored as "a Great Humanitarian," his performance as President of a depressed nation was that of one who was pathetically inept in the exercise of common, human understanding. He first coldly assured the people that the depression was an illusion which it was their patriotic duty to ignore; then, when economic collapse occurred in Europe, he angrily denounced the depression as something un-American from which we should isolate and insulate ourselves; and, finally, he truculently scolded the people for blaming the depression on his own Republican party which had taken full credit for the preceding boom. (As a noble Republican, Dwight Morrow, said at the time, "Those

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