The Hundred Days
Philosophy? Philosophy? I am a Christian and a Democrat -- that's all.
--Franklin D. Roosevelt, responding to the question
"What is your philosophy?"
Washington in 1933 was still a spacious, unhurried city with a distinctly southern flavor. As yet unjacketed by suburbs, it slept dreamily amid the gently undulating Virginia and Maryland woodlands, its slow rhythms exemplified by the World War "temporary" buildings that were still scattered about town and by the unfinished columns of what would eventually be the Department of Labor. It was not yet an imperial city, the vibrant center of political and economic command that Roosevelt was to make it.
On the Saturday morning of inauguration day, the streets of the normally languid capital began to fill with boisterous Democrats, eager to celebrate the end of their long exile from political power. Bedecked with bunting, athrob with rollicking political junketeers, Washington tried to muster a mood to defy the gray, overcast weather, and one that would hold at bay, for a hopeful moment, the pall of gloom and anxiety enveloping the entire nation. For behind the festive trappings, Washington on March 4, 1933, was a city under siege. And in the cities and hamlets beyond the capital, millions of Americans cowered apprehensively.
The siege had begun, in the manner made sickeningly familiar in the preceding three years, with yet another banking panic. This one started in Michigan, where the governor had declared an eight-day banking "holiday" on February 14, to protect the reeling banks in his state from collapsing. This drastic action in a key industrial state set off tremors throughout the country. Public apprehension about the banking system