Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal

By Bernard Sternsher | Go to book overview

Part II
Tugwell the Brain Truster

4. Brain Trust--Campaign--Election: 1932

I

Raymond Moley and Samuel Rosenman have told the story of the formation of the Brain Trust.1 Each has claimed that he conceived the idea of going to universities to get men who would give Roosevelt the expert, professional advice on national issues which he needed as a prospective presidential candidate. Such conflicts of claims for responsibility were, Tugwell believed, unavoidable in participants' accounts of the New Deal. "Insiders," often lacking full knowledge of others' contributions, naturally tended to place themselves at the center of developments in which they played a part.2

Two men have received credit for coining the name, "Brains Trust" (the later form, without the first "s," will be used here except in quotations). The biographer of Louis Howe, Roosevelt's personal secretary and political adviser, attributed the appellation to her subject.3 Tugwell followed the prevailing version in referring to James M. Kieran, Albany correspondent of the New York Times--and somewhat of an "insider" in 1932--as the inventor of the label for Roosevelt's professorial advisers.4

Moley and Rosenman concentrated on Columbia University for practical reasons which Moley has explained. Working with Basil ("Doc") O'Connor, Roosevelt's law partner, they listed possible campaign topics. Moley then listed experts on each subject. They decided to bring these men to Roosevelt one by one. Because Roosevelt wanted to emphasize the plight of the farm population, Tugwell was the first choice. Moley and Tugwell were colleagues at Columbia and neighbors, but they were not close personal friends. Moley knew about Tugwell's studies of agriculture, and he was particularly impressed by the address, "Discourse

-39-

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