Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal

By Bernard Sternsher | Go to book overview

8.
Officialdom and the End of the Brain Trust: 1932-1933

As inauguration day approached in 1933, Tugwell had to decide whether to return to Columbia or go to Washington in an administrative post. If some of his critics were correct, the decision was an easy one. Tugwell, they claimed, after years of writing, now saw his chance for action and seized it eagerly. The manner of Tugwell's appointment as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture and his attitude in early 1933 toward government service--that is, toward his own entrance into officialdom--refuted his critics' claim.

The typical story in the press of Tugwell's appointment was that he persuaded Roosevelt to appoint Henry Wallace Secretary, and Wallace reciprocated by naming him Assistant Secretary.1 George N. Peek, first head of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and a foe of Tugwell, flatly alleged that Tugwell secured the appointment of Wallace for his own purposes.2 It is true that Tugwell urged the appointment of Wallace, and that Wallace urged the appointment of Tugwell. But there was no "corrupt bargain" involved. Moleyrecalled that "it was largely Rex Tugwell who persuaded Roosevelt to appoint Wallace."3 By the end of the summer of 1932 Tugwell "sold" Wallace to Moley, who joined him in urging the appointment. In Moley's opinion, Roosevelt would have chosen Wallace anyway. Roosevelt liked Wallace, who was a distinguished man in the Corn Belt, a Republican for Roosevelt, and a champion of New Deal farm policies.4

Moley identified one active candidate for the Agriculture post--Henry Morgenthau, Jr.5 He had the support of an important collector of party funds--Henry Morgenthau, Sr. Morgenthau studied farm management at Cornell under Professor George F. Warren, he owned an orchard and dairy farm near Hyde Park, and he was the proprietor of The American Agriculturalist, a Poughkeepsie farm journal. He served under Governor Roosevelt as chairman of an Agricultural Advisory Commission and, in Roosevelt's second term, became Commissioner of Conservation. Tugwell recalled that Roosevelt never seriously considered Morgenthau for the Agriculture position in the Cabinet.6 A Washington correspondent reported that Roosevelt rejected Morgenthau as "too Eastern and too Judaic."7Morgenthau's political claim to the office was certainly less than that of Wallace, who represented the Republican farmers who had crossed party lines to vote for Roosevelt. Besides, Roosevelt probably resented Morgenthau's campaign for the position. In any event,

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