The Supreme Court and the New Deal
THE SUPREME COURT played a central role in the political struggles of the 1930s. Over a two-year period beginning in 1935 the Court waged a bitter war with President Franklin D. Roosevelt over the constitutionality of the New Deal recovery and reform program. During this period the Court struck down no fewer that a dozen pieces of New Deal legislation, including some of Roosevelt's most important and cherished programs. The Court's attempt to stop the New Deal and to defend its own view of the Constitution led to a popular referendum over the New Deal in the 1936 election, a referendum which Roosevelt won by an unprecedented margin. Armed with such a mandate, Roosevelt challenged the Court directly with his infamous "Court-packing" plan in 1937; the plan itself was immensely unpopular, but in the end the Court reversed itself and gave its stamp of approval to the New Deal.
Once again the Court had brought intense criticism and controversy down upon itself by attempting to resolve an issue that was as important and as divisive as the issues involved in the Dred Scott and Reconstruction crises. Once again, the Court survived. Contained within the story of the Court's confrontation with Franklin D. Roosevelt, and its ultimate survival, is the heart of the story of the New Deal itself.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to the presidency in November 1932 on a distinctly moderate platform. During the campaign he had attacked Herbert Hoover's administration for being "the greatest spending administration in peacetime in all our history" and had promised to balance the federal budget. He promised to help the farmer through the current agricul-