My First Seventy-Six Years: Autobiography

By Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FORTY
A Visit to Roosevelt

THE world economic crisis had been checked. The breakdown of international money and credit business had persisted for nearly three and a half years and in the United States the new Government of the Democratic Party, which had been in office since January 1933, was pressing for a general economic conference which should bring about a solution of the international economic tangle. The Allied Powers agreed to call this conference in London. It took place in June and July 1933, and was attended by representatives of more than sixty countries from all over the world.

First of all by way of preparation for this World Economic Conference, Ramsay Macdonald had gone over to New York from Great Britain in the spring of 1933 for discussions with the new President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Shortly before Macdonald arrived in New York, Roosevelt astonished the world by devaluing the dollar by forty per cent-- the same proportion by which Great Britain had devalued the pound sterling in September 1931. The reasons which urged Roosevelt to take this step were not, as in London, due to the country's financial needs. America possessed the greatest amount of gold; the dollar was the most stable currency in the world. Owing to the First World War, the United States balance of payments had developed in most striking fashion in favour of the Americans. From the point of view of currency or financial policy there was not the slightest incentive to devalue.

If, despite this, America was still set on devaluation, it was obviously because she wanted to reap the same commercial advantage that Great Britain had done from her devaluation of sterling. The first effect of monetary devaluation is always to lower the price of exports from the devaluing country. The British devaluation of 1931 contributed in corresponding measure to the increase of British exports. Roosevelt's aim was frankly to counter this artificially created preference in favour of Britain.

It is easy to imagine that the discussion between Roosevelt and Macdonald did not precisely lead to any pronounced harmony. Monsieur Herriot fared better. France had appointed him her

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