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Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 26th Visit to Georgia

Twenty-sixth Visit

January 24 - February 4, 1933

The “lame duck” period between Roosevelt’s election in November and his inauguration in March may well have been the darkest of the Great Depression. Both the executive and legislative bodies were unable to mount any effective measures against the Depression, and the country was looking to Roosevelt for hope. He spent these few months organizing his Cabinet and finalizing his plans to combat both the economic effects of the Depression and its demoralizing effects on the American people. With his own history of fighting back against a crippling disease, Roosevelt was uniquely suited to this task.

Yet he did not forget his friends in Warm Springs. While visiting there in late January and early February, he had one of his secretaries send the following note to the man in charge of organizing the inauguration:

“Mr. Roosevelt has asked me to send you this line to tell you that within this week he will have his complete list of special people to be taken care of at the Inauguration. He understands that there is to be a section in front of the Capitol steps reserved for Hyde Park people and patients from Warm Springs. Will you be good enough to let him know as soon as possible whether about 40 Boy Scouts from Manchester, Georgia, can be allowed to march in the parade? The local people are very proud of this fife and drum corps and are buying these boys outfits for the Inaugural, if they can parade.” Source: Elliott Roosevelt (ed.), F.D.R.: His Personal Letters 1928-1945, (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1950), p. 322.

Many of his New Deal ideas were already formulated, as indicated by the following two letters:

“… What is your solution of the use of the buildings and power at Muscle Shoals, such use to retain constant control and ownership by the U.S. Government? I should much like to have your solution of what to do with this ‘Deserted Village’” Source: Elliott Roosevelt (ed.), F.D.R.: His Personal Letters 1928-1945, (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1950), p. 323.

Roosevelt’s solution was to create the Tennessee Valley Authority. He was also well aware of the problems farmers were facing, largely due to his proximity to and conversations with many of them while at Warm Springs. Writing to another advisor:

“…I like your three requisites of a farm plan, but do please send me a line to tell me how you think we can accomplish the first requisite, - ‘Increased farm prices for this crop year.’ If you have that formula you are a wizard… .” Source: Elliott Roosevelt (ed.), F.D.R.: His Personal Letters 1928-1945, (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York, 1950), p. 324.

Roosevelt’s solution was the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which incorporated most of the ideas he had formulated from his experiences with south Georgia farmers.

March 4, 1933 - Roosevelt was inaugurated President of the United States. In his inaugural address [see text] he called on the American people not to give in to despair and to help him fight the Great Depression, asserting that “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”

Roosevelt did not return to Warm Springs until late in 1933. He called a special session of Congress on March 9th to deal with the economy. With the Democrats holding a significant majority in both houses of Congress, virtually all of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was passed. The first piece of legislation (passed within four hours of the session’s opening) re-opened the banks which had closed due to monetary shortages. Following in short order were the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, the National Industrial Recovery Act, and the Farm Mortgage Relief Act. The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Home Owners Loan Corporation were created; more banking and securities legislation was passed; and the administration was given the authority to devalue the dollar. Finally, government spending was cut drastically by the Economy Act. The special session adjourned June 16th.

While the Great Depression was far from over, at least now the American people knew action was being taken to combat it. Roosevelt had promised “action and action now” while promoting his New Deal, and he delivered. Not all of his policies were fundamentally sound, not all were popular, but all were intended to bring hope to a foundering nation while the economy hopefully stabilized.

One notable example of how Roosevelt dealt with victims of the Great Depression occurred in the summer of 1933, when some of the “Bonus Army” (see Twenty-third Visit) returned to Washington. Instead of meeting them with guns, tear gas, and sabers (as Hoover had done), Roosevelt sent his wife Eleanor to meet with them. She had been equally horrified at their treatment the previous summer. With the economy in such dire condition, Roosevelt felt he could not agree to the veterans’ request that they be given their bonuses early. But he (and Eleanor) did explained how the Civilian Conservation Corps could provide employment for many of them, as it and later the Works Progress Administration did. The veterans dispersed peacefully.