During the early 1930s and into the 1940s, America was in great turmoil. The country was suffering from the Great Depression, and to add to it, the nation was on the brink of war. The economy had crashed and was completely left in shambles, and the people were living in conditions that the can be considered incomprehensible to the human mind. Poverty had struck the far reaches of American society, but the largest groups affected were the farmers and those that didn’t have their hands in the big business. This desperate time in American history called for a strong leader to guide the country out of its impoverished state, but was unable to produce in Herbert Hoover. It was not until Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to power that the country began to turn itself around. FDR was the strong leader that America needed because he was able to completely change the long held American principles in order to help America come out of its Great Depression. His first 100 days in office consisted of only making changes to the existing American life to change it, and turn things around. He worked with the farmers and the low prices that they were facing when trying to sell their products, and the overwhelming unemployed population.
FDR continued to set up new programs that would open up jobs for those is dire need of them. FDR had become one of the largest American figures for the way that he attempted to make the common man the largest priority of the government. However, despite all of the things that FDR did for the country to pull it out of the Great Depression, he did receive criticism. Because FDR had become such a large icon, many people began to draw political cartoons having to do with FDR and his actions. Many of them depict how FDR was kind hearted and how he tried to save the “American” man and the country as a whole. However, there are some that show him to be a dictator due to all the power he had accumulated while being in office, and there are some that criticize his efforts because he went beyond the realm of the U.S. Constitution do accomplish what he did. The thoughts on FDR and his programs were mixed, and depended on what the issue pertained to, as shown by the cartoons on him.
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The cartoons about the first 100 days that FDR was in office show how affective he was during that time period. They show how they people were sympathetic to the President and his programs concerning economic issues because they depict FDR doing away with all that was a problem in American society. In this particular cartoon, FDR is the lumberjack that has cut down all of the large corporations, and the large bureaus, and the banking crisis trees to ease the economic tensions that the country was facing. The cartoonist is showing how FDR dealt with the immediate economic problems when FDR assumed the office of the President. This cartoon serves the purpose of showing that FDR took immediate action to ease the economic tensions of the people, and how the people sympathize with him for doing so. This cartoon is sympathetic towards FDR and his New Deal because it gives us a perspective of FDR that shows him to be a great leader, and can possibly find a solution to our country’s problmes by eliminating the existing problems of bank failures, large corporations, and merging bureaus, and a man that led our country to the “port of prosperity” . The cartoonist is able to illustrate for the reader that these types of changes and reforms were supported by the people, and thus allowed FDR to continue to further reform America.
Some of the programs that Roosevelt created that were widely supported were those that dealt with the recovery and reinstallation of confidence in the American financial system. Roosevelt’s first task in office was to restore confidence in the people, and fix the financial problems, so he started by declaring a national bank holiday and pushed trough the Emergency Banking Act. In addition to this, he took the nation off of the gold standard that it was on, and passed numerous acts dealing with the Federal Reserve and the stock exchanges to prevent a future crash in the economy . This cartoon portrays how Roosevelt came into office with an agenda, and creates a sense of reliability in the new American President because he has some focus on the issue at hand, and has solutions. As soon as FDR came to office, he jumped on top of the problem immediately, as shown by some of the cartoons. They depict FDR running with bills to reform the banking system, in order to show the urgency that Roosevelt dealt with the problems . These actions were widely supported by the people because of the popular anger at the banking system and the economy as a whole .This explains why the people and congress allowed FDR to make so many drastic changes in such a short amount of time.
One of the most prevailing issues of Roosevelt’s that was supported greatly by the people was the farm relief issue. During the late 1920s and continuing on to the 1930s, the price of agricultural products dropped significantly because farmers were simply not able to sell enough crop. They could barely pay for their own food, which means that they had no way to pay for mortgage and other costs. In addition to this, the U.S. farming region had suffered a major drought and many dust storms that would make growing anything a near impossibility. This ecological disaster left the American farming population severely impoverished. In order to fix this problem FDR began to implement agricultural reforms to provide relief to the farmers. To restore stability to the agricultural sector, FDR developed one major program, the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). As shown by this cartoon, the AAA was designed to restore the agricultural sector by having the government by some of the extra grain produced by the farmers since that was a major cause to low crop prices. This would lead to the restoration of parity between farm products and industrial products, allowing the farmers to make some more money off of their crops. In addition to this program, FDR established farm credit unions to ensure that farmers would not be put in severe debt, or would not be severely broke. This would allow them to continue to stay in business and grow more crop and food for the country, and thus establish a sturdy foundation for the agricultural sector for America. FDR got a lot of sympathy for this program because the farmer was constantly overlooked in the past. Finally, a President addressed the farmer’s quarries and problems .
Another aspect that the cartoons of FDR and his programs focus on is the unemployment situation. At this time, America was suffering from the worst unemployment that it had ever experienced. This was a major concern among the people, which made it a great concern for Roosevelt. This caused Roosevelt to implement programs such as the National Recovery Act (NRA) and the Civil Works Administration (CWA) to help the searching workers find jobs. These programs led to many unemployed workers getting new jobs, and receiving some form of income. Roosevelt did not stop with just these programs, as the cartoon shows the reader . He continued to develop new ways to help the unemployed population with new emergency work relief programs. This was another issue that the people and the cartoons appeared to be sympathetic towards the President, his actions, and his programs. The people were in great need for jobs, and FDR made that available to them, and hence he was praised by the people for doing so. His actions towards not only the unemployed, but also the farmers and the American population as a whole caused his relation to the American people to be strong.
FDR was adored by a good majority of the people because of the actions he took to help those very people, and the things he did to help the whole country out of the depression. His relation with the people was shown right when he came to office. He was able to instill this new sense of confidence in the government and in the economy. He was attempting to make people believe in their system, and by doing this he was able to make the people have faith in him and his actions . Roosevelt attempted to make himself closer to the people by doing things like his “fire-side” radio chats. This would allow the people to know exactly what he planned to do to help the nation out, and this allowed the people to trust him. By speaking to the public directly, FDR was able to not only gain their trust, but also gain their permission to continue to reform the government and the economy. In addition to the direct communication with the public, FDR was able to strengthen his link with the average American by pushing for the repealing of the 18th Amendment, which called for prohibition. FDR realized that people had this necessity for alcohol to numb their sorrows away. People wanted to have beer because it helped them escape from the actual reality of the depression. This urge among the people caused FDR to push for a new amendment, which would repeal the 18th Amendment. This caused the people to fortify their support for and relation with FDR because it showed a genuine caring for the American citizen . All of this trust and confidence that FDR instilled in the American people led to people seeing him as a hero in a sense. To the people, FDR had become the man that saved the United States from complete ruin. His actions arguably may have saved America from Communism or Socialism because of the previous failure in capitalism. His policies and programs helped him develop an image of an American hero, while people like Herbert Hoover were forgotten about because of their failure to accomplish anything in a time that required a leader . The fact that FDR was able to give the people what they wanted and needed allowed him to receive the approval of a good majority of people . He had developed a relationship with the American people as the President who really represented the public.
Despite all of the praise and approval that FDR had received, there were many critiques to his actions. Many people argue that the first 100 days of Roosevelt’s office were unconstitutional because he assumed power out of the realm of the United States Constitution . He had the authority to pass anything he wanted in that time period because he asked Congress to give it to him. This allowed him to quickly start all the programs that he felt were necessary for recovery. Granted that these programs did help the recovery of the country, many people argue that it was unconstitutional, and for that reason FDR is criticized. Many critics began to call Roosevelt a dictator because of all the power that he assumed over congress. He no longer needed to go through the time enduring process of getting a bill or act passed by the majority of Congress, but rather just had to tell them that he was doing it, and it would get passed . In that sense, Roosevelt had the power to do anything he wanted because the legislative body was not going to stop him since he had so much success in leading America to recovery. The dictatorial power that Congress, in essence, handed FDR also caused FDR to receive criticism about how the New Deal was extremely radical. People began to question his reforms and the extent to which the reforms changed American society.
In this cartoon, the cartoonist shows the farmer alongside Roosevelt in the train roller to show how FDR greatly supported the farmers and their cause. However, in the cartoonist portrays FDR to be a radical since he is taking the Farm Relief Bill too far. The cartoon describes how the new bill alienates the business man, and completely rids away with the traditional government position of laissez faire. The cartoonist questions Roosevelt’s actions because he is using his “Presidential” power to destroy the old, “traditional American principles.” Prior to this point in American history, the government only served to make and enforce the laws, and to prevent chaos. Additionally, the government always had this principle of “business is business,” as said by President Coolidge. However, with the arrival of FDR into office and his new programs, the government had its hands in almost every sector of the economy, with things like the TVA. The fact that Roosevelt pushed his programs like the TVA and the Farm Relief Bill caused people to criticize him and his New Deal. Roosevelt’s response to all the criticism also caused more critics to rise and speak out. Roosevelt ignored the critics, and kind of brushed them off to the side because he was doing something for the greater good . On top of ignoring the critics, Roosevelt did not consult his cabinet and his administration for some of his programs, as seen in some of the critical cartoons of him. Roosevelt felt that the severity of the Great Depression was large, and that immediate action needed to be taken, thus causing him to ignore a great deal of outside voices.
All of these criticisms from the cartoonists caused FDR and his New Deal to be extremely controversial. People began to question capitalism because of its failure, and the fact that the savior of capitalism in a way was a dictatorship. The controversy over the amount of power FDR was given vs. the amount of power he should have had been given by the Constitution was the major controversial issue. FDR not only had executive power, but also was given legislative power by Congress itself, which stirred up controversy . No time in America’s history had the country seen a period where a President had so much power over the nation. This was something of concern to people which is why the Amendment to limit the number of terms one President can serve was ratified. This caused people to also question the validity of FDR’s actions since some feel that the New Deal was a radical movement in American history, and that it completely changed the American lifestyle.
American life was changed drastically by the New Deal as a whole. The government had its hands in virtually every sector of American industry, agriculture, and the economy. It was given new powers in order to ensure the success of capitalism and that the country never experiences such hardships ever again. It also gave people more faith in their government, in fact, a little too much faith. People began to assume that the national government would take care of everything like it did during the Great Depression, and that they could sit back and relax while the government did so . In a sense, the extended involvement of the government in American life caused apathy and ignorance. People didn’t care what was happening anymore, but rather assumed that the government would take care of it, for example, inflation problems. It seemed as if FDR’s programs did its job too well because of the newfound apathy. In addition to the new sense of security and confidence that people have now, the New Deal has changed American life in that some of the very programs that were intended to only serve during the Great Depression are around to this very day. Things like Social Security and welfare are still around to help those that are in need of it due to unemployment or disability. Whether or not FDR and his New Deal were positive or negative, clearly it has changed American life and society.
The period of the Great Depression is one that will last forever in American history. That time period challenged the very foundation of America and through the actions of one man was America able to get though the troubling period. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal programs may have very well changed the whole American system, and has enjoyed great support for doing so because he can be seen as the savior of capitalism. However, he can also be seen as one of the most radical leaders that this country has ever seen, and maybe even as far as a dictator due to the drastic changes that he made to the country. He will forever be an integral part of American history.
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