FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: The Depression Crisis by Frank Freidel
Kirkus Star

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: The Depression Crisis

Email this review


No one has a firmer grasp of the political facts of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his period than Harvard's Frank Freidel, as the earlier volumes in this series attest. The Apprenticeship, The Ordeal, and The Triumphs took FDR from boy to cripple to his election as President of the United States -- one of the most astounding careers in the history of the Republic. But the achievements of statecraft have only begun, launched with this volume which eruditely covers that seemingly interminable interregnum wherein Herbert Hoover, true to his principles to the painful end, vainly attempted to influence the Roosevelt course (""It was not unlike the struggle in some medieval kingdom between the wily old barons and the supple young heir to the throne""). On through the enactment of the essential recovery program which introduced Americans to government by acronym and eventually saved the foundering nation, perhaps more by dint of earnest experimentation than quantitative success, from riot, revolution, and repression -- ""suffering and pessimism prevailed"" as Roosevelt assumed his responsibilities. Here Prof. Freidel traces the creation of those now famous alphabet agencies -- AAA, CCC, NRA, TVA -- conjured up during the first year of Franklin's first term as if out of a hat, reflective of the Roosevelt style, ""sometimes sloppy and confused, and sometimes effective."" Likewise in foreign affairs -- the debt issue, disarmament, the advent of Hitler and the then incipient fascist threat -- Roosevelt embarked ""blithely upon two contrary policies with opposing personnel, depending upon time either to blur differences or determine the final goal."" 'In any event, FDR ""stood increasingly for reform""; like his cousin Teddy before him, he embraced ""the ideology of progressivism."" There are also chapters on Eleanor (""Whatever it might be in private, the Roosevelts' marriage was a political partnership of unparalleled success""), going off gold, the early braintrust, and touchy congressional relations. This is conservative history at its best. Even those with revisionist inclinations must admire this continuing work of solid and even inspiring scholarship.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1973
Publisher: Little, Brown