Intelligent, informed thoughts on FDR’s presidency by a close associate: Solicitor General, Attorney General, and finally Supreme Court Justice Jackson (1892–1954).
Written in the early 1950s but only recently discovered by editor Barrett among Jackson’s personal papers, the manuscript considers FDR in separate chapters as a politician, lawyer, commander-in-chief, administrator, economist, leader, and friend. Although the text has a finished quality, it also has the brevity of quick notes jotted down with examples of Roosevelt’s strengths and weaknesses in each department. Jackson promises readers the “testimony of an interested witness” and takes seasoned measure of a man so often “the subject of undiscriminating idolatry or of unreasoning hate.” What the author saw was a self-confident gentleman, brimming with intellectual capital, informal but dignified, capable of being mercurial and of trespassing on legislative turf, as when he tried to remove policymakers outside executive agencies. Jackson unveils episodes of step-by-step policy formation, as when the administration exchanged destroyers for naval and air stations in the Atlantic, bypassing (with dubious constitutionality) Congressional approval. He also points out, again with examples, Roosevelt's shortcomings: FDR was “impatient of the slow and exacting judicial process”—impatient, indeed, with anything that was slow and exacting—and Jackson remarks that, for someone who effected radical changes on the economic landscape, his friend’s vision “did not impress me as being grounded in economic theory or practice.” Rather, FDR made his decisions based on political judgment and social philosophy, which he was able to communicate to the man on the street. Jackson writes smoothly and manages to compress many angles of complex material into a brief text.
Not profoundly revelatory, but the intimate look into the way decisions were made brings Roosevelt very much into human focus. (24 halftones, not seen)