Years of Tumult:
- The isolationists had won. The US Senate defeated
the League of Nations. It formed but without the US. After World War I, the
US dismantled its army. It embraced a non-military style. Passed tariffs among
the highest of all time. This diminished the economic role of the country.
- Women won the vote. With Wilson's support,
Congress approved the 19th amendment giving women the vote in 1919. By August
1920, sufficient states had ratified and women voted for President for the
first time in 1920. The National American Women's Suffrage Association turned
into the League of Women Voters. The women's movement went into eclipse for
- In the early 20th century, the relationship between the
government and community had ebbed and flowed.
- In the years prior to 1900, the power over the public agenda
was in the hands of economic concentration -- the robber barons of American
- Progressives sought to drain this power into governmental
support. The progressives used a rhetoric of crime to characterize the robber
barons and employ government to drain their power. Through political reform
they sought to institutionalize government as public voice.
- In the 1920s, business (not the robber barons, but business
big and small) controlled public power. "The business of America is
business," said the Secretary of Treasury. Henry Ford promised a wage
for the working man that allowed him to own a car. "We are within sight
of eliminating poverty in American," President Herbert Hoover promised
- But the depression came, and the New Deal offered itself
"as the leadership of the great army of the people."
- Progressivism lies dormant as a political movement.
Its energy had been to confront the power of corporations and wealth with
the power of government. It had no philosophy to directly aid people who required
Two Great Issues of the Time
The Great Depression,
- It was a personal collapse.
Many found themselves destitute as a result of the loss of employment in an
economy that did not provide programs such as social security and unemployment
compensation. Not only were such governmental programs not available before
the New Deal, but the traditional sources of charity were taxed beyond their
ability to provide.
- It was an economic collapse.
The price of wheat was $ 1.43 per bushel in 1925; 38 in 1932. The price of
cotton was 23 in 1925; 6 in 1932. In Chicago, unemployment reached 40 percent
in 1932. In Boston, 7400 families were on welfare in 1929; and 40,600 in 1932.
- It was an institutional collapse.
The institutions with which communities provided for public commitments collapsed
under the weight. Banks collapsed losing the life savings of depositors. Corporations
collapsed leaving pockets of heavy unemployment. Churches that provided charity
were overwhelmed and unable to provide for the needy. Local governments saw
their tax receipts plummet at the same time the need for community services
soared. Families who had lost jobs and had diminished wages could not support
themselves and certainly could not support the elderly.
- Had capitalism collapsed? The
boom of the 1920s had been described by public leaders in business and government
as the miracle of capitalism. Thus, when the bust came in 1929, the question
was being seriously asked whether capitalism had failed as an economic system.
The Socialists and Communists were especially vocal in proposing this explanation.
- Was it a community problem?
Devastation was all around. These could be told as individual stories, but
the devastation seemed universal. The community began to think that individual
resources were insufficient to address this problem, that community commitments
- Voices you heard from your radio.
- Government can do nothing. Business will
pull us out of this economic difficulty if we give it enough. Charity
will take care of people suffering from the depression. Government has
no role. Herbert Hoover
- The New Deal. Franklin Roosevelt. We will
- Radical Responses. Roosevelt was challenged
from the left. These challenges came from populists like Huey Long who
would use government power redistribute the wealth from the rich to the
suffering. And, they came from the Socialists and even Communists who
argued for abandoning the capitalist system.
- Conservative Responses to the New Deal.
Others believed that Roosevelt was a socialist. They saw the New
Deal as a betrayal of American values. Father Charles Coughlin was the
loudest such voice.
War Against Facism, 1937-45
- Facism arose from the ashes of the post-War world.
The Treaty of Versailles proved too harsh to allow economies of the defeated
to recover. When the depression came, democratic governments of Europe elected
Nationalistic facists who took over the means of production, rearmed their
forces, and sought to conquer other nations in their region of the world.
They were authoritarian governments who eliminated elections and exercises
wide governmental powers. Mussolini took over Italy in 1922. Militarists took
control of the Japanese government by 1922. Hitler became leader of Germany
- By the 1930s, the remaining democracies of the world
had to deal with the aggressive expansionist policies of the facist powers.
The League of Nations tried to control them, but collapsed as a credible alternative
after the Japanese invaded China. European powers tried to counter Mussolini
and Hitler without success.
- In the United States, isolationism controlled American
- Voices you heard from the radio.
- Isolationists. Primary among these was the America
First Committee with its leader Charles Lindburgh, the greatest hero of
the culture after his 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. But the American
Bund was organized as a Nazi party in the United States arguing for a
facist response to the Great Depression.
- Internationalists. Roosevelt was nearly alone.