Franklin D. Roosevelt

Campaign Address on a Program for Unemployment and Long-Range Planning at Boston, Massachusetts

October 31, 1932

Governor Ely, Mayor Curley, my friends of Massachusetts:

I am glad that a moment ago I had the privilege of standing under the flag of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There is a reason why I am particularly proud and happy of that. It is because, my friends, exactly one-half of me — my mother's half — comes from Massachusetts.

This trip to New England, I assure you, has brought back many happy memories. I have had a wonderful day from the early morning when I left the old school which I once attended and, where, I am told, I received some kind of culture, all the way up through Lawrence and Haverhill, and then on through New Hampshire and to Portland, Maine; and then this afternoon, coming back through the cities of Maine, New Hampshire and back into Massachusetts. I am more than ever convinced that those three States that I have visited today are going to be found in the Democratic column on November 8th.

I have met a multitude of old friends, with whom I have been associated in public life for more years than I care to tell you. If I were to start referring to each of them by name, I should have to call the roll of Massachusetts Democracy, and a good many of the Republicans as well. I appreciate the fact that today, a week before election, we have a united party a party which, in securing a great victory on November 8th, will be supported not only by Democrats but by free-spirited Republican and independent voters. My only regret is that I could not have been here last Thursday night when Governor Smith was here. Anyway, the very day that he was here I had a good long talk with him, and I heard about the splendid and deserved welcome you gave him here in Boston.

Other memories, too, have come from far back beyond my earliest political experience. As a boy, I came to this State for education. To that education I look back with open and sincere pride and gratitude..

Then I came and lived not very far from here at a great institution for the freeing of the human mind from ignorance, from bigotry of the mind and the spirit. Knowledge — that is, education in its true sense — is our best protection against unreasoning prejudice and panic-making fear, whether engendered by special interests, illiberal minorities, or panic-stricken leaders who seek to perpetuate the power which they have misused.

I hope I have learned the lesson that reason and tolerance have their place in all things; and I want to say frankly that they are never so appropriate as when they prevail in a political campaign.

I say this with some feeling because I express widespread opinion when I note that the dignity of the office of President of the United States has suffered during the past week. The President began this campaign with the same attitude with which he has approached so many of the serious problems of the past three years. He sought to create the impression that there was no campaign going on at all, just as he had sought to create the impression that all was well with the United States, and that there was no depression.

But, my friends, the people of this country spoiled these plans. They demanded that the administration which they placed in power four years ago, and which has cost them so much, give an accounting. They demanded this accounting in no uncertain terms.

This demand of the people has continued until it has become an overwhelming, irresistible drift of public opinion. It is more than a drift. It is a tempest.

As that storm of approval for the Democratic policies has grown, several moods have come over the utterances of the Republican leader.

First, they were plaintively apologetic. Then the next move was indignation at the Congress of the United States. Finally, they have in desperation resorted to the breeding of panic and fear.

At first the President refused to recognize that he was in a contest. But as the people with each succeeding week have responded to our program with enthusiasm, he recognized that we were both candidates. And then, dignity died.

At Indianapolis he spoke of my arguments, misquoting them. But at Indianapolis he went further. He abandoned argument for personalities.

In the presence of a situation like this, I am tempted to reply in kind. But I shall not yield to the temptation to which the President yielded. On the contrary, I reiterate my respect for his person and for his office. But I shall not be deterred even by the President of the United States from the discussion of grave national issues and from submitting to the voters the truth about their national affairs, however unpleasant that truth may be.

The ballot is the indispensable instrument of a free people. It should be the true expression of their will; and it is intolerable that the ballot should be coerced — whatever the form of coercion, political or economic.

The autocratic will of no man — be he President, or general, or captain of industry — shall ever destroy the sacred right of the people themselves to determine for themselves who shall govern them.

An hour ago, before I came to the Arena, I listened in for a few minutes to the first part of the speech of the President in New York tonight. Once more he warned the people against changing — against a new deal — stating that it would mean changing the fundamental principles of America, what he called the sound principles that have been so long believed in in this country. My friends, my New Deal does not aim to change those principles. It does aim to bring those principles into effect.

Secure in their undying belief in their great tradition and in the sanctity of a free ballot, the people of this country — the employed, the partially employed and the unemployed, those who are fortunate enough to retain some of the means of economic well-being, and those from whom these cruel conditions have taken everything — have stood with patience and fortitude in the face of adversity.

There they stand. And they stand peacefully, even when they stand in the breadline. Their complaints are not mingled with threats. They are willing to listen to reason at all times. Throughout this great crisis the stricken army of the unemployed has been patient, law-abiding, orderly, because it is hopeful.

But, the party that claims as its guiding tradition the patient and generous spirit of the immortal Abraham Lincoln, when confronted by an opposition which has given to this Nation an orderly and constructive campaign for the past four months, has descended to an outpouring of misstatements, threats and intimidation.

The Administration attempts to undermine reason through fear by telling us that the world will come to an end on November 8th if it is not returned to power for four years more. Once more it is a leadership that is bankrupt, not only in ideals but in ideas. It sadly misconceives the good sense and the self-reliance of our people.

These leaders tell us further that, in the event of change, the present Administration will be unable to hold in check the economic forces that threaten us in the period between election day and inauguration day. They threaten American business and American workers with dire destruction from November to March.

They crack the "whip of fear" over the backs of American voters, not only here but across the seas as well. Ambassador Mellon, the representative of the United States at the Court of St. James's, an Ambassador who should represent the whole American people there — every faith, the whole Nation, Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike — appeals to an English audience, on English soil, for the support of a party candidate 3000 miles away, and invokes the of sinister threat and seeks to spread that threat to the rest of the civilized world.

I read somewhere in a history book about a Roman Senator who threw himself into a chasm to save his country. These gentlemen who represent us are of a new breed. They are willing to throw their country into a chasm to save themselves.

There is another means of spreading fear — through certain Republican industrial leaders. I have said, without being controverted, that 5,000 men in effect control American industry. These men, possessed of such great power, carry likewise a great responsibility. It is their duty to use every precaution to see that this power is never used to destroy or to limit the sound public policy of the free and untrammeled exercise of the power of the ballot.

In violation of that duty, some of these 5000 men who control industry are today invading the sacred political rights of those over whom they have economic power. They are joining in the chorus of fear initiated by the President, by the Ambassador, by the Secretary of the Treasury, and by the Republican National Committee.

They are telling their employees that if they fail to support the Administration of President Hoover, such jobs as these employees have will be in danger. Such conduct is unAmerican and worthy of censure at the ballot box. I wonder how some of those industrial leaders would feel if somebody else's "baby had the measles." In other words, would they agree that it would be equally reprehensible if any political leader were to seek reprisal against them — against any coercing employer who used such means against political leaders? Let us fight our political battles with political arguments, and not prey upon men's economic necessities. After all, their threats are empty gestures. You and I know that their industries have been sliding downhill. You know, and I know, that the whole program of the present Administration has been directed only to prevent a further slipping downhill. You know, and I know, that therein lies the difference between the leaderships of the two parties.

You know, and I know, that the Democratic Party is not satisfied merely with arresting the present decline. Of course we will do that to the best of our ability; but we are equally interested in seeking to build up and improve, and to put these industries in a position where their wheels will turn once more, and where opportunity will be given to them to reemploy the millions of workers that they have laid off under the Administration of President Hoover.

It is not enough merely to stabilize, to lend money! It is essential to increase purchasing power in order that goods may be sold. There must be people capable of buying goods in order that goods may be manufactured and sold. When that time comes, under our new leadership, these same gentlemen who now make their threats will be found doing business at the old stand as usual.

The American voter, the American working-man and working woman, the mill-worker of New England, the miner of the West, the railroad worker, the farmer, and the white-collar man will answer these silly, spiteful threats with their ballots on November eighth.

As I have pointed out before in this campaign, in a good many States and during many weeks, the fruits of depression, like the fruits of war, are going to be gathered in future generations. It is not the pinch of suffering, the agony of uncertainty that the grown-up people are now feeling that count the most; it is the heritage that our children must anticipate that touches a more vital spot. It is not today alone that counts. Under-nourishment, poor standards of living and inadequate medical care of today will make themselves felt among our children for fifty years to come. I stood in Topeka, Kansas, two months ago, and said to the farmers that the tragic effects of 400 wheat and 90 corn and 60 cotton are not so much what the farmer himself must feel when he sees the labor of his hands wasted on a product that does not yield him a living, that the bitterness of it all is what it means for his children and for their children.

It is the same for you — workers in industry and in business. There are none of us who do not hope that our children can get a better break than we have had, that the chance for an education, for a reasonable start in life, may be passed on to our children, an opportunity for them built out of the hard work of our own hands. We want them to have opportunity for profitable character building decent, wholesome living — good work, and good play. We want to know somehow that, while perfection does not come in this world, we do try to make things better from one generation to another.

That is why I emphasize that this depression, with its vast unemployment, has swept away much of the material gains that we had hoped to use. Grim poverty stalks throughout our land. I know it well for I have seen it, all the way to the coast and back again, as I have traveled up the length and breadth of 36 States of the Union. It embitters the present and darkens the future.

Against this enemy every ounce of effort and every necessary penny of wealth must be raised as a defense. It is not that we lack the knowledge of what to do. The tragedy of the past years has been the failure of those who were responsible to translate high-sounding plans into practical action. There's the rub.

The present leadership in Washington stands convicted, not because it did not have the means to plan, but fundamentally because it did not have the will to do. That is why the American people on November eighth will register their firm conviction that this Administration has utterly and entirely failed to meet the great emergency.

The American people are a heart-sick people for "hope deferred maketh the heart sick."

Let me offer you an example. In 1921 and 1922 there was a depression — very mild, compared with the present one, but nevertheless, a depression. There was, as you will remember, a large amount of unemployment. The President of the United States, President Harding, in September, 1921, called what was known as the "President's Conference on Unemployment," the first, my friends, of a long and distinguished series of President's conferences. This Conference employed a number of experts who prepared a highly competent report. It happens that this report did not appear until after that depression was ended — which was another characteristic of those conferences. The report was published in 1923, six years before the present depression began.

It said many sound things. It proposed the control of credit expansion by the banks; it proposed the prevention of overexpansion of industry; it proposed the control of public and private construction in boom periods, and it proposed security against the suffering that might come from unemployment.

It was a good report, my friends. Sound and intelligent people worked on it, and contributed to it.

The Chairman of that Unemployment Conference in 1921 was the then Secretary of Commerce of the United States, Secretary Herbert Hoover.

The President complains, President Herbert Hoover, because I have charged that he did nothing for a long time after the depression began. I repeat that charge. It is true. I can further add to that charge by saying that from the time this report by Secretary of Commerce Hoover was published in 1923, for the six years that preceded the crash in 1929, he did nothing to put into effect the provisions advocated in 1923 against the possibility of a future depression.

Instead of doing something during these six years, and especially the last year or two, he participated in encouraging speculation, when the sound business brains of the country were saying that speculation should be discouraged, and in spite of the fact that his own report in 1923 said that depressions are in large part due to over-speculation. He failed to prepare by positive action against the recurrence of a depression. On the contrary — the exact contrary — he intensified the forces that made for depressions by encouraging that speculation.

He did not do what in his 1923 report he said ought to be done. Instead of that, and on top of that, he did what he said ought not to be done.

Now, my friends, we are considering unemployment tonight, and I am going to start by setting forth the positive policy which the President's Commission under the leadership of the Secretary of Commerce urged should be done. There is a lot of it which is still good.

It was a 5-point program. And as a program it was good.

First, it urged that Government should reduce expenditures for public works during periods of prosperity, and that, during those periods, Government should build up reserves with which to increase expenditures during periods of unemployment and industrial depression. But was that done? Not one penny's worth. No reserves were built up for the rainy day.

Second, the report said that the Federal Government should work with the railroads in the preparation of a long-time constructive program. Was that done? No. The Republican Administration did not give effect to this proposal. Instead of working with the railroads, to consolidate their lines and put them on a sound, economical basis, the Administration waited until the depression had laid them low, and then had nothing for them except to loan them more money, when they were already heavily in debt.

Third, the report proposed the setting up of safeguards against too rapid inflation, and consequently too rapid deflation of bank credit. As I have shown, the President and his Secretary of the Treasury went to the other extreme and encouraged speculation.

Fourth, the report recommended an adequate system of unemployment insurance. No one in the Administration in Washington has assumed any leadership in order to bring about positive action by the States to make this unemployment insurance a reality. Some day, in our leadership, we are going to get it.

Fifth, it suggested an adequate system of public employment offices. But when Senator Wagner introduced a bill to establish Federal employment offices, President Hoover vetoed the measure that Secretary Herbert Hoover had sponsored. It seems to me, speaking in this great section of the country where there are so many business men, that business men who believe in sound planning and action, must feel that there is danger to the country in the continuance of a leadership that has shown such incapacity, such ineptitude, such heedlessness of common sense and of sound business principles. What we need in Washington is less fact finding and more thinking.

Immediate relief of the unemployed is the immediate need of the hour. No mere emergency measures of relief are adequate. We must do all we can. We have emergency measures but we know that our goal, our unremitting objective, must be to secure not temporary employment but the permanence of employment to the workers of America. Without long-range stability of employment for our workers, without a balanced economy between agriculture and industry, there can be no healthy national life.

We have two problems: first, to meet the immediate distress; second, to build up on a basis of permanent employment.

As to "immediate relief," the first principle is that this Nation, this national Government, if you like, owes a positive duty that no citizen shall be permitted to starve. That means that while the immediate responsibility for relief rests, of course, with local, public and private charity, in so far as these are inadequate the States must carry on the burden, and whenever the States themselves are unable adequately to do so the Federal Government owes the positive duty of stepping into the breach.

It is worth while noting that from that disastrous time of 1929 on the present Republican Administration took a definite position against the recognition of that principle. It was only because of the insistence of the Congress of the United States and the unmistakable voice of the people of the United States that the President yielded and approved the National Relief Bill this summer.

In addition to providing emergency relief, the Federal Government should and must provide temporary work wherever that is possible. You and I know that in the national forests, on flood prevention, and on the development of waterway projects that have already been authorized and planned but not yet executed, tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of our unemployed citizens can be given at least temporary employment.

Third, the Federal Government should expedite the actual construction of public works already authorized. The country would be horrified if it knew how little construction work authorized by the last Congress and approved by the President has actually been undertaken on this date, the 31st of October. And I state to you the simple fact that much of the work for which Congress has given authority will not be under way and giving employment to people until sometime next summer.

Finally, in that larger field that looks further ahead, we call for a coordinated system of employment exchanges, the advance planning of public works, and unemployment reserves. Who, then, is to carry on these measures and see them through? The first, employment exchanges, is clearly and inescapably a task of the Federal Government, although it will require the loyal and intelligent cooperation of State and local agencies throughout the land. To that Federal action I pledge my administration. The second, the advance planning of public works, again calls for a strong lead on the part of the Government at Washington. I pledge my administration to the adoption of that principle, both as to enterprises of the Federal Government itself and as to construction within the several States which is made possible by Federal aid; and I shall urge upon State and local authorities throughout the Nation that they follow this example in Washington. The third, unemployment reserves, must under our system of Government be primarily the responsibility of the several States. That, the Democratic platform, on which I stand, makes entirely clear.

In addition to all this, there has been long overdue a reduction of the hours of work and a reduction of the number of working days per week. After all, the greatest justification of modern industry is the lessening of the toil of men and women. These fruits will be dead fruits unless men earn enough so that they can buy the things that are produced, so that they can have the leisure for the cultivation of body, mind and spirit, which the great inventions are supposed to make possible. That means that Government itself must set an example in the case of its own employees. It means also that Government must exert its persuasive leadership to induce industry to do likewise.

Here then is a program of long-range planning which requires prompt and definite action and the cooperation of Federal and State and local Governments, as well as of forward-looking citizens of both parties throughout the land. The proposals are specific, they are far-reaching. To advocate a less drastic program would be to misread the lessons of the depression and to express indifference to the country's future welfare.

There is one final objective of my policy which is more vital and more basic than all else. I seek to restore the purchasing power of the American people. The return of that purchasing power, and only that, will put America back to work.

We need to restore our trade with the world. Under Republican leadership we have lost it, and the President of the United States seems to be indifferent about finding it again.

And now I am going to talk to a city audience about farming. I do not make one kind of speech to a farm audience and another kind of speech to a city audience. We need to give to fifty million people, who live directly or indirectly on agriculture, a price for their products in excess of the cost of production. You know how and why that affects you in the cities. To give them an adequate price for their products means to give them the buying power necessary to start your mills and mines to work to supply their needs. Fifty million people cannot buy your goods, because they cannot get a fair price for their products. You are poor because they are poor.

I favor — and do not let the false statements of my opponents deceive you — continued protection for American agriculture as well as American industry. I favor more than that. I advocate, and will continue to advocate, measures to give the farmer an added benefit, called a tariff benefit, to make the tariff effective on his products. What good does a 42-cent tariff on wheat mean to the farmer when he is getting 30 cents a bushel on his farm? That is a joke. The most enlightened of modern American business men likewise favor such a tariff benefit for agriculture. An excellent example is your own fellow Bostonian, Mr. Harriman, President of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, who has recently proclaimed a plan for the restoration of agriculture not unlike my own.

The President of the United States does not favor a program of that kind, or, so far as I can make out, of any practical kind. He has closed the door of hope to American agriculture, and when he did that, he closed the door of hope to you also.

He says proudly that he has effectively restricted immigration in order to protect American labor. I favor that; but I might add that in the enforcement of the immigration laws too many abuses against individual families have been revealed time and time again.

But when the President speaks to you, he does not tell you that by permitting agriculture to fall into ruin millions of workers from the farms have crowded into our cities. These men have added to unemployment. They are here because agriculture is prostrate. A restored agriculture will check this migration from the farm. It will keep these farmers happily, successfully, at home; and it will leave more jobs for you. It will provide a market for your products, and that is the key to national economic restoration.

One word more. I have spoken of getting things done. The way we get things done under our form of Government is through joint action by the President and the Congress. The two branches of Government must cooperate if we are to move forward. That is necessary under our Constitution, and I believe in our constitutional form of Government.

But the President of the United States cannot get action from the Congress. He seems unable to cooperate. He quarreled with a Republican Congress and he quarreled with a half Republican Congress. He will quarrel with any kind of Congress, and he cannot get things done.

That is something that the voters have considered and are considering and are going to remember one week from tomorrow. You and I know, and it is certainly a fact, that the next Congress will be Democratic. I look forward to cooperating with it. I am confident that I can get things done through cooperation because for four years I have had to work with a Republican Legislature in New York.

I have been able to get things done in Albany by treating the Republican members of the Legislature like human beings and as my associates in Government. I have said that I look forward to the most pleasant relations with the next Democratic Congress, but in addition to that let me make it clear that on that great majority of national problems which ought not to be handled in any partisan manner, I confidently expect to have pleasant relations with Republicans in the Senate and the House of Representatives as well as with Democrats.

After the fourth of March, we — meaning thereby the President and the members of both parties in the Halls of Congress —will, I am confident, work together effectively for the restoration of American economic life.

I decline to accept present conditions as inevitable or beyond control. I decline to stop at saying, "It might have been worse." I shall do all that I can to prevent it from being worse but —and here is the clear difference between the President and myself — I go on to pledge action to make things better.

The United States of America has the capacity to make things better. The Nation wants to make things better. The Nation prays for the leadership of action that will make things better. That will be shown in every State in the Union — all 48 of them — a week from tomorrow. We are through with "Delay"; we are through with "Despair"; we are ready, and waiting for better things.

APP Note: In the Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, this document is sub-titled, "We Are Through with 'Delay'; We Are Through with 'Despair' We Are Ready, and Waiting for Better Things."

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Campaign Address on a Program for Unemployment and Long-Range Planning at Boston, Massachusetts Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives