Franklin D. Roosevelt

Letter to Senator James Couzens, Urging Him to Head the Maritime Commission.

September 17, 1936

Dear Jim:

What I want to convey to you in very simple terms is that you and your ideals and ability must not, because of a political system, be lost to the country. As you are aware, one of the most difficult problems before us is that of American shipping. Ever since the mail subsidies of the eighteen forties, when the merchant marine legislation was first passed, shipping has gone through ups and downs, but always more or less the victim of party politics or of shipping lobbies.

Today I am confronted with constituting a Maritime Commission under the new bill, which, although not perfect, is very definitely a step in the right direction, giving powers to this independent commission which are far greater than any previously granted. In fact, this new commission can put our sea-borne trade back on its feet in an honest way.

What I need and what the country needs is a fearless chairman of this Maritime Commission, who will take the responsibility in setting up and putting through a new and permanent mercantile marine policy. Experts on engineering, ship design, ship management, etc., can be hired, but a chairman with the capacity and the courage I seek cannot be hired; he must be drafted. That is why I want you on the first of January to undertake the task of heading the Maritime Commission. I would ask you to serve at once, but I cannot do this under the Constitution until your term of office as Senator has expired. . . .

Hon. James Couzens,

Washington, D. C.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Letter to Senator James Couzens, Urging Him to Head the Maritime Commission. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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