Franklin D. Roosevelt

Press Conference

October 06, 1937

THE PRESIDENT: I think you have got all the news there is. I don't know of any, literally.

Q. Do you care to amplify your remarks at Chicago, especially where you referred to a possible quarantine?


Q. Have you had any communication with Mr. Black since his return?

THE PRESIDENT: None at all.

Q. Did you have any prior knowledge of the fact that he was going to speak?

THE PRESIDENT: I just might as well talk to you, off the record. Actually what happened that day was that in the morning, I think it was Jimmie who said, "By the way, Mr. Black is going on the air tonight at 6:30." I had entirely forgotten about it. I said, "Fine," and never thought about it again, and I did not go to the Governor's Mansion to receive a telephone call, Ernest [Lindley], and I did not change cars, U. P., because I wanted to avoid the radio. What happened was very simple. About twenty minutes before five, before we got into Olympia, the Governor said, "It has stopped raining. Don't you think it would be a good idea to get into the open car because there will be a crowd there?" When we got into Olympia there were certain reasons why we wanted to go to the Governor's Mansion—I need not explain any further—and after we got away from Olympia the road was wet so we slowed up the procession to prevent the policemen on motorcycles from going overboard. For that reason we had a slow run and instead of being in the open car for about twenty minutes I was in it exactly two hours and ten minutes. That is the actual, simple fact.

Q. Do you care to make any comment at all on what Mr. Black said? I am sure you will recall this—we all like surgical precision —

THE PRESIDENT: "Surgical" is good.

Q. [Mr. Anderson] (Reading). "I know only what I have read in the newspapers. I know that the stories are running serially and their publication is not complete. Mr. Justice Black is abroad. Until such time as he returns there is no further comment to be made."Now he is back.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, there isn't any comment.

Q. That probably implied that there would be, did it not?

THE PRESIDENT: No. It strongly implied that there was a possibility, that is all; not that it would be. I know my English.


Q. I wonder if you could help us a little bit in interpreting.

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps I should have used the Wall Street term,"when, as and if."

Q. It did imply that there was a possibility and now there is no possibility.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. It depended on circumstances and subsequent happenings.

Q. Can we take it, then, that your attitude from now on—

THE PRESIDENT: You cannot take anything, Bob. That is an "if" question.

Q. When will you determine whether there shall be an extra session of Congress?

THE PRESIDENT: I should say within the next week. i have to get back to Washington and do some checking up down there.

Q. What are the conditions that will bear on that decision, the extent to which Congress is ready to proceed legislatively?

THE PRESIDENT: Partly that and partly the opinions of various people that I want to talk to and have not had a chance to talk to. I would say, for background, that probably threefourths of the Members of Congress to whom I talked on the trip are in favor of a Special Session.

Q. By the way, you did talk to the Senate Farm Committee at Spokane, Pope and McGill?

THE PRESIDENT: I did not see them at Spokane. I think I saw Pope on the way out, did I not?

Q. I think so.

THE PRESIDENT: But I have not seen any of them since they started their hearings. I believe somebody on the train had seen them at Spokane

Q. That was Jim Murray.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Jim Murray, that was it, and he told me how they had gotten on.

Q. He was under the impression that you had seen them too.

THE PRESIDENT: No, he simply told me he had talked to them and he thought they were getting on very well.

Q. He told me they did think there should be an extra Session by all means.


Q. Is this November 15 a good guess if you do have an extra Session?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I do hate to specify a date. If I were writing the story, I would say somewhere between the 8th and the 16th because that would give them time, if there is a Special Session, to get most of the spade-work done before the Christmas holidays. If it were made too late they would run right into the Christmas holidays before they really got anywhere.

Q. Are we safe in assuming that wages and hours would come in for consideration by that Special Session, if there is one?

THE PRESIDENT: If I were writing the story I would mention the principal things such as the crop bill, wages and hours, reorganization, regional planning and, by the way, on regional planning, of course it is easy to say "the little TVA's," but of course they are not.

Q. They are not?

THE PRESIDENT: No, they are not TVA's. They are not at all TVA's. In other words, the TVA, under the law, is given complete charge over a whole region, a whole watershed and, if a dam is to be built, the TVA builds it. When an electric transmission line is to be run, the TVA runs it. When there is soil erosion work to be done, the TVA does it, and the TVA is doing quite a lot of that replanting. When it is a question of building certain communities, you will notice that the TVA is doing it. In other words, it is a complete administrative agency for that region.

Now, the bill which Senator Norris has is an entirely different thing. It does not create any Board or Commission with administrative authority. It is. merely a planning agency and, as the bill is drawn, it is nothing more than a planning agency.

Of course on the administrative end, things depend a good deal on how the reorganization bill goes through. The idea of the reorganization plan originally was that there would be a Public Works Department. Now that has been eliminated; but we can arrive at the same objective by an entirely different method by coordinating all of the public works agencies of the Government through the President's office so that after a plan for a region is made, the Congress and the President would then determine who would carry out the plan. Now, it would not be in one agency, necessarily. There might be a dam on the Columbia River, a new one, three or four or five years from now which had been recommended and which Congress appropriated for. Now, in all probability, that dam would be built by the Army Engineers or the Reclamation Service and not by the Columbia Valley Authority because that is only a planning agency. Do you see the distinction?

Q. The agency would determine how much of the program is to be carried out at any one time?

THE PRESIDENT: No, the agency would only make recommendations to the planning agency of the President—the national planning agency under the White House. I think the easiest way of putting it is this: Suppose there are eight regional agencies, and they make recommendations for 800 million dollars to be spent. They all come in with their recommendations and they amount to 800 million dollars. The President confers with the Director of the Budget and with the Secretary of the Treasury. We say, "This is perfectly absurd. We cannot possibly recommend to the Congress 800 million dollars of public works. We can only recommend 200 million dollars."

So we get them all in, the eight chairmen, around the table and make them cut their 800 million dollars down to 200 million dollars. Some are made to cut more than others but the total amount involved is cut from 800 to 200 million. We list those in a list marked "A" and we list another 200 million dollars, let us say, in a list marked "B" and we send those two lists to the Congress as part of the budget; and we say to the Congress, "Here is what we have all agreed on as being the best projects. They are in list 'A' and we can afford 200 million dollars which they will cost but, for your information, here are the next best, another 200 million dollars; and it is entirely in the discretion of you gentlemen as to whether you want list 'A' as it is or take something out of list 'A' and substitute something from list 'B', that is in your discretion. The only thing we ask is that your total do not exceed the 200 million dollars. You can even, if you gentlemen of the Congress think it is wise, authorize something that is not on either list 'A' or list 'B'. That is solely a matter of Congressional discretion, but don't go beyond 200 million dollars."

Q. I wonder if you would give us a brief resume on what you "in took."

THE PRESIDENT: Gosh, it is awfully hard to do it off the record.

Q. Do it on the record.

THE PRESIDENT: Or on the record. Well, I "in took" the general situation west of the Mississippi because I did not get much of a chance to see things east of the Mississippi.

First of all, the crop situation is infinitely better than at any time in the last four years; even, on the whole, better than 1935 which was not a serious drought year, and a great deal better than 1934 and 1936.

Q. You could have got that from the Department of Agriculture here.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I could, but I always like to check figures and statistics.

Q. You have to see them?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that is right.

Number two, I think there is a better understanding of what it is all about than there has been at any time in the past.

Q. On the part of whom?

THE PRESIDENT: On the part of the voters, on the part of the population.

Q. You don't mean the same one they had in November, do you?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me give you an illustration: I mentioned several times, for instance, that PWA and WPA projects have got to be curtailed. There would have been an awful holier a year or two years ago or three years ago if I had said that. Today there is a general understanding of that fact.

Q. When you say, "What it is all about," you mean what the Administration is doing?


Q. Don't you think that links with number one in took—better crops?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I do not think it is a question of better crops.

Q. Do you think they have the understanding—

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps better crops help them to a better understanding, but there is an understanding that it is not a mere hand-out program, but that it is an economic program which shifts with the economic condition of the country. It is an understanding that we are not going to keep people on relief when we do not need to. . . .

Q. Here is an impossible question which my editors keep asking me: You are going to put many new millions of acres into cultivation and, at the same time, we are curtailing crops elsewhere?


Q. There seems to be a conflict there.


Q. Isn't there a conflict when you put more acres into cultivation at the same time you are trying to reduce acreage elsewhere?

THE PRESIDENT: Not at all.

Q. Why?

THE PRESIDENT: Because the reduction of acreage takes place, in almost every case, on poor land.

Q. Well, the new acreage will grow more than the old ones did, and they grew too much.

THE PRESIDENT: No, they won't grow more than the old ones did. That is exactly the point.

Q. No?

THE PRESIDENT: Do you remember that drive from Glasgow down to Fort Peck? That is almost all upland. None of that land ought to be cultivated; none of it at all. Well, what are you going to do with the families on it, throw them into the cities and put them on relief? We have got to move them somewhere. Where? Suppose you put them down in the Boise Valley. That upland farmer was farming 300 acres of wheat and he had not made a good crop for the last seven or eight years. Take him down and put him on 40 acres in the Boise Valley. He does not grow wheat, he grows small stuff, garden crops like onions of which there is a very little surplus at the present time. You have transferred him from a crop which has a large surplus into another crop which has virtually no surplus.

Q. Mr. President, we heard constantly as we went through the West that there wasn't any interest any more in agricultural legislation, especially anything that carried crop curtailment, because they had good crops and good prices for the moment. Did you sense that feeling or have you had reports—

THE PRESIDENT: There is always, when you get a pretty good price and a good crop yield, a slackening of interest. Of course most of them realize and remember what has happened in the past. There is very little—not nearly as much as one would expect— of the lack of interest that would normally come, because they do remember what did happen and they say to themselves, "If we do not do something about it at the present time, it will happen again." They are much better educated than they have been.

Q. So you feel it won't be difficult to put through this farm legislation when Congress returns?

THE PRESIDENT: No. And of course the other side of it is that if it does not go through, they are bound to have an awful smash in crop prices; and then they will be the first to come and demand that we do just what we are trying to do for them this year.

Q. Not changing the subject, but did you intake anything on the Supreme Court issue?

THE PRESIDENT: Apparently no real interest in the method but a great deal of interest in the objectives. In other words, the average man throughout the West and all through the East says, "Quicker, cheaper justice, extremely advisable and very necessary. We have all had our experiences. We do not know much about details. Maybe the President is right, maybe the President is wrong, but what we are after is the objective."

Q. May we add something about the judiciary to that legislative program?

THE PRESIDENT: You are a little premature. I don't know. I would not put it in now because it will be too much of a guess. I don't know.

Q. How about the anti-lynching bill. It is my recollection that the Senators—

Q. We had a discussion about that. Does that have to come up at the Special Session, if there is one?

THE PRESIDENT: It has to come up under the Senate rule that they vote on it immediately after the passage of the crop bill. It has passed the House already.

Q. What is there that you can do to reach the objective other than what you did do?

THE PRESIDENT: That is what I am going to talk about when I get back to Washington.

Q. What are you going to talk about when you get back to Washington?

THE PRESIDENT: For instance, the question of additional District judges. That is one method. I don't know. I think the Circuit Court judges recommended twelve. I think the Department of Justice recommended twenty-four. Well, we obviously need to do something about it. Whether it is twelve or twenty-four is not the important thing.

Q. Should we consider the Supreme Court out of it, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: No, not necessarily but, on the other hand, I would not say that you can consider it in.

Q. Returning to that speech of yesterday, in view of its extreme importance, I think it would be very valuable if you would answer a few questions or else talk for background.

THE PRESIDENT: I think on that I can only talk really completely off the record. I don't want to say anything for background.

Q. I had two major things in mind. One was what you had in mind with reference to quarantining—what type of measure. Secondly, how would you reconcile the policy you outlined yesterday with the policy of neutrality laid down by the Act of Congress?

THE PRESIDENT: Read the last line I had in the speech. That gives it about as well as anything else. (Looking through New York Herald Tribune of October 6.)

Q. I don't believe that paper carried it. (Laughter)

THE PRESIDENT: Here it is: "Therefore America actively engages in the search for peace."

Q. But you also said that the peace-loving nations can and must find a way to make their wills prevail.


Q. And you were speaking, as I interpreted it, you were speaking of something more than moral indignation. That is preparing the way for collaborative—


Q. Is anything contemplated? Have you moved?

THE PRESIDENT: No; just the speech itself.

Q. Yes, but how do you reconcile that? Do you accept the fact that that is a repudiation of the neutrality—

THE PRESIDENT; Not for a minute. It may be an expansion.

Q. Is that for use?

THE PRESIDENT: All off the record.

Q. Doesn't that mean economic sanctions anyway?

THE PRESIDENT: No, not necessarily. Look, "sanctions" is a terrible word to use. They are out of the window.

Q. Right. Let's not call it that. Let's call it concert of action on the part of peace-loving nations. Is that going to be brought into play?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know that I can give you spot news be-cause the lead is in the last line, "America actively engages in the search for peace." I can't tell you what the methods will be. We are looking for some way to peace; and by no means is it necessary that that way be contrary to the exercise of neutrality.

Q. Is there a likelihood that there will be a conference of the peace-loving nations?

THE PRESIDENT: No; conferences are out of the window. You never get anywhere with a conference.

Q. Foreign papers put it as an attitude without a program.

THE PRESIDENT: That was the London Times.

Q. Would you say that that is not quite it, that you are looking toward a program as well as having an attitude?

THE PRESIDENT: It is an attitude, and it does not outline a pro-gram; but it says we are looking for a program.

Q. Wouldn't it be almost inevitable, if any program is reached, that our present Neutrality Act will have to be overhauled?

THE PRESIDENT: Not necessarily. That is the interesting thing.

Q. That is very interesting.

Q. You say there isn't any conflict between what you outline and the Neutrality Act. They seem to be on opposite poles to me and your assertion does not enlighten me.

THE PRESIDENT: Put your thinking-cap on, Ernest [Lindley].

Q. I have been for some years. They seem to be at opposite poles. How can you be neutral if you are going to align yourself with one group of nations?

THE PRESIDENT: What do you mean, "aligning"? You mean a treaty?

Q. Not necessarily. I meant action on the part of peace-loving nations.

THE PRESIDENT: There are a lot of methods in the world that have never been tried yet.

Q. But, at any rate, that is not an indication of neutral attitude-"quarantine the aggressors" and "other nations of the world."

THE PRESIDENT: I can't give you any clue to it. You will have to invent one. I have got one.

Q. Did you notice that Senator Borah praised the speech?

Q. This is no longer neutrality.

THE PRESIDENT: On the contrary, it might be a stronger neutrality.

Q. I mean as related to- (interrupted)

Q. This is all off the record?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, this is all off the record.

Q. I wanted to ask something else about the Supreme Court thing. Did you notice any difference in the attitude of the people toward your Supreme Court policy and the attitude that was manifested by the representatives in Congress last Session?

THE PRESIDENT: Depends on which one you mean. There were 435 different attitudes in the House and 96 in the Senate.

Q. Well, they only voted once.

THE PRESIDENT: That was a catch vote, as you know.

Q. Do you agree or disagree with what apparently amounts to the conclusion of the British, that sanctions mean war?

THE PRESIDENT: No. Don't talk about sanctions. Never suggested it. As I said to Jimmie, don't get off on the sanction route.

Q. I meant that in general terms; going further than moral denunciation.

THE PRESIDENT: That is not a definition of "sanctions."

Q. Is a "quarantine" a sanction?


Q. Are you excluding any coercive action? Sanctions is coercive.

THE PRESIDENT: That is exactly the difference.

Q. Better, then, to keep it in a moral sphere?

THE PRESIDENT: No, it can be a very practical sphere.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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