Brain Trust and Other Advisers In giving shape to his New Deal, President Roosevelt relied on a group of advisers who had assisted him while he was governor of New York. Louis Howe was to be his chief political adviser. For advice on economic matters, Roosevelt turned to a group of university pro- fessors, known as the Brain Trust. The people that Roosevelt appointed to high administrative positions were the most diverse in U.S. history, with a record number of African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and women. For example, his secretary of labor was Frances Perkins, the first woman ever to serve in a president's cabinet. The First Hundred Days With the nation desperate and close to the brink of panic, the Democratic Con- gress looked to the new president for leadership, which Roosevelt was eager to provide. Immediately after being sworn into office on March 4, 1933, Roo- sevelt called Congress into a hundred-day-long special session. During this brief period, Congress passed into law every request of President Roosevelt, enacting more major legislation than any single Congress in history. Most of the new laws and agencies were commonly referred to by their initials: WPA, AAA, CCC, NRA. Bank Holiday In early 1933, banks were failing at a frightening rate, as depositors flocked to withdraw funds. As many banks failed in 1933 (over 5,000) as had failed in all the previous years of the depression. To restore con- fidence in those banks that were still solvent, the president ordered the banks closed f o r a bank holiday on March 6, 1933. He went on the radio to explain that the banks would be reopened after allowing enough time f o r the govern- ment to reorganize them on a sound basis. Repeal of Prohibition The new president kept a campaign promise to enact repeal of Prohibition and also raised needed tax money by having Congress pass the Beer-Wine Revenue Act, which legalized the sale of beer and wine. Later in 1933, the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, bringing Prohibition to an end. THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND THE NEW DEAL, 1929-1939 503
Fireside Chats Roosevelt went on the radio on March 12, 1933, to present the first of many fireside chats to the American people. The president assured his listeners that the banks which reopened after the bank holiday were safe. The public responded as hoped, with the money deposited in the reopened banks exceeding the money withdrawn. Financial Recovery and Reform Programs As the financial part of his New Deal, FDR persuaded Congress to enact the following measures: • The Emergency Banking Relief Act authorized the government to examine the finances of banks closed during the bank holiday and reopen those judged to be sound. • The Glass-Steagall Act increased regulation of the banks and lim- ited how banks could invest customers' money. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) guaranteed individual bank deposits.
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