Ohio History Journal

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Ohio Clergymen, Franklin D. Roosevelt,

and the New Deal


When Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated President on March 4,

1933, the United States was in the deepest economic depression in its his-

tory, a crisis which brought the economic and political systems to the edge

of breakdown and threatened social chaos. Worsening conditions had

forced numerous banks to close before the new President and Congress or-

dered a banking "holiday." The stock market was at low ebb. Industrial

production was down to 56 percent of the 1923-25 level. Out of a labor

force of 52 million, one wage-earner in four did not have ajob to support

himself or his family. Another 5.5 million laborers were only partially em-

ployed. In farming areas conditions were hardly better. Unable to sell corn

for a profit, midwestern farmers burned the previous year's crop to keep

away winter's cold. Essentially no markets existed for southern income

crops such as cotton, tobacco, and peanuts.1

Under such conditions, at the new President's initiative, Congress

passed dozens of major bills and hundreds of lesser ones to attack the prob-

lems the Great Depression had created. Compared to the previous Herbert

Hoover administration, the Democrats appropriated unusually large sums

of money to attack Depression woes. The nation's political leaders cre-

ated a vast bureaucracy to administer the multiplicity of agencies and pro-

grams which sprang up in response to economic need. A flurry of activi-

ty occurred as the government's leaders inaugurated and implemented a

"New Deal for the forgotten man."





Monroe Billington is Professor of History at New Mexico State University. Cal Clark is

Professor of Government at the University of Wyoming. They thank the College of Arts and

Sciences Research Center at New Mexico State University for providing funds (minigrant

no. 1-3-43543) to research this essay.


1. Maurice L. Farrell, ed., The Dow Jones Averages, 1885-1970 (New York, 1972);

William E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1931-1940 (New York,

1963), ff.; Frank Freidel, The New Deal in Historical Perspective (Washington, 1959), 1 ff.;

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Crisis of the Old Order, 1919-1933 (Cambridge, 1957),