Was the New Deal a success? (Source based questions)

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Luka Nikolic


Roosevelt was supported by the masses in the 1932 election for a number of reasons. Arguably the main factor was the failure of Hoover and the Republican Party. Hoover was seen as a “do nothing” President and had lost almost all support from the Americans. Hoover failed to accept that there was a major economic problem after the Wall Street Crash: he insisted that “prosperity was just around the corner”. Roosevelt realised that the American people wanted “action, and action now” so that was what he offered. In Source A Roosevelt mentions a “New Deal”, this shows the citizens that change is on its way. For the people of America, a different leader and a different party was their best hope. Roosevelt’s main objective was to restore confidence after the Depression. This was not to be a gradual process, but an immediate, drastic change in the way the country was run. Roosevelt did this by making a “pledge” to the American people that a new start was coming. By promoting the New Deal so enthusiastically, the people gained confidence not only in the new scheme to deal with the Depression, but in Roosevelt himself. Roosevelt represented the ordinary American throughout his political career; in Source A he identifies his audience, “the American people”, showing his honesty and relatability. Lines like “Give me your help” show his sincerity and willingness to admit that the USA was in economic exigency. Contending with polio since the age of 39, Roosevelt managed to become Governor of New York State and pass on the message of determination and hard work to America. Roosevelt was so far proving to be the unmitigated opposite of a “do nothing” president. His fighting spirit emerged magnificently in his election campaign with expressions such as “call to arms”, “crusade” and “waging war”. A “call to arms” was Roosevelt’s manner of saying that America need to act against the Depression instantly. “This crusade to restore America” demonstrates the fact that Roosevelt is keen to work hard to do whatever it takes to bring America back to the superpower it was considered to be. “Waging war” shows both Roosevelt’s intention to play a dynamic role in the governing of America and also the austerity of the situation and its possible consequences. Roosevelt goes on further to enforce his strategy of “action, and action now” by announcing himself against delay (whilst Hoover insisted “prosperity was just around the corner”). In fact, “Destruction, Delay, Deceit and Despair” seems directly targeted at Hoover and his time in office. “Deceit” refers to the fact that Hoover convinced America that the stock market worked in a “boom and bust” fashion and that it would repair itself. “Despair” was a common feature in many communities in America. During the Great Depression, under Hoover’s government, America saw a vast increase in shanty towns (nicknamed Hoovervilles). This was due to overdue taxes, rising unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, etc. “Hoovervilles” were arguably one of the heaviest burdens to overcome for the presidential candidates and Roosevelt’s New Deal and overriding theme of change certainly won over the most indigent citizens. It was Roosevelt’s infectious confidence and belief in the New Deal that enchanted America and left them with more hope and optimism than any other period of the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s campaign was a tremendous success.

Although Sources B and C were both written by American historians, they have very different perspectives on the New Deal. Source B starts off by asking what the “major achievements of the New Deal” are, displaying the fact that the source has cherry-picked the most impressive and positive features of the New Deal. Source C, from a book entitled “The Roosevelt Myth”, exhibits a highly negative opinion of The New Deal and begins by firing out a bunch of unfavourable statistics.

Source B goes on to say that “Roosevelt introduced unemployment assistance...old-age pensions, and he banned child labour.” Source C, however, states and focuses on the fact that “he had 11 million unemployed” and that “the cities were filling with jobless workers”. It strongly disapproves of the level of government employment, describing the war as Roosevelt’s saving grace that majorly decreased unemployment levels. Furthermore, Source C previously mentions the fact that “one in every four people depends on employment by the government,” whereas in Source B the writer describes the Civilian Conservation Corps as a much needed organisation to keep America from destruction. It is seen more as Roosevelt giving important jobs to citizens, rather than citizens yearning for insignificant jobs from the government.

Source B describes the New Deal in an extremely positive manner and accounts various achievements of the New Deal: “restoration of self-confidence,” “physical rebuilding of the country,” “strengthening of the government”. On the other hand, Source C pushes the negatives: “national debt of $250 billion,” “inflation has doubled prices,” “reduced the lower paid to poverty.” Source B definitely expresses that the New Deal has benefited America and poured hope into the citizens. Source C proposes that the New Deal was actually detrimental towards America and its people and it was only the war that saved Roosevelt when employment levels started to decline again in 1938. After the depression, Source B describes the excitement and optimism along with the democratic nature of Roosevelt’s administration.

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Additionally, Source B talks about the “expansion of government activities to help people” through having “far greater responsibilities.” Source C views these responsibilities differently. “This gave him a power which he used ruthlessly. The only result of this will be dictatorial government. Source B counters this very argument by saying that “all power is still in the hands of the people. The can vote out of power governments they do not like. The charge that Roosevelt has been a dictator is not true.”

All three sources were published in the 1930s but they portray different messages. ...

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