• U.S.

THE PRESIDENCY: The Roosevelt Week: Jul. 11, 1932

7 minute read

A great armchair beside a radio in the study of the Executive Mansion at Albany held the Governor of New York most of last week. Through the quiet room boomed the confused sounds of the Democratic convention in Chicago. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his lame legs stretched out before him, official duties forgotten, leaned back and listened happily. At his feet was his Scotch terrier, Megs. Nearby hovered his wife Anna. His 77-year-old mother knitted silently. Sons Elliott, 21, and John, 16, paced about in nervous excitement.

During the early stages of the convention Governor Roosevelt had little or nothing to say to the Press. He did all his talking over long distance telephone to James Farley, his convention manager.

Submarine & Bicycle. What newsmen wanted to know was: Would Governor Roosevelt, if nominated, fly to Chicago to address the delegates? He concealed his plans with gay banter: “I may go out by submarine to escape being followed by you men. . . . I have thought of another method. I could ride a bicycle, a five-seater. Papa could sit in front and steer and my four sons could sit behind.” Newshawks grinned politely.

The Governor sat entranced while he listened to John E. Mack of Poughkeepsie place him in nomination. During the demonstration that followed he scribbled off a telegram: “My affectionate thanks to you, my old friend, for that fine speech. No matter what the result today, you and I always go on together.”

“Stick to Your Guns.” The long night session ending in three deadlock ballots, Governor Roosevelt followed intently by air. When the voting started after daybreak he took a sheet of paper and kept tally on his knee. When the third vote failed to produce a nominee, he sent a sizzling telegram to Chicago:

“I am in this fight to stay. . . . This is a battle for principle. . . . It is being waged to keep our party as a whole free from dictation by a small group representing the interests in the nation which have no place in our party. . . . Stick to your guns. . . . The nation must not and shall not be overridden. . . . We intend to stand fast and win.”

When Governor Roosevelt sat down at his radio at 9:30 p. m. that evening, he knew he was as good as nominated. Manager Farley had reported that the California and Texas delegations had swung over, in return for the Vice Presidential nomination for Speaker Garner. Joy pervaded the Executive Mansion as the convention roll call started and William Gibbs McAdoo announced the switch that clinched the nomination.

“Oh, boy! Oh, golly,” exclaimed young John, a fifth former at Groton, as Missouri joined the Roosevelt bandwagon. When the result was announced, Nominee Roosevelt, his long face crinkled up in smiles, hobbled out to the ballroom to greet the Press. Mrs. Roosevelt, pinning up the long sleeves of her green chiffon dress, went into the kitchen to cook eggs and frankfurters for “the boys.”

Meanwhile the radio was booming back to Albany the nominee’s message to the convention: “I thank you. . . . It is customary to hold formal notification ceremonies some weeks after the convention. This involves great expense. Instead may I ask the convention to remain in session tomorrow that I may appear before you and be notified at that time?”

The convention assented.

“A Perfect Day.” Bright & early next morning Nominee Roosevelt arrived at the Albany Airport where a trimotored plane waited to take him and ten relatives, friends and aides to Chicago. “It’s a perfect day, isn’t it?” called the Governor to cheering onlookers as he was lifted into the cabin. With stops at Buffalo and Cleveland, the air voyage against stiff winds required nine hours.

At the airport in the oldtime Capone stronghold of Cicero, Ill., 10,000 people waited to greet Nominee Roosevelt. James Roosevelt, 23, Franklin Jr., 17. Mrs. Curtis Dall, 23, all of whom had witnessed the convention, fought their way to their father’s side. In the crush his glasses were knocked from his nose. Mayor Cermak accompanied him on a swift swing through the city to the Stadium. As Nominee Roosevelt sighted the buildings for next year’s World Fair he promised Mayor Cermak to officiate as President of the U. S. at the opening ceremony.

Traditions & Promises. Helped up to the convention platform, the nominee, in a dark grey suit with red rose in lapel, sat quietly by while Chairman Walsh “notified” him of his nomination. When his turn came to speak, he rested his weight on his hands on the rostrum, delivered an address which he put together on the flight from Albany. Excerpts:

“[My] appearance before the convention is unprecedented and unusual but these are unprecedented and unusual times. We will break foolish traditions and leave it to the Republican leadership to break promises. . . . Ours must be a party of liberal thought, of planned action, of enlightened international outlook and of the greatest good to the greatest number.

“It will not do merely to state, as do Republican leaders, that the Depression is worldwide. That was not their explanation of the apparent prosperity of 1928. If they claim paternity for one, they cannot deny paternity for the other. . . . For ten years we expanded far beyond our natural and normal growth. . . . Corporate profit was enormous. . . . The consumer was forgotten . . . the worker was forgotten . . . the stockholder was forgotten. Enormous corporate surpluses . . . went into new and unnecessary plants, which now stand stark and idle, and into the call money market of Wall Street. . . .

“Just a word on taxes. Government costs too much. We must abolish useless offices, merge . . . consolidate . . . give up. . . . I propose that government of all kinds be made solvent and that the example be set by the President and his Cabinet. . . .

“This convention wants Repeal. Your candidate wants Repeal. And I am confident the United States wants Repeal. . . . From this date on the 18th Amendment is doomed. . . . We must rightly and morally prevent the return of the saloon.

“We should repeal immediately those provisions of law that compel the Federal Government to go into the market to purchase, sell and speculate in farm products.

“I accept that admirable tariff statement in the platform. We have invited and received the retaliation of other nations. I propose an invitation to them to forget the past, to sit at the table with us as friends and to plan with us for the restoration of the trade world. . . .

“For years Washington has alternated between putting its head in the sand and saying there is no large number of destitute people who need food and clothing and then saying the States should take care of them if there are.

“Throughout the nation men and women, forgotten in the political philosophy of the Government, look to us here for guidance and for more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth. . . . I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people. This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms.”

“We Start Tonight” Governor Roosevelt’s first official act as national head of his party was to have “Jim” Farley elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Bubbling with enthusiasm, Nominee Roosevelt declared: “The whole idea of flying here was to bring forward the idea of getting the campaign started. August is usually the month to get stirring. But I believe some votes can be made in July. The new national committee is organizing and we start the campaign at ten o’clock tonight.”

First of the defeated candidates to congratulate Nominee Roosevelt was, of course, Speaker Garner who wired: “Your nomination means your election.” Mr. Traylor told the Press the Roosevelt nomination made him “personally very happy.” Most startling felicitation came from insurgent Republican Senator Hiram Johnson of California, no friend to President Hoover. He was “thrilled” by the Roosevelt plane ride, admired the Roosevelt acceptance speech, but did not go so far as to say he would support the Roosevelt candidacy. Neither did Alfred Emanuel Smith, who had “no comment” to make.

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