The Fireside Chats of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I mention only a few of the major enactments. It provided for the
readjustment of the debt burden through the corporate and municipal
bankruptcy acts and the Farm Relief Act. It lent a hand to industry
by encouraging loans to solvent industries unable to secure
adequate help from banking institutions. It strengthened the
integrity of finance through the regulation of securities
exchanges. It provided a rational method of increasing our volume
of foreign trade through reciprocal trading agreements. It
strengthened our naval forces to conform with the intentions and
permission of existing treaty rights. It made further advances
towards peace in industry through the Labor Adjustment Act. It
supplemented our agricultural policy through measures widely
demanded by farmers themselves and intended to avert price
destroying surpluses. It strengthened the hand of the federal
government in its attempts to suppress gangster crime. It took
definite steps towards a national housing program through an act
which I signed today designed to encourage private capital in the
rebuilding of the homes of the nation. It created a permanent
federal body for the just regulation of all forms of communication,
including the telephone, the telegraph and the radio. Finally, and
I believe most important, it reorganized, simplified and made more
fair and just our monetary system, setting up standards and
policies adequate to meet the necessities of modern economic life,
doing justice to both gold and silver as the metal bases behind the
currency of the United States.

In the consistent development of our previous efforts toward the
saving and safeguarding of our national life, I have continued to
recognize three related steps. The first was relief, because the
primary concern of any government dominated by the humane ideals of
democracy is the simple principle that in a land of vast resources
no one should be permitted to starve. Relief was and continues to
be our first consideration. It calls for large expenditures and
will continue in modified form to do so for a long time to come. We
may as well recognize that fact. It comes from the paralysis that
arose as the after-effect of that unfortunate decade characterized
by a mad chase for unearned riches and an unwillingness of leaders
in almost every walk of life to look beyond their own schemes and
speculations. In our administration of relief we follow two
principles: First, that direct giving shall, wherever possible, be
supplemented by provision for useful and remunerative work and,
second, that where families in their existing surroundings will in
all human probability never find an opportunity for full self-
maintenance, happiness and enjoyment, we will try to give them a
new chance in new surroundings.

The second step was recovery, and it is sufficient for me to ask
each and every one of you to compare the situation in agriculture
and in industry today with what it was fifteen months ago.

At the same time we have recognized the necessity of reform and
reconstruction–reform because much of our trouble today and in the
past few years has been due to a lack of understanding of the
elementary principles of justice and fairness by those in whom
leadership in business and finance was placed–reconstruction
because new conditions in our economic life as well as old but
neglected conditions had to be corrected.

Substantial gains well known to all of you have justified our
course. I could cite statistics to you as unanswerable measures of
our national progress–statistics to show the gain in the average
weekly pay envelope of workers in the great majority of
industries–statistics to show hundreds of thousands reemployed in
private industries and other hundreds of thousands given new
employment through the expansion of direct and indirect government
assistance of many kinds, although, of course, there are those
exceptions in professional pursuits whose economic improvement, of
necessity, will be delayed. I also could cite statistics to show
the great rise in the value of farm products–statistics to prove
the demand for consumers’ goods, ranging all the way from food and
clothing to automobiles, and of late to prove the rise in the
demand for durable goods–statistics to cover the great increase in
bank deposits and to show the scores of thousands of homes and of
farms which have been saved from foreclosure.

But the simplest way for each of you to judge recovery lies in the
plain facts of your own individual situation. Are you better off
than you were last year? Are your debts less burdensome? Is your
bank account more secure? Are your working conditions better? Is
your faith in your own individual future more firmly grounded?

Also, let me put to you another simple question: Have you as an
individual paid too high a price for these gains? Plausible self-
seekers and theoretical die-hards will tell you of the loss of
individual liberty. Answer this question also out of the facts of
your own life. Have you lost any of your rights or liberty or
constitutional freedom of action and choice? Turn to the Bill of
Rights of the Constitution, which I have solemnly sworn to maintain
and under which your freedom rests secure. Read each provision of
that Bill of Rights and ask yourself whether you personally have
suffered the impairment of a single jot of these great assurances.
I have no question in my mind as to what your answer will be. The
record is written in the experiences of your own personal lives.

In other words, it is not the overwhelming majority of the farmers
or manufacturers or workers who deny the substantial gains of the
past year. The most vociferous of the Doubting Thomases may be
divided roughly into two groups: First, those who seek special
political privilege and, second, those who seek special financial
privilege. About a year ago I used as an illustration the 90
percent of the cotton manufacturers of the United States who wanted
to do the right thing by their employees and by the public but were
prevented from doing so by the 10 percent who undercut them by
unfair practices and un-American standards. It is well for us to
remember that humanity is a long way from being perfect and that a
selfish minority in every walk of life–farming, business, finance
and even government service itself–will always continue to think
of themselves first and their fellow-beings second.

In the working out of a great national program which seeks the
primary good of the greater number, it is true that the toes of
some people are being stepped on and are going to be stepped on.
But these toes belong to the comparative few who seek to retain or
to gain position or riches or both by some short cut which is
harmful to the greater good.

In the execution of the powers conferred on it by Congress, the
administration needs and will tirelessly seek the best ability that
the country affords. Public service offers better rewards in the
opportunity for service than ever before in our history–not great
salaries, but enough to live on. In the building of this service
there are coming to us men and women with ability and courage from
every part of the Union. The days of the seeking of mere party
advantage through the misuse of public power are drawing to a
close. We are increasingly demanding and getting devotion to the
public service on the part of every member of the administration,
high and low.

The program of the past year is definitely in operation and that
operation month by month is being made to fit into the web of old
and new conditions. This process of evolution is well illustrated
by the constant changes in detailed organization and method going
on in the National Recovery Administration. With every passing
month we are making strides in the orderly handling of the
relationship between employees and employers. Conditions differ, of
course, in almost every part of the country and in almost every
industry. Temporary methods of adjustment are being replaced by
more permanent machinery and, I am glad to say, by a growing
recognition on the part of employers and employees of the
desirability of maintaining fair relationships all around.

So also, while almost everybody has recognized the tremendous
strides in the elimination of child labor, in the payment of not
less than fair minimum wages and in the shortening of hours, we are
still feeling our way in solving problems which relate to self-
government in industry, especially where such self-government tends
to eliminate the fair operation of competition.

In this same process of evolution we are keeping before us the
objectives of protecting on the one hand industry against chiselers
within its own ranks, and on the other hand the consumer through
the maintenance of reasonable competition for the prevention of the
unfair sky-rocketing of retail prices.

But, in addition to this our immediate task, we must still look to
the larger future. I have pointed out to the Congress that we are
seeking to find the way once more to well-known, long-established
but to some degree forgotten ideals and values. We seek the
security of the men, women and children of the nation.

That security involves added means of providing better homes for
the people of the nation. That is the first principle of our future

The second is to plan the use of land and water resources of this
country to the end that the means of livelihood of our citizens may
be more adequate to meet their daily needs.

And, finally, the third principle is to use the agencies of
government to assist in the establishment of means to provide sound
and adequate protection against the vicissitudes of modern life–in
other words, social insurance.

Later in the year I hope to talk with you more fully about these

A few timid people, who fear progress, will try to give you new and
strange names for what we are doing. Sometimes they will call it
“Fascism”, sometimes “Communism”, sometimes “Regimentation”,
sometimes “Socialism”. But, in so doing, they are trying to make
very complex and theoretical something that is really very simple
and very practical.

I believe in practical explanations and in practical policies. I
believe that what we are doing today is a necessary fulfillment of
what Americans have always been doing–a fulfillment of old and
tested American ideals.

Let me give you a simple illustration:

While I am away from Washington this summer, a long needed
renovation of and addition to our White House office building is to
be started. The architects have planned a few new rooms built into
the present all too small one-story structure. We are going to
include in this addition and in this renovation modern electric
wiring and modern plumbing and modern means of keeping the offices
cool in the hot Washington summers. But the structural lines of the
old Executive Office Building will remain. The artistic lines of
the White House buildings were the creation of master builders when
our Republic was young. The simplicity and the strength of the
structure remain in the face of every modern test. But within this
magnificent pattern, the necessities of modern government business
require constant reorganization and rebuilding.

If I were to listen to the arguments of some prophets of calamity
who are talking these days, I should hesitate to make these
alterations. I should fear that while I am away for a few weeks the
architects might build some strange new Gothic tower or a factory
building or perhaps a replica of the Kremlin or of the Potsdam
Palace. But I have no such fears. The architects and builders are
men of common sense and of artistic American tastes. They know that
the principles of harmony and of necessity itself require that the
building of the new structure shall blend with the essential lines
of the old. It is this combination of the old and the new that
marks orderly peaceful progress–not only in building buildings but
in building government itself.

Our new structure is a part of and a fulfillment of the old.

All that we do seeks to fulfill the historic traditions of the
American people. Other nations may sacrifice democracy for the
transitory stimulation of old and discredited autocracies. We are
restoring confidence and well-being under the rule of the people
themselves. We remain, as John Marshall said a century ago,
“emphatically and truly, a government of the people.” Our
government “in form and in substance. . . emanates from them. Its
powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on
them, and for their benefits.”

Before I close, I want to tell you of the interest and pleasure
with which I look forward to the trip on which I hope to start in a
few days. It is a good thing for everyone who can possibly do so to
get away at least once a year for a change of scene. I do not want
to get into the position of not being able to see the forest
because of the thickness of the trees.

I hope to visit our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico, in the Virgin
Islands, in the Canal Zone and in Hawaii. And, incidentally, it
will give me an opportunity to exchange a friendly word of greeting
to the Presidents of our sister Republics: Haiti, Colombia and

After four weeks on board ship, I plan to land at a port in our
Pacific northwest, and then will come the best part of the whole
trip, for I am hoping to inspect a number of our new great national
projects on the Columbia, Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, to see
some of our national parks and, incidentally, to learn much of
actual conditions during the trip across the continent back to

While I was in France during the War our boys used to call the
United States “God’s country”. Let us make it and keep it “God’s

September 30, 1934.

Three months have passed since I talked with you shortly after the
adjournment of the Congress. Tonight I continue that report,
though, because of the shortness of time, I must defer a number of
subjects to a later date.

Recently the most notable public questions that have concerned us
all have had to do with industry and labor and with respect to
these, certain developments have taken place which I consider of
importance. I am happy to report that after years of uncertainty,
culminating in the collapse of the spring of 1933, we are bringing
order out of the old chaos with a greater certainty of the
employment of labor at a reasonable wage and of more business at a
fair profit. These governmental and industrial developments hold
promise of new achievements for the nation.

Men may differ as to the particular form of governmental activity
with respect to industry and business, but nearly all are agreed
that private enterprise in times such as these cannot be left
without assistance and without reasonable safeguards lest it
destroy not only itself but also our processes of civilization. The
underlying necessity for such activity is indeed as strong now as
it was years ago when Elihu Root said the following very
significant words:

“Instead of the give and take of free individual contract, the
tremendous power of organization has combined great aggregations of
capital in enormous industrial establishments working through vast
agencies of commerce and employing great masses of men in movements
of production and transportation and trade, so great in the mass
that each individual concerned in them is quite helpless by
himself. The relations between the employer and the employed,
between the owners of aggregated capital and the units of organized
labor, between the small producer, the small trader, the consumer,
and the great transporting and manufacturing and distributing
agencies, all present new questions for the solution of which the
old reliance upon the free action of individual wills appears quite
inadequate. And in many directions, the intervention of that
organized control which we call government seems necessary to
produce the same result of justice and right conduct which obtained
through the attrition of individuals before the new conditions

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 | View All | Next -»