By Jim O’Neal
After the November 1932 election, Franklin D. Roosevelt had to wait four long months – until March 4, 1933 – before actually assuming the presidency … and he was eager to get started. This hiatus of power was eventually deemed too long for the modern world and the inauguration date would be moved to Jan. 20 before the next election.
It was almost a moot point since Roosevelt would win the next three elections.
Although FDR appeared to be patiently waiting, behind the scenes his team was busy working on a comprehensive legislative agenda. It contained the basic outline of a “New Deal” and was scheduled to be revealed right after the inauguration. FDR was excited and ready to get going.
After the new year started, with numerous banks closing, FDR continued to exude the same unflappable, confident demeanor. But he was growing increasingly impatient. By March, the bank crisis was at a fever pitch.
The Roosevelts entertained the outgoing Hoovers at the White House on the day before the inauguration. While alone, Herbert Hoover and Roosevelt had a heated argument over the latest wave of bad news. FDR flatly refused Hoover’s proposal to simply discourage more bank closings. FDR said, “If you don’t have the guts to take direct action, I’ll just wait until I am president.” (Which was the next day.)
That night, the governors in New York and Illinois closed all banks in both states. On Inauguration Day, all the nation’s banks were either closed or in the process of closing. Hoover was furious and refused to talk to Roosevelt as they rode from the White House to the Capitol.
In his inauguration speech, FDR included the famous phrase, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The very next morning, he signed the documents calling Congress into session and proclaiming a four-day national bank holiday.
This broke the fever and the panicky run on the banks to withdraw money was halted.
The New Deal was finally off and running.
Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].