I think that both of the interpretations have support in the sources, but to decide which interpretation is more truthful about how effective, or ineffective the New Deal was will be illustrated in the following essay. The views in the sources are somewhat divided about the New Deal, as some sources support FDR and what the New Deal did greatly, while other sources condemned the actions he took, and the effects that they had. However, other sources have both positive and negative points about the effectiveness of the New Deal.
Source A is an extract from a speech made by FDR during his election campaign of 1932. In it, he talks of how he is personally going to restore America, and how he can only do this if the whole country is united with him. This source is obviously pro New Deal, as FDR would not criticise his own policies when he is trying to get the American public to vote him into office. Therefore, the source is clearly biased, so its reliability can be questioned.
As the source is not very reliable, and has an extremely one sided view towards the first interpretation presented in the question itself, it should be disregarded, and should bear no part of any judgement finally made over which interpretation of the New Deal is more correct. The next source that is clearly pro New Deal is Source B, which was written in 1945 by an American historian making a judgement of the New Deal. This source praises the actions that FDR took, and says that the New Deal was a major success.
It gives individual examples of how the New Deal helped America to recover not only economically, but also mentally from a state of despair that the country reached during Hoover’s Presidency. The source talks about how FDR set up the Civilian Conservation Corporation, which employed over 3 million American men between the ages of 18 and 24 to help preserve natural resources that were diminishing at that time, or being destroyed. The CCC helped to plant over ’17 million acres of new forests and build over 6 million dams to stop erosion’.
This source agrees with the first interpretation of how the New Deal gave the American people confidence enough to lift themselves out of the depression by the new jobs that were created. This source is more reliable then Source A, as this one was written by a historian some years after the first, and the historian would have seen what had been achieved during the New Deal, because he was an American. The source also supports what the New Deal did towards moral issues of the time, such as child labour, as the New Deal forbade child labour to be tolerated in America.
This source also congratulates FDR on introducing unemployment assistance and old age pensions. This source is suitable to go towards the final conclusion of which interpretation best supports the effects of the New Deal, because it is not written by a clearly biased historian as far as we know. The next source that clearly supports the New Deal, and FDR in particular is Source F. Source F is a pictorial source that illustrates FDR as being a strong, able, active President, who is disposing of his predecessor’s ideas and mottoes, such as ‘Rugged individualism’ and ‘Prosperity is just around the corner’.
The source contradicts with the reality of how FDR was, as he was a man that was crippled by polio, and wore leg braces underneath his trousers in public, as he wanted the American people to see him as a strong President, not a cripple. The cartoon in the source was published in 1933 at the start of FDR’s Presidency. The source is pro FDR, as the caption underneath the picture says ‘Getting rid of the rubbish’, in reference to all things related to Herbert Hoover. FDR is seen to be a trustworthy man, as the picture shows him with a pleasant smile on his face.
The source also portrays him as someone who is ready for work and action, as he has his sleeves rolled up. I think that this source is reasonably reliable, as it doesn’t seem to be extremely in favour of FDR and the New Deal, but just seems to have support for him. Source H is also clearly in support of the New Deal and FDR, as it is a letter from an American civilian to FDR thanking him for the help that he has given them. However, the source seems to be too much in favour of FDR, and some of the points in it seem a little far-fetched to be deemed believable.
Also, the caption underneath the source say that ‘This letter was published by Roosevelt’s supporters as part of his election campaign in 1936’, which shows that this source was trying to sway public opinion into supporting FDR. The source talks of how an elderly couple are thanking FDR for sending someone out to help them with a problem concerning a bank loan extension. The source also talks about the couple losing their furniture, and the man that FDR sent retrieving it for them. The following quotation is the greatest reason for doubting the reliability of the source: ‘I have never heard of a President like you.
My wife and I are old folks and don’t amount to much but we join those millions of others in praying for you every night. God bless you’. The source seems very artificial, and as it was part of FDR’s 1936 election campaign, it should be disregarded when judging which interpretation of how effective the New Deal was is correct. Source I is an extract from a popular song that was sung in 1936. This source is again clearly in favour of the New Deal and FDR, as it talks about how FDR has restored America once he had won the election.
It talks of how breadlines have ceased to exist, because FDR had won the election, and about how everyone is employed again and getting their pay. However, that point is not true, as during the whole time of FDR’s Presidency (excluding the war period), unemployment was at the best 7. 5 million, which shows that everyone was not ‘working and getting their pay’. I think that this is one of the most reliable sources, because the caption underneath it deems the song as being ‘popular’, which means that a lot of Americans must have sung it, showing that there must be at least some element of truth in it.
The song was sung by FDR supporters, as one line of the song says ‘Since Roosevelt’s been re-elected, we’ll not be neglected’, which shows that the people who sung the song must have voted for FDR as well. This song therefore could be deemed as being slightly biased in favour of the New Deal, and FDR, as it possibly was sung by his supporters, however it did represent the views of the common American man at the time, so the New Deal couldn’t have been too unsuccessful.
The final source that is in favour of FDR is Source K, which was written by Frances Perkins, who was the Secretary of Labour in FDR’s New Deal government. The source is an extract from her book ‘The Roosevelt I Knew’, which would obviously be in favour of FDR, as she was close to him, and probably had some degree of influence in the policies of the New Deal. The source says that the New Deal gave ‘ordinary people a better chance in life’, and that FDR understood that the poorest of society were the hardest hit by the Depression, as they didn’t have anything to fall back on.
This source was taken from her book that was published in 1947, only two years after FDR’s death, so she might have said that the New Deal was successful and that FDR was in touch with the people on purpose. Otherwise people might have seen her as being disrespectful to FDR, as he was still seen as a heroic war-leader, who remedied the crisis that faced the US when he first came into office. This source is clearly biased, as someone who was part of the New Deal would obviously give it praise, so this source should also be disregarded from the final judgement.
The second interpretation is supported by Source C, which heavily criticises the New Deal, and FDR and how he didn’t really help solve America’s problems. The source is an extract from a book called ‘The Roosevelt Myth’, written by an American historian and published in 1945. The book was obviously written to try and change the opinion people had about FDR after his death in 1945,as it was entitled to make people read it, and find out about how FDR wasn’t really a saviour, as some people still thought he was.
This source agrees totally with the second interpretation of the New Deal, which says that a lot of money was wasted, the government became too powerful and interventionist into people’s lives, and that the Second World War is what really saved America’s economy, not the New Deal. The quotation ‘By leading his country into war he was able to put every man and woman into work’, which increased public spending and the ‘Multiplier Effect’ that FDR thought would save the economy worked, not from government assistance, but from the war providing employment.
This employment restored the self-esteem of the people, and the war united the country against fighting a common enemy, which also helped their confidence. This source is reasonably reliable, even though it was written by someone who potentially wanted to damage FDR’s reputation. The source points out the mistakes in the New Deal, and gives evidence for the second interpretation from the quotation ‘Congress gave up much of its power to Roosevelt when it put billions of dollars into his hands’.
The person who wrote the source does not have any direct connection with FDR as far as we know, so we can assume that the source is quite reliable. Source D is clearly against FDR and the New Deal, as it shows a queue of blacks waiting to collect government relief in front of a billboard that says ‘There’s no way like the American way’, and also ‘World’s highest standard of living’. The billboard also has a picture of a happy white family in a car. The photograph shows a clear contrast between what the New Deal was supposed to be about, and how it actually turned out.
I think that the photographer who took this picture was deliberately trying to show that the New Deal was not fair towards all races, and that it may have helped the whites, but didn’t help the black population of America nearly as much. An example of the New Deal helping the whites in America more than the blacks is when the National Recovery Administration (NRA) established fixed minimum wages and fixed prices for white workers, and the goods that they produced. Anything that was approved by the NRA carried a blue eagle on it.
However, the NRA didn’t establish minimum wages for blacks in America, so black people could be paid any amount at all. I think that the reliability of this source can be argued, as it is a photograph, and shows a real life example of how blacks were treated differently. But then again, this photograph was most probably taken on purpose by someone who wanted to attack and criticise the New Deal, such as a black, or someone who saw the injustice of how people were treated simply because of the colour of their skin, and wanted to make more people aware of it.
The source is clearly anti New Deal, and I think that it is quite reliable, as it shows a real life example of how the New Deal made people dependent on the government, as the blacks in the picture are queuing for government relief. Source E is another heavily anti FDR, and anti New Deal source, as it shows FDR trying to operate the New Deal pump that will hopefully get the economy going again, but getting a dreadfully small output due to many leaks in the pump.
In the source FDR is emptying buckets of water (which represents the taxpayer’s money) into the pump, but much of it is leaking out. FDR can see some of the leaks that are above ground level, which show that he knows about some of the flaws of the New Deal, but he is unaware about the leaks underground, which represent the flaws in the New Deal that he does not know about. There are so many leaks in the pump, that the water has formed a river, and on that river it says ’16 billion spent’, which shows that FDR has wasted that amount of the taxpayer’s money without getting any results.
This source supports the part of the second interpretation that says the New Deal wasted a lot of money. I think that this cartoon is mainly against FDR and the New Deal, as it shows that the result of all the money put into the economy is terrible. However, the cartoon does have some positive points towards both FDR and the New Deal, such as they show FDR taking some action, which is more than Herbert Hoover did. It also shows that FDR knows that the New Deal isn’t perfect, but at least he is trying to do something about the economy.
I think that this source is quite reliable, as it does at least show both interpretations to some extent, so understands that everything that happened in the New Deal was not for the worse. Source J is another source that is clearly against FDR, and the New Deal. It was written by S. B Fuller – a self-made businessman speaking in 1980. He says that the New Deal hurt America. He says that the only reason there were soup lines in the Depression was because men had lost confidence in themselves, and didn’t have the motivation to go out and find a job as long as they were receiving government benefits.
Fuller criticises the New Deal for giving people handouts, and says that if they let people go hungry, then they would use their initiative to go and find themselves a job, otherwise they would starve. I think that this source is biased, as Fuller was just annoyed that he had to put effort in to get where he was in life, while other people were given support, and didn’t have to do anything, as they were living off the tax he paid. Source G is a source with mixed views over how effective the New Deal was.
This source shows FDR as a strong, trustworthy doctor who is trying to cure ‘Uncle Sam’, who is supposed to represent the state America was in at that time. Congress is portrayed as a frail, old woman in this picture, showing that FDR had increased the power of the Executive branch of government, and overpowered the other branches. FDR is carrying a bag labelled ‘New Deal Remedies’, which is what he was using to try and cure the American economy. On the table beside Uncle Sam, there is a group of many bottles, each bearing the name of a different alphabet agency.
The size of the bottle shows how much money was invested into it, as there is a big bottle labelled NRA, into which countless billions were poured. After all of the remedies tried, Uncle Sam still seems far from well, and FDR is trying to explain to Congress that different methods should be tried to try and make Uncle Sam better again. The following quotation from the source supports this: ‘Of course we may have to change remedies if we don’t get results’. This source shows that the New Deal wasted a lot of money, as there are many bottles on the table, and the NRA bottle is particularly large.
However, this source is also somewhat for the New Deal and FDR, as it at least shows FDR trying ways of curing the economy, while Herbert Hoover was a ‘lame duck’ President and left America to do what they want. This shows that FDR was trying to help the economy recover, but he didn’t succeed until the war. After considering the information contained in the sources, and from my own knowledge of American history, I think that the second interpretation about the New Deal is more correct than the first.
I think that FDR did waste a huge amount of money, which is confirmed by Source C, which says that after FDR’s Presidency, the national debt was a staggering $250 billion, compared to a national debt of only $19 billion before he became President. I agree that some of this money was given as benefits to the people worst off in society, but I also think that much of it was wasted in some of his agencies, particularly the NRA. I also think that some of the money was wasted when FDR gave ‘boondoggles’ (pointless jobs) to people to try to motivate them into going out and finding a real job once their self-confidence had returned.
I also agree that the government became too powerful, mainly the Executive branch, and intervened too much into the lives of the people. There is support for this in Source G, which shows FDR as being a strong man, while Congress is shown as a frail woman. The New Deal did help people for a short time, when unemployment was on its way down, but unemployment never dropped below 7. 5 million. The benefits that the New Deal handed out did potentially save a lot of people from starvation. However, only in 1941 did the country return to full employment, as the War provided jobs for people.
The economic problems that plagued America at the start of FDR’s Presidency were still plaguing the country at the abrupt end of his Presidency. The major problem that America faced was the ‘vicious circle’. The circle started during the time when Hoover was still President with the internal American market being saturated with American goods due to the heavy tariffs that were established against foreign goods. The saturated markets led to falling company profits, which led to job losses.
This led on to less money being spent in the US economy, which meant that fewer goods were produced. This led to company profits falling even more, and the circle continues that way. This major economic problem was cured by the Second World War. The War injected foreign money into the economy, which helped break the circle. This money came from countries trading with one another, and the buying and selling of arms and other forms of weaponry. The Second World War helped to rejuvenate the American economy – something FDR and the New Deal hadn’t been able to do for over a decade.