Roosevelt’s Speech at Madison Square Garden (10.31.1936)

So this libertarian doubts the economic effectiveness of the New Deal, in its first and later iterations during the Roosevelt Administration.  And yet, and yet… I admire Roosevelt greatly, as he was a courageous man who described the conditions of his time honestly (if the solutions not so well).

His speech on 10.31.1936, announcing a second round of New Deal legislation before a campaign rally at Madison Square Garden, is model of confident, firm conviction. Roosevelt does not flinch; he does not equivocate:

We have not come this far without a struggle and I assure you we cannot go further without a struggle.

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

Of his critics, Roosevelt expresses no hatred, but boldly welcomes their opposition, even their hatred:

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.

Here is an American resolved in his convictions, and admirable for his resolution. The great men and women of our past were not retiring in the face of others’ opposition. We could, of course, speak softly, politely, gently, and demurely in the face of injustices and deprivations.

To do so, however, would be to turn away from the laudable examples of our past, in favor of the more diffident examples of our present.

(How convenient, indeed, are calls for politesse from those whose policies have been the cause of others’ injuries. Doubt not: America could do with less Emily Post and more John Steinbeck.)

See the full text and audio of Roosevelt’s speech from the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments