SUBSEQUENT TO HIS inauguration ceremony and parade, President Roosevelt chose to forego the traditional celebratory balls and begin work directly, an indication of the severity of the national economic crisis.

FDR Inaugural
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"This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper."
That afternoon, in unprecedented fashion, his cabinet was sworn in, unceremoniously, at the White House and the Roosevelt Administration was underway. Almost immediately there was a change in atmosphere and attitude at the White House and in Washington--there seemed to be a sense of motion, energy and determination. The next day, the president issued two proclamations, both of which he had brought with him to Washington. The first called Congress to meet in a special session on March 9; the second declared a four-day bank holiday to stabilize the economy while the administration developed legislation to address the banking crisis.

Originally, Roosevelt had planned to pass the banking legislation and allow Congress to adjourn. But after observing the speed and ease with which the legislature acquiesced, the president decided to seize on the momentum provided by the banking victory and use it to drive through the next parts of his New Deal. After being approached by several cabinet members regarding agriculture and the government economy, Roosevelt decided to address farming and government spending and attack prohibition. And so the Hundred Days began.


Roosevelt outlines the New Deal and reassures the nation

For Roosevelt, the obvious place to start was agriculture. He insisted that a farm bill was an immediate necessity in order to "restore vitality to the demoralized farmers, without whose purchasing power industrial surpluses could never be reduced." (Biles, 36) Roosevelt sent Congress the farm relief bill on March 16, beginning his second week in office.

Next, delivering on a promise made in his nomination acceptance speech, FDR sought to pay the unemployed to work on conservation projects, establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which provided work for 250,000 young men, ages 18-25.
Almost immediately, CCC work camps began to appear and by its end in 1941, over two million had worked on its projects. The administration then proceeded to establish the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), which would, doling out the $500 million appropriated it through grants and matching grants, help states establish their own relief projects. Contrary to Hoover's "help oneself" policies that focused on the private sector, Roosevelt wanted to "provide federal relief to as many people as soon as possible." (Watkins, 124)

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Not only was the White House firing on all pistons, the traditionally separate cabinet agencies were working together with a new synergy, often co-implementing programs and working outside their fields of expertise. In the torrent of legislative activity that was the first one hundred days, the government, fighting charges of socialism, established the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to bring hydro-electric power, soil conservation and flood control to seven southern states; addressed the home mortgage foreclosures which had caused Americans to lose homes at the rate of 1000 per day, helping the real estate and construction markets; abandoned the gold standard to avoid the gold runs from foreign nations and reign in inflation; and passed the National Industrial Recovery Act in order to stimulate industry and establish labor standards. (Among other laws not mentioned are the Farm Credit Act, the Railroad Coordination Act and the Glass-Steagall Act, which established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

In the "Hundred Days," Roosevelt enjoyed an often-pliant Congress and a honeymoon with the press. By its end, he had passed 15 major laws, given 15 messages to Congress and 10 speeches, held press conferences and cabinet meetings twice a week and sponsored an international conference, made all major policy decisions, foreign and domestic, and, as Arthur Schlesinger notes, "never displayed fright or panic and rarely even bad temper." (21)

When the smoke had cleared and the panic eased, critics and supporters alike had an opportunity to evaluate the first stage of the New Deal. There was something to please--and annoy--everyone. Some progressives felt that Roosevelt had not gone far enough and some conservatives feared government interference with industry and increased executive authority, but the urgency of the national crisis seemed to take precedence. While there was criticism of specific legislation, most were pleased that something was being done and Washington was in motion.