Franklin D. Roosevelt and the First New Deal: The First 100 Days

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  • 0:07 A New Deal for Americans
  • 0:59 Attacking the Financial Sector
  • 1:45 Saving the Economy
  • 3:30 Saving the People
  • 5:16 Opposition to New Deal
  • 7:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adam Richards

Adam has a master's degree in history.

President Franklin Roosevelt's first New Deal program represented an aggressive legislative campaign to relieve American suffering and end the Great Depression. Learn more about the first 100 days of the New Deal.

A New Deal for Americans

Upon assuming office in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt faced a desperate economy that was on the verge of total collapse. Yet, the eternal optimist Roosevelt reassured Americans that 'the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' Roosevelt brought a renewed sense of hope to America in his inaugural year, and a good majority of that positive sentiment stemmed from Roosevelt's New Deal program, which was an aggressive legislative campaign that expanded the federal government, provided assistance for Americans and attempted to end the Great Depression.

In his first 100 days in office, Roosevelt navigated 15 pieces of important legislation through Congress. While some of Roosevelt's New Deal legislation was successful in alleviating the suffering endured during the Depression, it is important to remember that the program did not end the Depression. Let's take a look at Roosevelt's first 100 days and the important New Deal legislation that he passed during this time.

Attacking the Financial Sector

Roosevelt's first several pieces of New Deal legislation focused primarily on preventing American banks from collapsing. He passed the Emergency Banking Act, which provided federal loans to save private banks, as well as the Economy Act, which called for a balanced budget. These two pieces of legislation suggest that Roosevelt distrusted the financial industry's ability to reorganize on its own.

Roosevelt also passed a second Glass-Steagall Act that established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which separated commercial and investment banking, and to this day, provides government protection on savers' and investors' money. Simultaneously, Roosevelt issued the Securities Act, later followed by the Securities Exchange Act in 1934, which established regulations on the New York Stock Exchange.

Saving the Economy

In addition to preventing the financial sector from completely collapsing, Roosevelt had to ensure economic recovery. How? Good question. Roosevelt's theory in rebuilding the economy rested on the notion of limited production. He wanted farmers, laborers and businessmen to begin producing less in the hope that supply and demand would restore the market. Therefore, much of his legislation during the first 100 days focused on curbing production.

The Agricultural Adjustment Act, for example, was aimed primarily at farmers. To curb production, the act paid farmers to farm less land. Roosevelt also focused on the industrial sector. The National Industrial Recovery Act was the centerpiece of Roosevelt's New Deal legislation. Once again, the act attempted to prevent the overproduction of goods.

Roosevelt, under the National Industrial Recovery Act, created the National Recovery Administration (NRA), which encouraged an increase in labor wages and a decrease in hours worked during a week. The solution worked for a brief period time, but a dip in the economy and the unwillingness of employers to enact important National Recovery Administration codes hurt the program.

The Agricultural Adjustment Act and the National Recovery Administration, born under the National Industrial Recovery Act, were expected to be two important programs to help the United States economy. Instead, both programs struggled. The Agricultural Adjustment Act failed to account for sharecroppers, who were individuals paid to work on a farmer's land. Since the act encouraged less farming, sharecroppers became unemployed.

Furthermore, agriculture became heavily dependent on the federal government. Meanwhile, the National Recovery Administration failed outright. It was disbanded in 1935 after the Supreme Court ruled that the implementation of federal industrial codes was an unconstitutional use of the powers of the federal government.

Saving the People

While it was important to recover the economy, Roosevelt understood the New Deal had to establish programs that provided tangible relief for Americans. The legislation with the largest immediate impact was the Federal Emergency Relief Act, which dispensed millions of federal dollars to poor Americans. The act also created the Civil Works Administration, which employed individuals to work on government-related projects.

Similarly, the Unemployment Relief Act created the Civilian Conservation Corps, which provided jobs to men who were willing to complete environmental tasks. Roosevelt also passed the Home Owners Act, which refinanced mortgages to affordable rates and prevented Americans from losing their homes.

As we discussed earlier, the National Industrial Recovery Act was established to help the economic recovery process, and part of this strategy was to offer employment to Americans. The Public Works Administration, which was created under the National Industrial Recovery Act, authorized federal funding for national infrastructure repair and construction.

Another important piece of legislation was the Tennessee Valley Authority Act (TVA). This act allowed the federal government to develop the Tennessee Valley region into an area of prosperity. The government was able to do this by building hydroelectric dams, improving river transportation and developing industry. Not only did this program offer employment to Americans, but it generated low cost utilities and helped to curb land erosion.

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