My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK, Friday—Finally, this morning, I got a signed letter on a subject which has brought me several almost identical anonymous letters! This signed letter I am quoting below:

"The present city administration makes us so furious that we wonder how we could ever have voted for O'Dwyer. Hardly two months old yet, and one faux pas has followed another. A military government should not be established except under the most compelling of circumstances and then they found that the situation was not even serious. Our right of peaceful assembly was denied! Truly our rights are endangered by those in authority. We are writing you because we remember that he was your candidate."

Let's just analyze what this lady says. What does she mean by military government? She evidently doesn't know much about it.

I have just come back from Germany, where there is a military government. You can't buy any food there unless the grocery store has received it from the Army, and you can have only the amount the Army allows you. You can't go on the trains, which are run by the Army, unless you have a permit. You can't get any gasoline for running your car unless you can prove you are engaged in some work which the Army considers essential. In that case, the Army allots you the gasoline and, ordinarily, you can't get more than two gallons at a time.

If you want any heat, you will have to be in a building heated by the Army, because the Army has all the coal available. Civilians in Germany were told last autumn that there would be no coal for them. They could cut their own wood, but they would be rationed on their daily supply of that. You see people dragging little carts of wood all through the streets of Berlin, and the allotment is just enough for a fire to cook your soup for your midday meal. After that, you have no heat.

* * *

That is military government. I think that, even on the one day when Mayor O'Dwyer closed public places to conserve coal on account of the tugboat strike, the lives of New Yorkers were not controlled and regulated to this extent! It seems to me utter and complete nonsense to talk about "our rights" being "endangered" and the "right of peaceful assembly" denied.

Anyone who is old enough to remember the last war will remember that there was a period afterwards when we went through certain difficulties. This war lasted much longer. It put everyone, including our soldiers, under far greater strain and will therefore have much more serious results. Any public officials during this period are bound to have a more difficult time in carrying out their duties, whatever they may be.

The mayor of New York has a great cosmopolitan city to govern, with an infinite number of problems. To condemn him before he has had the time even to familiarize himself with the workings of the city administration and to find out whether his official family is functioning to his satisfaction or not, seems to me very poor sportsmanship. As a rule, the American people are fair and generous and withhold their judgment until there is a real opportunity for getting an all-around picture of a situation.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL