OCTOBER 5, 1951
NEW YORK, Thursday—Occasionally I get a letter from someone who feels that in this country we have lost the old virtues of standing on our own feet, of realizing that we have to work for what we get, of being honest in our relations with one another.
This feeling often is attributed to the fact that under the stress of economic disaster people began to look to their government for aid because they themselves were unable to meet the desperate situations in which they found themselves.
Most of the people who write me seem to have forgotten that the businessmen who had striven to find answers to the economic problems up to 1932 had not succeeded in keeping down a wave of foreclosures on farms in the middle part of this country. Thus, many of our farmers were made completely desperate. Factories were closing everywhere, railroads were hardly receiving freight enough to run a full train at any time during the 24 hours, and the economic wheels of our country were practically at a standstill. So much so that many a man who always had operated honestly and expected to ask nobody's help found himself offering his business to his government.
The "dangerous and socialist" schemes that came into being at this time were designed primarily to try to prevent such conditions from ever recurring. The people whose farms were saved, the people who did not lose their homes, the people who found work on government projects until the factories could begin to open again—all these people were not made dependent. They were simply kept from revolution against our government.
When you stand in line in the street for a cup of coffee, you rarely feel that your government is a successful one. I would like those who feel that the people of the United States have been rendered soft and dishonest by the things the government has done for them to remember that there were a good many parts of this country in 1933 where a revolution could have been engineered by almost any enterprising person. And that condition was brought about by the conservative, orthodox business methods that prevailed under the experienced men of business under President Herbert Hoover and his very able Cabinet.
These very people who complain to me that under the almost 16 years in which this country was under the administration of the Democratic party and who believe that this fact is responsible for all the shortcomings that they now see in various parts of the country are putting the cart before the horse. The Republicans, perhaps because of circumstances beyond their control, but still while they were in office, brought this country to a condition where only drastic measures could keep us from complete disaster. These measures were applied in cooperation with the people of the country, who worked hard to make them succeed.
I cannot believe that the people of this country, by and large, are less honest today or have less independence and moral fiber than they had in the days gone by. We hear today of every shortcoming in public office, in business, or among our youth. Perhaps in the old days these things would not have been so easily discovered or so quickly exposed, but I am glad that we expose them and that they inspire us to work harder as citizens to make an even better record in the future. We have shown that we are no weaklings; we have tried to devise ways of preventing a recurrence of conditions that existed up to 1932.