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October 16 - 22, 1932
FDR Campaigns Against 'The Gospel of Fear'

October 2011

FDR Library
Outgoing President Herbert Hoover (left), with Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 4, 1933. Hoover had tried to use the RFC to bail out the banking system. But his policy was a disaster, since instead of extending credit to build infrastructure and create jobs, he slashed expenditures, declaring, on May 5, 1931, that a balanced Federal budget “was the most essential factor to economic recovery.”

As the Hoover Republicans and their backers sensed that the American electorate in 1932 was moving to decisively repudiate their policies, they resorted to the politics of fear. They threatened that if Franklin Roosevelt were elected to the Presidency, catastrophic events would occur. On his last campaign swing through the country, Roosevelt reacted to this attempt to terrorize the electorate in two speeches he delivered in mid-October.

In Pittsburgh on Oct. 19, he began:

"It is fitting that I should choose Pittsburgh to sound a solemn note of warning, addressed not only to the Republican leaders, but also to the rank and file of American voters of all parties. There are some prices too high for the country to pay for the propaganda spread abroad in a Presidential election. That, my friends, is proved when as now, the Republican campaign management and people like Henry Ford and General Atterbury of the Pennsylvania Railroad are guilty of spreading the gospel of fear.

"That is true when in a desperate, futile, last-minute effort to dam the tide of popular disapproval that is steadily growing against the Administration, they become alarmists and panic breeders. This policy of seeking to win by fear of ruin is selfish in its motive, brutal in its method, and false in its promise. It is a policy that will be resented as such by men and women of all parties in every section of the country on November eighth. It is an insult to the intelligence of the American voters to think that they can be fooled by shifting the boast of the full dinner pail made in 1928, to the threat of the continued empty dinner pail in 1932.

"I assure the badly advised and fear-stricken leaders of the Republican Party that not only Democrats but also the rank and file of their own party, who are properly dissatisfied with that leadership, are still American patriots and that they still cherish in their hearts, as I do, the safety of the country, the welfare of its people, and the continuance of its institutions."

Again, on Oct. 21, Roosevelt made a major speech in St. Louis dealing with the eight types of credit groups of the nation. He began his remarks by stating that, "Faith is a delicate, though powerful factor in our economic life, and a party that sounds a note of alarm from high places is performing no decent service to the American nation. One of the most artful and plausible of Administration whip-crackers started this campaign of fear on the eve of the Maine election. At that moment our people were in low spirits. Millions of men who had tramped the streets for months feeling hopeless, friendless, and alone were listening to his words and he told them that if they did not vote for the Republican candidate in the Maine election it would be practically impossible for the administration remaining in power from election to March to save them from dire disaster. The good people of Maine were not disturbed by these false-faces of disaster. They saw that this horrible menace was only a painted mask, that the artificially created eclipse of the sun was nothing but a low-lying smoke screen, so light as to be blown aside by the first breath of fresh air....

"All of the good, old specters are snatched from the grave, but the mantles of the giant actors of the past now hang in a shabby and ill-fitting manner on the diminutive forms of these new apostles of disaster. The workers and the farmers of today have heard from their fathers of the old terroristic threats that were put into their pay envelope just before election. They have heard of the warnings originating from the Republican National Committee in past campaigns, and pasted on the walls of their factories just before election. And they are not being scared by these things any more.

"American labor has educated itself too well; American agriculture has learned too much in the bitter school of experience to be frightened by any new variations of the old terrorism of the past. We are living in another age. These stage properties are out of date.

"As a last resort, the President and the ex-President advance and attempt to throw political and economic tear-gas bombs among the people of the country. Now, my friends, you all know what tear gas is. It is one of the new inventions by which a few people can control a lot of people. A few do it by blinding the eyes of the many, by causing tears to flow; and in the midst of the confusion that thus results, a determined minority seeks to accomplish its selfish purposes....

"I want to take this occasion to say that in my opinion such efforts cast a deep reflection upon the principles for which this country has stood. The American working men and the American farmers are free men, citizens of a great Republic. The lifeblood of this Republic is the integrity and independence of the electorate. You American farmers and American workmen are entitled, by all of the fundamental rights that you have acquired in generations of fighting, to a free and untrammeled choice on election day. The politician or employer who tries to deny to you these rights and to use a gospel of fear to blind you to the true facts presented in this campaign is an enemy, not only of fairness and sportsmanship in politics, but of the very principles upon which this country has been established. To protect these rights, men have suffered and died. The principles they have won in such a bitter fight are chiseled for all the centuries to come on the granite walls of our American system of Government. The man who tries, for political or economic advantage, to chip away these rights is an untrustworthy leader in business and politics.

"And now to the business of conducting a campaign in the proper spirit, a spirit of good reason, good sense and good humor."


The original article was published in the EIR Online’s Electronic Intelligence Weekly, as part of an ongoing series on history, with a special emphasis on American history. We are reprinting and updating these articles now to assist our readers in understanding of the American System of Economy.