The Forgotten Tyrant: Franklin D. Roosevelt

Author Will Shanahan Committing Deicide

FDR on TIME

The Disillusioning of a Progressive God

            The world experienced a wave of totalitarianism in the early 20th century.  The Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, Mussolini was elected in 1922, and Hitler disbanded the Wiemar Republic in 1933.  Unfortunately, these extremist totalitarian regimes draw attention away from one of the darkest decades of United States history.  Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin, and Adolf Hitler were so horrifyingly powerful that people often overlook an American tyrant’s rise to power, which began with the election of 1932.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt is mistakenly championed as an American hero who ran a benevolent regime that had the interest of the American People at its heart.  In reality, only neoconservatives and faux progressives could adore the most totalitarian president of the 20th century.  Roosevelt’s atrocities can and have filled entire books.  For the sake of brevity, this article will concern itself with two specific executive orders; one issued in peace time and one issued during war time.

The New Deal, often heralded as FDR’s Magnum Opus, is perhaps the second largest blight on his reputation.  Part of this plan launched the largest theft against the American people, short of the 1913 Federal Reserve legislation.  Executive Order 6102 ended the pure gold standard as well as mandating that U.S. citizens hand their gold over to the Federal Reserve.  FDR issued this order under the guise of stopping “gold hoarding” in an attempt to raise the total aggregate demand.  Economist Robert Murphy wrote that Roosevelt ordered the “public to turn over its gold—under penalty of a $10,000 fine and up to ten years in prison.”  Murphy continued, writing “the famous bullion depository at Fort Knox was built precisely to house all of the gold that FDR seized from the American people.” Fans of the New Deal must realize that nothing but a totalitarian regime would have the power and the audacity to seize gold from the citizens under threat of police violence.[1]

One might argue that this seizure of gold was perfectly acceptable and did not count as theft because the Americans were recompensed with $20.67 per ounce of gold traded in.  Regardless of the moral issue of the coercion involved, the American savers still took a hit.  The world price of gold per troy ounce was $20.69 in 1932.  By 1934, just one year after the executive order, the price had risen to $34.69 per ounce.  In other words, the price of gold had increased by 67.7%.  However, during the same time period, the purchasing power of the dollar remained virtually unchanged ($20.69 in 1932 had the same buying power as $20.24 in 1934).  People who purchased with gold (which was about every American citizen) took a huge hit after Executive Order 6102 was issued.  Americans were robbed of a valuable commodity by an executive order.  At least the income tax was passed with a congressional amendment (do not mistake this as an endorsement of the income tax).[2]

Before we jump from the 1933 peacetime Roosevelt to the 1942 wartime Roosevelt, let’s not forget that many horrible things happened in the interim period.  Crops were burned and cattle were slaughtered to keep prices artificially high.  Roosevelt attempted to stack the Supreme Court in order to get around overturned parts of the New Deal.  Massive deficits were run up.  However all of those are overshadowed by a single order issued on February 19, 1942.  The most shameful and insidious act of Roosevelt’s presidency was the issuing of Executive order 9066.  He declared that

“I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.”

President Roosevelt had just decreed that the executive branch had the right to authorize certain areas of the United States as military battlegrounds.  This gave the executive branch the power to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial (sounds eerily familiar).  Historian Roger Daniels wrote that

“although it mentioned neither California nor any ethnic group, Executive Order #9066 was the instrument whereby 120,000 Japanese Americans—including 90,000 Californians, two-thirds of them native sons and daughters—were removed from their homes, separated from much of their property, and incarcerated in ten desolate concentration camps, officially called relocation centers.”

Roosevelt indefinitely detained 100,000 Japanese Americans without a trial.  These people were not terrorist or Japanese conspirators.  Most of them were born in the United States as natural-born U.S. citizens.  These people were of no threat.  In fact, The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians found that there was almost no evidence of Japanese-American disloyalty and that the internment was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”  This must never be overlooked.[3]

Over his 12 year rule, Franklin Delano Roosevelt found different ways to inject the executive branch into places it did not belong.  From the seizure of gold to the indefinite detention of American citizens without trial, he truly ruled with an iron fist.  Perhaps the worst American tragedy of the 1930s was that Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not follow in the tradition of President William Harrison.  I am sure there are many Japanese-Americans who agree with this sentiment.

(The author can be reached at wshanahan1@facebook.com)


[1] Robert Murphy, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal (Regenery Publishing, Inc. 2009) 128.

[2] “Historical Gold Prices 1833-Present” National Mining Association, Accessed March, 2013. http://www.nma.org/pdf/gold/his_gold_prices.pdf

“CPI Inflation Calculator.” Databases, Tables & Calculators by Subject. http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=20.69&year1=1932&year2=1934.

[3] Our Documents – Transcript of Executive Order 9066: Resulting in the Relocation of Japanese (1942).” http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=74&page=transcript.

Roger Daniels, California History, Vol. 70, No. 4 (Winter, 1991/1992)

http://www.jstor.org/stable/25158587

6 thoughts on “The Forgotten Tyrant: Franklin D. Roosevelt

  1. The violence done to the Constitution, rule of law and the American Citizens by Roosevelt have been hidden, glossed over or actually made out to be beneficent actions by “historians” and the press. Roosevelt’s actions even exceeded those of Wilson.

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  3. He had some people to look to for his example. For instance Abraham Lincoln, who when you look closely could have cared less about slavery but was a federalist who didn’t like the idea of losing some of the area that was already his to command. He shredded the constitution well before FDR did but that is not to say his was any better or worse then FDR.

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