FDR’s First Inaugural Address

In non-hurricane news, my next book is going to be about the New Deal.  One aspect of the project involves a close reading of FDR’s First Inaugural. While most people focus on the President’s line about “nothing to fear,” he also offered an overview of the Constitution that foreshadowed the conflict with the Supreme Court in the coming years:

“Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced. It has met every stress of vast expansion of territory, of foreign wars, of bitter internal strife, of world relations”

This characterization of the Constitution as “simple and practical,” with the chief virtue of flexibility is, of course, very different from the way that others see our governing charter.  In essence, Roosevelt saw the document as government-empowering rather than government-limiting, a theme that he expressed many times based on what he saw as the original understanding of 1787–replacing the dysfunctional Articles of Confederation.

Anyway, I will be talking more about these New Deal themes in the coming months.

 

 

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1 Response

  1. Shag from Brookline says:

    Gerard, Miguel Schor makes reference (at page 966) to FDR’s statement in his “Contextualizing the Debate Between Originalism and the Living Constititution,” which is the forward to a series of articles on Drake Constitutional Law Center’s recent Symposium on the subject. A link to the forward is provided at the Originalism Blog. (The forward is interesting, except that Schor does not comment on Keith Whittington’s paper.)