Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on 30th January 1882, at his family estate near Hyde Park, in New York. His Father, James Roosevelt was wealthy and owned a lot of land. He was railroad vice-president, and had been in the American Diplomatic Service under President Cleveland. His Mother, Sara Roosevelt was James’ second wife. His parents were well known in the district where they lived. They had a famous name, as they were related to President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt had no real brothers or sisters, only a half brother, who was eighteen years He did not go to school until he was fourteen, but was tutored at home.
His Father often took him fishing in the summer and tobogganing in the winter. He also taught him about cows, horses, trees, and how to run a farm. He may have been an only child, but he was not spoiled. He was expected to obey his parents, and behave well at all times. When he did later go to school, he was rarely given bad marks for his behaviour. His Mother helped him with schoolwork, and looked after him. When Roosevelt went to Groton School, he made friends very easily, and was easy to get along with. He received good grades in all subjects, as well as sport. He later went to Harvard University.
All the way through his school life, he was very interested in extracurricular activities. His Father died while he was in college. He married his sixth cousin, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, whose Uncle was President Theodore Roosevelt. The couple often saw the President, and so this must have had some impression on Franklin’s career in politics. They had six children, one of which died as a baby. Roosevelt had always been interested in politics, but did not really enter into them until 1910. In this year, the leaders of the Democratic Party in Dutchess County asked him if he would enter into the election for State Senator as their candidate.
The main reasons why they asked him, were that, he was rich, had a great personality, and had a famous name. If he had not been rich and famous, perhaps he would never have become President, or even entered into politics. All these features helped him get ahead in politics. He decided to stand for election. He drove around the district, visiting every town, village, and farm, to gain people’s confidence in him, and to let them get to know a bit about him. He hired a car, and went around giving speeches, telling people about himself and what he stood for. Franklin won the election.
In 1911, he began his job as State Senator, taking his place in the New York Senate. He had a mind of his own, and people soon saw that he was not going to be bossed about by anyone, particularly the Democratic Party leaders. He had not been elected for very long before he was having a rebellion against them. Each State in America was allowed to choose two people to be State Senators. These people would be sent to Washington. These people were not voted for by the general public, but by the members of the Assembly of the State. In 1911, the Democratic Party had already decided upon a man called Sheenan.
They had plenty of votes for him, and it seemed definite that he would be elected. Roosevelt and some others did not agree with this choice, and so he decided to try and stop Sheenan being elected, by not voting for him. He held a rebellion, which met in his house. They did not vote for ten weeks, and held out, even when the bosses tried to make them. In the end, the party bosses decided to give up on Sheenan, and chose another man instead. This rebellion had helped to make the American government voting system more democratic. Two years later, State Senators were voted by the people living in each State, and not by the State Assemblies.
After this event, he decided that he did not want to do anything else with his life, except politics. The rebellion over Sheenan made him famous in New York State. In 1912, Woodrow Wilson was nominated. Franklin Roosevelt strongly supported this man, and wrote speeches and letters supporting him. He also led 150 delegates to the Democratic Convention in Baltimore. The party leaders liked his work, and when the Wilson administration came into office, he was given the choice of taking several different jobs. The job he decided to take was assistant secretary of the Navy. Theodore Roosevelt had held this post, before he became President.
Franklin helped the Navy to win over German sea forces. Franklin did not join the armed forces when America entered the First World War. Instead he stayed in Washington, where he continued to help the Navy. He helped to enlarge their yards, and improve their methods. He also helped to recruit more sailors, taking the numbers from 75,000 to 500,000 men. He had some very good and very successful ideas that would help the Navy to defeat their enemies. Franklin learned a lot from Wilson. He respected him, and looked up to him. In 1920, the National Convention of the Democratic Party met to chose someone to stand for Presidential Election.
Wilson had become an invalid, and so he could not be chosen. The party had decided upon a man called James . M. Cox. They now needed a man to stand for Vice-President, and chose Franklin Roosevelt. The most important thing the two men had to do, was to decide what to do about entering America into the League of Nations. They both supported the idea, and when they went to see Wilson, he did as well. A lot of people were opposed to it. Cox and Roosevelt tried hard, but in the end, they did not succeed. The public had not wanted America to be in the League, and their opinion had outweighed theirs.
The public was fed up of living the way they were, and wanted a nice normal life. Warren Harding, the Republican Party Presidential candidate promised them this, and so he was voted President. The idea of America joining the League was soon dropped. In the summer of 1921, polio was widespread. During this summer, Roosevelt and his family were on holiday in Campobello. There was a forest fire near where they were staying. He and two of his sons spent hours wetting down the underbrush and clearing firebreaks to try and stop the fire. Afterwards, they went for a swim in the Bay of Fundy, which was very cold.
When he got home, he sat down to read his mail, still in his wet suit. When he went to bed, he did not feel well, and thought he had a cold. When he woke up he realised he had polio. Several days went by, in which he had bad fevers. When he eventually felt better, he discovered he was permanently paralysed from the waist down – his legs did not work. He could not do any normal physical activities, such as sport or walking. Instead, he spent a lot of time reading. After some careful exercise, a few years later, he could walk with a cane, steel braces on his legs, and someone helping him.
He set up a treatment centre in Warm Springs, to help people with polio. In 1924, he founded the Roosevelt and Connor law firm. He also started working in politics again. He made his famous ‘happy warrior’ speech, to try and get Alfred E. Smith elected for President. Smith did not win. In 1928, the Democrats nominated Smith to run for President. The speech to nominate him, was again, read by Roosevelt. The Democrats also asked Roosevelt to run for Governor of New York. He won. During his time as Governor, he won a fight against the electric power interests trying to take control of the St Lawrence River unfairly.
He also won his campaign for an old-age security act. He also won his campaigns for limited working hours for women and children, and relief for poor farmers. He was re-elected in 1930. People started to think about the possibility of him being President. He continued to fight campaigns and win them. He won fights for regulated public utilities, court reform and better public health and housing. He was against the Prohibition law on alcohol. He also had a Sheriff, accused of doing wrong, fired from his job, and forced Mayor James J. Walker to resign. In 1929, the Stock Market crashed.
The American economic system was shattered. Bankruptcy, homelessness and many other issues were taking place at this time. The people were looking for a new President to lead them out of the depression. Roosevelt had convinced the people he was on their side. When the Depression came about, he decided to stop whatever else he was doing, and focus on helping un-employed people. Un-employment relief was faltering, and so Roosevelt set about helping to find a new way of helping the people. He consulted several experts to see if they could give him any advice on what he could do.
In the end, he persuaded the State Legislature to pass a law saying that they could spend $20,000,000 to help the poor. Roosevelt gained people’s trust all over the country. He went onto the radio and talked about his policies. He told people what he could do about the problems they had all been experiencing. People felt affectionately about him, and saw him as a friend they could trust. People were impressed by the way he had handled crisis, and the majority he had won by in the New York election in 1930. This all made him a promising candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination to stand for President.
However, some people did not trust him, and in the early part of 1932, a campaign was set up in the Democratic Party to stop him being nominated. In June, the National Convention was held. Roosevelt’s supporters went, as did the people who wanted to stop him. A vote was taken three times, and the ‘Stop Roosevelt’ groups managed to stop him gaining the two thirds of the votes he needed to stand for President. Unless something was done quickly, he would not be able to. His advisors phoned around, and eventually persuaded California and Texas to vote for Roosevelt. Roosevelt was nominated, and was to stand for election as President.