The Presidential Inaugural Address of Herbert Hoover [Monday, March 4, 1929] - History

The Presidential Inaugural Address of Herbert Hoover [Monday, March 4, 1929] - History

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My Countrymen:

This occasion is not alone the administration of the most sacred oath which can be assumed by an American citizen. It is a dedication and consecration under God to the highest office in service of our people. I assume this trust in the humility of knowledge that only through the guidance of Almighty Providence can I hope to discharge its ever-increasing burdens.

It is in keeping with tradition throughout our history that I should express simply and directly the opinions which I hold concerning some of the matters of present importance.

If we survey the situation of our Nation both at home and abroad, we find many satisfactions; we find some causes for concern. We have emerged from the losses of the Great War and the reconstruction following it with increased virility and strength. From this strength we have contributed to the recovery and progress of the world. What America has done has given renewed hope and courage to all who have faith in government by the people. In the large view, we have reached a higher degree of comfort and security than ever existed before in the history of the world. Through liberation from widespread poverty we have reached a higher degree of individual freedom than ever before. The devotion to and concern for our institutions are deep and sincere. We are steadily building a new race--a new civilization great in its own attainments. The influence and high purposes of our Nation are respected among the peoples of the world. We aspire to distinction in the world, but to a distinction based upon confidence in our sense of justice as well as our accomplishments within our own borders and in our own lives. For wise guidance in this great period of recovery the Nation is deeply indebted to Calvin Coolidge.

But all this majestic advance should not obscure the constant dangers from which self-government must be safeguarded. The strong man must at all times be alert to the attack of insidious disease.

The most malign of all these dangers today is disregard and disobedience of law. Crime is increasing. Confidence in rigid and speedy justice is decreasing. I am not prepared to believe that this indicates any decay in the moral fiber of the American people. I am not prepared to believe that it indicates an impotence of the Federal Government to enforce its laws.

It is only in part due to the additional burdens imposed upon our judicial system by the eighteenth amendment. The problem is much wider than that. Many influences had increasingly complicated and weakened our law enforcement organization long before the adoption of the eighteenth amendment.

To reestablish the vigor and effectiveness of law enforcement we must critically consider the entire Federal machinery of justice, the redistribution of its functions, the simplification of its procedure, the provision of additional special tribunals, the better selection of juries, and the more effective organization of our agencies of investigation and prosecution that justice may be sure and that it may be swift. While the authority of the Federal Government extends to but part of our vast system of national, State, and local justice, yet the standards which the Federal Government establishes have the most profound influence upon the whole structure.

We are fortunate in the ability and integrity of our Federal judges and attorneys. But the system which these officers are called upon to administer is in many respects ill adapted to present-day conditions. Its intricate and involved rules of procedure have become the refuge of both big and little criminals. There is a belief abroad that by invoking technicalities, subterfuge, and delay, the ends of justice may be thwarted by those who can pay the cost.

Reform, reorganization and strengthening of our whole judicial and enforcement system, both in civil and criminal sides, have been advocated for years by statesmen, judges, and bar associations. First steps toward that end should not longer be delayed. Rigid and expeditious justice is the first safeguard of freedom, the basis of all ordered liberty, the vital force of progress. It must not come to be in our Republic that it can be defeated by the indifference of the citizen, by exploitation of the delays and entanglements of the law, or by combinations of criminals. Justice must not fail because the agencies of enforcement are either delinquent or inefficiently organized. To consider these evils, to find their remedy, is the most sore necessity of our times.

Of the undoubted abuses which have grown up under the eighteenth amendment, part are due to the causes I have just mentioned; but part are due to the failure of some States to accept their share of responsibility for concurrent enforcement and to the failure of many State and local officials to accept the obligation under their oath of office zealously to enforce the laws. With the failures from these many causes has come a dangerous expansion in the criminal elements who have found enlarged opportunities in dealing in illegal liquor.

But a large responsibility rests directly upon our citizens. There would be little traffic in illegal liquor if only criminals patronized it. We must awake to the fact that this patronage from large numbers of law-abiding citizens is supplying the rewards and stimulating crime.

I have been selected by you to execute and enforce the laws of the country. I propose to do so to the extent of my own abilities, but the measure of success that the Government shall attain will depend upon the moral support which you, as citizens, extend. The duty of citizens to support the laws of the land is coequal with the duty of their Government to enforce the laws which exist. No greater national service can be given by men and women of good will--who, I know, are not unmindful of the responsibilities of citizenship--than that they should, by their example, assist in stamping out crime and outlawry by refusing participation in and condemning all transactions with illegal liquor. Our whole system of self-government will crumble either if officials elect what laws they will enforce or citizens elect what laws they will support. The worst evil of disregard for some law is that it destroys respect for all law. For our citizens to patronize the violation of a particular law on the ground that they are opposed to it is destructive of the very basis of all that protection of life, of homes and property which they rightly claim under other laws. If citizens do not like a law, their duty as honest men and women is to discourage its violation; their right is openly to work for its repeal.

To those of criminal mind there can be no appeal but vigorous enforcement of the law. Fortunately they are but a small percentage of our people. Their activities must be stopped.

I propose to appoint a national commission for a searching investigation of the whole structure of our Federal system of jurisprudence, to include the method of enforcement of the eighteenth amendment and the causes of abuse under it. Its purpose will be to make such recommendations for reorganization of the administration of Federal laws and court procedure as may be found desirable. In the meantime it is essential that a large part of the enforcement activities be transferred from the Treasury Department to the Department of Justice as a beginning of more effective organization.

The election has again confirmed the determination of the American people that regulation of private enterprise and not Government ownership or operation is the course rightly to be pursued in our relation to business. In recent years we have established a differentiation in the whole method of business regulation between the industries which produce and distribute commodities on the one hand and public utilities on the other. In the former, our laws insist upon effective competition; in the latter, because we substantially confer a monopoly by limiting competition, we must regulate their services and rates. The rigid enforcement of the laws applicable to both groups is the very base of equal opportunity and freedom from domination for all our people, and it is just as essential for the stability and prosperity of business itself as for the protection of the public at large. Such regulation should be extended by the Federal Government within the limitations of the Constitution and only when the individual States are without power to protect their citizens through their own authority. On the other hand, we should be fearless when the authority rests only in the Federal Government.

The larger purpose of our economic thought should be to establish more firmly stability and security of business and employment and thereby remove poverty still further from our borders. Our people have in recent years developed a new-found capacity for cooperation among themselves to effect high purposes in public welfare. It is an advance toward the highest conception of self- government. Self-government does not and should not imply the use of political agencies alone. Progress is born of cooperation in the community--not from governmental restraints. The Government should assist and encourage these movements of collective self- help by itself cooperating with them. Business has by cooperation made great progress in the advancement of service, in stability, in regularity of employment and in the correction of its own abuses. Such progress, however, can continue only so long as business manifests its respect for law.

There is an equally important field of cooperation by the Federal Government with the multitude of agencies, State, municipal and private, in the systematic development of those processes which directly affect public health, recreation, education, and the home. We have need further to perfect the means by which Government can be adapted to human service.

Although education is primarily a responsibility of the States and local communities, and rightly so, yet the Nation as a whole is vitally concerned in its development everywhere to the highest standards and to complete universality. Self-government can succeed only through an instructed electorate. Our objective is not simply to overcome illiteracy. The Nation has marched far beyond that. The more complex the problems of the Nation become, the greater is the need for more and more advanced instruction. Moreover, as our numbers increase and as our life expands with science and invention, we must discover more and more leaders for every walk of life. We can not hope to succeed in directing this increasingly complex civilization unless we can draw all the talent of leadership from the whole people. One civilization after another has been wrecked upon the attempt to secure sufficient leadership from a single group or class. If we would prevent the growth of class distinctions and would constantly refresh our leadership with the ideals of our people, we must draw constantly from the general mass. The full opportunity for every boy and girl to rise through the selective processes of education can alone secure to us this leadership.

In public health the discoveries of science have opened a new era. Many sections of our country and many groups of our citizens suffer from diseases the eradication of which are mere matters of administration and moderate expenditure. Public health service should be as fully organized and as universally incorporated into our governmental system as is public education. The returns are a thousand fold in economic benefits, and infinitely more in reduction of suffering and promotion of human happiness.

The United States fully accepts the profound truth that our own progress, prosperity, and peace are interlocked with the progress, prosperity, and peace of all humanity. The whole world is at peace. The dangers to a continuation of this peace to-day are largely the fear and suspicion which still haunt the world. No suspicion or fear can be rightly directed toward our country.

Those who have a true understanding of America know that we have no desire for territorial expansion, for economic or other domination of other peoples. Such purposes are repugnant to our ideals of human freedom. Our form of government is ill adapted to the responsibilities which inevitably follow permanent limitation of the independence of other peoples. Superficial observers seem to find no destiny for our abounding increase in population, in wealth and power except that of imperialism. They fail to see that the American people are engrossed in the building for themselves of a new economic system, a new social system, a new political system all of which are characterized by aspirations of freedom of opportunity and thereby are the negation of imperialism. They fail to realize that because of our abounding prosperity our youth are pressing more and more into our institutions of learning; that our people are seeking a larger vision through art, literature, science, and travel; that they are moving toward stronger moral and spiritual life--that from these things our sympathies are broadening beyond the bounds of our Nation and race toward their true expression in a real brotherhood of man. They fail to see that the idealism of America will lead it to no narrow or selfish channel, but inspire it to do its full share as a nation toward the advancement of civilization. It will do that not by mere declaration but by taking a practical part in supporting all useful international undertakings. We not only desire peace with the world, but to see peace maintained throughout the world. We wish to advance the reign of justice and reason toward the extinction of force.

The recent treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy sets an advanced standard in our conception of the relations of nations. Its acceptance should pave the way to greater limitation of armament, the offer of which we sincerely extend to the world. But its full realization also implies a greater and greater perfection in the instrumentalities for pacific settlement of controversies between nations. In the creation and use of these instrumentalities we should support every sound method of conciliation, arbitration, and judicial settlement. American statesmen were among the first to propose and they have constantly urged upon the world, the establishment of a tribunal for the settlement of controversies of a justiciable character. The Permanent Court of International Justice in its major purpose is thus peculiarly identified with American ideals and with American statesmanship. No more potent instrumentality for this purpose has ever been conceived and no other is practicable of establishment. The reservations placed upon our adherence should not be misinterpreted. The United States seeks by these reservations no special privilege or advantage but only to clarify our relation to advisory opinions and other matters which are subsidiary to the major purpose of the court. The way should, and I believe will, be found by which we may take our proper place in a movement so fundamental to the progress of peace.

Our people have determined that we should make no political engagements such as membership in the League of Nations, which may commit us in advance as a nation to become involved in the settlements of controversies between other countries. They adhere to the belief that the independence of America from such obligations increases its ability and availability for service in all fields of human progress.

I have lately returned from a journey among our sister Republics of the Western Hemisphere. I have received unbounded hospitality and courtesy as their expression of friendliness to our country. We are held by particular bonds of sympathy and common interest with them. They are each of them building a racial character and a culture which is an impressive contribution to human progress. We wish only for the maintenance of their independence, the growth of their stability, and their prosperity. While we have had wars in the Western Hemisphere, yet on the whole the record is in encouraging contrast with that of other parts of the world. Fortunately the New World is largely free from the inheritances of fear and distrust which have so troubled the Old World. We should keep it so.

It is impossible, my countrymen, to speak of peace without profound emotion. In thousands of homes in America, in millions of homes around the world, there are vacant chairs. It would be a shameful confession of our unworthiness if it should develop that we have abandoned the hope for which all these men died. Surely civilization is old enough, surely mankind is mature enough so that we ought in our own lifetime to find a way to permanent peace. Abroad, to west and east, are nations whose sons mingled their blood with the blood of our sons on the battlefields. Most of these nations have contributed to our race, to our culture, our knowledge, and our progress. From one of them we derive our very language and from many of them much of the genius of our institutions. Their desire for peace is as deep and sincere as our own.

Peace can be contributed to by respect for our ability in defense. Peace can be promoted by the limitation of arms and by the creation of the instrumentalities for peaceful settlement of controversies. But it will become a reality only through self- restraint and active effort in friendliness and helpfulness. I covet for this administration a record of having further contributed to advance the cause of peace.

In our form of democracy the expression of the popular will can be effected only through the instrumentality of political parties. We maintain party government not to promote intolerant partisanship but because opportunity must be given for expression of the popular will, and organization provided for the execution of its mandates and for accountability of government to the people. It follows that the government both in the executive and the legislative branches must carry out in good faith the platforms upon which the party was entrusted with power. But the government is that of the whole people; the party is the instrument through which policies are determined and men chosen to bring them into being. The animosities of elections should have no place in our Government, for government must concern itself alone with the common weal.

Action upon some of the proposals upon which the Republican Party was returned to power, particularly further agricultural relief and limited changes in the tariff, cannot in justice to our farmers, our labor, and our manufacturers be postponed. I shall therefore request a special session of Congress for the consideration of these two questions. I shall deal with each of them upon the assembly of the Congress.

It appears to me that the more important further mandates from the recent election were the maintenance of the integrity of the Constitution; the vigorous enforcement of the laws; the continuance of economy in public expenditure; the continued regulation of business to prevent domination in the community; the denial of ownership or operation of business by the Government in competition with its citizens; the avoidance of policies which would involve us in the controversies of foreign nations; the more effective reorganization of the departments of the Federal Government; the expansion of public works; and the promotion of welfare activities affecting education and the home.

These were the more tangible determinations of the election, but beyond them was the confidence and belief of the people that we would not neglect the support of the embedded ideals and aspirations of America. These ideals and aspirations are the touchstones upon which the day-to-day administration and legislative acts of government must be tested. More than this, the Government must, so far as lies within its proper powers, give leadership to the realization of these ideals and to the fruition of these aspirations. No one can adequately reduce these things of the spirit to phrases or to a catalogue of definitions. We do know what the attainments of these ideals should be: The preservation of self-government and its full foundations in local government; the perfection of justice whether in economic or in social fields; the maintenance of ordered liberty; the denial of domination by any group or class; the building up and preservation of equality of opportunity; the stimulation of initiative and individuality; absolute integrity in public affairs; the choice of officials for fitness to office; the direction of economic progress toward prosperity for the further lessening of poverty; the freedom of public opinion; the sustaining of education and of the advancement of knowledge; the growth of religious spirit and the tolerance of all faiths; the strengthening of the home; the advancement of peace.

There is no short road to the realization of these aspirations. Ours is a progressive people, but with a determination that progress must be based upon the foundation of experience. Ill- considered remedies for our faults bring only penalties after them. But if we hold the faith of the men in our mighty past who created these ideals, we shall leave them heightened and strengthened for our children.

This is not the time and place for extended discussion. The questions before our country are problems of progress to higher standards; they are not the problems of degeneration. They demand thought and they serve to quicken the conscience and enlist our sense of responsibility for their settlement. And that responsibility rests upon you, my countrymen, as much as upon those of us who have been selected for office.

Ours is a land rich in resources; stimulating in its glorious beauty; filled with millions of happy homes; blessed with comfort and opportunity. In no nation are the institutions of progress more advanced. In no nation are the fruits of accomplishment more secure. In no nation is the government more worthy of respect. No country is more loved by its people. I have an abiding faith in their capacity, integrity and high purpose. I have no fears for the future of our country. It is bright with hope.

In the presence of my countrymen, mindful of the solemnity of this occasion, knowing what the task means and the responsibility which it involves, I beg your tolerance, your aid, and your cooperation. I ask the help of Almighty God in this service to my country to which you have called me.

The Inaugural Address of Herbert Hoover Research Papers

Iowa native and former United States Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover received 444 electoral votes to defeat Democratic opponent Al Smith in the 1928 Presidential Election. March 4, 1929, Hoover was inaugurated in Washington, D.C., and became the 31st President of the United States.

In Hoover&rsquos inaugural address, he focused on the following:

  • His plans to expand on Calvin Coolidge&rsquos accomplishments.
  • Hoover called on the American people to see a new vision beyond that of his predecessor.
  • One of the most notable subjects of Hoover&rsquos address was centered on the Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

Applauding the Eighteenth Amendment and citizens who keep anti-liquor laws, Hoover chided state and local law enforcement for a lack of enforcement of laws associated with prohibition.

In turn, Hoover challenged Americans to turn away from alcohol and do their parts to help enforce the laws.

Hoover also touched on public health and education before speaking in great length about America&rsquos attempt to be a flagship for an effort to keep the world at peace. Hoover claimed that a reduction of arms would spark a spirit of peace and a trend of peaceful resolution to conflict.

Seven months after his inaugural address, Hoover would take the blame for the October 29 stock market crash, which sparked the Great Depression.

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“Let the Word Go Forth:” A President’s First Inaugural Address

The inauguration of a new President offers the nation an opportunity to witness not only the peaceful transfer of power but also the transformation of a person we’ve known for over a year as a candidate, and for two months as President-elect, into the President of the United States of America.

For that reason the first inaugural address is an exceptionally important speech. Each new President hopes to use his first words as President to capture the moment, chart a new course, and galvanize the country.

Some iconic quotes, of course, ring through the ages and most Americans can complete the quote when hearing just the first few words.

“The only thing we have to fear….” or “Ask not what your country can do for you….”

As the nation prepares for the inauguration of our 45th president, we have assembled a number of signature quotes from the first inaugural address of our last 14 Presidents (whose papers are all housed in within the Presidential Library system administered by the National Archives and Records Administration).

This was not a scientific selection nor do we mean to imply that these are the most important quotes in each President’s speech. They are simply quotes that struck us as noteworthy as we recently read through these addresses.

“The influence and high purposes of our Nation are respected among the peoples of the world. We aspire to distinction in the world, but to a distinction based upon confidence in our sense of justice as well as our accomplishments within our own borders and in our own lives.”

Herbert Hoover, March 4, 1929

“This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 4, 1933

“The first half of this century has been marked by unprecedented and brutal attacks on the rights of man, and by the two most frightful wars in history. The supreme need of our time is for men to learn to live together in peace and harmony.”

Harry S. Truman, January 20, 1949

“Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in this world must first come to pass in the heart of America.”

– Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 20, 1953

“And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

– John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

“Justice requires us to remember that when any citizen denies his fellow, saying, ‘His color is not mine,’ or ‘His beliefs are strange and different,’ in that moment he betrays America, though his forebears created this nation.”

– Lyndon B. Johnson, January 20, 1965

“The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker. This honor now beckons America — the chance to help lead the world at last out of the valley of turmoil and onto that high ground of peace that man has dreamed of since the dawn of civilization.”

– Richard M. Nixon, January 20, 1969

“I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our government but civilization itself.”

– Gerald R. Ford, address after taking the oath of office on August 9, 1974

“To be true to ourselves, we must be true to others. We will not behave in foreign places so as to violate our rules and standards here at home, for we know that the trust which our Nation earns is essential to our strength.”

– Jimmy Carter, January 20, 1977

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem government is the problem.”

– Ronald Reagan, January 20, 1981

“America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.”

– George H. W. Bush, January 20, 1989

“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”

– Bill Clinton, January 20, 1993

“Through much of the last century, America’s faith in freedom and democracy was a rock in a raging sea. Now it is a seed upon the wind, taking root in many nations.”

– George W. Bush, January 20, 2001

“Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”

– Barack Obama, January 20, 2009

Do you have a favorite quote from a President’s first inaugural address? Why do you think those particular words speak so profoundly to you?

If you have a favorite quote from a President’s first inaugural we hope you will share it in our comment section.


After President Calvin Coolidge announced in August 1927 that he would not seek a second full term of office in the 1928 presidential election, Hoover emerged as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. While Hoover gained the support of important party constituencies and won several primaries, many party leaders opposed his candidacy. [1] Coolidge viewed Hoover's candidacy with ill-concealed disgust, [2] on one occasion remarking that "for six years that man has given me unsolicited advice—all of it bad." [3] Even so, Coolidge had no desire to split the party by publicly opposing the popular Commerce Secretary's nomination. [4] Hoover's opponents were unable to unite around an alternative candidate, and Hoover won the presidential nomination on the first ballot of the 1928 Republican National Convention. [5] The delegates considered re-nominating Vice President Charles Dawes to be Hoover's running mate, but Coolidge, who hated Dawes, remarked that this would be "a personal affront" to him. The convention instead selected Senator Charles Curtis of Kansas. [6]

Delegates to the 1928 Democratic National Convention nominated New York Governor Alfred E. Smith, who was described by Smith ally Franklin D. Roosevelt as "the Happy Warrior of the political battlefield." [2] Hoover campaigned for efficiency and the Republican record of prosperity. Smith ran on his record of efficiency earned over four terms as governor. Both candidates were pro-business, and each promised to improve conditions for farmers, reform immigration laws, and maintain America's isolationist foreign policy. They differed on the Volstead Act which outlawed the sale of liquor and beer. Smith was a "wet" who called for its repeal, whereas Hoover gave limited support for Prohibition, calling it an "experiment noble in purpose." While Smith won extra support among Catholics in the big cities, he was the target of intense anti-Catholic rhetoric from the Ku Klux Klan, as well as numerous Protestant preachers in rural areas across the South and West. [1] [7]

In the November election, Republicans won an overwhelming victory though, Smith carried every large urban areas in the country, Hoover received 58 percent of the popular vote and a massive 444 to 87 Electoral College majority. [2] Hoover won 40 states, including Smith's home state he also succeeded in cracking the "Solid South", winning in five traditionally Democratic states. [1] Historians agree that Hoover's national reputation and the booming economy, combined with deep splits in the Democratic Party over religion and prohibition, were the decisive factors in the 1928 election. [8]

Before President-elect Hoover would take office, there was a nearly four-month transition period.

In November 1928, President-elect Hoover embarked on a ten-nation goodwill tour of Latin America. He delivered twenty-five speeches, stressing his plans to reduce American political and military interference in Latin American affairs. In sum, he pledged that the United States would act as a "good neighbor." [9] [10] [11] While crossing the Andes from Chile, a plot to bomb Hoover's train as it crossed the vast Argentinian central plain was foiled. [12]

Hoover was inaugurated as the nation's 31st president on March 4, 1929, on the East Portico of the United States Capitol. Chief Justice (and former president) William Howard Taft administered the oath of office. This was the first inaugural ceremony recorded by newsreel cameras. [13] Hoover's inaugural address projected an optimistic tone throughout, even as he spoke about the "disregard and disobedience of law," which he considered "the most malign" problem confronting the nation. [14]

Near the end of the speech he confidently observed:

Ours is a land rich in resources stimulating in its glorious beauty filled with millions of happy homes blessed with comfort and opportunity. In no nation are the institutions of progress more advanced. In no nation are the fruits of accomplishment more secure. In no nation is the government more worthy of respect. No country is more loved by its people. I have an abiding faith in their capacity, integrity and high purpose. I have no fears for the future of our country. It is bright with hope. [15]

These words would stand in stark contrast to the sense of desperation that would pervade the nation during much of his presidency. [16]

The morning of the inauguration, the Coolidges had briefly met with the Hoovers in the Blue Room of the White House before departing for the United States Capitol for Hoover's inauguration. [17]

Cabinet Edit

The Hoover Cabinet
PresidentHerbert Hoover1929–1933
Vice PresidentCharles Curtis1929–1933
Secretary of StateFrank B. Kellogg1929
Henry L. Stimson1929–1933
Secretary of the TreasuryAndrew Mellon1929–1932
Ogden L. Mills1932–1933
Secretary of WarJames William Good1929
Patrick J. Hurley1929–1933
Attorney GeneralWilliam D. Mitchell1929–1933
Postmaster GeneralWalter Folger Brown1929–1933
Secretary of the NavyCharles Francis Adams III1929–1933
Secretary of the InteriorRay Lyman Wilbur1929–1933
Secretary of AgricultureArthur M. Hyde1929–1933
Secretary of CommerceRobert P. Lamont1929–1932
Roy D. Chapin1932–1933
Secretary of LaborJames J. Davis1929–1930
William N. Doak1930–1933

Hoover's cabinet consisted largely of wealthy, business-oriented conservatives. [18] As the third consecutive Republican president to take office in the 1920s, Hoover retained many of the previous administration's personnel, including Secretary of Labor James J. Davis and Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon. Hoover disliked Mellon, who maintained intense support among the party's Old Guard, and instead relied on Undersecretary of the Treasury Ogden L. Mills. [19] Henry Stimson, the Governor-General of the Philippines and a former Secretary of War, became Hoover's Secretary of State. [20]

After Hoover's old friend, Supreme Court Justice Harlan F. Stone declined to serve as Attorney General, Hoover promoted Solicitor General of the United States William D. Mitchell to the head the Justice Department. Hoover's first choice for Secretary of Agriculture was Charles McNary, author of the controversial McNary-Haugen Farm Relief Bill, which Hoover had strenuously opposed. The position instead went to Arthur Hyde, who was inexperienced regarding agricultural issues. For Secretary of the Navy, Hoover chose Charles Francis Adams III, a scion of the Adams political family who shared Hoover's views on disarmament. Hoover persuaded Ray Lyman Wilbur, the president of Stanford University, to serve as Secretary of the Interior. Businessman Robert P. Lamont became Secretary of Commerce, James William Good was appointed as Secretary of War, and Walter Folger Brown took the position of Postmaster General. [21] Vice President Charles Curtis, who had previously opposed Hoover's nomination, had little influence with Hoover. [22]

Press corps Edit

Hoover held a press conference on his first day in office, promising a "new phase of press relations". [23] He asked the group of journalists to elect a committee to recommend improvements to the White House press conference. Hoover declined to use a spokesman, instead asking reporters to directly quote him and giving them handouts with his statements ahead of time. In his first 120 days in office, he held more regular and frequent press conferences than any other president, before or since. However, he changed his press policies after the 1929 stock market crash, screening reporters and greatly reducing his availability. [23]

Hoover appointed three justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. He appointed Charles Evans Hughes to succeed Chief Justice William Howard Taft after the latter's death in 1930. A former associate justice, governor, secretary of state, and presidential nominee, Hughes would lead the Hughes Court until 1941. A second vacancy arose in 1930 due to the death of Edward Terry Sanford. Hoover' first nominee, federal appellate judge John J. Parker, was rejected in the Senate due to the opposition of the NAACP and labor groups. Hoover next nominated Owen Roberts, an attorney who had risen to prominence due to his role in investigating the Teapot Dome scandal. Roberts was confirmed by acclamation. Hughes and Roberts both established centrist reputations on the bench, and they often held the balance between their more conservative and more liberal colleagues during the 1930s. In 1932, 91-year-old Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. announced his retirement from the Court. George W. Norris, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, insisted that Hoover nominate a progressive judge to succeed Holmes. Hoover nominated Benjamin Cardozo, the highly regarded chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, and Cardozo was approved by the Senate in a unanimous vote. Cardozo joined with Louis Brandeis and Harlan F. Stone in forming a progressive block of Supreme Court justices known as the "Three Musketeers". [24]

Hoover saw the presidency as a vehicle for improving the conditions of all Americans by encouraging public-private cooperation—what he termed "volunteerism". He tended to oppose governmental coercion or intervention, as he thought they infringed on American ideals of individualism and self-reliance. [25] He sought a balance among labor, capital, and the government, and he has been variously labeled a corporatist or associationalist. [26] Hoover made extensive use of commissions to study issues and propose solutions, and many of those commissions were sponsored by private donors rather than by the government. One of the commissions started by Hoover, the Research Committee on Social Trends, was tasked with surveying the entirety of American society. [27]

Agriculture Edit

After taking office, Hoover called Congress into session in an attempt to address the farm crisis that had affected the country throughout much of the 1920s. Since the end of World War I, a glut of agricultural products on the world market had reduced the demand for American exports, resulting in domestic overproduction and a drop in prices. [28] In June 1929, Hoover signed the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929, which established the Federal Farm Board to stabilize farm prices. The act had been formulated by Coolidge's Secretary of Agriculture, William Marion Jardine, as an alternative to the McNary–Haugen Farm Relief Bill. [29] The Agricultural Marketing Act authorized the Federal Farm Board to loan money to state and local cooperatives, which in turn would help farmers control crop prices by avoiding surpluses. Reflecting his desire to avoid statist solutions, Hoover successfully opposed other proposals, such as the McNary-Haugen bill, that would have directly subsidized farmers. [30] During the special session of Congress in 1929, Hoover also sought to raise tariffs on agricultural products, but opposition from eastern senators delayed action on the tariff until 1930. [31]

Hoover hoped that the Federal Farm Board would become the agricultural equivalent of the Federal Reserve Board, in that it would help control supply and production, especially during emergencies. With its emphasis on cooperation between business and government, the Federal Farm Board also reflected Hoover's general approach to governance. [32] As the economy worsened in the 1930s, the Hoover administration and the Federal Farm Board struggled to stabilize farm prices, and Hoover continued to reject a stronger federal role. Federal Farm Board Chairman Alexander Legge and Secretary of Agriculture Hyde tried to convince farmers to voluntarily restrict their own production, but farmers were unwilling to do so. Prices for agricultural goods like wheat and cotton sank to new lows in the early 1930s, and Westerners also faced a period of severe drought and dust storms known as the Dust Bowl. Many of the Farm Board's proposals to address the ongoing economic crisis would later be adopted by the Roosevelt administration. [33]

Great Depression Edit

Onset Edit

On taking office, Hoover said that "[g]iven the chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years, we shall soon with the help of God, be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation." [34] Hoover hoped that coordination among business, labor, and consumers could bring an end to the business cycle and allow for sustained and predictable economic growth. [35] Having seen the fruits of prosperity brought by technological progress, many shared Hoover's optimism, and the already bullish stock market climbed even higher on Hoover's accession. [36] This optimism concealed several threats to sustained U.S. economic growth, including the persistent farm crisis, a saturation of consumer goods like automobiles, growing income inequality, an uneasy international situation, and the consolidation of various industries due to weak enforcement of antitrust law. [37]

Most dangerous of all to the economy was excessive speculation had raised stock prices far beyond their value. Banks played a major role in enabling this speculation, as by 1929 commercial banks were loaning more money for investments in real estate or the stock market than for commercial enterprises. [38] Some regulators and bankers, like George L. Harrison and George Fisher Baker, recognized the danger that speculation posed to the economy, and in 1927 Baker had warned Coolidge and Hoover that a failure to curb speculation would lead to "one of the greatest financial catastrophes that this country has ever seen." [39] President Hoover was reluctant to become involved with the workings of the Federal Reserve System, and bankers like Charles E. Mitchell continued to encourage speculative practices. [40] In late October 1929, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 occurred, and the worldwide economy began to spiral downward into the Great Depression. [41]

The causes of the Great Depression remain a matter of debate, [42] but Hoover viewed a lack of confidence in the financial system as the fundamental economic problem facing the nation. [43] He sought to avoid direct federal intervention, believing that the best way to bolster the economy was through the strengthening of businesses such as banks and railroads. He also feared that allowing individuals on the "dole" would permanently weaken the country. [44] Instead, Hoover strongly believed that local governments and private giving should address the needs of individuals. [45]

Early response Edit

Though he attempted to put a positive spin on Black Tuesday, Hoover moved quickly to address the stock market collapse. [46] In the days following Black Tuesday, Hoover gathered business and labor leaders, asking them to avoid wage cuts and work stoppages while the country faced what he believed would be a short recession similar to the Depression of 1920–21. [47] Hoover also convinced railroads and public utilities to increase spending on construction and maintenance, while the Federal Reserve announced that it would cut interest rates. These actions were collectively designed to prevent a cycle of deflation and provide a fiscal stimulus. [48]

In early 1930, Hoover acquired from Congress an additional $100 million to continue the Federal Farm Board lending and purchasing policies. At the end of 1929, the FFB established the National Wool Marketing Corporation (NWMC), a national wool cooperative made up of 30 state associations. [49] Hoover also supported new public works projects, although his fear of budget deficits led him to oppose expansive projects such as that contemplated by the Muscle Shoals Bill, which sought to establish government production and distribution of power in the Tennessee Valley. [50] In late 1930, Hoover established the President's Organization for Unemployment Relief, which issued press releases urging companies to hire workers. [45]

Hoover had taken office hoping to raise agricultural tariffs in order to help farmers reeling from the farm crisis of the 1920s, but his attempt to raise agricultural tariffs became connected with attempts to raise tariffs for other goods. After months of debate, Congress produced a bill that raised the average import duties on agricultural products from 38 percent to 49 percent and average import duties on industrial products from 31 percent to 34 percent. [51] In June 1930, over the objection of many economists, Congress approved and Hoover reluctantly signed into law the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act. The intent of the act was to encourage the purchase of American-made products by increasing the cost of imported goods, while raising revenue for the federal government and protecting farmers. However, economic depression had spread worldwide, and Canada, France and other nations retaliated by raising tariffs, resulting in a contraction of international trade and a worsening of the Depression. [52] Progressive Republicans such as Senator Borah were outraged when Hoover signed the tariff act, and Hoover's relations with that wing of the party never recovered. [53] By the end of 1930, the national unemployment rate had reached 11.9 percent, but it was not yet clear to most Americans that the economic downturn would be worse than the Depression of 1920–21. [54]

1930 midterm elections Edit

The 1930 midterm elections saw Republicans lose control of the House and narrowly retain control of the Senate. John Nance Garner, the incoming Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, emerged as perhaps the most influential individual in Congress. [55] The election was also a victory for progressives of both parties, as Republicans closely aligned with Hoover lost several congressional elections. Additionally, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt's landslide re-election established him as the front-runner for the 1932 Democratic nomination. [56] Despite the election defeat, Hoover refused to change his policies, rejecting the Chairman of the Committee on Employment's advice to appropriate additional money for public works. Instead, Hoover's first State of the Union address after the election called for a balancing of the budget. Hoover also refused to call a special session of Congress after the election, leaving the 72nd Congress in recess from March 1931 to December 1931. [57]

Later response Edit

A series of bank failures in late 1930 heralded a larger collapse of the economy in 1931. [58] Bank failures continued in 1931 as foreign investors withdrew money from the United States, and the Federal Reserve raised interest rates in order to prevent outflow of gold. While other countries left the gold standard, Hoover refused to abandon it [59] he derided any other monetary system as "collectivism." [60] By mid-1931, the unemployment rate had reached 15 percent, giving rise to growing fears that the country was experiencing a depression far worse than recent economic downturns. [61]

Millions of Americans became homeless as the economy crumbled, and hundreds of shanty towns and homeless encampments sprang up across the country. [62] A reserved man with a fear of public speaking, Hoover allowed his opponents in the Democratic Party to define him as cold, incompetent, reactionary, and out-of-touch. [63] Hoover's opponents developed defamatory epithets to discredit him such as: "Hooverville" (the shanty towns and homeless encampments), "Hoover leather" (cardboard used to cover holes in the soles of shoes), and "Hoover blanket" (old newspaper used to cover oneself from the cold). [64] Hoover also faced criticism from progressive Republicans like Governor Gifford Pinchot of Pennsylvania, who urged Hoover to call Congress into a special session to approve relief measures before the winter of 1931–1932. [65] Rather than calling Congress into a special session, Hoover created the National Credit Corporation, a voluntary association of bankers, but the organization did not manage to save banks or ease credit as Hoover had hoped it would. [66]

As the Great Depression continued, Hoover finally heeded calls for more direct federal intervention, though he vetoed a bill that would have allowed direct federal lending to individuals. [67] When the 72nd Congress convened in December 1931, Hoover proposed the establishment of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). Though some progressives criticized the bill as a bailout for banking interests that was insufficient to address the economic crisis, Congress passed a bill to create the RFC in January 1932. [68] The RFC's initial goal was to provide government-secured loans to financial institutions, railroads, and local governments. The RFC saved numerous businesses from failure, but it failed to stimulate commercial lending as Hoover had hoped, partly because it was run by conservative bankers unwilling to make riskier loans. [69] The RFC would be adopted by Roosevelt and greatly expanded as part of his New Deal. [70]

The economy continued to worsen, with unemployment rates nearing 23 percent in early 1932. With the RFC unable to stem the economic crisis, Hoover signed the Emergency Relief and Construction Act, a $2 billion public works bill, in July 1932. [71] That same month, Hoover signed the Federal Home Loan Bank Act, establishing 12 district banks overseen by a Federal Home Loan Bank Board in a manner similar to the Federal Reserve System. [72] Hoover and Senator Carter Glass, another gold standard proponent, recognized that they needed to stop deflation by encouraging lending. Hoover was instrumental in passing the Glass–Steagall Act of 1932, which allowed for prime rediscounting at the Federal Reserve, in turn allowing further inflation of credit and bank reserves. [73]

Taxes and deficits Edit

Though some economists, like William Trufant Foster, favored deficit spending to address the Great Depression, most politicians and economists believed in the necessity of keeping a balanced budget. [74] Hoover shared this belief, and he sought to avoid a budget deficit through greatly increased tax rates on the wealthy. To pay for government programs and to make up for revenue lost due to the Depression, Hoover signed the Revenue Act of 1932. The act increased taxes across the board, so that top earners were taxed at 63 percent on their net income - up from 25 percent when Herbert Hoover took office. The 1932 act also increased the tax on the net income of corporations from 12 percent to 13.75 percent. [75] Additionally, under Hoover, the estate tax was doubled, corporate taxes were raised by almost 15 percent, and a "check tax" took effect, placing a 2-cent tax on all bank checks. Economists William D. Lastrapes and George Selgin conclude that the check tax was "an important contributing factor to that period's severe monetary contraction". [76] Despite the passage of the Revenue Act, the federal government continued to run a budget deficit. [77]

Labor Edit

Hoover believed that amicable business-labor relations were an important component of a prosperous economy. [78] In 1931, Hoover signed the Davis-Bacon Act, which required a maximum eight-hour day on construction of public buildings, as well as the payment of at least the local "prevailing wage." The following year, he signed the Norris–La Guardia Act, which banned yellow-dog contracts, created a positive right of noninterference by employers against workers joining trade unions, and barred the federal courts from issuing injunctions against nonviolent labor disputes. Though Hoover had originally tried to stop the bill, he chose to sign it into law as he feared that Congress would simply override a veto. [79]

Prohibition Edit

The United States banned the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages nationwide in 1920 following the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment. In his 1929 inaugural address, Hoover, in addressing enforcement of prohibition laws said, "If citizens do not like a law, their duty as honest men and women is to discourage its violation their right is openly to work for its repeal." [15] Hoover increased federal enforcement of Prohibition by signing the Increased Penalties Act which made even minor liquor violations felonies. Hoover also established the Wickersham Commission to make public policy recommendations regarding Prohibition. The commission found widespread corruption and violations of Prohibition, and its exposure of brutal practices such as the "third degree" sparked outrage and helped lead to the reform of many police forces. [80]

As public opinion increasingly turned against Prohibition, more and more people flouted the law, and several states repealed state bans on alcoholic beverages. Though he recognized the change in public opinion, Hoover insisted that federal and state authorities continue to uphold Prohibition. A grassroots movement began working in earnest for prohibition's repeal, supported by numerous organizations, such as the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment. [81] A constitutional amendment repealing the Eighteenth Amendment was approved by Congress on January 23, 1933, and submitted to state ratifying conventions in each state for ratification. By December 1933, it had been ratified by the requisite number of states to become the Twenty-first Amendment. [82] [83]

Civil rights and Mexican Repatriation Edit

Hoover seldom mentioned civil rights throughout his presidency. He believed that African Americans and other races could improve themselves with education and individual initiative. [84] [ page needed ] Hoover appointed more African Americans to federal positions than Harding and Coolidge had combined, but many African-American leaders condemned various aspects of the Hoover administration, including Hoover's unwillingness to push for a federal anti-lynching law. [85] Hoover also continued to pursue the lily-white strategy, removing African Americans from positions of leadership in the Republican Party in an attempt to end the Democratic Party's dominance in the South. [86] Though Robert Moton and some other black leaders accepted the lily-white strategy as a temporary measure, most African-American leaders were outraged. [87] Hoover further alienated black leaders by nominating conservative Southern judge John J. Parker to the Supreme Court Parker's nomination ultimately failed in the Senate due to opposition from the NAACP and organized labor. [88] Many black voters switched to the Democratic Party in the 1932 election, and African Americans would later become an important part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal coalition. [89]

As part of his efforts to limit unemployment, Hoover sought to cut immigration to the United States, and in 1930 he promulgated an executive order requiring individuals to have employment before migrating to the United States. [90] With the goal of opening up more jobs for U.S. citizens, Secretary of Labor William N. Doak began a campaign to prosecute illegal immigrants in the United States. Though Doak did not seek to deport one specific group of immigrants, his campaign most strongly affected Mexican Americans, especially Mexican Americans living in Southern California. [91] Many of the deportations were overseen by state and local authorities who acted on the encouragement of Doak and the Department of Labor. [92] During the 1930s, approximately one million Mexican Americans were forcibly "repatriated" to Mexico approximately sixty percent of those deported were birthright citizens. [93] According to legal professor Kevin R. Johnson, the repatriation campaign meets the modern legal standards of ethnic cleansing, as it involved the forced removal of a racial minority by government actors. [94]

Charles Curtis, the nation's first Native American Vice President, and the first person with acknowledged non-European ancestry, was from the Kaw tribe in Kansas. [22] [95] Hoover's humanitarian and Quaker reputation, along with Curtis as a vice-president, gave special meaning to his Indian policies. His Quaker upbringing influenced his views that Native Americans needed to achieve economic self-sufficiency. As president, he appointed Charles J. Rhoads as commissioner of Indian affairs. Hoover supported Rhoads' commitment to Indian assimilation and sought to minimize the federal role in Indian affairs. His goal was to have Indians acting as individuals (not as tribes) and to assume the responsibilities of citizenship granted with the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. [96]

Bonus Army Edit

Thousands of World War I veterans and their families demonstrated and camped out in Washington, DC, during June 1932, calling for immediate payment of bonuses that had been promised by the World War Adjusted Compensation Act in 1924 the terms of the act called for payment of the bonuses in 1945. Although offered money by Congress to return home, some members of the "Bonus Army" remained. Washington police attempted to disperse the demonstrators, but they were outnumbered and unsuccessful. Shots were fired by the police in a futile attempt to attain order, and two protesters were killed while many officers were injured. Hoover sent U.S. Army forces led by General Douglas MacArthur to the protests. MacArthur, believing he was fighting a Communist revolution, chose to clear out the camp with military force. Though Hoover had not ordered MacArthur's clearing out of the protesters, he endorsed it after the fact. [97] The incident proved embarrassing for the Hoover administration, and destroyed any remaining chance he had of winning re-election. [98]

Twentieth Amendment Edit

Article I, Section 4, Clause 2 of the Constitution states that Congress must meet at least once per year, on the first Monday in December, though Congress could by law set another date and the president could summon special sessions. The original text of the Constitution set a duration for the terms of federal elected officials, but not the specific dates on which those terms would begin or end. From 1789 until the early 1930s, presidential and congressional terms began on March 4. [99] The result of these scheduling decisions was that there was a long, four-month lame duck period between the election and inauguration of the president. As regular congressional sessions did not begin until December of each year, there was often a long lame duck session following the election, followed by a long period of congressional inactivity. [100]

Efforts to change these dates through a constitutional amendment began in the late 1920s. In March 1932, Congress approved a constitutional amendment moving the beginning and ending of the terms of the president and vice president from March 4 to January 20, and of members of Congress from March 4 to January 3. The amendment also specified procedures for cases in which the president-elect dies or otherwise fails to qualify. By January 23, 1933, the amendment had been ratified by the requisite number of states to become the Twentieth Amendment. [82] [101] Roosevelt's second inauguration in 1937 was the first presidential inauguration to take place on the new date.

In the midst of a worldwide depression, Hoover and Secretary of State Henry Stimson became more closely involved in world affairs than Hoover's Republican predecessors had been. [102] According to Leuchtenberg, Hoover was "the last American president to take office with no conspicuous need to pay attention to the rest of the world." But during Hoover's term, the world order established with the 1919 Treaty of Versailles began to crumble. [103]

Mulilateral agreements Edit

Though the United States remained outside of the League of Nations, Hoover showed a willingness to work within multilateral structures. Hoover pursued United States membership in the Permanent Court of International Justice, but the Senate never voted on his proposal. The Senate also defeated Hoover's proposed Saint Lawrence Seaway Treaty with Canada. [104]

Hoover placed a priority on disarmament, which he hoped would allow the United States to shift money from the military to domestic needs. [105] Hoover and Stimson focused on extending the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, which sought to prevent a naval arms race. A previous effort to extend the Washington Naval Treaty, the Geneva Naval Conference, had failed to produce results, but the Hoover administration convinced the British to re-open negotiations. [106] [107] In 1930, the United States and other major naval powers signed the London Naval Treaty. [108] The treaty represented the first time that the naval powers had agreed to cap their tonnage of auxiliary vessels (previous agreements had focused on capital ships), but the treaty did not include France or Italy. The treaty provoked a nationalist backlash in Japan due to its reconfirmation of the "5–5–3" ratio which limited Japan to a smaller fleet than the United States or the United Kingdom. [109] At the 1932 World Disarmament Conference, Hoover urged worldwide cutbacks in armaments and the outlawing of tanks and bombers, but his proposals were not adopted. [109]

Reparations Edit

When Hoover took office, an international committee meeting in Paris promulgated the Young Plan, which created the Bank for International Settlements and stipulated the partial forgiveness of German World War I reparations. Hoover was wary of agreeing to the plan, as he feared that it would be linked to reduced payments on loans the U.S. extended to France and Britain in World War I. He ultimately agreed to support the proposal at the urging of Owen D. Young, the American industrialist who chaired the committee. Despite the settlement reached by the Young Plan, the German economy collapsed in the early 1930s, and Germany announced that it could not pay reparations. In response, Hoover issued the Hoover Moratorium, a one-year halt on Allied war loans conditional on a suspension of German reparations payments. [110] Hoover also made American bankers agree to refrain from demanding payment on private loans from Germans. [111] Hoover hoped that the moratorium would help stabilize the European economy, which he viewed as a major cause of economic troubles in the United States. [112] As the moratorium neared its expiration the following year, an attempt to find a permanent solution was made at the Lausanne Conference of 1932. A working compromise was never established, and reparations payments virtually stopped. [113]

Latin America Edit

As president, Hoover largely made good on his pledge made prior to assuming office not to interfere in Latin America's internal affairs. In 1930, he released the Clark Memorandum, a rejection of the Roosevelt Corollary and a move towards non-interventionism in Latin America. Hoover did not completely refrain from the use of the military in Latin American affairs he thrice threatened intervention in the Dominican Republic, and he sent warships to El Salvador to support the government against a left-wing revolution. [114] But he wound down the Banana Wars, ending the occupation of Nicaragua and nearly bringing an end to the occupation of Haiti. Franklin Roosevelt's Good Neighbor policy would continue the trend towards non-interventionism in Latin America. [115]

Affairs in the Pacific Edit

In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria, defeating the Republic of China's military forces and establishing Manchukuo, a puppet state. The Hoover administration deplored the invasion, but also sought to avoid antagonizing the Japanese, fearing that taking too strong of a stand would weaken the moderate forces in the Japanese government. Hoover also viewed the Japanese as a potential ally against the Soviet Union, which he saw as a much greater threat. [116] In response to the Japanese invasion, Hoover and Secretary of State Stimson outlined the Stimson Doctrine, which held that the United States would not recognize territories gained by force. The Hoover administration based this declaration on the 1928 Kellogg–Briand Pact, in which several nations (including Japan and the United States) renounced war and promised to peacefully solve disputes. In the aftermath of invasion of Manchuria, Stimson and other members of the Cabinet came to believe that war with Japan might be inevitable, though Hoover continued to push for disarmament among the world powers. [117]

The United States had taken control of the Philippines after the Spanish–American War of 1898, and the islands remained a possession of the United States despite a vigorous independence movement. Stimson convinced Hoover to oppose independence on the grounds that it would hurt the Philippine economy. [105]

Between 1928 and 1932, the gross national product dropped by 30 percent, and by mid-1931 few observers thought that Hoover had much hope of winning a second term. [118] Despite the economic calamity facing the nation and his dim hopes for re-election, Hoover faced little opposition for re-nomination at the 1932 Republican National Convention. Some Republicans talked of nominating Coolidge, former Vice President Charles Dawes, Senator Hiram Johnson, or Governor Gifford Pinchot, but all passed on the opportunity to challenge Hoover. [119] Franklin D. Roosevelt won the presidential nomination on the fourth ballot of the 1932 Democratic National Convention, defeating the 1928 Democratic nominee, Al Smith. By 1932, the radio was in 12 million homes, changing the nature of presidential campaigns. No longer could presidents change the content of their speeches for each audience anyone with a radio could listen to every major speech. [120]

Hoover originally planned to make only one or two major speeches, and to leave the rest of the campaigning to proxies, as sitting presidents had traditionally done. However, encouraged by Republican pleas and outraged by Democratic claims, Hoover entered the public fray. In his nine major radio addresses Hoover primarily defended his administration and his philosophy of government. Hoover urged voters to hold to the "foundations of experience," rejecting the notion that government interventionism could save the country from the Depression. [121] In his campaign trips around the country, Hoover was faced with perhaps the most hostile crowds of any sitting president. Besides having his train and motorcades pelted with eggs and rotten fruit, he was often heckled while speaking, and on several occasions, the Secret Service halted attempts to kill Hoover by disgruntled citizens, including capturing one man nearing Hoover carrying sticks of dynamite, and another already having removed several spikes from the rails in front of the president's train. [122]

The Democrats attacked Hoover as the cause of the Great Depression, and for being indifferent to the suffering of millions. [123] As Governor of New York, Roosevelt had called on the New York legislature to provide aid for the needy, establishing Roosevelt's reputation for being more favorable toward government interventionism during the economic crisis. [124] Fausold rejects the notion that the two nominees were similar ideologically, pointing to differences between the two on federal spending on public works, agricultural issues, Prohibition, and the tariff. [125] The Democratic Party, including Al Smith and other national leaders, coalesced behind Roosevelt, while progressive Republicans like George Norris and Robert La Follette Jr. deserted Hoover. [126]

Hoover's attempts to vindicate his administration fell on deaf ears, as much of the public blamed his administration for the depression. [127] Roosevelt won 57.4 percent of the popular vote compared to Hoover's 39.7 percent. Hoover's popular vote was reduced by 26 percentage points from his result in the 1928 election, while Roosevelt became the first Democratic presidential nominee to win a majority of the popular vote since the Civil War. [128] In the electoral vote, Hoover lost 59–472, carrying only six Northeastern states. [129] In the concurrent congressional election, the Democrats extended their control over the House and gained control of the Senate, giving them unified control of the legislative and executive branches for the first time since the 1918 elections. The election marked the end of the Fourth Party System and the beginning of the Fifth Party System. Republicans would not re-gain control of either house of Congress until 1947, and Democrats would retain the presidency until 1953.

As Hoover's term extended until March 1933, he held office for several months after his defeat in the November 1932 election. During that period, the domestic banking system and the international situation continued to worsen. Adolf Hitler took power in Germany, Japan announced its intention to leave the League of Nations, and the British requested that they be allowed to suspend payments on World War I debts. Hoover was interested in linking debt cancellation to disarmament, but debt cancellation was extremely unpopular in much of the United States. He proposed that Roosevelt join him in negotiating an agreement to cancel the war debts, but Roosevelt, who viewed the causes of the Great Depression as primarily domestic in nature, refused to become involved. [130] Hoover and Roosevelt met twice in the period between the election and Roosevelt's inauguration, but they were unable to agree on any united action to combat the Depression. [131] In mid-February 1933, Hoover sought to convince Roosevelt to issue a public statement endorsing Hoover's policies for ending the Depression, but Roosevelt refused to do so. [132] That same month, Roosevelt survived an assassination attempt the bullets meant for Roosevelt killed Mayor Anton Cermak of Chicago. [133] Hoover continued to unsuccessfully lobby Roosevelt regarding economic policy until Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933. [134]

Hoover was extremely unpopular when he left office in 1933 and remained unpopular for the next several decades. [135] In the 1930s, numerous popular diatribes appeared that were extremely harsh on Hoover syndicated columnist Arthur Krock in 1931 said Hoover was a failure across the board as a party leader, economist, business authority, and personality. [136] Historian Allan Nevins in July 1932 wrote that Hoover was an "exponent of narrow nationalism." He "botched the tariff, he botched farm relief, he botched prohibition—because he showed a Bourbon temper and an inelastic mind." [137] [138] Textbooks written in the older Progressive tradition identified Hoover with the reactionary side of class conflict. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., a leading progressive exponent, strongly criticized Hoover in his influential work, The Crisis of the Old Order (1957). By the 1950s, however, a new school of consensus historians was replacing the Progressive approach, focusing on values shared across the political spectrum rather than class conflict. They started to praise Hoover for reforms that were picked up and further developed by Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal – such as relief of the unemployed, the Good Neighbor Policy in Latin America, and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. [139]

Hoover's reputation experienced a strong recovery after 1970. [135] Revisionist scholars in the 1970s portrayed Hoover in terms of the activist Secretary of Commerce that was so attractive to voters in the 1920s, while recognizing some failings in the Depression years. Carl Degler showed that Hoover and FDR were similar in many ways—both were Wilsonians who were shaped by their First World War experiences, gave government a major role in the economy, and imposed controls on big business. To these historians, Hoover was the link between the 1920s and the New Deal. [139] [140] These revisionist historians depicted Hoover as an individual "deserving of respect and historical study for his roles as a humane reformer, idealistic visionary, and institutional developer." [141] Hawley in 2019 concluded that most revisionist historians "continued to agree that Hoover had not been the hardhearted reactionary, financial charlatan, and do-nothing president depicted in the earlier derogatory portrait." [142]

Hoover has been the subject of numerous serious biographies in recent years. Only a few of them, such as William Leuchtenburg's Herbert Hoover (2009), reflect the old negative viewpoint of an unattractive character who was cold and overbearing with little to show for his reforms. [143] By contrast, Glen Jeansonne's Herbert Hoover: A Life (2016) emphasizes Hoover's remarkable combination of advanced technical knowledge, innovative organizing ability, highly profitable business acumen, and compassion For the civilian victims of the Great War. Jeansonne gives Hoover an "A" for effort in dealing with the Great Depression with all the tools known to the White House and new ones as well, albeit without great success. [144] Hoover's reputation has also been affected by works focusing on his career outside of the presidency biographers such as George H. Nash have shed light on Hoover's career before 1921, while Gary Best wrote a working focused on Hoover's post-presidential career and his influence on the conservative movement [145]

According to Professor David E. Hamilton, historians have credited Hoover for his genuine belief in voluntarism and cooperation, as well as the innovation of some of his programs. However, Hamilton also notes that Hoover was politically inept and failed to recognize the severity of the Great Depression. [135] Polls of historians and political scientists have generally ranked Hoover in the bottom third of presidents. A 2018 poll of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents and Executive Politics section ranked Hoover as the 36th best president. [146] A 2017 C-Span poll of historians also ranked Hoover as the 36th best president. [147]


The transition was an example of a "friendly takeover", in which the outgoing president and the president elect were of the same political party (Republican). It would be the last such transition until the 1988–89 presidential transition of George H. W. Bush. [2] [3]

Beginning on November 7, the day after the election, the newly-minted president-elect and his family were given protection by the United States Secret Service. [4]

While the stock market would crash months into Hoover's presidency, starting the Great Depression, the performance of the economy during his transition appeared strong.

Among United States presidential transitions, the stock market performed stronger than it had during a presidential transition for decades. The growth of the Dow Jones Industrial Average had experienced during Hoover's presidential transition (21.8%) would not be exceeded by any United States presidential transition until the presidential transition of Donald Trump. [5] [6]

On November 19, 1928, President-elect Hoover embarked on a ten-nation goodwill tour of Latin America, first departing from San Pedro, in Los Angeles, California aboard the USS Maryland. [4] [7] [8] [9] He was accompanied on the trip by his wife Lou Henry Hoover. [10] He delivered twenty-five speeches, stressing his plans to reduce American political and military interference in Latin American affairs. In sum, he pledged that the United States would act as a "good neighbor." [11] [12] [13]

Hoover's work as United States secretary of commerce had led him to view Latin America as important, and believe that there was need to improve relations. [14] Hoover began planning the trip soon after winning the election. [14] It was the first time that a President-elect had taken such a goodwill trip abroad. [14] Hoover also planned the trip as means of staying away from Washington, D.C., avoiding men seeking to lobby for patronage posts. [14]

The administration of outgoing president Calvin Coolidge leant their support to Hoover's plans to take this trip. [9] Henry P. Fletcher accompanied Hoover on the trip, serving as official advisor to the president-elect as well as an representative of Coolidge and the Department of State. [9] Coolidge ordered that Hoover should be treated with presidential honors on his trip, despite Hoover having not yet entered the office. [9]

While crossing the Andes from Chile, a plot by Argentine anarchists to bomb Hoover's train as it crossed the vast Argentinian central plain was foiled. The group of plotters were led by Severino Di Giovanni. The bomber was arrested before he could place the explosives on the rails. Hoover professed unconcern, tearing off the front page of a newspaper that revealed the plot and explaining, "It's just as well that Lou shouldn't see it," referring to his wife. [15]

During his travels, he delivered roughly 25 speeches. [9] Public reception in the United States of Hoover's trip was largely positive. [9]

Dates Country Locations Details
November 26, 1928 Honduras Amapala Met with President-elect Vicente Mejía Colindres and Foreign Minister Augusto Coello. [16] Departed the U.S. November 19, 1928. [17]
November 26, 1928 El Salvador Cutuco Met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Martínez Suárez. [16]
November 27, 1928 Nicaragua Corinto Met with President Adolfo Díaz and President-elect José María Moncada. [17]
November 28, 1928 Costa Rica San José Met with President Cleto González Víquez. [16] [18]
December 1, 1928 Ecuador Guayaquil Met with President Isidro Ayora. [16]
December 5, 1928 Peru Lima Met with President Augusto B. Leguía. [16]
December 8–11, 1928 Chile Antofagasta,
Met with President Carlos Ibáñez del Campo. Met with Bolivian diplomats to discuss the ongoing Tacna–Arica dispute. [16] [19]
December 13–15, 1928 Argentina Buenos Aires Met with President Hipólito Yrigoyen. [20] Also reported to President Coolidge on the success of his tour via telegraph. [21]
December 16–18, 1928 Uruguay Montevideo Met with President Juan Campisteguy, and addressed the National Council of Administration. [16]
December 21–23, 1928 Brazil Rio de Janeiro Met with President Washington Luís addressed the National Congress and the Supreme Federal Court. [17] Returned to U.S. January 6, 1929. [22]

After Hoover returned from his Latin American trip, he avoided the press and patronage seekers by vacationing in Florida until February 19. [3] [14] Hoover was in little hurry to begin preparing to take office. Presidential transitions were much less complex when Hoover took office than they have been in more recent decades. [3]

After his Florida vacation, Hoover began the business of shaping his administration in the final two weeks of his transition period. [3]

Hoover retained two members of Coolidge's Cabinet. One was Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon, whom, per the later recounting of historian David Bruner, Hoover retained in order to avoid a reaction on Wall Street, as the financial sector held Mellon in strong esteem. [3] The other was Secretary of Labor James J. Davis, who was retained, per Bruner's accounting, in order for Hoover to avoid the pressure to appoint John L. Lewis to the position. [3]

The Presidential Inaugural Address of Herbert Hoover [Monday, March 4, 1929] - History

Photograph of Herbert Hoover (National Archives)

Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874 - October 20, 1964) was the 31st President of the United States, (Republican) from (1929 - 1933).

Hoover was born into a Quaker family in an Iowa village, but spent most of his childhood in Oregon. He enrolled at Stanford University when it opened in 1891, graduating as a mining engineer.

He married his Stanford sweetheart, Lou Henry, and they went to China, where he worked for a private corporation as China's leading engineer. In June 1900 the Boxer Rebellion caught the Hoovers in Tianjin. For almost a month the settlement was under heavy fire. While his wife worked in the hospitals, Hoover directed the building of barricades, and once risked his life rescuing Chinese children.

One week before Hoover celebrated his 40th birthday in London, Germany declared war on France, and the American Consul General asked his help in getting stranded tourists home. In six weeks his committee helped 120,000 Americans return to the United States. Next Hoover turned to a far more difficult task, to feed Belgium, which had been overrun by the German army.

After the United States entered the war, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Hoover head of the Food Administration. He succeeded in cutting consumption of foods needed overseas and avoided rationing at home, yet kept the Allies fed.

After the Armistice, Hoover, a member of the Supreme Economic Council and head of the American Relief Administration, organized shipments of food for starving millions in Central Europe. He extended aid to famine-stricken Soviet Russia in 1921. When a critic inquired if he was not thus helping Bolshevism, Hoover retorted, "Twenty million people are starving. Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!"

After capably serving as Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, Hoover became the Republican Presidential nominee in 1928. He said then: "We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land." His election seemed to ensure prosperity. Yet within months the stock market crashed, and the nation spiraled downward into what became known as the Great Depression.

After the crash Hoover announced that while he would keep the Federal budget balanced, he would cut taxes and expand public works spending. However, he signed the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act, which raised tariffs on over 20,000 dutiable items. This act is often blamed for deepening the depression, and being Hoover's biggest political blunder.

In 1931 repercussions from Europe deepened the crisis, even though the President presented to Congress a program asking for creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to aid business, additional help for farmers facing mortgage foreclosures, banking reform, a loan to states for feeding the unemployed, expansion of public works, and drastic governmental economy.

At the same time he reiterated his view that while people must not suffer from hunger and cold, caring for them must be primarily a local and voluntary responsibility.

His opponents in Congress, who he felt were sabotaging his program for their own political gain, painted him as a callous and cruel president. Hoover became the scapegoat for the Depression and was badly defeated in 1932. In the 1930s he became a critic of the New Deal, warning against tendencies toward statism.

In 1947, President Harry S Truman appointed Hoover to a commission, which elected him chairman, to reorganize the Executive Departments. He was appointed chairman of a similar commission by President Eisenhower in 1953. Many economies resulted from both commissions' recommendations. Over the years, Hoover wrote many articles and books, one of which he was working on when he died at 90 in New York City on October 20, 1964.

Photographs of President Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover as a young man with a day's catch. (National Archives)

President Herbert Hoover and official party in Tunnel No. 2 during inspection tour of Boulder Canyon Project. Left to right: Construction Engineer Walker R. Young, Bureau of Reclamation Mr. Ritchey, Secretary to the President Chief Engineer Raymond F. Walter, Bureau of Reclamation Mrs. Hoover President Hoover Mrs. Wilber Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur E.O. Wattis, First Vice-President, Six Companies, Inc. Frank T. Crowe, General Superintendent, Six Companies, Inc, 11/12/1932 (National Archives)

This political cartoon depicts President Herbert Hoover pondering his selection for the Supreme Court. - “The Presidency is Just One Problem After Another”, 03/16/1930 (National Archives)

“A Chicken in Every Pot” political ad and rebuttal article in New York Times, 10/30/1928
(National Archives)
This is the advertisement that caused Herbert Hoover's opponents to state that he had promised voters a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage during the campaign of 1928. During the campaign of 1932, Democrats sought to embarrass the President by recalling his alleged statement. According to an article in the New York Times (10/30/32), Hoover did not make such a statement. The report was based on this ad placed by a local committee -- which only mentions one car !

“Food will Win the War, Herbert Hoover. But there is another Vital Necessity. The Conservation of Food. ” , ca. 1917 - ca. 1919 (National Archives)

Herbert Hoover's Inaugural Ball 1929

The interior view of the Washington auditorium at 19th Street and New York Avenue shows a large crowd at President Herbert Hoover's inaugural ball on March 4, 1929. The growing popularity f celebratory events surrounding the inaugural and the presidency itself necessitated multiple balls around the city to accommodate the crowds. Even so, space is at a premium for Hoover as crowds dance and move about while he and his guests watch from a balcony at the back of the auditorium.

8 Things You May Not Know About Presidential Inaugurations

1. Inauguration Day used to be March 4.
Lame ducks used to be much lamer. Until 1937, the president and vice president began their terms on March 4, four months after Election Day. With technological advances requiring less time to count votes and travel to Washington, D.C., the 20th Amendment, which was ratified in 1933, moved up Inauguration Day to January 20. (When January 20 falls on a Sunday, the public swearing-in ceremony takes place on January 21.) Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 was the first president to take the oath of office on January 20.

2. One man has both taken and administered the oath of office.
Twelve years after he was sworn in as America’s 27th president, William Howard Taft was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court. In that role, he was the man to administer the oaths of office to Calvin Coolidge in 1925 and Herbert Hoover in 1929.

3. Vice presidents used to have separate swearing-in ceremonies.
In modern times, the swearing-in of the vice president moments before the president has been the warm-up act to the main event. Before 1937, however, the second fiddles had their own swearing-in ceremonies inside the Senate chamber before heading outside for the presidential inauguration. Veeps even delivered their own inaugural addresses, sometimes at their own peril. In 1865 Andrew Johnson delivered a rambling, drunken speech described by Senator Charles Sumner as “the most unfortunate thing that had ever occurred in our history.” Luckily, Abraham Lincoln’s memorable second inaugural address quickly swept Johnson’s incoherent oratory into the dustbin of history.

4. A Congressional chair squabble led to the first outdoor inaugural address.
Except for George Washington’s first inauguration in 1789, presidential swearing-in ceremonies were initially indoor affairs, held in the House and Senate chambers. The 1817 inauguration of James Monroe was scheduled for the House chamber, but after a disagreement broke out between the House and Senate about whose chairs would be used, Monroe had enough and decided to take the oath of office and deliver his speech outdoors. Except on three occasions when weather intervened, Inauguration Day festivities since 1829 have been held outdoors.

WATCH: The Inauguration

5. The man with the longest inaugural address had the shortest presidency.
Brevity can be a presidential virtue long-windedness can prove fatal. A month after William Henry Harrison spent two hours delivering his 8,445-word inaugural address in 1841, the 68-year-old president was dead from pneumonia, perhaps due to his prolonged exposure to raw, blustery elements during the inaugural. By contrast, these presidents delivered the shortest addresses: George Washington (135 words in his second address), Franklin Roosevelt (559 words in his fourth address) and Abraham Lincoln (701 words in his second address). In their entirety, all three of these speeches were shorter than just a single sentence–topping 700 words–in the inaugural address of John Adams.

6. The swearing-in ceremony for four presidents resembled marriage vows.
The Constitution does not specify precise instructions for how chief justices should administer presidential oaths, thus the swearing-in ceremony has varied over the centuries. While most justices and presidents have alternated reciting lines of the oath, Chief Justices Edward D. White and Taft recited the entire oath and posed it in the form of a question, requiring Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Coolidge and Hoover to merely say, “I do.”

7. Whiskey may have saved the White House from being trashed during a rowdy inauguration party.
In 1829, Andrew Jackson threw open the doors of the White House to his supporters to celebrate his inauguration. The rowdy party quickly got out of control with the throng muddying the carpets, destroying several thousand dollars worth of china and crystal and getting into fistfights over refreshments. The new president had to escape through a window to get some breathing space. The exuberant crowd was finally lured out of the White House when tubs of whiskey were rolled onto the south lawn.

8. John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address obscured a comedy of errors.
Things didn’t exactly go smoothly during John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration. An overnight snowstorm almost forced the cancellation of the festivities, but they continued as planned—sort of. During the invocation, a short circuit caused smoke to temporarily pour out from the lectern. Then when poet Robert Frost took to the podium, he was unable to read his original composition due to the bright glare reflecting off the snow. Instead, he was forced to recite another ode from memory and then told the crowd he dedicated it “to the president-elect, Mr. John Finley.” Luckily, most only remembered Kennedy’s eloquent inaugural address that followed.

Hoover was born in Iowa in 1874. He was the first president born west of the Mississippi.   He was orphaned by the time he was nine. He was separated from his siblings and sent to live with an uncle in Oregon. He received an engineering degree from Stanford University's inaugural class. He was so poor he lived in the construction workers' barracks.

Hoover's poverty gave him the drive to succeed. As a mining engineer, he traveled the world to locate mineral deposits. He started his own company and soon had businesses throughout the world.

His early adversities also made him a kind-hearted man. While working in China in his first job, he risked his life rescuing Chinese children during the Boxer Rebellion. He helped get stranded tourists home during the outbreak of World War I and helped feed 9 million Belgians.   This gave him the deserved reputation of a humanitarian.

During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson made Hoover the head of the Food Security Administration. Hoover fed the troops without resorting to rationing at home. After the war, he headed the American Relief Administration where he fed 15 million famine-stricken people in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

Hoover was the Secretary of Commerce under prior Presidents William G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. In 1927, he appeared in the first American demonstration of television.

In 1928, he became the Republican presidential nominee. He ran against Al Smith, a New York Democrat supported by FDR.   But Smith was the nation's first Catholic presidential candidate, which triggered demonstrations by the Ku Klux Klan. He also supported the repeal of Prohibition, which made many believe he was an alcoholic. Hoover ran and won on the theme of the nation's prosperity during the Roaring Twenties. His campaign slogan was "A Chicken for Every Pot."  

As president, Hoover received a $75,000 salary. It would be worth $2.1 million today. Hoover divided his salary between various charities.   He also gave some to his staff. Hoover's net worth was around $4 million in 1913, worth $103 million today.

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