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As soon as Calvin Coolidge announced that he did not choose to run for reelection in 1928, Hoover was inundated with letters and telegrams urging him to run for president. The Democrats had nominated Alfred E. Smith, the first Catholic to run for the Presidency. Hoover and Smith were in accord on many issues of the 1928 campaign: reforms in child welfare, business practice, and the prison system; the Campaign Truckbetter organization of Federal Government, and the development of water resources and oil conservation. They differed on their farm policies and they differed on Prohibition. Smith favored a plan which would fix farm prices for produce and dump surplus products abroad. This would mean that the government controlled the farmer's distribution and production. Al Smith campaigned for the repeal of Prohibition, the constitutional amendment that prohibited the use of alcoholic beverages. Hoover didn't think that the Constitution was the proper place for the law, but once it was there it was the duty of the president to enforce the Constitution. Speaking was hard for Hoover, and being before a crowd was an ordeal. He seemed stiff and monotonous before big crowds, and he was shy with strangers. However, in 1928, the nation had great self confidence, and Herbert Hoover represented the best of technical proficiency that acted on humane needs that the people saw as their future. Hoover was elected by one of the biggest majorities in the history of the Republican party. His Vice President was Charles Curtis.
Victory Headline
On a rainy March day, Herbert Hoover took the oath of office as the 31st President of the United States. He brought to the presidency a wide range of interests, information, and experience. He banked his presidential salary and gave it entirely to charity. From the day Hoover organized the Belgian Relief in 1914, until his death fifty years later, he never accepted for his private use any payment for public service. He had reached the highest office in which Herbert Hoover felt he could make the greatest contribution to his own country.

When Hoover became president, there was a frenzy of activity on the stock market. People were buying stocks by borrowing money, or they were buying stocks on margin (buying with only a portion of the money down, and the rest out of profits). This had been going on since the early 1920's and Herbert Hoover knew this gambling in the stock market was dangerous.

Banks were also speculating in the stock market with their depositors' money, and there were no laws to stop them. Soon after Hoover's inauguration, the market went up and up. Most of the money for stock market gambling was being borrowed through the banks, and Hoover asked for an examination of the banking system along with laws to reform and strengthen the system.

Hoover tried to stop the speculation, but no one listened. Privately, he tried to convince the more influential bankers to stop making loans to brokers who were recklessly encouraging speculation. His appeals to the Federal Reserve, Congress and Governor Roosevelt (to propose stiffer regulation of the New York stock exchange) went unheeded.

Another pressing problem for the new president was the farm problem. Farmers wanted the government to buy the surplus that they grew, at fair market prices and dispose of them, but they didn't want any control over production by the government. Hoover believed that no government agency should be involved in the buying and selling and price-fixing of any products. This would lead to greater surpluses and government control. He believed the farmers could organize to fight their own battles and the government's role was to help them organize. In June Congress passed the Agricultural Marketing Act, and established the Federal Farm Board. This organization would help farmers form marketing organizations, establish associations for storage, and help stabilize market conditions by holding surpluses off the market to wait for more favorable prices. It would help farmers help themselves. Hoover also proposed tariffs on agricultural products. The tax would be imposed to protect industry and agriculture in the United States from lower priced overseas products where living standards and wages were lower, and also to raise revenue for the government.

Seven months after Hoover was inaugurated, the stock market crashed. The president tried giving statements of confidence to the people. This would be a new kind of disaster that Hoover must pioneer. Hoover was blamed for much of what was going wrong, and people were losing confidence in him. He had ideas which he hoped to implement through voluntary cooperation of business and industrial leaders. By the spring of 1930 the economy was starting to recover. In August a big drought struck the Great Plains states. A million farmers watched the skies for rain that never fell and they saw their crops die under a blazing sun. Hoover was working to ease the Depression while the Democrats were saying Hoover caused it and they added that the drought was just another part of the Depression. Hoover saw the relief coming from the state and local municipalities, which would rely on volunteers, but a few months later people were clamoring for the President to offer direct federal aid to the people. Because this was so contrary to Hoover's belief of helping people to help themselves, he at first refused to promote direct federal help because he saw it as a way which would lead to political corruption and the weakening of the morale of the American public.

In the summer of 1931, Hoover began to allow more indirect aid to drought stricken farmers. By the following spring direct aid was being widely distributed in the form of foodstuffs and cotton cloth. By this time there was an argument over everything Hoover tried to do to fight the Depression. He tried public works projects for which he was blamed for extravagance in government spending. When he refused to support a bill to give the Red Cross millions of dollars they said they did not need, the President was called callous about suffering. But Hoover carried on with his practical, problem solving nature, hiding the hurt that he surely felt as people blamed him for all of society's ills.

Hoover's day at the White House began with a game of medicine ball at 7:30. The game was like volleyball with an 6 pound ball tossed over a 10 foot net on a court. It was scored like tennis. This was Hoover's daily exercise. After breakfast he would work for half an hour in his office on letters, papers or writing an address. He had appointments every 15 minutes for the rest of the morning. Lunch always included guests, to discuss business. After lunch he returned to writing and appointments. He left the office at 6 pm. Dinner always meant guests, friends or official visitors.

By the spring of 1931, things were looking better with the Depression and unemployment, but Europe exploded in an economic crisis. This of course affected the U.S. The American banking system was so involved with Europe through war debts, bonds, loans and bank deposits abroad and European deposits in America, that whatever happened on one side of the ocean affected the other as well. Hoover presented programs to reform the banking program, to expand the public works across the country, and to create the Reconstruction Finance Corporation which would make government loans to save banks, farmers, railways, and businesses from bankruptcy. Congress passed his RFC legislation, but rejected his banking legislation. The RFC performed impressively. This agency was Hoover's chief contribution to recovery, and in establishing it he put the Federal Government into the business of business regulation, something he had been entirely opposed to when he had taken office. In making this decision he was acting swiftly to counter the dangers in the only manner which would work through the federal government.

The Depression Hits

By the summer of 1932, the Depression reached its lowest point. There were 12 million people unemployed and 18 million on relief. 1932 was a Presidential election year. Without much enthusiasm, the Republicans nominated Herbert Hoover again, while the Democrats chose Franklin D. Roosevelt.

During Hoover's Administration, he completed plans to build the Grand Coulee Dam, and to control flooding along the Mississippi. He also signed a treaty with Canada to create the St. Lawrence Waterway. Under his Administration the acreage of national forests and parks increased by 5 million acres. Airmail service had been reorganized, passenger service on airlines had tripled and cost per mile for air travel was cut by 80 percent. He also opened airmail to South America. He had worked out the engineering of the San Francisco Bay Bridge and used RFC funds to build it. He worked for legislation to protect children and he wrote a Children's Charter calling for the protection of the rights of every child regardless of race, color or situation.

He had made reforms in the proceedings of justice and in bankruptcy practice to help small businessmen and homeowners. He reorganized the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover (not related to Herbert Hoover). He designed legislation for extensive reform of criminals. Hoover had made three high caliber appointments to the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, and Justices Owen Roberts, and Benjamin Cardozo.

In Foreign affairs he led the United States to greater international cooperation toward world peace, with the Hoover-Stimson Doctrine. This document provided that the U.S. would not recognize territories gained by force. He developed a Good Neighbor policy with Latin America, and withdrew U.S. troops from Nicaragua and Haiti. But these achievements were not dramatic enough for a successful campaign. Roosevelt was a new man with a charming personality, and infectious smile and a golden voice. The American people tired of the Depression and upset with the slowness of the recovery were charmed by the gaiety and confidence of FDR. They elected him President in 1932.


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