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The Hoover Administration

Domestic Affairs. Herbert Hoover has sometimes been portrayed wrongly as a "do-nothing" executive in the face of the challenges of the Depression. In fact, Hoover did much and in some ways prepared the path that would later lead to the New Deal.

Hoover rejected the Coolidge-Mellon imperative to keep the federal government out of active participation in the economy — a plan that worked well during prosperous times, but not during a major depression. Hoover first stressed voluntary action by business and labor to keep the economy functioning, but the continuing deterioration of conditions forced a change. Hoover allowed the government to become the source of funding for construction and relief programs, but he rationalized this departure by developing self-liquidating programs and having state and local authorities administer them.

Finally, at the end of his administration, the formerly confident Hoover was a beaten man. He had been overwhelmingly defeated at the polls, unemployment continued to soar and the nation was stilled by a major bank crisis. As he waited for Franklin Roosevelt to take office, Hoover was tired, bitter and out of ideas.

Election of 1928 (November 1928). The efficient, pro-business Herbert Hoover, the Republican candidate, fit the public mood more closely than Democrat Al Smith.

Export Debenture Plan (Spring 1929). Senate farm bloc efforts to gain federal aid for distressed farmers were stopped repeatedly in the House of Representatives.

Agricultural Marketing Act (June 1929). Hoover's voluntary form of farm aid at first appeared to succeed, but eventually failed to stop the decline of prices.

Wall Street Crash (October 1929). The bull market of the 1920s slumped sharply in October, touching off a long, slow decline that wiped out billions of dollars in paper profits.

Hawley-Smoot Tariff (June 1930). Hoover ignored the protests of more than 1,000 economists and signed the highest protective tariff measure in U.S. history. Widespread reciprocation followed as other nations demonstrated their displeasure.

Veterans Administration Act (July 1930). A reorganized Veterans' Administration consolidated responsibilities of the Veterans' Bureau and other agencies charged with providing services to former soldiers.
Hoover's Early Relief Efforts (1930-31). Hoover was clearly not a do-nothing economic administrator, but his early efforts at combating the depression were true to the tradition of having the government refrain from offering direct assistance to individuals in need.

Wickersham Report (January 1931). A federal study of the 18th Amendment recommended against repeal, but noted severe difficulties in enforcement.

The Veterans' Bonus Issue (February 1931). Not wanting to burden the government with additional financial obligations, Hoover vetoed a bill designed to make funds available to ex-servicemen. The measure was passed over the president's veto, but compensation for veterans remained a prominent issue.
Reconstruction Finance Corporation (February 1932). Hoover's plan for combating the Depression was to assure the economic health of major banks and industries, trusting that their continued functioning would spread benefits to the working masses.
Glass-Steagall Act (February 1932). The first of two acts with the same name, this measure changed Federal Reserve and gold reserve policies as a means to loosen credit.
Emergency Relief and Construction Act (July 1932). This measure was a step toward more direct federal involvement in relief efforts, but it continued to rely on state and local agencies to administer programs to help the needy.
Federal Home Loan Bank Act (July 1932). In an effort to slow foreclosures and increase homeownership, Hoover secured the creation of regional discount banks to increase the supply of money available to mortgage lenders.
The Bonus Army (July 1932). Thousands of hard-pressed veterans descended on Washington in the spring and summer of 1932 to demand the cashing out of their pensions. Hoover's use of the army to disperse generally orderly demonstrations was viewed as heartless by many Americans.
Election of 1932. Franklin Roosevelt's campaign was short on specifics, but long on optimism. Unlike four years earlier, the electorate was unsettled by the Depression and voted overwhelmingly for change.
The "Lame Duck" Amendment (February 1933). Reflecting long-established changes in transportation and communications, the nation ratified Amendment XX that shortened the period between federal election and the swearing in of the president and members of Congress.
The Bank Crisis (February 1933). Steadily deteriorating public confidence in the nation's banks reached crisis proportions shortly before Hoover left office. States attempted to slow runs on the banks by declaring "holidays" to provide breathing room for the threatened institutions.
Roosevelt Assassination Attempt (February 1933). The president-elect's calm demeanor following an assassination attempt in Miami quieted the fears of some who were uneasy about the impending change in leadership.

Foreign Affairs. Hoover cited the maintenance of peace as his prime objective in his administration's foreign policy. He was willing to cooperate with, but not join, the League of Nations, and actively sought international arms limitations and the restructuring of World War I financial obligations. His diplomacy in the Far East was at best modestly successful, but efforts to heal old wounds in Latin America were widely welcomed.

The Young Plan (1929). The effort of the Hoover administration to restructure Germany's reparations payments was scheduled to go into effect at the time when the effects of the Great Depression began to be felt throughout the world.

London Naval Conference (January-April 1930). This conference labored to fill gaps in the disarmament program created by the Washington Conference (1921) and repair the rift opened at Geneva (1927).

Hoover Moratorium (June 1931). Hoover hoped that a one-year cessation in reparations and war debts payments would allow time for economic recovery.

Japanese Expansion (1931-32). Japanese military leaders manufactured an incident in Manchuria to justify their occupation of that area. Under international pressure, Japan backed down, but had cemented its control of that region through the creation of the puppet state of Manchukuo.

Stimson Doctrine (January 1932). The U.S. Secretary of State attempted to dissuade Japanese expansion by adopting a policy of non-recognition of changes made in China. This position was later adopted by the international community.
Lausanne Conference (June 1932). An agreement of the European powers to halt German reparations payments failed to be ratified because of the U.S. refusal to deal similarly with Allied war debts. Germany did not resume reparations payments and soon repudiated them.

Lytton Report (October 1932). An international fact-finding commission held Japan responsible for aggression in Manchuria, but also recognized Japan's special interests in that area. Japan later gave notice of its intention to withdraw from the League of Nations.

Perspectives on the Depression. Optimism prevailed throughout much of the United States in the 1920s. Many believed that the new Federal Reserve System and other advances had freed the country from the recurring business cycles that had plagued earlier generations. Prosperity appeared to be guaranteed.

However, signs of a failing economy were evident in late 1928 and into the following year. In October, a great wave of panic selling hit Wall Street — the Great Crash that is wrongly blamed for the following depression.

In short order, the contraction of the money supply, loss of purchasing power, layoffs and unemployment, falling prices, bankruptcies and widespread destitution visited not only all parts of the U.S., but most of the industrialized world as well.



◄ Coolidge Administration

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