1934 July 21

FDR’s New Deal Has Mixed Civil Liberties Record, Says ACLU


In its 1934 Annual Report, released on this day, the ACLU announced a mixed record on civil liberties under President Roosevelt’s New Deal. On the positive side, there had been no wholesale suppression of civil liberties, as in World War I, but primarily because there was “no significant opposition to suppress.” The ACLU also praised the New Deal’s policies toward Native-Americans and aliens, along with President Roosevelt’s Christmas amnesty that restored the political rights of people convicted under the Espionage Act during World War I. On the negative side, however, open conflict between labor and employers was more “sharp, widespread, and bitterly fought” than in other years.

In retrospect, Roosevelt’s overall civil liberties record from 1933 to 1945 was very mixed. On the one hand, he perpetrated one of the worst civil liberties violations in American history, the evacuation and internment of the Japanese-Americans during World War II. On the positive side, his appointments to the Supreme Court created the first pro-civil liberties Court (the “Roosevelt Court”) in Americans history.

On FDR’s civil liberties record, read: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)

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