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Great Depression and World War II, 1929-1945
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal
Disagreeing With the New Deal

Not everyone agreed with President Roosevelt and his New Deal agenda. Although support was widespread, some people argued that the federal government had no place spending millions on public works, going into debt, and regulating business and industry. Others argued that the New Deal did not go far enough and that the federal government should take over the banks and industry. In the following excerpt from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 , Mr. Henry Gill, a knife maker, reads from a copy of the American Guardian newspaper that was being distributed through the local volunteer fire department. What position does the American Guardian take on the New Deal? What programs does the American Guardian propose to end the depression? What does Mr. Gill think of the American Guardian and its proposed programs?

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Mr . Henry Gill , "Pres." (according to company letterheads) general manager, secretary, factotum, of the Northfield Knife Company is in his garage this afternoon, deeply absorbed in an eight column, four sheet newspaper from which he looks up as I enter. After exchange of the [amenities?], Mr . Gill refers again to his paper, holding it out for inspection. "What do you think of this?" he says. Under the masthead The American Guardian is proclaimed the circulation, 43,201 (new subscriptions last week 418) and the legend "Our Country--Not the richest and most powerful on earth; but the leader in all that's good true and beautiful on earth."

"Ever 'ear of it?" asks Mr . Gill . "Chap brought it up from the fire 'ouse this afternoon. They got a bundle of 'em through the mail there, addressed to the Northfield Volunteer Fire department. Been comin' for the past couple weeks from out west-- 'ere, you can see 'ere--Oklahoma City.

"Near's I can make out, it's some new plan for the revision of the capitalist system. They've got it figured out that its lack of buying power that's responsible for the depression, and they're goin' to give every family 'ead an income of at least twenty eight dollars a week while e's out of work and a minimum of fifty when 'e goes back to work, no matter what 'e does. They're also goin' to repeal taxes. Don't ask me how they're goin' to got the money. When I read that far I got dizzy.

"You can see lore where they're collectin' money from gullible people. Subscriptions to the paper run from a dollar to five. They got a bill before Congress they claim, and now what they're tryin' to do is elect their own representatives all over the country. They make it sound very plausible.

"Look 'ere" (reading from the paper) "The American Foundation for Abundance--(that's what they call the plan--the AFA) would not break up [monepelies?]. It proposes that the public take them over and put them under scientific management for the common good. It does not believe that it is the part of wisedom to turn back from any industrial gains among the people. The only intelligent solution of the monopoly problem in the public ownership and public operation of the monopoly. Let us go forward not backward.

"Sounds almost like Communism, don't it. Only it goes a bit farther than Communism. They believe in the New Deal but they don't think it goes far enough. Listen to this (reading) We are supporters of the New Deal as just a tiny [step?] on the road toward a New Day. However, we recognize that if the majority of our people continue to be content with just tiny [steps?] like the New Deal that it will be centuries before the people come into their own.

"You can 'ave the paper if you want. There's plenty of them down at the Fire 'Ouse. Most of the lads didn't even read 'em. One of two of them--Ed Willette thought it was fine stuff. He was arguin' with Bob Hawley about it. Bob says if anyone paid him twenty eight dollars a week while he was loafin' he'd never go to work. Said he never made that much in the shop when he was workin' and he got along fine. Ed said it wasn't natural for a man to want to do nothin' and He'd get sick of it after a couple of months and want to go back to work. 'Well,' Hawley says, 'It might not be natural for you, but it's natural for me. You give me twenty eight dollars a week for the rest of my life, and see 'ow much work I'll do.' So there they were."
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View Henry Gill's entire interview from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.