Franklin D. Roosevelt Expresses Confidence He Will Secure the Democratic Nomination For President in 1932

He will prevail against the Republicans, the media they control, and conservative Democrats who oppose anti-Depression measures.

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“In spite of the three elements of a clever Republican Organization, a thoroughly unfair Republican Press, and a small minority of Democrats, I seem to be getting delegates and that after all is what counts.”

In 1930, FDR was elected to a second term as New York governor by a margin of...

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Franklin D. Roosevelt Expresses Confidence He Will Secure the Democratic Nomination For President in 1932

He will prevail against the Republicans, the media they control, and conservative Democrats who oppose anti-Depression measures.

“In spite of the three elements of a clever Republican Organization, a thoroughly unfair Republican Press, and a small minority of Democrats, I seem to be getting delegates and that after all is what counts.”

In 1930, FDR was elected to a second term as New York governor by a margin of more than 700,000 votes. The nation was then in the shadow of the Great Depression, and by 1931 Roosevelt was taking significant, innovative measures to try and combat it in New York. This not only increased his popularity in his own state but earned him national attention. His strong base in the then-most populous state made him an obvious candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, but Roosevelt was coy and denied being one all through 1931. Then, with the North Dakota primary looming immediate ahead, he decided that the time was right. On January 22, 1932, he announced his candidacy for President.

FDR’s was an outsider’s candidacy.  Al Smith loyalists controlled a lot of the national party apparatus, and the party’s last three presidential candidates – James Cox of Ohio, the Wall Street lawyer John W. Davis and Al Smith – in addition to House Speaker John Garner and Senate minority leader Joe Robinson, were on record supporting the stand-aside economic policies of the Hoover administration.  Roosevelt’s strength was his advocacy of doing something about the Depression, and he predicted that his message would triumph and that the Democratic Party voters would back him when the time came.

In the Spring of 1932, Roosevelt turned his attention increasingly outside his state of New York, allowing him to escape the intra-state political turmoil but also to get a pulse on the national audience and its receptivity to his message. In April Roosevelt gave his great “Forgotten Man” radio address, solidifying his perception as a “man of the people”. “These unhappy times”, he said, “call for plans that put their faith in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”  Al Smith summed up the response of the conservative wing of the Democratic party: “I will take off my coat and fight to the end against any candidate who persists in any demagogic appeal … setting class against class and rich against poor.”  Such was the basis of the “Stop Roosevelt” movement, which saw his ascendancy as a challenge to the status quo and pro-business interests.  In May, FDR would give another great speech in Georgia along the same lines.

As the Winter and early Spring primaries rolled out, Roosevelt captured more and more support.  In late April, he won Pennsylvania, beating Al Smith. However, in mid May, George White captured the Ohio primary the same day that FDR took West Virginia.  This back and forth, along with a crowded field, meant that FDR could not be complacent about securing enough votes to guarantee his victory at the July convention. However on May 11, when West Virginia and Ohio reported, it was FDR who stood atop the field and had the most committed delegates.
Meanwhile, Herbert Hoover advanced comfortably toward his renomination.  The Republican organization, and the media (which was then overwhelmingly conservative), saw in FDR’s rise a threat to the laissez-faire economic attitude of the Republican Administration and many of the other Democratic candidates.  They railed against his candidacy.

Commander George C. Sweet was a U.S. Navy officer significant in promoting the early use of aircraft by the Navy. In September 1908, then-Lieutenant Sweet, serving as a Naval observer, reported favorably on the Wright Brothers airplane demonstration at Fort Meyer, near Washington, D.C. In 1909 Sweet was taken up with the Wright Brothers first Army flyer, becoming the first Navy officer to travel in an airplane. Sweet was then assigned to the Navy’s school for airplane instruction, and was thereafter a Navy engineer in Washington, specializing in steam engines. In early 1919 Sweet was named assistant to the Naval Attache at the American embassy in Paris, a particularly plum posting as the peace conference to end World War I was being carried on in Versailles.

He and Roosevelt met back then and became personal and political confidants.

Roosevelt was a careful man, aware that his statements must be made guardedly to avoid giving aid and opportunity to his political enemies. His public correspondence was generally drafted by aides, and was measured, serious, deliberate and discreet. However, the private FDR was outgoing, humorous and frank, the life of the party, and when he corresponded with those he could trust, this side could show through. Sweet was such a man.  We recently obtained this letter directly from the Sweet descendants.

Typed letter signed, to Commander Sweet, on his gubernatorial letterhead, from Warm Springs, GA, May 19, 1932.  “Dear George: That was a grand letter of yours and it cheered me up a lot. Each time that I get out of New York I realize more and more that there is a United States.  Meanwhile, in spite of the three elements of a clever Republican Organization, a thoroughly unfair Republican Press, and a small minority of Democrats, I seem to be getting delegates and that after all is what counts.  I get back to Albany May 30th. Do telephone and run down soon after that.  As ever yours, FDR.  


“P.s. I think that idea about Congress is a hundred per cent – for Congress, but I should hate to see you in that bunch and you would be very very unhappy.”

In July, FDR would receive the nomination in a close battle and sweep onward to victory in November.

This historic letter appears to be unpublished, as we can find no mention of it. It remained in the hands of the Sweet descendants until now, and has never before been offered for sale.

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