ROOSEVELT, Franklin Delano (1882-1945), President. Typed speech signed ("Franklin D. Roosevelt") as Governor of New York, with some 84 emendations and 35 words added in his hand, n.p. [Ellenville, N.Y.], n.d. [1931-33]. 10 pages, folio, typed on rectos only on legal paper and bound with two small brass clips at top (probably Roosevelt's reading copy).
"GOVERNMENT CANNOT ALLOW ANY OF ITS CITIZENS TO STARVE"
A great rarity: an original speech of Franklin Roosevelt, almost certainly his reading copy, with his annotations. The speech itself is of considerable interest, for it touches on a number of problems--and solutions to them--which were later incorporated into the New Deal. As keynote speaker at a banquet in his honor, Roosevelt begins: Driving from Albany, "I asked my wife [Eleanor]...what I should talk about. She suggested state government. I said, 'That's fine...Of course to talk about it adequately will take about four hours, but I will try to compress it into two.' She said, 'Don't talk about state government.'"
His mission since becoming Governor has been "trying to bring this state government up to date. You know government probably moves more slowly than civilization itself...It seems to me that there has been one object in mind...and that is the thought of humanity of recognizing the fact that state institutions, state departments, state activities, are really not far from the people themselves." On the corrections system he writes: "we have begun to understand...that prisoners, after all, are human beings...People come to me from all over the United States and ask to find out what our program is. Other states are copying." He speaks of provisions for hospitals and health care, highway construction, parks, and the Conservation Department "as illustrations to point out to you, first, where your money is going, and secondly, the fact that your state government is trying to be of practical service."
Referring to the Great Depression and stock market crash of 24 October 1929 as a "cyclone" he writes: "...I am sorry to say that there are not just thousands but hundreds of thousands in this state and millions in the country who have been hurt..." He considers the wisdom of changes in the judiciary and law code, "with the purpose of having it function more quickly, more safely, and with more justice for the average American citizen." To care for the victims of the Depression, he has decided "to ask the Legislature to take up the matter of state assistance...[this was later embodied in New York's Temporary Emergency Relief Administration]. When all is said and done, while we cannot go, in our civilization, to the point of saying that government owes every man and every family a job, I believe we can go to the point of saying that government cannot allow any of its citizens to starve!" He concludes with a tribute "to the people of this state...I hope that as these difficult years go on that this period in our history will be looked back to as a period when the State of New York led the United States in sane, useful experimental work. That is what civilization is for, that is what our form of government is for."