The First Papal Visit to America–Sort Of

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To one who turns the pages of your history and reflects upon the causes of what has been accomplished it is apparent that the triumphal progress of Divine religion has contributed in no small degree to the glory and prosperity which your country now enjoys. It is indeed true that religion has its laws and institutions for eternal happiness but It is also undeniable that it dowers life here below with so many benefits that it could do no more even if the principal reason for its existence were to make men happy during the brief span of their earthly life.

Pius XII, SERTUM LAETITIAE   (1939)

The first papal visit to the United States is usually thought to be that of Pope Paul VI in 1965.  However, Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pius XII, visited the United States in October-November 1936, becoming the first man who served as pope to set foot in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  As Papal Secretary of State, foreign travel came as part of the job, but the purpose behind his visit is still something of a mystery.  Some historians have claimed that he struck a deal with FDR by which the United States would establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican in exchange for the Church silencing radio priest Father Coughlin, initially a supporter of FDR but by 1936 a fierce critic.

It was usual for Pacelli to take an annual vacation and he changed plans to visit Switzerland for the United States on short notice.  He met with FDR on November 5, the day after his re-election.  He did secure a promise that he would appoint a personal representative from him to the Vatican, although this promise was not fulfilled until 1939, after Pacelli was elected Pope.

Pacelli never met with Father Coughlin.  During his tour of the US, Pacelli  brushed aside questions about Coughlin from newspaper reporters, although he made it clear that the Vatican did not agree with his criticisms of Roosevelt. (more…)

Published in: on October 6, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The First Papal Visit to America–Sort Of  
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Cox Nominated

 

One could forgive a participant in the Democratic National Convention a century ago of wondering if the party were ever going to nominate a candidate.  On the first ballot the 24 men received votes.  William Gibbs McAdoo was in first place with 266 votes.  A. Mitchell Palmer came in second with 256 votes. James Cox came in third with 134 votes.

McAdoo probably would have got the nomination but for the fact that his father-in-law, President Wilson, still incapacitated from his strokes, and broadly unpopular around the nation, hoped that a deadlocked convention would turn to him and nominate him for an unprecedented third term.  Wilson therefore mustered his waning political influence to cause a stalemate at the Convention.,  On the 39th ballot Palmer’s support collapsed and on the 44th ballot Cox took the nomination with 699.50 votes.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt got nominated largely because of his last name, a testament to the impact his wife’s late uncle Theodore Roosevelt had made upon the nation, Democrats hoping to capture some of the supporters of Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose run for the Presidency in 1912.  Roosevelt would prove himself to be a vigorous campaigner during the contest in the Fall.

June 7, 1944: FDR’s Day

 

I find this schedule to be a very long day, especially when it is recalled that since his return from the Tehran Conference in December 1943, Roosevelt had been in manifestly failing health.  I have read that in 1944 he was restricting himself to working four hours a day.  That was certainly not the case on June 7.  I guess this is another example of a patient saying that he will heed the advice of a physician and doing as he pleases.  Of course at the helm of a nation waging a world war across the globe, it is difficult to see how FDR could have taken it easy.

Published in: on June 7, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on June 7, 1944: FDR’s Day  
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Reagan on FDR

(I posted this at The American Catholic on January 30, 2015, and I thought the History mavens of Almost Chosen People would enjoy it.)

Today is my bride’s birthday, a birthday she shares with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  On this day, I think the remarks of President Reagan on the centennial of FDR’s birth need to be recalled.  Reagan of course supported FDR when Reagan was a New Deal Democrat.  As a Republican he attempted to correct the mistakes of the New Deal, but he never lost his admiration for the leadership shown by Roosevelt, many aspects of which Reagan during his Presidency shared.  Here are an excerpt of Reagan’s remarks:

 

We’re all here today to mark the centennial of one of history’s truly monumental figures, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Historians still debate the details of his intentions, his policies and their impact. But all agree that, like the Founding Fathers before him, F. D. R. was an American giant, a leader who shaped, inspired, and led our people through perilous times. He meant many different things to many different people. He could reach out to men and women of diverse races and backgrounds and inspire them with new hope and new confidence in war and peace.

Franklin Roosevelt was the first President I ever saw. I remember the moment vividly. It was in 1936, a campaign parade in Des Moines, Iowa. What a wave of affection and pride swept through that crowd as he passed by in an open car—which we haven’t seen a President able to do for a long time—a familiar smile on his lips, jaunty and confident, drawing from us reservoirs of confidence and enthusiasm some of us had forgotten we had during those hard years. Maybe that was F. D. R.’s greatest gift to us. He really did convince us that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. (more…)

Published in: on January 30, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Reagan on FDR  
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Franksgiving

 

This year Thanksgiving falls on November 28, as late as it can fall under the current system of holding Thanksgiving.  Such was not always the case.

Americans used to have the quaint custom of not putting out Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. That custom seemed to bode ill for the American economy in 1939 with Thanksgiving falling on November 30. President Lincoln had established the custom of Americans nationally thanking God for His blessings on the last Thursday in November. Now another president was going to make a change in this custom.

1939 was a lackluster year for the American economy, and President Roosevelt made the decision in August that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday instead, November 23. Polls indicated that a majority of the American people opposed the change with Republicans most opposed.

Twenty three states used the new date, twenty two states used the old date, and three states had holidays on both dates. The confusion this caused was fodder for comedians with Curly in a Three Stooges short No Census, No Feeling, remarks on the Fourth of July being in October. When Moe is incredulous, Curly responds, “You never can tell. Look what they did to Thanksgiving!” (more…)

Published in: on November 25, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Franksgiving  
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June 6, 1944: D-Day-FDR Prayer

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.
And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
And for us at home – fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas – whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them – help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.
Give us strength, too – strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.
And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
Thy will be done, Almighty God.
Amen.

 

Published in: on June 7, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Smedley Butler and the Plot Against FDR

 

In November 1934 Major General Smedley Butler made headlines by alleging that he had been in contact with businessmen since July 1, 1933 who wanted him to lead a coup attempt against FDR.  The allegations became known as the Business Plot.  Congressional hearings concluded that there might be some substance behind the allegations, but that they could not be confirmed.

 

 

Contemporary press accounts indicate a wide spread belief that Butler fabricated the whole thing. Butler was passed over as Commandant of the Marine Corp in 1931 because he publicly accused Mussolini, falsely, in a speech of having run over a child. He never got over it and he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1932 as a Republican. He then turned hard left, attacking capitalism and the military as being gangsters for the capitalists. That is what makes his entire idea of a fascist plot against FDR so laughable. By 1934 he was known as an ardent supporter of FDR and yet shadowy plutocrats wanted him to command a coup against Roosevelt? FDR obviously thought it was rubbish as there were no criminal prosecutions by the Feds of anyone named by Butler. Butler was a very brave man as attested by his two medals of honor. He was also a fabulist, to put it politely, of the first order.

Published in: on January 29, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Smedley Butler and the Plot Against FDR  
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Art Imitating Life and Life Imitating Art

I finished watching Ken Burns, The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History.  A fair amount of liberal hagiography for FDR and, especially, Eleanor, but on the whole I liked it, and I will review it in a future post.  However, I was struck by a vignette that occurred in the final episode.

By 1944 FDR was in visibly failing health.  Diagnosed with congestive  heart failure, Dr. Howard Bruenn, a Navy Lieutenant Commander and cardiologist, followed him everywhere.  He recommended extended bed rest which was an impossible diagnosis for a Commander-in-Chief during a World War.

At the Quebec Conference with Churchill, in the evening for entertainment, FDR had the film Wilson (1944) shown.  A film biopic of the life of Woodrow Wilson from his election as Governor of New Jersey in 1910, the movie is largely forgotten today.  It won several Oscars, but was a financial flop, people being too preoccupied with the current World War to want to see a movie about the first one.  Alexander Knox, relegated through most of his career in character actor roles, does a good job in the role of Wilson.  Making the dessicated, pedantic Wilson into a heroic figure was difficult, but the film, taking a fast and loose approach with much of the history of the period, and with the help of a majestic musical score, accomplishes the feat.  It is definitely worth watching. (more…)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

An interesting series beginning on PBS tonight:  The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History.  A seven part Ken Burns history marathon it will examine the lives of Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Burns is a fairly strident liberal Democrat so it will be interesting to see if FDR and Eleanor are treated as plaster saints, or if we will sight any interesting analysis of those complex figures.

Theodore Roosevelt was a cousin of Franklin and an uncle to Eleanor.  He loomed large over their lives, Theodore acting as conservator of the drunken, suicidal Elliott, his beloved black sheep brother, the father of Eleanor, and Franklin seeking to model himself and his career after his famous fifth cousin.  Ironically, the contrasts between Theodore and Franklin are stark.  Theodore’s brand of progressive Republicanism was rejected by his party, while Franklin was successful in remodeling the Democrat party into the embodiment of the progressive nostrums of his time.  Theodore was an extremely moral man who exercised absolute fidelity to his two wives, his first wife having died on the same day as his mother.  Franklin Roosevelt was a precursor of such bounders as JFK, LBJ and Bill Clinton who exercised the moral probity of low rent Casanovas.  Theodore Roosevelt, a man made to be a war president, was president in a time of profound peace for the nation;  FDR achieved his lasting fame as commander in chief during World War II.  Theodore’s political career ended in defeat in 1912, the Grim Reaper preventing a possible resurgence in 1920, Roosevelt having mended political fences with the Republican Party by his constant criticism of Wilson during World War I.  FDR knew unprecedented political success as President, setting the dangerous precedent of being elected four times to the office, and only the Grim Reaper ending his grip on the White House. (more…)

Published in: on September 14, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Roosevelts: An Intimate History  
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Churchill on Meeting With FDR

One of the chief elements that led to the defeat of the Axis in World War II was the close alliance of Great Britain and the United States.  Few times in history have two nations cooperated as well, and as closely, as America and Britain during World War II.  That alliance began with the Atlantic Conference between Churchill and Roosevelt at Argentia, Newfoundland on August 9-12, 1941.  The US went into the conference a neutral and came out, in all but name, a co-belligerent against Nazi Germany.  It is not unimportant that Churchill and Roosevelt found that they liked and respected each other, and that they could count on each other.   Here is the text of Churchill’s radio broadcast to the British people on August 24, 1941 in which he discussed this pivotal meeting, and go here, and click on item 29, “Meeting With President Roosevelt”, to listen to the radio broadcast: (more…)

Published in: on March 6, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Churchill on Meeting With FDR  
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