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'20th century hero' - Research Paper on Franklin D. Roosevelt


sound10kp 5 / 12  
Jun 19, 2009   #1
Hi, how are you?
My research paper topic was to write about an historical figure within the time period from Renaissance to the modern time.
My instructor made sure that the research paper should not be a biography.
(Howeveer, I feel like my research paper turned out like a biography of FDR..)
My topic is 'Was FDR a hero or a dictator?'.
Please help me revising any grammatical erroes and point out any awakward spots or sentences.
Also, It would be very appreciated if you give me some of your ideas about how my research is. I'm still struggling with my thesis and conclusion.

Thank you very much.


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"Was Franklin D. Roosevelt a hero of the 20th century or a borderline dictator?" In American and World history, Franklin D. Roosevelt is known as one of the greatest U.S. presidents with his accomplishments such as New Deal policies and leading America to win World War II. However, Roosevelt is also called a dictator for holding office for nearly over 12 years and attempting to circumvent the Constitution by packing the Supreme Court with Democrats.

In Roosevelt's first inaugural addresses, he said that "The only thing we have to fear, if fear itself". By his inaugural speech, Roosevelt had shown his strong confidence in Americans which won back the confidence of American public. (Winfield, 1989) At that time, America was undergoing the Great Depression and business suffered greatly from a long-continued depression. (Johnson-Cartee, 2004)

As soon as Roosevelt took office as president, he started to pass radical legislations such as the Emergency Banking Act which closed down all the banks for four days, the Beer and Wine Revenue Act which legalized production and distribution of beer.(Roosevelt & Schlesinger, 1983) With positive support of the public, Roosevelt rushed to make a great number of laws for his New Deal program. The objectives of New Deal were to help people who were suffering from Great Depression, to boost America's industrial production back to where it used to be and to reform the economy. As Roosevelt planned, Congress passed all of Roosevelt's legislations which he suggested in 99 days. With Roosevelt's New Deal, various work relief agencies like the Works Progress Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the National Youth Administration saved millions of Americans who were in bankruptcies. (Thurston, 1996)

Another major accomplishment of Roosevelt is World War II. Despite the fact that Roosevelt promised that America would not enter the war in his inaugural address, he lead Americans to recognize that entry into the war was an American responsibility. WWII ended the Great depression and restored national prosperity to the United States. America's participation in World War II required a great demand for labor in order to produce military gears, weapons, vehicles and munitions. Within several months of the U.S. involvement of World War II, America's unemployment rate rose by 10%.

(Shmoop History, 2009)

Just as Roosevelt's accomplishments are famous, his objectionable actions and failures as a president are also well-known.

Gilbert Taylor said that "Probably FDR's most consequential political miscue as president-his proposal in 1937 to increase the membership of the Supreme Court." After the Supreme Court turned down eight New Deal programs as unconstitutional, Roosevelt tried to pack the Supreme Court by age discrimination and appointing six new justices in an attempt to expand the size of the Supreme Court. However, Roosevelt's attempt to resize the Court failed in spite of separation of powers. (2008)

In conclusion, Roosevelt is definitely one of the most loved political figures in American history. However, Roosevelt is also opposed by critics because of his excessive ambition which was reflected as socialism and his characteristics of a dictatorship. For instance, Roosevelt's court packing plan proved that he would do anything to have his New Deal policies approved. Also, there are some political views that Roosevelt's New Deal policies actually extended the Depression at least 7 years longer than it needed to last. Roosevelt's ability as a president during the wartime and his daring ways to deal with America's economic and political issues in his first 100 days in office are highly acknowledged and Americans should accept both sides of Roosevelt as a president who marked an epoch in history. Without Roosevelt's radical legislations, America would still be in a depression or crucially defeated in World War II.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Jun 19, 2009   #2
As for the essay itself, you present a choice between two caricatures -- Franklin as hero and Franklin as dictator. He was in fact a very successful politician, who was elected democratically and who left office when the voters no longer wanted him there. No politician who successfully holds office for 12 years does so without doing a lot of morally questionable things, and no one who comes to power and leaves it democratically can be reasonably cast as a dictator. A better approach for this essay might be to look at whether his New Deal was a triumph or a failure of socialist policy. Did the New Deal end the Great Depression, or drag it out until America was rescued by WWII? You can find plenty of research material arguing both cases, and you would be crafting an essay that responded to a real historical debate, rather than to a horribly oversimplified one that you made up.
Notoman 20 / 419  
Jun 19, 2009   #3
You have a solid paper, but I think that a few tweaks will make it even stronger. Strengthening your verbs (and a few other words) would be a first step. It seems to me that you are missing some key points in your essay as well. The fact that Roosevelt's election to a fourth term was unprecedented and prompted a Constitutional Amendment limiting the tenure of future Presidents, for example. Critics claim that Roosevelt started the United States down the path of the government taking responsibility for its citizens and created a socialist state that decries personal responsibility and even undermines the family and charity by taking on the roles previously provided by those segments of society.

Are you using MLA citations? With MLA citations, the parenthesis would go inside of the period. I saw in your profile that you are in the United States. American English keeps the punctuation inside of the quotation marks as well (this particular practice is counter-intuitive to me).

In American and World history, Franklin D. Roosevelt is known as one of the greatest U.S. P residents with his accomplishments such asfor implementing his New Deal policies and leading America to victory in World War II.

However,Detractors call Roosevelt is also called a dictator for holding office for nearly over 12more than twelve years and attempting to circumvent the Constitution by packing the Supreme Court with Democrats.

By his inaugural speech, Roosevelt had shown his strong confidence in Americans which won back the confidence of American public. (Winfield, 1989)

Generally speaking, you don't want to use the same word twice in a sentence. Reword this to something like this: His inaugural address demonstrated Roosevelt's strong confidence in the United States and its people and assured the American public.

At that time, America was undergoing the Great Depression and business suffered greatly from a long-continued depression.

Undergoing is such a soft word. How about something like: When Roosevelt ascended to the Presidency, the United States was experiencing the worst of the Great Depression and businesses as well as individuals suffered greatly from the long-running economic crisis.

As soon as Roosevelt took office as president, he started to pass radical legislations such as the Emergency Banking Act which closed down all the banks for four days, the Beer and Wine Revenue Act which legalized production and distribution of beer.

Capitalize the word President here. Legislation should be singular. "Started to pass" is weak . . . he pushed, he implemented, he something. "Which closed down" is weak and repetitive . . . closing banks for four days. Instead of "which legalized," go with legalizing.

With positive support of the public, Roosevelt rushed to make a great number of laws for his New Deal program.

Omit the word "positive" here. Support already conveys a positive reaction. "Make" is pretty unexciting . . . assemble, beget, compose, effect, engender, fabricate, fashion, forge, form, frame, generate, initiate, manufacture, secure.

The objectives of New Deal were to help people who were suffering from Great Depression, to boost America's industrial production back to where it used to be and to reform the economy.

The objectives of the New Deal were "relief, recovery, and reform" to provide immediate relief to the millions of unemployed and homeless people, to recover America's industrial production to its previous zenith, and to implement economic reforms designed to prevent another crisis of this magnitude in the future.

saved millions of Americans who were in bankruptcies.

I am not crazy about this phrasing. "Saved" or employed? Were the people facing bankruptcy or starvation? In modern terms, bankruptcy isn't so bad. It has come to mean eschewing debts and then going on with a comfortable life. Maybe change it to read: . . . employed millions of Americans facing dire straights.

I don't mean to start an argument Sean, but I think that you could make a case for Roosevelt acting in a dictatorial fashion. He didn't leave office willingly -- his Presidency ended with his death. His election to a third (and fourth) term was unprecedented and controversial at the time. The loophole that allowed him to continue in power has since been closed. It would be easy to argue that the federal government under FDR looked nothing like the federal government envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. Jefferson and his followers believed in small government while the Federalists took the stance that government should protect the minority (in this case the wealthy) from the majority. FDR's New Deal certainly wasn't laissez faire capitalism and Roosevelt's attempt to pack the Supreme Court (while not unprecedented) was an attempt to undermine the three-branch, checks-and-balances foundation of the American government.

I have to run off to a rehearsal. If someone else doesn't pick this up, I will come back to offer more of my nit-picky input.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Jun 19, 2009   #4
Different meanings of dictatorial. Hey, this becomes an example of the logical fallacy of equivocation -- I never was that happy with the example I posted on the logical fallacy thread, so this is convenient. A real dictator by definition does not stay in power by the repeated winning of fair and free elections, though he may come to power initially in such an election. Roosevelt however, was democratically elected all four times. He did not, to the best of my knowledge, suppress dissent at the point of a gun, or muzzle the press, or even attempt to disarm the populace. In short, he was a democratically elected leader who worked within the American system as we know it. It is true that he was socialist in his policies, and that the framers of the Constitution might have disagreed with him, but neither of these things are dictatorial qualities. That capitalism is generally associated with democracy does not mean that socialist leaders cannot also be democratically elected, or that they will necessarily subvert government into a dictatorship, though they tend to move in that direction, if only because their policies put more power in the hands of gov't, hence more temptation in the hearts of gov't leaders. Perhaps, if FDR had been in more robust health, he might in time have become a dictator, but he cannot be characterized as such based on his actual time in office. That then is one meaning of the term "dictator," which is the one that the author of the essay presumably means, or at any rate is clearly using, whether he means to or not. The other meaning of "dictatorial" is "inclined to command, overbearing," a term which can in fact apply to many democratically elected politicians, and which seems to be how you are using the word.
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Jun 19, 2009   #5
If someone else doesn't pick this up, I will come back to offer more of my nit-picky input.

I really like your "nit-picky input"!
OP sound10kp 5 / 12  
Jun 19, 2009   #6
Thank you so much everybody, especially huge thanks to Notoman for your big help! You're awesome! :)
Notoman 20 / 419  
Jun 20, 2009   #7
Let me go off on a little tangent here with Sean . . . The nuances of words in the English language can be so fun! I carefully chose the words "dictatorial fashion" because they are easier to support. Dictator is one of those words that has several meanings, but most people think of Hitler and Mussolini-a hard comparison to make with FDR. A strong case could be made for Roosevelt acting in a dictatorial fashion though. Don't read too much into my words. I am not taking a stance on Roosevelt or the US's involvement in World War II. I am not deriding the social programs of the New Deal. I am merely making a case . . . supporting a thesis. I could make a case for either side of this argument if I were so inclined. Many of FDR's actions could be attributed to crisis . . . the crisis of the Great Depression and of World War II. But those policies overreached the Constitution nonetheless.

Roosevelt campaigned with the promise to keep America out of the war (this was in 1940 when he was campaigned for third term). Isolationist sentiment ran high with the American public and the Monroe Doctrine (America for the Americans and avoiding entanglements with European affairs) was the official public policy. Roosevelt circumvented his campaign promises and the desires of the American public by instituting lend lease, manning a naval base in Iceland, and having American ships track German vessels in order to report their locations to British bombers. I know, I know. Politicians aren't known for keeping their campaign promises, but this is a pretty big one. Congress passed the Neutrality Acts in the 1930s to maintain isolationism. Roosevelt bypassed the legislative branch by involving America in the war without requiring a vote of Congress.

Censorship was strict during the war. Some of the censorship-troop movements for example-was warranted, but Roosevelt also used the power of censorship to silence detractors. When a Catholic radio station in Chicago criticized the court-packing scheme, Roosevelt had their license revoked. The internment of American citizens with Japanese ancestry is another example of Roosevelt using broad power. The Supreme Court upheld this decision (and the government paid reparations to survivors and decedents in 1988). The Supreme Court shot down several of Roosevelt's other measures, including the National Recovery Administration, as unconstitutional. If it were not for the checks and balances put into place by the framers of the Constitution, it is quite possible that Roosevelt would have pursued a true dictatorship.

The length of Roosevelt's tenure as President alone led to a consolidation of power. Every government appointee in a twelve-year period was an extension of Roosevelt's administration. Every newly-created government agency (and there were a lot of them) was headed by a Roosevelt lackey. Roosevelt was determined to use all means available to push his political agenda. The Great Depression and World War II provided situational justification for Roosevelt to expand the powers of the office of President in a dictatorial fashion.

Okay, done with my little (or not so little as the case may be) tangent.

Another major accomplishment of Roosevelt is World War II.

A World War, with an estimated 48 million deaths (civilian and military) could not be called a major accomplishment. The Allied victory, with Roosevelt at the helm, could be called a major accomplishment. Roosevelt steering the American public through this calamitous time in history could be called a major accomplishment. Semantics. Just add a few more words here to clarify your meaning.

Despite the fact that Roosevelt promised that America would not enter the war in his inaugural address, he lead Americans to recognize that entry into the war was an American responsibility.

Did he say this in an inaugural address? I looked at his first inaugural address (the "We have nothing to fear" speech) and didn't see anything about isolationism. Clarify where he made the promises. Lead should be led here. But . . . did Roosevelt convince the American public to enter World War or was it the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

Great depression

Capitalize Depression.

military gears

Military gear (unless you are focusing on just the sprocketed mechanisms used in motors).

Within several months of the U.S. involvement of World War II, America's unemployment rate rose by 10%.

The unemployment rate is talking about the number of people who are unemployed. It didn't rise with US involvement in the war, it fell. The percent can be taken in a couple of different ways here . . . did the unemployment rate fall from 25% to 15% or did it fall by 10% (2.5% of the total number unemployed). The outcome in those numbers is very different.

Roosevelt tried to pack the Supreme Court by age discrimination and appointing six new justices in an attempt to expand the size of the Supreme Court.

I know what you are saying here, but you might want to make it clearer to the reader. What do you mean by age discrimination? He tried to force the retirement of Justices over the age of seventy (and proposed to have those who would not retire shadowed by a younger justice who would have control of the vote). He wanted to expand the size of the Supreme Court so that he could appoint Justices loyal to his policies. I think you need to talk more about what is meant by "court packing" and Roosevelt's motivations.

Roosevelt's attempt to resize the Court failed in spite of separation of powers.

The attempt failed BECAUSE of separation of powers and checks and balances. If all power would have resided in the executive branch, Roosevelt could have done what he wanted with the court. Scratch that. If all power resided in the executive branch, Roosevelt wouldn't have even needed the court.

his excessive ambition which was reflected as socialism and his characteristics of a dictatorship

I would reword this . . . his excessive ambition, socialist policies, and the dictatorial fashion he approached the office of President. There! Now I am happy. I got to use "dictatorial fashion" in my revisions.

Roosevelt's court packing plan proved that he would do anything to have his New Deal policies approved.

This might be overstating the point. If he were really willing to do anything to have his New Deal policies approved, he would have taken the Justices out behind the barn and had them shot. Was he willing to stretch executive privilege? Use Constitutional loopholes? Forgo decency? What exactly did he do?

Also, there are some political views that Roosevelt's New Deal policies actually extended the Depression at least 7 years longer than it needed to last.

Whoa, Nelly. It is unfair to toss this into the conclusion when you haven't addressed it or supported it in the body of your paper.

Roosevelt's ability as a president during the wartime and his daring ways to deal with America's economic and political issues in his first 100 days in office are highly acknowledged and Americans should accept both sides of Roosevelt as a president who marked an epoch in history.

This is a long sentence that would be better broken down into two sentences. Try something like this: Roosevelt's daring measures to address America's economic issues in his first 100 days in office and his wartime leadership ability are legacies for the American people. Roosevelt wielded unprecedented executive power in this epoch, but Americans should accept that Roosevelt acted with the best interests of the United States in mind.

Without Roosevelt's radical legislations, America would still be in a depression or crucially defeated in World War II.

Legislation, no "s." The plural of legislation is legislation. It is one of those weird English words like elk and elk (we still tease my dad . . . he spotted a herd of elk and in his excitement shouted, "Look, boys! Elkes!). The claim that America would still be in a depression without Roosevelt is difficult to substantiate. It would be safer to say that America would not have recovered from the Depression or that the effects of the Depression would have been more severe. You also want to call it the Depression and use a capital "D" so as not to make it sound like America was in a depression that a little bit of Zoloft would alleviate. Without Roosevelt, America wouldn't have necessarily been defeated in World War II. Without Roosevelt, America wouldn't necessarily have even fought in World War II. It is fair to say that without Roosevelt's policies, the Allies would have been defeated in World War II. There is a subtle difference there, but semantics can make a difference.

Good luck with it! I hope that I didn't overwhelm you with my opinions and revisions. I love history and it is hard for me to read an essay of this nature without prolific commentary on my part.
OP sound10kp 5 / 12  
Jun 20, 2009   #8
Thank you so much Notoman, you don't know how much I was amazed by your opinions and revisions. I truly appreciate your big help!

Thanks again!
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Jun 20, 2009   #9
I love the English language. I don't think we disagree here. That Roosevelt was overly socialist and inclined to be dictatorial I concede. That is a far cry, though, from being an actual dictator. My original advice was that the student look more at how effective Roosevelt's socialist policies were in ending the Great Depression, rather than in creating a straw man contrast between a a hero and a dictator (rather than a democratically elected leader with dictatorial tendencies) and I persist in believing that that was sound advice.


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