American Liberty League

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The American Liberty League was a conservative national protest organization formed in 1934 by anti-Roosevelt Democrats to protest the New Deal and promote the small-government ideals of Jeffersonian Democracy. The League was led by Democrats with strong business connections, especially Al Smith (the 1928 Democratic presidential nominee), Jouett Shouse (former high party official), John W. Davis (the 1924 Democratic presidential nominee), and John Jacob Raskob (former Democratic National Chairman and the foremost opponent of Prohibition), Dean Acheson (future Secretary of State under Harry Truman), along with many industrialists, notably members of the Du Pont family. The liberal New Dealers considered it their greatest enemy.

The League stated that it would work to "defend and uphold the Constitution" and to "foster the right to work, earn, save and acquire property." In its opinion, the Roosevelt Administration was leading the U.S. toward socialism, bankruptcy and dictatorship. The League spent between $500,000 and $1.5 million in promotional campaigns; its funding came mostly from the Du Pont family, as well as leaders of U.S. Steel, General Motors, Standard Oil, Chase National Bank, and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. It reached over 125,000 members and supported the Republicans in 1936.

The League labeled Roosevelt's Agricultural Adjustment Administration "a trend toward Fascist control of agriculture." Social Security was said to "mark the end of democracy." Lawyers for the American Liberty League challenged the validity of the Wagner Act (National Labor Relations Act), but in 1937, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the statute. The League faded away and disbanded in 1940. Its role was taken over by the National Committee to Uphold Constitutional Government.

Bibliography

  • Best, Gary Dean. The Critical Press and the New Deal: The Press Versus Presidential Power, 1933-1938 (1993), conservative historian examines at conservative newspapers and magazines
  • John Braeman, Robert H. Bremner and David Brody, eds. The New Deal: The National Level. Ohio State University Press. 1975.
  • Craig, Douglas B. After Wilson: The Struggle for the Democratic Party, 1920-1934 University of North Carolina Press. 1992.
  • Leff, Mark H. The Limits of Symbolic Reform: The New Deal and Taxation (1984)
  • Leuchtenberg, William E. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940. (1963). A standard liberal history.
  • Polenberg, Richard. "The National Committee to Uphold Constitutional Government, 1937-1941," Journal of American History, Vol. 52, No. 3 (Dec., 1965), pp. 582-598 in JSTOR
  • Rudolph, Frederick. "The American Liberty League, 1934-1940," American Historical Review 56 (October 1950): 19-33. online at JSTOR, a basic history
  • Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr., The Age of Roosevelt, 3 vols, (1957-1960), the classic liberal history.
  • Wolfskill, George. The Revolt of the Conservatives: A. History of the American Liberty League, 1934-1940. (1962).
  • Zelizer, Julian E. "The Forgotten Legacy of the New Deal: Fiscal Conservatism and the Roosevelt Administration, 1933-1938" Presidential Studies Quarterly . Volume: 30. Issue: 2. pp: 331+. (2000), conservative interpetation by leading princeton historiasn

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