chapter  9
22 Pages

Power at Home in Peace and War, 1937–45

FDR was not concerned about organized labour’s schism between AFL and CIO because throughout the violent industrial conflicts of 1937 he had been preoccupied with the greatest political crisis of his presidency. This was his attempt to reform the US Supreme Court. His Second Inaugural on 20 January 1937 (the first on the new date which replaced 4 March) was a benign and lofty address. He had told the American people that there was still much to do and spoken movingly of ‘one-third of a nation, ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished’. His huge win in November 1936 had given him command of Congress enjoyed by few presidents, which he might have used to embark upon social reform to help these forgotten Americans. Instead he took a different course unmentioned in his inaugural, astounding the nation, Congress and even friends by making his first action the unveiling in February of a secret plan he had been working on throughout 1936 to enlarge and reform the Supreme Court.