Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt was a popular president who throughout his political career focused on reforming and developing social programs to help people. He is the only president to win four terms in a row.

Early Years

Franklin D. Roosevelt was born in 1882 at Hyde Park in New York. He was the distant cousin of Theodore Roosevelt who was the American president between the years 1901–1909. Franklin Roosevelt was homeschooled until he was fourteen years old. Roosevelt then entered a prep school and after graduating, entered Harvard where he studied law.

Early Political Career

Roosevelt was a popular figure and in 1910, he was nominated to become the Democratic state senator for New York. He managed to eke out a win and did well as a state senator. He worked toward regulating public utilities and promoted a number of farm bills. He also supported a number of social welfare programs.

World War I

The Democrats won the White House in 1913 and Roosevelt was made the Assistant Secretary of the Navy and worked to increase the size of the navy. He also worked with the shipyard workers to address any concerns they had.

When the United States entered World War I, Roosevelt wanted to join up but the new Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson, told him that he was needed in Washington. Roosevelt helped develop the navy yards and ensured that the navy had the sailors it needed. He also helped develop a plan to block German submarines through the use of mines. Mines were placed between Norway and the Orkney Islands which helped stop German attacks.

At the end of the war, Roosevelt was responsible for demobilizing the navy and dealing with any surplus navy property.


Roosevelt came down with polio in 1921 which left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down. He later learned to walk but usually needed a cane and someone’s help. He also used steel braces to increase his movement.

Governor and President

Roosevelt was encouraged to run for the governorship of New York. He won the election and while in power was able to pass laws that limited the number of working hours for women and children as well as more regulation of public utilities. He also helped develop public health initiatives, public housing and provided relief to farmers.

When the stock market crashed in 1929, the country was thrown into turmoil. Bankruptcies and foreclosures increased dramatically. Roosevelt ran for president and won in a landslide.

The New Deal

Roosevelt immediately set about addressing the dire economic situation in the United States. He signed fourteen bills into law focusing on Social Security, work programs, securing bank deposits, and aid for farmers. He also set up the Security and Exchange Commission to regulate the stock market. Roosevelt also worked at passing bills that raised the price for farm and manufactured goods. These programs became known as the New Deal.

World War II

Roosevelt was elected as president for four terms. Towards the end of his second term and during the third term, World War II started. At the beginning of the conflict, the United States was neutral but Roosevelt had the arms embargo repealed so he was allowed to sell weapons to the Allied forces. Roosevelt also established the lend-lease program which allowed the States to give aid to the Allies in return to access to Allied bases. Roosevelt wanted to give all possible aid to the Allies, short of entering the war.

Even though the United States was not officially at war yet, Roosevelt began building up the armed forces in 1939. He wanted to be prepared should war come.

The United States officially entered the war after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941. Roosevelt expanded the armed forces and industry focused on producing equipment needed for the war. Congress passed laws which gave Roosevelt authority over labour, manufacturing, farming, and raw materials. Roosevelt used this authority to prepare the United States for war.

Roosevelt also formed the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The members of this committee would make the decisions in regards to America’s military strategy.

Roosevelt met with Winston Churchill and formed an alliance between the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and China. Plans were developed for the invasion of North Africa as well as an invasion of Western Europe. Plans were also developed for defeating Japan in the Pacific.


When the United States entered the war, there was concern about the Japanese attacking the coastal regions of America. Support to move anybody with Japanese heritage away from the coastal regions of the United States grew and on February 19, 1942, Japanese who did not have U.S. citizenship and their children were put into camps. They had to give up their property and businesses before being interred in the camps.

A number of Germans and Italians who did not have U.S. citizenship were also arrested and interred.

Plan of Attack

Roosevelt met with Churchill and Stalin along with Chiang Kai-shek a number of times to set out broad plans of attack. The leaders came to an informal agreement on how to fight the Axis powers (Japan, Italy, and Germany). It was decided that American and British forces would concentrate their forces in Western Europe and Africa; the Soviet Union would concentrate on defeating Germany at the Eastern Front; and that American and British forces would fight in the Pacific and Asia along with the Chinese.

Post-War Planning

The Allied battle plans were going well and by late 1943, most of the leaders recognized that they would win the war. Roosevelt now became heavily involved in determining how the world would look once the war was over.

Roosevelt met with Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek at Cairo in November 1943 (Cairo Conference). At this conference, it was agreed that the Allies would continue the war with Japan even if Germany surrendered. Shortly after this, Roosevelt met with Churchill and Stalin in Tehran (Tehran Conference). At this conference, Churchill and Roosevelt made plans for the development of the United Nations. At the meeting, Stalin agreed to support the United Nations but demanded the redrawing of borders in Poland.

Churchill tried to warn Roosevelt of Stalin’s desire for a dictatorship in Eastern Europe, but Roosevelt felt that Stalin was not prepared to establish a dictatorship. Roosevelt felt that if he gave Stalin everything Stalin wanted, Stalin would work towards establishing democracy.

In early 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met at Yalta as the Allied forces marched into Germany (the British and Americans from the west and the Russians from the east). At this conference, the three leaders came to an agreement about having free elections in Europe. Roosevelt still believed that Stalin would keep these promises but after Stalin broke the agreement and encouraged a number of countries that had been occupied by the Soviet Union (Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary among others) to establish communist states instead of allowing free elections, Roosevelt accepted that he had been wrong about Stalin.


Roosevelt’s health had been declining for some time and he had started to become visibly tired. He entered Bethesda Hospital in March 1944 for some tests which found that he had high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (thickening on artery walls), and coronary artery disease. He was ordered to rest but since he was in the middle of an election, he continued to campaign. He won his fourth term as president and needed to continue flying across the world to meet with Stalin and Churchill.

Shortly after his return from the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Roosevelt went to relax at his personal retreat known as the Little White House. While there, he suffered a massive stroke and died on April 12, 1945. He had been sitting for portrait that was being painted at the time of his death.