The New Deal was a series of programs created during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was designed to bring immediate economic relief during the Great Depression, as well as to bring about reforms in a number of sectors.
FDR first introduced the concept of the New Deal during his speech accepting the Democratic nomination for the presidency, on July 2, 1932. Roosevelt told his audience that he understood the suffering caused by the Depression, and vowed to bring about change:
On the farms, in the large metropolitan areas, in the smaller cities and in the villages, millions of our citizens cherish the hope that their old standards of living and of thought have not gone forever. Those millions cannot and shall not hope in vain.
I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people. Let us all here assembled constitute ourselves prophets of a new order of competence and of courage. This is more than a political campaign; it is a call to arms. Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win in this crusade to restore America to its own people.
FDR acknowledged that his programs would mean greater government intervention than previously, and that this might invite criticism from some quarters. During his acceptance speech, he tried to paint his opponents as hopelessly outdated “Tories,” out of touch with modern reality; he stressed that the government’s role should be to protect all the American people. He said:
There are two ways of viewing the Government’s duty in matters affecting economic and social life. The first sees to it that a favored few are helped and hopes that some of their prosperity will leak through, sift through, to labor, to the farmer, to the small business man. That theory belongs to the party of Toryism, and I had hoped that most of the Tories left this country in 1776.
But it is not and never will be the theory of the Democratic Party. This is no time for fear, for reaction or for timidity…
True to his word, FDR began implementing his New Deal programs as soon as he was in office. He asked Congress to begin work on overturning Prohibition, by making it legal for Americans to buy beer again. He also authorized the Tennessee Valley Authority to hire unemployed men to build dams up and down the Tennessee River, combatting flooding and creating a low-cost source of hydroelectric power for the people of the region.
New Deal programs created jobs for the nation’s unemployed to build new roads, bridges, buildings, and other public infrastructure. The New Deal also created jobs in reforestation and flood control, and established relief programs for farmers. Later in FDR’s presidency, New Deal programs included the Social Security Act, which created a pension system for retirees, and the Home Owners’ Refinancing Act, which brought mortgage relief to those who had lost their source of income.