How did the Political Environment change, 1917-33?

HideShow resource information

What impact did WW1 have?

Woodrow Wilson took America into WW1 in 1917. However war was a very unpopular choice with the american people even though the war boosted it's economy as many felt it had been a mistake due to a feeling of isolastionsim

1 of 11

The return to "normalcy"

President Harding, who became president in 1921, belived America needed to return to "normalcy". For many normalcy meant returning to a time similar before WW1 as the war had bought a period of economic depression where unemployment had rose form 950,000 in 1919 to 5,010,000 in 1921. Hardinig believed America had to balance out the books, reduce taxiation on the american people and introduce tarffis to proect US trade and indsustry.

2 of 11


Harding believed America shouldn't become engtangled with other nations overseas. He belived taking the following actions would help america acheive this:

1) trade tariffs that favoured US business

2) nto joing the League of Nations

3) not setting up Colonies 

4) cutting the number of Immigrants 

In 1921, Emergency Quota Act restricted immigration to 357,000 a year which was revised in 1924 to 150,000 a year. During 1935 to 1939 the US government passed Neutrality Acts which resisted the help of America could give to other Nations.

The Great Depression forced America to focus on the problems in their own countries instead of looking outward.

3 of 11

How did the Presidency change?

Woodrow Wilson was only the second democrat to become president since the Civil War. American's were quickly starting to belive he had to much power in government decision making. He took America into War even though in previous campagins he had fought to keep them out and he didnt consult Congress about promoting the League of Nations. For many politicans, this was an unwelcome change in presidenital behaviour and came close to breaking the separation of powers principle

4 of 11

The Appeal of Republicanism

Harding, whose slogan was "Less government in business and more business in goverment",replaced Wilson due to the american population turing to Republican ideals. 

Republican notion of Laissez-Faire( meant minimal government interference) indicated the people wanted a government whose job wasn't to control the economy or to manage social porblems. The Republican party was also known to be the b as they were not willing to control wages, working hours or prices. 

Harding didn't draft laws or try to drag America into international policies however Harding, while not corrupt himself, gave jobs to friends who created the scandal. A democrat might have been elected after Harding however they couldnt decide on a candidate. The Republican candidate was Calvin Coolidge who combined lassiez-faire with a dignity and morality that Republicans belived would restorer faith in their party after the Harding years. 

During Colidge's presidency, the USA entered a period of recovery and economic prsperity; poeple began to believe Republicanism was working. However in modern day we can see how the Republican polices was clearly flawed, this came ot the attention of the american people after Herbert Hoover was elected as USA had growing economic and social problems

5 of 11

What influenced the Political Landscape?

The First Red Scare, 1919-1920

From 1905 to 1917, Russia went thorugh a series of revolutions were the monarchy was toppled and replaced by a communist government in 1917.The revolutions sent shock waves around the world and made many capitalist in America very distrubed, which lead to large number of miners going on strike. 

In 1919, there was more than 3,600 strikes, with one in four workers(about 4million people) on strike. As the number of people per day who were striking increased rumours began circulating of a communist revolution. People began to accuse each other of communism; Red Hunting began to break out.

Anti communisrt feelings were starting to escalate and bthey suspected of holding left-wing views. American's no longer felt free to express their views or opinions as they feared being suspted of communsim. In some areas of the country violence had broken out from groups such as the Klu Klux Klan which targetted gropud they considered "Un-American"

6 of 11

What influenced the Political Landscape?

Rugged Individualism

Herbert Hoover created a shift of emphasis for the presidency after creating his ideolgie of Rugged Individualism which meant people who could look after themselves would make their own way in the world and propser, realsing the American Dream. Those who belived in rugged individualism felt that: 

> Governemt shouldnt help homeless or poor people are they weakened the governemnt as they sapped their self-reliance 

> Businesses had to be free to run themselves, even if they expolited the workforce. 

> USA should isolate itself from other countries 

> USA should restrict immigration 

7 of 11

What influenced the Political Landscape?

The Great Depression, 1929

The Wall Street Crash was produced due to underlying problems with the "boom" combined with out-of-control share trading. This triggered the Great Depression in the USA where unemployment figures soared. Majority of the popluation belived the depression would improve far sooner than it did. However Hoover favoured the republican policy of leaving the economy to sort itself out with made matter a whole lot worse. 

8 of 11

What influenced the Political Landscape?

The decline of Republicanism

After the Wall Street Crash the only major legisaltion Hoover passed was to set up the Federal Farm Board  which helped farmers who found it hard to sell their goods aborad becuase of isolationist tariffs. Hoover realsied lassez-faire wasn't working however he relied on big businesses setting up private charities to offer help on a local and personal level. He belived that all the government should do was to encourage people to help each other out. 

In 1930, Hoover set up the President's Emergency Committee for Employment, a temporary orgainsation to find work projects for the unemployed and to persaude businesses to create more jobs on a local, voluntary basis. He encouraged businesses to invest in the economy by setting up similar orgiansations but he soon realsied federal intervention was needed and eventually asked congress to pass laws to give direct federal help to the people. However, many congressmen were reclutant and unwelcoming to the change of direction

Hoover tried to put thorught more federal measures which many were just rejected by congress. Those laws which had manged to pass only took the government into further debt rather than keeping the government debt down. In the last year of his presidency, the governemnt received $2,000 million and spent over $5,000 million however it was to late.

9 of 11

What influenced the Political Landscape?

The Bonus Army

In 1924, the US governemnt gave those who had fought in the First World War a bonus payment calculated on thir years of service. They paid veterans who were owed just $50 at once hwoever the rest of the money went into a fund to pay out in 1945. Many veterans were asking for their money earlier due to the Great Depression as many of them were either unemployed or homeless

In June 1932, they marched to Washington to make their demands in person, it is estimated that between 150,000 to 200,000 people came and camped out around the city. Police tried to breakup the camps due to fears of riots with very little succes. 

On 28th July, troops were sent in with tear gas, bayonets, cavalry, tanks and machine guns even thouhg not all the weapons were used. The camps were dispersed and a report published later suggested that many of them were criminals or communist, in an attempt to make the incident seen less blamewothy

Hoover lost a significant amount of popularity and a result of the way the Bonus Army was treated. 

10 of 11

What influenced the Political Landscape?

A Changing Mood

Since 1921, the Republicans had had a majoirty in both the Houses of Congress, but they had failed to solved the porblems of the Depression which lead to people voting Democrat. In 1931, the Democrat had the majoirty in the House of Representatives, and gaining seats in the Senate. Hoover was becoming unpopular with the American population along with some Republicans, there reasoing was down to the fact that they didn't like the action Hoover was taking to end the Depression as it meant he was going against the principles of Rugged Individualism.

In the 1932 election, Hoover's Democratic opponent was Franklin D Roosevelt, who offered the American people a "New Deal" and a new attitude to government. His election campaign song was "happy days are here again" and, not only was he an excellent communicator but also been an effective Governor of New York. Hoover only won 6 states, more than 40 million voters went to vote which is th elargest number ever recorded in American history. 

With Roosevelt as president, the republican party unravelled even further. Republicans were so busy contesting a stream of legisaltion indtroudced by Roosevelt that they couldn't even plan their own policies to make themselves appear to be a viable alternative government. In the 1936 elections they only won 2 states

11 of 11


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all America - 19th and 20th century resources »