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Primary Source of the Month

Step By Step cartoon

Step By Step by Billy Warren (click to enlarge)
The Buffalo Evening News, February 11, 1937
Courtesy of The Buffalo News

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was fairly popular when he took office in 1933. As his presidency progressed, he championed "New Deal" programs to pull the United States out of Great Depression. Some saw these programs as just what the nation needed; others viewed them as examples of government overreach.

By the end of FDR's first term, the nation was slipping into a new recession and FDR's policies and actions were being carefully scrutinized and criticized. In 1937, Roosevelt presented controversial plans to reorganize the executive and the judiciary branches of government. Congress raised strong objections that the executive reorganization, presented as a way of making government more efficient, would upset the balance of power between the branches. Critics assailed the plan to reorganize the judiciary as "court-packing," that is, making sure the court was full of FDR supporters, because the plan proposed the addition of several justices to the Supreme Court. The court had ruled several pieces of New Deal legislation unconstitutional, so the proposal was widely perceived as an attempt to ensure favorable rulings.

Americans had witnessed the rise of dictatorships in Europe by this time, and FDR's critics feared FDR was claiming too much power. The cartoon by Billy Warren for the Buffalo Evening News in 1937 depicts those fears by showing Roosevelt taking steps towards dictatorship.