Gdy Herbert Hoover objął fotel prezydenta w 1929 roku, nie wiedział jeszcze, że wielki kryzys gospodarczy był nieunikniony.
- Herbert Hoover was the 31st president of the United States. He served one term, from 1929 to 1933.
- Before becoming president, Hoover directed relief efforts to supply war-torn Europe and Russia during and after the First World War.
- After the 1929 stock market crash, the Hoover administration attempted to mitigate the negative effects of the Great Depression but was unable to significantly improve the economy.
The early life of Herbert Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was born in 1874 in Iowa, and was the first US president to have been born west of the Mississippi River. He worked as a mining engineer and an independent mining consultant, traveling the world and building a sizable personal fortune. When World War I broke out, Hoover became active in humanitarian work, and chaired the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which provided relief to that country as it faced a food crisis brought on by the German invasion in 1914. He also served as the director of the American Relief Administration, which was formed in 1919 and supplied relief to war-torn Europe and Russia.
During the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Hoover head of the US Food Administration, which sought to reduce consumption and avoid wartime food rationing. Hoover went on to serve as Secretary of Commerce in the administration of Warren G. Harding.
The presidency of Herbert Hoover
Hoover won the Republican nomination in the 1928 presidential election after Republican President Calvin Coolidge announced that he would not be running for reelection. Hoover campaigned on Coolidge’s legacy of economic prosperity, pledging to support business, improve the quality of life of the nation’s farmers, and conduct a relatively isolationist foreign policy. Hoover was ambivalent about Prohibition, referring to it as a “great social and economic experiment,” but failing to back it wholeheartedly. Hoover won the election in a landslide against his Democratic opponent.
Once in office, Hoover sought to reform the nation’s regulatory system. He was not an advocate of a laissez-faire economy, but instead encouraged the voluntary cooperation of the federal government and big business. At Hoover’s direction, the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department prosecuted gangsters, including Al Capone, for tax evasion. Hoover considered himself a progressive, and this was reflected in some of his administration’s policies, including the reorganization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the organization of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the closing of tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans, the expansion of national park lands, and the strengthening of protections for labor.
Hoover’s most notable foreign policy achievements were in Latin America. His administration laid the groundwork for what became the Good Neighbor Policy under Hoover's successor Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Good Neighbor policy explicitly disavowed military interventionism in hemispheric relations. Hoover himself embarked upon a goodwill tour in Latin America, traveling to ten countries and delivering pledges to reduce US political and military interference in the domestic affairs of Latin American countries. Hoover also successfully mediated a dispute between Chile and Peru over land.
Hoover and the Great Depression
In 1929, the stock market crash catalyzed the onset of the Great Depression. Though Hoover has gained a reputation for dithering in the face of economic peril, his administration actually pursued measures that helped lay the basis for Roosevelt’s New Deal. Hoover launched a massive public works program, part of which included funding for construction of the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. His administration implemented stronger protections for labor and substantially increased federal subsidies for agriculture. Hoover also played a key role in passing the Glass-Steagall Act of 1932, which limited the activities of commercial banks in an attempt to stabilize the banking sector.
However, many of these policies were not immediately effective, and some of the administration’s actions actually worsened the effects of the depression. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, for instance, which Hoover signed reluctantly, raised tariffs on thousands of imported goods and initiated a trade war between the United States and Europe, thereby exacerbating the global economic downturn.
Although Hoover ran for reelection in 1932, his inability to mitigate the negative economic consequences of the Great Depression had made him widely unpopular. He lost the election to Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Did Hoover’s early career effectively prepare him for the presidency? Why or why not?
What were Hoover’s greatest accomplishments as president? What were his most consequential shortcomings?
How would you characterize the Hoover administration’s response to the Great Depression?