Frances Perkins: The Woman Behind the New Deal

Immigration & Impeachment > Immigration and Impeachment

Immigration & Impeachment

Opposition to the New Deal was particularly strident from conservatives and some business leaders, but criticism came from across the political spectrum. In 1934 wealthy Democrats and their allies founded the American Liberty League (which Al Smith joined) to oppose the New Deal’s “dictatorial” policies. The Communist Party and Socialist Party were also critical at times, but didn’t gain much support. Father Charles Coughlin of Michigan, later known for his anti-Semitism, was a harsh critic of what he believed was Roosevelt’s failure to fight strongly enough against the “money powers.” Finally, populist Senator Huey Long of Louisiana advocated much more drastic distribution of money through what he called the Share-Our-Wealth Plan. Yet none of the criticism in itself was enough to derail the New Deal completely.

Another way in which the New Deal was attacked was through Perkins for her refusal to act regarding Harry Bridges after the San Francisco general strike. At the time, the Bureau of Immigration was part of the Department of Labor, and opponents insisted Bridges was a communist and Perkins was legally required to deport him. But the FBI, San Francisco police and others had investigated and found the accusations against Bridges unsubstantiated. Nonetheless, in 1937 the House of Representatives formed a Committee on Un-American Activities (which would later go on to infamy thanks to Joseph McCarthy) under Martin Dies to investigate Perkins. The Committee recommended she be impeached. But in 1938 the House Judiciary Committee exonerated Perkins by unanimously ruling that there were no grounds for impeachment. Nonetheless, the accusations took their toll on Perkins.


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