So Mr. President, What Did You Do During Your
Term In Office? 1931
The Herbert C. Hoover Administration : Year 1931
nation's economic health, poor in 1930, continues to deteriorate. At least
9,000,000 are unemployed before the year is out. In September U.S. Steel
announces that is cutting wages for over 200,000 employees, and other large
companies follow. There are 2,294 bank failures during the year, twice that of
1930. The movement of people from farm to city is reversed for the first time;
in some industrial cities one out of three workers is unemployed. As the number
of those without jobs grows, private charity is unable to cope with the
situation: so the states step in. During the summer, New York Governor Franklin
D. Roosevelt sets up the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration with
$20,000,000 to be distributed through local governments, and other states
quickly adopt similar plans. On the national level President Hoover is reluctant
to take such a drastic step as direct Federal aid, but in August he appoints the
President's Organization on Unemployment Relief (POUR), whose main activity is
to assist private charity to raise money. Later in the year Hoover asks Congress
to establish the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) with a $500,000,000
fund to provide emergency loans to banks and large industries in financial
trouble. The move, however, is of no apparent help, either to the unemployed or
to the economy.
January 15, 1931
President Hoover signs a bill easing the penalties of those caught violating the
Prohibition law. Cases involving less than a gallon of liquor are no longer a
February 19-26, 1931
Congress passes the Veterans Compensation Act, which permits veterans to borrow
up to half the amount of their 1924 bonus certificates at a maximum interest
rate of 4 1/2 percent. A week later President Hoover vetoes the Bill, claiming
that it would benefit many veterans who are not in need and would put a heavy
burden on the Government's budget. Congress passes the measure over the
February 23, 1931
Congress passes a bill to provide funds for government operation of the Muscle
Shoals power and fertilizer plants on the Tennessee River, originally built
during the Great War (World War I). President Hoover refuses to sign the bill,
stating in his veto message that he is "...firmly opposed to the Government
entering into any business the main purpose of which is competition with our
May 14, 1931
The major national forests already had been established by previous
administrations. The total acreage of the national forests was increased over
2,250,000 acres. In order further to conserve this important resource, President
Hoover directed on May 14, 1931, that all leasing of the Federal forests for new
lumbering operations should cease for a while.
June 20, 1931
President Hoover, in an effort to bolster the international economic situation,
proposes a one-year moratorium on payments of war debts and war reparations.
August 7, 1931
In time the state legislatures of California, Wyoming, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and
Kansas established state conservation controls. Each of them prorated and
restrained production and volume of each oil well in new fields so as to
conserve gas pressure. Texas would not undertake these measures and great wastes
were going on. On August 7, 1931, The President issued a statement to the effect
that all the great producing states except Texas had acted, saying: "Except for
the failure of the Texas authorities and legislature so far to cooperate by
controlling their big new oil pool in east Texas, the whole oil situation would
have been corrected months ago. The waste in total production of this pool will
be enormous due to unlimited release of the gas." (Memoirs)
August 11, 1931
The moratorium agreement proposed by President Hoover is signed by 18 countries
The bank panic increases as over 800 banks are closed in two months. Individuals
start to hoard gold.
November 4, 1931
As an indication of the expansion of the building program, President Hoover said
in a progress statement in mid-term, November 4, 1931:
"That portion of the Federal program of aid to unemployment comprised in the
great expansion of public buildings under the Treasury Department shows the
following progress since the report of September 1. There is a total of 817
projects which have so far been specifically authorized...
A) A total of 131 buildings have been completed at a total cost of
B) There were 270 buildings in construction at the first of November by
contract, at an estimated cost of $229,772,700...
C) There are 64 projects in which sites have been arranged, drawings are
completed, for which construction contracts have been invited, of a total
estimated cost of $19,970,500.
D) There are 240 projects in which sites have been selected, and on which plans
are now under way of a total estimated cost of $141,947,923...
It is estimated that the number of men now directly and indirectly employed on
this program is 50,000. It is estimated by the Treasury Department that the
number that will be directly and indirectly employed on January 1st is 100,000.
December 8, 1931
The President's annual message to Congress calls for increased taxation to make
up for the deficit of $902,000,000 for the fiscal year 1930-1931. The message
also asks Congress to set up an agency to make emergency loans to banks,
railroads, and other businesses.
December 8, 1931
(These are selected excerpts from President Hoover's Annual Message to Congress)
"Business depressions have been recurrent in the life of our country and are but
transitory. The nation has emerged from each of them with increased strength and
virility because of the enlightenment they have brought, the readjustments and
the larger understanding of the realities and obligations of life and work which
come from them."
"As an aid to unemployment the Federal Government is engaged in the greatest
program of public building, harbor, flood control, highway, waterway, aviation,
merchant and naval ship construction in all history…."
"The emergencies of unemployment have been met by action in many directions. The
appropriations for the continued speeding up of the great Federal construction
program have provided direct and indirect aid to unemployment upon a large
scale. By organized unity of action, the states and municipalities have also
maintained large programs of public improvement. Many industries have been
prevailed upon to anticipate and intensify construction. Industrial concerns and
other employers have been organized to spread available work amongst all their
employees instead of discharging a portion of them. A large majority have
maintained wages at as high levels as the safe conduct of their business would
"Although some of the causes of our depression are due to speculation, inflation
of securities and real estate, unsound foreign investments, and mismanagement of
financial institutions, yet our self-contained national economy, with its
matchless strength and resources, would have enabled us to recover long since
but for the continued dislocations, shocks and setbacks from abroad…."
"Our first step toward recovery is to reestablish confidence and thus restore
the flow of credit which is the very basis of our economic life. We must put
some steel beams in the foundations of our credit structure. "
"The first requirement of confidence and of economic recovery is financial
stability of the United States Government. We must have insistent and determined
reduction in government expenses. We must face a temporary increase in taxes.
Even with increased taxation, the government will reach the utmost safe limit of
its borrowing capacity by the expenditures for which we are already obligated
and the recommendations here proposed.
" I recommend the establishment of a system of home-loan discount banks as the
necessary companion in our financial structure of the Federal Reserve Banks and
our Federal Land Banks. Such action will relieve present distressing pressures
against home and farm property owners. It will relieve pressures upon and give
added strength to building and loan associations, savings banks, and deposit
banks, engaged in extending such credits. Such action would further decentralize
our credit structure. It would revive residential construction and employment.
It would enable such loaning institutions more effectually to promote home
So Mr. President, What Did You Do During Your Term In Office? 1931
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The above information is compiled from my collection of books: The
American Presidents by David C. Whitney; Reader's Digest Association, Inc.
(1996), The New York Public Library American History Desk Reference; A Stonesong
Press Book (1997) The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover, Macmillan Company (1952); The
Bicentennial Almanac Edited by Calvin D. Linton, Ph.D. Publishers, Thomas Nelson
Inc. (1975) The Presidents of the United States Vol 2, A.S. Barnes & Co. (1973)