The Legal Mind of Franklin D. Roosevelt
I am now thinking about my next book, though I still have work to do on Bingham and other projects. (More on that tomorrow.) While I’ve known for a while that I want to write about the New Deal, I’ve been uncertain about how to proceed. My focus was on Huey Long for a long time, but now I’m looking at FDR more closely. What novel angle can you take on him though?
One answer is how Roosevelt approached constitutional issues. FDR was a lawyer (though only briefly) and had a distinctive understanding of the Constitution as expressed in his major presidential speeches. (Cass Sunstein wrote a book centered on FDR’s Second Bill of Rights speech in 1944.) But nobody has woven that together into a comprehensive discussion that includes his private letters and pre-presidential views. So I’m going to look into that for the next few months and see what I come up with.
Here is one example. I think that FDR was the first president (as president) who referred to the Bill of Rights. (And he did so often.) Jefferson called the first set of amendments a bill of rights when it was under discussion, but that term then largely disappeared. Where did FDR get this from? And was it significant?