Gareth Jones

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The Manchester Guardian, January 23rd 1935


  Welding a Nation


  Federal Government’s Growing Power

By Gareth Jones.

[Mr. Gareth Jones, who has been making a tour of inquiry through the United States on his way to the Far East, here gives his impressions of the “national revolution” in progress in the United States.  In a further article he will discuss the limits and the extent of Mr. Roosevelt’s popularity.]


The traveller who after two and a half years’ absence steams into New York and crosses America from the east to the Pacific feels that in the Roosevelt era the United States is undergoing a revolution in the national sense.  A continent is becoming a nation, and the binding forces of the Civil War of 1861 to 1865, which put an end to the threats of secession and disintegration, are being continued in the present phase of national unification.

To the traveller who is accustomed to the American’s clinging to State rights, to his hatred of interference from Washington, to his fear of yielding too much power to the President, to his feeling of the independence of the local community, a journey along the east coast from New Hampshire down to the Southern State of Virginia, in the Middle Western States of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, and in the Western States of New Mexico and California brings a revelation of this profound change in the American attitude towards government and towards the nation, and indeed in the whole American character.

Three years ago there still ruled a deep suspicion of the Federal power, a determination that no bureaucrats a thousand or more miles away should interfere with the traditional rights of the Southerner or the Westerner or the Middle Westerner, a stress upon the privileges of the local government which was rooted in the eighteenth-century colonist’s loathing of the dictates of a Government in London across the ocean, and a stubborn faith in the sanctity of the motives of the private business man as opposed to the iniquity of the politician.  These motives still dominate the thinking of the majority of American business men, but they have yielded in the general mass of the people to a dependence upon the Federal Government, a change which is resulting in the trampling down of many of the rights of the States and in the creating of a government form which is more apparent in federated America.

Everywhere the Federal power is extending its network of influence, and Washington is at last a capital, instead of being a meeting-place of the representatives and senators from the states; its grip over activities in California, 3,000 miles away, is a symbol of the national revolution through which the United States is going.


Even Chicago and Illinois must now bow low before the all-powerful centralists of Washington and must abandon certain privileges - often very profitable privileges to grafters - of self-government to the inrush of Federal forces.  In Chicago the police are smarting under the invasion of the Federal police, who at last are battling successfully against the gangsters and are now undertaking a Federal campaign against kidnappers.  In droves these “G men” (Government men), as they are called, descended from Washington into the sacred preserves of the City and State police and by cleaning up Chicago more thoroughly and rapidly than had ever before been done demonstrated the superiority of Federal police power over the corrupt local forces.  This Federal drive against crime, which had its initial impulse in the Lindbergh kidnapping of March, 1932, shows that Colonel Lindbergh will have played a part not only in linking Europe with the United States but also in helping to create by the fate of his child a greater American national Unity in the breaking down of State harriers which have in the past so handicapped the arrest of criminals.

Many conservative Americans would three years ago have been almost shocked by another feature of Federal interference - namely, Federal relief - as they were by gangsterdom.  Business men would have thrown up their arms at the mention of such a “radical” measure as the spending of Federal funds for what they considered the task of the local community.  To-day, however, Federal agencies are shouldering more than two-thirds of the total cost of relief, while some of the States have almost left the financing of relief work to Washington.


The vast public works, such as the Boulder Dam on the Colorado River and the Tennessee Valley schemes, which will provide electric power extending over a number of States, are another example of the increase in the functions of the Federal Government.  The financing not only of these works but of private banking and private industries is being concentrated more and more in Washington, where the profusion of lending agencies with names that grow ever more complicated is bewildering to the visiting observer.  A financial network thus links the States closer to the central Government, a move which is symbolised by a skyscraper bank in Chicago topped by a statue of Ceres.  Two-thirds of the stock of this bank is owned by the Government organisation the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and other bankers realise that when dealing with this bank they are dealing with the Government.

This rapid centralisation cannot be carried out, however, without abandoning another basis of American political feeling - the dread lest a President should exceed his rights, and the desire that Congress should clip the President’s wings if he should dare to go beyond his powers.  Backed by the election of November 6 President Roosevelt has a whip-hand over the Congress, which will enable him to consolidate the forces of the nation and to lessen those State rights which are often obstacles to his policy.

The movement towards a united nation is speeded up by the crash of the leaderless Republican party, which will take many years to recover, and by the virtual introduction of the one-party system.  No longer is the “Democratic” South  opposed to the “Republican” North, for one party with allegiance to a central organisation dominates nearly all the country. 


The, unification of the United States is not without its bitter opponents.  “Why should Washington tell me what I should do in Illinois?”  a Chicago Republican business man will declare with scorn.  “What do the professors of the Brain Trust know about pigs in the Chicago stockyard?  What right has the Federal Government to order people in my State to sell at such and such a price?  It is smashing the Constitution.”  Representative Wadsworth, a Republican, speaking in curiously Jeffersonian phrases, states that the new programme of President Roosevelt “seeks the abandonment of the American conception of liberty under a Constitution, puts the Federal Government in the possession of complete authority over those matters which the Tenth Amendment reserves to the States and the people, and spells the end of the Federal Union.”  In the South, like a voice from out of the nineteenth century, Governor Huey Long demands that the State of Louisiana should have the right to secede from the Union.

But these appear to be the dying groans of the defenders of State of rights, for they have opposed to them those material inventions which are no respecters of the States.  Motor-cars which cross State frontiers at 75 miles an hour, streamlined trains which speed across the continent, telephone calls across 3,000 miles from San Francisco to New York which can be in put through in two or three minutes, national “hook-ups” on the radio, and the reduction of the transcontinental flight by air to twelve hours - them are all unifying factors.  Moreover, each year sees the death of old immigrants who cannot speak English and the emergence from schools of their Americanised children and grandchildren, and since immigration has been ruthlessly cut down there is less infiltration of foreign stock.

The traveller, therefore, when he arrives at the Pacific coast, concludes that under President Roosevelt a national revolution is in progress and that the United States is at last becoming a “United State.”  








Dollar,  Yo-Yo.


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