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Liberalism in Retreat: The Interior Department, 1945-1952

Koppes, Clayton R. (1976) Liberalism in Retreat: The Interior Department, 1945-1952. Social Science Working Paper, 134. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

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The twenty-year presence of liberal Democratic administrations from 1933 to 1953 has stimulated a prevailing interpretation that the period represented basically continuity in domestic policy. The usual assumption has been that the Truman administration did much to institutionalize the New Deal and that the Fair Deal, despite a recalcitrant Congress, managed some modest extensions of the Roosevelt legacy. One of the reasons for this interpretation, which appears regardless of ideological positions, is that historians have focused chiefly on social-welfare legislation; they have thus neglected many of the other innovative contributions of the New Deal, and have all but ignored the manner in which succeeding regimes administered New Deal measures. In this paper, I propose to test this prevailing interpretation of the continuity of liberalism from New Deal to Fair Deal by analyzing some of the major issues facing the Interior Department from 1945 to 1952. In so doing, I hope to illuminate some neglected issues and to suggest alternative interpretations of others. The Department of the Interior seems to me to be a particularly suitable vehicle for a case study of Truman-era liberalism. The department embraced a more diverse array of programs than any other department; this diversity, coupled with the strength of the department during the Roosevelt years, made it an unusually full expression of the New Deal's many facets. Moreover, the continuity of leadership in the department from New Deal to Fair Deal made it seem the embodiment of the liberal tradition. Secretary Harold L. Ickes served until February 15, 1946, affording an unusual opportunity to watch an old New Dealer orient his department to the problems of the postwar. Oscar L. Chapman, who served as secretary from December 1, 1949 to January 20, 1953, had been assistant secretary for thirteen years under Ickes and under secretary from 1946 to 1949. Chapman's unusual tenure made him appear to contemporary liberal observers as “one of the few authentic New Dealers left in the Cabinet.”

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Group:Social Science Working Papers
Series Name:Social Science Working Paper
Issue or Number:134
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20171026-155805831
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:82718
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:27 Oct 2017 16:46
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:57

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