Herbert Hoover

president of the United States from 1929 to 1933

Herbert Clark Hoover (10 August 187420 October 1964) was the 31st president of the United States (1929–33). He was a professional mining engineer and was raised as a Quaker. A Republican, Hoover served as head of the U.S. Food Administration during World War I, and became internationally known for humanitarian relief efforts in war-time Belgium. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business under the rubric "economic modernization". In the presidential election of 1928, Hoover easily won the Republican nomination, despite having no elected-office experience. Hoover is the most recent cabinet secretary to be elected President of the United States, as well as one of only three presidents (along with William Howard Taft and Donald Trump) elected without electoral experience or high military rank.

Honor is not the exclusive property of any political party.


  • Nor are liberal ideals alone sufficient: Ours is a practical people, to whom ideals furnish the theory of political action, upon which they want not only firm assurance, but also effective practice. They want programmes, but they want action to flow from them. They want constructive common sense. They want the development of the common will, not the views of a single individual. They are beginning to realize that words without action are the assassins of idealism. On the other side, they are equally disgusted with seeking for power by destructive criticism, demagoguery, specious promises and sham.
    • Excerpt from a statement to the New York Tribune concerning the 1920 Presidential campaign (29 April 1920)
  • You convey too great a compliment when you say that I have earned the right to the presidential nomination. No man can establish such an obligation upon any part of the American people. My country owes me no debt. It gave me, as it gives every boy and girl, a chance. It gave me schooling, independence of action, opportunity for service and honor. In no other land could a boy from a country village, without inheritance or influential friends, look forward with unbounded hope. My whole life has taught me what America means. I am indebted to my country beyond any human power to repay.
    • Letter to Senator George H. Moses, chairman of the Republican national convention, upon learning of his nomination for president (14 June 1928); reported in The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover (1952), volume 2, p. 195.
  • I have... instituted systematic, voluntary measures of cooperation with the business institutions and with State and municipal authorities to make certain that fundamental businesses of the country shall continue as usual, that wages and therefore consuming power shall not be reduced, and that a special effort shall be made to expand construction work in order to assist in equalizing other deficits in employment... I am convinced that through these measures we have reestablished confidence. Wages should remain stable. A very large degree of industrial unemployment and suffering which would otherwise have occurred has been prevented. Agricultural prices have reflected the returning confidence. The measures taken must be vigorously pursued until normal conditions are restored.
    • State of the Union Address (3 December 1929)
  • While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have now passed the worst and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover. There is one certainty of the future of a people of the resources, intelligence and character of the people of the United States—that is, prosperity.
    • Address at annual dinner of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States (1 May 1930). Hoover is sometimes misreported as having said on this occasion or another, "Prosperity is just around the corner"; reported in Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (1989), p. 48.
  • The American people are doing their job today. They should be given a chance to show whether they wish to preserve the principles of individual and local responsibility and mutual self-help before they embark on what I believe to be a disastrous system. I feel sure they will succeed if given the opportunity.
    • Press statement (3 February 1931)
  • What the country needs is a good big laugh. ... If someone could get off a good joke every ten days, I think our troubles would be over.
Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.
  • If, by the grace of God, we have passed the worst of this storm, the future months will be easy. If we shall be called upon to endure more of this period, we must gird ourselves for even greater effort, for today we are writing the introduction to the future history of civilization in America. The question is whether that history shall be written in terms of individual responsibility, and the capacity of the Nation for voluntary cooperative action, or whether it shall be written in terms of futile attempt to cure poverty by the enactment of law, instead of the maintained and protected initiative of our people.
    • Address to the Gridiron Club (27 April 1931)
  • American life is builded, and can alone survive, upon . . . [the] fundamental philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago.
    • “Radio Address to the Nation on Unemployment Relief,” American Presidency Project, October 18, 1931
  • Let me remind you that credit is the lifeblood of business, the lifeblood of prices and jobs.
    • Address at Des Moines, Iowa, (4 October 1932)
  • You cannot extend the mastery of government over the daily life of a people without somewhere making it master of people's souls and thoughts.… Every step in that direction poisons the very roots of liberalism. It poisons political equality, free speech, free press, and equality of opportunity. It is the road not to more liberty but to less liberty.
    • Campaign speech at Madison Square Garden (31 October 1932)
  • A good many things go around in the dark besides Santa Claus.
    • Address to the John Marshall Republican Club, St. Louis, Missouri (16 December 1935)
  • You may want to do a little autograph trading and I understand it takes five Hoovers to get one Babe Ruth.
  • Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.
    • Address to the Nebraska Republican Conference, Lincoln, Nebraska (16 January 1936)
  • We chatter to-day of reactionaries, conservatives, liberals, and radicals. It is true that mental attitudes can be classified on this gamut, but in their application as political labels in the United States they have been wholly distorted. For instance, the term ‘liberal’ flows from the word ‘liberty’; it does not come from the word ‘coercion.’ Yet the New Deal has camouflaged itself with this honored term. Of course the dictionary also gives a definition of ‘liberal’ which connotes giving generously and spending freely. This attracts many people, but the dictionary means liberality with one’s own money. A ‘reactionary’ in ordinary times is a gentleman who wants to reëstablish the status quo ante. The New Deal wants to do precisely that—as a matter of fact it is status quo George III or Diocletian. This process has now attained the label of ‘liberal.’
  • We must fight again for a government founded on individual liberty and opportunity that was the American vision. If we lose we will continue down this New Deal road to some sort of personal government based upon collectivist theories. Under these ideas ours can become some sort of Fascist government.
    • Addresses Upon the American Road, Charles Scribber’s Son, New York (1938) p. 160
  • In every single case before the rise of totalitarian governments there had been a period dominated by economic planners. Each of these nations had an era under starry-eyed men who believed that they could plan and force the economic life of the people. They believed that was the way to correct abuse or to meet emergencies in systems of free enterprise. They exalted the State as the solvent of all economic problems. These men thought they were liberals. But they also thought they could have economic dictatorship by bureaucracy and at the same time preserve free speech, orderly justice and free government. They might be called the totalitarian liberals. They were the spiritual fathers of the New Deal. These men are not Communists or Fascists. But they mixed these ideas into free systems.
    • Speech (June 25, 1940) at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia, PA. As quoted in The Roosevelt Myth, John T. Flynn, New York: NY, Devin-Adair Company (1948) p. 205 [1]
  • It is true that Communists and Fascists were round about. They formed popular fronts and gave the applause. These men shifted the relation of government to free enterprise from that of umpire to controller. Directly or indirectly they politically controlled credit, prices, production of industry, farmer and laborer. They devalued, pump-primed and deflated. They controlled private business by government competition, by regulation and by taxes. They met every failure with demands for more and more power and control . . . When it was too late they discovered that every time they stretched the arm of government into private enterprise, except to correct abuse, then somehow, somewhere, men's minds became confused. At once men became fearful and hesitant. Initiative slackened, industry slowed down production. Then came chronic unemployment and frantic government spending in an effort to support the unemployed. Government debts mounted and finally government credit was undermined. Out of the miseries of their people there grew pressure groups—business, labor, farmers demanding relief or special privilege. Class hate poisoned cooperation.
    • Speech (June 25, 1940) at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia, PA. As quoted in The Roosevelt Myth, John T. Flynn, New York: NY, Devin-Adair Company (1948) pp. 205-206
  • Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die. And it is youth who must inherit the tribulation, the sorrow and the triumphs that are the aftermath of war.
    • Speech in Chicago, Illinois to the 23rd Republican national convention (27 June 1944)
  • What this country needs is a great poem. John Brown’s Body was a step in the right direction. I’ve read it once, and I’m reading it again. But it’s too long to do what I mean. You can’t thrill people in 300 pages... The limit is about 300 words. Kipling’s “Recessional” really did something to England when it was published. It helped them through a bad time. Let me know if you find any great poems lying around.
    • To Christopher Morley, quoted in Saturday Review Treasury (1957)
  • The thing I enjoyed most were visits from children. They did not want public office.
    • On his years in the White House, in On Growing Up: Letters to American Boys and Girls (1962)
  • Being a politician is a poor profession. Being a public servant is a noble one.
    • On Growing Up: Letters to American Boys & Girls (1962); also quoted in Herbert Hoover On Growing Up: Letters from and to American Children (1990) edited by Timothy Walch
  • Honor is not the exclusive property of any political party.
    • Quoted in Christian Science Monitor (21 May 1964)
  • When there is a lack of honor in government, the morals of the whole people are poisoned.
    • Quoted in the New York Times (9 August 1964)
I outlived the bastards.
  • Many years ago, I concluded that a few hair shirts were part of the mental wardrobe of every man. The president differs from other men in that he has a more extensive wardrobe.
    • Quoted in the New York Times (17 October 1964)
  • About the time we can make the ends meet, somebody moves the ends.
    • Quoted in obituaries (20 October 1964)
  • I outlived the bastards.
    • When asked how he dealt with people who blamed him for the Great Depression, quoted in The Court Years 1939-75 (1980) by William O. Douglas
  • I’m the only person of distinction who’s ever had a depression named for him.
    • Quoted in An Uncommon Man (1984) by Richard Norton Smith

The New Day: Campaign Speeches of Herbert Hoover (1928)

  • Our country has deliberately undertaken a great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far-reaching in purpose.
    • On Prohibition; sometimes misquoted as referring to Prohibition as "a noble experiment"; reported as such in Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (1989), p. 47-48.
  • With impressive proof on all sides of magnificent progress, no one can rightly deny the fundamental correctness of our economic system.
  • The swimming hole is still in use. It has the same mudbank. It is still impossible to dress without carrying mud home in one’s inner garments. As an engineer I could devise improvements for that swimming hole. But I doubt if the decrease in mother’s grief at the homecoming of muddy boys would compensate the inherent joys of getting muddy.
  • More than ten million women march to work every morning side by side with the men. Steadily the importance of women is gaining not only in the routine tasks of industry but in executive responsibility. I include also the woman who stays at home as the guardian of the welfare of the family. She is a partner in the job and wages. Women constitute a part of our industrial achievement.
  • The ancient bitter opposition to improved methods on the ancient theory that it more than temporarily deprives men of employment... has no place in the gospel of American progress.
  • I, with other Americans, have perhaps unduly resented the stream of criticism of American life... more particularly have I resented the sneers at Main Street. For I have known that in the cottages that lay behind the street rested the strength of our national character.
  • In my public statements I have earnestly urged that there rested upon government many responsibilities which affect the moral and spiritual welfare of our people. The participation of women in elections has produced a keener realization of the importance of these questions and has contributed to higher national ideals. Moreover, it is through them that our national ideals are ingrained in our children.

Speech accepting the Republican Party Presidential nomination, Stanford University (11 August 1928)

  • One of the oldest and perhaps the noblest of human aspirations has been the abolition of poverty. By poverty I mean the grinding by undernourishment, cold and ignorance and fear of old age of those who have the will to work. We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land. The poorhouse is vanishing from among us. We have not yet reached the goal, but given a chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years, and [sic] we shall soon with the help of God be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this Nation. There is no guarantee against poverty equal to a job for every man. That is the primary purpose of the economic policies we advocate.

Campaign speech in New York (22 October 1928)

Liberalism should be found not striving to spread bureaucracy but striving to set bounds to it.
  • Bureaucracy is ever desirous of spreading its influence and its power. You cannot extend the mastery of the government over the daily working life of a people without at the same time making it the master of the people's souls and thoughts. Every expansion of government in business means that government in order to protect itself from the political consequences of its errors and wrongs is driven irresistibly without peace to greater and greater control of the nation's press and platform. Free speech does not live many hours after free industry and free commerce die.
  • Liberalism should be found not striving to spread bureaucracy but striving to set bounds to it. True liberalism seeks all legitimate freedom first in the confident belief that without such freedom the pursuit of all other blessings and benefits is vain. That belief is the foundation of all American progress, political as well as economic.
  • The American people from bitter experience have a rightful fear that great business units might be used to dominate our industrial life and by illegal and unethical practices destroy equality of opportunity...
  • Our people are steadily increasing their spending for higher standards of living. Today there are almost nine automobiles for each ten families, where seven and one-half years ago only enough automobiles were running to average less than four for each ten families. The slogan of progress is changing from the full dinner pail to the full garage. Our people have more to eat, better things to wear, and better homes.
  • Wages have increased, the cost of living has decreased. The job of every man and woman has been made more secure. We have in this short period decreased the fear of poverty, the fear of unemployment, the fear of old age; and these fears that are the greatest calamities of human kind.
  • My conception of America is a land where men and women may walk in ordered freedom in the independent conduct of their occupations; where they may enjoy the advantages of wealth, not concentrated in the hands of the few but spread through the lives of all; where they build and safeguard their homes, and give to their children the fullest advantages and opportunities of American life; where every man shall be respected in the faith that his conscience and his heart direct him to follow; where a contented and happy people, secure in their liberties, free from poverty and fear, shall have the leisure and impulse to seek a fuller life.
    Some may ask where all this may lead beyond mere material progress. It leads to a release of the energies of men and women from the dull drudgery of life to a wider vision and a higher hope. It leads to the opportunity for greater and greater service, not alone from man in our own land, but from our country to the whole world. It leads to an America, healthy in body, healthy in spirit, unfettered, youthful, eager — with a vision searching beyond the farthest horizons, with an open mind, sympathetic and generous.

The Challenge to Liberty (1934)

  • The high tenet of this philosophy (Liberalism) is that Liberty is an endowment from the Creator of every individual man and woman upon which no power, whether economic or political, can encroach, and that not even the government may deny. And herein it challenges all other philosophies of society and government; for all others, both before and since, insist that the individual has no such unalienable rights, that he is but the servant of the state. Liberalism holds that man is master of the state, not the servant; that the sole purpose of government is to nurture and assure these liberties. All others insist that Liberty is not a God-given right; that the state is the master of the man.
    • Page 4
  • In order that there can be no doubt as to its antithesis to Liberalism, we may well accept Premier Mussolini’s definition of Fascism: . . . ‘Granted that the nineteenth century was the century of Socialism, of Liberalism and Democracy . . . it may rather be expected that this will be the century of authority, a century of the left, a century of Fascism; for if the nineteenth century was a century of individualism (Liberalism always signifying individualism) it may be expected that this will be the century of collectivism, and hence the century of the state. . .’
    • pp. 65-66
  • The present economic organization of Fascism is based on the “Corporate State,” the necessity for which is stated to be “Economic Planning.” The Italian word Corporasioni currently translated as “corporation” is misleading, as its import is not our business corporation; it is more nearly that of the old English “guild.” In more modern expression, which again in American terms is not quite precise, the system is based upon the creation separately of Fascist “labor unions” and Fascist “trade associations” in each industry or calling, whose authority through committees and administrators is binding upon all those engaged in that industry or calling,…
    • pp. 67-68

Hoover Off the Record (1934)

Quotations from Hoover Off the Record (1934) by Theodore G. Joslin
  • So far as the personal side is concerned, the victory was to him who lost and the defeat to him who won. I can say that never in the last fifteen years have I had the peace of mind that I have since the election. I have almost a feeling of elation.
  • The President is not only the leader of a party, he is the President of the whole people. He must interpret the conscience of America. He must guide his conduct by the idealism of our people.
  • This is not a showman’s job. I will not step out of character.
  • Prosperity cannot be restored by raids upon the public Treasury.

The Hoover Policies (1937)


The Hoover Policies (1937) by Ray Lyman Wilbur and Arthur N. Hyde

  • It does not follow, because our difficulties are stupendous, because there are some souls timorous enough to doubt the validity and effectiveness of our ideals and our system, that we must turn to a state controlled or state directed social or economic system in order to cure our troubles.
  • No country can squander itself to prosperity on the ruin of its taxpayers.
  • As a nation we must prevent hunger and cold to those of our people who are in honest difficulties.
  • The basis of successful relief in national distress is to mobilize and organize the infinite number of agencies of self help in the community. That has been the American way.
  • I am willing to pledge myself that if the time should ever come that the voluntary agencies of the country together with the local and state governments are unable to find resources with which to prevent hunger and suffering … I will ask the aid of every resource of the Federal Government.... I have the faith in the American people that such a day will not come.
  • Our tasks are definite. The first to see that no man, woman, or child shall go hungry or unsheltered through the approaching winter.
    The second is to see that our great benevolent agencies for character building, for hospitalization, for care of children and all their vast number of agencies of voluntary solicitude for the less fortunate are maintained in full strength.
    The third is to maintain the bedrock principle of our liberties by the full mobilization of individual and local resources and responsibilities.
    The fourth is that we may maintain the spiritual impulses in our people for generous giving and generous service—in the spirit that each is his brother’s keeper.
  • Reports to the Surgeon General... represent the final word upon the efficient and devoted sense of responsibility of our people in this obligation to our fellow citizens. Overwhelmingly they confirm the fact that the general mortality rate, infant mortality rate, epidemics, the disease rate—are less than in normal times. There is but one explanation. That is, that through an aroused sense of public responsibility, those in destitution and their children are receiving actually more adequate care than even in normal times.

The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover: Years of Adventure, 1874-1929 (1951)

  • [Engineering] is a great profession. There is the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to men. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comforts of life. That is the engineer’s high privilege.

    The great liability of the engineer compared to men of other professions is that his works are out in the open where all can see them. His acts, step by step, are in hard substance. He cannot bury his mistakes in the grave like the doctors. He cannot argue them into thin air or blame the judge like the lawyers. He cannot, like the architects, cover his failures with trees and vines. He cannot, like the politicians, screen his shortcomings by blaming his opponents and hope that the people will forget. The engineer simply cannot deny that he did it. If his works do not work, he is damned. That is the phantasmagoria that haunts his nights and dogs his days. He comes from the job at the end of the day resolved to calculate it again. He wakes in the night in a cold sweat and puts something on paper that looks silly in the morning. All day he shivers at the thought of the bugs which will inevitably appear to jolt its smooth consummation.

    On the other hand, unlike the doctor his is not a life among the weak. Unlike the soldier, destruction is not his purpose. Unlike the lawyer, quarrels are not his daily bread. To the engineer falls the job of clothing the bare bones of science with life, comfort, and hope. No doubt as years go by people forget which engineer did it, even if they ever knew. Or some politician puts his name on it. Or they credit it to some promoter who used other people’s money with which to finance it. But the engineer himself looks back at the unending stream of goodness which flows from his successes with satisfactions that few professions may know. And the verdict of his fellow professionals is all the accolades he wants.
    • Excerpted from Chapter 11 "The Profession of Engineering"

The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover: The Great Depression, 1929-1941 (1952)

  • In the large sense the primary cause of the Great Depression was the war of 1914-1918. Without the war there would have been no depression of such dimensions. There might have been a normal cyclical recession; but, with the usual timing, even that readjustment probably would not have taken place at that particular period, nor would it have been a "Great Depression."
    • p. 2: Lead paragraph Chapter 1 : The origins of the Depression.
  • Every collectivist revolution rides in on a Trojan horse of 'emergency'. It was the tactic of Lenin, Hitler, and Mussolini. In the collectivist sweep over a dozen minor countries of Europe, it was the cry of men striving to get on horseback. And 'emergency' became the justification of the subsequent steps. This technique of creating emergency is the greatest achievement that demagoguery attains... The invasion of New Deal Collectivism was introduced by this same Trojan horse.
    • p. 357
  • The recognition of Russia on November 16, 1933, started forces which were to have considerable influence in the attempt to collectivize the United States.
    • p. 484

Herbert Hoover, 1874-1964 (1971)


Herbert Hoover, 1874-1964: Chronology - Documents - Bibliographical Aids (1971) Edited by Arnold S. Rice

  • Economic depression can not be cured by legislative action or executive pronouncement.
  • I would emphasize again that social and economic solutions, as such, will not avail to satisfy the aspirations of the people unless they conform with the traditions of our race, deeply grooved in their sentiments through a century and a half of struggle for ideals of life that are rooted in religion and fed from purely spiritual springs.
  • I am firmly opposed to the government entering into any business the major purpose of which is competition with our citizens... for the Federal Government deliberately to go out to build up and expand... a power and manufacturing business is to break down the initiative and enterprise of the American people; it is the destruction of equality of opportunity amongst our people, it is the negation of the ideals upon which our civilization has been based.
  • In no nation are the institutions of progress more advanced. In no nation are the fruits of accomplishment more secure. In no nation is the government more worthy of respect. No country is more loved by its people. I have an abiding faith in their capacity, integrity and high purpose. I have no fears for the future of our country. It is bright with hope.
  • In the larger view the major forces of the depression now lie outside of the United States, and our recuperation has been retarded by the unwarranted degree of fear and apprehension created by these outside forces.

The Dairy World (1922)

  • In its broad aspects, the proper feeding of children revolves around a public recognition of the interdependence of the human animal upon his cattle. The white race cannot survive without dairy products.

The Uncommon Man

  • When we are sick, we want an uncommon doctor; when we have a construction job to do, we want an uncommon engineer, and when we are at war, we want an uncommon general. It is only when we get into politics that we are satisfied with the common man.
    • From an article originally published in the February 6, 1949 issue of "This Week" Magazine, from "Addresses Upon the American Road,Volume: Volume 8: 1955-1960." Developed in speech entitled "Moral and Spiritual Recovery from War" presented October 13, 1945, at 75th Anniversary of Wilson College at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. "The Crusade Years, 1933–1955: Herbert Hoover's Lost Memoir of the New Deal Era and Its Aftermath", edited by George Nash

Quotes about Hoover

  • The day the stock market crashed (October 8, 1929) will forever be etched on the Etch a Sketch of American consciousness as "the day the stock market crashed," or sometimes "Black Tuesday." For on that fateful day, the nation's seemingly prosperous economy was revealed to be merely a paper tiger with feet of clay living in a straw house of cards that had cried "wolf" once too often. Although this would not become clear for some time. Oh, there had been warning signs. Just a few weeks before Black Tuesday, there had been Mauve Wednesday, which was followed, only two days later, by Dark Navy Blue with Thin Diagonal Yellow Stripes Friday. But most Americans paid little heed to these events, choosing instead to believe the comforting words of President Herbert Hoover Dam, who, in a reassuring nationwide broadcast, said, "Everybody STAY CALM, because there is NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT! Do you HEAR ME?? NOTHING!! HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA [click]."
    • Dave Barry, Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States (1989), p. 110
  • And yet, as the weeks dragged into months and the economy continued to founder, it soon became clear that some economic "medicine" even more potent than THE HAWLEY-SMOOT TARIFF would be needed to get the nation "back on its feet." This paved the way for the historic election of 1932. The Republicans, showing the kind of sensitivity they are famous for, renominated President Hoover Dam, who pledged that, if reelected, he would flee to the Bahamas. The Democrats countered by nominated President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or, as he was affectionately known, "J.F.K."- who ran under the slogan "Let's Elect Another President Named Roosevelt and Confuse the Hell out of Future Generations of Students." The voters responded overwhelmingly, and Roosevelt was elected in a mammoth landslide t hat unfortunately left him confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
    • Dave Barry, Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States (1989), p. 115
  • He is certainly a wonder, and I wish we could make him President of the United States. There couldn't be a better one.
  • That man has offered me unsolicited advice for six years, all of it bad!
    • Calvin Coolidge on Herbert Hoover
    • Ahamed, Liaquatː "Lords of Finance" (2011). Random House. Pg 299.
  • Hoover was hardworking, incorruptible, self-assured and self-reliant. But he was also aloof, shy, wary of crowds, awkward at superficial social relations, and extremely sensitive to criticism. "It was," biographer David Burner has written, "perhaps the private man's shrinkage from rough political contact, the predilection for working by himself, and the habit of perceiving problems as requiring rational, impersonal solutions that made Hoover uncomfortable with the rude, demanding Congress as well as with the press." Hoover was often curt with subordinates. A model of efficiency himself, he expected the same of others. Characteristically, he concentrated on detail rather than on the broader significance of a problem. He was a dull speaker, rarely lifting his eyes from the prepared text.
    • William A. DeGregorio, The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents (1984), p. 463
  • Contemporaries struggled to explain what had gone wrong with capitalism. The American President, Herbert Hoover, was no uncritical believer in laissez-faire economics. During the 1920s, he had expressed his support for export promotion, collective bargaining, agricultural cooperatives and business 'conferences' as ways of tackling economic problems. In Hoover's eyes, however, there were limits to what government could do. The Depression was a 'worldwide' phenomenon due to 'overproduction of . . . raw materials' and 'overspeculation'; the ensuing 'retribution' was similar in its character to what had happened in 1920 and 1921. The country's 'fundamental assets', he argued, were 'unimpaired'. All that was needed was for the Federal Reserve to continue to supply 'ample . . . credit at low rates of interest', while maintaining the dollar's price in terms of gold; for the government to expand public works, though without unbalancing the budget; and for the necessary 'savings in production costs' to be shared between 'labor, capital and the consumer'. Hoover also backed an increase in the numerous tariffs that had long protected American producers of food, textiles and other basic products from foreign competition. Unfortunately, none of this sufficed to counter the plunge in economic confidence. On the contrary, the policy made matters worse. By refusing to relax monetary policy, the Federal Reserve failed disastrously to avert waves of bank closures in 1930 and 1931, actually raising its discount rate in October 1931; the attempt to run a balanced budget meanwhile prevented any kind of counter-cyclical fiscal stimulus; and the protectionist Smoot-Hawley trade bill enacted in June 1930, though it did not radically increase tariff rates, nevertheless dealt a blow to financial confidence. The German economy had to swallow an equally lethal policy brew of interest rate hikes, tax increases, spending cuts and protection.
    • Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006), pp. 194-195
  • [Hoover was the greatest engineer in the world since] he had drained, ditched, and damned the United States in three years.
    • Attributed to a Kansas farmer, as quoted by Roy Victor Peel, The 1932 Campaign (1935, reprinted 1973), p. 56.
  • During the 1930s, President Herbert Hoover enacted a massive deportation raid on people of Mexican descent, in which up to 1.8 million Latinos-nearly 60 percent of whom were U.S. citizens-were forcibly removed to Mexico. (President Eisenhower would reprise this racist campaign in 1954, when more than 1 million more Latino people were violently rounded up and deported.) As all this state-sponsored chaos played out, the AFL-CIO finally began to warm up to the idea of organizing Latino workers again.
  • The spectacle of the United States Army routing unarmed citizens with tanks and firebrands outraged many Americans. The Bonus Army episode came to symbolize Hoover's supposed insensitivity to the plight of the unemployed. In fact the worst violence, resulting in two deaths, had come at the hands of the district police, not the federal troops, and the blame for the torching of Anacostia Flats was MacArthur's, not Hoover's. But Hoover chose to ignore MacArthur's insubordination and assumed full responsibility for the army's actions.
    • David M. Kennedy, Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (1999), p. 92
  • To White House visitors, the President by this time seemed prematurely aged. He kept up a punishing regimen of rising at six and working without interruption until nearly midnight. His clothes were disheveled, his hair rumpled, eyes bloodshot, complexion ashen. He grew increasingly testy and brittle. "How I wish I could cheer up the poor old President," wrote the venerable Stimson, Hoover's senior by seven years. Never temperamentally suited to the pelting and abuse of the political arena, a man naturally diffident and inordinately self-protective, Hoover was painfully bruised by blows from both the left and the right. As early as 1919 he had conceded that "I do not... have the mental attitude or the politician's manner... and above all I am too sensitive for political mud." By the fall of 1932 he had lost all stomach for political campaigning. He took to the hustings only in October and seemed to campaign more for vindication in the historical record than for affection in the hearts of voters. Just four years earlier he had won one of the most lopsided victories in the history of presidential elections. Now he took an even worse drubbing than he had given Al Smith. On November 8, 1932, Hoover won just six states. The Great Engineer, so recently the most revered American, was the most loathed and scorned figure in the country. All eyes now looked to his successor, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
    • David M. Kennedy, Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (1999), p. 94
  • Hoover brought a corporate executive's sensibility to the White House. Roosevelt brought a politician's. Hoover as president frequently dazzled visitors with his detailed knowledge and expert understanding of American business. "His was a mathematical brain," sad his admiring secretary, Theodore Joslin. "Let banking officials, for instance, come into his office and he would rattle off the number of banks in the country, list their liabilities and assets, describe the trend of fiscal affairs, and go into the liquidity, or lack of it, of individual institutions, all from memory." Roosevelt, in contrast, impressed his visitors by asking them to draw a line across a map of the United States. He would then name, in order, every county through which the line passed, adding anecdotes about each localities political peculiarities.
    • David M. Kennedy, Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (1999), p. 94-95
  • This election was lost four and five and six years ago not this year. They dident start thinking of the old common fellow till just as they started out on the election tour. The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the dryest little spot. But he dident know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands. They saved the big banks but the little ones went up the flue.
  • Hoover's application of "volunteerism" to manage natural resources... proved no more successful than his application of "volunteerism" to stem the downward spiral of the Great Depression and rejuvenate the economy. The complexity and urgency of the nation's economic problems were too great for a solution based on voluntary cooperation.
    • Douglas H. Strong, Dreamers & Defenders: American Conservationists (1988) Ch. 7 "Harold Ickes"

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