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    Description

    Franklin D. Roosevelt: Autograph Letter Signed "F.D.R.".
    -[Undated]. Poughkeepsie, New York. Two pages. 5.5" x 9". Hyde Park-On-Hudson letterhead.
    -To: "Doc" (D. Basil O'Connor), New York.
    -Slightly toned at the edges, with the usual fold creases, else fine.

    FDR writes to his friend and law partner: "Dear Doc-/ I think Louis is right about the importance of this-will you write me as soon as you've seen B.?/ Also please read enclosed proposed letter to Knight. Julius Henry Cohen drew it. What do you think of the advisability of sending it?/ Yes/ FDR." In a letter extant to Senator Knight and dated July 19, 1929, Governor Roosevelt invites the Senator to join him for an inspection trip of the St. Lawrence and during the inspection tour to discuss important issues. It is possible that this July 19, 1929 letter is the one to which FDR refers in this letter to Doc O'Connor. It's not a stretch to assume that this letter was tied to FDR's desire to open the Midwestern United States to the Atlantic Ocean and harness hydro power from the St. Lawrence River. This move was opposed by the Republican Party and it is likely that FDR was trying to sway Republican Senator Knight, one of his staunchest foes, to see things his way. An important letter.


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    The extended description below was supplied by the consignor. We are making it available to our web bidders who are interested in more in-depth research and broader historical perspective. Please note that presentation (i.e. framing), lot divisions, and interpretations of condition and content may occasionally differ from our descriptions. Assertions of fact and subjective observations contained in this description represent the opinion of the consignor. These remarks have not been checked for accuracy by Heritage Auctions, and we assume no responsibility for their accuracy; they are offered purely to allow the bidder insight into the way the consignor has viewed the item(s) in question. No right of return or claim of lack of authenticity or provenance based upon this extended description will be granted.

     

    In FDR's own hand in its entirety, an autograph letter signed, a very interesting and extremely rare letter undated on FDR's Hyde Park-on-Hudson personal stationery. FDR writes in his own hand: "Dear Doc–/ I think Louis is right about the importance of this–will you write me as soon as you've seen B.?/ Also please read enclosed proposed letter to Knight. Julius Henry Cohen drew it. What do you think of the advisability of sending it?/ Yes/ FDR." At a later time a July 19, 1929 letter from FDR to Senator John Knight was acquired and is now part of this FDR Collection. In this subsequently obtained July 19, 1929 letter to Senator Knight, Governor Roosevelt invites the Senator to join him for an inspection trip of the St. Lawrence and during the inspection tour to discuss important issues. Could this July 19, 1929 letter be the one to which FDR refers in his handwritten letter to Doc O'Connor concerning a "proposed letter to Knight?" This handwritten letter by FDR has great historic content as it involves a cornerstone of FDR's progressive and conservationist-based agenda as Governor of New York during his first term, an issue in which he gained spectacular political triumph as Governor and significantly aided his chances of being the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 1932. Research on this letter indicates that it was probably written by FDR in July, 1929. The situation involved FDR's plan to open the Midwestern United States to the Atlantic Ocean and simultaneously harness hydro power from the Saint Lawrence River, a move detrimental to big business and therefore the Republican party. As historian Kenneth S. Davis noted in his FDR: The New York Years, 1928-1933, on pages 94-95 with regard to the very topic FDR writes Doc O'Connor about in his own hand: "What followed was a masterpiece of Rooseveltian political jujitsu...Under consideration for many years had been the development jointly by the United States and Canada of a St. Lawrence shipway, a wholly feasible engineering project, already blueprinted, whereby the St. Lawrence barge canal would be deepened by dredging and by dam construction to permit oceangoing vessels to reach the Great Lakes. Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Duluth would thereby become ocean ports, and the sad effects of railroad rate schedules that discriminated against the Midwest, and supposedly had much to do with the loss of foreign markets for Midwestern farm products, would be overcome. Power development of the river would be incidental to this navigation development: according to the plan, some 5,000,000 electrical horsepower would be produced by the required dams." This plan did not sit well with the powerful House of Morgan and the private Niagara-Hudson power utility interests, who exercised significant control via the Republican party, both nationally under President Herbert Hoover and the United States Senate, which must approve the necessary treaty implications of the international plan, as well as locally in the New York state legislature. FDR maneuvered the Republicans in the state legislature into a corner in which the Governor ultimately triumphed in a masterful public relations move by which he accepted a plan for the State of New York to become involved in the public power business and dam construction by accepting conditions that the state Republican leadership thought the Governor would never accept. This handwritten letter sets the stage for the unfolding of this major political and personal triumph for FDR. In the letter to his law partner and friend D. Basil "Doc" O'Connor several prominent players are mentioned by FDR: his closest advisor and confidant Louis McHenry Howe, who was charged by FDR with compiling comparative data for New Yorkers who were saddled with privately owned big business generated and delivered power, and Canadians, who were benefitting from publicly developed and delivered electricity. Also mentioned by FDR of course was Senator John Knight, Republican Majority Leader of the New York Senate, one of the main political opponents of FDR at the time. Two other letters to Senator then United States District Court Judge Knight are also part of this FDR Collection. As detailed above, one of these two letters is also from July, 1929, and is Senator Knight's invitation to join FDR in his inspection of the St. Lawrence barge canal and public power initiative. Julius Henry Cohen was an attorney and counsel for the New York Public Service Commission and one of the principal architects of the New York Port Authority. Basil "Doc" O'Connor was a friend and former law firm associate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose physical handicap was credited with giving O'Connor the motivation to move into the humanitarian field. O'Connor, born in Taunton, Massachusetts, in 1892, was a product of Harvard Law School. A lunch chat between O'Connor and FDR in 1925 resulted in the establishment of the law firm Roosevelt & O'Connor, a partnership that lasted until the 1932 Presidential election. O'Connor was not regarded as a traditional humanitarian crusader. Forthright, terse and businesslike, he was interested primarily in results. A prodigious worker who usually limited himself to six hours sleep a night, he chose farming as a hobby and was interested in collecting first editions of American authors. A wonderful letter written by FDR in his own hand regarding laying the groundwork for a key progressive initiative by FDR which he would champion on a larger scale when President of the United States in the development of the Tennessee Valley Authority.



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    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    7th Saturday
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