Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself..."

    Franklin D. Roosevelt: Bound Limited Edition- 1933 Inaugural Address Signed as President.
    -March 4, 1933. Washington, D.C. Eight pages in blue cloth boards. 7" x 10". Published by the United States Government Printing Office.
    -Excellent condition.

    A handsome and rare signed copy of FDR's landmark first Inaugural Address delivered at the Capitol, Washington, D.C., on March 4, 1933- a speech considered by many to be one of the greatest in American history. The country, on the day of the inauguration, was at the lowest point of the worst depression in our history. The banks had closed in thirty-two of the forty-eight states (plus the District of Columbia), unemployment was above 25%, farms were failing, and there were two million people homeless. The New York Federal Reserve Bank would not be able to open on the very next day, as panicky customers had withdrawn huge sums in the previous days. Amongst all this doom and gloom, Roosevelt set forth a positive message addressing the country's biggest needs: relief, recovery, and reform. His confidence, optimism, and the massive amount of "New Deal" legislation he sent to Congress in his first 100 days did much to reassure the American people that better times were on the way. He ended the speech, " ...We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the present instrument of their wishes. In the spirit of the gift I take it. In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come." Just below this humble and stirring close, Roosevelt has boldly penned his signature. A rare opportunity to own a signed, limited edition of this oft-quoted and historic speech.

    More Information:

    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.


    An unbelievably rare, and wonderful deluxe signed copy of the Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, Delivered at the Capitol, Washington, D.C., March 4, 1933. Published by the Government Printing Office in 1933, with a dark blue cover with gold lettering, nine pages, measuring 7 x 10." FDR's complete March 4, 1933 Inaugural Address appears over the nine pages of the book in oversized black type, and FDR signs his full name on this limited edition Inaugural Address after the last line of the Inaugural Address on page nine. When FDR delivered his first Inaugural Address on March 4, 1933, he knew that the millions of Americans listening needed an infusion of hope. The Great Depression had battered the Nation for more than three long and painful years, and the economic situation was desperate. With a voice as sound as bedrock itself, Roosevelt announced an end to the bureaucratic stagnation that had plagued the administration of his predecessor, Herbert Hoover: "The Nation asks for action, and action now," FDR said. The New Deal – and the incredibly productive period of legislative and administrative action that became known as The Hundred Days – had begun. This day, March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt spoke a language, "solemn and a little terrifying," that reflected the threat of the weather over a "stricken Nation." In the ensuing months for the most part, however, FDR was to employ a language more congenial to the parade. There is some controversy surrounding the drafting of the Inaugural Address. Samuel I. Rosenman reports that the speech "was one of the very few of which the President wrote the first draft in his own hand" and dates its composition on the night of February 27, 1933.  James MacGregor Burns describes the drafting in historically picturesque terms: "The evening of February 27, 1933, at Hyde Park was cloudy and cold. A stiff north west wind swept across the dark waters of the Hudson and tossed the branches of the gaunt old trees around the Roosevelt home. Inside the warm living room a big, thick-shouldered man sat writing by the fire. From the ends of the room two of his ancestors looked down from their portraits: Isaac who had revolted with his people against foreign rule during an earlier time of troubles, and James, merchant, squire, and gentleman of the old school. Franklin D. Roosevelt's pencil glided across the pages of yellow legal cap paper. ‘I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction to the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our nation impels.' The fire hissed and crackled; the large hand with its thick fingers moved rapidly across the paper. ‘The people of the United States want direct, vigorous action. They have made me the instrument, the temporary humble instrument' – he scratched out ‘humble;' it was no time for humility – of their wishes. Phrase after phrase followed in the President-elect's bold, pointed slanting hand. Slowly the yellow sheets piled up. By 1:30 in the morning the inauguration speech was done." This is wonderful stuff, and it fits neatly the historical impact that the Inaugural was intended to achieve and did in fact succeed in achieving. The Burns account also uses the weather as symbolic of the crisis facing the Nation. FDR represents the incarnation of an earlier America, one that faced different kinds of threats but faced them with courage and resoluteness. The Address seems to materialize automatically; we know now that FDR kept the fire of liberty burning. Actually, according to Raymond C. Moley, the themes of the address were conceived as early as September. FDR seemed more impressed with the parallels to Abraham Lincoln than to Woodrow Wilson. Moley himself was afraid to take notes. If the opposition learned of the tenor of the speech, "there would be dangerous cries of dictatorship." The address was discussed again at Warm Springs in early February and Moley left for New York, again taking precautions in the interest of secrecy. On February 27, before that symbolic fireplace, FDR copied and dated Moley's draft, making some minor changes in the process. When Louis McHenry Howe saw the draft the next morning he inserted the now famous phrase "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Moley disputes Rosenman's suggestion that the line was taken from Thoreau, and that Roosevelt had a copy of the philosopher's book in his Mayflower suite. Howe probably got the phrase from a sign he had seen in a department store window. Some final changes were made on the day of delivery, including the addition of the sentence, "This is a day of national consecration." The address, then, was one written like most major modern Presidential speeches. It was a collaborative effort carefully conceived but not without serendipitous elements. But Moley's account notwithstanding, FDR had conceived of the Inaugural Address as an occasion to outline the Great Depression in terms of a national crisis. There was already too much "optimistic preachment," he had told Moley. In the face of a "confused population" there must be an announcement of an "emergency no less serious than war." Once this decision was made it was not just fitting but unavoidable that FDR use Lincoln as his exemplar. No other Presidential discourse existed except Lincoln's to describe a national crisis of such apocalyptic proportions. FDR had selectively used Lincolnian metaphors during the campaign. In the "Forgotten Man" speech he had asserted that "No nation can long endure half bankrupt." At Chicago he had raised the question of whether the Depression has an act of retribution for America's "obeisance to Mammon." But always the Lincolnian conception of crisis had been modified by the Jeffersonian ideal that any unity must come from the "bottom up." Now the inaugural relied exclusively upon Lincoln. In fact, in a certain sense its essence was more Lincolnian than the "Great Emancipator's" first inaugural. That speech too was delivered in an atmosphere of national crisis. Guards had ringed the inaugural stand. But Lincoln's speech, despite the closing evocation of the "mystic chords of memory," had the ring of the lawyer's brief. Part of this difference is due to the fact that Lincoln faced imminent action on the part of "dissatisfied fellow country-men." The speech was laced with threats ("no state, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union...acts of violence, within any state or states, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary"), entreaties ("Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time"), and assurances ("The government will not assail you"). FDR, on the other hand, had simply announced that "the money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization." The campaign charge that the depression had been caused by economic elites was now treated as a foregone conclusion. The economic collapse that had occurred in the interregnum had made Roosevelt's theory axiomatic. Lincoln had linked civil conflict to Providence. The first inaugural had repeated that interpretation. "You have no oath registered in Heaven," Lincoln reminded the Southerners, while I shall have the most solemn one...." Roosevelt too now connected the Depression to a crisis of the spirit that affected all America. The fear was of fear itself, and FDR paused as he described a collective feeling. It was a "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror." What FDR had said was something that politicians, including Hoover, had been saying since 1929. The Great Depression was continuing because there was an absence of economic confidence. If only business would believe that markets could be resuscitated, if only consumers would buy, the depression would be over. But FDR's use of the idea was different. First he had described something broader and deeper than lack of business confidence. He had described individual panic that was so widespread that it had become a collective fear for survival. What he described was not the traditional economic problems of a liberal society. This was no longer a case of sets of individual problems, an uncle who could not find work, a family who lost its breadwinner, a factory that had closed, a missed mortgage payment. It was of course, all these things, but grossly magnified. And now in the winter of 1933-1934, the very infrastructure of society was collapsing. The Great Depression had created a sense of unity unknown in American society, and that cement was fear. As Lincoln had insisted that the Civil War involved more than tariffs, or states' rights, or even slavery, FDR had asserted that the Depression was more than an economic slump. As Lincoln had argued that secession violated universal law, FDR charged the old economic elites with a defilement of the American dream. The New Testament analogy placed this elite in the same position as that of the money-changers who had brought on Jesus' wrath. They had seduced a whole population into believing that happiness lie in "mere possession of money"; they had no vision; they knew only self-seeking in the "mad chase of evanescent profits." But the question that FDR logically faced was: What were the "ancient truths" to be restored? What vision did a commercial people have? Here, although Roosevelt speaks in the language of restoration, he offers a basic alteration for an American political culture. We must apply "social values more noble than profit," our "true destiny" is to "minister to ourselves and to our fellow men." Without "unselfish performance" it is "small wonder that confidence languishes." Without changes in ethics we cannot live." FDR received one of the loudest expressions of approval from the audience when he then announced that restoration called not only for changes in ethics but "for action, and action now." Military metaphors now cascaded. Putting people back to work must be accomplished as we "would treat the emergency of war." Americans must move forward "as a trained and loyal army," willing to submit their "lives and property to such a discipline," pledging a "sacred obligation with a unity hitherto invoked only in time of armed strife." And then there was the warning. A "temporary departure from the normal balance may be called for." If Congress should fail to act and act without delay, FDR would ask for "broad executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe." If the Constitution, "simple and practical" as it was, could not be bent to permit the formation of a nation into a "trained and loyal army," FDR suggested that it must be broken. Of course FDR's warning was not acted upon nor was it repeated. Scholars do not speculate upon what FDR meant or under what conditions he might have tried to implement it. But there is no evidence to suggest that it was an idle threat, and one wonders whether it rests as a half-hidden exemplar for some future President. Students of the New Deal have placed a great emphasis on the first Hundred Days, so much so that subsequent Presidents are evaluated in terms of that same time frame. Here was a period of almost no opposition. Fifteen messages were sent by FDR to Congress; fifteen laws were enacted. The Inaugural Address itself and the reaction it produced showed that FDR had the theoretical tools to transform American political thought. An exquisite and exceedingly rare signed book from the day in which FDR was first inaugurated President of the United States, and delivered his famous line that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    7th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 10
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,987

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 40 days left to consign to the 2021 February 27 - 28 Americana & Political Signature Auction - Dallas!

    Learn about consigning with us

    Heritage Auctions and Mr. Chad Reingold were...professional and courteous in all transactions and provided outstanding service in answering my many emails. I recommend them at the highest level.
    Killy M.,
    Melbourne Beach, FL
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search