FDR discusses Al Smith's Catholic faith.Franklin D. Roosevelt: Typed Letter Signed.
-January 10, 1927. New York City. Two pages. 6.5" x 10.25". Vice President Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland letterhead.
-To: Mr. C. H. Kimball, Brooklyn, New York.
-Folds, even browning, some fading to signature. Good condition.
Marked "Personal and Not for Publication", this important letter addresses the anxiety many Protestant Americans felt about Al Smith's Catholic faith in the event that he should win the Democratic nomination for president. FDR here does not "...believe for a moment that if Governor Smith had been President, he would have embroiled us in a war with Mexico because of any pressure from the Catholic Church. In fact, I don't believe he would have gotten us into this present Nicaraguan mess with the real possibility of war with Mexico as a result and a further reason for dislike of the United States by every Central and South American nation...in regard to the favoring of ecclesiastical schools, the best answer is that our Governor has been in office now for over six years and I don't think any citizen of this State thinks that he has injured our own public school system or built up ecclesiastical schools at its expense...I suppose he did kiss the ring of the visiting Cardinals. That is a century old custom of the Catholic Church - I don't think it means any more than if I, as an Episcopalian, were to place Bishop Manning at my right at a dinner party."
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A truly one of a kind and historic letter, two pages, written on Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland letterhead and signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 10, 1927, in which FDR writes in support of New York Governor Alfred E. Smith's impending run for the Democratic nomination for President in 1928. The significance of this signed letter by FDR is that it expounds on then private citizen Roosevelt's negative views concerning anti-Catholic bigotry! In all uppercase and underlined words below the date is typed: "PERSONAL AND NOT FOR PUBLICATION;" below which FDR writes to Mr. C. H. Kimball of Brooklyn, New York: "Dear Mr. Kimball:/ I get so many obviously insincere or prejudiced letters about Governor Smith that it is a pleasure to have what is evidently a perfectly sincere and open minded request for information from you./ You ask me various ‘ifs' about what would happen if Governor Smith were President. Some I cannot answer for they are altogether too speculative, but here at least are my own personal thoughts./ 1. I don't believe for a moment that if Governor Smith had been President, he would have embroiled us in a war with Mexico because of any pressure from the Catholic Church. In fact, I don't believe he would have gotten us into this present Nicaraguan mess with the real possibility of war with Mexico as a result and a further reason for dislike of the United States by every Central and South American nation./ 2. Secondly, in regard to the favoring of ecclesiastical schools, the best answer is that our Governor has been in office now for over six years and I don't think any citizen of this State thinks that he has injured our own public school system or built up ecclesiastical schools at its expense./ 3. As to turning out efficient Government employees, his record at Albany shows that he has constantly lived up to and extended the principles of the Civil Service – in fact the machine politicians in the Democratic Party are all howling because in this new reorganization, he declines to throw out competent Republican Civil Service employees./ 4. I suppose he did kiss the ring of the visiting Cardinals. That is a century old custom of the Catholic Church – I don't think it means any more than if I, as an Episcopalian, were to place Bishop Manning at my right at a dinner party./ 5. As to the question of whether the Governor is big enough to grace the Presidency, I can only tell you that if I had any thought that he was not big enough, I would not have supported him for that office in 1924. He knows far more about the theory and actual practices of governmental administration – and National questions – than, let us say, nine out of ten of the men who have been nominated for the Presidency./ I hope the above will give you a line on my own personal thoughts. I am marking this personal and not for publication merely because I don't want to appear in print at the present time./ Very sincerely yours,/ Franklin D. Roosevelt." Wow! A year and a half before Smith's ultimate nomination for President of the United States as the Democratic candidate in 1928, FDR writes a detailed letter addressing and rebutting multiple issues concerning anti-Catholic bigotry that would play a role in Smith's defeat in the national election on November 6, 1928. The Presidential election of 1928 pitted Republican Herbert Hoover against Democrat Alfred E. Smith. The Republicans were identified with the booming economy of the 1920s and Smith, a Roman Catholic, suffered politically from anti-Catholic prejudice, leading to a landslide victory for Hoover. The Democratic Convention was held in Houston, Texas, June 26 to June 28, 1928. Al Smith became the candidate on the second ballot. Smith was the first Roman Catholic to gain a major party's nomination for President, and his religion became an issue during the campaign. Many Protestants feared that Smith would take orders from church leaders in Rome in making decisions affecting the country. The election was held on November 6, 1928. Republican candidate Herbert Hoover won election by a wide margin on pledges to continue the economic boom of the Coolidge years. Smith won the electoral votes only of the traditionally Democratic South and a few New England states. Hoover even triumphed in Smith's home state of New York by a narrow margin, while FDR was elected Governor of New York by an even narrower margin. Smith's Catholicism hurt him in the South, where several states were won by the Republicans for the first time since Reconstruction. At the same time, his religion helped him with New England immigrants, which may explain his narrow victories in traditionally Republican Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Smith achieved one other distinction in this election: the Democrats won a majority of large cities for the first time, signaling a trend of immense significance. One of the main issues of the 1928 Presidential campaign is foreshadowed by FDR in this January 10, 1927 letter to Mr. Kimball in which Roosevelt attempts to address and dispel anti-Catholic myths and prejudices, almost two years before the 1928 election itself, a very significant and rare letter written by FDR.
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