Dealers and Dreamers

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Dealers and Dreamers: A New Look at the New Deal by Joseph Lash

From the Mason Historiographiki

Joseph Lash. Dealers and Dreamers: A New Look at the New Deal. New York: Doubleday, 1988. 510 pp. ISBN 0385187165

Summary


Joseph Lash, Eleanor Roosevelt’s secretary and close friend, has a history of the New Deal as experienced by the New Dealers. He particularly writes about the experience of the New Deal lawyers, the educated young elite who flocked to Washington to be part of Roosevelt’s brain trust and part of building a new America. Lash was in on all of this, so this is an inside account of the workings of these lawyers. It is a biased viewpoint, as he readily admits. "It was the best years of our lives"(p.8). He focuses extensively on Benjamin Cohen and Thomas Corcoran, two young Harvard lawyers who wrote much of the important legislation of the New Deal. This work is a look at the personalities and attitudes of the New Dealers. It is a look at what each brought to the table in fashioning New Deal ideas. Cohen and Corcoran were different personalities, but worked well together. They, like many other New Dealers, were idealistic and committed to improving America. They were less committed to the idea of government interference in private business, than the collectivists of the brain trust. They were more pragmatic, as was Roosevelt. They truly felt revolution was a possibility, though, and thought their approach was the one way to save capitalism, to keep some type of constitutional government with modified free enterprise working.

Commentary

Chuck Crum, Fall 2009

This work is almost hagiography in its depiction of Cohen, Corcoran and the whole New Deal gang. Lash was one of them, and he openly admits that it was in great spirits that they decided to make America better. The felt they did do just that, and thus there is little here in the way of any objective analysis as to whether the New Deal worked, whether it was right or wrong, or the way it impacted American culture. Lash utilizes the private papers of Cohen and Corcoran, and, of course, he was there during this time. Unfortunately, he claims these were the best times of their lives, and he openly admits his politics. Hence, this is no objective analysis of the New Deal. It is a great look at how much of the New Deal came about, though, and a look at the players themselves

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