Quebec Studies

“Sunk into Poverty and Despair”: Franco-American Clergy Letters to FDR during the Great Depression

Quebec Studies (2016), 61, (1), 39–52.

Abstract

“Sunk into Poverty and Despair”: Franco-American Clergy Letters to FDR during the Great Depression Mark Paul Richard State University of New York at Plattsburgh Franco-American Clergy Letters to FDR In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration mailed 121,700 form letters to priests, rabbis, and ministers around the country to inquire about the conditions facing their congregations and to solicit their reactions to recent federal legislation. The president received 19 responses from New England’s Franco-American priests. This essay explores how the clergy letters, while few in number, shed light on the lives and needs of Franco-Americans during the Great Depression. Some reveal the movement of Franco-Americans into the New Deal coalition, while others reflect the social conservatism of the clerical leadership, highlighting differences among them, and by extension, within Franco-American communities themselves. En 1935, le governement du Président Franklin D Roosevelt envoya 121,700 lettres-types aux prêtres, rabbins, et pasteurs partout dans le pays pour mieux comprendre les conditions que connaissaient leurs fidèles et leurs reactions à la législation fédérale récente. Il reçut dix-neuf réponses des prêtres francoaméricains de la Nouvelle Angleterre. Cet essai explore comment ces lettres, quoique peu nombreuses, révèlent la vie et les besoins des Franco-Américains pendant la Grande Crise. Quelques’unes parlent de l’engagement des FrancoAméricains dans la coalition du New Deal tandis que d’autres reflètent le conservatisme social du haut clergé, montrant les différents points de vue parmi les prêtres et, par extension, dans les communautés franco-américaines. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration mailed out 121,700 form letters to priests, rabbis, and ministers around the country to inquire about the conditions facing their congregations and to solicit their reactions to recent federal legislation (Billington and Clark 1986, 512). Because clergy were involved in the daily lives of congregants, they were potentially in a good position to discuss responses to government programs that sought to address the challenges people were facing during the Great Depression. “Your Québec Studies, 61 doi:10.3828/qs.2016.4

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Richard, Mark Paul