The Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942:
A New Deal Case Study

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Chapter 12
The Final Years, 1940-1942

The death of Fechner was the opportunity for Ickes, the secretary of the interior, to attempt to destroy the CCC director's power. In a letter to the director of the Bureau of the Budget, he proposed abolishment of the CCC Director's Office, the relief of the War Department from its duties, and the vesting of total power in the camps with the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior. [1] Disclaiming ulterior motives, Ickes said that Fechner's death provided a fine chance to reorganize the Corps. It is likely, nevertheless, that his dominant reason was to prevent McEntee from becoming director, as the centralizing proclivities of Fechner's assistant were thoroughly disliked and distrusted. Some Department of the Interior officials referred to him as "his august majesty." [2] The President had no intention of changing the existing organization, however, and McEntee was duly appointed, no doubt to Ickes's chagrin. [3] The increasing friction between the Department of the Interior and the Director's Office did not augur well for the difficult days ahead.

The first problem to be faced was familiar. The President, in his budget message, announced that the Corps was to be cut to 230,000 enrollees in 1,227 camps. [4] Once again the pattern of local protests and ill-feeling manifested itself. [5] In response, Congress was once more recalcitrant. The House, by 204 votes to 170, added $50 million to the CCC's appropriation, obviating the need to close any camps at all, and the Senate, defying its own Committee on Appropriations, followed suit. [6] The CCC was to remain at its current strength for the fiscal year 1940-1941. Republican votes were responsible for reversing the Administration's policy. It was one of the very few instances during the congressional session when Republicans deserted the party leadership, and the New York Times surmised that local re-election considerations had probably prompted the move. [7] The parallel with the congressional revolt of 1936 is striking. Once again in an election year congressmen had defeated a presidential economy drive in the interests of their own political health. In 1940, as in 1936, the removal of a CCC camp from a constituency could spell political trouble for the incumbent.

The strength of support for the CCC in Congress must have been heartening to Corps officials. There were also other signs that the agency was in no immediate danger of losing its favored place with the people. It survived the election campaign unscathed, and the introduction of noncombatant training seemed a popular compromise. [8] Thus encouraged, the Corps took a further step in the attempt to shrug off its relief connections and adopt its new role as a reservoir for defense needs. Economic status was no longer to be considered the compelling factor in enrolments. Even youths whose parents were both employed could enlist if they possessed "good personal qualifications." [9] This was a revolutionary step. As McNutt said, the CCC was "now open to college boys." The declared aim, no longer connected with relief, was to prepare "young men for citizenship." The allotment was subsequently lowered due to the economic status of the new enrollees, and the emphasis shifted to the enrollees saving for themselves rather than giving to their families.

This broadening of function came far too late. By 1940 the CCC's identification with relief was too strong to permit any change in public attitudes. Few of McNutt's "college boys" were ever enticed to enter its ranks. They saw their destinies elsewhere. The CCC remained overwhelmingly the preserve of the decreasing numbers of unemployed young men. [10] Nevertheless, the Corps still received many public plaudits. William Green, the president of the AF of L, and a former critic of the CCC, referred in a speech to "this great movement designated the CCC camps of America." The director of the American Youth Commission termed it "a master plan for all service agencies." [11] Furthermore, McEntee was able to announce in November that no less than 306,500 enrollees were presently being trained for defense jobs. [12] The Corps, superficially at least, seemed in continued good health.

Still, signs of trouble were constantly present. McEntee was already receiving complaints that the CCC was competing with farmers for its work force, and he realized that increased antagonism could be expected from rural areas as the demand for labor increased. [13] The desertion rate showed little sign of decreasing, [14] and the tension between the Director's Office and the Department of the Interior was at a dangerous pitch. In a letter to Ickes, Wirth complained that the "morale of the CCC has deteriorated seriously during the past two years. This deterioration is definitely the result of the increased number of functions being taken over by the Office of the Director, CCC. . . . [The] mutual understanding essential to the co-ordination of such an enterprise is being destroyed due to the abandonment of the function of the Advisory Council." Finally, Wirth complained that only eight council meetings had been held between October 1, 1939, and October 1, 1940. [15]

To complicate further the already troublesome situation, the CCC, in late 1940, embarked on an experiment which was to cause it considerable public embarrassment. There were in the Department of Agriculture certain young idealists who were becoming increasingly interested in the creation of CCC "staff colleges." Convinced that the Army would soon have to sever all connections with the agency due to the tremendous increase in national defense requirements, an event to which they looked forward avidly, they envisaged the creation of a series of training camps where outstanding young men from the best universities, well imbued with a spirit of service, would be trained in the principles of CCC leadership, eventually to become camp commanders. [16] In September, 1940, such ideas coincided with the desire of a similarly idealistic group of young men—graduates of Harvard and Dartmouth—to establish a work-service scheme near Tunbridge, Vermont. To this end they wished to use an old CCC camp at Mt. Sharon, near Tunbridge, from which they would issue forth each day to aid the nearby farmers. They also wanted to use CCC funds. [17]

The officials of the Department of Agriculture saw that these youths could form the nucleus of their staff training program, and they were able to persuade the President that the scheme was sound. Roosevelt, in fact, was enthusiastic. Writing to McNutt, he said that as the Army was withdrawing its best officers from CCC service: "I desire that there should be created in the Corps a special training agency to prepare for this leadership— perhaps in one or more of the camps now in use." He specifically stated that the Army was not to be involved with the experiment in any way, and he set up a committee to study the idea further. [18] Its members included Dean James Landis of the Harvard Law School, Professor Harold Lasswell of the Yale Law School Dr. W. W. Alexander, chairman of the National Defense Commission, and Wayne Coy, the assistant administrator of the Federal Security Agency. [19]

The "staff college" experiment had caught the attention and interest of a nationally known newspaper columnist, Dorothy Thompson, then wife of the author, Sinclair Lewis. Miss Thompson, an important member of Roosevelt's election campaign team, [20] wrote to the President in October pressing for action on the Mt. Sharon camp and asking that he draft Eugene Rosenstock-Huessey, a German refugee and Dartmouth sociologist, to act as training consultant. [21] The President, probably conscious of Miss Thompson's political value, immediately complied. He wrote to the secretary of agriculture to ask him to have Mt. Sharon opened as soon as possible and to get "Professor E. R. Huessey in some kind of supervisory or advisory capacity in the camp." [22] The Mt. Sharon experiment was under way.

All seemed imbued with the high ideals of the community service plan, all, that is, except the director, McEntee, whom Miss Thompson had summarily dismissed as "a dope" who would probably vote for Willkie. [23] He poured cold water on the whole idea, complaining that there had been insufficient time to consider all its implications, and he cast grave doubts as to its practicality. [24] Roosevelt airily disregarded McEntee's criticism as of no account. Writing to Miss Thompson, he sent a copy of the director's objections with the comment that "the enclosed from Mr. McEntee is not the least bit satisfactory. Please get for me a little more info. By gosh! the thing is going to go through! . . . My best wishes to you." [25] His enthusiasm for the plan could not be doubted, but his sagacity in permitting its implementation without adequate investigation can be questioned. Nor was it wise to write disparagingly of a high federal official to a newspaper columnist. As far as Mt. Sharon was concerned, Roosevelt's keen political acumen seemed to have left him.

Preparations at the camp continued. Its legal status was established by a co-operative agreement between McNutt and the Departments of War and Agriculture. [26] The Army agreed to eschew all responsibility in the camp, while McEntee was gently removed from the picture. McNutt gave assurances that because it was an experimental camp, there would be no objection to stretching CCC regulations a little. [27] Professor Huessey agreed to act as administrator of the camp, which was to open officially on January 1, 1941 with a company of college students in residence. Its aims were both numerous and nebulous, but the emphasis was on "indoctrination for democracy." Huessey wanted to make all enrollees "militant defenders" of the democratic process. To this end, every decision relating to camp life was to be by majority vote. There was to be no hint of Army authoritarianism at Mt. Sharon. [28] It was also planned to try and expedite Huessey's citizenship application in view of his new position. [29] A few federal officials had qualms about the venture. Harold D. Smith, director of the Bureau of the Budget, said that Mt. Sharon could "be susceptible to considerable criticism." [30] The President, however, strongly supported by his wife, was determined to carry it through. [31]

The public was first apprised of the Mt. Sharon experiment through the pages of the New York Herald Tribune. [32] There was violent reaction, particularly from congressional quarters. Representative Albert J. Engel, Republican of Michigan, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee which handled CCC money, wrote to the new secretary of agriculture, Claude R. Wickard, asking what Harvard and Dartmouth students, members of the "more privileged" classes, were doing in a CCC camp. [33] Receiving what he considered to be an unsatisfactory reply and sensing the political possibilities in the issue, he pressed on with his investigations and excoriations. "It appears the pampered sons of rich families are usurping a form of relief meant only for the nation's underprivileged," [34] he told the House of Representatives. He also revealed the haste with which Huessey's citizenship application had been processed. [35] Probably the most damaging disclosure of all was that Huessey, before fleeing Germany, had been instrumental in instituting the labor camps there. Though Huessey disclaimed any intention of starting a similar scheme in the United States and pointed out that his work in Germany had been completed before Hitler came to power, the revelation was enough to utterly discredit the Mt. Sharon experiment. [36] The House Appropriations Committee called for an immediate investigation, at which McEntee made quite plain his opposition to the whole undertaking, [37] and protesting citizens demanded the immediate abolishment of "Fascist and Nazi Camps." [38] Newspapers normally friendly to the CCC opposed the experiment. The New York Times called it "starry-eyed and impractical," [39] and the Shreveport Times commented that "after seven years of tranquility, during which it received hearty support from Congress and the public," the CCC was now being harshly criticized: "Apparently the cause of it all is someone high in the CCC, who decided that a record of fine practical accomplishment was not enough and that some fancy experimentation should be added." [40] Despite the urging of Mt. Sharon's supporters that congressmen and newsmen should visit the camp before condemning the experiment, [41] it was clear that it should be closed before a major crisis developed, one which might call into question the whole record of the CCC.

Faced with the possibility of serious political trouble, the President, McNutt, and other Administration supporters of the scheme decided that discretion was the better part of valor. McEntee suddenly found himself with full powers again, and he lost no time in using them. On February 21 he placed the War Department in full charge of administration at Mt. Sharon, thus effectively ending the experiment. [42] By March 19, all the college students had left the camp, and regular enrollees had been moved in. [43] The CCC "staff college" was no more. Dorothy Thompson bitterly attacked McEntee for his action. "Nearly everything" was wrong with the CCC, she said. Out of the experimental camp "could have come a reawakening and a rebirth of freedom and democracy in this country." Instead, the Corps "remains a charitable institution" with no wider purpose than to relieve want. [44]

The Mt. Sharon experiment was the first and only attempt by intellectuals to modify the CCC's basic structure. It turned out to be an embarrassment to the Corps. The idea certainly had some merit, but it was its impracticability and lack of planning which were more obvious. At a time when the need for the CCC was beginning to be questioned, it was politically naive to draw unfavorable public attention to it in so spectacular a manner. For this blunder the President must be blamed. No doubt preoccupied with the election campaign, he had accepted the idea enthusiastically without sufficiently considering its practical implications. He had suggested the employment of Huessey without investigating his controversial background. His enthusiasm and idealism, exploited by his wife and his advisers, had temporarily overshadowed his political realism.

Certainly the Mt. Sharon experiment did not help the CCC. Indeed, it exposed the Corps to the most sustained public criticism it had yet experienced. Yet its crucial importance lay elsewhere. For all its mistakes and deficiencies, Mt. Sharon was the first real attempt to break away from the confines of the Corps makeshift organization and to develop a base for a permanent body, a body with far wider aims than those heretofore most prominent. But it failed, its purpose quite misunderstood. The implications of the failure were not difficult to discern. It showed that very few people had yet thought constructively about the CCC's future. Despite stated changes in its aim, it was still not generally regarded as having any wider functions than the provision of relief and the performance of useful conservation work. The Corps was never able to outgrow its emergency stamp.

Mt. Sharon's failure and the accompanying criticism did not hurt the CCC too seriously, however, even though from 1941 on the agency was increasingly the subject of public concern. This attention, this questioning of the need to continue the Corps, was not the result of an unsuccessful experiment, but arose from the realities of swiftly rising employment rates and the single-minded concern of Americans with defense. How could a relief agency be justified in the transformed situation?

Newspaper comment provided one barometer of public opinion. A number of editorials, while paying the usual tributes to the CCC's splendid achievements, nevertheless wondered if it would be needed much longer. The Harrisburg News said that as jobs were currently plentiful, the CCC was becoming unnecessary. "To drain workers from industry rather than towards it in these urgent days seems as stupid as it is wasteful," the newspaper argued. [45] The Philadelphia Ledger denounced the "fight for recruits" between the CCC and the NYA "at a time when armament production centers are scouring the countryside for unskilled labor." The two "worthwhile agencies" had served their purpose and should be terminated. [46] The right-wing Indianapolis Star had lost all patience. Attacking "paid vacations" for the "Man Scouts," it spoke of the acute shortage of farm labor in the Midwest and demanded that the CCC boys be discharged to alleviate it. [47] The Des Moines Register, while praising the Corps' "magnificent job in conservation and in youth rehabilitation," nevertheless thought that the farm labor crisis now took precedence and that "a strong case could be made out for its abolition." [48] The CCC was also the object of vigorous Republican attacks in Congress, especially during the debate over the Federal Security Agency's appropriation. One of the CCC's most consistent foes, Representative Taber of New York, now spoke to a more receptive audience when he urged that Congress kill the agency. The Corps still had substantial bipartisan support, however, and though its appropriation for the 1941-1942 fiscal year was trimmed, the reduction was not drastic. [49]

Corps officials recognized that the CCC was "in a slump"; according to the New York Times, they were very puzzled by its "sudden loss of popularity." [50] Their diagnosis was not really accurate. The abuse of a few right-wing editors and the honest doubts of others did not represent a real loss in popular esteem but a simple recognition that times had changed. With employment rising, and the armed forces expanding, the CCC had lost its main function. Corps officials were slow to recognize this fact. Instead, they made various attempts to combat what they thought was a recoverable loss in popular favor. The most significant ploy was to stress the vital role played by the CCC in national defense policy. To this end, as well as ordering basic Army drill for all enrollees, [51] the director placed a number of camps on military reservations. By December, 1941, fifty-five such companies were at work under military direction on a variety of projects, ranging from railroad construction to mosquito control. [52] In an effort to check the serious complaint that the Corps was causing a shortage of farm labor, McEntee permitted enrollees to leave camp temporarily to assist farmers and orchard growers during harvesting, while it was hoped that a vigorous publicity drive would boost sagging enrolment figures. [53] In further attempts to increase enrolment, a policy of continuous selection was instituted, with Army officers assisting the selection agents. [54] In September, 1941, McEntee even authorized increased Negro selection, a move which Persons long insisted was the only solution to selection troubles. [55] Thus, considerations of expediency and survival, not moral pressure, induced the CCC near the end of its life to provide some measure of equality in selection opportunity for Negro enrollees. Finally, responding to gathering pressure, plans were made to consolidate the CCC and the NYA. On December 10, Representative Lyndon B. Johnson, with Roosevelt's approval, introduced a bill into Congress to this end. The measure aimed to create an organization to be known as the Civilian Youth Administration. It was hoped that the consolidation would save the federal government $100 million in the current fiscal year alone. [56] Throughout 1941, Roosevelt had made no secret of his desire to retain the CCC. Opposing any cut in its appropriation, he stressed its contribution to national defense and the continuing need for its conservation work. [57]

Nevertheless, neither presidential support nor expedients of policy could hide the fact that the Corps was in very serious difficulties. In October, 1941, McEntee predicted that he would be able to turn back $47 million of the CCC's current appropriation because of the drop in enrolment. At the beginning of 1941 the CCC had 300,000 enrollees. Ten months later there were only 160,000 left in nine hundred camps. [58] Moreover, youths were leaving at the rate of six thousand monthly to take jobs in industry as war conditions closed the unemployment gap. [59] There was no chance of replacing these men. Could the continued existence of the CCC, despite its undoubted contribution to defense needs, be justified? With its enrolment dropping steadily, the Corps seemed a dying organization. Could the federal government afford to continue pumping millions of dollars into it? Such questions demanded urgent answers, the more so because one of the provisions of the Appropriations Bill of 1941-1942 had authorized the creation of a Joint Committee of Congress, whose job was to investigate all federal agencies with a view to eliminating those not considered essential to the war effort. [60] The CCC was certain to come beneath its purview.

The New Republic angrily described the Joint Committee as having as its motive a "burning hatred of the New Deal." [61] While this accusation was an exaggeration, it is certainly true to say that in its membership the forces of conservatism were predominant. Six of its twelve members were from the South, including its chairman, Senator Harry F. Byrd, Democrat of Virginia, an outspoken opponent of Federal spending, [62] and the irascible, arch-conservative senior Senator from Tennessee, Kenneth McKellar. [63] Of the remainder, Representative John Taber had opposed the Corps since its inception, while the isolationist Senator Gerald P. Nye, Republican of North Dakota, was unlikely to favor its entry into the field of national defense. It was clear that Corps administrators would have to present a very strong case if they were to expect the committee to report in their favor.

The committee heard evidence concerning the CCC on November 28 and December 4, 1941. The first to testify was B. S. Beecher, an employee of the Bureau of the Budget. [64] Some congressmen criticized the standard of the work and the cost of the operation, [65] but the real attack came when McEntee testified the following week. The director frankly admitted that he did not think that "from a relief standpoint, there is a scintilla of reason for carrying on this Corps," [66] but as a training agency, he insisted, its contribution was invaluable. Neither Byrd nor McKellar could accept this judgment. McKellar, declaiming that "you have not educated the boys at all," [67] said the Corps could no longer be justified. Byrd had serious doubts about the value of the work to the country, [68] while McKellar insisted that "the principal activity of the boys was thumbing rides going to town." He did not believe that "there has been one single solitary cent of improvement of the national wealth or national economy in any shape or form" achieved by CCC work. [69] McEntee's task, that of justifying the Corps' operations, was rendered exceedingly difficult by Byrd's skepticism and McKellar's badgering and contempt. McKellar was sometimes positively insulting, referring to the director as "one of these new fellows" and accusing him of not giving "a tinker's hurrah" for any congressman or senator, [70] a somewhat illuminating insight into McKellar's attitude toward the New Deal. The trend of the hearing was clear. It could have been no surprise when on December 24, 1941, the committee recommended that the CCC "be abolished . . . not later than July 1, 1942." [71] A strong minority report was filed by Senator Robert M. La Follette, Jr., who complained that the recommendations were "hasty and unwarranted." In his view, now that the country was at war, the CCC was more essential than ever. [72] His was a voice in the wilderness. The majority report was widely acclaimed. The New York Times, supporting its findings, said that the President held the key to further action. [73] The first step toward abolishing the CCC had been taken.

Roosevelt intended to fight for his pet project. In his budget message on January 7, 1942, he conceded that the Corps could well be cut, but he insisted that the state of war increased the need for the agency's noncombatant activities. [74] Later, he spelled this out at a press conference. The CCC, he said, was necessary to perform essential conservation work and also to serve as a predraft training organization for youths not yet old enough for the Regular Army. [75] When McKellar introduced a bill providing for the abolition of the Corps and the NYA, the President wrote him a letter asking that he reconsider his action in the light of the "essential war work" which the agency was performing. [76] He intended to make it quite clear that the elimination of the CCC "saves the nation no money," but that rather it would be a costly mistake. [77]

The Corps, too, made renewed attempts to convince the country of its indispensability. Stressing the need to do more "to justify our existence," Morrell, the Forest Service's representative on the Advisory Council, successfully proposed a broad "victory program" in which Corps work would be limited to fire protection, the development of Army camps, and the maintenance of military reservations, as well as supplying partially trained men to the Army. All camps which could not qualify under one of these categories were to be closed. It was decided eventually to retain only 150 camps, mostly on military reservations or in vital forest areas. [78]

However, time was running out for the CCC. McKellar had no intention of postponing discussion of his measure, and he seemed to have the weight of public opinion behind him. For the first time, a Gallup Poll indicated a repudiation of the CCC, when in April, 1942, 54 per cent of those polled thought it should be abolished. Only 37 per cent favored its retention, and 9 per cent were undecided. [79] In the face of such an unfavorable reaction, morale among CCC officials reached its nadir. McEntee stated that in his opinion it "would be better to fold up the CCC" now, rather than wait for Congress to do so, and he opposed the President's determination to fight for its continuance. Dissension on the Advisory Council reached new heights; both Wirth and Morrell felt the Corps still had a future and they were disgusted by McEntee's defeatism. [80] The cracks in the CCC organization, visible since Fechner's time, had split wide open.

Meanwhile, from March 23 to April 17, the Senate Education and Labor Committee held hearings on McKellar's bill. An impressive array of witnesses testified in favor of retention. The adjutant general, Major General Ulio, spoke of the contribution that both the CCC's noncombatant program and its work on military reservations had made to the nation's defense preparedness. In his opinion, the CCC was a valued component of the war machine. [81] Earl W. Loveridge, assistant chief of the United States Forest Service, discussed the need for increased forest fire protection now that war had been declared because of the danger of sabotage or incendiary bombing. [82] J. C. Dykes, assistant chief of the Soil Conservation Service, described the work of the CCC camps under his control and showed that there was still a real need for their services. [83] Both McNutt and McEntee testified at length on the past successes of the Corps and its present contribution to the war effort. [84] McNutt even produced a letter from the President in which Roosevelt specifically pronounced his opposition to the bill. "The Civilian Conservation Corps work on Army reservations is needed to prepare those reservations for full utilization," he wrote. "Likewise the remaining projects of the Corps which are now limited to those essential to the various phases of our war effort, and so located so as to provide protective services in vital areas should not be discontinued at this time." [85]

Against the weight of expert testimony, McKellar in his role of prosecuting attorney, harassed the witnesses, contradicted them, and occasionally insulted them. He never once relented in his self-appointed mission to rid the country of as much of the New Deal as he could. He contradicted General Ulio's statements that the CCC youths were performing essential defense work, and he asserted that Army privates were both capable and better qualified to do such jobs. [86] He ridiculed McEntee's description of the Corps' fire-fighting efforts, claiming that the Forest Service was well able to handle emergencies without its aid. He dismissed the formal education program as valueless and said that the noncombatant training program was duplicating Army schemes, thus serving no useful purpose. [87]

To support his argument, McKellar produced his own witnesses, perhaps less versed in the workings of the Corps than those who testified in its favor, but infinitely more colorful. George S. Benson, the president of Harding College, Searcy, Arkansas, an active anti-Roosevelt propagandist, declared that both the CCC and the NYA were "wasteful" and unnecessary, and that his college could perform their combined educative functions at one-third the cost. The revelation that Benson himself had made frequent use of NYA funds, however, and had protested vigorously when Harding College's quota was discontinued, cast doubts on the value of his testimony. [88] Ben H. Henthorne, president of the College of Commerce, Kansas City, thought that the "private business schools of America" could handle the type of work done in NYA, WPA, and CCC "more quickly, more efficiently, and more economically." [89] Leon C. Phillips, governor of Oklahoma, said that the CCC was a contributing cause of juvenile delinquency in his state, [90] an assertion which was shown to be totally without justification. [91] Still, McKellar dominated the hearing, even though the chairman, Senator Elbert D. Thomas, Democrat of Utah, together with members like Senator Dennis E. Chavez, Democrat of New Mexico, and Senator Harry H. Schwartz, Democrat of Wyoming, endeavored to counteract the weight of his words with statements of support for the CCC. [92]

Anticlimactically, after the expense and publicity of the hearing, McKellar's bill was never reported from the committee. Congress found a new and perhaps swifter method of terminating the CCC. On May 4, 1942, defying public opinion, the President asked for an appropriation of $49,101,000 to maintain 150 CCC camps for the fiscal year 1942-1943. [93] Rather than proceed with formal legislation abolishing the Corps, it was simpler for Congress merely to decline to vote any more money for CCC work. Accordingly, the House Committee on Appropriations voted on June 3, by 15 to 12, not to comply with the President's request. [94] If this committee action were carried through, the CCC would have no funds after July 1, 1942, with which to perform its functions.

Friends of the CCC fought on the floor of the House to restore the appropriation. Representative Malcolm C. Tarver, Democrat of Georgia, stressed the increased need for forest protection because of the chance of Japanese attack and warned that a vote against the CCC was a vote against the President's war program. Representative John W. McCormack insisted that the War Department wanted the Corps retained. The fight for abolishment was led by Representative Albert J. Engel, Republican of Michigan. He said the Corps had once undoubtedly done good work, but that it had long been unnecessary. "Sacred cow" or not, it should clearly be abolished. Representative Taber, in opposition to the last, termed the agency "wasteful and destructive." On June 5, 1942, the House, by 158 to 151, voted not to appropriate further money for the CCC, but instead to provide $500,000 for its liquidation. [95]

Most newspapers hailed the House's action, though they were kind to a departing friend. The New York Times spoke of the great works the Corps had performed and the "fine spirit" of its enrollees, but the paper could see no reason for perpetuating the agency. [96] The Baltimore Sun expressed regret at the "ungraceful exit for one of the most successful of the old relief agencies," but conceded that it was no longer needed, especially since it had continued to recruit rural boys in the midst of a farm labor shortage. [97] Even the Chicago Tribune, jubilant at the action, still asserted that the Corps was the best of the New Deal agencies and had no criticism to make of its operations during the depression. [98] A few papers criticized the House for acting too hastily. The Republican New York Herald Tribune said the congressmen had used an ax instead of a pruning knife and denounced their inconsistency in singling out the CCC for abolition. "Why the CCC?" the paper demanded, noting that the Corps was "long considered the most sensible and effective of New Deal experiments." [99] Opinions such as the Herald Tribune's, however, were exceptional. Most editors said an honorable farewell to a trusted and competent servant whose services could now be dispensed with.

The general flavor of the newspaper opinion reinforces the argument that despite the spleen of a handful of conservative congressmen and the occasional excoriation of the right-wing press, the Corps never really became unpopular. Few denied its very real achievements or questioned its original worth. But it was still a relief agency, and despite recent attempts to do so it had never successfully sold itself as anything else. In an age of war, of the rapid mobilization of men, of burgeoning industrial development, its clientele remained the unemployed. The problems of 1942, however, had very little resemblance indeed to those of 1933. The CCC had become outmoded

Even so, the fight to preserve it was not quite over. Interest shifted to the Senate floor, where that body prepared to pass on the House's action. The Corps' last days were fraught with drama. The Senate debate on the CCC's appropriation was held on June 26. The arguments were similar to those in the House, with Senators Elbert Thomas and Patrick McCarran defending the Corps' record against Byrd's and McKellar's attacks. [100] The vote was taken amid scenes of great excitement. When the yeas and nays were tallied, it was found that thirty-two senators had voted to retain the CCC, thirty-two to withhold its appropriation, and thirty-two had not voted. A second vote failed to break the tie; therefore, the vice president, Henry Wallace, used his casting vote to uphold the CCC. [101] The Senate had repudiated the House's action. Did the Corps still have a chance?

The respite was short-lived. The demise of the CCC was inevitable. There was newspaper criticism of the Senate's stand, while at the Senate-House conference it was apparent that the "House was overwhelmingly for abolition" and would not comply with the Senate's action. [102] On June 30, therefore, McCarran told the senators that the Senate conferees had decided to recede from their action of June 26; in return the House had agreed to provide $8 million for the liquidation of the CCC. He asked that the Senate confirm the action, and this they did by voice vote. [103] The Civilian Conservation Corps was dead.


The Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942: A New Deal Case Study
salmond/chap12.htm — 03-Jan-2008

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