And why not plunge America into war?  Who is going to stop him, the people?  Ridiculous!  They have lost their spirit and the proof of such statement is that they repeat the Administration propaganda taking it for their own thoughts.

--Percy Crosby

In America you can say anything you want as long as it has no effect.

--Paul Goodman


Percy Crosby on Franklin Roosevelt

In the mid-1930s, cartoonist and Skippy comic-strip creator, Percy Crosby was at the height of his popularity, power, and influence.  “In January 1934 there was national publicity about the 7 year Skippy contract Crosby signed with Hearst, ‘the longest and largest contract in newspaper history’. In addition to the comic strip, there were licenses for the Skippy radio program (sponsored by General Mills ‘Wheaties’), ice cream, candy, bread, toys, dolls, pedal cars, tricycles, wagons, scooters, games, books, children's clothes, crayons, pencil sets, Skippy films, juvenile cups, plates and bowls, figurines, pins, a fan club and many Skippy contests with prizes.”

But the Crosby empire would eventually come crashing down.  Although Crosby had voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt for president in 1932, he soon turned against him.  He felt that FDR exhibited dictatorial tendencies and pursued communistic policies.  He wrote of his disgust with Roosevelt’s plan to pack the Supreme Court after the court had declared the administration-promoted National Industrial Recovery Act unconstitutional.  To Crosby, that act and many of Roosevelt’s policies were worse than unconstitutional; they had much in common with the communists and the fascists.  The following excerpt is from Crosby’s chapter 20 of his 1938 self-published book, Would Communism Work Out in America?  In an act that would be incredibly audacious in this day and age for a man of Crosby’s influence, he paid for the entire chapter to be published in the New York Sun on November 25, 1937.  It occupied two entire pages of the newspaper:

The thesis of [Roosevelt's] Chicago speech is, I imagine, to bring about world peace by painting angel faces on cannon balls. Moscow's megaphone, repeating that which he has been told to say, reminds me of school days. There was a boy in front of me who would repeat anything given to him when he stood up to recite.  As it was in an early grade, I could not resist the opportunities offered. When the teacher asked: "Joseph, what is the largest river in the United States?" there was a silence as Joseph, bewildered, searched for an answer. I whispered and the pupil repeated: "A penknife has four blades and sometimes a corkscrew."


I never thought that such practise would be used as a basis for government…


Now the question is, why did Roosevelt go out to the extreme west? Since this prophet ever has a blizzard of cards up his sleeve, and he waited until his return to make such a speech, the thought persists, did he go out to see if the people would stand for a war?


Like a mirror, Roosevelt reflects his surroundings: if a fireplace crackles with burning logs, a mirror will, if facing it, reproduce every part of it, but if we need to warm our hands, we do not go to the looking glass, but rather we go to the fireplace. If the licking flames flash out of the fireplace, darting toward the curtains, sending them in a blaze, we do not squirt a hose at the mirror. Therefore, the purpose of this chapter, as well as the whole book, is to hit at those whom Roosevelt reflects.


There is nothing so dependable as a rousing, good war to keep a "president" in the White House. If this country should become embroiled in another foreign war, it is customary not to change presidents during such crisis, or ''never change horses in the middle of a stream." (Note: This chapter…was published in the New York Sun, November 23, 1937, and it would seem to contain a prophecy, for, in the Washington Merry-Go-Round published July 22, 1938, we find; "If world war breaks out, it is entirely possible that he may seek a third term on the slogan 'Don't change horses in the middle of the stream’. " Crosby’s note, editor’s ellipsis.)   If the reader pauses for brief analysis, Roosevelt was almost breathless with excitement when he warned of an impending crisis after he shot his surreptitious Court message over the land. In trembling anticipation everybody waited for impending doom.  Nothing happened. Again came our leader gasping, sputtering that something would break unless he had full control, and then [labor leader John L.] Lewis broke out, but the crisis was one of Roosevelt's pets, baiting the capitalists.  However, all that was on the home grounds, but having used everything else in the way of a crisis, our good leader had to draw on the world powder magazine for fresh material. Without a word of warning, the entire nation has been plunged into the international situation. Just another crisis — another Now! Now! Now!  But opening up a foreign crisis is something from which there may be no withdrawing unless the people decide to petition Congress to send Moscow's megaphone on a prolonged vacation "Now!"


Of course, it must be understood that ambitious militarists would be in favor of developing a foreign crisis. How soothing to the ears of a dictator are the unctuous morsels where military men stress the ruler's strategy. What a choice tidbit ''military genius" is to have turning over and around in a receptive mind.  How nourishing!


We know that a third term is a difficult obstacle to surmount, and yet, Roosevelt tested his popularity throughout the west. War would be a very pleasant solution to the problem and would, no doubt, increase the glorification of Mr. Roosevelt. But on the other hand, is the glorification of one ambitious man comparable to more Gold Star mothers, more widows?


As I said in the chapter of "Three Cheers,” “The Individual Mind":


"There are many people, I imagine, who would be most surprised to learn that I spent money to buy advertising space to publish cartoons and writings aimed to awaken the people to the need of adequate national defense. This, at a time when the Administration had been cutting into appropriations to such an extent that the armed forces were being reduced to proportions which would have rendered them useless.  No one, as in the case of Prohibition, was behind me in this work, and at all times, as in the case of Prohibition, I met with opposition. Later I published a book, 'Always Belittlin',' containing these writings and cartoons. A few of the cartoons were used editorially after my advertising campaign.  After the book had been published. General MacArthur, the Chief of Staff, thanked me in a letter, informing me that in the Army's crisis I was the most potent single factor. I bring this to the reader's attention with but one very clear point in mind, and that is, that when I drew these cartoons and wrote the prose which attacked military and naval cuts, [Navy Secretary Claude A.] Swanson said that 'the Navy was over officered.' Now it is: 'A Navy second to none.' Moreover, the country is faced with taxation because military machines and naval machines are being strengthened to an alarming extent. I wish to say that I fought for an increased naval force and military force under a government of the people, by the people and for the people, but not for a military or naval machine which a man such as Roosevelt, crazed with power, could use for his own advantage. With such an armed force, a dictator could control the people and use soldiers, sailors and marines to police the people and subdue them and, in that way, facilitate the machine of the professors which aims to destroy the rights of the citizens. I bring out this point to warn the people before it is too late! There would be an element of irony in having the taxpayers' money used (as it is) to support and keep a police force which would be turned against them. If the citizen will recall, the Marine band walked out on a citizens' patriotic meeting because Bainbridge Colby attacked the President and upheld the Constitution. It proved that these men will obey their Commander-in-Chief, though such title, I feel, passes by default, when he does not carry out his duties as President.


''It is, I believe, imperative that the citizens give such a situation that customary contemplation which served the nation so well in the past. What gain is a powerful military establishment if it can be turned on the people by a group who have proved themselves traitors to the Constitutional form of government?  ... I am for a strong military and naval force under the constitutional form of government, but I never would have put pen to paper for a military machine which would be an instrument to destroy the rights of my fellow citizens. There is one way that Roosevelt, egged on by his manipulators, can compel the people to follow his commands — a strong military force which will carry out every will of this power-crazed robot.  Do the people, once free citizens, want a Hitlerized government where terror is the sceptre? Do they want Roosevelt's showmanship and reign of terrorism copied from Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini? Once it takes place there will be no going back to Democracy. Once a man jumps overboard in a fog in the middle of the Atlantic, it is too late to change his mind. And it will be too late to change the mind when Roosevelt gains that power he is aiming to gain by every method of aggression.  The Black program of snooping is the same method as that employed by Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini."


It little becomes Roosevelt to accuse others of tyranny when he has tyrannized over every human soul in this nation. When, by every method, he is attempting to smash the United States government, is Roosevelt any different from the other dictators, now that he has just jumped into the fray?


The real leader of America, providing it should be necessary to cooperate with other nations at this time, should work quietly, effectively. The last thing that should have been done, regarding preparedness, was firecracker oratory. The aim (which is becoming monotonous) was to make a great deal of noise to swerve the minds of the people from internal problems.  One note performances, whether they be in painting, literature, music, the dance, the drama, inclusive of comedy and tragedy, if stressed over and over again, have a tendency to pall after the second performance.  Still, Roosevelt has succeeded with carrying on a one note performance for five years and the applause ever is on the increase. The one note is the ring of the almighty dollar.


The situation in regard to Japan is this: They are now embroiled in the China situation, and due to the pressure involved, they have no time to become aggressors, though of course, as I brought out in previous writings, they are strong in Mexico and California.  And yet, the true leader would have worked quietly, efficiently, and the last thing he should have done is to yell all over the world, for the situation may not end on the note of "quarantine." It may end on the continual phrases published daily, ''seriously wounded" and "killed in action," due to Roosevelt's speech. At any rate, he is preparing the people and they can make the most of it. Roosevelt's repeated, "We have just begun to fight" may have its true significance in the Chicago oratory.


Crosby was right in his warning that Roosevelt was going to run for an unprecedented third term, but his war predictions, as it turned out, were somewhat off the mark.  The United States did become embroiled in the conflagration that would come to be known as World War II, and one of the strongest arguments for Roosevelt’s reelection would be that the commander-in-chief should not be replaced in the midst of war.  Crosby was off, however, by one election cycle.  Although FDR hardly ran as the peace candidate who “kept us out of war,” like Woodrow Wilson did in 1916, he conspired with British intelligence working in the United States, according to historian Thomas Mahl, to make sure that there would be no real peace candidate running against him in 1940. 


Crosby, meanwhile, paid heavily for his temerity.  His anti-Roosevelt agitation had begun well before he published his New York Sun screed, as did various actions against him, including repeated audits by the IRS and successful piracy of the Skippy trademark by a peanut butter company (See Roosevelt’s Revenge?).  He was committed to a mental institution involuntarily in December of 1948 and would be kept there against his will until his death in December of 1964. 


David Martin

October 1, 2010


See also FDR Winked at Soviet Espionage.




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