Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, had a conservative philosophy of government. He felt that the government should play a limited role and give a great deal of freedom to individualism and capitalism. He did not believe in large programs of federal assistance, but rather that aid should be handled by smaller programs on a local level.
When President Calvin Coolidge decided not to run for re-election in 1928, Hoover picked up the Republican nomination. His political philosophy fit well with the nation's peace and prosperity, and he won by an overwhelming landslide. After he had been in office only seven months, in October of 1929, the stock market crashed, plunging the United States into the Great Depression. Hoover initiated tax cuts, urged business leaders not to lay off workers, and encouraged local and state governments to team up with private charities to help relieve those made destitute by the depression. All of these measures proved ineffective. When he signed into law the Smoot-Hawley Act, raising taxes on imports and causing foreign countries to stop buying from America, he made the situation worse.
As banks and businesses failed and poverty became rampant, many Americans blamed Hoover for the disaster. The shantytowns of the homeless that sprung up across the country became known as Hoovervilles. Considering direct government aid to be ineffective and addictive, Hoover refused to agree to a welfare program. In the 1932 presidential election, Franklin Delano Roosevelt trounced Hoover, who left office castigated and embittered.