Around the world last week rang out cries of dismay and outrage when President Roosevelt abruptly swept the U. S. off the gold standard and let the dollar coast down toward the depreciated currency levels of 34 foreign powers. Domestic economy controlled the President's action but there was hardly a country on earth that did not see in his gold embargo order a slick trick in world finance. This opinion was intensified by the fact that he had moved only two days before beginning his White House conferences preparatory to the World Economic Conference.
Britain, off gold since 1931, loudly feared the loss of her tremendous export trade advantage over the U. S. as the gap between the pound and the dollar quickly narrowed. To many a Londoner the President's action looked like an attempt to horsewhip Britain into line for some sort of currency agreement. Rapping the President's action as "a deliberate stroke of policy." the Duke of Northumberland's Morning Post warned against a "disorderly race of currency depreciation." The angriest shriek came from the Financial News: "Wilful sabotage could not go much further. . . . The whole business has been deliberately planned in cold blood as a piece of diplomatic blackmail."
Their country left alone as the only world power still on gold, French bankers privately denounced the President's action as a "political fraud, too clever to be successful." Cried the Journal des Debats: "We would be playing the dupe to continue distributing gold. . . ." But sitting on top of a $3,170,000,000 reserve Marianne la France vowed she would not go off gold.
Foreign alarm reached such a pitch that Secretary of State Hull had to explain the President's motives to each country, elaborately denying that the U. S. had, gone off gold to gain a diplomatic advantage in the forthcoming economic discussions. But no one denied that the U. S. had. in fact, gained an enormous advantage.
Aboard the westward steaming newly decorated Berengaria, Britain's idealistic James Ramsay MacDonald was quite shocked out of the philosophical calm with which he has inured himself to crises. Nearly a thousand miles behind him another Socialist, the chunky Mayor of Lyons. Edouard Herriot, was aboard the He de France. When the radioman brought him the news, one of his party exclaimed: "We might as well turn around and go back home." The newly decorated lie de France sailed on.
By the time he reached New York harbor with his daughter Ishbel, Prime Minister MacDonald had regained much of his philosophy. Newsmen asked if he were irked. Replied he: "Oh, gracious, no! It only brings into higher light the stress of the world." When he spied a ferryboat named President Roosevelt, he cried: "There, that's a good omen!"