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Dealers and Dreamers: A New Look at the New Deal by Joseph Lash (210,000 words and 30 illustrations)

Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Joseph Lash’s last work is an account of the men and women who helped Roosevelt pull the country out of the Great Depression. When FDR took office in 1933, he set into motion the promise he made when he was first nominated: the New Deal, also called the Roosevelt Revolution, charged the energies and imaginations of some of the most brilliant minds in the country. Lash draws heavily on the private and unpublished papers of Thomas Corcoran and Benjamin Cohen, the two most influential brain trusters of the time, whose policies invigorated the nation and who, independently and together, were driven to promote the social and economic transformations of the thirties.

“This ‘new look at the New Deal,’ as the book is subtitled,... [is] a history of New Deal legislation, from the banking bill that recast the Federal Reserve System, on through the Public Utility Holding Company Act, the Wagner Labor Relations Act, the Social Security Bill and the creation of the alphabetocracy that, as Mr. Lash believes, helped to shift control of the American economy from Wall Street to Washington... a dual biography of two young New Deal lawyers, Benjamin V. Cohen and Thomas G. Corcoran... a roster of New Deal players — Adolph A. Berle, William O. Douglas, Marriner Eccles, Jerome Frank, Leon Henderson, Alger Hiss, Harry Hopkins, Harold Ickes, Hugh S. Johnson, James Landis, Max Lowenthal, Isador Lubin, Raymond Moley, Frances Perkins, Joseph Rauh, Samuel I. Rosenman and Rexford G. Tugwell [and] Harvard Law professor (and later Supreme Court Justice) Felix Frankfurter... the ideological struggle that went on between people like Tugwell, who wanted to plan the economy, and those like Frankfurter and Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, who wanted to break up the trusts and restore freedom to the marketplace.
Dealers and Dreamers will be valuable to any reader with certain specific questions about the New Deal in mind.” — Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times

Dealers and Dreamers is an absorbing account… a fascinating, informative book, indispensable for students of the Roosevelt presidency.” — Arthur Schlesinger Jr., The New York Review of Books

“The story of how our present-day institutions were created... [Lash’s] excellent exploitation of the papers of both Cohen and Corcoran, plus judicious use of interviews, makes this a valuable work.” — Warren F. Kimball,
Los Angeles Times

“Joseph P. Lash’s last book is a fitting capstone to a noble career.
Dealers and Dreamers is a vivid evocation of an era and a fascinating portrait, written with the skill of a master, of some of the most wonderfully engaging figures of a glorious age in American history. But more than that, it is — like all of Joe Lash’s books, and like Joe Lash’s life itself — a work of the most rare sincerity and integrity. What shines forth from every page — as it shines forth from Mr. Lash’s life — is his unshakable determination to be truthful, honest and scrupulously fair. Joe has always been the standard of integrity to which I tried to hold fast, and this book is a final, triumphant example of the fact that he held that standard high to the last.” — Robert Caro

“I found
Dealers and Dreamers a veritable treasure trove of historical information about Roosevelt’s Washington. For that reason alone it is an important book.” — Thomas Fleming

Dealers and Dreamers not only reports the achievements and operations of the New Deal, but also the spirit of the participants, a spirit which I think was very much like that which must have existed among the persons who drafted the U.S. Constitution and put it in force — in each case, reflecting the excitement and satisfaction of participating in a successful revolution, not against government but for government.” — Eugene McCarthy

“By the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of
Eleanor and Franklin, this is a fresh and admiring look at the original ‘brain trusters’ (Raymond Moley, Rexford Tugwell, Adolf Berle) and others crucial to the legislated social transformation presided over by Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Depression years. Among the ‘others’ Lash pays particular attention to are Thomas G. Corcoran, ‘the unofficial whip of the New Deal,’ and Benjamin V. Cohen, principal draftsman of several ground-breaking bills sent to Congress. The author describes Cohen as the intellectual coordinator of the New Deal and the keeper of its conscience. Working from Corcoran and Cohen’s private papers, he sheds light on the significance of the Securities Exchange Act, FDR’s court-packing attempt, the 1936 presidential campaign, the effect of the New Deal on black Americans and other issues throughout the decade before Pearl Harbor.” — Publishers Weekly

“Lash focuses on two talented technocrats — Benjamin V. Cohen and Thomas C. Corcoran, protégés of Felix Frankfurter, then a professor at Harvard Law School. Though neither had held high office, both played important, frequently pivotal, roles in drafting and ensuring passage of vital New Deal measures like the Securities Exchange Act of 1934... Pragmatists as well as idealists, Cohen and Corcoran viewed politics as the art of the possible. With revolution a decided possibility, they opted for trial-and-error reform as the best means to the end of preserving any vestige of a free-enterprise, constitutional system.” —
Kirkus Reviews

“Lash has written an absorbing narrative that captures the spirit of those yeasty times when a heady generation of young intellectuals was ready to roll up its sleeves to rescue America.” — R. Frank Saunders, Jr., The Georgia Historical Quarterly

Dealers and Dreamers conveys an unmistakable sense that there was something special about the experience of the generation of lawyers who entered public service in the 1930’s.” — G. Edward White, Harvard Law Review