“Slouching Through the Depression”
Doriot ended 1933 by firing another salvo—this time at his homeland. Like many immigrants, Doriot maintained a love-hate relationship with his home country. But Doriot’s feelings were more extreme than those of most immigrants.
“Doriot in many ways was the most schizophrenic Frenchman I’ve ever met,” says colleague and friend James F. Morgan. “He would go back and forth for this admiration for French wine and cuisine and the French language. But the French capacity to make very simple things complicated drove him nuts.”
And now, for the first time, Doriot publicly expressed his disgust with France. Throughout the year, Doriot had been contributing a quarterly column for a French magazine called La Revue des Vivants, the Review of the Living Ones. In his December column, Doriot attacked the French government when it refused to pay a $20 million interest payment on her wartime debt to America.
Calling his country a “frivolous nation,” Doriot was outraged that France would not pay this relatively small sum to a country who had come to its aid when it needed it most. “Without exaggeration,” he thundered, “one can safely say that during the last four or five years France has done everything she could to have America become disgusted with her.”
In the beginning of 1934, Edna met a gentleman who owned a very nice duplex apartment for rent on the top two floors of 101 Chestnut Street in Boston. Although Edna declined at first, explaining that it was too expensive, the gentleman clearly wanted them to take the apartment, lowering the rent so that it was more affordable. The Doriots soon moved in, and Edna picked up a few new items to furnish their new home.
The couple liked the apartment but the new home did not brighten Georges’s spirits very much. For much of that year, Doriot was in a “rather disinterested mood,” as he described it. “I have been in Boston trying to act as a nice teacher not burdened with any new ideas,” Doriot confided in Strauss. “There has been no excitement up here, and I am looking for excitement.” However, as the mid-term elections of 1934 heated up later that year, Doriot’s life became entangled in an unusually public affair, giving him more excitement than he bargained for.
In a speech he gave in Philadelphia on October 18, Doriot denounced the very basis of the New Deal. “The New Deal will go down in history as one thing that has done more harm to the morals of the nation,” said Doriot. “The idea that all men are born equal and that it is a desirable thing for everybody to be interested in government is wrong and fantastic, and sooner or later we must come to the conclusion that those who pay the taxes have more right to govern than those who don’t.”
These few sentences are probably the dumbest that Doriot ever uttered, and democratic politicians running for office picked up the remarks like they were a gift from the political gods. In a rare lapse of judgment, Doriot had crossed the line from iconoclastic to idiotic. In a speech in Boston on November 2 before a throng of supporters, James M. Curley, a three-term mayor of Boston who was running for governor of Massachusetts, used Doriot’s remarks on the New Deal to criticize Harvard University.
Looking over his throng of supporters, Curley quoted Doriot’s comments on the New Deal and then launched his attack.
“This is a most unusual statement for a supposedly educated man and coming from the assistant dean of Harvard University Graduate School does not reflect credibility upon this famous institution of learning. The dean overlooks the fact that the New Deal has been the most potent contributing factor for a higher moral order in America that has taken place in the past 10 generations, in that it has taken children out of industry, permitting them to develop mentally and physically until such time as they are able in some measure to begin life’s battle. . . If a knowledge of hygiene and a respect for lawfully constituted authority which is the cornerstone of our form of government is to be classified as immoral then Professor Doriot is guilty of the most stupid statement that a supposedly intellectual man can make.”
Curley won the election, as did many other Democrats. And Doriot learned his lesson. Never again would he attack such a prominent political figure as FDR in such a public way. Instead of lashing out, Doriot would apply his influence and charm behind the scenes.