A reader sent me this, I think it gives you a sense of how opportunistic Coughlin was, and how fluid the times were:
I have grown up in the shadow of Father Coughlin’s Shrine of the Little Flower. Beautiful place, actually.
Here are some historical tidbits from the Time archives:
They realized that the 85 Congressmen, Catholic or Protestant, had executed a smart political gesture in recommending this intense nationalist to the President… His favorite subjects for attack are Communism. Prohibition, mass production, banking ills. He approves the financial policies of the Roosevelt administration. – Monday, Jun. 26, 1933
Intense nationalist? Interesting!
For weeks & weeks Detroit’s tall towers have resounded with bitter wrangling as plan after plan for bank-opening was proposed, dissected, discarded. But when the final decision [on FDR’s emergency bank plan] was reached early last week, Detroit was in an uproar. Police Commissioner James K. Watkins led the opposition, crying: “Your city is being sold out from under your feet!” At his broadcast appeal, a flood of protest telegrams hit Washington, just as they had at almost every other proposal (TIME, March 27). Secretary of the Treasury Woodin asked Detroit’s spellbinding radio priest, Father Charles Coughlin, to defend the plan.*
*Few days later Father Coughlin broadcast an attack on E. D. Stair, publisher of the Detroit Free Press and non-salaried president of Detroit Bankers, holding company for First National, charging that insiders had gutted the bank before it closed. This Banker-Publisher Stair denied, promptly flashed an open telegram to President Roosevelt in protest against Father Coughlin who “presents himself . . . as the spokesman of your Administration.” – Monday, Apr. 03, 1933
Here we have him defending FDR and Capitalism in a court (but at the same time blaming laissez faire economists for the world’s ills):
Father Coughlin was putting on a one-man show for the one-man jury. Much to the delight of a hot pack of Detroiters who squeezed into the courtroom, he thumped, ranted and deplored for two full days. He discoursed at length on the subject of gold; he sketched the history of money; he traced the origins of the War; he debated Karl Marx with Michigan’s Attorney General O’Brien, boomed for Inflation, attacked Alfred Emanuel Smith, defended President Roosevelt and Pope Leo XIII. Occasionally he touched on Detroit banking. Dicta of Father Coughlin:
“The United States is no Jesus Christ. It cannot go down into a graveyard and raise a stinking Lazarus. God Almighty could not raise the First National [Bank]. “It is not a crime but an honor to be a capitalist. There is nothing un-Christian about it.” Monday, Sep. 04, 1933
More FDR cheerleading:
Two nights before, Rev. Charles Edward Coughlin. radiorator, had whipped a prodigious Hippodrome crowd up into a red-hot frenzy of approval for President Roosevelt’s monetary program… Meanwhile statements were flying thick & fast over Spellbinder Coughlin’s accusation that Alfred Emanuel Smith, foe of the Roosevelt program, had gone with two Catholic bishops to the House of Morgan to arrange a loan for his Empire State Building. Al Smith warmly denied this, adding: “From boyhood I was taught that a Catholic priest was under the divine injunction to ‘teach all nations’ the word of God. That includes the divine Commandment: ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.’ “…In his own Sunday broadcast Father Coughlin stuck by his Smith story, denounced the “Morgan interests,” excoriated the “Tory Press,” declared the U. S. must choose between “Roosevelt or Ruin.” Monday, Dec. 11, 1933
Interesting association here:
Rivaled in demagogic genius only by Germany’s Hitler is Detroit’s Father Charles E. Coughlin. Monday, Feb. 11, 1935
After a falling out between FDR and Coughlin, we have a pissed off General Hugh Johnson of the NRA (Johnson himself was contemporaneously accused of giving a fascist salute at a parade):
Taking as his title “The Pied Pipers,” and as his text the anti-Administration outpourings of Rev. Charles Coughlin and Senator Long, Hugh Johnson cried: “You can laugh at Father Coughlin—you can snort at Huey Long—but this country was never under a greater menace. … It is somebody time for somebody to get up on his hind legs and howl !” Up on his hind legs was precisely where General Johnson got and howl he did at the radio pastor of Detroit’s Shrine of the Little Flower: “While I do not for a moment compare Father Coughlin with Talleyrand, it is no exaggeration to say that, through the doorway of his priestly office, covered in his designs by the sanctity of the robe he wears. Father Coughlin, by the cheap strategy of appealing to the envy of those who have nothing for those who have something, has become the active political head of an active political party. … I think that makes him another bad fish in the net of Holy Church…Of recent months there has been an open alliance between the great Louisiana demagogue and this political padre. . . . These two patriots may have been reading last summer’s lurid story about an American Hitler riding into Washington at the head of troops. That would be definite to Huey because he knows what part of the horse he can be. . . .” Monday, Mar. 18, 1935
Here Coughlin proclaims himself a Socialist in Detroit and says he rejects “industrial fascism”:
“Tonight,” he cried, “I invited the laborer and the farmer, the small business man and the small merchant, the disorganized of every class, each to grasp the spear shaft of union, the shaft of solidarity, and with perfectly timed thrusts, with amalgamated strength, to push that spear point through the breastplate of our common ills into the very heart of the concentration of wealth. . . .
“We reject atheistic Communism. We disavow racial Hitlerism. We turn our backs upon industrial Fascism. We insist upon a legislature as the Fathers of our country created it, not under the dictatorship of a President, not under the dictatorship or the fear of a high commissioner of prostituted patronage which tends to make America a one-party government… Monday, May. 06, 1935
FDR and Coughlin make up:
A fairly frequent visitor to the White House in the early days of the Administration was Rev. Charles Edward Coughlin, the plump radiorator from Royal Oak, Mich. He subsequently split with the President over Inflation, the Bonus, the World Court. Recently, however, Father Coughlin shut up his Washington lobby, conceded: “President Roosevelt enunciates the clearest, most effective and beneficial principles of social and economic justice of any living American political economist.” That Franklin Roosevelt had taken a potent critic into camp seemed to be confirmed last week when Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy of the Securities & Exchange Commission rolled up to Hyde Park with Father Coughlin in tow. Monday, Sep. 23, 1935
Coughlin again working against FDR:
The Coughlin-Lemke-O’Brien platform was a marvel of inclusive appeal to every crackpot and malcontent in the land. Briefly, it proposed to create a common-man’s Utopia by legislative fiat. For Lemke-Coughlin inflationists there was to be a government central bank, with complete control of money and credit, which would issue new currency to retire all Government bonds, refinance all farm and home mortgages. For Townsendites, there was “assurance of reasonable and decent security for the aged.” For Share-the-Wealthers, there was limitation of individual incomes and inheritances. For the benefit of anyone not wholly beguiled by these promises, it was also proposed that Congress should guarantee a living wage to every laborer, profitable production to every farmer, prosperity to every small businessman, a job to every youth. Monday, Jun. 29, 1936
Non-Coughlin, but pretty shocking to someone who has yet to receive your book from Amazon (ordered six days ago, still not shipped):
More important were the views of Recovery Administrator Johnson: “It’s Ford’s move. Probably he won’t violate the auto code. If he does. I’ll have to do something . . . but I haven’t seen enough indication of violation to start an inquisitorial process. In one sense Mr. Ford has put himself athwart this whole movement. I couldn’t allow a man as big as that to stand out and defy the Government. I’d have to make a showdown.” But General Johnson was too busy trying to club the soft coal industry under a code to press for a showdown with Mr. Ford. Coal was the last major industry to balk at NRA control. Non-union operators were profanely intransigent. United Mine Workers were doggedly persistent. Their conferences, their fights, their deadlocks ceased long ago to be news. Calling both sides to the White House, President Roosevelt had told them that their industry was causing the Government more trouble than the Cuban crisis. Monday, Sep. 18, 1933
Anyways, I realize this is getting long and most of it is probably old hat for you, so I will stop it there, but maybe there are some interesting bits in there.
Thanks again for your work,