Alfred E. Smith

The Happy warrior

Well written, thoroughly researched: likely to stand as the definitive portrait of Smith for years to come.
— Kirkus Reviews


Alfred E. Smith lost the 1928 presidential election by a landslide. Herbert Hoover and the Republicans sailed into office on a wave of prosperity, the promise of a chicken in every pot, and the support of the Ku Klux Klan. The brash, Catholic anti-Prohibitionist from New York's Lower East Side seemed never to have stood a chance.

The meteoric rise and dramatic fall of the "Happy Warrior" are well known– from his job at the Fulton Fish Market through his years in the state legislature and as four-time governor of New York to his crushing defeat in 1928 and his final, puzzling defection from the Democratic party in 1936.

Christopher M. Finan offers new insights into Smith's early years in New York politics and provides a fascinating interpretation of Smith's break with Roosevelt, which, he believes, was more FDR's doing than Smith's.

Finan argues persuasively that Roosevelt captured the Democratic nomination in 1932 by seeking the support of Smith's enemies, including the southern, anti-Catholic Democrats who had rejected Smith four years earlier. In addition, Finan skillfully explores Smith's personal life, uncovering compelling information about Smith's financial dealings during his governorship. The result is a full, nuanced study, written with verve and zeal, of an intriguing–and misunderstood–politician.