Details of the matter came to light when
retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler testified before a
Congressional committee that a group of men had attempted to recruit him
to serve as the leader of a plot and to assume and wield power once the
coup was successful. Butler testified before the McCormack-Dickstein
Committee in 1934. In his
testimony, Butler claimed that a group of several men had approached him
as part of a plot to overthrow Roosevelt in a military coup. One of the
alleged plotters, Gerald MacGuire, vehemently denied any such plot. In
their final report, the Congressional committee supported Butler's
allegations on the existence of the plot,
but no prosecutions or further investigations followed, and the matter was
mostly forgotten. ...
Democracy is a value that the corporation just doesn’t understand. In
fact, corporations have often tried to undo democracy if it is an obstacle
to their single-minded drive for profit. From a 1934 business-backed plot
to install a military dictator in the White House (undone by the integrity
of one U.S. Marine Corps General, Smedley Darlington Butler) to
present-day law-drafting, corporations have bought military might,
political muscle and public opinion.
And corporations do not hesitate to take advantage of democracy’s absence
either. One of the most shocking stories of the twentieth century is Edwin
Black’s recounting IBM’s strategic alliance with Nazi Germany—one that
began in 1933 in the first weeks that Hitler came to power and continued
well into World War II.
The corporation may be trying to render governments impotent, but since
the landmark WTO protest in Seattle, a rising wave of networked
individuals and groups have decided to make their voices heard. Movements
to challenge the very foundations of the corporation are afoot: The
charter revocation movement tried to bring down oil giant Unocal; a
groundbreaking ballot initiative in Arcata, California, put a corporate
agenda in the public spotlight in a series of town hall meetings; in
Bolivia, the population fought and won a battle against a huge
transnational corporation brought in by their government to privatize the
water system; in India nearly 99% of the basmati patent of RiceTek was
overturned; and W. R. Grace and the U.S. government’s patent on Neem was
As global individuals take back local power, a growing re-invigoration of
the concept of citizenship is taking root. It has the power to not only
strip the corporation of its seeming omnipotence, but to create a feeling
and an ideology of democracy that is much more than its mere institutional
Spivak's assessment in his 1967, A Man in His Time, certainly continues to
hold true sixty years after the fact: "What was behind the plot was
shrouded in a silence which has not been broken to this day. Even a
generation later, those who are still alive and know all the facts have
kept their silence so well that the conspiracy is not even a footnote in
Although a congressional committee confirmed the allegations, the findings
were hushed up amid murmurs of a cover-up. No wonder. The plotters were
brand-name American financiers in the Morgan and Du Pont commercial
empires, right-wingers bitterly opposed to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New
Deal and the president's sympathies toward organized labor.
Perhaps Americans would know all too much about the plot, and even
celebrate it on "President Duce Day," if it weren't for a patriotic
military man, Major General Smedley Darlington Butler. In the summer of
1933, the putsch plotters approached Butler, the retired commandant of the
U.S. Marines and a popular war hero affectionately known as "the fighting
Quaker." They offered him the job of transforming the American Legion
veterans group into a 500,000-man marauding army, which was to spearhead
an American coup d'etat.
Unfortunately for fascism, Butler's appeal to the plotters also turned out
to be the conspiracy's downfall. The conspirators apparently chose the
former general because of his enormous popularity with rank-and-file
soldiers; but it was Butler's anti-elitist leanings and reputation for
honesty that had made him a populist favorite. In short, the conspirators
couldn't have selected a candidate more unlikely to agree to lead a
fascist takeover. Shrewdly, Butler decided to play along, feigning
interest in the plans in order to draw the plotters into the daylight and
expose the scheme to Congress.
As he told the House of Representatives' McCormack-Dickstein Committee,
which was investigating Nazi and communist activities in America, Butler
was first approached by one Gerald G. MacGuire, a bond salesman and former
commander of the Connecticut American Legion. As journalist Spivak
described him, "MacGuire was a short stocky man tending toward three
chins, with a bullet-shaped head which had a silver plate in it due to a
wound received in battle."
According to the former general, MacGuire described to Butler "what was
tantamount to a plot to seize the government, by force if necessary."
MacGuire, said Butler, explained that he had traveled to Europe to study
the role played by veterans' groups in propping up Mussolini's fascist
Italy, Hitler's Nazi Germany, and the French government. MacGuire lauded
France's Croix de Feu as "an organization of super-soldiers" with profound
political influence. Then the man with the silver plate in his cranium
announced that "our idea here in America" is to "get up an organization of
this kind" because "the political setup has got to be changed a bit."
According to Butler, MacGuire elaborated on the plot: "Now, did it ever
occur to you that the president is overworked? We might have an assistant
president; somebody to take the blame." MacGuire called the new super
Cabinet official a "secretary of general affairs." And, he said, "You know
the American people will swallow that. We have got the newspapers. We will
start a campaign that the president's health is failing. Everybody can
tell that by looking at him, and the dumb American people will fall for it
in a second…."
Although MacGuire denied Butler's account under oath, corroborating
testimony came from Paul Comly French, a Philadelphia Record reporter.
Butler had asked French to look into MacGuire's plot and shed some light
on "what the hell it's all about."
After checking with Butler, the voluble MacGuire agreed to see French.
French testified that MacGuire told him, "We ned a fascist government in
this country…to save the nation from the communists who want to tear it
down and wreck all that we have built in America. The only men who have
the patriotism to do it are the soldiers, and Smedley Butler is the ideal
leader. He could organize a million men overnight."
French continued: MacGuire "warmed up considerably after we got under way
and he said, 'We might go along with Roosevelt and then do with him what
Mussolini did with the King of Italy.'" If Roosevelt played ball, French
summarized, "swell; and if he did not, they would push him out."
According to French, MacGuire dropped names to give the impression that
American Legion brass were involved in the plot.
To impress Butler, MacGuire had flaunted a bank book itemizing deposits of
more than $100,000 available to pay for "expenses." Later, he flashed a
wad of eighteen $1,000 bills and boasted of "friends" who were capable of
coughing up plenty more dough where that came from.
One of those friends was Robert Sterling Clark, a prominent Wall Street
banker and stockbroker. When Butler demanded that MacGuire produce his
superiors, the tubby intermediary made the introductions. According to
Butler's testimony, Clark spoke of spending half his $60 million fortune
in order to save the other half. What's more, Clark purportedly waxed
ominous about the misguided FDR: "You know the president is weak. He will
come right along with us. He was born in this class, and he will come
back. He will run true to form. In the end he will come around. But we
have got to be prepared to sustain him when he does."
Amazingly, the McCormack-Dickstein Committee (a forerunner of the infamous
House Un-American Activities Committee) never bothered to haul Clark in
for questioning. And the committee's members - who exhibited considerably
more zeal ferreting out two-bit commies than they did big-shot American
fascists - failed to frill a half-dozen other suspects named by Butler and
French. In fact, the committee suppressed many of the names, even though
French's newspaper articles caused a stir by naming the well-heeled
conspirators (at the height of the Depression).
In addition to MacGuire and Clark, the leading plotters included:
Grayson Murphy, a director of Goodyear, Bethlehem Steel, and a panoply of
Morgan banks. Murphy was the original bankroller of the American Legion,
which he and other wealthy military officers formed after World War I to
"offset radicalism." He was also MacGuire's boss at the New York brokerage
William Doyle, former state commander of the Legion and purportedly the
architect of the coup idea.
John W. Davis, former Democratic candidate for president of the United
States and a senior attorney for J.P. Morgan and Company.
Al Smith, former governor of New York, a Roosevelt foe, and co-director of
the newly founded American Liberty League, an organization described by
MacGuire as the matrix on which the plot would by executed.
Other prominent businessmen lurked in the background, including Smith's
codirector at the American Livery League, John J. Raskob, who was a former
chairman of the Democratic Party, a high-ranking Du Pont officer, and a
bitter enemy of FDR, whom he classified among dangerous "radicals." And in
even deeper shadows was right-wing industrialist Irenee Du Pont, who
established the American Liberty League. Grayson Murphy - MacGuire's boss
- was treasurer of the same group. Clearly, this was no penny-ante
whiner's club. Most astonishing was the presence among the plotters of
heavy-hitting politicos from FDR's own party.
Mysteriously, though, the congressional probe expired with a whimper. The
McCormack-Dickstein Committee released heavily edited excerpts from
Butler's testimony but claimed it had uncovered "no evidence" other than
"hearsay" linking prominent Americans to a fascist plot.
Had the committee backed down rather than take on a klatch of power-drunk
millionaires? Did high-ranking Democrats - possibly one in the White
House, as some reports had it - put the kibosh on the investigation for
similar reasons, or to stave off political embarrassment, or to protect
Democratic muckamucks who were in on the scheme?
All of the above would seem likely, for in fact the McCormack-Dickstein
Committee's public report was utterly contradicted by its internal
summation to the House. That document might have been lost to history had
Spivak not somehow managed to liberate a copy. Contrary to the public
whitewash, privately the committee acknowledged Butler's accuracy and
MacGuire's lying. The report concluded:
In the last few weeks of the committee's life it received evidence showing
that certain persons had made an attempt to establish a fascist
organization in this country….
There is no question that these attempts were discussed, were planned, and
might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers
deemed it expedient….
MacGuire denied [Butler's] allegations under oath, but your committee was
able to verify all the pertinent statements made to General Butler, with
the exception of the direct statement suggesting the creation of the
organization. This, however, was corroborated in the correspondence of
MacGuire with his principal, Robert Sterling Clark, of New York City,
while MacGuire was abroad studying the various form of veterans'
organizations of Fascist character.
Alas, as is so often the case, when truth finally emerged it was greeted
as yesterday's news - or worse, as last year's outmoded fashion, which
clashed with the committee's public dismissal of the charges. Spivak's
reporting appeared in a small left-wing publication where it went largely
unnoticed. After all, Time magazine - hardly what you would call
antagonistic toward right-wing industrialists - had already dismissed the
allegations as a joke.
"The fighting Quaker" went on national radio to denounce the committee's
deletions of key points in his testimony, but history's loaded die had
already been cast.
Ultimately, the plot's failure owes as much a debt to Butler as it does to
the Hubris of the super-Wealthy. Lacking a Mussolini-caliber proxy, but
swimming in ample cash to buy one, America's elite fascists dispatched the
man with a plate in his head to build a better Duce. Of course, the
revolution went south when, in an act of inspired stupidity, they decided
to buy a dictator who happened to be a notorious democrat with a small
(or the Education of an Atheist )
It is in the nature of the powerful and wealthy that they want to
sustain their wealth and achieve the best possible circumstances for
future wealth accumulation, often without concern for the human suffering
they cause. The business establishment of the U.S. was in despair when FDR
turned left in order to combat the Great Depression and within a short few
months organized a coup attempt aimed at overthrowing FDR in favor of a
fascist government, a little known fact that has escaped the notice of
school book publishers. The Morgan and DuPont business empires were the
instigators. They attempted to recruit General Smedley Butler to lead the
coup. Butler had been selected because of his status as a war hero from
WWI, and he was popular with the troops which would come in handy in the
coup attempt. Unfortunately for the plotters, Butler had no intention of
cooperating. He pretended to go along with the plan in order to gain
evidence later to be turned over to Congress. What the business men
proposed was dramatic: they wanted General Butler to deliver an ultimatum
to Roosevelt. Roosevelt would pretend to become sick and incapacitated
from his polio, and allow a newly created cabinet officer, a "Secretary of
General Affairs", to run things in his stead. The secretary, of course
would be carrying out the orders of Wall Street. If Roosevelt refused,
General Butler would force him out with an army of 500,000 war veterans
from the American Legion. The plotters confidence was relayed to Butler:
"You know the American people will swallow that. We have the newspapers.
We will start a campaign that the President's health is failing. Everyone
can tell that by looking at him, and the dumb American people will fall
for it in a second..."
At the appropriate moment Butler revealed the details of the coup
before the McCormack-Dickstein Committee of Congress, but it turned out
that the businessmen were correct. They did have the newspapers, and the
power to make sure that the final report was white-washed and suppressed.
The elite media failed to pick up on what had happened. Butler, appalled
by the cover-up, tried to get the story out but with little success.
Here we have the early template of what the establishment would so
successfully implement after WWll; the use of public relations, deception
and censorship to achieve their goals. The American business tycoons of
the '20s and '30s had supported Adolf Hitler and his fascist state to the
tune of millions of dollars, in fact the overwhelming financial support
that helped Hitler gain power and credibility in Germany came from the U
S. Another little known fact, or should we say, another conveniently
covered-up fact. The use of dictators in order to create good conditions
for business was acceptable outside the U.S., but at home the use of
public relations and deception were preferred. The Congress committee,
which had been created in order to go after the coup leaders, was co-opted
and later turned into a tool of the establishment. It became the "House
Un-American Activities Committee," which later wreaked havoc with
thousands of innocent Americans through its Communist witch hunts. Access
to the elite media was denied to the true hero of the coup attempt,
General Smedley Butler, a modus operandi which would foreshadow decades of
successful media censorship "by omission."
As the end of WWll approached, the establishment was determined to
prevent the rise of another Roosevelt. Secret agreements were made with
Nazi leaders, enabling these leaders to escape to South America and to the
U. S. Roosevelt, who was in favor of future cooperation with the Soviet
Union, had to be dealt with. In order to get rid of him before the
treasonous activities of the establishment could be uncovered, he was
given poison over time, and when the moment was ripe, the final dose of
cyanide was delivered and Roosevelt died, exhibiting all the appropriate
symptoms of cyanide poisoning. Meanwhile, the "powers that be" had
engineered into the Vice Presidency, someone they knew could be
controlled. This was Harry Truman, and the battle for the future was half
won. The passage of The National Security Act of 1947 sealed the victory.
In laying the groundwork for the post war economy, Hitler's successful
blueprint was used extensively, albeit in modified form. The Jews couldn't
be used as enemy any longer, Hitler had seen to that. The Communists were
substituted, a perfect solution, which fueled the post war economic
recovery for decades. Overt fascism was out, didn't mash well with the
American psyche, so covert fascism was successfully introduced, and fooled
pretty much every U.S citizen. The only victims were either on the left or
foreigners anyway, and they didn't count. The blossoming of the American
empire ensued and reached its logical conclusion in the Vietnam War.
Before this war, things were looking up, the economy boomed and the
baby boomers reaped the economic benefits on a scale never surpassed in
world history. John Fitzgerald Kennedy narrowly became president in 1961,
and when his handler, his father Joe, became incapacitated, Kennedy
ignored the wishes of the Secret Government and paid with his life for the
transgressions he had committed. Unfortunately Kennedy had won the baby
boomers hearts, and when "the powers that be" engineered the Vietnam War,
the baby boomers erupted in fury. They had not been let in on the agenda
of the Secret government, and had no desire to loose their lives in order
to amass wealth for the military-industrial complex. During the era, MLK
and RFK were assassinated in order to remove the leaders of the youth
rebellion, and a stern warning to the counter-culture was delivered at
Kent State, where a few students were deliberately shot to death.
However, the developments of the '60s would make the more perceptive
Americans suspicious, there seemed to be a gulf between the rhetoric of
the establishment and the acts actually performed.
Thanks for that interesting link. I've been trying to get digital
copies of Government files pertaining to the Butler Conspiracy closest
I've com is to find these listed:
Library of Congress #'s DD255.U6 & A 51934B
U.S. House of Representatives, Special Committee on Un-American
Activities, Investigation of Nazi Propaganda Activities and Investigation
of Certain Other Propaganda Activities, Hearings 73:;D.C.-6, Part 1, 73rd
Cong., 2nd sess., (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1935).
U.S. House of Representatives, Special Committee on Un-American
Activities, Public Statement, 73rd Cong., 2nd sess., (Washington, D.C.:
Government Printing Office, 1934).
Special Committee Authorized to Investigate Nazi Propaganda and other
Propaganda, 1934-35, known as the McCormack-Dickstein Committee. An early
predecessor of HUAC.
Senate Document 148, 84th Congress, 2d session, Congressional
Investigations of Communism and Subversive Activities: Summary Index,
1918-1956, indexes the published hearings and reports of the many small
investigations conducted by select, special, and subcommittees, as well as
the major investigations of HUAC and SISS from 1918 to 1956.