The 1930s Plot to Overthrow FDR
By Tom Morrow
Ever think there could be a coup to overthrow our government? Impossible? Think again.
In 1934, the American news media discovered there had been a year-old plot to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt in favor of a fascist government.
Reportedly in the works since 1933, the claims of the conspiracy came from Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, the most-decorated war heroes of his time. Even more unbelievable were his claims of who was involved in the plot – respected finance and business names such as Robert Sterling Clark, Grayson M.P. Murphy, and Prescott Bush, father of former President George H.W. Bush, and grandfather of former President George W. Bush.
Born in 1881, Butler came from a line of civil-serviceman: his father, Thomas Butler, was a representative for the state of Pennsylvania in Congress, and his maternal grandfather, Smedley Darlington, was also a Republican congressman.
The most decorated Marine of all time, serving 34 years in the Corps. Butler was rewarded two Medals of Honor, an Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Marine Corps Brevet Medal, a Navy Distinguished Service Medal and a host of other honors for the field of battle.
In 1933, Butler was approached by Gerald C. MacGuire, a bond salesman, and Bob Doyle, an executive with the Legion. During their first meeting MacGuire and Doyle asked the general to speak at a Legion convention in Chicago. Butler was at first open to the idea because the Legion had several issues that ultimately compromised veteran benefits.
However, the Marine general began to suspect something was amiss during their second meeting. The general was shown bank statements amounting to over $100,000 (valued at nearly $2 million today), which Butler could use to bring veteran supporters to the convention. The general was stunned: there was very little chance that a group of veterans had been able to gather such a vast amount of funds. Even worse was the speech that MacGuire asked Butler to deliver – a speech which was highly critical of FDR’s recent move away from the gold standard.
In 1933, the abandonment of the gold standard was a major sticking point for high-ranking financiers. Many bankers were fearful their gold-backed loans would not be re-paid in full by FDR’s new policies.
The departure from the gold standard just added to other concerns about the President’s policies, particularly his socialist leanings and his plans to provide jobs for the unemployed. Some in the world of business even suspected he was a communist.
Butler was told he’d be the ideal leader of veterans, promising him an army of 500,000 men and financial backing from an assortment of rich businessmen, so long as he would be willing to lead a peaceful march on the White House to displace Roosevelt.
Butler flatly refused to deliver the speech. After parting ways, he heard little until MacGuire began travelling through Europe on a trip funded by Robert Sterling Clark, an heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune.
MacGuire believed the only way to save the country from FDR’s policies was to create a military state run by former servicemen, with Roosevelt serving as a mere figurehead.
Butler knew he would need to corroborate this plan in order to stop the intended coup. The general reached out to Philadelphia Record writer Paul Comly French, who agreed to meet with MacGuire. The plan was repeated detailing a fascist state, of which MacGuire believed was the only answer and General Smedley was the “ideal leader.”
In November 1934, Butler and French appeared before the House Un-American Activities committee revealing the plot to seize the presidency. After hearing the testimony, the committee found all of Butler’s claims were factual.
Quickly becoming known as the “White House Coup” and “Wall Street Putsch,” many major newspapers derided Butler’s claims when some of the committee’s final report leaked out. However the full explosive report was not officially made public until this century.
No one was ever prosecuted in connection to the plot. The general’s account was published in his 1935 book, War is a Racket. There’s no telling how far the plot to overthrow FDR may have gone without Butler’s intervention. Its failure was the work of one patriotic Marine general.
Butler died in 1940 at the age of 58.
SCAG SEZ: “Ya know, they say what you don’t know can’t hurt you, but it can make you look pretty damned stupid.” – Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features.