Remembering the business storyline: when Wall Street tried to overthrow the president

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When Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler testified before the McCormack-Dickstein committee about the business plot – an alleged coup to remove President FDR from the office, supported by American business executives, no one took him seriously.

In fact, most thought it was a hoax as it seemed such a far-fetched idea to suggest to anyone, not to mention Butler had no hard evidence to back up his allegations.

Despite this, Congress felt it had to investigate Butler’s claims and eventually came to the conclusion that while they couldn’t prove whether the plot was close to execution, they concluded that it had at least been talked about, albeit as a joke.

Over the next eight decades, the Business Plot, otherwise known as the Wall Street Putsch or the White House Putsch, was relegated to the footnotes of 1930s American history, in part due to more important events such as the New Deal and the beginning of the Second World War. .

Background

Smedley Darlington Butler was born on July 30, 1881 in West Chester, Pennsylvania, as the eldest of three children born to politician Thomas Butler and his wife Maud Darlington.

When he was 16, the Spanish-American War broke out and Butler felt it was his duty to serve his country. Lying about his age, Butler enlisted in the Marine Corps and received a direct assignment as a second lieutenant.

After his training was completed, he was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, where he was promoted to first lieutenant.

Serving with distinction in the Marine Corps until 1931, Butler rose to the rank of Major General and received dozens of medals, including two Medal of Honor, for his service in the Philippine-American War, Boxer Rebellion, Banana Wars, Mexican Revolution and WWI.

A true war hero who had always treated the men under him with the utmost respect and never got involved in the political aspect of his work, Butler was hugely popular with veteran groups, who loved nothing more than a visit. of the general.

Therefore, when 43,000 mostly jobless veterans (17,000 of whom had served in World War I) traveled to Washington, D.C. in July 1932, to pressure Congress to pay them a large bonus that had been promised in 1924 to under the Bonus Act, Butler went to talk to them.

Even when Douglas MacArthur was preparing to wipe them out of Washington under … President Hoover orders, Smedley Butler was talking to the veterans and having dinner with them, ending the evening by delivering a speech telling the veterans to stay strong.

Despite its best efforts, the “Bonus Army”, as it was called, was unsuccessful in getting what it wanted and when General MacArthur dispersed the protesters, many were wounded and killed in the stampede that followed.

Safe to say, veterans’ resentment of the establishment was at an all-time high.

Roosevelt and big business

Although Smedley Butler had been a Republican all his life, when the presidential election of 1932 came, Herbert Hoover was faced with the Democratic governor of New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Angry at the way Hoover had treated veterans just months earlier, Butler declared himself a “Hoover-For-Ex-President-Republican” and lent his support to Roosevelt, causing many veterans to vote in favor of Roosevelt.

However, there was only one problem: big business.

On his election campaign, Roosevelt, et al billionaire by modern standards, based his entire campaign on starting government programs to get Americans back to work – and the wealthy Wall Street bankers who caused the Great Depression would pay for it.

As the elections got closer and closer, FDR seemed increasingly inclined to win the election, which he later achieved. In a landslide.

Worried that Roosevelt would pave the way for socialism (and later communism) in the United States, leading to reckless government spending and driving America out of the gold standard they relied on for their wealth, business leaders were worried when Roosevelt took over the White House.

The plot

Since there isn’t much in the way of physical evidence to support the plot’s existence, most of what we know about the plot is based on Smedley Butler’s testimony, which may or may not be reliable.

1933

1934

1935

Why didn’t anyone take it seriously?

Inheritance

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