Retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler was already a nationally known figure and widely acclaimed American hero of World War I when he was approached in his hotel room by two mysterious businessmen.
The two men, Bill Doyle and Jerry MacGuire, claimed that they merely wanted Butler to give a speech to the American Legion, a normal enough appeal to the popular general. But they made odd requests that unnerved the still-sharp Marine. For example, they suggested Butler insert references in his speech about returning the country to the gold standard, nominally so his beloved veterans would be paid in “real money, not fake paper money.”
Condensed and excerpted from
The Plot to Overthrow the White House
by Jules Archer with permission of
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., New York, NYButler refused and the two men left. MacGuire later met again with Butler to attempt to sweet-talk him into speaking for them—and heading up a new “supergroup” of disaffected veterans to help “maintain our democracy.” MacGuire had just returned from Europe and believed that America should follow the example of some of the governments he had seen there. He suggested that Butler lead a mass of 500,000 disaffected veterans to the White House and demand that a new office be created to help relieve the “beleaguered President.” The new office of Secretary of General Affairs would be an “assistant president” of sorts, who would actually manage the real operation of the country while the president would be reduced to a mere figurehead. MacGuire wanted Butler to lead this private army and become the unelected leader of the United States.
MacGuire claimed to be able to raise the eye-popping sum of $300 million to help bring this coup to reality, and that top men from the big businesses of the day—including DuPont Chemical, J.P. Morgan Bank, US Steel, Goodyear Tire, Standard Oil and Mutual Life Insurance—were supporters of the plot. Butler was shocked, but decided to play along to get more proof of big business' treason. Butler also contacted Paul Comly French, a reporter from the Philadelphia Record, to dig into the story and try to contact MacGuire himself to gain further evidence of the conspiracy.
Both Butler and French were contacted by the McCormack-Dickstein Committee, the forerunner to House Committee on Un-American Activities, which had gotten wind of the plot. French testified as to just how explicitly MacGuire stated that FDR needed to be removed by force.