The Fascist Plot to Overthrow FDR
Forced Labor to Solve Unemployment
As MacGuire had grown increasingly comfortable with him, French testified, the plotter had grown candid and enthusiastic about the Fascist rewards that would follow seizure of the White House. French’s use of the word “brilliant” in the following portion of testimony was obviously sarcastic.
FRENCH: He had a very brilliant solution of the unemployment situation. He said that Roosevelt had muffed it terrifically, but that he had the plan. He had seen it all in Europe. It was a plan that Hitler had used in putting all of the unemployed in labor camps or barracks—enforced labor. That would solve it overnight, and he said that when they got in to power, that is what they would do; that that was the ideal plan.
He had another suggestion to register all persons all over the country, like they do in Europe. He said that would stop a lot of these communist agitators who were running around the country.
He said that a crash was inevitable and was due to come when bonds reached 5 percent. He said that the soldiers must prepare to save the Nation.
If Roosevelt went along with the dictatorship as the King had done in Italy, MacGuire had suggested, Butler could have the proposed labor camps put under his own control.
FRENCH: …he suggested that Roosevelt would be in sympathy with us and proposed the idea that Butler would be named as the head of the C.C.C. [Civilian Conservation Corps] camps by the President as a means of building up the organization. . .
French then testified that MacGuire had told him the plotters could obtain arms and equipment from the Remington Arms Company, on credit through the DuPonts. His testimony also implicated the American Liberty League.
FRENCH: I do not think at that time he mentioned the connection of DuPonts with the American Liberty League, but he skirted all around it. That is, I do not think he mentioned the Liberty League, but he skirted all around the idea that that was the back door; one of the DuPonts is on the board of directors of the American Liberty League and they own a controlling share in the Remington Arms Co… He said the General would not have any trouble enlisting 500,000 men.
It was because MacGuire saw the general as the indispensable man of the putsch, French testified, that he persisted in his efforts to win Butler’s adherence to the scheme.
FRENCH: When I left him he said that he planned to get in touch with the general and again try to persuade him to accept the leadership of this organization; that he was going to Miami in a couple weeks for the national convention to do a little work.
CHAIRMAN: To beat the bonus?
CHAIRMAN: I thought he was for the bonus?
FRENCH: He was at first.
BUTLER (interposing): He wants it paid in gold. Clark told me that he had been for the bonus or that he would be for the bonus if we could get the gold standard restored.
FRENCH: Then he said he would be in Miami. I told him that the general was going out on a rather lengthy speaking tour and did not know how to get to him. He said that he would either see him before he went to Miami or, if he could not, after he came back from Miami. But he did not see him and in a couple of days the general went out West.
Then I went back to see MacGuire on the 27th of September and talk to him for only a few minutes this time. In the meantime I had tried to get in touch with him once when I was in New York, but he was then in Miami and could not. At this time he said that he was extremely sorry that he could not get to Newtown Square [Butler’s hometown], but hoped to do so soon; that things were moving nicely. Everything is coming our way, is the way he expressed it.
No indictments were made and none of the alleged conspirators were brought to testify, save Jerry MacGuire. Though the committee was able to verify nearly all of Butler's statements, there was not enough proof of misdeed to warrant legal action. The initial reaction in the press to Butler and French's revelations was one of barely concealed ridicule, with Butler painted as a publicity-hungry glory hound, with the New York Times calling it “a gigantic hoax” and a “bald and unconvincing narrative.” But once the committee concluded that it was “able to verify all the pertinent statements made by General Butler,” many journalists and politicians changed their tune, with Time declaring that “General Butler's story of a Fascist march on Washington was alarmingly true” and then-Speaker of the House John McCormack stating that “General Smedley Butler was one of the outstanding Americans in our history. I cannot emphasize too strongly the very important part he played in exposing the Fascist plot backed by and planned by persons possessing tremendous wealth.” It seems that for one dark moment in American history all that stood between democracy and a Fascist coup was the indefatigable spirit and patriotism of an old warhorse, Major General Smedley Butler.