Chris Trotter’s essay on the possibility of a civil war in the United States is timely, at least if one looks to the events leading up to two previous attempts.
While many suspect that there have been a number of “unregistered” coups d’état in US history, the first recognized is the one that sought to overthrow the then fledgling US government in 1783, in the end of the American War of Independence, which only failed because George Washington refused his support
The second and most recent recorded coup attempt known as Business Plot (also known as Wall Street Putschor The White House Putsch) was a political conspiracy that took place in 1933 when powerful business interests plotted to overthrow the government of President Franklin Roosevelt.
Also taking advantage of veterans’ discontent, the plot was exposed when, in 1934, retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler testified under oath that wealthy interests, concerned about the abandonment of the stallion- Gold by Roosevelt, and the effect that would have on their fortunes, was the intention to create an organization of Fascist veterans, with Butler as leader, to overthrow Roosevelt.
Major General Smedley Butler was one of America’s most decorated war heroes of his time, but the names of those he testified to were behind the plot were even more notable – names like Robert Sterling Clark, Grayson MP Murphy and Prescott Bush, founder of the family that would later produce two US presidents.
As the news media of the day scoffed at Butler’s story, now believed to have political backing, in order to spare the plotters a conviction in exchange for their support of the “New FDR’s Deal ‘, recently uncovered documents have revealed the truth about Major General Smedley Butler’s claims.
Born in 1871, the eldest son of a Quaker family, Smedley Butler was a several veteran of the late 19e and early 20emajor conflicts of the centuries. Renowned for his bravery and steadfast leadership, he was both highly decorated by his country and highly respected by the men who served under his command.
According to a thesis written on him; ” He was the kind of leader who always got along better with his troops than with his colleagues or superiors; he represented an egalitarian anti-elitism that contrasted sharply with the highly structured hierarchy of the Marine Corp.
After leaving the service in 1931, Smedley Butler became a champion of veterans rights, as they lobbied for payment of bonds issued to veterans before World War I. And it was Smedley Butler’s positive public image, and his obvious ability to rally people to him, that in 1933 spurred business interests to try and trick him into being the face of a coup. planned.
Approached by two senior members of the American Legion, an organization meant to support veteran rights, Smedley Butler began to suspect that something was wrong when he realized the enormous sums of money at his disposal. .
Believing that there was little chance that a group of veterans would have access to such large sums, Smedley Butler was even more dismayed by the speech he was supposed to give, which was less about veterans affairs and plus the attack on Roosevelt’s recent departure from the gold standard, to his “Goods, Not Gold” policy.
The abandonment of the gold standard has raised concerns among many bankers and the wealthy American elite that gold-backed loans will not be fully repaid by the President’s “New Deal” policies and that, therefore, , vast fortunes are decimated.
Sensing something sinister, Smedley Butler insisted on meeting with the main architects of the plans and found himself speaking with Robert Sterling Clark, heir to the Singer Sewing fortune. Clark told Smedley Butler his real interest was in preserving the gold standard, even claiming that he “had $ 30 million and was willing to spend half of the $ 30 million to save the other half.”
At this point, Smedley Butler refused to get involved any further. And he didn’t hear much from the plotters until a few months later, when they pressed him again, citing the examples of the French. Fire cross government of the day, which was run by veterans, as the kind of thing it could run.
The only way to save the country from FDR’s “ill-fated” policies, they argued, was to create a military state ruled by ex-servicemen, with Roosevelt as the figurehead. And, promising Smedley Butler an army of 500,000 and the financial support of the wealthy elite, he was pressed to lead a peaceful march on the White House to displace Roosevelt.
Fearing that no one would believe he was telling such a plan of treason, Smedley Butler implicated a former Philadelphia police captain and a reporter he knew, who, once they gained the trust of the conspirators, were able to corroborate his story.
They subsequently testified that the conspirators believed that a fascist state was the only answer for America, and that Smedley was the “ideal leader” because he “could organize a million men overnight. “.
But on November 24, 1934, Major General Smedley Butler’s testimony to the Special Committee on Un-American Activities met with mixed reviews. Disregarding much of Butler’s speech, the committee refused to subpoena men like John W. Davis, a former presidential hopeful, or Thomas W. Lamont, a partner of JP Morgan & Company. However, once Smedley Butler’s two corroborating witnesses testified, the committee began to investigate further and found all of Smedley Butler’s claims to be factual.
But the committee’s final report was never made public, and the mainstream media were able to downplay and ridicule Smedley Butler’s testimony. And those believed to be involved, ranging from the DuPont family, the Goodyear Tire Company, to Prescott Bush, the grandfather of future President George W. Bush, laughed at Butler’s claims.
Proof of the validity of Butler’s testimony was not made public until the 21st century, when the committee’s documents were made public. No one has ever been prosecuted in connection with the plot.
For his part, Smedley’s butler continued to defend the veterans. And he also became a staunch opponent of capitalism, which he said fueled hawkish interests. His opinions were published in his famous little book War is racketeering which was published in 1935.
Smedley Butler later became a staunch opponent of capitalism and a vocal critic of America’s wars and their aftermath. In 1935 Butler wrote a book titled War is racketeering, where he describes and critiques the functioning of the United States in its foreign actions and wars, such as those in which it has been involved, including American companies and the other imperialist motives behind them. After retiring, he became a popular advocate, speaking at meetings organized by veterans, peace activists, and religious groups in the 1930s.
“I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the boys of the National City Bank to collect income. J Helped rape half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The racketeering record is too long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the Brown Brothers International Bank in 1909- 1912. I shed light on the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras a “right” for American fruit companies in 1903. In China, in 1927, I helped to get Standard Oil to go without being worried …. Come to think of it, I think I could have given Al Capone some clues. The best he could do was tap his racket in three parts of town. We, the Marines, have operated on three continents.
– Smedley Butler