The Plot To Seize The White House
By Jules Archer
The Conspiracy Explodes
The McCormack-Dickstein Committee agreed to
listen to Butler's story in a secret executive session in New
York City on November 20, 1934. The two cochairman of the
committee were Representative John McCormack, of Massachusets,
and New York Representative Samuel Dickstein, who later became a
New York State Supreme Court justice. Butler's testimony,
developed in two hours of questions and answers, was recorded in
Simultaneously Paul Comly French broke the story in the Stern
papers, the Philadelphia Record and the New York Post. Under the
headline "$3,000,000 Bid for Fascist Army Bared," he wrote:
Major General Smedley D. Butler revealed today that he has been
asked by a group of wealthy New York brokers to lead a Fascist
movement to set up a dictatorship in the United States.
General Butler, ranking major general of the Marine Corps up to
his retirement three years ago, told his story today at a secret
session of the Congressional Committee on Un-American
McCormack opened the hearing by first noting that General Butler
had been in the Marine Corps thirty-three years and four months
and had received the Congressional Medal of Honor twice,
establishing his integrity and credibility as a witness. Then he
invited the general to "just go ahead and tell in your own way
all that you know about an attempted Fascist movement in this
"May I preface my remarks," Butler began, "by saying, sir, that
I have one interest in all of this, and that is to try to do my
best to see that a democracy is maintained in this country?"
"Nobody who has either read about or known about General
Butler," replied McCormack promptly, "would have anything but
Butler then gave detailed testimony about everything that had
happened in connection with the plot, from the first visit of
MacGuire and Doyle on July 1, 1933.
Some of his testimony was not released in the official record of
the bearings, for reasons that will be discussed later, but was
nevertheless ferreted out, copied, and made public by reporter
John L. Spivak. This censored testimony is indicated by the
symbol † to distinguish it from the official testimony
eventually released by the McCormack-Dickstein Committee. The
same was true of testimony given by reporter Paul Comly French,
who followed Butler as a witness, and the same symbol (†)
indicates the censored portions.*
Butler first described the attempts made by MacGuire and Doyle
to persuade him to go to the American Legion convention hand
make a speech they had prepared for him.
BUTLER: . . . they were very desirous of unseating the royal
family in control of the American Legion, at the convention to
be held in Chicago, and very anxious to have me take part in it.
They said that they were not in sympathy with the . . . present
administration's treatment of the soldiers. . . . They said, "We
represent the plain soldiers. . .We want you to come there and
stampede the convention in a speech and help us in our fight to
dislodge the royal family."
He told of MacGuire's revelation that he was the chairman of the
Legion's "distinguished guest committee," on the staff of
National Commander Louis Johnson, and that at MacGuire's
suggestion Johnson had put Butler's name down as one of the
distinguished guests to be invited to the convention.
† BUTLER: [MacGuire said] that Johnson had been taken this list,
presented by MacGuire, of distinguished guests, to the White
House for approval; that Louis Howe, one of the secretaries of
the President, had crossed my name off and said that I was not
to be invited-that the President would not have it.
This tale had struck Butler as peculiar, since the President had
been grateful for the general's assistance in winning Republican
votes for him away from Hoover, and their relations had always
been cordial and warm.
BUTLER: I thought I smelled a rat, right away-that they were
trying to get me mad-to get my goat. I said nothing....
CHAIRMAN: When you say you smelled a rat, you mean you had an
idea that they were not telling the truth?
BUTLER: I could not reconcile . . . their desire to serve the
ordinary man in the ranks, with their other aims. They did not
seem to be the same. It looked to me as if they were trying to
embarrass the administration in some way.... I was just fishing
to see what they had in mind. So many queer people come to my
house all the time and I like to feel them all out.
MacGuire had told him, Butler revealed, that invitation or no
invitation, he and his supporters had figured out a way for
Butler to address the Legion convention.
BUTLER: I said, "How is that, without being invited?" They said,
"Well, you are to come as a delegate from Hawaii."
I said, "I do not live in Hawaii."
"Well, it does not make any difference. There is to be no
delegate from one of the American Legion posts there in
Honolulu, and we have arranged to have you appointed by cable,
by radio, to represent them at the convention....
I said, "Yes; but I will not go in the back door."
They said, "That will not be the back door. You must come."
I said, "No; I will not do this."
"Well," they said, "are you in sympathy with unhorsing the royal
I said, "Yes; because they have been selling out the common
soldier in this Legion for years. These fellows have been
getting political plums and jobs and cheating the enlisted man
in the Army, and I am for putting them out. But I cannot do it
by going in through the back door."
"Well," they said, "we are going to get them out. We will
Butler described the second visit of MacGuire and Doyle a month
later, at which time MacGuire had unfolded a new plan they had
developed to get Butler to the speaker's platform at the Chicago
convention of the Legion.
BUTLER: . . . I was to get two or three hundred legionnaires
from around that part of the country and bring them on a special
train to Chicago with me. . . . they would sit around in the
audience, be planted here and there. . . . I was to appear in
the gallery. These planted fellows were to begin to cheer and
start a stampede and yell for a speech. Then I was to go to the
platform and make a speech. I said, "Make a speech about what?"
"Oh," they said, "we have one here."
. . . They pulled out this speech. They said, "We will leave it
here with you to read over, and you see if you can get these
fellows to come."
I said, "Listen. These friends of mine that I know around here,
even if they wanted to go, could not afford to go. It would cost
them a hundred to a hundred and fifty dollars to go out there
and stay for five days and come back."
They said, "Well, we will pay that."
I said, "How can you pay it? You are disabled soldiers. How do
you get the money to do that?"
"Oh, we have friends. We will get the money." Then I began to
smell a rat for fair....
To test the seriousness of their purpose and the extent of their
backing, he had challenged their claim to have access to the
funds they claimed to have.
BUTLER: . . . they hauled out a bank deposit book and showed me,
I think it was $42,000 in deposits on that occasion, and on
another occasion it was $64,000....
CHAIRMAN: Do you know on what bank that was? BUTLER: I do not.
They just flipped the pages over. Now, I have had some
experience as a policeman in Philadelphia. I wanted to get to
the bottom of this thing and not scare them off, because I felt
then that they had something real. They had so much money and a
limousine. Wounded soldiers do not have limousines or that kind
of money. They said, "We will pay the bill. Look around and see
if you cannot get two or three hundred men and we will bring
them out there and we will have accommodations for them."
Butler described MacGuire's third visit, without Doyle, during
which the bond salesman had inquired as to his progress in
rounding up soldiers to take to the convention. Pointing out to
MacGuire that the speech given him urged a return by the United
States to the gold standard, Butler had demanded to know what
that had to do with the ostensible reasons for which he was
being asked to go to Chicago.
BUTLER: . . . MacGuire had said, "We want to see the soldiers'
bonus paid in gold. We do not want the soldier to have rubber
money or paper money. We want the gold. That is the reason for
Butler had then sought to get MacGuire to reveal the source of
the funds on deposit in his name.
BUTLER: He said that it was given to him by nine men, that the
biggest contributor had given $9,000 and that the donations ran
all the way from $2,50o to $9,000
I said, "What is the object?" He said the object was to take
care of the rank and file of the soldiers, to get them their
bonus and get them properly cared for.
Well, I knew that people who had $9,000 to give away were not in
favor of the bonus. That looked fishy right away.
He gave me the names of two men; Colonel Murphy, Grayson M.-P.
Murphy, for whom he worked, was one. He said, "I work for him. I
am in his office."
I said to him, "How did you happen to be associated with that
kind of people if you are for the ordinary soldier and his bonus
and his proper care? You know damn well that these bankers are
not going to swallow that. There is something in this, Jerry
MacGuire, besides what you have told me. I can see that."
He said, "Well, I am a business man. I have got a wife and
family to keep, and they took good care of them, and if you
would take my advice you would be a business man, too."
I said, "What has Murphy got to do with this?"
"Well," he said, "don't you know who he is?"
I said, "Just indirectly. He is a broker in New York. But I do
not know any of his connections."
"Well," he said, "he is the man who underwrote the formation of
the American Legion for $125,000 He underwrote it, paid for the
field work of organizing it, and had not gotten all of it back
"That is the reason he makes the kings, is it? He has still got
a club over their heads."
"He is on our side, though. He wants to see the soldiers cared
Butler revealed that he had then expressed sharply critical
sentiments about the Legion. He later discovered that these
remarks had been expunged from the record.
† BUTLER: "Is he [Murphy] responsible, too, for making the
Legion a strikebreaking outfit?"
"No, no. He does not control anything in the Legion now."
I said: "You know very well that it is nothing but a
strikebreaking outfit used by capital for that purpose and that
is the reason we have all those big clubhouses and that is the
reason I pulled out from it. They have been using these dumb
soldiers to break strikes."
He said: "Murphy hasn't anything to do with that. He is a very
I said, "I do not doubt that, but there is some reason for his
putting $125,000 into this."
In September, 1933, when he had gone to Newark for a convention
of the 29th Division, Butler testified, MacGuire had
unexpectedly showed up at his hotel to remind him that the time
for the American Legion convention was rapidly approaching and
to ask whether he was finally ready to take a contingent of
veterans to Chicago.
BUTLER: I said, "No; I am not going to Chicago."
I said, "You people are bluffing. You have not got any money,"
whereupon he took out a big wallet, out of his hip pocket, and a
great, big mass of thousand dollar bills and threw them out on
I said, "What's all this?"
He says, "This is for you, for expenses. You will need some
money to pay them."
"How much money have you got there?" He said, $18,000
"Where did you get those thousand dollar bills?"
"Oh," he said, "last night some contributions were made. I just
have not had a chance to deposit them, so I brought them along
I said, "Don't you try to give me any thousand dollar bill.
Remember, I was a cop once. Every one of the numbers on these
bills has been taken. I know you people and what you are trying
to do. You are just trying to get me by the neck. If I try to
cash one of those thousand dollar bills, you would have me by
"Oh," he said, "we can change them into smaller denominations."
I said, "You put that money away before somebody walks in here
and sees that money around, because I do not want to be tied up
with it at all. I told you distinctly I am not going to take
these men to Chicago."
"Well, are you going yourself?"
I said, "Oh, I do not know. But I know one thing. Somebody is
using you. You are a wounded man. You are a blue jacket. You
have got a silver plate in your head. I looked you up.... You
are being used by somebody, and I want know the fellows who are
using you. I am not going to talk to you any more. You are only
an agent. I want some of
He said, "Well, I will send one of them over to see you." I
said, "Who?" He said, "I will send Mr. Clark."
"Who is Mr. Clark?"
"Well, he is one of our people. He put up some money."
"Who is he?"
"Well, his name is R. S. Clark. He is a banker. He used to be in
"How old a man is he?" He told me.
"Would it be possible that he was a second lieutenant in the
Ninth Infantry in China during the Boxer campaign?"
He said, "That is the fellow."
He was known as the "millionaire lieutenant" and was sort of
batty, sort of queer, did all sorts of extravagant things. He
used to go exploring around China and wrote a book on it, on
explorations. He was never taken seriously by anybody. But he
had a lot of money. An aunt and an uncle died and left him
Having established contact with one of the plot's principals,
Butler testified, he had been visited by Clark within the week
with and invited to travel in a private car to the Chicago
convention with the millionaire, who revealed that he would
arrange an opportunity for Butler to deliver the gold-standard
BUTLER: He said, "You have got the speech?" I said, "Yes. These
fellows, Doyle and MacGuire, gave me the speech." I said, "They
wrote a hell of a good speech, too." He said, "Did those fellows
say that they wrote that speech?" I said, "Yes; they did. They
told me that that was their business, writing speeches." He
laughed and said, "That speech cost a lot of money."
In testimony afterward censored, Butler revealed that the speech
had apparently been written for the millionaire by the chief
attorney for J. P. Morgan and Company, who had been the 1924
Democratic candidate for President.
† BUTLER: Now either from what he said then or from what
MacGuire had said, I got the impression that the speech had been
written by John W. Davis-one or the other of them told me that.
Clark had been amused, Butler testified, that MacGuire and Doyle
had claimed the authorship. Butler had pointed out that a speech
urging a return to the gold standard did not seem to be relevant
to the reasons he was being asked to go to the convention. Clark
had reiterated MacGuire's explanation that he wanted to see the
soldiers' bonus paid in gold-backed currency, not in inflated
BUTLER: "Yes," I said, "but it looks as if it were a big
business speech. There is something funny about that speech, Mr.
Clark." . . .
Clark said ". . . I have got $30,000,000. I do not want to lose
it. I am willing to spend half of the $30,000,000 to save the
other half. If you go out and make this speech in Chicago, I am
certain that they will adopt the resolution and that will be one
step toward the return to gold, to have the soldiers stand up
for it. We can get the soldiers to go out Having established
contact with one of the plot's principals, so in great bodies to
stand up for it."
This was the first beginning of the idea, you see, of having a
soldiers' organization, getting them to go out in favor of the
gold standard. Clark's thought was, "I do not want to lose my
In a censored portion of the testimony, Butler explained why
Clark thought that Roosevelt would permit himself to be
pressured by such tactics.
† BUTLER: He said, "You know the President is weak. He will come
right along with us. He was born in this class. He was raised in
this class, and he will come back. He will run true to form. In
the end he will come around. But we have got to be prepared to
sustain him when he does."
This blatant snobbery and fatuous assumption about the President
had been too much for Butler, and he had snapped a refusal to go
BUTLER: He said, "Why not?"
I said, "I do not want to be mixed up in this thing at all. I
tell you very frankly, Mr. Clark, I have got one interest and
that is the maintenance of a democracy. That is the only thing.
I took an oath to sustain the democracy, and that is what I am
going to do and nothing else. I am not going to get these
soldiers marching around and stirred up over the gold standard.
What the hell does a soldier know about the gold standard? You
are just working them, using them, just as they have been used
right along, and I am going to be one of those to see that they
do not use them any more except to maintain a democracy. And
then I will go out with them any time to do that."
At this point, Butler testified, Clark had offered him an
outright bribe to win his cooperation.
BUTLER: He said, "Why do you want to be stubborn? Why do you
want to be different from other people? We can take care of you.
You have got a mortgage on this house," waving his hand,
pointing to the house. "That can all be taken care of. It is
perfectly legal, perfectly proper."
"Yes," I said, "but I just do not want to do it, that's all."
Finally I said, "Do you know what you are trying to do? You are
trying to bribe me in my own house. You are very polite about it
and I can hardly call it that, but it looks kind of funny to me,
making that kind of proposition. You come out into the hall, I
want to show you something."
We went out there. I have all the flags and banners and medals
of honor, and things of that kind. . . . They have been given me
by the Chinese and the Nicaraguans and the Haitians-by the poor
people. I said to him, "You come out here. Look at that and see
what you are trying to do. You are trying to buy me away from my
own kind. When you have made up your mind that I will not go
with you, then you come on and tell me."
After being left in the hall to inspect the trophies and think
about their significance, Butler testified, Clark had joined him
in the office at the back of the house. The millionaire had then
asked permission to make a long-distance call.
BUTLER: He called up Chicago and got hold of MacGuire at the
Palmer House and lie said to MacGuire, "General Butler is not
coming to the convention. He has given me his reasons and they
are excellent ones, and I apologize to him for my connection
with it. I am not coming either. You can put this thing across.
You have got $45,000. You can send those telegrams. You will
have to do it in that way. The general is not coming. I can see
why. I am going to Canada to rest. If you want me, you know
where you can find me. You have got enough money to go through
. . . The convention came off and the gold standard was endorsed
by the convention. I read about it with a great deal of
interest. There was some talk about a flood of telegrams that
came in and influenced them and I was so much amused, because it
all happened right in my room.
Then MacGuire stopped to see me on his way back from the
convention. This time he came in a hired limousine . . . and
told me that they had been successful in putting over their
move. I said, "Yes, but you did not endorse the soldier's
He said, "Well, we have got to get sound currency before it is
worth while to endorse the bonus."
Not long afterward, Butler testified, MacGuire had called again
to ask him to go to Boston for a soldier's dinner that was being
given in the general's honor.
BUTLER: He said, "We will have a private car for you on the end
of the train. You will make a speech at this dinner and it will
he worth a thousand dollars to you."
I said, "I never got a thousand dollars for making a speech."
He said, "You will get it this time."
"Who is going to pay for this dinner and this ride up in the
"Oh, we will pay for it out of our funds."
"I am not going to Boston. If the soldiers of Massachusetts want
to give a dinner and want me to come, I will come. But there is
no thousand dollars in it."
So he said, "Well, then, we will think of something else."
He had next seen MacGuire, Butler testified, while in New York
to make an election speech on behalf of a former Marine running
for local office in a municipal campaign. MacGuire had then
sought to draw Butler out on his subsequent plans.
BUTLER: He said, "You are going on a trip for the Veterans of
Foreign Wars. You are going around recruiting them, aren't you?"
I said, "Yes; I am going to start as soon as this campaign is
CHAIRMAN: When was this campaign?
BUTLER: This was in November, 1933. All of this happened between
July and November, everything I told you.... He said, "You are
going out to speak for the veterans." I said, "Yes. . . . You
know I believe that sooner or later there is going to be a test
of our democracy, a test of this democratic form of government.
The soldiers are the only people in this country who have ever
taken an oath to sustain it. I believe that I can appeal to them
by the millions to stand up for a democracy, because they have
more stake in a democracy than any other class of our citizens,
because they have fought for it. I am going out to the Veterans
of Foreign Wars. They are my kind, overseas people, old
regulars, and see if I cannot get a half a million of those
fellows and preach this to them, that we have got to stand up
against war. I have got an object in doing it. I believe that
sooner or later we are going to have a showdown, because I have
had so many invitations to head societies and to join societies,
all of them with a camouflaged patriotic intent. They are
rackets, all of them."
MacGuire had then exposed the forward edge of a new plan to use
the general, startling Butler by a proposal to join him in his
travels around the country.
BUTLER: He said, "Well, that is what we are for. . . . I want to
go around with you . . . and talk to the soldiers in the
background and see if we cannot get them to join a great big
superorganization to maintain the democracy.
I said, "I do not know about you going along, Jerry. Of course,
I cannot keep you off of the train. But there is something funny
about all this that you are doing and I am not going to be
responsible for it and I do not want any more to do with it. You
are a wounded soldier and I am not going to hurt you, but you
must lay off this business with me, because there is too much
money in it."
"Well, I am a business man," he said. . . . "I do not see why
you will not be a business man, too."
I said, "If fiddling with this form of government is business, I
am out of it; if that is your business."
"Oh," he said, "I would not disturb this form of government."
I said, "You have got some reason for getting at these soldiers
other than to maintain a democracy."
Although Butler did not testify to having been offered, and
turning down, $750 for every speech he made to veterans groups
during his tour in which he inserted a short reference favoring
the gold standard, a special tribute was paid to him on this
score by a secret report he did not know of that reached the
It had been written by Val O'Farrell, a former New York City
detective who had become one of the city's leading criminal and
civil investigators. On December 11, 1933, O'Farrell had written
to presidential secretary Louis Howe:
My dear Colonel:
. . . Before he [Butler] left for Atlanta, he was approached by
a representative of the bankers gold group system, and offered
the sum of seven hundred and fifty dollars for each speech if he
would insert some short reference in favor of continuing the
bankers gold standard. This would have meant an additional ten
thousand dollars to General Butler, but he told the
representative of the gold group that even if he were offered a
hundred thousand dollars to do this, his answer would be "no."
Notwithstanding the fact that I do not know General Butler, who
has been occasionally subject to harsh criticism for the things
he has done or failed to do, I felt it my duty to report this
incident to you as it shows him to be a man of exceptional
character. You can probably obtain the name of the
representative of this gold group from General Butler, or if you
are interested, I may be able to get it for you.
Butler found himself fascinated by MacGuire, suspecting that the
bond salesman might be playing some kind of shrewd con game with
Clark, using his contact with Butler as a lever with which to
pry money out of the alarmed millionaire.
BUTLER: I began to get the idea that he was using Clark-to pull
money out of Clark by frightening him about his $30,000,000-and
then he was coming to me; and then he would go back and tell
Clark, "I have been to see Butler, and he will go along if you
will get me $5,000 more." In other words, I could see him
working both ends against the middle and making a sucker out of
Clark. However, if Clark wanted to get rid of his money, it was
none of my business. . . .
Now, he [MacGuire] is a very cagey individual. He always
approaches everything from afar. He is really a very nice,
plausible fellow. But I gather, after this association with him,
that due to this wound in his head, he is a little inconsistent,
a little flighty. He is being used, too, but I do not think
Clark is using him. My impression is that Murphy uses him; and
he uses Clark, because Clark has the money.
During MacGuire's trip to Europe, Butler testified, the bond
salesman had sent him a postcard from Nice in February, 1934,
and a short note later from Berlin, both of the "having
wonderful time" variety. Then after MacGuire's return, upon his
urging to see Butler on a matter of the utmost importance, they
had met in the empty restaurant of Philadelphia's Bellevue
Hotel, on August 22, 1934.
BUTLER: He told me all about his trip to Europe.... He said, "I
went abroad to study the part that the veteran plays in the
various set-ups of the governments that they have abroad. I went
to Italy for two or three months and studied the position that
the veterans of Italy occupy in the Fascist set-up of
government, and I discovered that they are the background of
Mussolini. They keep them on the pay rolls in various ways and
keep them contented and happy; and they are his real backbone,
the force on which he may depend, in case of trouble, to sustain
him. But that set-up would not suit us at all. The soldiers of
America would not like that. I then went to Germany to see what
Hitler was doing, and his whole strength lies in organizations
of soldiers, too. But that would not do. I looked into the
Russian business. I found that the use of the soldiers over
there would never appeal to our men. Then I went to France, and
I found just exactly the organization we are going to have. It
is an organization of supersoldiers." He gave me the French name
for it, but I do not recall what it is. I never could have
pronounced it, anyhow. But I do know that it is a
superorganization of members of all the other soldiers'
organizations of France, composed of noncommissioned officers
and officers. He told me that they had about 500,000 and that
each one was a leader of ten others, so that it gave them
5,000,000 votes. And he said, "Now, that is our idea here in
America-to get up an organization of that kind."
Investigators for the McCormack-Dickstein Committee were able to
uncover a report on this French "superorganization," the Croix
de Feu, that MacGuire had written about to Robert S. Clark and
Clark's attorney, Albert Grant Christmas, from France on March
I had a very interesting talk last evening with a man who is
quite well up on affairs here and he seems to be of the opinion
that the Croix de Feu will be very patriotic during this crisis
and will take the [wage] cuts or be the moving spirit in the
veterans to accept the cuts. Therefore they will, in all
probability, be in opposition to the Socialists and
functionaries. The general spirit among the functionaries seems
to be that the correct way to regain recovery is to spend more
money and increase wages, rather than to put more people out of
work and cut salaries.
The Croix de Feu is getting a great number of new recruits, and
I recently attended a meeting of this organization and was quite
impressed with the type of men belonging. These fellows are
interested only in the salvation of France, and I feel sure that
the country could not be in better hands because they are not
politicians, they are a cross-section of the best people of the
country from all walks of life, people who gave their "all"
between 1914 and 1918 that France might be saved, and I feel
sure that if a crucial test ever comes to the Republic that
these men will be the bulwark upon which France will be saved.
During their meeting in Philadelphia, Butler testified, MacGuire
had revealed the plans of his group to develop an American Croix
BUTLER: I said, "What do you want to do with it when you get it
"Well," he said, "we want to support the President." I said,
"The President does not need the support of that kind of an
organization. Since when did you become a supporter of the
President? The last time I talked to you you were against him."
He said, "Well, he is going to go along with us now."
"Well, what are you going to do with these men, suppose you get
these 500,000 men in America? . . ."
"Well," he said, "they will be the support of the President."
I said, "The President has got the whole American people. Why
does he want them?"
He said, "Don't you understand the set-up has got to be changed
a bit? . . . He has got to have more money. There is not any
more money to give him. Eighty percent of the money now is in
Government bonds, and he cannot keep this racket up much longer.
. . . He has either got to get more money out of us or he has
got to change the method of financing the Government, and we are
going to see to it that he does not change that method. He will
not change it."
I said, "The idea of this great group of soldiers, then, is to
sort of frighten him, is it?"
"No, no, no; not to frighten him. This is to sustain him when
others assault him."
I said, "Well, I do not know about that. How would the President
He said: "He will not necessarily have to explain it, be cause
we are going to help him out. Now, did it ever occur to you that
the President is overworked? We might have an Assistant
President, somebody to take the blame; and if things do not work
out, he can drop him."
He went on to say that it did not take any constitutional change
to authorize another Cabinet official, somebody to take over the
details of the office-take them off the President's shoulders.
He mentioned that the position would be a secretary of general
affairs-a sort of a supersecretary.
CHAIRMAN: A secretary of general affairs?
BUTLER: That is the term used by him-or a secretary of general
welfare-I cannot recall which. I came out of the interview with
that name in my head. I got that idea from talking to both of
them, you see [MacGuire and Clark]. They had both talked about
the same kind of relief that ought to be given the President,
and he [MacGuire] said: "You know, the American people will
swallow that. We have got the newspapers. We will start a
campaign that the President's health is failing. Everybody can
tell that by looking at him, and the dumb American people will
fall for it in a second."
And I could see it. They had that sympathy racket, that they
were going to have somebody take the patronage off of his
shoulders and take all the worries and details off of his
shoulders, and then he will be like the President of France. . .
Now, I cannot recall which one of these fellows told me about
the rule of succession, about the Secretary of State becoming
President when the Vice President is eliminated. There was
something said in one of the conversations that I had, that the
President's health was bad, and he might resign, and that [Vice
President] Garner did not want it, anyhow, and then this
supersecretary would take the place of the Secretary of State
and in the order of succession would become President. That was
In corroborative testimony Paul Comly French described what
MacGuire had told him about the conspirators' plans.
FRENCH: During the course of the conversation he continually
discussed the need of a man on a white horse, as he called it, a
dictator who would come galloping in on his white horse. He said
that was the only way; either through the threat of armed force
or the delegation of power, and the use of a group of organized
veterans, to save the capitalistic system.
He warmed up considerably after we got under way and he said,
"We might go along with Roosevelt and then do with him what
Mussolini did with the King of Italy."
It fits in with what he told the general, that we would have a
Secretary of General Affairs, and if Roosevelt played ball,
swell; and if he did not, they would push him out.
He expressed the belief that at least half of the American
Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars would follow the general
if he would announce such a plan.
In censored testimony Butler revealed that MacGuire had
implicated General Hugh Johnson, head of the N.R.A., as
Roosevelt's own choice to become an assistant President.
† BUTLER: He said, "That is what he [Roosevelt] was building up
Hugh Johnson for. Hugh Johnson talked too damn much and got him
into a hole, and he is going to fire him in the next three or
I said, "How do you know all this?"
"Oh," he said, "we are in with him all the time. We know what is
going to happen."
After having revealed the plans of the plotters, Butler
testified, MacGuire had then bluntly asked the general to be the
Man on a White Horse they were looking for.
BUTLER: He said, ". . . Now, about this superorganization -would
you be interested in heading it?"
I said, "I am interested in it, but I do not know about heading
it. I am very greatly interested in it, because you know, Jerry,
my interest is, my one hobby is, maintaining a democracy. If you
get these 500,00o soldiers advocating anything smelling of
Fascism, I am going to get 500,000 more and lick bell out of
you, and we will have a real war right at home. You know that."
"Oh, no. We do not want that. We want to ease up on the
President." . . .
"Yes; and then you will put somebody in there you can run; is
that the idea? The President will go around and christen babies
and dedicate bridges, and kiss children. Mr. Roosevelt will
never agree to that himself."
"Oh, yes; he will. He will agree to that."
I said, "I do not believe he will." I said, "Don't you know that
this will cost money, what you are talking about? He says, "Yes;
we have got $3,000,000 to start with, on the line, and we can
get $300,000,000, if we need it." "Who is going to put all this
"Well," he said, "you heard Clark tell you he was willing to put
up $15,000,000 to save the other $15,000,000."
Butler had then probed for particulars of the cabal's plans for
organizing their projected military superorganization.
BUTLER: "How are you going to care for all these men?" He said,
"Well, the Government will not give them pensions, or anything
of that kind, but we will give it to them. We will give privates
$10 a month and destitute captains $35. We will get them, all
"It will cost you a lot of money to do that."
He said, "We will only have to do that for a year, and then
everything will be all right again."
. . . He said that they had this money to spend on it, and he
wanted to know again if I would head it, and I said, "No, I am
interested in it, but will not head it."
Seeking to persuade him to change his mind, Butler testified,
MacGuire had sought to impress him with the importance of the
interests who were involved in the plot.
BUTLER: He said, "When I was in Paris, my headquarters were
Morgan & Hodges. We had a meeting over there. I might as well
tell you that our group is for you, for the head of this
organization. Morgan & Hodges are against you. The Morgan
interests say that you cannot be trusted, that you will he too
radical, and so forth, that you are too much on the side of the
little fellow; you cannot be trusted. They do not want you. But
our group tells them that you are the only fellow in America who
can get the soldiers together. They say, `Yes, but he will get
them together and go in the wrong way.' That is what they say if
you take charge of them."
According to MacGuire, Butler testified, the Morgan interests
preferred other noted military figures as head of the projected
veterans' army. Discussion of these choices was also eliminated
from the published version of the hearings.
† BUTLER: [MacGuire said,] "They are for Douglas MacArthur as
the head of it. Douglas MacArthur's term expires in November,
and if he is not reappointed it is to be presumed that he will
be disappointed and sore and they are for getting him to head
I said, "I do not think that you will get the soldiers to follow
him, Jerry. . . . He is in bad odor, because he put on a uniform
with medals to march down the street in Washington, I know the
"Well, then, we will get Hanford MacNider. They want either
MacArthur or MacNider. . . ."
I said, "MacNider won't do either. He will not get the soldiers
to follow him, because he has been opposed to the bonus."
"Yes, but we will have him in change [charge?]."
And it is interesting to note that three weeks later after this
conversation 'MacNider changed and turned around for the bonus.
It is interesting to note that.
He [MacGuire] said, "There is going to be a big quarrel over the
reappointment of MacArthur . . . you watch the President
reappoint him. He is going to go right and if he does not
reappoint him, he is going to go left."
I have been watching with a great deal of interest this quarrel
over his reappointment to see how it comes out. He [MacGuire]
said, "You know as well as I do that MacArthur is Stotesbury's
son in law in Philadelphia-[Stotesbury being] Morgan's
representative in Philadelphia. You just see how it goes and if
I am not telling the truth."
I noticed that MacNider turned around for the bonus, and that
there is a row over the reappointment of MacArthur.
Convinced by now of the seriousness of the plot, and its
magnitude, Butler had endeavored to learn how far along the
conspirators were in the creation of the new superorganization
that would control the proposed veterans' army. MacGuire gave
him some tips on recognizing its appearance.
BUTLER: Now, there is one point . . . which I think is the most
important of all. I said, "What are you going to call this
He said, "Well, I do not know."
I said, "Is there anything stirring about it yet?"
"Yes," he says; "you watch; in two or three weeks you will see
it come out in the paper. There will be big fellows in it. This
is to be the background of it. These are to be the villagers in
the opera. The papers will come out with it-" He did not give me
the name of it, but he said that it would all be made public; a
society to maintain the Constitution, and so forth. They had a
lot of talk this time about maintaining the Constitution. I
said, "I do not see that the Constitution is in any danger."
Butler's next observation, possibly the most significant in all
his testimony, was missing from the published version of his
testimony. It was the link between the conspiracy and the
powerful interests Butler had good reason to believe were the
"big fellows" in the background.
† BUTLER: . . . and in about two weeks the American Liberty
League appeared, which was just about what he described it to
The American Liberty League, which had brokerage head Grayson
M.-P. Murphy as its treasurer and Robert S. Clark as one of its
financiers, also had John W. Davis, alleged writer of the
gold-standard speech for Clark, as a member of the National
Executive Committee. Its contributors included representatives
of the Morgan, Du Pont, Rockefeller, Pew, and Mellon interests.
Directors of the League included A1 Smith and John J. Raskob.
League later formed affiliations with pro-Fascist, antilabor,
and anti-Semitic organizations.
It astonished Butler that former New York Governor A1 Smith, who
had lost the 1928 presidential race to Hoover as the Democratic
candidate, could be involved in a Fascist plot backed by wealthy
men. But the "happy warrior" who had grown up on New York's East
Side had traded his brown derby for a black one. He was now a
business associate of the powerful Du Pont family, who had
cultivated him through Du Pont official John J. Raskob, former
chairman of the Democratic party. Under their influence Smith
had grown more and more politically conservative following his
defeat. Butler's query about Smith, and MacGuire's reply, were
both deleted from the official testimony of the hearings.
† BUTLER: I said, "What is the idea of Al Smith in this?"
"Well," he said, "A1 Smith is getting ready to assault the
Administration in his magazine. It will appear in a month or so.
He is going to take a shot at the money question. He has
definitely broken with the President."
I was interested to note that about a month later he did, and
the New Outlook took the shot that he told me a month before
they were going to take. Let me say that this fellow [MacGuire]
has been able to tell me a month or six weeks ahead of time
everything that happened. That made him interesting. I wanted to
see if he was going to come out right. . . .
In testimony that was also censored, Paul Comly French revealed
that MacGuire had implicated the Du Ponts to him, indicating the
role they would play in equipping the superarmy being planned by
† FRENCH: We discussed the question of arms and equipment, and
he suggested that they could be obtained from the Remington Arms
Co., on credit through the Du Ponts.
I do not think at that time he mentioned the connections of Du
Pouts with the American Liberty League . . . but he skirted all
around the idea that that was the back door; one of the Du Pouts
is on the board of directors of the American Liberty League and
they own a controlling interest in the Remington Arms Co.... He
said the General would not have any trouble enlisting 500,000
In a story it ran on November 21, 1934, The New York Times
noted, "According to General Butler ... he was to assemble his
500,000 men in Washington, possibly a year from now, with the
expectation that such a show of force would enable it to take
over the government peacefully in a few days."
During his last talk with MacGuire, Butler had once more
pressured him to explain the persistent bond salesman's personal
stake in the conspiracy.
BUTLER: I asked him again, "Why are you in this thing?"
He said, "I am a business man. I have got a wife and children."
in other words, he had had a nice trip to Europe with his
family, for nine months, and he said that that cost plenty, too.
. . .
So he left me, saying, "I am going down to Miami and I will get
in touch with you after the convention is over, and we are going
to make a fight down there for the gold standard, and we are
going to organize."
After he had been urged over forty times to accept the
leadership of the Fascist coup d'etat being planned, while he
gathered as much information about it as he could, Butler had
then sought to gather corroborative evidence through reporter
Paul Comly French.
BUTLER: ... in talking to Paul French here-I had not said
anything about this other thing, it did not make any difference
about fiddling with the gold standard resolution, but this [the
Fascist plot] looked to me as though it might be getting near
that they were going to stir some of these soldiers up to hurt
our Government. I did not know anything about this committee
[the American Liberty League], so I told Paul to let his
newspaper see what they could find out about the background of
Although Butler recalled having induced French to check into the
case, former Philadelphia Record city editor Tom O'Neil gave the
author his recollection that Butler had approached him and told
him the whole story. O'Neil recalled that he had agreed to
assign French to investigate. Probably Butler first approached
French, who had referred him to the city editor.
Butler gave the McCormack-Dickstein Committee his view that the
plot might have been hatched out of a racket that MacGuire had
been working as a moneymaking scheme.
BUTLER: I felt that it was just a racket, that these fellows
were working one another and getting money out of the rich,
selling them gold bricks. I have been in 752 different towns in
the United States in three years and one month, and I made 1,022
speeches. I have seen absolutely no sign of anything showing a
trend for a change of our form of Government. So it has never
appealed to me at all. But as long as there was a lot of money
stirring around-and I had noticed some of them with money to
whom I have talked were dissatisfied and talking about having
dictators-I thought that perhaps they might be tempted to put up
Butler testified that his last encounter with MacGuire had been
reference to French's attempt to talk to him.
CHAIRMAN: Did you have any further talks with him?
BUTLER: No. The only other time I saw or heard from him was when
I wanted Paul to uncover him. He talked to me and he telephoned
Paul, saying he wanted to see him. He called me up and asked if
Paul was a reputable person, and I said he was. That is the last
thing I heard from him. CHAIRMAN: The last talk you had with
MacGuire was in the Bellevue in August of this year?
BUTLER: August 22; yes. The date can be identified.
He concluded his testimony by urging the committee to question
several persons about the plot in addition to MacGuire-notably
Murphy, Doyle, and Legion Commander Frank N. Belgrano. This
request was also stricken from the official record.
Butler was aware that Chairman McCormack was himself a
Legionnaire and that the revelations of the plot implicating
Legion officials might be painful to him. But Butler also knew
that McCormack was a determined foe of Nazi propaganda and a
staunch supporter of New Deal measures. Butler counted on his
indignation over the conspiracy to bring about a full-scale
investigation by the Department of justice.
After Butler had completed his testimony, Paul Comly French took
the witness chair to report on his own investigation of the
plot, in which a candid two-hour conversation with MacGuire at
the latter's office figured prominently.
Describing these talks on the premises of Grayson M.-P. Murphy
and Company, French verified every allegation about the plot the
general had attributed to MacGuire. In addition French reported
the more open statements MacGuire had made to him about the
nature of the conspiracy and how it would work. More frank with
French, apparently, than he had dared to be with the general,
MacGuire made little attempt to disguise the Fascist nature of
the proposed putsch with euphemistic phrases about "supporting
FRENCH: We need a Fascist government in this country, he
insisted, to save the Nation from the Communists who want to
tear it down and wreck all that we have built in America. The
only men who have the patriotism to do it are the soldiers and
Smedley Butler is the ideal leader. He could organize a million
During the conversation he told me he had been in Italy and
Germany during the summer of 1934 and the spring of 1934 and had
made an intensive study of the background of the Nazi and
Fascist movements and how the veterans had played a part in
them. He said he had obtained enough information on the Fascist
and Nazi movements and of the part played by the veterans, to
properly set up one in this country.
He emphasized throughout his conversation with me that the whole
thing was tremendously patriotic, that it was saving the Nation
from Communists, and that the men they deal with have that
crackbrained idea that the Communists are going to take it
apart. He said the only safeguard would be the soldiers. At
first he suggested that the General organize this outfit himself
and ask a dollar a year dues from everybody. We discussed that,
and then he came around to the point of getting outside
financial funds, and he said that it would not be any trouble to
raise a million dollars.
French's use of the phrase "crackbrained idea" to describe the
notion by financiers and captains of industry that the country
needed to be saved from communism was obviously his own, and not
Censored in French's testimony was his revelation of the sources
to which MacGuire had said that he could turn for the funds to
finance the veterans' army.
† FRENCH: He said he could go to John W. Davis [attorney for J.
P. Morgan and Company] or Perkins of the National City Bank, and
any number of persons to get it.
Of course, that may or may not mean anything. That is, his
reference to John W. Davis and Perkins of the National City
French testified that MacGuire had sought to impress him by
indicating high-level support for the conspiracy from important
movers and shakers of the American Legion.
FRENCH: He then pushed a letter across the desk and said that it
was from Louis Johnson, a former national commander of the
CHAIRMAN: Did he show you the letter?
FRENCH: I did not read it. He just passed it over so I could see
it, but he did not show it to me. He said that he had discussed
the matter with him along the lines of what we were now
discussing, and I took it to mean that he had talked of this
Fascist proposition with Johnson, and Johnson was in sympathy
During the conversation he also mentioned Henry Stevens, of
Warsaw, N.C., a former national commander of the American
Legion, and said that he was interested in the program. Several
times he brought in the names of various former national
commanders of the American Legion, to give me the impression
that, whether justly or unjustly, a group in the American Legion
were actively interested in this proposition.
CHAIRMAN: In other words, he mentioned a lot of prominent names;
and whether they are interested or not, you do not know, except
that he seemed to try to convey to you that they were, to
impress on you the significance of this movement?
FRENCH: That is precisely the impression I gained from him.
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 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 into 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
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 Du Ponts. His testimony also implicated
the American Liberty League.
† FRENCH: I do not think at that time he mentioned the
connection of Du Ponts 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 Du Ponts is on the board of directors
of the American Liberty League and they own a controlling
interest 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 of 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 talked 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 home town], but hoped to do
so soon; that things were moving nicely. Everything is coming
our way, is the way he expressed it.
That same afternoon the committee grilled Jerry MacGuire, who
had also been summoned to testify at the executive session.
MacGuire, who earned only $150 a week as a bond salesman,
contradicted himself on the amount of money he had received from
sponsors and what he had done with it. He denied Butler's
allegation that he had thrown eighteen thousand-dollar bills on
the bed at the Newark hotel during the 29th Division convention
to bribe Butler into going to the Legion convention in Chicago.
But he could not explain what he had done with at least thirty
thousand in letters of credit, funds advanced to him by either
Clark or Clark's attorney, Albert Grant Christmas, and which
MacGuire had had with him at the Legion convention in Chicago
the following October, at which he had been both a delegate and
a member of the "distinguished guest committee."
The McCormack-Dickstein Committee found five significant facts
that lent validity to Butler's testimony. Clark, who wanted the
Legion to pass a gold-standard resolution, had given MacGuire
those funds. In the long-distance call Clark had allegedly made
to Chicago while Butler was listening, he had instructed
MacGuire, "You can put this thing across alone. You've got
$45,000. You can send those telegrams." MacGuire could not
explain how he had spent those funds. But telegrams had, indeed,
flooded the convention, and the Legion had passed the
Corroboration of Butler's testimony about MacGuire's mission in
Europe was borne out by the committee's finding that he had
spent large sums of money on that trip to study Fascist
movements in Italy, Germany, and France. The committee found,
too, that he and Clark had handled large sums of money for
various organizations, that he had been active in organizations
mentioned by Butler, and that he had acted as cashier for one
organization. His accounts of some of these financial
transactions failed to satisfy the committee, and he was curtly
instructed to reappear the following day for further
Interviewed by reporters afterward, MacGuire declared that he
was a personal friend of General Butler's and had last seen him
six months earlier when he had gone to Philadelphia to sell some
bonds. They had talked about an adequate military force for the
nation, MacGuire insisted, and about world affairs in general,
but he denied ever discussing a Fascist army or movement. A
little desperately MacGuire suggested that "General Butler must
be seeking publicity," and called the general's testimony "a
pacifist stunt:" His attorney, Norman L. Marks, called it "a
joke and a publicity stunt for General Butler."
Smedley Butler's reputation as an honest patriot made what he
had testified to under oath impossible for the press to ignore.
On November 21, 1934, in the center of its front page, The New
York Times carried a two-column headline:
Gen. Butler Bares `Fascist Plot'
To Seize Government by Force
Says Bond Salesman, as Representative of Wall St. Group, Asked
Him to Lead Army of 500,000 in March on Capital-Those Named Make
Angry Denials-Dickstein Gets Charge
Reading the Times's account of the secret
hearings, Butler was struck by a unique arrangement of the facts
in the story. Instead of beginning with a full account of his
charges, there was only a brief paragraph restating the facts in
the headline. This was followed by a whole string of denials, or
ridicule of the charges, by prominent people implicated.
Extensive space was given to their attempts to brand Butler a
liar or lunatic. Only at the tail of the story, buried inside
the paper, did the Times wind up its account with a few brief
paragraphs mentioning some of his allegations.
Many papers that picked up the story dropped the tail carrying
even those cursory details of the plot. Newspaper publishers had
little reason to be fond of the firebrand general who, in his
speech to veterans in Atlanta almost a year earlier, had warned
them not to believe the capitalist-controlled press, which,
Butler charged, suppressed facts unfavorable to America's
The New York Times did note, however, that Butler had told
friends in Philadelphia that General Hugh S. Johnson, former
N.R.A. administrator, had been among those slated for the role
of dictator if Butler turned it down and that J. P. Morgan and
Company and Grayson M.-P. Murphy and Company were both involved
in the plot.
"It's a joke-a publicity stunt," Jerry MacGuire was quoted as
insisting. "I know nothing about it. The matter is made up out
of whole cloth. I deny the story completely."
General Johnson growled, "He had better be pretty damn careful.
Nobody said a word to me about anything of this kind, and if
they did I'd throw them out the window. I know nothing about
Thomas W. Lamont, partner in J. P. Morgan and Company, gave his
comment: "Perfect moonshine! Too unutterably ridiculous to
comment upon!" J. P. Morgan himself, just back from Europe, had
nothing to say.
"A fantasy!" scoffed Colonel Grayson M.-P. Murphy. "I can't
imagine how anyone could produce it or any sane person believe
it. It is absolutely false so far as it relates to me and my
firm. and I don't believe there is a word of truth in it with
respect to Mr. MacGuire."
Colonel Murphy specifically denied to reporters that he had
financed any Fascist plot and called the statement that he had
made out a check for General Butler's Chicago expenses "an
absolute lie." He declared that he did not know General Butler
and had never heard of the reputed Fascist movement until the
charges had been published. He insisted that in 1932 he had
voted for President Roosevelt, the target of the alleged plot.
Asked about these denials, Butler snorted to a New York Times
reporter, "Hell, you're not surprised they deny it, are you?
What they have to say they'll say before the committee." He
wanted them under oath, as lie had been.
In Washington General Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff, was
unavailable for comment because of a real or a diplomatic "heavy
cold." His aides, however, expressed amazement and amusement
that MacArthur had been named by Butler as an alternate choice
of the plotters for dictator if Butler persisted in refusing the
"All the principals in the case," George Seldes noted in his
book Facts and Fascism, "were American Legion officials and
Secretary of War George H. Dern, Secretary of the Navy Claude A.
Swanson, and a large number of senators and congressmen urged
the McCormack-Dickstein Committee to get to the bottom of the
"We are going to make a searching investigation of the evidence
submitted by General Butler," McCormack announced. "Our original
information came from several different sources. General Butler
was not the first source of our information. . . . We have been
in possession of certain information for about five weeks and
have been investigating it. We will call all the men mentioned
in the story, although Mr. Clark is reported to be in Europe."
"From present indications," declared Dickstein, "Butler has the
evidence. He's not going to make any serious charges unless he
has something to back them up. We'll have the men here with
bigger names than his." He added that Butler had substantiated
most of the statements attributed to him and had enied none.
Both McCormack and Dickstein emphasized that the general had
repulsed all proposals from the Fascist group.
Dickstein indicated that about sixteen persons mentioned to the
committee by Butler would be subpoenaed and that an open hearing
might be held within a week.
Returning frorn Washington, Butler was besieged by reporters at
his home in Newtown Square.
"My name has been used all around the country by organizations,"
he told them. "They'd get some vets and say, `See, we have
Butler with us.' They were using me. The investigators who have
been running this thing down found my name popping up
everywhere, so they wanted to know what I knew about it-and I'm
not the only man in this thing."
Next day Dr. W. D. Brooks, of Jackson, Michigan, wired the
Very obviously Wall St. plans to take over the U.S. Govt. if
Hoover re-elected. Very obviously Butler is telling the truth. I
have been looking for just this attempt at a Wall St. coup if
your policies looked like succeeding. Wall St. is the enemy of
our govt. and Butler is giving it to you straight-don't doubt
that for a minute.
The writer was unable to ascertain the identity of Dr. Brooks,
but apparently his opinion carried some weight at the White
House, because Louis Howe referred his wire to Attorney General
Homer S. Cummings "for acknowledgment and consideration." A
demand for prosecution of the conspirators came from many V.F.W.
posts all over the country, which passed resolutions praising
Butler for exposing the plotters. Typical was the resolution of
Philadelphia Post 37 on November 22, 1934:
Whereas Major General Smedley D. Butler has again exhibited his
patriotism, sterling integrity and incorruptible character by
exposing a sinister clique of adventurers who would undermine
and destroy our form of government, and whereas such treasonable
activities by men of money and of influence are more dangerous
to our institutions than radical groups in our midst, therefore
be it resolved ... that it commend General Butler for his
patriotic spirit and hereby expresses its deep gratitude for his
great service to our country. And be it further resolved that
the Clair Post hereby respectfully requests the Attorney General
of the United States to take proper legal action against all
guilty parties involved.
If the press seemed overeager to emphasize denials of Butler's
charges, the people of grass-roots America were far readier to
believe the man who had exposed the plot. Letters of
encouragement poured in from all over the country. One Nebraska
woman wrote him:
It is heartening to find a man who has the courage to fight that
Octopus, Wall St. More power to you. There are millions of
honest people in the United States who applaud you and would
follow you heart & soul. Read of MacNider's name being linked
with the case. Heard him speak before a woman's club in Omaha.
Sized him up as being that kind of tripe. Here's hoping you
expose these traitors to a showdown. Yours for justice. . . .
Jerry MacGuire returned as a witness for a second day of secret
grilling by the McCormack-Dickstein Committee. Again he denied
Butler's charges that he had approached the general on behalf of
a plot to establish a Fascist dictatorship.
He testified that lie had received thirty thousand dollars from
Robert Sterling Clark to be deposited in the Hanover Trust
Company to the credit of "The Committee for a Sound Dollar and
Sound Currency, Inc." He and his backers had only wanted to
interest Butler in that committee, MacGuire insisted, because as
an important and popular public figure the general could command
attention for their movement. They wanted to give him the
opportunity to "make a little money" in the process.
Although Clark, his attorney A. G. Christmas, Walter E. Frew,
and others were behind the Committee for a Sound Dollar and
Sound Currency, their names had been carefully omitted from its
records. MacGuire testified that as far as he knew, Clark had
never had any interest in a Fascist organization. But the
McCormack-Dickstein Committee located letters from MacGuire
written from Europe to Clark and Christmas that proved
To many questions thrown at him MacGuire answered evasively, "It
is too far back," or "I cannot recall." At the conclusion of his
testimony Dickstein told reporters that MacGuire was "hanging
himself" by contradictions in his story and by forced admissions
made during his testimony. When this opinion was quoted in a few
evening newspapers, Dickstein observed that he had meant it to
be "off the -record."
Norman L. Marks, the attorney who had accompanied Mac Guire at
the secret hearings, told reporters that MacGuire had denied
ever having had any connection with any Fascist organization of
any sort; that he had ever been the "cashier" for any Fascist
group; or that he had gone to Europe to study the Fascist
movement. MacGuire's European trip, Marks alleged, had been
solely for purposes of private business.
McCormack declared that all information about the testimony
would be withheld because it had been given in closed executive
session. But the fact that the committee regarded the testimony
as important, he added, was shown by the decision to recall
MacGuire for further questioning. Despite Dickstein's earlier
statement that sixteen people named by Butler would be
subpoenaed, McCormack said that the committee had not yet
decided whether to call additional witnesses. Noting that the
most important witness, apart from MacGuire, was Robert S.
Clark, "a wealthy New Yorker with offices in the Stock Exchange
Building," who was abroad, McCormack indicated that if the facts
warranted, a public hearing would be held. Leaders of important
organizations like the American Legion and the V.F.W. would then
be invited to appear before the committee.
The Associated Press reported from Indianapolis that banker
Frank N. Belgrano, Jr., national commander of the Legion, had
denied that the Legion was involved "in the slightest degree" in
any plot to supply an army for a "march on Washington." Highly
placed Legion officials in Washington also characterized as
"horsefeathers" a rumor that a group of "big-business men" had
promised the Legion payment of adjusted service certificates, in
return for a pledge to support the Fascist movement.
Louis Johnson, former Legion national commander, declared in
Fairmont, West Virginia, that he could not recall having written
the letter to Jerry MacGuire, promising to see him about Fascist
army plan, that MacGuire had shown briefly to Paul Comly French.
If he had written such a letter, Johnson insisted, it would show
that he and the Legion were unalterably opposed to any
On November 22 the Associated Press struck a low blow at Butler
by getting Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, of New York, to express an
opinion of the conspiracy based on what he had read about it in
the press. The AP ran this "news item" under the headline
"COCKTAIL PUTSCH," MAYOR SAYS:
Mayor LaGuardia of New York laughingly described today the
charges of General Smedley D. Butler that New York brokers
suggested he lead an army of 500,000 ex-service men on
Washington as "a cocktail putsch." The Mayor indicated he
believed that some one at a party had suggested the idea to the
ex-marine as a joke.
Reading the press treatment of the scanty disclosures that had
leaked out of the closed hearing, Butler was not surprised by
the attempts to minimize and ridicule his exposure of the
conspiracy. He had expected to be pilloried for his audacity in
pinning a traitors' label on powerful American interests. He
hoped, however, that the press would eventually be compelled to
print the whole story of the plot as it had unfolded to him,
when he testified at a public hearing along with French's
corroboration. The committee would surely have to subpoena all
the people who were implicated, in one way or another, to
testify at that open meeting under oath.
Fresh support for Butler's expose came from Van Zandt, who
revealed to the press that he, too, had been approached by
"agents of Wall Street" to lead a Fascist dictatorship in the
United States under the guise of a "Veterans Organization."
He revealed that Butler had informed him about the plotters'
solicitation of the general two months earlier and had warned
him that he, too, would be contacted by them at the V.F.W.
convention in Louisville, Kentucky. Van Zandt said he had asked
Butler the purpose of the organization and the general had
replied that it sought to return the American dollar to the gold
standard and, in MacGuire's words, "to get rid of this fellow in
the White House."
In addition to Butler and himself, Van Zandt told reporters,
MacArthur, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and former Legion
Commander Hanford MacNider had recently been sounded out on
their interest in leading the proposed Fascist veterans
organization. He also charged that MacGuire had spent months in
Europe studying Fascist organizations as models for an American
Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., decried as "ridiculous" the idea that
he could be used to wrest the powers of the Presidency away from
his fourth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
McCormack declared that the committee was continuing to give
serious consideration to General Butler's charges and might call
Van Zandt to testify on the proposals made to him and others he
had named. MacGuire would be called before the committee again
in executive session, he announced, for scrutiny of his bank
accounts and records. But McCormack indicated that he intended
to keep the scope of the investigation circumscribed by legal
"We don't intend to drag in names that come to us through
rumors," he told reporters. "If investigation discloses there is
sufficient reason to subpoena witnesses, we will do so. Simply
because someone mentions the name of Mr. Lamont or General
Johnson is not sufficient to ask them to appear before the
Meanwhile the focus of the committee's interest was shifted when
it turned its attention to investigating charges that some
left-wing unions had used a three-million-dollar fund to "foment
and carry on strikes." The New York Times ran headlines reading
"Reds Fund Activity in Fur Industry" and "Red Union Funds Traced
at Hearing." Buried in third-rank subheads, and in the body of
the story, was further information about the Fascist plot.
A news dispatch from Paris reported that Robert Sterling Clark
was sending a lawyer to New York to answer charges made by
Butler and "clear the matter up." Clark declared himself
bewildered by the mention of his name and said he would send the
lawyer "if the whole affair isn't relegated to the funny papers
"MacGuire went to Europe for me, but his visit had nothing to do
with politics," he insisted. "He visited France, Italy and
Germany and was in Paris in February of this year. He spent four
months on the Continent. His trip was made for the purposes of
investigating the financial situation, the possibilities of
monetary stabilization and commercial trends."
When reporters showed him Van Zandt's accusation that MacGuire
had returned to the United States with copious data for setting
up an American Fascist regime, he exclaimed, "My God, what is
back of all this? I saw all of MacGuire's reports. I cannot
imagine him doing anything else on the side."
Although he was on vacation in Paris, Clark declared, he was
ready to return to testify if the committee summoned him.
MacGuire showed up a third time for interrogation by the
committee, this time with the bankbooks, canceled checks, and
other financial records he was ordered to produce. Before
entering the committee room accompanied by his counsel, he asked
permission to read to the committee a cablegram he had received
from Albert Grant Christmas, Clark's lawyer, in Paris:
Read this wire when you testify. Reports of the Butler testimony
in Paris outrageous. If reports are correct, my opinion is that
a most serious libel has been committed. I am returning at once
to testify as to our anti-inflation activities.
MacGuire now testified that on September 24, 1933, on the date
Butler had said he was approached by MacGuire in the Newark
hotel and offered eighteen thousand-dollar bills, MacGuire had
been in Chicago. He claimed to have registered at the Palmer
House on September 21, remaining in Chicago until October 8, so
that he could not have met Butler in Newark on the
But committee investigators found that he had indeed called upon
Butler that day and had had available at least sixteen thousand
dollars, largely in thousand-dollar bills. Unless MacGuire had
shown them to him, Butler could not possibly have known about
them, lending strong verification to the general's charge that
they had been tossed on his bed as a bribe.
MacGuire produced the bank accounts of the Committee for a Sound
Dollar and Sound Currency, Inc., of which he was an official,
and whose purpose he described as "opposing monetary inflation
in the United States." He and his lawyer now insisted that the
only discussions MacGuire had had with Butler concerned
financial backing for a contracting concern.
MacGuire reluctantly admitted receiving $75,000 from Clark for
an "unexplained purpose," the McCormack-Dickstein Committee
report later noted, while working on a drawing account of $432 a
month. This $75,000 was in addition to $30,00o he had also
received from Walter E. Frew, of the Corn Exchange Bank, for the
Committee for a Sound Dollar and Sound Currency, Inc. "Whether
there was more, and how much more," said the report, the
[McCormack-Dickstein] Committee does not yet know."
MacGuire admitted spending almost $8,000 on the trip to Europe,
ostensibly to buy bonds, but the investigators noted the trip
had resulted in detailed reports to MacGuire's backers on
various Fascist organizations abroad.
Although he still denied having tossed the eighteen
thousand-dollar bills on Butler's bed in the Newark hotel, the
committee found bank records showing he had bought letters of
credit six days later from Central Hanover Bank, paying for them
with thirteen thousand-dollar bills.
The testimony of MacGuire under oath flatly contradicted
everything Butler had testified to. The McCormack-Dickstein
Committee was left with no other option than to conclude either
that Butler was lying, in which case the whole plot was a
fabrication or fantasy, or that MacGuire was lying, in which
case Butler's charges were true, and the dangerous conspiracy of
which he warned was a reality.
MCCORMACK: Did you leave a speech with him-a speech that he was
to make to the convention if he went out there?
MACGUIRE: No, sir.
MCCORMACK: Was anything said about weakening the influence of
the administration with the soldiers?
MACGUIRE: No, sir; I do not believe the administration was
mentioned, as far as President Roosevelt or anybody down there
MCCORMACK: Was there some talk about his going out as an
individual Legionnaire and having two or three hundred
Legionnaires go out to Chicago, too?
MACGUIRE: No, sir. . . .
MCCORMACK: At any time did you take out a bank book and show him
deposits in it?
MACGUIRE: No, sir. . . .
MCCORMACK: Did he at any time ask you where you got the money?
MACGUIRE: I never had any money, and he never asked me if I had
any. . . .
MCCORMACK: Did you know that Mr. Clark had a personal talk with
MACGUIRE: It seems to me that he mentioned it to me, but I am
not sure. . . .
MCCORMACK: Did you know that Mr. Clark talked with him about
going to the convention?
MACGUIRE: No, sir; I do not....
MCCORMACK: Did Mr. Clark call you up in Chicago at any time?
MACGUIRE: Mr. Clark. No, sir....
MCCORMACK: Did 11e ever call you uP in Chicago from General
MACGUIRE: No, sir; to my recollection he did not. . . .
MCCORMACK: Did you tell him [Butler] at that time that you went
abroad to study the part that the veterans played abroad in the
set-up of the governments of the countries abroad?
MACGUIRE: No, sir.... .
MCCORMACK: Did you talk with him about the forming of an
organization of that kind here.
MACGUIRE: No, sir....
MCCORMACK: You previously testified that you only had one
transaction in the swapping of checks with Christmas [Clark's
attorney] of $20,000 and until later, when you paid him back the
MAcGUIRE: No; I believe that was paid back to Christmas in cash.
MCCORMACK: What have you got to show that?
MACGUIRE: I haven't got anything to show it.
MCCORMACK: Did you receive a receipt from Christmas?
MACGUIRE: No, sir; not necessarily; as far as that goes, he is
an old friend of mine. . . .
At this point McCormack produced subpoenaed bank records showing
that MacGuire had cashed letters of credit in the amount of
$30,300, prior to the Legion convention in Chicago. MacGuire
claimed that this money was meant to allow him to buy bonds in
case he came across a good buy.
MCCORMACK: What did you do with that $30,300 in Chicago?
MACGUIRE: I kept that money in cash and put it in a safe deposit
box with the First National Bank....
MCCORMACK: What became of that money? MACGUIRE: That money was
brought back and returned to Mr. Christmas.
MCCORMACK: In cash?
MCCORMACK: When did you return this $30,300 to Mr. Christmas?
MACGUIRE: I do not remember the date. . . .
MCCORMACK: Did you get a receipt for it?
MACGUIRE: No, I did not get a receipt for it....
MCCORMACK: Let me ask you this: why should you have cashed the
letters of credit in Chicago and put that money in a safe
MACGUIRE: Because I felt that if I had a chance to buy the bonds
I could buy them right off for cash.
MCCORMACK: Wouldn't letters of credit be accepted just as cash?
MACGUIRE: They probably would.
MCCORMACK: Wouldn't they be safer than cash on your person?
MACGUIRE: They probably would, yes; but there is no objection to
getting the cash, is there? ...
MCCORMACK: Did you buy any bonds?
MACGUIRE: No, sir.
MCCORMACK: What bonds did you want to buy? ...
MACGUIRE: I think Chicago Sanitary District 4's.
MCCORMACK: Whom did you talk to about buying the Chicago
Sanitary District 4's?
MACGUIRE: I did not talk to anybody.
MCCORMACK: Whom did you speak to about it?
MACGUIRE: I didn't speak to anybody....
McCormack next turned to subpoenaed reports that MacGuire had
sent back from Europe and cited the one he had sent back
praising the Croix de Feu as a model veterans organization. He
also read out another report MacGuire had submitted to his
backers on the Fascist party of Holland.
MCCORMACK: And in this report you also said: "I was informed
that there is a Fascist Party springing up in Holland under the
leadership of a man named Mussait who is an engineer by
profession, and who has approximately 50,000 followers at the
present time, ranging in age from 18 to 25 years. It is said
that this man is in close touch with Berlin and is modeling his
entire program along the lines followed by Hitler in Germany. .
. ." So you studied this Fascist Party when you were in Holland,
MACGUIRE: No, sir; I did not. It was a matter of public
information in the press and was reported so in the letter....
The committee examined tellers from the Central Hanover Bank and
Trust Company and other banks on financial transactions that had
taken place between MacGuire and Clark, on the account of Albert
Christmas, Clark's attorney.
Evidence was found that the day before MacGuire had allegedly
seen Butler in Newark, he had drawn six thousand dollars m
thousand-dollar bills from a "special account" in the
Manufacturers Trust Company and had also been given ten thousand
dollars in thousand-dollar bills by Christmas in Clark's
presence. The committee was convinced that MacGuire had been the
"cashier" for the planned veterans organization.
The committee also found evidence that disproved MacGuire's
alibi that he had been in Chicago on September 24, as well as
his contention that he had not seen Butler on that day at the
Newark hotel. And it was established beyond dispute that he had
written detailed letters to Clark and Christmas reporting on the
Black Shirts of Italy, the Brown Shirts of Germany, and the
Croix de Feu of France.
McCormack announced grimly that he would subpoena Clark as soon
as he returned from Europe. "As the evidence stands," he
declared, "it calls for an explanation that the committee has
been unable to obtain from Mr. MacGuire."
On November 26, 1934, referring to MacGuire's testimony,
Representative Dickstein declared, "You can't get away from it
-somebody is trying to shield somebody on something that looks
rotten, and honest people don't do that."
When the committee called no further witnesses from among those
named in the testimony, gossip swept Washington that the
uncalled witnesses were simply too powerful to be subpoenaed.
Investigating, reporter John Spivak learned that the only one
known to have been called to testify was California banker Frank
N. Belgrano, commander of the American Legion. Checking into why
he had not testified, Spivak found that he had been informed he
could return home without having to answer a single question.
The reporter could not verify a rumor that Belgrano had met with
President Roosevelt at the White House, after which he had been
taken off the committee's hook.
When Spivak tried to learn more about this from the committee
itself, Dickstein revealed that he didn't know why Belgrano had
been sent home without being questioned, and McCormack declined
to answer any questions on the subject.
Apparently in response to Spivak and other newsmen pressing for
an explanation of what the committee was doing about Butler's
charges, McCormack announced on November 2,5 that the committee
would make a statement the next day detailing the testimony it
had received. He declared that it would reveal " several
important inconsistencies" between the testimony of MacGuire and
statements attributed to him in the press. McCormack also went
out of his way to emphasize vigorously that General Butler could
not be accused of "publicity seeking" in making public his
exposure of the plot.
Next day, November 26, the committee's preliminary findings were
released in an eight-thousand-word statement signed by McCormack
and Dickstein. It began: "This committee has had no evidence
before it that would in the slightest degree warrant calling
before it such men as John W. Davis, General Hugh Johnson,
General James G. Harbord, Thomas W. Lamont, Admiral William S.
Sims or Hanford MacNider. The committee will not take cognizance
of names brought into the testimony which constitutes mere
hearsay. This committee is not concerned with premature
newspaper accounts, when given and published prior to the taking
of testimony. . . ."
In 1971 McCormack told the author that he had always tried to
operate by the rules of courtroom law, eliminating hearsay
evidence lie considered legally inadmissible. Dickstein had
given the same explanation of the committee's modus operandi in
1934, whereupon Spivak had pointed out, "But your published
reports are full of hearsay testimony." Dickstein had merely
blinked and said, "They are?"
The committee statement withheld passing judgment on the
testimony it had heard as premature, but the two chairmen
indicated that they intended to pursue their inquiry further by
calling Clark and Christmas to testify on their return from
Europe, to question them about the thousand-dollar bills.
The New York Times reported:
OVER BUTLER 'PLOT'
Has No Evidence to Warrant
Calling Johnson and Others
Named, It Declares
The so-called plot of Wall Street interests to have Major Gen.
Smedley D. Butler head a Fascist movement to take over the
national government and restore the gold dollar failed yesterday
to emerge in any alarming proportions from the statement by the
Congressional Committee on Un-American Activities cm the
evidence before it. . . .
But the committee was far from being as "calm"
about the matter as the Times story insisted. On that same day
Dickstein wrote to President Roosevelt, "The committee on
C.U.A.A. has issued the enclosed short report on Gen. Butler's
charges, which we have made public, as the pressure brought to
bear on the committee made this course absolutely imperative. .
. . I should very much like to have a conversation with you at
The day after the Times ran its "Committee Calm" version of the
preliminary McCormack-Dickstein statement, a refutation of this
interpretation by Dickstein compelled the paper to print a
revised article of the retraction. Now a new headline no longer
carried the word "plot" in scoffing quotes:
BUTLER PLOT INQUIRY
NOT TO BE DROPPED
Dickstein Says Committee Will
Get to the Bottom of Story-
Awaits Clark's Return
The Congressional Committee on Un-American Activities still
intends to get to the bottom of the story of a Wall Street plot
to put Major Gen. Smedley D. Butler at the head of a Fascist
army here, Representative Samuel Dickstein, vice chairman, said
yesterday. The committee's statement of the evidence, he
explained, was intended only to satisfy the great public
interest in the plot.
Mr. Dickstein said that the committee was pleased that this
preliminary report was received "neither as a whitewash of
notable persons nor as sensationalism because of the startling
nature of the possibilities, but simply as an indication of the
purpose of the committee to proceed carefully in such an
Dickstein emphasized that the committee was far
from satisfied with the story told by MacGuire, whose memory had
failed to produce any satisfactory account of the funds that he
had handled for Clark and Christmas. Furthermore, although Clark
and Christmas had cabled from abroad that they were willing to
return to testify, Dickstein said that they had not done so and
that the committee would like to question them both. As soon as
their presence was assured, a special executive session of the
committee would be called to hear them.
On November 30 President Roosevelt replied to Dickstein,
thanking him for sending him the preliminary report on the
testimony and declaring, "I am interested in having it. I take
it that the committee will proceed further."
On December 3, 1934, Time magazine ran a first-page story that
attempted to ridicule Butler under the headlines "Plot Without
Plotters." The story opened with a pseudoaccount of Butler on a
white horse assembling 500,00o veterans at a C.C.C. camp at
Elkridge, Maryland, and crying, "Men, Washington is but 30 miles
away! Will you follow me?" The men all shout, "We will!" Then
Butler's army marches south to Washington on Highway 1 while an
ammunition train supplied by Remington Arms Company and E. I. du
Pont de Nemours and Company brings up the rear.
Also in the column on horseback behind Butler, according to
Time's burlesqued version of the plot, are "that grim, old-time
cavalryman, General Hugh Samuel Johnson" and MacArthur; behind
them, three past national commanders of the American
Legion-MacNider, Johnson, and Henry Stevens. They are followed
in a shiny limousine by J. P. Morgan and his partner, Thomas W.
Then, in Time's parody, Butler ("his spurs clinked loudly")
strides into Roosevelt's study and barks, "Mr. President, I have
500,000 men outside who want peace but want something more. I
wish you to remove Cordell Hull as Secretary of State."
Roosevelt promptly telephones for Hull's resignation.
"And now, Mr. President, I ask you to fill the vacancy which has
just occurred in your Cabinet by appointing me Secretary of
State." Roosevelt signs the commission for Butler, who then
tells him, "Let it be understood that henceforth I will act as
the nation's executive. You may continue to live here at the
White House and draw your salary but you will do and say only
what I tell you. If not, you and Vice-President Garner will be
dealt with as I think best. In that event, as Secretary of
State, I shall succeed to the Presidency, as provided by law."
The President nods assent, and the United States becomes a
Fascist state. Time then commented:
Such was the nightmarish page of future United States history
pictured last week in Manhattan by General Butler himself to the
special House Committee investigating un-American Activities. No
military officer of the United States since the late tempestuous
George Custer has succeeded in publicly floundering in so much
hot water as Smedley Darlington Butler.
Time then recounted highlights of Butler's career, emphasizing
the controversies he had never shied away from and implying that
they arose solely from the general's taste for publicity.
Last month he told a Manhattan Jewish congregation that he would
never again fight outside the U.S. General Butler's sensational
tongue had not been heard in the nation's Press for more than a
week when he cornered a reporter for the Philadelphia Record and
New York Post, poured into his ears the lurid tale that he had
been offered leadership of a Fascist Putsch scheduled for next
year. . . .
Thanking their stars for having such sure-fire publicity dropped
in their laps, Representatives McCormack and Dickstein began
calling witnesses to expose the "plot." But there did not seem
to he any plotters.
A bewildered army captain, commandant at the Elkridge CCC camp,
could shed no light on the report that his post was to be turned
into a revolutionary base.
Mr. Morgan, just off a boat from Europe, had nothing to say, but
Partner Lamont did: "Perfect moonshine! Too utterly ridiculous
to comment upon!" . . .
Investor Clark, in Paris, freely admitted trying to get General
Butler to use his influence with the Legion against dollar
devaluation, but stoutly maintained: "I am neither a Fascist nor
a Communist, but an American." He threatened a libel suit
"unless the whole affair is relegated to the funny sheets by
"It sounds like the best laugh story of the year," chimed in
General MacArthur from Washington. . . .
Though most of the country was again laughing at the latest
Butler story, the special House Committee declined to join in
the merriment. . . . "From present indications," said the
publicity-loving New York Representative [Dickstein], "General
Butler has the evidence. He's not making serious charges unless
he has something to back them up. We will have some men here
with bigger names than Butler's before this is over."
For those of its readers who might have found Time's satirical
attack too subtle, the magazine helped them get the message by
its choice of photos to accompany the story. An unflattering
photo of Butler in civilian clothes, with his finger
reflectively in one ear, was labeled, "He was deaf to a
dictatorship." The pose subtly suggested that the general, as
the copy broadly hinted, was a bit daft.
In contrast, a jovial, laughing picture of that good-natured,
genial humanitarian, J. P. Morgan, looking like everybody's
grandfather, was labeled, "Moonshine provided the amusement."
And a stern, handsome picture of Colonel Grayson M.-P. Murphy,
dressed in a trim World War I colonel's uniform, hand dashingly
on hip, was captioned with this quote: "'A fantasy!"'
The author asked McCormack in 1971 about Time's fairness in
reporting the Butler hearing. The answer was a snort of disgust.
"Time has always been about as filthy a publication as ever
existed," he said emphatically. "I've said that publicly many
times. The truth gets no coverage at all, just sensationalism,
whatever will sell copies."
Indignant on Butler's behalf, the New York City post of the
V.F.W. sent President Roosevelt a wire on December 7 pledging
their loyalty and support, and commending Butler for his courage
and patriotism in exposing the conspirators.
Ten days later McCormack announced that Albert Christmas had
returned from Europe and would testify in two or three days in
an executive session. Clark's attorney was not questioned,
however, until the final day of the committee's life, January 3,
1935, after which no further investigatory action could be taken
by the committee.
". . . and then the questions were limited only to money given
MacGuire by the lawyer and Clark," Spivak noted. "Presumably
because of the sacredness of lawyer-client confidences, no
questions were asked about conversations or correspondence
between an alleged principal in the plot and his attorney."
There was an interesting exchange, nevertheless, in the matter
of $65,000 MacGuire testified that he had received for traveling
and entertainment expenses:
MCCORMACK: So the way you want to leave it is there is $65,000
or $66,000 that Mr. MacGuire received from either you, or Mr.
Clark, which he spent in the period between June and December of
1933 for traveling and entertainment expenses?
CHRISTMAS: Yes, sir.
MCCORMACK: Did he return to you some time in August 
approximately $30,000 in cash?
MCCORMACK: Do you know he testified he did?
CHRISTMAS: The committee gave me some indication of such
testimony at a previous session.
MCCORMACK: Assuming he has testified to that, that is not so?
CHRISTMAS: I would say he is in error. He is mistaken.
So the committee found still another reason to doubt the
veracity of MacGuire, who had denied, under oath, all the
allegations of the Fascist plot in which he was the go-between,
as alleged by General Smedley Butler.
Press coverage of what was obviously a startling story of utmost
importance to the security of the nation was largely one of
distortion, suppression, and omission.
"In the case of the Liberty League-Legion-Wall Street conspiracy
to overthrow the United States Government," George Seldes
declared in his book 1000 Americans, "there was one of the most
reprehensible conspiracies of silence in the long (and
disgraceful) history of American journalism."
In his book Facts and Fascism he wrote, "Most papers suppressed
the whole story or threw it down by ridiculing it. Nor did the
press later publish the McCormack-Dickstein report which stated
that every charge Butler made and French corroborated had been
The most sensitive revelations, as far as the press was
concerned, were those touching upon connections with J. P.
Morgan and Company and the powerful interests represented by the
American Liberty League. Heywood Broun, the highly esteemed
columnist for the New York World Telegram, once observed that
the face of The New York Times was "black with the Morgan
shoepolish." Speaker McCormack told me, "The Times is the most
slanting newspaper in the world. I would not expect anything
else from them. They brainwash the American people. It's an
In fairness to The New York Times of today, however, I should
quote their severest critic, George Seldes, who wrote me in
October, 1971, "I find the press [today] more liberal, too,
especially The New York Times. (And I have not grown mellow in
my views, I think.)"
If the prestigious Times had distorted the Wall Street
conspiracy story in 1934-1935, class-angling the news was
obviously more pronounced in the heavily anti-Roosevelt,
pro-big-business press of that day, much of which derived huge
advertising revenues from corporations involved in the American
Van Zandt wrote Butler on December 26, "The next time I see you
I will explain to you just how I became involved in the Nazi
story. After I read your article in the paper the Commander of
North Dakota and a few others asked me to give them the lowdown
which I did resulting that one of the boys carried the story to
the newspaper; therefore, causing such article to appear in
print, and, of course, misquoting me all around."
Butler replied on January 2, 1935, "I thought your statements on
the Fascist story were darn good and served to stir up the
lines. However, I can guess how it came about, but it did no
The storm of controversy over his exposure of the plot led radio
station WCAU of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to urge Butler to
make broadcasts for them two to four nights a week. He agreed,
and beginning on January 4 took to the airwaves with
hard-hitting attacks on Fascist plotters. What he had to say was
impressive enough to make small headlines in the back pages of
newspapers sufficiently often to generate enthusiastic support
from the nation's veterans.
On January 7 the Miami, Oklahoma, post of V.F.W. passed a
resolution: "Major General Smedley D. Butler should be commended
for his high type of patriotism in exposing the alleged plot to
establish a dictatorship in the United States, and . . .
Franklin D. Roosevelt, President, and citizens of the United
States, should express their appreciation of this exposure."
A movement began within the V.F.W. to have each post reaffirm
its loyalty to the President and the Constitution. "This, in my
opinion, would serve notice upon all plotters against our
government," wrote Henry S. Drezner, V.F.W. official of a
Brooklyn post, "that the Veterans will not stand idly by while
an attempt should be made to destroy our form of government."
On January 31 a New Jersey veteran wrote Butler, "General, at
this time I can say you have 95 percent of the New Jersey
veterans in back of you in anything you do."
Two weeks later Dickstein declared that he intended to seek a
new congressional appropriation to press a thorough
investigation into Butler's charges.
"General Butler's charges were too serious to be dropped without
further investigation," Dickstein insisted. "He is a man of
unquestioned sincerity and integrity. Furthermore, in my
opinion, his statements were not denied or refuted. I think the
matter should be gone into thoroughly and completely and I
intend asking Congress for funds to make such an investigation.
The country should know the full truth about these reputed
overtures to General Butler. If there are individuals or
interests who have ideas and plans such as he testified to, they
should be dragged out into the open."
February 15 McCormack submitted to the House of Representatives
the committee's findings in the investigation:
In the last few weeks of the committee's official life it
received evidence showing that certain persons had made an
attempt to establish a fascist organization in this country.
No evidence was presented and this committee had none to show a
connection between this effort and any fascist activity of any
There is no question that these attempts were discussed, were
planned, and might have been placed in execution when and if the
financial backers deemed it expedient.
This committee received evidence from Maj. Gen Smedley D. Butler
(retired), twice decorated by the Congress of the United States.
He testified before the committee as to conversations with one
Gerald C. MacGuire in which the latter is alleged to have
suggested the formation of a fascist army under the leadership
of General Butler (p. 9-114 D.C. 6 II).
MacGuire denied these allegations under oath, but your
committee was able to verify all the pertinent statements made
by General Butler,* with the
exception of the direct statement suggesting the creation of the
organization. This, however, was corroborated in the
correspondence of MacGuire with his principal, Robert Sterling
Clark, of New York City, while MacGuire was abroad studying the
various forms of veterans organizations of Fascist character (p.
111 D.C. 611).
There was also corroboration of this point in French's
testimony. The committee then cited an excerpt from the letter
MacGuire had written to Clark and Christmas from France praising
the Croix de Feu as a model veterans organization.
This committee asserts that any efforts based on lines as
suggested in the foregoing and leading off to the extreme right,
are just as bad as efforts which would lead to the extreme left.
Armed forces for the purpose of establishing a dictatorship by
means of Fascism or a dictatorship through the instrumentality
of the proleteriat, or a dictatorship predicated on racial and
religious hatreds, have no place in this country.
This total vindication of Butler did not burst like a bombshell
across the front pages of America. Instead, as Seldes noted,
"Most newspapers again suppressed or buried or belittled the
The New York Times made no mention of the plot in its headlines
on the committee's report, emphasizing instead the committee's
proposal that all foreign propagandists-Fascist, Nazi, and
Communist-be compelled to register with the State Department. In
the fifth and sixth paragraphs of the story the Times briefly
It also alleged that definite proof had been found that the much
publicized Fascist march on Washington, which was to have been
led by Major Gen. Smedley D. Butler, retired, according to
testimony at a hearing, was actually contemplated. The committee
recalled testimony by General Butler, saying he had testified
that Gerald C. MacGuire had tried to persuade him to accept the
leadership of a Fascist army.
And that was all.
John L. Spivak had been tipped off earlier by a fellow
Washington correspondent that some of Butler's testimony had
been deleted in the committee's November 26, 1934 report to the
House of Representatives, and not for national security reasons.
Spivak determined to get a look at the complete uncensored
record of the testimony given at the executive session.
He had asked for permission to see it, in order to follow up
leads on Nazi activities in the United States, but he had been
turned down on grounds that no one outside the committee and its
employees could sec transcripts of testimony taken in executive
Other newsmen, however, joined him in pressing for a copy of the
Butler testimony. It was then that the defunct
McCormack-Dickstein Committee, possibly to quiet persistent
rumors about why it was being hushed up, decided to publish a
125-page document containing the testimony of Butler, McGuire,
and others, on February 15, 1935. It was marked "Extracts," and
the last page explained why:
In making public the foregoing evidence, which was taken in
executive session in New York City from November 20 to 24,
inclusive, the committee has ordered stricken there-from certain
immaterial and incompetent evidence, or evidence which was not
pertinent to the inquiry, and which would not have been received
during a public hearing.
Spivak's newshawk instincts did not let him fully accept this
explanation, because he knew that the committee had published
hearsay evidence. Like a terrier worrying a rag doll, he
persisted in trying to find out what evidence had been cut.
Other questions nagged at him. Why had the committee at first
announced it would subpoena all those named by Butler, only to
declare later that it had no evidence on which to question them?
Was the clue to this abrupt change of mind to be found in the
A veteran Washington correspondent told Spivak that he had heard
the deletions had been made at the request of a member of the
President's Cabinet. The implication was that release of certain
names could embarrass the Democratic party, because two had been
unsuccessful Democratic candidates for the Presidency -John W.
Davis, the Morgan lawyer, and A1 Smith, governor of New York
Davis had been named in the committee's press release, but not
A1 Smith, the erstwhile "happy warrior" from the slums of New
York who had become codirector with Irenee du Pont in the
American Liberty League, and a bitter critic of Roosevelt's
liberalism and New Deal reform.
Spivak tried everything to check out the story but found himself
up against a brick wall at every turn.
He had been tipped off earlier that the House of Representatives
intended to let the McCormack-Dickstein Committee expire on
January 3, 1935, rather than renew it as the committee had asked
in order to continue its investigations. And die the committee
About a week later, seeking to do a story on its accomplishments
in exposing Nazi and anti-Semitic activities in the United
States, Spivak won permission from Dickstein to examine the
committee's official exhibits and make photostatic copies of
those that had been made public. Dickstein wrote a letter to
this effect to the committee's secretary, Frank P. Randolph, and
added, "If necessary consult John [McCormack] about it."
Randolph, flooded with work involved in closing the committee's
files and records, gave Spivak stacks of documents, exhibits,
and transcripts of testimony that were being sent to the
Government Printing Office. To Spivak's amazement, he found
among these records a full transcript of the executive session
hearings in the Butler affair.
Excited by this accidental stroke of luck, he compared it with
the official extract of the hearings and found a number of
startling omissions made from the testimony of both Butler and
French, some of which could not be justified on grounds of
hearsay evidence. Spivak copied down the censored material.
In 1971 I asked former Speaker McCormack if he could recall,
after thirty-four years, the reasons for these omissions from
the official record of the testimony at the hearings.
"I don't recall striking anything from the record," he told me,
"but if I did, it was because I tried to be as careful as I
could about hearsay evidence in open hearings. Executive
hearings were different. We'd let people say anything there
because we'd get lots of valuable tips to follow up that way.
But in open hearings I insisted that all the evidence had to be
pertinent, relevant, and germane-evidence that would stand up in
a courtroom to the nth degree. I don't think all investigative
committees follow this method, but they should. I wanted to be
very careful about safeguarding the character of anyone who
might be named, without hard evidence, by a witness in testimony
at an open hearing, so if somebody gave hearsay evidence, I
would say, `Strike it out."'
Omissions from the official record of some revelations from the
testimony of Butler and French gave the American press, with a
few minor exceptions, a legitimate excuse to keep silent about
them. It was significant that none of the biggest newspaper
chains or wire services saw fit to assign crack reporters to dig
into what was obviously one of the biggest news stories of the
John L. Spivak could not help wondering why MacGuire, the key to
the plot, had not been compelled to testify on where and how he
had obtained his advance inside information about AI Smith's
plans, Hugh Johnson's firing, and the appearance of the American
Liberty League; or why he had not been asked to reveal the
sources of his information about the Morgan and Du Pont
interests' involvement in the plot.
Worst of all, no one involved in the plot had been prosecuted.
Spivak went to the Department of justice and pointed out that
MacGuire had denied essential parts of Butler's testimony, which
the committee itself reported it had proved by documents, bank
records, and letters. Did the department intend to file a
criminal prosecution against MacGuire for perjury or involvement
in the plot?
"I was told," Spivak reported, "it had no plans to prosecute."
Roger Baldwin, director of the American Civil Liberties Union,
issued an angry statement on the curious apathy of the justice
Department in punishing any of the miscreants:
The Congressional Committee investigating un-American activities
has just reported that the Fascist plot to seize the government
. . . was proved; yet not a single participant will be
prosecuted under the perfectly plain language of the federal
conspiracy act making this a high crime. Imagine the action if
such a plot were discovered among Communists!
Which is, of course, only to emphasize the nature of our
government as representative of the interests of the controllers
of property. Violence, even to the seizure of government, is
excusable on the part of those whose lofty motive is to preserve
the profit system. . . .
Powerful influences had obviously been brought to bear to cut
short the hearings, stop subpoenas from being issued to all the
important figures involved, and end the life of the committee.
The Philadelphia Record, which broke the story by French, had
these observations in an editorial:
General Butler deserves the highest praise for recognizing the
significance of the offers made to him, and the menace they
represent. "I'm a democrat, not a Fascist," General Butler says,
"and I was sick and tired of being linked by rumor to this
Fascist movement and that one. I believe in the right to vote,
the right to speak freely and the right to write whatever one
believes. . . . I am certainly not going to lead a movement to
destroy the very principles in which I believe." General Butler
performed a great public service and showed himself a true
American by taking his information to the McCormack committee.
The Record condemned phony "popular" movements like the National
Economy League, a front for big business, and added:
Some of the same interests behind the League, according to
General Butler, are behind this effort to use him and his
soldier following in defense of special privilege in America.
The same people who succeeded in slashing aid to veterans would
like to use those same veterans as their pawns in a war on
The folk who want Fascism in this country are the same folk who
made profit while others bled and who would rather see the
veteran starve than unbalance the budget, i.e., add to the
burden of taxes on great wealth. They did it in Italy. They did
it in Germany. They did it in Austria. They will try to do it in
America. . . . General Butler has nipped one such movement in
John L. Spivak had shrewd observations about the reasons the
conspirators had failed dismally in their treason:
The takeover plot failed because though those involved had
astonishing talents for making breathtaking millions of dollars,
they lacked an elementary understanding of people and the moral
forces that activate them. In a money-standard civilization such
as ours, the universal regard for anyone who is rich tends to
persuade some millionaires that they are knowledgeable in fields
other than the making of money. The conspirators went about the
plot as if they were hiring an office manager; all they needed
was to send a messenger to the man they had selected.
And with incredible ineptitude, they had selected the wrong man.
Was it possible that MacGuire had exaggerated to both Butler and
French about the powerful and influential figures involved in
the plot, in order to impress Butler into accepting the
leadership of the Fascist putsch that MacGuire was in charge of
It is conceivable that some of those named by MacGuire as under
consideration for the role of dictator or subordinate posit ions
of leadership had no knowledge of this fact, although Van Zandt
reported that he, for one, had been approached. It is unlikely
that Douglas MacArthur, as Chief of Staff and a stiff-necked
hero with patriotic credentials as unchallengeable as Butler's,
would have had any unsavory dealings with the plotters, however
patrician his outlook.
As for involvement of the American Legion, MacGuire had
obviously been influential enough in the organization to have
been made chairman of the "distinguished guest committee" of its
convention, on the staff of National Commander Louis Johnson,
former Secretary of Defense and head of a large law firm in
Clarksburg, West Virginia.
There is solid evidence that MacGuire had been able to use the
Legion to do multimillionaire Robert S. Clark's bidding and get
the Legion to pass a resolution demanding a return to the gold
MacGuire was certainly financed by Clark, Christmas, Walter E.
Frew, of the Corn Exchange Bank, and others through the
Committee for a Sound Dollar and Sound Currency, Inc., of which
MacGuire was an official. And the McCormack-Dickstein Committee
verified that he had been sent abroad to study Fascist
organizations in Europe as models for creating one in America
and had reported favorably to Clark and Christmas about the
Croix de Feu.
MacGuire had outlined to Butler and French the conspirators'
plans for a putsch, indicating it would easily succeed in just a
few days because a "big fellow" organization-later identified by
Butler and French as the American Liberty League-was behind it
with money and arms.
He might have been boasting falsely about having had his
headquarters while in Paris at the offices of Morgan and Hodges
and about the involvement of the Morgan interests in the plot.
The McCormack-Dickstein Committee failed to pursue this line of
investigation, but a remarkable number of "coincidences" linked
the Morgan interests to various facets of the plot.
Colonel Grayson M.-P. Murphy, MacGuire's boss who had supported
his denial of Butler's charges by insisting, "I don't believe
there is a word of truth in it with respect to Mr. MacGuire,"
was a director of a Morgan bank. Butler testified that Clark had
implicated John W. Davis, attorney for J. P. Morgan and Company,
as author of the speech Clark had given MacGuire to get Butler
to deliver at the Legion convention. Davis was the same man from
whom MacGuire had declared he could easily raise a million
dollars for his Fascist army. MacGuire had also revealed to
Butler that the same financial interests who had been behind the
gold-standard propaganda were financing the plot to seize the
The formation of the American Liberty League had been announced
precisely at the time MacGuire had predicted the emergence of an
organization of "big fellows" who were in the background of the
Fascist putsch. Its treasurer had been none other than Colonel
Grayson M.-P. Murphy. One of its financial backers was Robert S.
Clark. Two of the largest contributors had been the J. P. Morgan
Associates and the Du Pont interests. John W. Davis was a member
of the National Executive Committee. Morgan and Du Pont men were
directors. And MacGuire had told French that the putsch could
obtain arms and equipment from the Remington Arms Company, in
which the Du Ponts held a controlling interest, on credit
through the Du Ponts.
The presence of ex-Governor AI Smith in the American Liberty
League baffled many Americans who could not understand what the
former poor kid from the Bowery was doing mixed up with
America's richest ultraconservatives. Few realized that
following his defection from the Roosevelt camp, Smith entered
private business as chairman of the board of the New York County
Trust Company and joined in erecting the Empire State Building,
of which he was corporation president.
His alliance with Raskob and the Du Ponts in the League brought
charges that he had "forsaken the brown derby for the top hat."
When he failed to stop Roosevelt's renomination in 1936, he
stumped for Republican candidate Alf Landon, losing much of his
former popularity in the process and speaking to dwindling,
Were all the interlacing connections linking MacGuire, Clark,
Colonel Murphy, and the Morgan and Du Pont interests to the plot
only a series of remarkable coincidences? If so, another unique
coincidence led the American Liberty League to subsidize such
affiliated organizations as the openly Fascist and anti-Semitic
Sentinels of the Republic and the Crusaders, who were urged by
their leader, George W. Christians, to consider lynching
One night when the President was scheduled to arrive in
Chattanooga, Christians threatened to cut off the city's
electric power and warned grimly, "Lots of things can happen in
the dark!" This protege of the American Liberty League was kept
under surveillance by the Secret Service.
As Donald R. McCoy observed in his book, Coming o f Age: The
United States During the 1920's and 1930's, ". . . it was clear
to most people that the organization [American Liberty League]
was playing the same game on the Right as the radical groups
were playing on the Left, to influence the [Roosevelt]
administration and if unsuccessful to oppose it. As James Farley
would later say, the American Liberty League. `ought to be
called the American Cellophane League' because, `first it's a Du
Pont product and second, you can see right through it."'
Finally, one must consider the outlook of the conspirators
against the background of the times. During the feverish
atmosphere of the early New Deal days, big business was
horrified by Roosevelt's drastic surgery on the broken-down
machinery of the capitalist system. The savage hatred of "that
cripple in the White House" represented the most bitter
animosity big business had ever manifested toward any President
in American history.
Their hate campaign was echoed by the vast majority of
newspapers, like the Hearst press, which had originally
supported the President, then denounced him as a dictator.
Roosevelt had been compelled to turn to "fireside chats" over
the radio in order to communicate with the American people over
the heads of the press lords.
In that emotional climate it was not at all surprising that some
elements of big business should have sought to emulate their
counterparts in Germany and Italy, supporting a Fascist putsch
to take over the government and run it under a dictator on
behalf of America's bankers and industrialists.
That it did not happen here could be credited largely to the
patriotism and determination of one courageous American-Major
General Smedley Darlington Butler.
*The reader who wishes to examine the official
testimony is referred to the government report, Investigation of
Nazi Propaganda Activities and Investigation of Certain Other
Propaganda Activities: Public Hearings Before the Special
Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives,
Seventy-third Congress, Second Session, at Washington, D.C.,
December 29, zg34. Hearings No. 73-D.C.-6, Part 1. Extracts of
the censored testimony are revealed in the books A Man in His
Time, by John L. Spivak, and 1000 Americans, by George Seldes.
*Italics are the author's."
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