Smedley Butler and the Plot Against FDR


In November 1934 Major General Smedley Butler made headlines by alleging that he had been in contact with businessmen since July 1, 1933 who wanted him to lead a coup attempt against FDR.  The allegations became known as the Business Plot.  Congressional hearings concluded that there might be some substance behind the allegations, but that they could not be confirmed.



Contemporary press accounts indicate a wide spread belief that Butler fabricated the whole thing. Butler was passed over as Commandant of the Marine Corp in 1931 because he publicly accused Mussolini, falsely, in a speech of having run over a child. He never got over it and he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1932 as a Republican. He then turned hard left, attacking capitalism and the military as being gangsters for the capitalists. That is what makes his entire idea of a fascist plot against FDR so laughable. By 1934 he was known as an ardent supporter of FDR and yet shadowy plutocrats wanted him to command a coup against Roosevelt? FDR obviously thought it was rubbish as there were no criminal prosecutions by the Feds of anyone named by Butler. Butler was a very brave man as attested by his two Medals of Honor. He was also a fabulist, to put it politely, of the first order.

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  1. An old French diplomat once told me that there would never be a military coup in the United States; there is no American embassy in the United States.

  2. Ego and guts (arete and hubris in Greek tragedy) but, apparently, he had little or no moral courage/foundation. How could a morally grounded person flip from early-twenth-century Republican (unsuccessful Senate candidate) to uber-bolshevist – one more “useful idiot”? The conspiracy theory contra FDR may shed light.

    He remains a darling of the post-modern, American useful idiot, aka Obama-worshipping imbecile.

  3. “Well MPS, the French certainly have the expertise when it comes to military coups.”

    Ouch! What a double edged dagger! The French may have one type of expertise overseas, but another at home! Considering the aftermath of the Dreyfuss Affair and the OAS attempts on De Gaulle, the home grown attempts look more like Inspector Clouseau on steroids.

  4. True, but the Directory may have been easy pickings after all of its fratricidal violence and anarchy. As a relief, Napoleon Bonaparte then becomes the exception proving the rule, as the saying goes.

  5. TomD wrote, “Considering the aftermath of the Dreyfuss Affair and the OAS attempts on De Gaulle, the home grown attempts look more like Inspector Clouseau on steroids.”
    Who can forget the coup of 2 December 1851, when Prince Louis-Napoléon, then President of the Second Republic, organised a successful military coup to overthrow himself, leading to the establishment of the Second Empire?
    Marx sardonically observed, “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”
    John Clerk’s words to the second Lord Meadowbank are equally applicable to the uncle and the nephew; on that judge doubting the distinction between “also” and “likewise,” Clerk retorted, “Your Lordship’s father was Lord Meadowbank ; your Lordship is Lord Meadowbank also, but not likewise.”

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