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William B Stoecker

The coup that never was

April 1, 2013 | Comment icon 1 comment
Image Credit: Susan Sterner
In 1933 Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler testified before Congress about a coup being planned against President Franklin Delano Roosevelt by powerful corporate CEOs and former military officers that has since been called the "Business Plot." He claimed that the plotters opposed FDR's socialistic New Deal policies and intended to overthrow the President and make him, General Butler, dictator. He had been told of the plot by a man claiming to have been one of its agents, one Gerald MacGuire, but General Butler refused to go along with it and was now intent on warning Congress and the President.

General Butler (7/30/1881-6/21/1940), who was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, had enlisted in the USMC at an early age and been commissioned later, despite never having attended the Naval Academy or having a university decree. He was highly decorated; among his many medals was the Medal of Honor, which he had been awarded twice. He had fought in the Boxer Rebellion, WWI, and the "Banana Wars" of the twenties and thirties, which appeared to many people to have no real purpose other than to protect the Central American interests of United Fruit and other large American companies. This was certainly the main reason why a disillusioned General Butler later wrote his book War is a Racket. But the general, despite his heroism, had once briefly panicked in combat, reportedly drank heavily, and had once suffered a nervous breakdown. Some officers considered him to be a bit unstable and unreliable. He had supported the "Bonus Army" of 7/17/1932, composed of a large number of WWI veterans who marched on Washington and camped in the city to demand a promised pay bonus, desperately needed in that Depression year. At one point he announced his distrust of free market capitalism.

Gerald MacGuire and his associate Bill Doyle were both military veterans and leaders in the American Legion. They alleged that the main plotters were retired Army Brigadier General Hugh Johnson, John W. Davis, Lt. General James Harbord, Thomas W. Lamont, Vice Admiral William Sims, Hanford MacNider, and Robert Sterling Clark.

General Johnson actually worked for FDR, helping to administer his New Deal, and only broke with the President in 1937, over FDR's apparently unconstitutional attempt to "pack" the Supreme Court with extra judges sympathetic to his goals. He would seem to be a most unlikely plotter.

John W. Davis was a Democrat, like FDR, albeit a fairly conservative Southern Democrat. Far from being a representative of corporate interests, he thought they were too powerful and prone to be unscrupulous. Davis was a Rockefeller Foundation trustee and the first President of the Council on Foreign Relations, or CFR. These are precisely the elite organizations that most of us conspiracy researchers believe supported FDR and put him in power. He was their man, and they continued to support him. Davis, too, hardly seems the type to plot against FDR.

Lt. General Harbord was a WWI veteran who retired from the Army in 1922 and became the President of the Radio Corporation of America, or RCA. Other than MacGuire's claim, there is no other evidence that Harbord was plotting against FDR or even that he was an outspoken critic of the President.

Thomas W. Lamont, a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard, was a wealthy banker, a partner with J.P. Morgan and Company, and a member of the CFR. In other words, he was a high ranking member of the Establishment, like FDR himself. Bear in mind that it was this Establishment, principally the CFR, that put FDR in power. Roosevelt was a wealthy man, and a member of a prominent, old money family.

Vice Admiral William Sims was 75 years old at the time of the plot. Reportedly, during WWI he was not happy with Roosevelt's performance as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, but he was not known to be a critic of him as President. Admiral Sims had no known connection to banking interests or large corporations.

Hanford MacNider, a Harvard graduate, had been an officer in WWI and was recalled to duty in WWII, where he was wounded and decorated and rose to the rank of Brigadier General. He had been Assistant Secretary of War during the Coolidge Administration, and President Hoover's Ambassador to Canada. But, aside from his connection to Republican administrations, he hardly seems a likely enemy of FDR; he was a member of the same Establishment as the President, and, like Roosevelt himself, was a thirty second degree Freemason.

Robert Sterling Clark, heir to the fortune of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, was a Yale graduate. It is quite likely that, as a prominent and wealthy young man attending Yale, he would have been initiated into the sinister Skull and Bones secret society, like so many of America's powerful people in and out of government (including the Bush clan). Clark had actually served under General Butler during the Boxer Rebellion. Once again, we have here a member of the same Establishment that had put FDR in power to begin with.

So was there a real attempt at a coup? There is absolutely no evidence for it, other than MacGuire's claims. Had there been evidence of a real plot against the powerful FDR, rest assured that he would have used the FBI and any other resources needed to unearth the proof and eliminate his enemies. Most of the alleged plotters, as noted above, seem most unlikely to have planned the overthrow of a President who was a member of the same Establishment as themselves. By the time of the FDR regime, the unholy alliance of banksters, CEOs and major shareholders of large corporations, and government was already well established. In a pattern that has continued to this day, wealthy "liberal" and "progressive" politicians have spewed endless rhetoric about helping the poor and redistributing income, but, in reality, have bought the votes of the urban poor with welfare payments while, in the main, redistributing the wealth of the working middle class to the very banks and corporations they pretend to oppose…it's called "crony capitalism." Arguably, a coup was needed to avert the ruin FDR brought upon us, with economic policies that actually lengthened and worsened the Great Depression, while giving out small handouts that were like a band aid on a melanoma skin cancer. And it was FDR who led us into WWII after promising to keep us out of the conflict, using, as a pretext, the attack on Pearl Harbor which, many of us believe, he helped to bring about. But there was no group of rational and honorable men with the power to orchestrate such a coup. The whole affair seems to have originated in the imagination of Gerald MacGuire. General Butler, lacking both formal education and broad experience, was just the man to fall for it. Whether it was a deliberate fabrication or something MacGuire had convinced himself was real, we will never know.[!gad]In 1933 Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler testified before Congress about a coup being planned against President Franklin Delano Roosevelt by powerful corporate CEOs and former military officers that has since been called the "Business Plot." He claimed that the plotters opposed FDR's socialistic New Deal policies and intended to overthrow the President and make him, General Butler, dictator. He had been told of the plot by a man claiming to have been one of its agents, one Gerald MacGuire, but General Butler refused to go along with it and was now intent on warning Congress and the President.

General Butler (7/30/1881-6/21/1940), who was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, had enlisted in the USMC at an early age and been commissioned later, despite never having attended the Naval Academy or having a university decree. He was highly decorated; among his many medals was the Medal of Honor, which he had been awarded twice. He had fought in the Boxer Rebellion, WWI, and the "Banana Wars" of the twenties and thirties, which appeared to many people to have no real purpose other than to protect the Central American interests of United Fruit and other large American companies. This was certainly the main reason why a disillusioned General Butler later wrote his book War is a Racket. But the general, despite his heroism, had once briefly panicked in combat, reportedly drank heavily, and had once suffered a nervous breakdown. Some officers considered him to be a bit unstable and unreliable. He had supported the "Bonus Army" of 7/17/1932, composed of a large number of WWI veterans who marched on Washington and camped in the city to demand a promised pay bonus, desperately needed in that Depression year. At one point he announced his distrust of free market capitalism.

Gerald MacGuire and his associate Bill Doyle were both military veterans and leaders in the American Legion. They alleged that the main plotters were retired Army Brigadier General Hugh Johnson, John W. Davis, Lt. General James Harbord, Thomas W. Lamont, Vice Admiral William Sims, Hanford MacNider, and Robert Sterling Clark.

General Johnson actually worked for FDR, helping to administer his New Deal, and only broke with the President in 1937, over FDR's apparently unconstitutional attempt to "pack" the Supreme Court with extra judges sympathetic to his goals. He would seem to be a most unlikely plotter.

John W. Davis was a Democrat, like FDR, albeit a fairly conservative Southern Democrat. Far from being a representative of corporate interests, he thought they were too powerful and prone to be unscrupulous. Davis was a Rockefeller Foundation trustee and the first President of the Council on Foreign Relations, or CFR. These are precisely the elite organizations that most of us conspiracy researchers believe supported FDR and put him in power. He was their man, and they continued to support him. Davis, too, hardly seems the type to plot against FDR.

Lt. General Harbord was a WWI veteran who retired from the Army in 1922 and became the President of the Radio Corporation of America, or RCA. Other than MacGuire's claim, there is no other evidence that Harbord was plotting against FDR or even that he was an outspoken critic of the President.

Thomas W. Lamont, a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard, was a wealthy banker, a partner with J.P. Morgan and Company, and a member of the CFR. In other words, he was a high ranking member of the Establishment, like FDR himself. Bear in mind that it was this Establishment, principally the CFR, that put FDR in power. Roosevelt was a wealthy man, and a member of a prominent, old money family.

Vice Admiral William Sims was 75 years old at the time of the plot. Reportedly, during WWI he was not happy with Roosevelt's performance as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, but he was not known to be a critic of him as President. Admiral Sims had no known connection to banking interests or large corporations.

Hanford MacNider, a Harvard graduate, had been an officer in WWI and was recalled to duty in WWII, where he was wounded and decorated and rose to the rank of Brigadier General. He had been Assistant Secretary of War during the Coolidge Administration, and President Hoover's Ambassador to Canada. But, aside from his connection to Republican administrations, he hardly seems a likely enemy of FDR; he was a member of the same Establishment as the President, and, like Roosevelt himself, was a thirty second degree Freemason.

Robert Sterling Clark, heir to the fortune of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, was a Yale graduate. It is quite likely that, as a prominent and wealthy young man attending Yale, he would have been initiated into the sinister Skull and Bones secret society, like so many of America's powerful people in and out of government (including the Bush clan). Clark had actually served under General Butler during the Boxer Rebellion. Once again, we have here a member of the same Establishment that had put FDR in power to begin with.

So was there a real attempt at a coup? There is absolutely no evidence for it, other than MacGuire's claims. Had there been evidence of a real plot against the powerful FDR, rest assured that he would have used the FBI and any other resources needed to unearth the proof and eliminate his enemies. Most of the alleged plotters, as noted above, seem most unlikely to have planned the overthrow of a President who was a member of the same Establishment as themselves. By the time of the FDR regime, the unholy alliance of banksters, CEOs and major shareholders of large corporations, and government was already well established. In a pattern that has continued to this day, wealthy "liberal" and "progressive" politicians have spewed endless rhetoric about helping the poor and redistributing income, but, in reality, have bought the votes of the urban poor with welfare payments while, in the main, redistributing the wealth of the working middle class to the very banks and corporations they pretend to oppose…it's called "crony capitalism." Arguably, a coup was needed to avert the ruin FDR brought upon us, with economic policies that actually lengthened and worsened the Great Depression, while giving out small handouts that were like a band aid on a melanoma skin cancer. And it was FDR who led us into WWII after promising to keep us out of the conflict, using, as a pretext, the attack on Pearl Harbor which, many of us believe, he helped to bring about. But there was no group of rational and honorable men with the power to orchestrate such a coup. The whole affair seems to have originated in the imagination of Gerald MacGuire. General Butler, lacking both formal education and broad experience, was just the man to fall for it. Whether it was a deliberate fabrication or something MacGuire had convinced himself was real, we will never know. Comments (1)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Detective Mystery 2013 11 years ago
Smedley Butler was a hero! He was the only soldier to win *two* Congressional Medals of Honor. His most famous quote was, "war is a racket." He was raised in a Quaker home.


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