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Published on Dec 21, 2008
The "Business Plot" (also the Plot Against FDR and the White House Putsch) was an alleged political conspiracy in 1933 wherein wealthy businessmen and corporations plotted a coup détat to overthrow United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1934, the Business Plot was publicly revealed by retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler testifying to the McCormack-Dickstein Congressional Committee. In his testimony, Butler claimed that a group of men had approached him as part of a plot to overthrow Roosevelt in a military coup. One of the alleged plotters, Gerald MacGuire, vehemently denied any such plot. In their final report, the Congressional committee supported Butler's allegations of the existence of the plot, but no prosecutions or further investigations followed, and the matter was mostly forgotten.
On July 17, 1932, thousands of World War I veterans converged on Washington, D.C., set up tent camps, and demanded immediate payment of bonuses due them according to the Adjusted Service Certificate Law of 1924. This "Bonus Army" was led by Walter W. Waters, a former Army sergeant. The Army was encouraged by an appearance from retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, who had considerable influence over the veterans, being one of the most popular military figures of the time. A few days after Butler's arrival, President Herbert Hoover ordered the marchers removed, and their camps were destroyed by US Army cavalry troops under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. Butler, although a self-described Republican, responded by supporting Roosevelt in that year's election.
In a 1995 History Today article Clayton Cramer argued that the devastation of the Great Depression had caused many Americans to question the foundations of liberal democracy. "Many traditionalists, here and in Europe, toyed with the ideas of Fascism and National Socialism; many liberals dallied with Socialism and Communism." Cramer argues that this explains why some American business leaders viewed fascism as a viable system to both preserve their interests and end the economic woes of the Depression.