FDR; Man on the White Horse

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. 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 . . . your committee was able to verify all the pertinent statements made by General Butler....

John W. McCormack, Chairman, Special Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, February 15, 1935.

Just before Christmas 1934, news of a bizarre plot to install a dictator in the White House surfaced in Washington and New York, and the story—one of unparalleled significance—was promptly smothered by Congress and the establishment press.1

On November 21, 1934 The New York Times printed the first portion of the Butler story as told to the House Un-American Activities Committee, giving it front-page treatment and an intriguing lead paragraph:

A plot of Wall Street interests to overthrow President Roosevelt and establish a fascist dictatorship, backed by a private army of 500,000 ex-soldiers and others, was charged by Major Gen. Smedley D. Butler, retired Marine Corps officer. . . .

The New York Times report added that General Butler, ". . . had told friends . . . that General Hugh S. Johnson, former NRA administrator, was scheduled for the role of dictator, and J.P. Morgan & Co. as well as Murphy & Co. were behind the plot."

After this promising opening, The New York Times reporting gradually faded away and finally disappeared. Fortunately, enough information has since surfaced to demonstrate that the Butler Affair or the Plot to Seize the White House is an integral part of our story of FDR and Wall Street.


The central figure in the plot was Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, a colorful, popular, widely known Marine Corps officer, twice decorated with the Congressional Medal of Honor and a veteran of 33 years of military service. General Butler testified in 1934 to the McCormack-Dickstein Committee investigating Nazi and Communist activities in the United States that a plan for a White House dictatorship was outlined to him by two members of the American Legion: Gerald C. MacGuire, who worked for Grayson M-P. Murphy & Co., 52 Broadway, New York City, and Bill Doyle, whom Butler identified as an officer of the American Legion. General Butler testified that these men wanted to "unseat the Royal Family in control of the American Legion at the Convention to be held in Chicago, and [were] very anxious to have me take part in it." A scheme was outlined to General Butler: he was to come before the convention as a legion delegate from Honolulu; there would be two or three hundred American Legion members in the audience; and "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."

The prepared speech was to be written by Morgan associate John W. Davis. To prove his Wall Street financial backing, MacGuire showed General Butler a bank book listing deposits of $42,000 and $64,000 and mentioned that their source was Grayson M-P. Murphy, director of Guaranty Trust Company and other Morgan-controlled companies. A millionaire banker, Robert S. Clark, with offices in the Stock Exchange Building at 11 Wall Street, was also involved.

Robert Clark was incidentally known to General Butler from his China campaign days. MacGuire and Doyle also offered Butler a substantial sum to make a similar speech before the convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at Miami Beach. According to MacGuire, his group had investigated the background of Mussolini and Italian fascism, Hitler's organization in Germany, and the Croix de Feu in France and hinted that it was time to establish a similar organization in the United States. General Butler testified to the Congressional committee about MacGuire's statement in the following words:

He said, "The time has come now to get the soldiers together."
"Yes," I said, "I think so, too." 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 2 or 3 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 super soldiers." 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 super organization 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 10 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."2

What would be the objective of this super organization? According to the previously cited New York Times,3 General Butler is reported to have testified that the affair was an attempted coup d'etat to overthrow President Roosevelt and replace him with a fascist dictator. This interpretation is repeated by Archer, Seldes, and other writers. However, this was not the accusation made by General Butler to the committee. Butler's precise statement concerning the projected organization, the use to which it was to be put when established, and the role of President Roosevelt is as follows; General Butler reported on his conversation with MacGuire:

I said, "What do you want to do with it when you get it up?"
"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."
"Is he?"
"Well, what are you going to do with these men, suppose you get these 500,000 men in America? What are you going to do with them?"
"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? Now, we have got him—we have got the President. 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 got to do something about it. 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 explain it?"
He said: "He will not necessarily have to explain it, because 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 super secretary.
CHAIRMAN [Congressman McCormack]. 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. They had both talked about the same kind of relief that ought to be given the President, and he 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. I said, "So that is where you got this idea?"
He said: "I have been traveling around looking around. Now, about this super organization—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 500,000 soldiers advocating anything smelling of Fascism, I am going to get 500,000 more and lick the hell 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."4

In other words, the Wall Street plot was not to dispose of President Roosevelt at all, but to kick him upstairs and install an Assistant President with absolute powers. Just why it was necessary to go to the trouble of installing an Assistant President is unclear because the Vice President was in office. In any event, it was planned to run the United States with a Secretary of General Affairs, and the gullible American public would accept this under the guise of necessary protection from a communist take-over.

At this point it is interesting to recall the role of many of these same financiers and financial firms in the Bolshevik Revolution—a role, incidentally, that could not have been known to General Butler5—and the use of similar Red scare tactics in the 1922 United Americans organization. Grayson M-P. Murphy was, in the early 1930s, a director of several companies controlled by the J.P. Morgan interests, including the Guaranty Trust Company, prominent in the Bolshevik Revolution, the New York Trust Company, and Bethlehem Steel, and was on the board of Inspiration Copper Company, National Aviation Corporation, Intercontinental Rubber Co., and U.S. & Foreign Securities. John W. Davis, the speech writer for General Butler, was a partner in Davis, Polk, Wardwell, Gardner & Reed of 15 Broad Street. Both Polk and Wardwell of this prestigious law firm, as well as Grayson Murphy, had roles in the Bolshevik Revolution. Further, Davis was also a co-director with Murphy in the Morgan-controlled Guaranty Trust Co. and a co director with Presidential hopeful Al Smith in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., as well as director of the Mutual Life Insurance Co., the U.S. Rubber Co., and American Telephone and Telegraph, the controlling unit of the Bell System.

Fortunately for history. General Butler discussed the offer with an impartial newspaper source at a very early point in his talks with MacGuire and Doyle. The McCormack-Dickstein Committee heard testimony under oath from this confidant, Paul Comley French. French confirmed the facts that he was a reporter for The Philadelphia Record and the The New York Evening Post and that General Butler had told him about the plot in September 1934. Subsequently, on September 13,1934 French went to New York and met with MacGuire. The following is part of French's statement to the Committee:

MR. FRENCH. [I saw] Gerald P. MacGuire in the offices of Grayson M.-P. Murphy & Co., the twelfth floor of 52 Broadway, shortly after 1 o'clock in the afternoon. He has a small private office there and I went into his office. I have here some direct quotes from him. As soon as I left his office I got to a typewriter and made a memorandum of everything that he told me. "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 men over night." 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.
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 [Butler], 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.6


The sworn testimony of General Smedley Butler and Paul French in the committee hearings has a persistent thread. General Butler rambled from time to time, and some parts of his statement are vague, but there is obviously a lot more to the story than an innocent gathering of American Legion members into a super organization. Is there any independent evidence to confirm General Butler and Paul French? Unknown to both Butler and French, Guaranty Trust had been involved in Wall Street maneuverings in the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, so indicating at least a predisposition to mix financial business with dictatorial politics; two of the persons involved in the plot were directors of Guaranty Trust. Also, before the hearings were abruptly halted, the committee heard evidence from an independent source, which confirmed many details recounted by General Butler and Paul French. In December 1934 Captain Samuel Glazier, Commanding Officer of the CCC Camp at Elkridge, Maryland,7 was called before the committee.

On October 2, 1934, testified Captain Glazier, he had received a letter from A.P. Sullivan, Assistant Adjutant General of the U.S. Army, introducing a Mr. Jackson Martindell, "who will be shown every courtesy by you." This letter was sent to Glazier by command of Major General Malone of the U.S. Army. Who was Jackson Martindell? He was a financial counsel with offices at 14 Wall Street, previously associated with Stone & Webster & Blodget, Inc., investment bankers of 120 Broadway, and with Carter, Martindell & Co., investment bankers at 115 Broadway.8 Martindell was a man of substance, living according to The New York Times, ". . . in the centre of a beautiful sixty acre estate" that he had bought from Charles Pfizer,9 and was sufficiently influential for General Malone to arrange a conducted tour of the Elkridge, Maryland Conservation Corps Camp.
Martindell's association with Stone & Webster (120 Broadway) is
significant and by itself warrants a follow-up on his associates in the Wall Street area.

Captain Glazier provided Martindell with the requested camp tour and testified to the committee that Martindell posed numerous questions about a similar camp for men to work in industry rather than in forests. A week or so after the visit. Captain Glazier visited Martindell's New Jersey home, learned that he was a personal friend of General Malone, and was informed that Martindell wanted to organize camps similar to the CCC to train 500,000 young men. The overtones of this talk, as reported by Glazier, were anti-semitic and suggested an attempted coup d'etat in the United States; the organization sponsoring this overthrow was called American Vigilantes, whose emblem was a flag with a red eagle on a blue background in lieu of the German swastika. This was in part an independent verification of General Butler's testimony.


Gerald MacGuire, one of the accused plotters, was called before the committee and testified at length under oath. He stated that he met General Butler in 1933 and that his reasons for visiting Butler were, (1) to discuss the Committee for a Sound Dollar and (2) that he thought Butler would be a "fine man to be commander of the Legion."

MacGuire admitted that he had told General Butler that he was a member of the distinguished guest committee of the American Legion; he had a "hazy recollection" that millionaire Robert S. Clark had talked to Butler, but "denied emphatically" making arrangements for Clark to meet Butler. MacGuire admitted sending Butler postcards from Europe, that he had had a conversation with the general at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, and that he had told Butler that he was going to the convention in Miami. However, when asked whether he had told Butler about the role veterans played in European governments, he replied that he had not, although he stated that he had told Butler that in his opinion "Hitler would not last another year in Germany and that Mussolini was on the skids."10
MacGuire's testimony on his meeting with French differed substantially from French's account:

QUESTION. Now, what did Mr. French call to see you about, Mr. MacGuire?
ANSWER. He called, according to Mr. French's story, to meet me, and to make my acquaintance, because I had known General Butler, and I
was a friend of his, and he wanted to know me, and that was mainly the object of his visit.
QUESTION. Nothing else discussed?
ANSWER. A number of things discussed; yes. The position of the bond market, the stock market; what I thought was a good buy right now; what he could buy if he had seven or eight hundred dollars; the position of the country; the prospects for recovery, and various topics that any two men would discuss if they came together.
QUESTION. Nothing else?
ANSWER. Nothing else, excepting this, Mr. Chairman: As I said yesterday, I believe, when Mr. French came to me, he said. General Butler is, or has, again been approached by two or three organizations—and I think he mentioned one of them as some Vigilante committee of this country— and he said, "What do you think of it?" and I think I said to him, "Why, I don't think the General ought to get mixed up with any of those affairs in this country. I think these fellows are all trying to use him; to use his name for publicity purposes, and to get membership, and I think he ought to keep away from any of these organizations."
QUESTION. Nothing else?
ANSWER. Nothing else. That was the gist of the entire conversation.11

MacGuire further testified that he worked for Grayson Murphy and that Robert S. Clark had put up $300,000 to form the Committee for a Sound Dollar.

The McCormack-Dickstein Committee was able to confirm the fact that Robert Sterling Clark transmitted money to MacGuire for political purposes:

He [MacGuire] further testified that this money was given him by Mr. Clark long after the Chicago Convention of the Legion, and that he had also received from Walter E. Frew of the Corn Exchange Bank & Trust Co. the sum of $1,000, which was also placed to the credit of the Sound Money Committee.
MacGuire then testified that he had received from Robert Sterling Clark approximately $7200, for his traveling expenses to, in and from Europe, to which had been added the sum of $2500 on another occasion and $1000 at another time, and he stated under oath, that he had not received anything from anybody else and further testified that he had deposited it in his personal account at the Manufacturers Trust Co., 55 Broad Street.
MacGuire further testified that he had a drawing account of $432 a month right now, to which were added some commissions. Later MacGuire testified that the $2500 and the $1000 were in connection with the organization of the Committee for a Sound Dollar.
Chairman McCormack then directed the following question: "Did Mr. Clark contribute any money in any other way, besides the $30,000. and the other sums that you have enumerated he gave to you personally?" to which MacGuire replied, "No sir, he has been asked several times to contribute to different funds, but he has refused."12

In its New York press release the committee noted several discrepancies in MacGuire's testimony on receipt of funds. The section reads as follows:

Neither could MacGuire remember what the purpose of his trip was to Washington or whether he had given the Central Hanover Bank thirteen one thousand dollar bills or that he had bought one of the letters of credit with a certified check drawn on the account of Mr. Christmas.
In the course of the questioning MacGuire could not remember whether he had ever handled thousand dollar bills, and certainly could not remember producing thirteen of them at one time in the bank. It must be remembered in this connection, that the $13,000 purchase with one thousand dollar bills at the bank, came just six days after Butler claims MacGuire showed him eighteen one thousand dollars bills in Newark.
From the foregoing, it can readily be seen that in addition to the $30,000 which Clark gave MacGuire for the Sound Money Committee that he produced approximately $75,000 more which MacGuire reluctantly admitted on being confronted with the evidence.
This $75,000 is shown in the $26,000 that went into the Manufacturers Trust account, $10,000 in currency at the luncheon, the purchase of letters of credit totaling $30,300, of which Christmas' certified check was represented as $15,000, expenses to Europe close to $8,000. This still stands unexplained.
Whether there was more and how much, the Committee does not yet know.13

The committee then asked MacGuire an obvious question: whether he knew Jackson Martindell. Unfortunately, an equally obvious error in MacGuire's answer was allowed to pass by unchallenged. The committee transcript reads as follows:

By the Chairman:
QUESTION. Do you know Mr. Martindell, Mr. MacGuire?
ANSWER. Mr. Martin Dell? No, sir; I do not.
THE CHAIRMAN. Is that his name?
MR. DICKSTEIN. I think so.14

So, in brief, we have three reliable witnesses—General Butler, Paul French, and Captain Samuel Glazier—testifying under oath about plans of a plot to install a dictatorship in the United States. And we have contradictory testimony from Gerald MacGuire that clearly warrants further investigation. Such investigation was at first the committee's stated intention: "The Committee is awaiting the return to this country of both Mr. Clark and Mr. Christmas. As the evidence stands, it calls for an explanation that the Committee has been unable to obtain from Mr. MacGuire."15

But the Committee did not call either Mr. Clark or Mr. Christmas to give evidence. It made no further effort—at least, no further effort appears on the public record—to find an explanation for the inconsistencies and inaccuracies in MacGuire's testimony, testimony that was given to the committee under oath.


The story of an attempted take-over of executive power in the United States was suppressed, not only by parties directly interested, but also by several institutions usually regarded as protectors of constitutional liberty and freedom of inquiry. Among the groups suppressing information were (1) the Congress of the United States, (2) the press, notably Time and The New York Times, and (3) the White House itself. It is also notable that no academic inquiry has been conducted into what is surely one of the more ominous events in recent American history. Suppression is even more regrettable in the light of the current trend toward collectivism in the United States and the likelihood of another attempt at a dictatorial takeover using supposed threats from either the left or the right as a pretext.

Suppression by the House Un-American Activities Committee took the form of deleting extensive excerpts relating to Wall Street financiers including Guaranty Trust director Grayson Murphy, J.P. Morgan, the Du Pont interests, Remington Arms, and others allegedly involved in the plot attempt. Even today, in 1975, a full transcript of the hearings cannot be traced.
Some of the deleted portions of the transcript were unearthed by reporter John Spivak.16 A reference to NRA Administrator Hugh Johnson will show the type of information suppressed; the Committee suppressed the words in italics from the printed testimony; Butler speaks to MacGuire:

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 papers. There will be big fellows in it" . . .and in about two weeks the American Liberty League appeared, which was just about what he described it to be.

We might have an assistant President, somebody to take the blame; and if things do not work out, he can drop him. He said, "That is what he 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 four weeks."
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."17

The testimony of Paul French was also censored by the House Committee. Witness the following extract from French's testimony referring to John W. Davis, J.P. Morgan, the Du Pont Company, and others in Wall Street and which strongly corroborates General Butler's testimony:

At first he [MacGuire] suggested that the General [Butler] 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 it would not be any trouble to raise a million dollars. He said he could go to John W. Davis [attorney for J.P. Morgan & Co.] 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 Bank. During my conversation with him I did not of course commit the General to anything. I was just feeling him along. Later, 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 Pont 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.18

John L. Spivak, the reporter who unearthed the suppression in the Congressional transcripts, challenged Committee Cochairman Samuel Dickstein of New York with his evidence. Dickstein admitted that:

the Committee had deleted certain parts of the testimony because they were hearsay."
"But your published reports are full of hearsay testimony."
"They are?" he said.
"Why wasn't Grayson Murphy called? Your Committee knew that Murphy's men are in the anti-Semitic espionage organization Order of '76?"
"We didn't have the time. We'd have taken care of the Wall Street groups if we had the time. I would have no hesitation in going after the Morgans."
"You had Belgrano, Commander of the American Legion, listed to testify. Why wasn't he examined?"
"I don't know. Maybe you can get Mr. McCormack to explain that. I had nothing to do with it."19

The fact remains that the committee did not call Grayson Murphy, Jackson Martindell, or John W. Davis, all directly accused in sworn testimony. Further, the committee deleted all portions of the testimony involving other prominent persons: J.P. Morgan, the Du Ponts, the Rockefeller interests, Hugh Johnson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. When Congressman Dickstein pleaded his innocence to John Spivak, it was inconsistent with his own letter to President Roosevelt, in which he claims to have placed restrictions even upon public distribution of the committee hearings, as printed, "in order that they might not get into other than responsible hands." The final report issued by the committee in February 15, 1935 buried the story even further. John L. Spivak sums up the burial succinctly: "I... studied the Committee's report. It gave six pages to the threat by Nazi agents operating in this country and eleven pages to the threat by communists. It gave one page to the plot to seize the Government and destroy our democratic system."20

The role of leading newspapers and journals of opinion in reporting the Butler affair is equally suspect. In fact, their handling of the event has the appearance of outright distortion and censorship. The veracity of some major newspapers has been widely questioned in the last 50 years,21 and in some quarters the media have even been accused of a conspiracy to suppress "everything in opposition to the wishes of the interest served." For example, in 1917 Congressman Callaway inserted in The Congressional Record the following devastating critique of Morgan control of the press:

MR. CALLAWAY. Mr. Chairman, under unanimous consent, I insert in the Record at this point a statement showing the newspaper combination, which explains their activity in this war matter, just discussed by the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Moore):
In March, 1915, the J.P. Morgan interests, the steel, shipbuilding, and powder interests, and their subsidiary organizations, got together 12 men high up in the newspaper world and employed them to select the most influential newspapers in the United States and a sufficient number of them to control generally the policy of the daily press of the United States.
These 12 men worked the problem out by selecting 179 newspapers,
and then began by an elimination process, to retain only those necessary for the purpose of controlling the general policy of the daily press throughout the country. They found it was only necessary to purchase the control of 25 of the greatest papers. The 25 papers were agreed upon; emissaries were sent to purchase the policy, national and international, of these papers; an agreement was reached; the policy of the papers was bought, to be paid for by the month; an editor was furnished for each paper to properly supervise and edit information regarding the questions of preparedness, militarism, financial policies, and other things of national and international nature considered vital to the interests of the purchasers.
This contract is in existence at the present time, and it accounts for the news columns of the daily press of the country being filled with all sorts of preparedness arguments and misrepresentations as to the present condition of the United States Army and Navy and the possibility and probability of the United States being attacked by foreign foes.
This policy also included the suppression of everything in opposition to the wishes of the interests served. The effectiveness of this scheme has been conclusively demonstrated by the character of stuff carried in the daily press throughout the country since March 1915. They have resorted to anything necessary to commercialize public sentiment and sandbag the National Congress into making extravagant and wasteful appropriations for the Army and Navy under the false pretense that it was necessary. Their stock argument is that it is "patriotism." They are playing on every prejudice and passion of the American people.22

In the Butler affair the accused interests are also those identified by Congressman Callaway: the J.P. Morgan firm and the steel and powder industries. General Butler accused Grayson Murphy, a director of the Morgan-controlled Guaranty Trust Company; Jackson Martindell, associated with Stone & Webster, allied to the Morgans; the Du Pont Company (the powder industry); and Remington Arms Company, which was controlled by Du Pont and the Morgan-Harriman financial interests. Further, the firms that appear in the suppressed 1934 Congressional testimony are J.P. Morgan, Du Pont, and Remington Arms. In brief, we can verify 1934 Congressional suppression of information that supports the earlier 1917 charges of Congressman Callaway.

Does such suppression extend to major news journals? We can take two prime examples; The New York Times and Time magazine. If such a combination as Callaway charges did exist, then these two journals would certainly be among "25 of the greatest papers involved in the 1930s." The New York Times reporting of the "plot" opens up with a front-page headline article on November 21, 1934: "Gen. Butler Bares 'Fascist Plot' to Seize Government by Force," with the lead paragraph quoted above (p. 143). This Times article is a reasonably good job of reporting and includes a forthright statement by Congressman Dickstein: "From present indications Butler has the evidence. He's not going to make any serious charges unless he has something to back them up. We'll have men here with bigger names than his." Then the Times article records that "Mr. Dickstein said that about sixteen persons mentioned by General Butler to the Committee would be subpoenaed, and that a public hearing might be held next Monday." The Times also includes outright and sometimes enraged denials from Hugh Johnson, Thomas W. Lamont, and Grayson M-P. Murphy of Guaranty Trust.

The following morning, November 22, the Times made a major switch in reporting the plot. The disclosures were removed to an inside page, although the testimony now concerned Gerald MacGuire, one of the accused plotters. Further, a decided change in the attitude of the committee can be discerned. Congressman McCormack is now reported as saying that "the committee has not decided whether to call any additional witnesses. He said that the most important witness, aside from Mr. MacGuire, was Robert Sterling Clark, a wealthy New Yorker with offices in the Stock Exchange Building."

While the Times reporting was consigned to an inside single column, the editorial page, its most influential section, carried a lead editorial that set the tone for subsequent reporting. Under the head "Credulity Unlimited," it contended that the Butler charge was a "bald and unconvincing narrative. ... The whole story sounds like a gigantic hoax ... it does not merit serious discussion," and so on. In brief, before the 16 important witnesses were called, before the evidence was on the record, before the charge was investigated. The New York Times decided that it wanted to hear nothing about this story because it was a hoax, not fit to print.

The next day, November 23, the Times changed its reporting still further. The headlines were now about Reds and Red Union Strife and concerned alleged activities by communists in American trade unions, while the Butler testimony and the developing evidence were secreted deep within the reporting of Red activities. The resulting story was, of course, vague and confused, but it effectively buried the Butler evidence.

On November 26, the hearings continued, but the committee itself now had cold feet and issued a statement: "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."

It should be noted that these names had come up in sworn testimony, later to be deleted from the official record. The Times pursued its

reporting of this development in abbreviated form on an inside page under the head, "Committee Calm over Butler 'Plot', Has No Evidence to Warrant Calling Johnson and Others." On November 27 the Times reporting declined to five column inches on an inside page under the ominous head "Butler Plot Inquiry Not To Be Dropped." The December hearings were reported by the Times on a front page (December 28 1934), but the plot was now twisted to "Reds Plot to Kidnap the President, Witness Charges at House Inquiry."

Reviewing the story of the Butler Affair in the Times 40 years after the event and comparing its story to the printed official testimony, itself heavily censored, it is obvious that the newspaper, either under its own initiative or under outside pressure, decided that the story was not to be made public. Consistent with this interpretation, we find that The New York Times, the "newspaper of record," omits the Butler testimony from entries in its annual index, depended upon by researchers and scholars. The Times Index for 1934 has an entry "BUTLER (Maj Gen), Smedley D," but lists only a few of his speeches and a biographic portrait. The Butler testimony is not listed. There is an entry, "See also: Fascism-U.S.," but under that cross-reference there is listed only: "Maj Gen S.D. Butler charges plot to overthrow present govt; Wall Street interests and G.P. MacGuire implicated at Cong com hearing." The only significant Wall Street name mentioned in the index is that of R.S. Clark, who is reported as "puzzled" by the charges. None of the key Morgan and Du Pont associates cited by General Butler is listed in the Index. In other words, there appears to have been a deliberate attempt by this newspaper to mislead historians.

Time magazine's reporting descended to fiction in its attempts to reduce General Butler's evidence to the status of absurdity. If ever a student wants to construct an example of biased reporting, there is a first-rate example in a comparison of the evidence presented to the McCormack-Dickstein Committee by General Butler with the subsequent Time reportage. The December 3rd 1934 issue of Time ran the story under the head "Plot Without Plotters," but the story bears no resemblance at all to the testimony, not even the censored testimony. The story portrays General Butler leading a half-million men along U.S. Highway 1 with the cry, "Men, Washington is but 30 miles away! Will you follow me?" Butler was then depicted as taking over the U.S. government by force from President Roosevelt. The remainder of the Time story is filled with dredges from Butler's past and an assortment of denials from the accused. Nowhere is there any attempt to report the statements made by General Butler, although the denials by J.P. Morgan, Hugh Johnson, Robert Sterling Clark, and Grayson Murphy are cited correctly. Two photographs are included: a genial grandfatherly J.P. Morgan and General Butler in a pose that universally symbolizes lunacy—a finger pointed to his ear. The reporting was trashy, dishonest, and disgraceful journalism at its very worst. Whatever our thoughts may be on Nazi propaganda or Soviet press distortion, neither Goebbels nor Goslit ever attained the hypnotic expertise of Time's journalists and editors. The fearful problem is that the opinions and mores of millions of Americans and of English speakers around the world have been molded by this school of distorted journalism.

To keep our criticism in perspective, it must be noted that Time was apparently impartial in its pursuit of lurid journalism. Even Hugh S. Johnson, administrator of NRA and one of the alleged plotters in the Butler Affair, was a target of Time's mischief. As Johnson reports it in his book:

I stood in the reviewing stand in that parade and there were hundreds of people I knew who waved as they went past. Down below were massed batteries of cameras, and I knew if I raised my hand higher than my shoulders, it would seem and be publicized as a "Fascist salute." So I never did raise it higher. I just stuck my arm out straight and wiggled my hand around. But that didn't help me—Time came out saying I had constantly saluted au Mussolini and even had a photograph to prove it, but it wasn't my arm on that photograph. It wore the taped cuff sleeve of a cut-away coat and a stiff round cuff with an old fashioned cuff button and I never wore either in my whole life. I think it was the arm of Mayor O'Brien who stood beside me which had been faked onto my body.23


The most important point to be assessed is the credibility of General Smedley Darlington Butler. Was General Butler lying? Was he telling the truth? Was he exaggerating for the sake of effect?
General Butler was an unusual man and a particularly unusual man to find in the armed forces: decorated twice with the Medal of Honor, an unquestioned leader of men, with undoubted personal bravery, deep loyalty to his fellow men, and a fierce sense of justice. All these are admirable qualities. Certainly, General Butler was hardly the type of man to tell lies or even exaggerate for a petty reason. His flair for the dramatic does leave open a possibility of exaggeration, but deliberate lying is most unlikely.

Does the evidence support or reject Butler? Reporter Paul French of The Philadelphia Record wholly supports Butler. Evidence by Captain Glazier, commander of the CCC camp, supports Butler. In these two cases there is no discrepancy in the evidence. The statements of MacGuire made under oath to Congress do not support Butler. We have therefore a conflict of sworn evidence. Further, MacGuire was found at fault on several points by the committee; he used the evasion of "do not recall" on a number of occasions and, in major areas such as the financing by Clark, MacGuire unwillingly supports Butler. There is a hard core of plausibility to the Butler story. There is some possibility of exaggeration, perhaps not untypical for a man of Butler's flamboyant personality, but this is neither proven nor disproven

Without question, the Congress of the United States did a grave disservice to the cause of freedom in suppressing the Butler story. Let us hope that some Congressmen or some Congressional committee, even at this late date, will pick up the threads and release the full uncensored testimony. We may also hope that the next time around, in some comparably important matter, The New York Times will live up to its claim to be the newspaper of record, a name it justified so admirably four decades later in the Watergate Investigation.


1. See Jules Archer, The Plot to Seize the White House (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1973) Archer's book is "the first effort to tell the whole story of the plot in sequence and full detail."
Also see George Wolfskill, The Revolt of the Conservatives (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1962), which has extensive material on the plot. The interested reader should also take a look at George Seldes, One Thousand Americans (New York: Honi & Gaer, 1947).
Unfortunately, while these books have kept the event alive—a valiant effort that should by no means be underrated—they do reflect an amteurish confusion of fascism with moderation. Supporters of the Constitution would, of course, absolutely reject the dictatorial efforts described. Some groups, such as the American Conservative Union for instance, have for a decade aimed their attacks at the targets identified by Archer and Seldes. The misinterpretation by the latter authors is accentuated because confusion over the meaning of conservatism also prevented these authors from exploring the possibility that Wall Street had none other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt in mind as "the man on the white horse."

2. House of Representatives, Investigation of Nazi Propaganda Activities and Investigation of Certain Other Propaganda Activities, Hearings No. 73-D.C.-6, op. cit., p. 17.

3. The New York Times, Nov. 21, 1934.

4. House of Representatives, Investigation of Nazi Propaganda Activities and Investigation of Certain Other Propaganda Activities, Hearings No. 73-D.C.-6, op. cit., pp. 17-18.
5. See Sutton, Bolshevik Revolution, op. cit.

6. House of Representatives, Investigation of Nazi Propaganda Activities and Investigation of Certain Other Propaganda Activities, Hearings No. 73-D.C.-6, op. cit., p. 26.

7. Ibid., Parts 1-2. Based on Testimony before the McCormack-Dickstein Committee.

8. 120 Broadway is the topic of a chapter in this book and a previous book, Sutton, Bolshevik Revolution, op. cit. Stone & Webster is also prominent in the earlier book.

9. The New York Times, Dec. 28, 1934.

10. House of Representatives, Investigation of Nazi Propaganda Activities and Investigation of Certain Other Propaganda Activities, Hearings No. 73-D.C.-6, op. cit., p. 45.

11. Ibid., p. 45.

12. Press release. New York City, p. 12.

13. Ibid., p. 13.

14. House of Representatives, Investigation of Nazi Propaganda Activities and Investigation of Certain Other Propaganda Activities, Hearings No. 73-D.C.-6, op. cit., p. 85.

15. Press release, New York City, p. 13.

16. See Jules Archer, The Plot to Seize the White House, op. cit.

17. George Seldes, One Thousand Americans, op. cit, p. 288.

18. Ibid., pp. 289-290.

19. John L. Spivak, A Man in his Time (New York: Horizon Press, 1967), pp. 311, 322-25.

20. Ibid., p. 331.

21. See Herman Dinsmore, All the News That Fits, (New Rochelle: Arlington House, 1969).

22. Congressional Record, Vol. 55, pp. 2947-8 (1917).

23 Hugh S. Johnson, The Blue Eagle from Egg to Earth, op. cit., p.267