The Bankers Putsch was an ill-fated plot, sometimes called the Business Plot or the Wall Street Putsch. There was a famous, heroic marine general named Smedley Butler, who was kind of the soldier’s soldier, the veteran’s veteran. He had great influence with the veterans, and this was at a moment when there were a half million veterans who were trying to get their bonuses from World War I. The bonuses weren’t supposed to be released until 1945, but because so many of the veterans were starving, there was a great movement afoot in 1932 to get those bonuses released early.I posted about this incident in The American Liberty League and coup plotting 10/07/2007 and The 1933 coup plot against Franklin Roosevelt 12/13/2007.
And Smedley Butler claimed that he was approached by a couple of veterans who had connections to Wall Street financiers who were planning a nonviolent coup, a takeover of the Roosevelt Administration. They claimed to have $3 million that they were willing to spend toward this end, and they said that they had some armaments ready. And their theory was that Roosevelt was in over his head — again, we see a lot of the same rhetoric that we hear with Obama. And they thought FDR would welcome somebody coming in and taking charge because he didn’t know what to do. That was the theory, that they would go in and, because these men who were supplying the money were of Roosevelt’s class, Roosevelt would agree to their demands and become kind of a ceremonial figurehead. He would let these stronger, more military types control the White House.
Butler blew the whistle on it, so it never got very far at all. There were congressional investigations and there was an FBI investigation, and the media reported various aspects of it. But both the plot and the investigation were stopped before they got very far. So it’s unclear how much of it was a form of insanity on the part of the plotters and how much they really had any legitimate financial and military support. But it’s a fascinating story of that year.
This is the first time I recall seeing this plot referred to as the Bankers' Putsch. The author's website also calls it "the Wall Street Putsch."
Denton's 2011 book, The Plots Against the President: FDR, A Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right sounds interesting.
Tags: american liberty league, authoritarianism, bankers+putsch, liberty league, new deal, smedley butler