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 government 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.
--From the Final Report of the McCormack-Dickstein Congressional Committee
The Business Plot was an apparent conspiracy hatched by American business leaders in 1933 to seize power from the government of Franklin D. Roosevelt and install a fascist regime. The plot was revealed in 1934 by famous war hero Smedley Butler (one of only two men to win the Congressional Medal of Honor twice), when he voluntarily came forward to testify before the McCormack-Dickstein Congressional Committee.
According to the testimony given by Butler, the plot would have involved the deployment of an army of disgruntled veterans drawn from the American Legion and the failed "Bonus Army" of 1932 in order to "persuade" Roosevelt to create a new cabinet position of "Secretary of General Affairs" who would rule America as a fascist dictator while Roosevelt acted as a figurehead. Creating a new Cabinet secretary was seen as the best way to go about it, as this could have been done by the President without amendment of the U.S. Constitution
Butler was apparently the key to the plot, as the plotters viewed Butler (who was the most famous war hero of the day), as the one man who could unite the veterans in a renewed drive to direct their disgruntlement toward a coup d'etat.
One of the main aims of plot was to return America to the gold standard, which many business leaders of the day fervently believed was the only way out of the Great Depression, and they were deeply angered when FDR did not agree. The plotters thought that the veterans would go along with their plot because a return to the gold standard would mean their bonuses would be paid in gold rather than "worthless" paper money.
Representatives of the plot met with Butler several times in 1933 and 1934, attempting to persuade him to go along with their scheme without revealing full details of their plans. But the plotters underestimated Butler 's intelligence, and he figured out what they were up to eventually and came forward with what he knew.
Butler's testimony was further corroborated by additional testimony from Veterans of Foreign Wars commander James E. Van Zandt, American Legion Captain Samuel Glazier, and Paul Comly French a reporter working undercover for the Philadelphia Record and the New York Evening Post who had partially infiltrated the plot and first broke the story.
After completing its investigation, the McCormack-Dickstein Committee supported Butler's allegations in full, but then covered up the details in an evident effort to protect influential business leaders who had been involved, deleting whole sections of their final report relating to the roles played in the plot by JP Morgan & Co., the DuPont Corporation, Remington Arms, and other prominent corporations. This left Butler high and dry, and several major newspapers (all of which were owned by, or allied to powerful business interests) proceeded to ridicule his story for lack of evidence.
While it is clear that some kind of plot existed, Historians disagree with how serious it was, and how close it came to being executed. Some argue that if only Smedley Butler had gone along with the plan, American business leaders were ready to cough up major financing to get a fascist dictatorship installed. Others, however, feel that the plot was only a vague outline that was far from being achieved.
However, we do know that *something* was obviously covered up, and the complete original transcripts of the testimony before the McCormack-Dickstein Committee or of the Committee's final report have yet to be found. Unless these documents are ever located, we will never know to the full extent just how close the United States came to fascism in 1933.