President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s bold New Deal experiments provoked a backlash from the nation’s most powerful bankers, industrialists, and Wall Street brokers. When retired Marine general Smedley Darlington Butler accused these interests of soliciting him to lead a Fascist coup d’etat against Roosevelt, the nation was shocked. Famous for his daring exploits in China and Central America, the iconic military figure had come to see himself as a “racketeer for capitalism.” How serious the threat of the “Business Plot” was to the Roosevelt presidency is debatable. Still, it is a fascinating tale of intrigue — that sheds light on the power struggles of 1930s America. What is clear is that some of the nation’s wealthiest men — Republicans and Democrats alike — were so threatened by Roosevelt’s monetary policies that they actually flirted with antigovernment paramilitarism in order to manipulate the presidency. Journalist and historian Sally Denton tells this remarkable story, with its striking resonance for contemporary America, in The Plots Against The President: FDR, A Nation In Crisis, And The Rise Of The American Right, just published by Bloomsbury Press:
When dawn broke in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, March 4, 1933, the atmosphere was celebratory, if anxious. Slate gray and ominous, the sky suggested a calm before the storm.