|Apr/May 2019 Fiction|
Excerpted imagery from photography by Kris Saknussemm
July 28, 1932. Washington
The sky is a high, mid-summer blue. It has a quality of vast, apparently infinite, peacefulness. Cumulus clouds—as grand as towers—float through the sky, while at ground level the white dome of the Capitol also resembles an immense, majestic cloud.
But also at ground level a demonstration is taking place. A group of World War One veterans moves down a boulevard in one direction while a small group of cavalry backed by a battalion of foot soldiers approaches from the other.
The veterans are mainly dressed in mufti: the neat but inappropriately warm wool trousers of people with only one good pair of pants to wear, white shirts with the sleeves rolled up, or worn-out, shiny jackets. Some are also dressed in doughboy uniforms. But all of them look both impoverished and determined, like a peasant army marching with ragtag determination toward the walls of a royal castle.
Then one of the cavalry's horsemen rushes forward and wades into the crowd. The crowd tries to to stand its territory but almost as quickly pulls back with instinctive fear. The horse rears up, its sweating brown flanks rippling with quivering muscle as the animal's hooves spin dangerously in the air; living clubs. Two or three in the crowd shriek. Behind them, some others call out the demonstration's rallying cry: "Bonus! Bonus!" Then the horse stomps to all fours, its rider yanks the animal's reins, and the demonstrators inch a little farther forward with cautious determination.
To one side of this scene, watching attentively, stands the figure of General Douglas MacArthur. He is impeccable attired in a cavalry uniform, freshly pressed, plumped jodhpurs, and brown riding boots glossed to a fastidious sheen. Next to MacArthur is Major Dwight Eisenhower. He is dressed in civilian clothes: light trousers, a dark jacket and incongruous straw hat. He also looks on the scene taking place attentively, but with some embarrassment. MacArthur, however, is unaware of his aide-de-camp's discomfort; his nostrils, petitely equine, flare with impatience. He calls out to the captain leading the infantry battalion: "You there. Why aren't those troops moving faster?"
The captain calls back, "Sir, they're going as fast as they safely can."
"Don't make them go 'safely.' Make them go."
The infantry advance, their long rifles down, their bayonets forward. In the crowd of demonstrators, individuals—with the bravado of the doomed brave—call out.
"Bonus! A fair bonus for the veteran now!"
"Where's Hoover's heart?"
"We fought for this country! All we're asking for is help at a time of need!"
But the infantry keeps methodically approaching, and when they encounter the first demonstrators, they implacably keep their bayonets at chest level.
A demonstrator, his voice suddenly urgent, cries at the troops, "You brutes! Can't you see there are women and children here?"
The captain leading the infantry battalion says loudly, his tone commanding and bland, "Move on, you people. Move on. Remember, you were in uniform once. Do what you're told. It's for the best."
A man in the background steps to the front of the crowd. He has the hungry, alert look of one who would be either categorized as a troublemaker or hero, depending on one's allegiances.
"The hell we'll take orders from the likes of you! You're just a pawn! Don't you feel any shame? There are veterans here who can barely feed their families! Why don't you think of justice first before you start lecturing others on their duty?"
But the troops are unmoved. And as they continue their advance, the demonstrators are forced to choose between retreat and the feeble defiance of the un-armed which, soon enough, turns to defeat.
A different officer blows a whistle sharply, and second, more aggressive battalion of cavalry move forward. Some of the soldiers, upon reaching the crowd, reverse their rifles and use their butts like truncheons.
Behind the foot soldier, also advancing, is a column of tanks. In the midst of them is the figure of George S. Patton. He surveys the crowd for a few moments. Then he says to his crews, "Charge!"
The tanks trundle-squeak forward; the infantry stomp in rhythm, the cavalry whinny and attack. The demonstrators are now divided into a series of broken up groups. Some turn to run. Others scream, push and shove. But from several yards away, it seems almost as if the demonstrators might have a chance: the troops and the horses and the tanks do not seem to be achieving a clear victory. Then a shot rings out, followed by another. A woman's voice can be heard screaming hysterically, "Jesus! Lord Jesus!"
This only seems to stiffen some of the demonstrators' resistance, even as someone else, his voice also hysterical, calls out, "Doctor!" and the melée reaches its crescendo.
The first inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. March 4, 1934.
A special rostrum has been constructed in front of the Capitol building. To one side of it is a specially constructed ramp connected to the podium. A crowd, murmuring with the patience/impatience of very important people at a special occasion, suddenly hushes when a limousine pulls up. In it are Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover, both dressed in black tie, overcoats and top hats. Neither speaks to the other.
Roosevelt emerges from the car. He begins to walk slowly up the ramp, one of his sons at his side. To an uninformed observer, he simply looks like a man walking with a stiff-gaited dignity. To another more knowledgeable about his condition, he has the profoundly determined look of someone whose body has ceased functioning in what we consider a normal fashion, and who now strains mightily to compensate for that fact.
When Roosevelt reaches the podium, he stops for a brief moment to compose himself, and observes the audience. There is polite applause.
He clears his throat. The microphone wallows with a moment of feedback, then his voice is heard with clarity.
"I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly."
In the audience, a man in a top hat looks at Roosevelt impassively. His wife, a portly woman with what seems at first to be a rather stolid face, but, upon closer inspection, turns out to have kind eyes, regards FDR with a hopeful, generous smile as his voice continues.
"In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone."
The audience once more: A man is standing in the the crowd—younger than the couple in the stands. He is also with his wife, and also his infant son, who his wife coddles. The man looks at FDR with what can only be described as rapt wonder. And beside this family still is an older man with a skeptical expression bordering on sourness.
FDR continues, the cadence of his voice becoming more musical, more inspiring.
"Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men."
An expensive country club. That same moment. Day.
The voice, now filtered through the medium of radio (softer, more abstract), is also being listened to in the smoking room of a country club. A group of men wearing conspicuously well-tailored clothes stand around the radio, listening.
"The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."
One of the men in the group—energetic, large eared, his hair parted in the middle and slicked back in a disciplined fashion— interrupts with a venomous tone, "Listen to that!"
A man standing next to him says neutrally, "It's a typical political speech."
The first looks enraged, "Typical?! Just listen to him! He's preaching class hatred!"
"Have a drink, DuPont. Words are just words. Actions are something else altogether. Let's see what the fellow tries to get up to before getting emotional about it all."
But this just goads DuPont to seek an ally. He turns to a third, who is sitting comfortably in a chair. "Morgan—you have some sense. Is this rabble-rousing, or is it not? And is it not the speech of a rabble-rouser that acts to ignite trouble?"
Morgan regards DuPont with wry distance. "You're the chemicals man, DuPont. You tell me what can cause an ignition or not."
And all—including, to a partial degree, DuPont—laugh.
A diner. Downtown New York. Day.
A few patrons are seated in booths or at the main counter. A dark-haired, middle-aged but still rather pretty waitress serves coffee and toast. FDR's speech, muted, continues in the background.
The door to the diner opens with a tinkle, and a pudgy, ruddy-cheeked man enters. He wears a dark three-piece suit and a pork-pie hat. He sits at the counter.
"Hi, there," the waitress says.
The man looks back neutrally. "Hello."
"What can I get you?"
"Bacon, eggs, toast and cream coffee sounds good."
"How do you want those eggs?"
"Sunny-side up," the man says, voice still flat. Then he notices the radio. "Listen, would you turn that up?"
"What?" the waitress says.
"You're a Roosevelt man?"
The man gives a derisive chuckle. "Hardly. But I want to hear what he has to say."
The waitress walks to the radio and turns it up. As she does, she turns her back to the portly man, who now can view her from behind.
The waitress brings a cup of coffee.
"Here you go. Eggs and bacon'll just be a sec."
"Don't forget the toast," the man says.
"Right. And toast."
The man now regards her with a suggestive smile. "Do you know why they call it toast?"
The waitress looks at him blankly.
The man, now animated, leans into the counter as he goes for the punchline, "Because it's warm on both sides."
The waitress simply keeps looking at the pudgy man, her expression remaining inexpressive, as if she's expecting more.
Then it suddenly sinks in for her: this is a joke. She laughs raucously. Her mouth opens wide, with its large, essentially healthy, but nicotine-stained teeth, and her gums.
She looks more directly at the pudgy man. He looks more directly back, his smile now slower, more calculating and confident.
The interior of the Oval Office.
It is three days after the inauguration. Roosevelt sits behind his desk, surrounded by advisors, including Lew Douglas, Rexford Tugwell, Ray Moley, Louis Howe and James Farley.
Roosevelt states, "We have to stop this bleeding of the banks."
Lew Douglas says, "We could create our own banks."
Roosevelt: "How do you mean?"
Ray Moley, a soft-spoken man who is going genially bald, cuts in, "We could create a national chain of banks. They would be backed by government-issued bonds. People would have a guarantee their savings are secure."
James Farley, fleshy-faced, earnestly expressive, says, "We can't do that. That would be equivalent to nationalizing the current system."
Rexford Tugwell looks at Farley. "So?"
"The people won't have it. Not the businessmen and the professional folk—the 'doctors and accountants and whatnot.' This is a country built on enterprise, not government interference."
"The people—and those people who don't just include the "doctors and accountants and whatnot"—have suffered through three years of do-nothing-ism at the federal level. What good is waiting for enterprise if the system is just plain broke?"
"It's not broke." Farley says, his insistence having a pleading undertone. "Just give the people time to realize new days are on the horizon."
Tugwell speaks to Farley, but as he does it is clear he is also addressing the room. He is a young man, and a conspicuously handsome one. But at the same time, his looks possess an aura of idealism that lends his handsomeness the slightly neutered attractiveness of the aggressively decent. He says passionately: "Governments don't wait for new days; they create them."
Roosevelt interrupts. "All right, that's enough. It's clear that we have to do something, and do it promptly. In several states the banking system is on the verge of collapse.
"Okay. Fine," Farley says, not without exasperation. "Let's resolve to save the system. There's a magnificent plan. Now—why didn't the previous administration think of that?"
"They were dyed-in-the-wool tightwads, that's why," Tugwell says.
Louis Howe clears his throat. "They were rigid. They were heartless. They were cheap. But they weren't fools... they didn't want to assume a debt this country can't afford. We'd be wise to do the same."
"Yes, yes, indeed, Louis," Roosevelt says. "But I must say, I still like what Rex is saying. One can worry too much. After all, money may not grow on trees—but it's not healthy to consider it locked permanently in safes, either. And I think that's a good way of summing up what Hoover and his boys were convinced of."
"But, sir, if I may," Farley says, "That is part of the problem; to a significant degree our money is locked away. And that's not our money's fault, or anyone's. It's just the effect of the price of gold, and our reserves of it."
Tugwell sniffs. "Now if that isn't the logic of Hoover, I don't know what is."
"I'd appreciate it strongly, Tugwell, if you stopped saying I'm a Hoover man. I sweated for this ticket just as much as you did."
"And we all appreciate that, Jimmy," Tugwell says, attempting to mollify without conceding the argument. "Believe me, no one appreciates your ability to help in a campaign more than I do. But let's be frank: the gold standard is just that: a standard. It's not fixed in stone. There are other ways of doing things."
Farley, suspiciously: "Such as?"
"Well... Let's just move off the standard altogether. The sky won't fall. And doing so will give us more immediate capital to do the things we should immediately do."
"Oh, swell. That's just marvelous. And let's just knock down the churches while we're at it."
"You're starting to lay it on pretty thick, Jimmy," Howe says.
"No, I'm not! You just wait! Sure, we can sell this to the common people. They want help. They need it. I understand that. But we have to think of the businessmen, too. The gold standard is important to them. It keeps the dollar's value steady. Let's remain mindful of that."
"The businessmen might find the idea a bit of a shock at first. But they'll get used to it," Howe says. "After all, in the long run, it will fill their pockets, too."
"Sure, sure," Farley says with emotion. "And that sounds so fine and logical. But I'm telling you, it's now how it is."
Howe's tone remains phlegmatic. "Well, time will tell. And remember what Rexford said: when you're in the government, you can begin to think differently. You don't have to just sit there and wait. You can create a new day."
But Farley is still upset. "And sure, that's all dandy. But I'm telling you, Louis, not everyone thinks the way you do."
Some time later.
All of Roosevelt's aides have left, save Ray Moley. Roosevelt wheels out from behind his desk. He smiles at Moley.
"You were uncharacteristically quiet at the meeting, Ray. Cat got your tongue?"
"No, no, sir. It's not that," Moley says without meeting Roosevelt's eye.
Moley looks down at his worried hands in his worried lap. "Well... Farley is a fixer, not a policy man, we both know that."
"But he's got a point. We're heading somewhere new. This is unknown territory we're entering."
"What? The bank holiday?"
"No, sir. Not that."
"Oh. I see," Roosevelt says, the penny dropping. "Well, I wouldn't worry about it unduly. After all, Ramsey Clark and all the British cabinet are thinking along the same lines."
"I realize that sir. But if I may, what the British prime minister sees as good for the English people isn't necessarily—" Moley's voice stumbles. "This is the United States. It's a different situation."
Roosevelt suddenly grins. "Oh, how you're worrying so. Really, we're trying to help the dollar, not destroy it."
But Moley can only look at Roosevelt helplessly.
"That—man," Irenée DuPont says spitefully. "How did he get into power?" Then he looks around the club room, its plush, dark interior muting all, even anger.
"Well," William Knudsen says, running his fingers over the pebbles of silk stitched into his tie, "let's be fair. The nation is in crisis. Things have to be done."
"He's meddling in the natural evolution of the marketplace," DuPont insists.
"Let's be reasonable. The bank holiday was the right thing to do. It helped staunch the bleeding."
"Yes, yes, and that's the right word to use, isn't it?—"Reasonable." But this is just the beginning, as all in this room well know. What's important is where things will end."
"They'll end where they always do: with another election. And hopefully we'll be wiser next time and back a stronger candidate."
"Elections. Tell that to the Italians or the Germans. They've found a better way."
J. P. Morgan looks at the other two, but only momentarily. Then his eyes turn toward a window, and he says off-handly while puffing on his pipe, "My sources tell me there might be a move off the gold standard."
Knudsen and DuPont look at him, not without alarm.
"This must just be wild talk," DuPont says, his voice like a face gone pale.
Morgan keeps puffing, "That's not what my people say."
DuPont lets out an angry sigh.
Knudsen turns to look at Morgan, who just gives the former a genial, Cheshire-like grin. Knudsen, peering through the dimness of the club room's interior, is not sure if he sees Morgan wink.
The pudgy bond salesman from the diner returns to his office, works throughout the afternoon, and takes a trolley car to his home in the evening.
It's a solid, middle-class house, detached from its neighbors, fronted by a neatly kept square of lawn. Inside the house, the dining room is brightly lit. The pudgy man sees his wife and mother setting dishes. He walks up the porch steps with a renewed energy and opens the unlocked door.
"Jerry?" his wife calls.
Jerry MacGuire enters the dining room, already seated at the large, rectangular table are his siblings, as well as a couple of cousins and in-laws. He nods at the group, who smile in polite greeting. Then—a roue spotting the prettiest woman in the room—he glances with anticipatory pleasure at the roast chicken in the center of the table. Bowls of mashed potatoes, a basket of fresh-baked buns, and a large bowl of cole slaw round out the meal. His voice can't help but reveal a salivating anticipation. "Gosh, Mother, does this ever look swell."
His mother, Mrs. MacGuire, regards him with flattered pleasure. "Well, I worked all day on it. So I hope you enjoy it." Beat. "Jerry, since it's become a rarity to have you home like this, why don't you do the honors?"
Gerald MacGuire nods, sits, and bows his head, all in one smooth motion. The others at the table all bow their heads, too.
"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. for ever and ever." MacGuire adds, "And bless all the people in this house. Amen."
"That was lovely!" his mother says. Then she addresses all: "Now please. There's enough for everyone."
A nephew of MacGuire's—a young man in his early twenties who could pass for a 15-year-old—says with a slight whine, "Jeez, Auntie—"
A niece, the nephew's sister, kicks him under the table and whispers sharply, "Don't swear!"
The whine is more emphatic now. "I didn't!"
MacGuire's nephew does not, to everyone else's relief, pursue the matter. All concentrate on a more pressing activity. For several minutes, there is just the sound of cutlery scraping and chewing.
Gerald MacGuire finally says, "Gosh, this is good, Mother. You wouldn't believe how tired one gets of diner food, going from place to place, making all those calls."
"So how is it, dear? Is your business still good?"
"Well, that's exactly the thing," MacGuire says, ostensibly to his mother, but in a showy voice. "Business is still there, but these days you've got to work so much harder to get it."
He beams at the table. No one returns his gaze.
MacGuire continues: "Boy, do one's feet ever get tired." He turns to his wife. "And it keeps me away many hours, doesn't it, dear?
"Yes," Mrs. MacGuire says. She addresses the table, "All he seems to do is work."
"I get sore feet, too," MacGuire's nephes says "But that's looking for work."
"Something, by the way, you've been doing for over ten months now," his sister says sardonically.
MacGuire's nephew turns on her. "It's not my fault, Sis! I didn't want this slump!"
"The slump is no excuse. Look at Uncle Jerry. You heard him: times are tough. But he just works tougher!"
"Look who's talking! You just go to school all day and then come back in the evenings and listen to the radio. You don't know anything about real life!"
MacGuire looks indulgently at his nephew, happy to chastise and encourage simultaneously. "There, there. We know times are difficult. But that's no reason to join the Wallower's Club."
But his nephew, it seems, has already signed up, and says, "Uncle Jerry, don't you start picking on me too—"
"I'm not picking on you."
But his nephew is determined to make a point. "Everyone blames the little guy! Everyone says it's his fault! But look who caused the slump in the first place. It wasn't the working men in their factories or the housewives in their homes. It wasn't the doctors and dentists in their offices. It wasn't the milkmen on the street. It was that Wall Street gang! They had a giant party and took home carts of money. And what happened when the slump started? Did they pitch in and help by taking some of that money that ended up in their pockets and giving a percentage back to help fix this mess? No! They just put it all in their friends' banks and let the rest of us all hang!"
"That is a very crude and inaccurate description of what went on," MacGuire says.
"Not it's not! So what if I didn't finish at the top of my class in high school? I can still figure things out! And that's the truth of the matter: the president put it right: it's the greed of the moneylenders that's at the root of all this. They like the economic system as long as they can take and take and take. But then when it goes bust and they have to give some of it back and think of the good of all, what do they do? Keep it for themselves! The government should just take most of their millions away—give it to the common man who's got more use for it and will spend it to get over this slump once and for all."
"That's just radical talk," MacGuire says sharply. "It's dreaming. Sure, it's easy to say. The government should take other people's money. But how would you like it if they did it to you?"
"I don't have any, uncle! And at the rate things are going, I never will! But if I did, I wouldn't keep it all to myself or bleed the working man the way the moneylenders do."
"Christian moneylenders don't do that."
"They darn well do—!"
MacGuire's niece once more puts her foot into action. "No swearing!"
Light falls in the bedroom through a sliver between the drapes of two large windows, half-illuminating the interior of the room. Between the windows is an old bureau, with a plain white towel on top, a selection of combs, a small mirror, and a box containing several cufflinks. Next to it is a rocking chair with a worn, grey sweater thrown on it haphazardly. A Victorican mantelpiece stands to one side. On it, a collection of porcelain pigs. And in the middle of the room, an iron bedstead, painted white, and narrow as a single person might have it. It has a flat, hard mattress and a white seersucker spread. Beside the bedstead is a night-table, also painted white. A towel is draped over it as a crude form of table cover. A glass of water sits on it, along with a couple of aspirin tablets. Also on the night-table, an old prayer book, two mysteries, and a stubby pencil.
A porter enters the room and opens the drapes.
The figure under the spread lifts itself upright. "Oh. Hello, Bill."
"It's eight o'clock."
"Ah, yes, so it is."
"Mr. Howe and Miss LeHand are waiting for you."
"Tell them to give me a moment, would you?"
The porter nods and quietly retreats.
Afternoon in the White House. Meeting time.
Roosevelt is sitting near his desk. However, he's moved himself from the behind his desk toward the center of the room. One sees him sitting in his wheelchair. He seems calm, but with his right hand he keeps restlessly pulling back and forth on one wheel, giving his chair a very slight back-and-forth motion, as one might do with the tip of one's toe while on a rocking chair.
Ray Moley, Lew Douglas, James Farley, Rexford Tugwell, Louis Howe, Adolf Berle and some other advisors sit on chairs and a sofa nearby.
Tugwell says, "Well, I think the main thing is we have to start moving. And to get moving, we have to release more money into the economy.
Moley says, "We don't have more money. Releasing more means printing more—printing more, in the situation we're in, means moving off the gold standard."
Farley says, "I thought we talked about this before and were in agreement."
Tugwell looks at him. "We talked about it, but we certainly weren't in agreement."
"Well, isn't the key thing here to decide what our goals are?" Farley says, his voice agenda-rhetorical.
Roosevelt's hand continues its motion. "Our goals are to get this nation out of its slump."
"Exactly," Tugwell says. "And that's precisely why we have to move off the gold standard. It's like a burden strapped to our backs. It's hobbling us."
"Well, it may be hobbling us," Howe says, his voice gravelly and forceful; a frail man's demand. "But moving off the gold standard is going to cause, if you'll forgive me for saying so, such a shit-storm that that might end up hobbling us, too, in the next election."
Moley nods. "Yes."
"You can say that again," Farley agrees.
Howe seems mildly irritated by Farley's bland tone. "What? "Yes"? Or "shit storm"?"
Farley looks at Howe with a miniscule hurt. Roosevelt hides a smile.
Tugwell clears his throat. "Aren't we agreed—as the president just said—that we're here to get this nation moving again?"
"Well, we can move," Farley says. "And let me be clear, I'm not against bold actions. But at the same time, we have to do it with a certain degree of quietness and caution."
"Jimmy, that sounds good," Roosevelt says, tone diplomatic. "But advising we should move boldly and advising we should move cautiously and quietly—that's a bit of contradiction, isn't it?"
"You know what I mean, sir. We have to make our moves, but we can't bring attention to them. The other side can't see us coming. And that's the problem with changing the gold standard. People will start looking at us too close for comfort."
"I think the people who'll be bothered by a move off the gold standard see us just fine already," Tugwell says. "We're pretty visible where we're sitting."
"Well, if this is where we're sitting, let's make goddamn good use of it," Howe says, the gravelly quality of his voice now inflected with pugnaciousness.
It is a slate grey early morning outside Grand Central Station. The clouds in the sky are as evenly smooth as early morning water.
Crowds exit, their footfalls the only sound as the early bird commuters walk silently to their places of work. The only voice is that of a newsboy hawking papers.
"Get your Herald-Tribune! Your Herald-Tribune here!"
A man in a beige raincoat stops by the boy.
"A Herald-Tribune, sir?" the boy says.
"No, I'll have a Times."
The newsboy hands the man a NEW YORK TIMES. He scans its headline. It reads:
U.S. TO GO OFF GOLD
The man looks at the newsboy. "On second thought, give me a Herald-Tribune, too."
The headquarters of the DuPont Company. Morning.
DuPont, in the company of an assistant, is apoplectic.
"Can you believe it? Can... you... believe... it?" he says, jabbing his finger at the front page of a paper.
The assistant, somewhat dumbfounded, does not respond.
"Move off the gold standard and you know what happens?"
Again, no response.
DuPont reaches into his pocket and pulls out his wallet. He sees with exasperation that all he has in it is one five dollar bill.
"You," he snaps. "Show me your billfold."
The assistant pulls out his own wallet. Impatiently, DuPont yanks bills from it and throws them into the air. They float to the rug like fat pieces of ticker tape.
"All this—worthless!" DuPont exclaims. "Look it it. It's just paper, isn't it?"
"It's the gold that's behind it that counts." DuPont glares at his helper, his gaze that of a teacher or inquisitor. "What do you want? Paper? Or gold?"
The interior of a brokerage office, Murphy & Co., 52 Broadway, New York City. Morning, a few days later.
Clerks, secretaries, move back and forth in a bustle of business. The women wear conservative cotton print dresses and sensible shoes with heavyset, romanesque heels. The men are all dressed in white shirts and black suit trousers. Many of them have thick elastic bands around their sleeves.
At one end of the large open office area is the door of a private office with a frosted glass window. Stenciled on the glass are the words: Grayson M.-P. Murphy, President. A young man, thin,with a worried, almost pinched, face, enters the office. As he does, he shuts the door and the noise of the office mutes to the burbling of an efficient brook.
Sitting behind an imposing desk is Grayson Murphy. He is a stolid, extremely phlegmatic man. His entire being seems immovable: his eyes have the unnerving watchfulness of someone who has become so used to power that the merest gesture on his part triggers change in the world around him.
"Harrison," Murphy says in a flat voice.
"You called for me, sir?"
Murphy regards Harrison for an uncomfortably long moment.
"I've been getting reports."
Harrison speaks quickly. "I can explain that."
"You're not keeping up your sales figures. And to be frank, I've been hearing rumors."
"You don't understand, sir," Harrison says, his voice now panged. "The rumors are just that: rumors."
Murphy looks at Harrison, not speaking.
"I don't know how to put this, sir. But I've got a little one at home. And my wife is expecting another. I'm under incredible pressure..." Harrison hesitates. "Sir, can I be completely honest?"
"We're behind closed doors."
"The slump is hurting everyone, but not just in ways you see. Even making one single sale is harder than it used to be, and there are people out there who will do anything to make sure they're the ones who make that sale and not the other fellow. I think some of the rumor-mongering that goes on in this office is part of that. The things that some people say about other people drinking, and making illegal hooch. It's just wrong, sir. At first I thought it was somebody's idea of a practical joke. But it's gone further than that."
With a startling jangle, the door to Murphy's office opens with a sudden movement, and Gerald MacGuire noisily steps into the office. He sees Harrison standing in front of Murphy's desk, and, with a startled look of apology, speaks.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Somebody told me you urgently needed to see me."
"Yes, yes. But please wait outside, will you? I'll be done in a moment."
MacGuire to Murphy: "Of course, sir." To Harrison, coldly: "Harrison."
"Well," Murphy says. "I think there's no more that needs to be said. We understand each other now, don't we?"
"Of course, sir," Harrison says, instinctively lowering his head.
"What goes on in your personal life is none of my business. What does matter is that you bring in sales on a regular basis."
"Yes, sir," Harrison says with the relief of one who feels he has been excused. "I understand that."
"It's to your benefit. You work on commission, after all."
More lowering. "I understand, sir. Thank you, sir."
Harrison exits, passing the portly MacGuire.
As MacGuire enters, he lets out a friendly exhalation of breath, and looks in a chummy way at Murphy, who does not return his smile.
"Well, sir. How can I help you?"
"I don't know who told you seeing me was urgent. I'm simply doing a regular check-up on my salesmen—making sure everything's trim."
"Sure, sir. Of course."
Murphy nods. There's an awkward pause between the two. This does not seem to perturb Murphy, but MacGuire becomes subtly yet noticeably anxious.
"That Harrison—heh, heh..."
Murphy looks up.
"Don't get me wrong," MacGuire continues. "He's a good man."
Murphy remains impassive.
"He used to be such a good fellow, I don't know what happened." MacGuire says, now pity inflected.
"Well," Murphy says, "if there's something I should know..."
"Well, you know, it's just gossip, sir."
"So Harrison himself says."
"I wouldn't want to put a good man down. Especially a family man."
"Well, MacGuire, your sales figures seem fine, so that's taken care of. About this other business, that will be all then, will it not?"
Yet Murphy, pointedly, does not excuse MacGuire, and MacGuire, left once more in the fishbowl of the office's silence, begins to flutter with all the nervousness of an agitated goldfish.
"Well, you know, he's got a wife and he's got little ones, but you know, sir, we all do. And that's no excuse."
Murphy looks on.
MacGuire puts his hammy hands up, palms outward. "I'm not saying I know anything for a fact. But you know, sometimes I walk by Harrison in the morning, and there's a smell—an aftershave smell."
"Some fellows like aftershave."
"But it's not really an aftershave smell. It's something else."
MacGuire laughs sweatily. "Well, like I said, it's all just rumor-mongering, and maybe I'm wrong, right?"
"I can't hear or see a lot of what goes on outside this office."
"Some extra eyes and ears are always helpful, sir."
The sound of the work in the open office.
Murphy shifts in his chair. "Listen, there's something else."
"I have a short trip that I need you to make."
"Well, sure, sir. Of course."
"This isn't a sales job. At least, not in the regular sense."
Now MacGuire's posture is straighter. "Yes, sir."
"I need somebody I can trust."
MacGuire smiles. "Well, I'm your man."
The wounded vet is immobile. He lies in in the white sheets of a well-starched bed. A hand reaches out and touches the wounded man on the forehead.
The hand pulls back. Standing next to the vet is a wiry, older man dressed in a white shirt buttoned to the collar and dark slacks. He is looking with concern at the wounded man. Next to him, a doctor and nurse.
"Does he ever awake?" the wiry, older man says.
"Not in the regular sense of the word, general," the doctor says.
The wiry, older man—the general—sighs.
He says, "And the others? Can they sense what's around them?"
"Well, in this ward, only a few," the doctor says. "In the next ward we have the amputees. They're in bad shape, too. But they're lively fellows."
In the next ward, the general is giving a speech. Men, so severely wounded that most of them cannot achieve any mobility without outside help, listen to him.
"I just want to say, as long as you fellows are put out, this country has a debt of honor to you. And I know how it is. I know the position you're in. The government hardly helps. The Legion talks about helping—but it doesn't do much, either.
There are murmurs of agreement from the various vets, in their wheelchairs and mechanical beds.
"And that's wrong. You fellows sacrificed in the true sense of the word. There are some people who say that any fellow who asks for assistance is looking for something extra, some kind of special treatment, and is some kind of bum. That's wrong. You're the ones who are owed, not the other way around."
As the doctor said, the men in this ward, while immobile, are engaged. Several clap the general's words, and a few throatily cheer.
The general stops his speech. It has been delivered in an impromptu manner, but it has a well-rehearsed quality to it; these are words the general has given in public many times before.
As the general steps away from the center of the ward, the doctor smiles at him. "Thank you, General Butler. Thank you for coming."
"I'm doing those boys a disservice. I'm just talking, too," General Butler says.
"You've lifted their spirits."
"For an hour or two. They deserve more than that."
Butler begins to leave. But the vets of the ward won't have it. One calls out from a bed on the far side of the room. "Here's to General Butler! An officer who cares! Hip-hip—"
Other vets join in. "Hooray!"
The first vet, passionately: "Hip-hip—"
The other vets, now getting caught up in the spirit of the moment: "Hooray!"
Cheering surrounds Butler, and he allows himself a small smile. But even at the threshold of the ward, the cheering diminishes in strength; down the hospital's corridor, it becomes weaker still; and right outside the hospital, it is impossible to hear it at all.
A chauffered Packard limousine drives along a picturesque, tree-lined road. The smooth, confident hum of the car's engine mingles with the chirping of the birds in the trees. Large yet not ostentatious houses line the road. The scene radiates a quiet, middle-class prosperity—only the limousine, with its bulky, conspicuous luxury, seems out of place.
The car pulls into a driveway and stops. Two men emerge. Both are dressed in suits and hats—one a fedora, the other a porkpie. The man wearing the latter is Gerald MacGuire.
The first man says something to the chauffer, who restarts the ignition and drives the limousine off the premises. MacGuire, meanwhile, his hips, arms akimbo, is regarding the house in front of them. His suit is tailored from worsted wool, and he is sweating as a result.
The two men walk up the flagstone steps to the house's front door. It opens; their visit clearly anticipated. At the house's threshold stands General Butler.
The first man from the limousine is the first to speak: "Sir, my name's Bill Doyle. Department leader of the Legion in Massachusetts. Thank you very much for agreeing to see us."
MacGuire reaches out with his mitten-like hand. "Jerry MacGuire, sir. State commander of the department in Conneticut. Well, a year ago. Living in New York now. But still very interested in Legion business."
"Gentlemen, please come on in," Butler says, and leads the two men inside.
As MacGuire and Doyle step into the vestibuole, MacGuire suddenly give a startled movement. He stumbles.
"What's that?" he says with a degree of alarm.
Beneath his feet, the purring of a cat that's got underfoot.
"Oh, that's just Wilberforce," Butler says. He looks down. Wilberforce, the household cat, look at the intruders momentarily, then scurries off to the kitchen, with the rapid movement of padded feet.
All three men walk to the back of Butler's house where there is a glassed-in office. Butler moves behind a desk and sits.
"Please," he says to other two, and Doyle and MacGuire sit in wooden chairs facing him.
"Well," Butler says in a business-initiating tone. "Is there some way I can help you fellows?"
"Sir," MacGuire says, "first, let me say what an honor it is, as someone who was a fellow Marine, to meet you in person."
Butler gives a civil nod that is not without a trace of flattery.
"Bill and I, we served in the Great War. Boy, what an experience that was." MacGuire reaches up and taps his skull with his knuckles, as if tapping a cast iron kettle. There is a kettle-like sound. "I got a steel plate right here to prove that."
"I hope it doesn't cause you any pain," Butler says.
"No, no, I've gotten used to it. What I had to go through—it's just darn small potatoes compared to what some of the boys have had to deal with."
"I was just at a veterans' hospital a few weeks ago," Butler says in agreement. "It was a sorry sight."
Doyle cuts in. "Well, it's the veterans that we're thinking about, sir. That's why we came here today. See, we're involved with the Legion. We care about it. We care about its values. But we don't think that the people at the top—the ones running the Legion—really care about the veterans the way they should."
Butler looks at the two men with increased interest.
MacGuire says with a breathy chuckle, "The Royal Family—that's what they call them, sir. I guess you've heard that one."
"Yes, the administration, the Royal family of the American Legion. Well, I don't know if they quite have the pride to call themselves that, but they certainly act as if they think they deserve the title."
"That's right, that's right," MacGuire continues. "And the way they carry on. The way they talk about helping the common soldier. But look at how things are. Look at the situation of most of these good men. Here we are, in the middle of this terrible slump, and what is the Royal Family doing? They're just doing nothing, that's all. They're sitting on their hands."
"They eat the finest food while the plain soldier gets just a slice of bread," Doyle adds.
"Mm, you find that kind of attitude everywhere, don't you?" Butler says.
"If there was just some way we could unhorse them," Doyle says. "Because, sir, that's what we want to do. We want to sweep the house clean. We want a new day."
"Well, that sounds like a commendable goal. But how exactly does it involve me?"
"We'd like you to come to the next convention, sir. We've arranged a way for you to come," Doyle says.
"How's that, without my being invited?" Butler says.
"You are to come as a delegate from Hawaii."
"But I do not live in Hawaii."
"See, that's the thing, sir. It does not make any difference. One of the American Legion posts there in Honolulu will not have a delegate. We have arranged to have you appointed, by cable, by radio, to represent them. You will be a delegate."
"Yes, but I have no interest in going in the back door."
MacGuire looks at Butler fixedly. "Sir, this won't be the backdoor. You must come."
The sound of the birds in the garden.
"No, I will not do this," Butler says.
Doyle says in a more phlegmatic tone than that of his partner: "Well, are you in sympathy with unhorsing the Royal Family? "
"Yes," Butler says. "because they've been selling out the common soldier in the Legion for years. These fellows at the top have been getting political plums, and jobs, and cheating the enlisted man and the Army, and I'm for putting them out. But I can't do it by going in through the back door."
"But, sir, the deck has already been stacked," MacGuire says, while throwing an approval-seeking glance at Doyle. "Sir, I wasn't going to tell you this originally, but I'm the chairman of the distinguished guest committee of the Legion."
Butler simply looks at MacGuire, who continues.
"Well, sir, I tried to get you put down as a distinguished guest. I put you down on the list. But when I went to the White House, I met with Louis Howe, the secretary for the president, and he just told me to take your name off that list."
Doyle's voice now also becomes urgent and affronted. "That's right, sir. Howe just took your name off the list."
Butler's face doesn't reveal any emotion. But he keeps quiet, as if slightly shocked by the news.
"And weren't you helping Roosevelt back in the past election? Weren't you one of the Republicans for Roosevelt?" MacGuire says.
"Yes, that's true, I was," Butler says. "We had to do something. We had to act. After the way the Hoover administration responded to the Bonus March, something had to happen."
"That's right. What the Hoover boys did was awful bad," Doyle says, his hands wrung together.
MacGuire excitedly jumps in. "Think about it. And think about the Royal Family itself didn't support paying the bonus now when these men really need it. I mean, here we have federal troops firing on veterans and their families, for heaven's sake. And there were the Hoover boys, not giving a damn. And what about the Royal Family? Did they give a damn? No sir, they just kept mum and watched the whole thing."
Butler stirs, but it is unclear whether he's experiencing the emotion of anger, or, as he watches the two men, his expression circumspect, the one of suspicion.
There is a beat. Then Butler says, "Well, what you gentlemen say is entirely true, and it's not a good situation. But I'm afraid there's not much I can do to help you. Unless I'm a part of that convention—and not, I should add, as a delegate from Hawaii—I don't really see that there's much I can do."
"But, sir, won't you at least think about what we said? In the opinion of some, you'd make a mighty fine commandant," MacGuire says. His words are logical, his tone is emotional.
Butler clears his throat. This does not dissuade MacGuire from fixing his eyes on Butler and even allowing them to become coated with a pleading gloss. Butler looks uncomfortably at the papers on his desk.
Doyle taps MacGuire lightly on the arm. "We understand what you mean, sir. Of course, sir." He stands. "Thank you for your time, sir. We'll be leaving then."
MacGuire, eager to show he can take a hint, stands, too, with the abrupt speed of a soldier snapping to attention. "Oh, of course, right, sir. Right. Right, Bill."
Butler escorts Doyle and MacGuire out of his office.
In the vestibule, Doyle turns. "But I trust, sir, that if the situation changes, you'll be able to see us again?"
Butler shrugs. "I'm willing to see any veteran who's in need."
"Well, that's right, it's the common veterans, the ones in need. That's what we're really thinking about," MacGuire says.
Butler nods. He opens the door. The chauffeured limousine, which brought the two men to his house, returns, almost, it would seem, by magic. It pulls up in front of the house, with the sound—somehow more elegant under its wheels—of gravel crunching. The chauffeur quickly emerges and opens a passenger door, and the two well-dressed men get in.
"Think of the plain soldier, sir," MacGuire calls out.
Butler looks at the two in their fine car and gives them a short wave goodbye.
Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. One month later.
Butler is in his kitchen, pouring himself a glass of water. He hears a knock. He walks briskly to the front of his house to the front door. He opens it.
There stand Doyle and MacGuire, smiling, plump-cheeked and expectant, their limousine in the background.
"Well, well, well," Butler says, with measured surprise.
"Do you have a moment, sir? We would like to speak to you," Doyle says.
Butler waves them in. "As you wish." And the three walk to his office.
Butler sits once again behind his desk. And the two men, once again, sit in wooden chairs, their expressions a mixture of unctuous and familiar.
"Thank you for having us, sir," MacGuire says.
"Yes, thank you," Doyle says.
"I thought I was fairly clear about where I stood last time," Butler states.
"But the situation has changed, sir," MacGuire says.
"Yes, the situation is different now," Doyle agrees.
There is an uncomfortable beat. MacGuire and Doyle look at each other, then back at Butler. MacGuire clears his throat.
"You see, sir. You were correct. We thought about it after the fact, and we owe you an apology. You were completely right to be uninterested in the idea of coming in as a delegate the way we suggested. It simply wouldn't be fitting for a soldier of your stature, your prestige."
"Well, I'm glad to see you're still not viewing me as a Hawaii fella," Butler says.
"But, sir, it is still important that you come," Doyle says.
"Yes, we've got a new plan, sir," MacGuire says. "You wouldn't have to come as a delegate from any particular state. Instead, you've got support from veterans all across the country. You've got support within the Legion. It's just a question of organizing that support."
"Well, as I told you, I'm not really interested in Legion politics," Butler says. "And I certainly don't have the time to get other Legionnaires interested in it."
Butler leans forward in his chair. "But if you and two or three hundred Legionnaires from around the country—and don't worry, sir, we'd do the organizational part of it, we'd make the lists of the names, we'd get them together—. If they came to the convention in Chicago with you...
"But we've been through this before. I haven't been invited as a delegate."
MacGuire now speaks with a surfeit of enthusiasm, determined to make his enthusiasm infectious. "But sir, anybody can go to the convention just as a visitor. And you'd go. And the two or three hundred other Legionnaires, they'd go too, in a special train. We'd arrange everything."
"So you'd want me to go to the convention just as a visitor?"
"Well, yes, yes, on the surface of it—as a ordinary Legionnaire, as an onlooker, sir.
"So I wouldn't be a participant?"
"That's right, sir. You'd appear in the gallery. But these other fellows, you understand, they'd be there, too. They'd be throughout the audience. We'd plant them here, we'd plant them there—"
MacGuire continues, changing his terminology, "Well, we'd sit them here, we'd sit them there. You know, give them a good view of the stage."
"Well, that sounds fine. So you'd pay for me to get a train ticket, and you'd pay for all these other fellows to get a train ticket, is that it? You have the money for that? "
"Oh, don't worry about the money part of it," MacGuire says, still excitedly, "we certainly do. And anyway, we'd get them in there, these fellows, and when you were there in the visitors' gallery, all you'd have to do is... stand up."
"That's right, sir. It would be, you know, sort of like a signal—" Doyle corrects himself. "Well, not really a signal. They'd be watching for you. These would be honest, true admirers of you."
"That's right, sir. They'd see you, and the moment you stood up, they'd start calling out for you to make a speech. They'd keep going like that for you, cheering for you, and they wouldn't stop that cheering until you got called to the stage to make a speech."
"Speech?" Butler blinks.
"Oh, we do have one here." MacGuire reaches into a breast pocket and pulls out a carefully folded pair of typewritten sheets of paper. "We can leave this here for you to read over, and you can see if you can get these other fellows to come."
Butler opens the paper. He scans the first page.
"Who wrote this?" he says. "You fellows?"
"Yes, sir," MacGuire beams. "That's our business—writing speeches. We have a commission from the Committee for a Sound Dollar. So what do you say? Will you speak?"
"Listen, these friends of mine that I know around here—even if they wanted to go, they could not afford to. Even if their train fare was paid for, it would cost them 100 dollars to stay in Chicago for five days."
"Well, we will pay for that, also," Doyle says.
"How can pay for all of it? You are disabled soldiers. How do you get the money to do that?"
"Oh, we have friends." MacGuire reassures him. "We will get the money, sir."
Butler pauses. He looks at the two men with expression of one who is pulling rank. Then, "Well, gentleman, I'm afraid I simply do not believe you have all this money."
Doyle and MacGuire look at each other.
MacGuire pulls from from his breast pocket a bank deposit book. "Sir, if you don't mind, and don't take it personally where I put my thumb." MacGuire places his thumb over the top of the bank book, which indicates whose account it is and what bank it is part of. "Look here."
Butler looks closely. There is a deposit of 42,000 dollars,.
"That's not chump change."
MacGuire laughs with a note of giddiness. "No, that certainly isn't. And there's more in the pipe, too."
MacGuire's tone becomes more intense. "So you see, sir, we will pay the bill. You just look around and two or three hundred men, and we will get them there and we will have accommodations for them."
Butler looks intently at MacGuire.
MacGuire simply laughs again.
A few moments later.
Butler stands in front of his house. It has just rained—a short, tentative rain. Nevertheless, he smells the fresh cut grass of his lawn as if it has been soaked in a heavy shower. He watches as Doyle and MacGuire clamber into their limousine. Then he watches them drive away.
He walks back inside. The comfortable, interior gloom of the vestibule surrounds him. He takes the speech MacGuire handed him from out of his pocket. The piece of paper glows in the dim light. He starts reading.
A field of tall grass. A few days later.
Butler is walking toward a village schoolhouse.
He steps inside. At desks that are bolted to the floor, two adolescent girls sit at tables, industriously finishing a study assignment. They use dip pens and inkwells to write with.
At the front of a room, a middle-aged teacher sits behind a desk. He wears a grey three-piece suit with rounded collars, pince-nez, and has greying hair that is parted in the middle. His posture is alert and rather stiff, like that of an old army man.
Butler addresses the teacher. "Ned. Sorry, I didn't realize you'd still be busy."
The teacher looks up. "Oh, hello, General. No, this is fine." He addresses the two students. "You two girls just run along now. Finish that assignment at home."
"Yes, Mr. Gorham," the girls says shyly.
Ned Gorham allows himself a relaxed smile. "So, what brings you here? Looking for some extra lessons?"
Butler smiles back. "You could call it that."
Butler is now sitting in one of the students' chairs, alone and comfortable with his old friend.
"But why are you asking me about the gold standard?" Gorham says. "I'm just a country teacher. You could make a trip up to Philadelphia. Ask one of the professors there."
"I remember you well, Ned Gorham. I remember the way you kept our units running sound. You have a good head on your shoulders for numbers. And another thing, I remember just how much you enjoyed reading the daily papers, when we could get them. You always seemed to me a man who was up to date."
Gorham grins, flattered but wary. "All I can do is offer you my take on things."
"That's all I'm asking for."
Some moments later.
Butler and Gorham deep in conversation.
"Well, the basic idea is this: every time the government prints a paper dollar, it has to have a gold dollar stored away somewhere. The idea is, the paper dollar is a symbol for the gold dollar," Gorham says.
"That seems to make a lot of sense to me."
"But now the government wants to change that so you can print more dollars."
"But isn't gold stronger?"
"Well, sure. But paper dollars aren't the only kinds of paper currency out there. Think of stocks or bonds. They're made of paper, and they have worth. But they're not backed by gold."
"But they're backed by something"
"Yes, they're backed by the worth of the company you've invested in."
"That's what I mean. There has to be something behind the paper," Butler says, his tone both stubborn and reasoning.
"Knowing what you do now, would you just take money from your bank and move it all into investments of, oh, a Pennsylvania steel mill just because I told you it was a solid operation and I had good information the slump was just about over?"
"But that's not the same. It's a private company. Its value can go up and down. Gold stays the same."
"Gold is a symbol, too, General. It's a more powerful symbol than paper, but that's still what it is. Anything that represents something else is a symbol. Man stopped exclusively trading long, long years ago. But trade in objects—in things you can eat, drink or wear—is the only real, tangible economic activity there is. Gold might make your heart warm the way a dollar bill will never match, but both make a lousy meal."
Butler's voice becomes more insistent, as he now cuts to the chase. "But then why are these fellows Doyle and MacGuire so keen on the gold standard? They tell me it will help the veterans."
"Well, they have a kind of logic. From what you told me, they want to prevent inflation. The gold-standard does that."
"And how does that connect to the plain soldier?"
"If he gets his bonus—which is a big if, mind—then he can rest assured it will keep its value. But you could say that to anyone, anywhere. There's nothing special about the money that the veterans get. All people have an equal interest in preventing inflation from point of view of all having an equal interest in not seeing their dollars lose their value."
"So these fellows are right, then." Butler folds his arms across his chest.
Gorham's speech becomes more teacherly. "Keep in mind what I said about "equal interest." I was only talking about value from one point of view. A millionaire with a million dollars has a lot of value to protect. Some poor fellow selling apples on the street hardly has any. Think about the situation that way and suddenly you realize a lot of folks have financial interests that operate differently from each other. Say the fellow with the apple stand suddenly gets offered a loan to start his own store, and the loan is at reasonable interest. Well, that's inflationary. But at the end of the day, if his store is a success, the value that his dollars lose to inflation is a lot less than the value he gains by being a successful businessman.
"So then, why not do both? Protect the gold standard and give more fellows a helping hand?"
"That's the point: the amount of gold the U. S. government has is limited. That limits the dollars it can spend. Sure, it can raise bonds and this and that, and use other methods to increase its budget. But really, insisting on a gold standard still keeps the government's spending very corralled. Some people—the Wall Street boys—might say that's a good thing. After all, they've got their fortunes. But back a few years ago when they were selling their own kind of paper, and making a very good profit from that, they sure weren't complaining about inflation. Because that's what happened on the markets: it was inflation, of a very specific sort. And yes, inflation is dangerous. On the market it led to that crash and then this slump we're living through. But sometimes you need to fight fire with fire. A little government inflation might not be such a bad thing, especially if it gets the overall economy moving again."
"So why aren't these fellows who keep visiting me and the Royal Family and all those other big-shots so stubborn on this point: we have to keep the gold standard—if we don't, there will be some kind of catastrophe."
Gorham shrugs. "They're not talking about something that's certain. They're just talking about something that's somewhat more likely than something else, and even then, just in the short term. Once this slump is over, more people will start buying, and businesses will start booming. But the big-shots have lost faith in that happening. And paying back the bonus now would put a lot of pressure on the Federal Treasury. All the big fellows have faith in is those little shining chunks of metal the government keeps in Fort Knox. And yes, that second value is more "certain" than the first. But it's not going to last forever. Spending more for all is really the way to help all. It just doesn't feel that way at first."
"But how are people like us to understand something like national finance? How are we to really know which direction is best?"
Gorham clearly feels the urge to deliver another brief lecture. But then he catches himself. "Well, talk to someone else besides me, General. It's grand that you came to see me, but I'm just one man. Why don't you make a trip to Philadelphia or New York and talk to one of the professors there? They'd have more information. That's what a democracy is: various people putting their heads together."
"But who? The universities in Philadelphia alone are so big."
"Well, how about the fellow who taught me when I was in teachers' college? He was just a junior professor then, but he's gone on and is at Columbia now. Name's Silverberg. Look, here's his address." Gorham writes something down.
"What kind of a name is that?"
"He's a fine fellow. He's awful smart. In fact, I'd say he's one of the most curious people I've ever met."
Butler isn't able to resist the adolescent play on words. "So, he's curious, is he?"
"You know what I mean. He's got a sharp mind, and about all sorts of things. Really, just a smart fellow."
Gorham hands Butler the piece of paper.
Butler, with less than fulsome enthusiasm, takes it.
Dinner time in the Butler household.
Butler puts down his cutlery and dabs daintily at the edges of his mouth with a napkin.
"Thank you, dear. That was sure delicious."
"Well, I'm glad you liked it, Smedley," Mrs. Butler says. "You certainly concentrated on it."
Butler looks at her.
Mrs. Butler continues, "You've hardly said a word all evening."
He stands and leaves the kitchen without saying anything more. His wife looks after him and laughs under her breath.
Butler walks into the hallway. He looks with a certain discomfort at the phone, sitting on its small, round table. Then his attention is caught by a soft, thrumming purring.
He looks down to where Wilberforce is rubbing against his leg.
"Well, hello, you," he says, distractedly but fondly.
A few moments later.
Butler is now in a hall devoted to the regalia and memorabilia that he has accumulated over his career as a soldier: banners and triumphal flags are draped from the walls. A glass case holds a variety of medals.
Butler opens the case.
He pulls out a small, bronze medal, much more modest, it would seem, than the Congressional medals of honor
He fingers the smaller medal.
Once more, the approach of padded feet.
Butler looks at the house-cat. "You're following me everywhere tonight, aren't you?"
Wilberforce resumes his mission of rubbing.
Butler puts the medal back in the glass case.
"Well, time for bed, don't you think?"
Butler walks to the end of the hallway and ascends a staircase.
Several days later. Mid-day. The beginning of August.
The sky has turned hazy and still. Outside, the electric, orchestral sound of crickets and the distant drone of cicadas.
There is a knock on the door.
Butler walks to the door and opens it. There stands MacGuire, this time alone. MacGuire, smiling once again at the General, lets out a friendly laugh.
"The hot days have really started, haven't they, sir?" he says, his voice a sudden gush. "Thank you, thank you for letting me drop by."
"You've been dropping by quite a bit lately, haven't you?"
"Sir, it's for the good of the Legion."
The two walk to Butler's office, and Butler takes his regular position behind his desk, while MacGuire once more plunks himself in one of the chairs, his physical bulk seemingly diminished by his surroundings.
"I think you've got some explaining to do," Butler says.
"You know, I can explain whatever you want, sir."
"This money that you showed me earlier—where did you get all this money? It cannot be yours."
"Well, y'see, this movement to unhorse the Royal Family, there are other people behind it. Bigger men than me."
"Well, there are nine of them. And the biggest contributor has given me $9,000. And the donations, they run all the way from $2,500 to $9,000."
"What's the object of all this?"
"Well, the object is to take care of the rank and file of the soldiers. To get them their bonus and get them properly cared for."
"With all due respect, Mr. MacGuire, it's time for us to get down to brass tacks. The kind of people who are in favor of the gold standard are not the kind of people in favor of paying the bonus now. If anything, the opposite. That's why Hoover in the first place thought he could get away with busting up the Bonus March the way he did."
"Oh, no, sir, you're wrong about that."
"Well, then, who are these nine men?"
"One of them is Colonel Murphy. You know, Grayson M.-P. Murphy. I work for him. I am in his office."
"How do you end up being associated with that kind of person if you are for the ordinary soldier and paying him his bonus and his proper care? You know damn well these bankers are not going to swallow that. There is something in this, Jerry MacGuire, besides what you have told me. I can see that."
"Well, sir, I am a businessman. I have got a wife a family to keep, and they take good care of them, those fellows. And if you took my advice, you would be a businessman, too."
"Well, there has to be more to it than that. What does Murphy have to do with all this?"
"Don't you know who he is?"
"Just indirectly. He's a broker in New York. But I do not know any of his connections."
"Well, he's the man who underwrote the formation of the American Legion for $125,000. He underwrote it, paid for the fieldwork of organizing it, and hasn't got all of it back yet."
"And so that's his connection to the Royal Family? He's the one who makes the kings, is he? He has still got a club over their heads."
"He's still on our side, though. He wants to see the plain soldiers cared for."
"So you keep saying."
"It's the simple truth."
"And the others of the nine. What about them?"
"They're solid fellows, General. I can assure you of that," MacGuire says earnestly.
Butler allows a degree of force to enter his voice. "I find it queer the way you keep slipping around answering my questions, Jerry MacGuire."
MacGuire, unperturbed, reaches into his breast pocket, a zone of his clothing that Butler is starting to associate with a horn of plenty.
"I've got some checks of other deposits here."
He shows Butler further checks.
"Here's one from John Mills," MacGuire says. "And another from Robert Sterling Clark."
Butler reads one of the checks. "This fellow's name rings a bell."
"Mr. Clark? He was a soldier, too, sir. Served in China."
"Oh, right. The "millionaire lieutenant." A bit of an odd duck." Beat, then looking directly at MacGuire. "So Murphy is the prime mover? Murphy is the one in charge?" Butler says.
MacGuire smiles complacently. "Mr. Murphy is a powerful man, sir."
Both Butler and MacGuire look directly at each other, the former impatient, the latter beatifically calm. There is a long pause. One can hear the birds outside the window.
The exterior of Butler's house, several minutes later.
MacGuire is entering in his hired limousine.
"You think about what I said about the Committee for a Sound Dollar, General," MacGuire calls out while settling in his seat and speaking through the car's window. "These are solid fellows who are behind it. And they're helpful, too."
Butler doesn't respond. He watches as the chauffeur starts the car and it departs, the receding sound of the limousine's motor dying out like a slow cheer.
Grand Central Station on a weekday morning.
General Butler has arrived in New York for a day trip. Crowds of commuters surround him, their voices and movements echoing within the station's vast chamber like the sound of water, like activity made liquid.
Butler exits the station and steps onto the sidewalk. To one side is a man who is begging. He is missing both arms, and sits on the concrete. In front of him a small wicker basket.
"Sir, just a dime."
"What happened to you, then?" Butler says. "Were you a fighting man?"
The man is confused. "I didn't fight with nobody."
Butler smiles tightly and once again tries, perhaps a little too earnestly, to be comradely. "No, did you fight in the forces? Were you a uniformed man?"
"I worked in the fields, sir. I lost my arms to a threshing machine."
For a moment, Butler is at a loss. "Oh." He reaches for some change. All he has is pennies. Suddenly self-conscious, he throws these in the man's basket. Then he walks away quickly. "May God be with you."
The entrance of Columbia University.
Butler steps out of a taxi cab, looks at the campus and its grand size, and is not without a degree of awe. He looks once more at the sheet of paper Ned Gorham gave him and heads toward a nearby building.
Inside the building.
Butler approaches a secretary. "Is this the right department? I'm looking for Prof. Silverberg."
"I'm sorry, sir. This is the Economics Department. We don't have a Prof. Silverberg here."
"But I thought he did know about economics. I was told he was here."
The secretary shrugs. She looks vaguely at some papers on her desk, clearly hoping Butler will go.
Butler looks at her, repressing his exasperation at her lack of helpfulness.
The campus grounds. A few minutes later.
Butler is wandering. Nearby, he spots an athletic-looking male student in a varsity jacket who's with a girfriend. "Excuse me, I'm looking for Prof. Silverberg. Do you know where I can find him?"
"Sorry, old fellow. Never heard of him," the student says cheerfully but indifferently.
Still on the campus grounds.
Butler begins talking to an elderly security guard.
"Yes, I know Prof. Silverberg," the guard says.
"He's not in the building my friend told me he was."
"They might have moved him," the guard says. Butler can't resist rolling his eyes,and the guard, noticing Butler's expression, adds, "I can phone the main office if you want."
The interior of another office building at Columbia. Ten minutes later.
Butler has finally reached his goal. He shakes hands with Prof. Silverberg.
"I'm sorry to be late. I had trouble finding you."
"The apologies are all mine," Silverberg says. "They moved my office and changed my phone number, too. I tried to reach Ned so he could tell you, but I guess you were already on your train."
"So they run universities the way they run armies?"
Silverberg laughs. "No. But the administration of this school runs my life as if I'm the enemy."
Butler looks at Silverberg quizzically.
"I'm not a popular man. My ideas get me into trouble."
"Well, that makes two of us, then," Butler says dryly.
Some time later.
Silverberg and Butler are talking about the gold standard and the Committee for a Sound Dollar.
Butler: "The way Ned explains it, it's a question of whether we give more money to the common man and risk that the paper money loses some of its value, or whether we protect the value of the paper money completely but just leave the common man to fend for himself."
Silverberg: "Well, that's extremely succinct. And that's accurate, too. A lot of economists will talk about a nation's economy as if it's a set of interchanges, or a system by which we assign value—to, say, a manufactured product, or a piece of food, or an hour of labor—and then try to make sense of how all those values interconnect. But it's a system of competing self-interests, as well. And that's what I like about what you just said. We can give more money to the common people. Or we can give more money to the rich. It's something that, as a society, we have to choose."
"But we don't give money to the rich. They already have it."
"Well, they certainly do. But we give them more. In effect, the gold standard is a method of locking wealth into a system where more wealth is generated—albeit, at a very slow pace in the current economic situation. That's one way of seeing it, at least if one is talking solely about those people with enough money or the ingrained habit of investing a portion of their savings. But we also generate wealth for a specific group of the rich, and we do that a little differently, and a little more rawly, when we allow a situation like a slump to just keep continuing."
"But you just said a slump slows things down. And that's obvious. So even if the rich are already rich, why should that benefit them more than just getting over the slump and having everyone make more money?"
"Look, maybe I'm not being clear. Ned Gorham's point, as you described it to me, is there is a certain psychological resistance on the part of the well-to-do against moving off the gold standard. And that's right. It's a simple, instinctive reaction. Man X has ten million dollars. The gold standard keeps that ten million at a fixed value. A move off the standard is likely to—no, let's be honest here—is bound to reduce that value, at least somewhat."
Silverberg relaxes in his chair. "But in this kind of situation we're just talking about emotions and feelings. Everyone has them. If you had ten million, you'd start feeling them to. It's the "that's mine" response. You can see it I the smallest of children.
"However, if you belong to a different group—let's call this the subset of the rich, who actually run factories and have employees—a slump is effective because it creates a pool of labor that is constantly competing against itself. How do you keep a fellow from asking for more money when he's building ovens? Well, you tell him there's another fellow who can do the same work for half his wage."
Butler crosses his arms. "So you're saying there are rich folk who want the slump?"
"It's wrong in economics to talk about what people "want" or "don't want," as if we're describing some fellow we might meet on the street, or even a fancy restaurant. I'm just saying, the instinct toward self-interest is strong, and it is very finely tuned. Labor conditions actually have more of an effect on the ability of a factory owner to make money than something like the gold standard."
"But you just can't keep one-quarter of the population out of work," Butler says with some indignation. "It's unjust. And it'll create all sorts of mischief."
"And that's exactly the tricky thing, isn't it? Maintaining the balance between social competition and social distress. Do that and you have an economic system that functions perfectly because it generates fear at the level of the working fellow without causing him to get so angry that he starts fighting for something better."
Butler looks at Silverberg. His face is impassive, but he displays a subtle expression of alarm, as if the conversation is going in an unpredictable, and potentially incendiary, direction.
Butler looks down at the floor.
"Well, a fellow's got to work. But he's got to get a square deal. We need jobs for all those unemployed veterans, and all the others, too. That's the key: jobs, and fair-paying ones."
"Yes, General. That's the key," Silverberg says somewhat disconsolately, as if he's realized he's gone too far.
Butler moves toward the door of Silverberg's office.
"I have a train to catch. If you'll excuse me."
The same tone. "Of course, General."
"Thank you, Professor, for taking the time to speak to me."
"Not at all."
Butler seems about to say something else, and Silverberg, noticing this, seems on the verge of responding to the sentence that he senses Butler is about to make. But the two men just look awkwardly at each other, their eyes focusing just to one side of those of the other. The office is absolutely filled with books, and both men suddenly seem fascinated by this fact; the utility of book shelves—their spines a form of socially necessary distraction.
"Goodbye then," Butler says with some formality.
The exterior of the departmental office. Amoment later.
The afternoon is passing into evening. Colors are darkening. Butler is hurries to catch a cab.
Upon entering one, he says to the driver crisply, "Grand Central Station."
And when he arrives at the train station, he glances briefly at the spot where the man with no arms was. It is empty.
The interior of the train. Several minutes later.
Butler is settling into his seat. Beside him is a man with a diamond stud in his tie. Outside, the train's whistle, slow and routine.
The train begins to move forward.
"I love this view in the evening," the man next to Butler says chummily.
"Mm," Butler says.
Then the train's whistle blows again, suddenly sharp, and the train halts.
The passengers sit, at first quietly, then fidgeting and talking to each other. A conductor appears in the car. The man with the diamond stud says to him, "Excuse me. What's the cause of this?"
The conductor is flustered. "Don't worry, sir. Nothing to be alarmed about."
"Will there be a delay?" the man says.
"Possibly for a few minutes, sir. It seems there was an animal on the tracks."
Butler looks out the train window. All he can see is New York in the dying evening light, and its constant, vital bustle.
Mr. and Mrs. MacGuire are treating their nephew and niece to supper. It's just after dinner, and Mrs. MacGuire is clearing the table. She collects used dishes and takes them to the kitchen. MacGuire sits at the table with a sated expression. His niece and nephew are wiping their mouths with napkins before having some tea in the drawing room.
"That was delicious," his niece says. She raises her voice and directs it toward the kitchen. "Thank you, Aunt Elizabeth."
"You're welcome, dear," Mrs. MacGuire calls back.
MacGuire and his nephew retire to the drawing room. MacGuire takes a large, overstuffed chair with still-bright floral upholstery. Not without show, he pulls a cigar from his jacket. He lights the cigar and looks at his nephew.
"Any luck with your finding a job?"
"No, uncle. But I'm doing my best."
MacGuire nods, lifting his lips into a warm smile, his eyes already elsewhere.
Twenty minutes later. The porch of the MacGuire house. MacGuire's nephew and niece are walking down the steps.
"Why don't you stop talking about looking for a job and just find one?" the girl says.
"Sis, it's not that easy."
"Well, anyway that's what I think about it. I see people selling apples on the street. You could do something like that. You could be painting houses. You could be cleaning the windows of storefronts. You could be doing something."
"Sis, I've got my dignity. I want to work in a store."
The White House, early afternoon. Roosevelt and Ray Moley are together, alone.
"Sir," Moley says, "the bank situation has stabilized. But in order to keep that stability, we really should consider an insurance scheme—"
"Ray, we've been through this before. I'm not going to stand by and allow onerous premiums be placed on the healthy banks. The unhealthy ones will just drag them down."
"Well, the political reality is that Senator Vandenberg is teaming up with, ah—"
Moley's mouth pulls back with a discretionary beat, "your vice president."
"Oh?" Roosevelt murmurs disdainfully. "Is he sober these days?"
"They're going to find strong support in both houses. They've written an amendment to the Glass-Steagall Act. They've got the votes."
Roosevelt wavers at this point; Moley is being unnervingly rational. "Well... Are you sure it's a good idea?"
The White House. Another meeting on the same theme. Roosevelt and Moley are this time joined by Henry Morgenthau.
"Are the farmers getting the help they need?" Roosevelt asks. "We've got to help them raise prices."
"We can do that by taking cropland out of production," Moley says.
"Can we do that and still stay in budget?"
"The people I've been talking to tell me yes."
Morgenthau intercedes. "It is something we can do. And have to. I've heard there is some talk of revolt in the farming regions."
"You know, one thing I won't have—and Louis has told me he's with me on this—is my administration gaining a reputation as fiscally irresponsible," Roosevelt says.
"We do have to spend money..." Morgenthau says.
"Which means we have to cut it elsewhere."
"I think we've already cut enough. We're taking over 20% out of the budget."
"We can do even better than that," Roosevelt insists. "We have to stop these entitlement programs. The veterans in particular are simply sitting a little too pretty while the rest of the population is hurting."
Moley cuts in. "Many of those veterans are very deserving fellows who've paid an awful steep price. It's certainly not their fault when they can't work."
"I understand that. But some of them are getting regular cheques when their injuries weren't even sustained in battle."
Moley allows himself one wring of the hands. "It's a very emotional issue."
Roosevelt, however, has got caught up in his own high-flown rhetoric. "Emotions pass. The important thing is that we look at, ah, you know, the big picture. After all, the reason we're in a depression, as you yourself keep reminding me, is because of structural problems in the economy—"
Moley, interrupting: "Senator Cutting is calling you a heartless skinflint."
Roosevelt is caught off guard. "What?"
"He's saying you're heartless," Moley says. "Sir, veterans are committing suicide. There's a limit to what a wounded man can take."
Roosevelt suddenly looks down, and Moley has the watchful, anxious expression of a man who realizes he's put his foot in his mouth. But Roosevelt does not seem angry so much as exhausted. He keeps looking down. Moley and Morgenthau become conscious of the muted sound of cars on Pennsylvania Avenue.
"Sir..." Morgenthau says after several moments.
Roosevelt looks up.
"Sir. We have to keep the books as balanced as we can. But we have to—"
"Yes," Roosevelt says, his voice now drained. "That's fine. I understand." He doesn't seem to be fully listening, and he looks down again.
Morgenthau and Moley look at each other.
"Please let me apologize, sir. I didn't mean to be tactless," Moley says.
"No, no, you were right, Ray. You were right to speak your mind."
"And there's another way of seeing this, sir," Morgenthau says.
Roosevelt and Moley look at him.
Morgenthau continues haltingly. "We have to help the veterans. But we also have to—"
"Well—?" Roosevelt says, the color returning to his face and impatience returning to his voice.
"Well, to be blunt," Morgenthau says, "these aren't simply farmers we're talking about. These are army folk."
Roosevelt regards Morgenthau, as does Moley. Morgenthau has the helpless look of someone who feels he has already made his point and does not know how better to express it.
"Think of the situation elsewhere, sir," Morgenthau continues. "Veterans are a class unto themselves. We have to prevent them from becoming—we can't allow them to become—angry."
Roosevelt is unmoved. "I'm still cutting their benefits. That sonofabitch Cutting be damned, I'll not ruin my budget. And I'll not be called a skinflint. We'll do our best. Maybe the cuts won't be as sharp as first intended. But we will cut."
"Yes, sir," Ray Moley says.
"Yes, sir," Hengry Morgenthau says.
"This isn't Europe, after all," Roosevelt says, trying gamely to buttress his argument.
Moley and Morgenthau do not say anything more— they just look at him. Roosevelt looks back at the two men, and, returning to form, just smiles.
The interior of the White House, just outside the Oval Office.
Moley and Morgenthau are emerging from their meeting with the president. Moley looks preoccupied.
Moley lets out a gargantuan sigh, like someone who has just run up 20 flights of stairs.
A few days later on the streets of New York. A residential neighborhood.
MacGuire's nephew is walking along the street looking rather disconsolate. He's with a young friend.
"Well, Frankie, I don't know why I feel so blue. I guess it's this slump. It's just making me hopeless. Everything is so difficult. You know what Lisa said to me a few days ago? I should start selling apples."
"Ah, well," Frankie says, "Lisa's just a girl. What does she know?"
"Well, how about you, Frankie? You've done alright. You were working in Detroit, weren't you?"
"Yeah, I worked there for a while."
"So what happened? Did they lock the gates?
Frankie looks down at the street. The sound of a streetcar passing. "Nah. Just wanted to go."
"But weren't you working at that car plant? I hear they play pretty good money at those car plants."
Another streetcar. "Sort of."
The two friends are now at a soda shop, half an hour later, sitting and enjoying an ice cream soda.
"Boy," MacGuire's nephew says. "That's what I should do. Go to Detroit."
"No," Frankie says, suddenly speaking with more authority, "you don't want to go to Detroit."
Frankie continues in the same new, more confidential, forceful tone. "You don't know what it's like out there. Sure, you're young so they might spring you to the front of the line. If the economy starts to pick up, you have a chance at getting a job, though I wouldn't bet on it right now. But even then— those assembly lines, that's hard work. It's like working in a field at double-time. The parts just keep moving down those belts, they just keep coming at you faster and faster it seems. You get so tired that by the end of the day, it's all you want to do is go home and sleep. You're not even hungry."
"But it's money. You've got to work for your money."
"No, you don't understand. And if you complain about it, if you mention anything, they've got these guys, these Black Legion guys. They come around with bats. They'll take care of you pretty good."
Frankie seems distracted by something outside the shop. "Never mind. Forget I ever said it."
Irenée du Pont settles in the back seat of his limousine when he notices a stain on his trousers. It is whitish, like the residue of a cream soup, and he curses and tries to lift it with his fingernail. When that doesn't work, he spits on a fingertip and rubs at it. After performing this latter action, he looks up surreptitiously; he doesn't want the driver to see.
His car moves through the streets on Manhattan. Du Pont glances at the crowds on the sidewalk. All seem fine, all seem prosperous. Then he notices an assembly of riff-raff with placards.
Upon arriving at his club, he walks into the smoking room just as Knudsen and a few others are smoking and drinking aperatifs, waiting for dinner to be served.
"Dinner served?" DuPont asks upon entering.
"Soon," Knudsen replies.
"'Soon' means nothing."
DuPont is pacing around, with a rather concerned, preoccupied gait.
"DuPont, you've got to just rest yourself," Knudsen says. "You worry too much."
"Well, somebody's got to do it. Maybe if you worried a little more—"
"Oh, I worry just fine keeping those car plants going."
"Worry more still. You might raise your profits a little."
"We're making profits just fine."
DuPont turns on his heel to look at Knudsen, who is annoying him especially this evening. "That's not what the financial pages tell me."
"We're increasing the speed of our lines. You'll see. We're doing just fine."
"Yes, well, you just make sure those union boys don't get together and make you slow your lines down."
The dining room of the club. The first course is in the process of being served. Nerves have settled.
A slim man in a well-tailored suit, well-coiffed hair and with a slight curl to his lip appears at the doorway.
DuPont looks up.
"Bush," he says
Bush enters. "Nice to see you again, Irenee." He shakes hands with DuPont.
DuPont turns to Knudsen. "You know Prescott Bush, don't you?"
Knudsen smiles politely and shakes hands. "Pleased to meet you."
The club members are through their soup and beginning the main course.
"Things are just going to hell in this country," DuPont says as he chews on a mouthful of lamb. "That's the fact of it. It's the leadership that's destroying this country."
Knudsen concentrates on his serving. "Leadership takes balance, it takes time."
DuPont rolls his eyes. He looks at Bush.
"How about you? You've traveled, haven't you, Bush? What do you think? Does America have good leadership?"
Bush laughs under his breath. "Americans don't understand leadership."
Still over dinner.
Bush, who's polishing off his third glass of wine, his eyes now glassy with the look of someone who, in his cups, is now feeling the inner glow of inspiration. "Now, Germany, there's a country with leadership."
DuPont nods. "That Hitler—there's a fascinating fellow. I like that idea, the superman idea."
"Well, I wouldn't know about that," Bush avers.
Knudsen says with well-fed familiarity to Bush, "Well, DuPont is the chemicals man. You should hear some of the ideas he has."
DuPont says firmly, "We're at the beginning of a new age. You fellows don't realize that. That's what Hitler is about, that's what Hitler realizes."
"We're part of an ongoing age," Knudsen says.
This only prompts DuPont to continue emphatically. "Lack of vision, lack of vision in this country. Do you realize some of the discoveries we've been making? Just think of the refinements in the vitamin alone. The vitamin: an essential ingredient of human health. And we're isolating more and more all the time."
Bush looks at DuPont with interest. "Well, what I like about Germany is the order. The way people have a sense of duty, a strong work ethic."
"You could have an even stronger work ethic with the right vitamins."
Outside the Newark train station, it's mid-morning and a clear day, though with enough clouds in the sky that the sun only shines with a bright unevenness.
The train from Newtown Square arrives. As the shrill, disciplined twee of the train's whistle blows, Butler disembarks from a car. A porter approaches him.
"Take your luggage sir?"
"Please," Butler smiles.
The two walk to the station's entrance until they are at the taxi stand. The porter is carrying Butler's rather sizeable trunk on a two-wheeled truck.
"Here for a while, sir?"
"Just a couple of days."
The porter, eager to make himself as useful as possible, flags a cab down. Butler, used to this sort of treatment, stands to one side. The porter exhales a strenuous grunt and lifts Butler's trunk into the back of the cab.
The porter, breathes a sigh of relief. "There you go sir." He approaches Butler.
"Thank you," Butler says, and he hands the porter a tip. The porter takes it with a smile, then, looking in his palm, cannot fully conceal his disappointed grimace. Butler, meanwhile, oblivious to this, happily gets in the cab.
By the time his car arrives downtown, the sky has become overcast. The taxi comes to a chuffing halt in front of a large hotel—Newark's finest. Butler allows himself a moment of happy anticipation when regarding its facade. He exits the cab, watches distractedly as another porter takes his trunk, and enters the hotel.
The lobby is marble-filled and echoey. To one side are several stuffed chairs and a sofa. Butler approaches the front desk. A clerk in a black jacket and with black, slicked back hair, greets him.
"What is your name, sir?"
"Lieutenant-General Smedley Butler."
"Ah, yes, you're here for the convention of the Legion?"
"29th Division, yes."
A middle-aged man gets up from one of the lobby's chairs and approaches Butler, not able to contain his excitement.
He says with gruff friendliness, "General!"
Butler turns. Approaching him is a portly man with a hale-fellow-well-met manner writ large. He already has his hand extended in greeting, as if he is plowing his way across the choppy seas of the hotel's lobby.
"Smitty!" Butler says, his tone of voice also becoming very gregarious.
Smitty reaches Butler and claps him in a friendly manner on the shoulder. Then he steps back, as if forgetting something, and gives Butler a smart salute.
Smitty turns to the desk clerk. "Do you realize who this is? Do you realize who you're having in your hotel this weekend?"
"Why, this is Lieutenant-General Butler, sir," the clerk says properly.
"'Lieutenant-General'?" Smitty cries out with mock outrage. "This man is a prince, a king! He should be crowned!"
"You tell me you've never heard of him?" Smitty says, not letting it rest. "Old Gimlet Eye?"
The clerk, uncomfortable, opens his mouth to offer an excuse. But Smitty's attention has already turned. He is looking at Butler with delight. He slaps Butler once again on the shoulder.
Smitty's gaze seems to lose its focus in some middle distance, and he says not without theatricality while quoting some private memory, "'We'll fight the bastards, hit 'em where it hurts!'" He laughs heartily.
Butler also laughs, his voice now adolescent and energetic.
The clerk lifts his lips.
It is now evening, and in a rented hall arranged for a dinner that hasn't commenced yet. Smitty. in his Great War uniform of captain, stands behind a speaker's podium, acting as the evening's emcee. Throughout the room, veterans sit at round dinner tables, set for a sumptuous meal and waiting to be served.
"I don't want to keep you fellows waiting for your grub," Smitty says into a microphone. "But let me tell you, stick around after it's finished. Don't be leaving early, now. We have a special guest speaker tonight. Maybe you've heard the rumors. Yes, we have Old Gimlet Eye himself—champion of the common soldier and defenderf of the Bonus... General Smedley Darlington Butler!"
There is full-voiced cheering throughout the room.
Dinner is now in progress. At the table of honor, Butler sits with Smitty and several other veterans.
"Aren't these pork chops the best?" Smitty says, addressing the entire table.
"Smitty, if you think this is top of the line, I'd hate to see what the cooking of your missus is like," another vet says.
Smitty maintains his projecting-to-the-back-of-the-room voice. "Always making wise, ain't you, Dukie? Well, at least I know where my wife is in the evenings."
The other veterans at the table let out a roar of ribald laughter. The mood apparently is infectious; Butler, too, seems caught up in it, even as he tries to play the role of peace-maker.
"Now hold your horses, you two. Let's just appreciate that we're enjoying a fine restaurant meal. If there's anything we should be comparing it to, it's the grub they served to us when we were humping our gear for the Marines."
"Here's to that," Smitty agrees. "Thank the Lord we're done with that swill."
"Pardon me for talking blue," Dukie says, "but Jesus H. Christ I wish we could toast to that."
"Well, we could toast with beer," Smitty says.
"No. I mean a glass of the good stuff."
Another vet cuts in. "Well, I hear FDR's going to do away with Prohibition completely. He's already gone part-way there."
A third says sourly, "I wouldn't hold my breath."
"FDR's a moderate improvement on the previous fellow," Smitty says. "But let's spell it out direct: he's still a follower, a company boy. We need a real man in the White House. That'd shake things up a bit."
The third vet regards the table with a sly smile, while reaching into his jacket pocket and surreptitiously pulling out a silver flask, "Well, if you boys can keep a secret, we may not be having to wait all that long for a nip of the good stuff."
Dukie and Smitty look at the third vet with glee.
"McTavish, I always knew you were a stand-up fellow!" Smitty declares.
"Well, that's what a trip to Chicago will get you," McTavish grins.
Butler looks at all. "This is going to have to wait until after my speech for me at least.," he says with a degree of fastidious, but also thirst.
"Sure! And you give 'em hell, General!" Smitty says.
Butler is at the podium. He has the cadence of a seasoned speaker. "Sure, when you marched on Washington for your Bonus and staked out a camp on the Anacostia Flats, they called you bums. Well, they proved themselves the bums. All you were asking for what was you deserved, your due, in the hard times a lot of us are living through. And what did they do? Call out General MacArthur's troops! On you! Good fighting men! And so we showed those bastards you cannot—I repeat, cannot—get away with that sort of thing! And we threw them out!"
The room is filled with passionate cheering.
A voice calls out, "We should've fired back on the bastards!"
Butler raises his hands to contain the crowd's emotions. "No, no. You've got to keep your sense of reason. You've got to make your changes at the ballot box."
"The ballot box is fixed, too!" Smitty yells. "Just give the bastards a taste of Army lead!"
There is more, and more uncontrolled, cheering.
Butler raises his hands again, trying to settle the crowd down. It is unclear whether this is effective.
"But-ler! But-ler!" the crowd begins to chant in unison.
Butler remains patiently at the podim. He is clearly embarrassed by the crowd's behaviour. But the expression on his face shows that he is not entirely displeased by it; intoxication comes in more than one form.
Early the next morning, Butler's hotel room.
Butler lies in bed, sleeping fitfully. Suddenly, the loud, clangy ring of the bedside phone.
Butler picks up the phone and says groggily, "He-llo?"
"General Butler?" an operator says. "I have someone on the line who would like to speak to you."
"May I ask who it is?"
"He won't say. He says he's a friend of yours."
Butler clears his throat. "Fine. Put him on."
A garrulous voice comes on the line. "General—it's me!"
"MacGuire?" Butler says with half-alert surprise.
"That's right, sir."
"So—" Butler says evenly, composing himself. "You managed to track me down in Newark."
"I am in Newark."
Butler is taken aback. "Oh, really?"
"I'm just down in the lobby right now. Mind if I come up for a moment?
A couple minutes later.
There is a knock on the door and Butler, in a dressing gown and slippers, walks to the vestibule of his suite. He opens the door.
Standing there, flush-faced and smiling, with a bit of perspiration on his forehead, is Gerald C. MacGuire.
"Mind if I step in?"
Butler allows him in. MacGuire enters with all the familiarity of one visiting a best friend. Butler looks at him with a touch of impatience. "Well?"
"Well, sir, I was wondering if you'd made a decision yet."
"About leading a contingent of Legionnaires to the convention in Chicago. You know, it's coming up soon."
"I thought I was crystal clear the last time we met," Butler says, his voice also with a crystal edge. "To do something like that would take money."
"Well, you know, I told you, sir, money isn't really a problem."
Butler gives a shrugging laugh at MacGuire's line. "In fact, it is."
"We do have lots of money."
"Let me be frank with you MacGuire. What you did was show me a check book with numbers in it. Anybody could do that. What I've got to see is cold hard cash."
MacGuire smiles. "I can show that to you."
He reaches into a back pocket and pulls out a fat wallet. Inside it are several bills. MacGuire pulls the first one out with a touch of drama. Butler, despite himself, lets out a gasp of surprise. It's a thousand dollar bill. MacGuire, seeing this response, pulls out several others. He throws them, in a seemingly careless manner, on the bed.
"Look at that, sir. Just look at that, would you? We've been getting contributions—big contributions. There it is: 18 thousand dollars."
Butler stares at the money. Under his breath: "Jesus Christ." Then, sharply, looking at MacGuire. "Will you get that off my bed?"
MacGuire gives a nervous chuckle. "Well, you wanted to see cash."
"Listen, I know a thing or two about being a police officer. You're talking to not only a retired general, but a retired cop," Butler says angrily. "Those thousand dollar bills—all their serial numbers are recorded. I take one of those with me and I'm implicated in your scheme no matter what the truth is or what I say afterwards."
"But, sir," MacGuire says, now plaintively, "you wanted to see money."
"Yeah, I want to see money because I want you to be able prove you're not just all words and no action."
"Well, there is the money. Those are real bills. You can finger them if you want. They're the real McCoy."
"Whether they're the real McCoy or not isn't the point I'm driving at right now. Those are marked bills."
"Well, I could go to the bank." MacGuire says, eager to please. "I could exchange them. I could give you smaller denominations. That wouldn't be a problem."
Butler draws himself up."You know something, MacGuire? I'm gonna give it to you straight. You've been coming to see me how many times now? Three, four? And every time, it's you and Bill Doyle or you alone, but to be blunt, you're not the one who's the back of this, are you? Come on, tell me the truth. Are you the one who's the back of it?"
"Well, I'm one of the organizers..."
"Sure, there are several of us..."
"I want to talk to the top people."
MacGuire looks at Butler, visibly reddening.
Butler continues, "I've had it with this. You dropping by, making hints about this and that, giving me speeches you want me to read, not listening when I tell you a plain, flat no. I want to talk to the top person. I want to talk to somebody big in your organization."
MacGuire, after a moment's hesitation, looks at Butler and then nods.
"Well?" Butler says.
"I'll do that, sir. I can do that."
"You're still not levelling with me, MacGuire. I said I want to talk to the big people. To do that, I've got to know their names."
"John W. Davis is one of them. He wrote that speech. He's a Morgan man."
Butler's eyes narrow. "I thought you said you wrote it."
MacGuire reddens to a tomato-like hue. "Well, we helped." A new thought, which he adds quickly, "And Robert Sterling Clark. Now there's a big fella. And a soldier, too."
"Yeah, Clark's name rings a bell."
"Well, he was a soldier. He served in China. What I heard was that he served with you."
"You mean the fellow they referred to as the 'millionaire lieutenant'?"
"Yeah, that's right. He fought in the Boxer campaign."
Butler nods. "Yeah. Yeah, I remember that fella."
MacGuire sighs with relief. "Well, I'll talk to him as soon as I can. I'm sure I can arrange something."
Morning in the Butler house, a week after the Newark reunion of the 29th Division.
Sun pours in through the windows, shaded near the sink by a nearby maple. The Butlers are finishing breakfast.
Butler pushes back from the table, patting his stomach and giving a satisfied smile. "That was swell, Ethel."
"It was just regular eggs and bacon, Smedley," Ethel Butler says.
"But there's nothing quite like your eggs and bacon, dearest."
Mrs. Butler smiles at the compliment.
"Listen," Butler continues, "I need to meet someone at the train station. A fellow who served with me in China. Interested in coming for a bit of a drive?"
On a road outside Newtown Square, several minutes later. The Butlers are in their car, its top down. Butler drives confidently. His wife glances at him. He's whistling.
The exterior of the train station nearest to Newtown Square, several minutes later.
A train chuffs to a halt, smoke billowing from its stack, and from the first-class carriage, the tall, gaunt figure of Robert S. Clark emerges.
Clark recognizes Butler first, and approaches him and his wife, giving Butler a smart salute.
"Well, well, well, lieutenant," Butler says, looking him over . "You've greyed a bit. But haven't changed that much."
Clark smiles, allowing himself to be familiar. "Nor you, sir."
"And this is my wife, Ethel."
Clark bows slightly, with Old World graciousness, and takes her hand daintily.
Butler is driving back to his house in the same speedy, confident manner. Beside him sits Robert S. Clark. Ethel is in the back.
Butler and Clark talk in loud voices, over the wind. Their conversation has the lively, free-spirited quality of the best of friends who haven't seen each other in ages.
"I read your book about China."
"You flatter me, general."
"I didn't say I liked it," Butler says.
Clark laughs. "Well, I was young when I wrote it."
"Sometimes I miss being away from America. There's a lot of fighting overseas. But life is simpler, too. It's peaceful back home. But everything's complex."
Clark smiles at the wind.
The Butler home.
Butler, his wife, and Clark all noisily enter the house.
"Well," Butler says, "this is it. Our little homestead."
"A good, solid home," Clark says diplomatically, glancing at the less-than-palatial surroundings.
Butler and Clark enter. Butler walks automatically to his desk. Clark looks at the two chairs in front of it, and notices Wilberforce the cat sitting in one of them.
"I suppose I'll take the chair that's free," Clark says.
He sits. Wilberforce runs off.
"Now you've got a choice," Butler smiles.
"I'm fine where I am."
"So you're the big fellow," Butler says in a new tone.
"Well, one of, at least."
Butler smiles wryly. "Well, I hope you're at least an equal partner."
Clark smiles in kind. "You could say that."
"This fellow MacGuire—he's stickier than a piece of flypaper. He just won't leave me alone about this speech he wants me to make."
"But that's the real point, sir," Clark says with sudden earnestness. "It is important that you make that speech."
"Well, what does the gold standard have to do with me?"
"But don't you understand, sir? This isn't just about you, this is about the country."
"Well, that's what MacGuire keeps saying. But what I keep saying to him is, why doesn't he push the Legion to support a Bonus? That's what really matters to the plain soldier. And the plain soldier is just representative of the plain man. Give the plain man a bit of help."
"But the plain man needs a steady currency just as much as the rich man does."
"Don't you start talking to me about all that currency stuff. Money in your pocket—that's what really matters."
"But, sir, you don't understand," Clark says, not able to keep the impatience out of his voice. "If the value of money in your pocket starts to decline, then what happens?"
"So that's your point about the gold standard?"
"You've got to understand, sir, exactly how we are fixed. I have got 30 million dollars. And I am willing to spend half of that 30 million dollars to save the other half. If you go out and make this speech in Chicago, I am certain that they will adopt this resolution, and that will be one step toward the return to gold, to have the soldiers stand up for it. We can get the soldiers to go out in great bodies to stand up for it.?
"The question isn't so much what's right or wrong, the question is what are your priorities. I keep emphasizing the Bonus and you fellows keep slipping around that."
"Well, that may be true enough. But you see, sir, part of the problem is the leadership we have."
Clark: "That fellow that we have in the White House right now—he's just not thinking straight. He belongs to the same class I do. But what's he doing? You talk about priorities, sir. Well, he's putting all his priorities on the common man. Yet who is it who builds this country? Let's be honest, sir. It's the industrialists, it's the men of vision."
"Well, that may be as you say. But the fact is, it's the plain, common man who forms the bulk of the army. And the army is what I know."
"Well, America's made of many parts."
"And those parts have got to work together."
"Sure, of course," Clark says. "But the plain man has to know who his superiors are. You couldn't have an army with the plain soldier just doing whatever he wanted. He has to follow orders. And a society, an economy, is like that, too."
"So what you're telling me is we should organize our society the way we organize our army?"
"I'm not saying that specifically. But I am saying we do have to have order."
"What we do have to have is democracy. That's the whole point. That's why you get these common men joining and fighting in the American army. Because of democracy. That's what we're standing for. We're standing up for a democratic constitution."
"A constitution is paper, sir. It isn't an economy in its functioning form."
"Don't insult the Constitution."
"I revere the Constitution just as much as any man. But economics matters. Think of your own situation. Think of your house. Is it still mortgaged?"
"Well," Clark says, his tone bargaining and practical. "We could help with that. We could settle it for you."
Butler stiffens. "Are you trying to bribe me?"
"Of course not, sir. It would be money fairly paid for services rendered if you would give that speech. Why be different? We admire you. We admire your reputation."
Suddenly, Butler's tone changes to a heated fury. "You listen to me, lieutenant. You come here. You let me show you something."
Clark is caught off guard. Meekly he stands as Butler stomps from his office. Butler leads Clark to the hallway in which Butler keeps his memorabilia. It is utterly filled with memorabilia: the medals, flags and awards the general has been awarded over the course of his long career.
"You look at these. You look at these long and hard. See those flags at the end of the hall? Those were given to during the Boxer Rebellion that you were fighting in, as a simple lieutenant, the millionaire lieutenant, with your batman, and your special meals, and your special tent. Sure, all the fellows remember that. Well, while you were living high on the hog in China, there were people who were really fighting. And the Chinese people in the cities we liberated, they gave those flags to me. Not because of me personally, but because of what we stood for. Because we stood for freedom."
Clark looks at Butler, a cynical expression playing across his face. But then he simply lowers his head.
"I understand that, sir."
"Do you really?" Butler says, sensing his passive resistance.
Clark looks to one side. He notices the glass case of Butler's medals. He stares at them.
"Now you listen to me very carefully, Clark. I've got no interest in the gold standard, and I've got no interest in the convention. You fellows seem to think you can win me over by just wearing me down. It's not like that. In fact, if you want to hear it man to man, you fellows are just starting to piss me off. I am not going to the convention. Clear?"
"But we meant no offense, sir."
"We're just trying to do what's right for the country. We're trying to bring back proper leadership."
"You fellows are like the Royal Family of the Legion. You have your little clique."
"No, no, you're wrong. We're thinking of everybody. We're thinking of a new day."
"Well, that's fine," Butler says, not picking up the hint. "But the fact of the matter is I've told you as loud and plain as I can, I'm not going to that convention."
Butler, convinced he's won the battle, turns from Clark, who regards the latter with a tactically shrewd, strategically subtle glance.
"I'm sorry, sir."
A few minutes later, the main hall of Butler's house, next to the phone table.
Clark is on the phone, talking to the operator.
"Gerald C. MacGuire, please. 23449, New York City," Clark says in a businesslike tone, and then there is muted ringing through the handset.
Finally, MacGuire's voice: "Hello?"
"MacGuire, it's Clark. Listen to me carefully. General Butler is not coming to the convention. He's given me his reasons and they are excellent ones and I have apologized to him for my connection to it. I am not coming either. You can put this thing across. You've got 45 thousand dollars. You can send telegrams in favor of the gold standard. Send them to the convention when they put it to a vote. The general is not coming and I can see why. For my part, I'm going to Canada to rest. If you need me, you know where to find me."
Clark hangs up and turns to Butler. "I'm sorry, general. My sincere apologies. Please forgive me for speaking the way I did."
"You've got to understand, Clark," Butler says, mollified, and now eager to get in a last thought. "This isn't the army anymore."
"Well, as you said about the China days—things seemed simpler then."
Butler smiles. He claps Clark on the shoulder.
"Let me give you a ride back to the station."
The exterior of the train station, half an hour later.
Butler is waving Clark goodbye. Clark, in his carriage, gives Butler a mild wave back, and then, with the stallion-strong hiss of the train's engine, his car pulls away.
The interior of Butler's home, an hour or so later.
Ethel Butler is talking to her husband.
"Did you enjoy your time with your soldier friend, dear?"
"He's a fine fellow."
Evening in the Butler home.
Butler is alone now, back in the memorabilia hall. He's looking down at his various medals, a strange expression on his face. Is it nostalgic? Proud? Guilt-ridden? He handles one medal in particular, the small bronze one we saw before.
The interior of the Butler home, the master bedroom. Night.
General Butler and his wife are turning in.
"Goodnight, dearest," Ethel Butler says.
Newtown Square, some time later. Day.
Butler is driving along a peaceful country road, smiling into the wind.
Ahead of Butler, a roadblock. It's manned by two soldiers in brown uniforms with leg wrappings and bolt action rifles with tapering bayonets.
Butler pulls his car to a noisy stop and addresses the nearest soldier.
"Private, is there a problem?"
"No problem, sir," the first soldier says. "Just a bit of rioting. We have it under control."
"But I thought we'd beaten the Chinese fair and square," Butler says.
"This isn't the Chinese, sir. It's some Mexican fellows. They took a ship to New York. They've been battling their way down the coast ever since. We finally beat them with gas."
Butler shrugs and puts his car back into gear.
A field. The sound of drunken singing.
Butler approaches a group of reveling soldiers. They have their uniforms half off—pant suspenders down, white undershirts exposed. They are singing an old song.
Tell me, Mary,
Why do you treat me so?
I only love you fairly
With your blue eyes
And locks of gold.
Butler walks closer to the group. The soldiers surround him, and he has a smile on his face. The soldiers clap him on his back. Then he notices in the distance a child's crying.
Butler is somewhat drunk now, whether on alcohol or adulation is unclear. He sings.
My love, my dear.
The child's crying is more distinct now.
Butler looks to one side. Approaching him is a small, unkempt child. The child's face is bruised and has a scab of blood.
Butler addresses the poor boy in an avuncular manner. "Well, my little fellow. What is the problem you have here?"
The child ignores him, keeps crying.
A soldier walks up to the two.
"Never you mind him, sir. He belongs to the camp tart," he explains matter-of-factly. He turns to the boy, "Run along now, you. Run along."
Butler enters a tent. It is perfectly quiet. Then he notices a figure under many covers.
He approaches the figure carefully. Suddenly, though, he notices two female feet. They are spread apart, and are all that are visible of the figure under the covers. Like the boy's face, they are grimy and scabbed.
Butler pulls back in horror.
The interior of the Butler home. Morning.
Mrs. Butler is in the bathroom. Butler can hear the running faucet. Butler gets out of bed, looks out the window.
All that confronts him of the world is happy morning chirrup of a sparrow
Bedroom. Early morning.
Ethel Butler enters, rubbing her hair with a towel.
"It's free, Smedley."
"Mm," Butler says inattentively.
Half an hour later, at breakfast.
At first, Butler seems to still be in a distracted mood; he up the morning edition of the newspaper, then he puts it down with an inaudible huff.
But then one article in particular catches his eye. He picks the paper up again.
"Well, will you look at that?" he says, suddenly getting back into his regular spirits.
"What is it?" Ethel Butler says.
Butler keeps his eyes on the paper. "According to this story, the Legion got a flood of telegrams and passed a resolution in favor of the gold standard."
"That's interesting, Ethel Butler says. Then, "Isn't it?"
Her husband looks up at her. "It's what that fellow Clark was here about."
"Ah, yes. Your friend."
"Maybe. But I think he has some closer friends than me."
Mrs. Butler looks at her husband with a raised eyebrow. "Well, I hope one of the people he counts as a 'close friend' isn't that horrible Mr. MacGuire fellow."
"Oh, what's wrong with him?" Butler says, now amused.
"He's so queer."
"Well, he's persistent, that's true."
"Why does he keep calling here?"
Butler, now apparently relishing the role of knowledgeable man, looks at his wife indulgently while tapping the newspaper with his finger.
"Well, he's got what he wants now. We'll be seeing no more of him. I can guarantee that."
The Butler home, some days later. Early afternoon.
There is a sharp knocking at the door.
Butler walks to the door and opens it. There stands MacGuire, a hired limousine in the background.
MacGuire beams, "Just thought I'd drop by on my way back from Chicago, sir."
Butler responds dryly, "So you did well at the convention?"
"Yes, sir! We passed that gold standard resolution, just like I hoped we would."
Butler, probing, "And how did you do that?"
MacGuire, touching his right nostril with his index finger, "Ahh—contacts, you know, sir, contacts."
"Yet I didn't read anything in the papers about the Legion passing a resolution in favor of the Bonus."
"Well, first things first, right, sir? What our country needs is a sound currency."
Butler, mimicking Clark, "And solid leadership."
MacGuire, not taking the hint but instead with unmitigated delight, "Right, sir!"
The Butler home, a few weeks later. Day.
A sharp knocking.
Butler walks to the door. There stands MacGuire—again, a hired limousine in the background—again.
"MacGuire," Butler simply says.
"Sir!" MacGuire says with his characteristic turbocharged chumminess. "I have good news!"
"What's that?" Butler says flatly.
"There's going to be a veterans' dinner for you! In Boston!"
"And we can provide a car! But that's not the real drawing card."
"You want me to give a speech."
MacGuire nods, his delight now twofold. "That's right! Passing a resolution at the Legion convention in Chicago was just a first step. We still need men of your type—your stature—to keep speaking on the topic. We have a new speech. And we have a new payment scheme."
"A thousand dollars, sir!" MacGuire continues. "Fair and square. You just come and make that speech, and, for your trouble and the pleasure of your company, you will get a thousand dollars, above board!"
"MacGuire," Butler says testily, "I've never been given a thousand dollars to speak in my life, and I'm not going to begin now."
"But you will come, though, won't you, sir?" MacGuire says, only moderately perturbed. "We've already announced it in your honor."
Butler sighs and looks at MacGuire with the exhausted yet querulous expression of one who hates saying no, and is about to say no once more anyway.
Early morning, at table.
Butler and his wife are just finishing breakfast.
Butler stands and gathers a suitcase. "I'll be gone today, dear."
"Where are you going?" Ethel Butler says.
"I have to visit a veteran in Brooklyn. He's running for office. He's been begging me pretty much to give a couple of speeches on his behalf. I think I owe it to the fellow."
"It's not that awful Mr. MacGuire, is it?"
"No, no, this is a decent fellow."
"Will you be home for dinner this evening?"
"I hope so."
Grand Central Station.
Butler disembarks from his train. His suitcase is small and he is not proud; he doesn't seek a porter.
While he's walking across the massive central atrium of the station, a familiar voice calls out, "General!"
Butler turns. Sure enough, there is MacGuire, huffing and puffing as he approaches him.
"Sir!" MacGuire grins.
"MacGuire, it's reaching the point where I wouldn't be surprised to find you sleeping under my bed in the morning."
MacGuire smiles at the joke. "But just a moment, sir." Then, "Sir, is it true that you'll be taking part in a tour on behalf of the Veterans of Foreign Wars?"
"Where did you hear that?"
"Oh, just through the grape vine."
"Yeah, well, I'm thinking of something like that."
"The reason I'm asking is will you be speaking out on the issues of the day during the tour?"
"Well, this and that," Butler says non-committally.
"But will you be tackling current affairs?" MacGuire persists.
"Yes, in a manner of speaking. In fact, one thing I'd like to say is I think democracy in this country is in danger from growing undemocratic forces. "
"But, y'see, sir, the group I belong to—we've got the same goals. Identical, really. We need democracy in this country. That's what's wrong—the current leadership, it's not operating in a democratic manner."
"Well, that's fine then, MacGuire. I really have to get going." Butler begins walking away purposefully.
MacGuire follows him. "Sir, we could pay you good money every time you inserted just a brief reference to the gold standard in one of your Veterans of Foreign Wars talks—750 dollars."
Butler turns and says sharply, "MacGuire, that's three times what the VFW pays me, are you aware of that?"
MacGuire shrugs. "Well, we have the resources. And you're a good man, general. That's what we want to express to you—that you're a good man."
"And you're offering to pay me three times what the VFW would pay me for one speech just for inserting a couple of sentences about the gold standard?"
"MacGuire, there's something about this all that is just too fishy for me. All I can say is—best of luck to you. Goodbye."
And this time Butler does walk away, suitcase angrily in hand, while Gerald MacGuire stands and looks after him.
New York Harbor, December 1, 1933.
It's a blustery early winter day. Clouds scud through the sky, grey, woollen, as if wrapped in mitts.
MacGuire emerges from a taxi cab with his family and several sizable pieces of luggage—large trunks with his name written on them in chalk.. In the background, an ocean liner is taking passengers.
MacGuire turns to his wife and kids. "Come on, everybody. We haven't got much time. Hurry up, everybody. Chop, chop."
"Oh, Jerry, I'm so excited," Mrs. MacGuire says.
''Me, too, dearest," MacGuire smiles.
"Thank heavens your business picked up."
MacGuire smiles some more. "I've been working real hard. Mr. Murphy noticed. Mr. Clark, too."
The interior of an opera house, close to Christmas. Evening.
Well-to-do patrons with box seats are enjoying drinks during an intermission. In one convivial group we see DuPont and his wife. All are dressed in evening wear: tuxedos for the men, gowns for the women.
"I love Tchaikovsky." one man says.
"Especially his ballet," Mrs. DuPont says.
DuPont, looking as if he is masking utter boredom, smiles at the group. Then he pulls out a cigar.
"Oh, dear, don't tell me you want to smoke that. Can't you have a cigarette? It's much easier on one's lungs."
"A cigar does no harm."
Mrs. DuPont just looks at her husband beseechingly.
"Excuse me," DuPont says.
DuPont walks quickly across the lobby toward a steward.
"Steward. Where's the smoking room? I thought you had one on this floor."
"The ladies complained, sir. We've moved it down a flight.
DuPont starts to walk away.
"Irenee!" Mrs. DuPont calls out. "Where are you going? There's someone here for you to meet!"
A prisoner foiled in his escape, DuPont returns to his wife and group of friends, grumbling.
"Can you believe it?" his wife exclaims. "Mr. Hearst came to see the performance!"
Beside Mrs. DuPont is William Randolf Hearst.
"Hearst," DuPont says curtly.
"DuPont," Hearst replies likewise.
The two powerful, cranky men glance at each other. A thought is shared.
The smoking room.
DuPont and Hearst are comfortably settled in massive armchairs.
DuPont holds out a cigar. "Try this. I pick these up every time I make a trip down to Xanadu."
"Ah, yes, hand-rolled. Why is it the Cubans do it so well?"
"They know how to work. They understand attention to detail."
"I thought all that hot weather made one indolent."
The smoking room, a moment later.
Hearst and DuPont are deep in conversation.
"Hearst, you're a person with influence. What do you think of that man we've got in the White House?"
"Well, all you've got to do is read the editorials in my papers to figure that one out, DuPont."
"Well, I understand what you're trying to say. But does the common man understand? Couldn't you put yourself a little more forcefully?"
"It's creeping Sovietism that we've got in this country. You and I know what's going on. Don't you worry—our editorials will get that point across."
"A nation has to think together. A nation has to act as a team."
"Changing people's minds takes time."
"We don't have time. We're on the edge of a precipice."
A chime rings, calling the audience back to its seats.
Hearst stands. "We're on the edge of more goddamn Tchaikovsky."
An upstairs bedroom. Morning.
Butler folds a white shirt neatly, then places it—not without fastidiousness—on top of another white shirt in a medium-sized brown leather suitcase that is spotted with age. On top of that, he places an itinerary. It reads: Veterans of Foreign Wars—speeches. Then, his packing done, he heads downstairs to the kitchen.
'You're working yourself awfully hard, Smedley. Do you really have to go on this tour?" Ethel Butler says.
"I have to do something."
"But you've already done so much. You've helped the Legion."
He interrupts her with a scoffing laugh. "The Legion, it turns out, is just a front for the Wall Street boys."
"Well, fine, but you've always been extremely diligent about visiting veterans' hospitals and helping Sgt. Waters with the Bonus issue. Isn't that enough?"
"We take a boy, we give him a plow or a hammer and say, go to it. Go run your farm, go work in your factory. Then it turns out his farmland dries up or his factory closes its doors, and so we say, you there, take this rifle. Join the Marines."
"Young boys need to do something. We can't have them just milling around on the street."
"Does having them march on a parade ground accomplish much more?"
"But that's training. It's not useless. What if we need those boys to defend us in time of war?"
"But that's the whole point. A lot of wars that get fought aren't to defend us at all. We put those boys on a steamship and send them down to Mexico or Cuba or the Orient, and say, here, you put a stop to what's going on. The locals are making trouble for some of our business interests. You put that right. Sometimes I feel I shouldn't criticize the Legion for being beholden to the Wall Street group because that's a lot of what I did, fighting for the Marines—"
Realizing he's starting to go on a bit, Butler stops himself. He looks glumly into space.
"You did your best," Ethel Butler says, stroking his forehead. "And your motives were pure. That's what counts, in God's eyes."
"Pure motives. Impure acts. The good Lord would like it better if it were the other way 'round, wouldn't He?"
"Of course not. That's not how the Good Book puts it."
"I know. I should hold my tongue.
"And hold your wife."
Butler smiles and hugs her.
A street lined with brick tenements trying to masquerade as brownstones.
MacGuire's nephew walks along, disconsolate.
A man on a stoop says to him, "You. Kid."
Without thinking, MacGuire's nephew stops.
"Want to earn a coupla quarters?" the man asks.
MacGuire's nephew, interested but uncertain, looks at the man.
"A good-lookin' fella like you. Wanna earn some quick money?"
MacGuire's nephew looks at the man a little more closely: he is wearing a sleeveless undershirt which covers layers of rolling fat. But there is a muscular, intimidating quality to his build. And his face, beneath its veneer of neighborliness, is calculating and carnivorous.
"Just step inside," the man says with soft insinuation. "I need ya to lift something."
He smiles, adding even more softly, "It ain't heavy."
MacGuire's nephew, suddenly grasping the nature of the proposal, walks quickly away, his gait suddenly buoyant with fear.
The interior of the office of Prescott Bush. Day.
" You know, what we'd really like to do is organize a trip," Bush says to an assistant.
"A trip of who, sir?"
"Well, journalists, you know, open-minded journalists. We can get them tickets on the Hamburg-Amerika Line. We need far-sighted journalists who can witness the progress of what's happening in the stronger countries in Europe."
DuPont is lunching with Knudsen.
"Well, I ran into Hearst at the Opera. He has a point of view."
"I should hope so. He's a newspaperman."
"He sees what you don't. We're becoming communistic."
"The American worker isn't socialist. That's something that will never happen."
"Really? Do you know how those Bolsheviks operate? Brute force, that's what it comes down to. All they need is a tiny corps of commissars and troublemakers. Then they stir things up and get their way with brute force."
"Well, don't you worry about that. We know a few things about brute force, too. Learned them during our strikes."
"You fellows are using the Black Legion?"
Knudsen shrugs. "Well, I've heard that some people do. Frankly, myself I prefer the Pinkerton's boys."
The headquarters of J. P. Morgan and Co. on Wall Street.
It is a grand but not ostentatious building whose entrance, placed at an angle, allows it to open to two streets. Its interior is subdued, and on the second floor is the large office where the partners—those who have shares in the bank and its fortunes—keep their desks.
Morgan is talking to his partner, Thomas Lamont.
"Lamont, you tell me what you think what you think of the European situation."
"The Europeans are far ahead of us, sir."
"How do you figure that?"
"They brought back discipline. They brought back an appreciation for decency and self-sacrifice."
"You're not like some of the others? You're not one of those Hitler admirers, are you?"
"Well, we all have to count ourselves liberals, don't we? But I must say, it's Il Duce who really makes an impression on me."
A hayfield in early spring.
In the midst of the field is a large canvas tent. Inside, Butler is giving a speech to a chapter of the VFW. He speaks from from his pamphlet "War is a Racket."
"In the World War, a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. But how many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug out?"
The crowd cheers.
The speech over, a man in his early 30s with an exceptionally prominent adam's apple, and bright, intelligent eyes, walks up to Butler who is now outside the tent. Butler, meanwhile, is busy being greeted by well-wisher. He does not notice the man.
"General Butler," the man says. "Do you have a moment?"
"Yes, thanks. It was a nice crowd today. A little thin, that's true, but friendly nevertheless," Butler says to someone else.
The man persists. "Sir, my name's John Breen. I'm a reporter with the Workers' Monthly Beacon."
"Sure," Butler says, not paying attention; still talking to someone else, "a cup of coffee would hit the spot."
"Sir," Breen says, "would you have a moment to do an interview with me?"
Butler turns. "Sorry, who did you say you were?"
"The name's John Breen, sir. I'm with the Workers' Monthly Beacon."
"I'm afraid I don't know it."
"We're a small publication printed in Pittsburgh."
"Oh, a newspaper, are you?"
"No, a monthly. But we print as a broadsheet." Breen laughs self-consciously. "Looks like a newspaper but comes out once a month."
"I see. So then, what can I do for you, Mr. Breen?"
"Well, just a few questions now if you don't mind, sir."
"Well, I do have another appointment this afternoon. It's a hectic day for me. Giving three speeches."
"It will just take a few moments."
Breen and Butler walk to a nearby picnic table and sit. Breen holds a reporter's notepad. He carries in his hand a couple of sharpened pencils. Butler notices the pencils have been sharpened crudely with a pen-knife, and both of them are rather stubby looking.
"Sir. I've read a thing or two about your career."
"Oh yes?" Butler, distracted by another well-wisher walking by, waves hello.
"I'd like to talk to you a little bit. I'd like to ask you about your experiences in the latin sections of the Americas."
Butler turns. He now regards Breen with considerably more interest.
The lobby of a modest hotel. Evening of the same day.
Butler is at the front desk, receiving a package of mail.
"Here you go, sir," the desk clerk says, handing him several letters tied together with string. "It's been forwarded to you by your wife."
In his room, Butler unbundles the package of mail. At the top is another post card from Gerald MacGuire. Butler gives a scoffing laugh. Then he notices another letter with an addressee who catches his attention.
Butler sits at the room's desk, and begins reading the letter.
I'm not sure how well you remember me. You visited once. I'm writing in any case, because I have noticed your name in the paper on more than one occasion, and some of the things you say have made me think more about our discussion, and some points I would like to add to it and that I hope you will find of interest.
You have stated that in your opinion the United States entered the world war because of economic self-interest; viz., a desire not to lose the money the U.S. lent in disproportionate numbers to Great Britain and France, compared to the amount it lent to Germany. It is a compelling argument. But I am afraid it will not be a popular one. Nor, I am also afraid, will it gain much currency. Wars are not remembered for their economic motives. They are instead—and as I am sure you know—most remembered for the glory or inglory that is attached to them. It is a tragic human tendency, but it seems to be an unassailable one: human beings pay the supreme cost in wartime, and they also pay a more mundane cost. One might in fact define war as that human endeavor which "costs." Yet something about war makes the broad mass of humanity unable to see it beyond its emotional effects.
I write all this because even though I know have joined the camp of peace, I once understood the temptations of war. I served in the AEF, and did time in France. It seemed something glorious at the time, and, when I look back at how I thought and felt about the world, I realize too that I craved the opportunity to show something of myself—a man as noble and brave as any other.
I served with the Rainbow Division, and felt pride at its achievements and leadership. I also experienced some of it its horror. In fact, I'm embarrassed as I write the following, but it all proved too much for me. What I mean here is not that I am embarrassed this happened, or that I feel compelled to tell you it happened, but that I was so merciless upon myself after the fact. Three of my best friends were killed in close succession, and another was so wounded it was hard to look at him. I was tired, I was worn. I developed a case of shell shock. But the worse part of it was, I could not forgive myself. I felt I was not only a weakling but a traitor to those ideals I had previously embraced with fervor. I felt, too, that I was a traitor to my own people. I can write now without shame and in the name of objectivity, I suffered more from this subsequent shame than I did from the psychological condition of paralysis I originally developed. I tried to kill myself.
It was only after the World War and after I resumed my studies that I started to realize more about its origins. Your recent comments reported in the press about the degree to which the concerns of financial interests played a part in determining America's entry into that sad adventure only underline what thinking people should know. It is a sad irony the World War was fought to save democracy, particularly in Germany. Now democracy is weaker there than it ever has been. What has been gained? And it grieves me terribly to see what the German leadership is doing to those in its territories who have only ever desired to be treated like any other European, and have always striven to better themselves and the lands they find themselves in.
I apologize for speaking emotionally to you, General. And I apologize as well for what is, as I glance over this letter now that it is composed, the nature of my random thoughts. Nevertheless, as I said, I felt a need to contact you and hope at least some of what I write is of interest.
Your cause is in my thoughts. Blessings upon you.
Butler sighs. He folds the letter up.
Butler pulls a sheet of letter paper from the hotel room's desk drawer. He begins to write:
Dear Prof. Silverberg,
Thank you for your candid letter. As you know, I also served in the World War. And as you know, I also served in several other campaigns. What occurred in Europe frustrated me. It was a waste. A waste of money, and more importantly, a waste of life. But it is the things I saw and did in the so-called small wars in places like Cuba or Mexico or Nicaragua or Guatemala that really turned my mind against war.
You spoke frankly. So I will, too. One day, while fighting in Guatemala, I saw something I will never forget.
Butler hesitates. He looks up from the paper. Outside his room, footsteps dully pounding by in the hall.
Butler crumples up his letter, then, holding it over the trash bin, lights a fire under it.
The next day, a public park.
Butler once again giving his speech from the pamphlet "War is a Racket."
"Some of you here may already know it, but I had troubles in the military—troubles having to do with my saying things that upset those in power. I was court-martialed, you know. Court martialed for quoting Mr. Mussolini—Il Duce, as his followers call him—"
The crowd jeers.
"for quoting Mr. Mussolini after he allegedly ran over a boy with his motorcade and said, 'What is one life in the affairs of the State?'
"Well, that is what I said, and that's what I got in hot water for stating publicly. Mr. Mussolini's publicity machine—his secretaries and whatnot—they cried out, "Oh, no, our leader would never say such a thing. He's a gentle fellow." And the Marine brass and the government over here took his side. "This is a head of state we're talking about," they said. "You can't just accuse him of that sort of thing. It's outrageous that you could insinuate that a leader in today's civilized world could speak this way."
From the crowed, cynical laughter.
"But now," Butler says, "with that other follow, that Herr Hitler, in power, we start to see a little more of the true nature of fascism. It yells. It hectors. It wants to hear no voice but its own. But democracy about the plain fellow having his own voice... and the right to express it..."
His speech now over, Butler steps off the crude wood stage that has been built for the event. Standing to one side is the event's organizer, Tom McCorckadale.
An excited group of people from the audience approaches Butler the moment he steps off the stage.
"That was magnificent, sir!" a man says breathlessly.
Butler, shaking several people's hands in succession, simply says, "Thanks."
"I've never heard a speech like that before!"
"It's just one man's opinion."
"A great man's!"
Butler smiles. He knows he's being flattered, but the words are delivered with such a purity of enthusiasm that it's impossible for him not to at least relish the moment with an equally pure smile. As he turns to other well-wishers, however, he notices McCorckadale and another man. They are now standing to one side of the throng around him, regarding him—and it—with a surmising look. The expressions of the two say: we like what you have to say. But we will not put you on a pedestal for saying it.
"Well done, General," McCorckadale says while approaching Butler, his tone complimentary but also that of a seasoned political worker. "A splendid speech as always. Listen, do you have a moment? There's someone I'd like you to meet."
Butler follows McCorckadale to the other man.
"General, this is Michael Sundin. He's from the League Against War and Fascism."
Butler looks at Sundin. He's a tall, well-built man with blond hair,wide shoulders and noticeably buck teeth. This creates the impression of someone movie-star handsome from a distance and more vulnerable and humble up close. When he speaks, his voice has a slight accent.
"General, it's a pleasure to meet you."
"Ah, yes, well pleased to make you acquaintance, Mr. Sundy."
"Yes, sorry. Sundin." Beat. "That's not a Danish name, is it?"
"No. Close, though. I was born in Sweden."
"Ah. Northern Europe, then. The little countries of the continent."
An awkward beat.
McCorckadale claps his hands together. "Well!"
"General," Sundin says at same moment, "you wouldn't happen to be free this evening, would you? Our group would be more than honored to have you for dinner."
Butler glances at McCorckadale and then Sundin. For a split second, his expression seems annoyed, and McCorckadale, sensitive, shows a trace of anxiety. Then Butler smiles broadly.
"Well, what's on the menu? I happen to be a big fan of Swedish meatballs."
A clapboard house on a modest street lined with maples.
The house's exterior is a faded yellow tidied up in patches, as if its owner wished to do his very best to improve it but had limited resources to do so.
Inside, a dinner party is taking place. A group of people, including Butler, McCorckadale, Sundin, and several others, are seated at a dining table with a simple check cloth on it, and food in china that does not match. Several people have glasses of beer.
McCorckadale addresses the gathering. "A toast! Not just to General Butler, but to the end of capitalist warring!"
"To the end of war!" several of the guests cry in unison.
Butler acknowledges the toast.
"Well, you know from what I say I believe in an end to war," Butler says after the room has settled. Then, "at least war as we know it. I believe in an end to profiting from war.
"But I don't believe in an end to war, period. You'll have to forgive me. Maybe I'm too much of a Marine. But we in the country will always have to find a way to defend ourselves. We're a big country. But it might happen that one day we will find ourselves under attack. The point is, we shouldn't be going to other countries and looking to make war there"
"That's right. It's fighting against interventionism that's the key, in my opinion. The United States has to look after itself."
One man raises his voice. "But what if the fascists start trouble? What if they begin it?"
"Well, we'll just have to wait for them to come here, won't we?" Butler says.
"But what if they break Versailles?" the man persists.
"They've already passed that point, Tom," McCorckadale says under his breath.
"We have to show solidarity!" another man declares. "We have to stand with the working classes of Germany!"
Around the table, murmurs of agreement.
"Well, we always have to stand with the working fellow. But we have to not try to do everything everywhere." Butler says with some discomfort. "That's my point."
"The situation for the working man in Germany is very difficult at the moment. His organizations are being crushed," Sundin says. Sundin speaks more quietly than others at the table. Some people ignore him; but several people look at him with heightened interest.
"The fascists understand nothing but force," McCorckadale says.
"Force, unfortunately, is very effective," Sundin says.
"We need an international movement," McCorckadale says. "We need to join with our allies in—" throwing a quick glance at Butler, he catches himself "-- progressive nations."
"Of course," Sundin says. "But we also have to win tactical victories in the countries where democracy is most under siege. And that means focusing on Germany at the moment."
Watching this exchange between the various men at the table is a dark-haired woman. She has her hair drawn back in a loose bun and wears no make-up apart from ruby red lipstick. She smokes on a cigarette as the others talk, and Butler, who is sitting close to her, notices the lipstick stains on the cigarette's paper.
"We need a movement," McCorckadale says, his tone increasingly urgent. "We have to mobilize progressive Americans to show the working men of Germany they are not alone."
Sundin smiles, then shrugs. His body language seems to say: yes, and we also need a tooth fairy.
The woman speaks in a low tone. "What we need is to fight fire with fire."
Both McCorckadale and Sundin look at her. Clearly, she is not only known to them, but of interest in a way that extends beyond the political.
"Of course, Laura. We know that," McCorckadale says. "But the problem in Germany—as it is in so much of Europe right now—is the way in which fascism is assaulting democracy. We need to support democracy by sticking together. We need to show the power of the masses. We can't win this game unless we prove through our actions that we understand what the rules are."
Laura stubs out her cigarette on the edge of the plate next to her finished dinner. "I realize that. But we aren't playing a game anymore. We're fighting."
There is a pause, as if the other men at the table are expecting Laura to say more; to buttress her statements with the sorts of arguments and rhetorical flourishes they are used to making. But she simply stands, smooths the front of her dress, and leaves the table, saying, "Excuse me."
The interior of the clapboard house, some time later.
Drinks have appeared. Music is playing on a gramaphone. A party is in progress. The table has been cleared and pushed to one side and the dinner party guests are now either engaged in fervent, politics-and-passion fueled conversation, or—as right now only a pair of couples are doing— dancing in the middle of the floor. Butler is one of those who stands to one side. This doesn't mean that he escapes attention, however. McCorckadale, in his cups, walks straight up to Butler with all the seriousness of a drunk who thinks he doesn't look drunk, and buttonholes Butler.
"General, you served. Me, I was too young to serve."
"You can always join up. The Corps will take any young fellow who's got the stamina for it."
"It's wrong to serve. That's the point you made today—isn't it?"
"I was speaking about democracy today."
"No. But other times. I've heard you speak. Other times. It's wrong to serve. War is wrong."
"No, no. You're quoting me wrong there, McCorckadale. I said war fought for capital is wrong."
McCorckadale looks blearily at Butler's empty tea cup. "You're not drinking. Why aren't you drinking? We have a whole ice box of beer."
The dancing has become widespread. It seems almost everyone—with the exception of Butler and a few others of the sober set— has joined in
Laura has reappeared. She is clearly popular. Micheal Sundin dances with her, looking deeply into her eyes. She looks back for a moment. Then, laughing, pushes him away. She does a light-hearted pirouette, and, suddenly, takes Butler's arm.
"Dance with me," she says huskily.
Butler has found the ice box. He is talking up a storm, reounting a war story. "And we lost practically every horse we had. We had to hump our gear for three days and nights straight. Near the end of it, men were falling in the ditch. They weren't dying. They were literally falling asleep as they walked."
"Good heavens," others in the kitchen say.
One man interjects spitefully, "It's just war talk."
"It's hero talk," a second man says.
"The talk of war is the talk of war. A real hero talks only of peace," the first man says.
Butler, irked but able to laugh about it, turns away while rolling his eyes. He spots Laura, who is standing very close to him and also holding a drink.
"A hero is a hero. All that matters is that he's on the right side," she says, flirtatiously drawing her finger along Butler's cheek.
Butler instantaneously smiles the smile warmth and desire. Then he gets a grip on himself and pulls back.
"Excuse me, please."
The interior of the house, later.
People, apparently short of cigarettes,are now passing a solitary one around.
McCorckadale nudges Butler. "General?"
"That's fine. I don't smoke."
"Try it. It's Mexican."
Interior, the house. Later.
Butler is in a bedroom. It is dark. He is searching a bed that is covered with people's jackets for his own.
The door opens. We see Laura's silhouette.
The house's kitchen.
McCorckadale, Sundin and various friends are talking raucously to each other.
"Well, to hell with worrying," McCorckadale says loudly. "Let's just remember that a real socialist is more fun-loving than a hidebound, parade-ground-marching fascist any time!"
Loud laughter. All cheer and toast.
The house's bedroom.
Butler looks up. Laura walks in.
"Hi," Laura says simply.
"I can't find my coat," Butler says as if an explanation is necessary.
"You'll never find it in the dark."
"I don't know where the switch is either," Butler says helplessly.
Laura walks to the bed and sits on its edge.
"Neither do I."
A group of young men begins aggressively horse-playing with Sundin and McCorckadale.
"Hell, we're better than those fascists at everything: knowing how to tie one on and fighting," one strong-looking young man says. He pushes McCorckadale playfully.
McCorckadale mimicks a fighter throwing a one-two punch
"Jack Dempsey wasn't any jelly fish! And neither are we!"
McCorckadale throws a pretend punch at the head of the Young Man. But, in his cups, his miscalculates and makes light contact with the Young Man's chin.
"Easy, there, Mac!" the young man says, now pulling back instinctively. "Last thing you want is a battle in your kitchen!"
"A little rough-housing never hurt anyone," McCorckadale says, flustered but too hyped up to apologize. "In fact, it might toughen you up for the struggles to come."
"I can beat any lousy Italian or German any day."
"I wouldn't discount the Germans," Sundin says, half under his breath . "Those fellows know how to fight."
"Sure, sure!" the young man calls out. "Then why did the AEF kick their behinds in France?"
"The German fascists fight a different kind of war. It's on the street, and it's ugly.
Another young man, quite drunk, steps a foot in front of Sundin's face. "What do you know about it?"
Sundin shrugs, as if to say, I don't need to have this argument.
McCorckadale intervenes to defend his friend. "You watch out for little Mike, here. He's seen a thing or two in Europe."
The strong-looking young men look at Sundin with a mixture of amusement and increased interest. But Sundin seems distracted, as if looking for something. There is the noise of the party.
Sundin turns to McCorckadale. "Have you seen Laura?"
Laura is now sitting close to Butler. He is rather stiff in his manner. But he hasn't moved away from her even as she has moved closer to him.
"Everyone here talks about fighting the fascists," Laura says. "But in truth I don't see many fellows who have it to win in a real struggle."
"But that's why we need democracy. So all the good fellows stick together. Fascism—well, that's just an elitist philosophy when you look at it. It's just a small band of aristocrats and the rich fooling the common fellow into doing their bidding."
"Sure, and I hear all sorts of good analyzing everywhere I go. But what I'm talking about is genuine toughness. Someone who doesn't just talk about fighting, but knows how to do it."
She reaches out to Butler's shoulder and place a hand on it. Butler, remaining impassive and stiff, also seems quite, quite mesmerized.
The house's staircase.
Sundin is ascending to the second floor.
The bedroom, again.
Laura leans forward.
"So, General, tell me—does a Marine know how to kiss?"
Butler looks at Laura with the stupefied look of a man who is caught between two sensations: the maintenance of the habit of rectitude, and the pleasure of melting.
Suddenly, there is the sound of the door opening and the bedroom is thrown into a brighter light.
"Laura," Sundin says, seeing in an instant what's going on.
Laura turns, her eyes somewhat screwed up by the now-bright light. "For heaven's sake."
The porch of the house. A few minutes later.
Butler is buttoning his jacket. Inside the house, the sound of music on the gramophone along with arguing.
Butler steps onto the sidewalk and begins walking drunkenly away.
Butler's hotel room. Later, early morning, dark.
Butler stumbles into his room. His gait is unsteady.
Butler falls on his bed.
A valley. Day.
A group of mounted soldiers are patrolling through a valley. The landscape is a parched yellow, the surrounding hills dried by centuries of aridity.
At the front of the patrol is a lieutenant. He wears a broad-brimmed cowboy's hat, Marine-style.
"Captain, we're sure to make contact soon," the lieutenant says.
The captain turns. It is Butler. He is on a horse that seems wearied by days of walking.
"We don't have to make contact, Lieutenant. All we've got to do at this goddamn point is find out where the goddamn enemy is."
A village. Day.
The village is filled with Chinese peasants, most of whom keep a good distance between themselves and Butler's patrol.
"Jesus Murphy, Captain," the lieutenant says, "I've got a dryness in my throat, and so must these men. Think we can trust the water?"
"We don't have much choice," Butler says.
A young Chinese woman appears from a village hut. She is nursing a baby, and the soldiers in Butler's patrol look at her bare breasts.
"You'd think these savages would keep their women decent," the lieutenant says.
The village well, a few minutes later.
The men from the patrol are greedily drinking from a bucket of water. The men drink and there is something voluptuous about the men's behavior. The longer it goes on, the more disturbing it appears. The sound of water gurgling in throats seems more violent than is logical.
"That's China for you," the lieutenant says, wiping his mouth with his sleeve and passing the bucket to another. "That's a Chinese drink."
Butler looks at the Lieutenant, who looks back at him suggestively.
"Ever drunk in China, Captain? It's a Dickinson brew."
A village hut, some time later.
Butler stands in the center of this hut. He is in front of a young, naked woman.
Butler looks down. He's lowered his drawers. He sees his erect penis. Then suddenly, is if charged by electricity, he starts to ejaculate.
The expression on his face is complicated. He seems ashamed that he, too, is nakedly vulnerable. But he also seems ashamed that he has climaxed so quickly; he seems to feel the primordial shame of a man who has ruined his own pleasure.
"Oh heavens," Butler says near-inaudibly. "Heavens."
The village well. Day.
Butler is returning to his men. They are, inexplicably, eating an immense wedding cake
Butler addresses them curtly. "We need to saddle up."
"But, sir," a soldier says, his mouth full of food. "The wedding's have just started. There are going to be three today."
"Soldier, I just gave you a direct order. We have to go before the rains."
The exterior of the same village. But also the entrance to Grand Central Station. Day.
Soldiers are dancing. A Chinese village elder is playing an accordian. A few moments later. The soldiers and Chinese villagers surround Butler. They all sing.
He's no man's Butler, he's no man's Butler,
He's just a fellow
You can love.
Butler, in the midst of the impromptu revelry, seems deeply moved by it, almost in tears of joy.
A street in New York City. Some moments later.
The figure of young man in early adulthood approaches Butler. Butler looks up.
"Hello, father," he says.
"Oh. Hello, son."
A street in New York. A moment later.
The crowd has drifted away from Butler, as has our view of Grand Central Station. Butler and his son walk side by side.
"Father, when will you be coming home?" his son says.
"Soon. I just have to make one final quick trip."
"But Cuba's very far."
"No, no, you don't understand. They have a special train there. I can get home by dinner."
Butler, now alone, passes an itinerant street preacher. He stops to listen to him.
I have sworn and am determined
to keep your righteous judgments.
Your word is a lantern to my feet
and a light upon my path.
What does man gain from all his labor
at which he toils under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
Says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless!"
For if thou know not,
O thou fairest among women,
go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock,
and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.
Butler turns. The street has narrowed.
A group of men—soldiers—in bedraggled, mud-splattered uniforms, hands tied behind their backs, are being led along by a crisply uniformed captain to a firing range.
Butler turns to the preacher. "What's going on here?"
"Oh, those yellow fellows," the preacher says. "they've been court-martialed."
"What? For desertion?"
"No, no," the preacher says. He looks at Butler directly. "Just yellow, that's all."
Light pours into the room, and Butler feels its presence as an imposition, as if someone has taken a lantern and keeps pressing it against his face. He wakes up, still exhausted and with a dull headache. He sits up in bed, disheveled, his hair standing up awkwardly. He pinches the bridge of his nose with a thumb and forefinger, trying to subdue a the throbbing in his head.
His attention is caught by the loudly ticking alarm clock on the bed-stand. He realizes how late in the day it is.
"Good cripes!" he declares, suddenly leaping out of bed, like someone late for an appointment.
The interior of a large tent, some days later.
Butler once again giving his speech from the pamphlet "War is a Racket."
"There are 40,000,000 men under arms in the world today, and our statesmen and diplomats have the temerity to say that war is not in the making.
"Hell's bells! Are these 40,000,000 men being trained to be dancers?
"Not in Italy, to be sure. Premier Mussolini knows what they are being trained for. He, at least, is frank enough to speak out. Only the other day, Il Duce in "International Conciliation," the publication of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said:
"'And above all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace... War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who have the courage to meet it.'
"Undoubtedly Mussolini means exactly what he says. His well-trained army, his great fleet of planes, and even his navy are ready for war—anxious for it, apparently. His recent stand at the side of Hungary in the latter's dispute with Jugoslavia showed that. And the hurried mobilization of his troops on the Austrian border after the assassination of Dollfuss showed it too. There are others in Europe too whose sabre rattling presages war, sooner or later.
"Herr Hitler, with his rearming Germany and his constant demands for more and more arms, is an equal if not greater menace to peace. France only recently increased the term of military service for its youth from a year to 18 months.
"Yes, all over, nations are camping in their arms. The mad dogs of Europe are on the loose. In the Orient the maneuvering is more adroit. Back in 1904, when Russia and Japan fought, we kicked out our old friends the Russians and backed Japan. Then our very generous international bankers were financing Japan. Now the trend is to poison us against the Japanese. What does the "open door" policy to China mean to us? Our trade with China is about $90,000,000 a year. Or the Philippine Islands? We have spent about $600,000,000 in the Philippines in 35 years and we (our bankers and industrialists and speculators) have private investments there of less than $200,000,000."
Butler wipes his brow. The crowd cheers. Butler smiles. He clearly believes he's making an impression.
Exterior of the tent, a few minutes later.
Various veterans are leaving the tent. Many are nodding in an approving sort of way.
One says, "Well, what did you think of the general's speech?"
"Ah, it was fine," his friend shrugs.
"That's a good idea about stopping war, isn't it?"
"Sure, sure. You sound to any politician, they always sound like they've got the right idea."
"But we've got to fight for peace and democracy, don't you think?"
The second looks at the first, his voice now with a new edge. "What we have to do is fight against the Jews taking over this country. The Jews and the Romanists."
The interior of a veterans' hospital, a few days later.
Butler is touring a hospital ward, looking at veterans, still so broken that they are lying unmoving in beds or are slumped over in wheelchairs.
One vet in a bed looks at him: "Before the war, sir, I had a good job. I had a good education. Now look at me. This bed is all I own. And I don't even own that."
The interior of a town hall. Evening.
The town hall is has a small stage and a concentric auditorium. The collective heat from the various audience members has created a noticeably humid atmosphere.
Butler has just given finished another speech. He sits at a table with a group of other veterans. They're trading war stories. One of them, however, does not participate in the conversation. He is a troubled-looking man who rocks back and forth on his chair. The others ignore him.
One vet, red-haired, friendly-faced, says, "I fought in the Great War. And I fought in China. And let me tell you, I saw terrible things in France, but I never saw cruelty like I saw done by Orientals."
Another vet, also friendly, though balding and rotund, says, "Yeah, isn't that a fact? The Chinaman almost seems to like making the other fellow suffer."
There are murmurs of agreement.
The troubled-looking man mutters, "That's just balderdash."
The first vet doesn't notice. He is already warming up to a particularly gruesome anecdote. "In this one village—I was there with the General himself [he nods in a familiar way toward Butler]—they took the missionaries who'd come to help and stripped them naked and then flayed their flesh. We found these corpses. They looked like... greyhounds. I lost my taste for grub that night, let me tell you."
The troubled-looking man, still rocking back and forth, says, "What do you know about the empires of pain?"
The first vet continues, still lost in his memory and speaking in a tone both complacent and indignant, "To the enemy—well, cruel things are done. But to good Christians who only came to help?"
The troubled-looking man suddenly stands. "It's lies! Nothing but lies!" he cries out.
The second vet shushes him. "Easy, there, Howell."
The troubled-looking man addresses them all. "You sit there, in your chairs, with your words—. Let me tell you about what the bastards can do to a fellow. Why my friend Tim—he's got no arms, see? And he's got no eyes. Everything got blasted off by a shell. And you tell him about pain? 'It's a good thing I lost my eyes, Howell,' he says to me. 'Because even if I had 'em, I couldn't pick up a book to read.'"
Butler looks at Howell. He notices that Howell, despite the disturbed volume of his speech, has a certain style—a tone with a touch of theater to it. It makes Howell's anecdote somehow more vivid than that of the others.
Momentarily—so momentarily Butler himself is not truly conscious of it—a memory flashes back through his mind. He's at a veterans' hospital, doing a round of the wards, meeting various of the maimed, the crippled, the shell shocked. One disfigured vet lies in bed, his young, otherwise attractive face wrapped in clean bandages from the bridge of his nose up. Twin bandages also wrap either shoulder. And below that, only stumps.
The townhall, still.
Butler watches Howell as Howell, now beside himself, berates the others.
"The wrath of Mars befalls all who worship at his temple," Howell says, his posture tall and preacherly. "Remember that, my friends. None shall escape the tempest of the warrior gods."
The first veteran at the table turns uncomfortably to his friend and mutters, "Jesus Christ, Miller. Can't we get him back to the asylum? He's not a cretin. He's a lunatic."
Miller, more sensitive than his friend, and noticing the expression on Butler's face, whispers back. "Give Howell a break, McCandless. The poor man's not in control."
"That's exactly what I'm saying," McCandless whispers harshly
"Excuse me," he says quietly.
The exterior of the hall, a moment later.
Butler stands alone by a brick wall. He is banging his fist against the brick repeatedly. His face has a contorted look, neither weeping nor crying out aloud. But he seems in the grip of something terrible. Then, after a moment, he gets a grip on himself and just breathes heavily.
A city street, a few days later. Mid-day.
Butler is walking along the street, in front of a news stand. He stops in front of it, distracted, wanting to look at the magazines and newspapers for sale.
Butler reaches forward. He picks out one magazine. It's the July, 1934 issue of Fortune. On it is an admiring cover story about Mussolini.
The interior of a diner.
It's a few days later, mid-morning. Butler, close to finishing his VFW speaking tour, is by himself, quickly eating some unbuttered toast and drinking black coffee.
A few customers sit in booths by the diner's windows. One burly man, his face with the blank look of a person who doesn't know where else to go, sits idly, stirring the cream in his coffee mechanically and unceasingly.
Sound: the chatter of customers in the background, Jack Benny on the radio.
Butler finishes his toast and coffee and looks at a waitress. "Here's a quarter," he says.
"It only costs a dime."
Oh, Butler nods to himself, and then, not having changed much, says in an accounting tone, "Well. Give me a dime back, then."
The waitress sighs, Butler collects his change, stands, and leaves. The chime over the door tinkles loudly as he goes.
Within the diner, the waitress busies herself behind the counter. The burly man keeps stirring his coffee, and the Jack Benny tune ends on the radio.
An announcer says breathlessly over the airwaves, "Didn't that tune just put a bounce in your step? And now... a word from our sponsors."
Sound: The clunkily purring sound of a car pulling up to a curb and stopping.
Woman's voice, clear and theatrical: "Well, hello there, Bob. That's a fine looking car you've got there!"
Man's voice: "You better believe it, Sue! I just bought it today."
Woman: "Today? It looks like a car from tomorrow!"
Man: "That's because it is a car from tomorrow. This is one of Studebaker's best... " There is a commercially dramatic beat. "The Dictator!"
Woman: "The what?"
Man: "The Dictator, Sue! A car for the leaders of the future!"
The ad's music swells to a crescendo.
Announcer: "The Dictator. From Studebaker. The car for those who know how to lead."
The interior of yet another hotel room, this one particularly dreary. Day.
Butler is talking to his wife on the phone. His voice is affectionate but drained.
"Yes, dear, I'm almost finished the tour. I'll be home on Friday. I'm taking the 8:20 train from Milwaukee, then catching the train home from Philadelphia. [beat] Yes, dear. Yes." A pause. "Me, too."
The train station at Newtown Square. Day.
Butler is emerging from a train from Philadelphia. His wife stands alone on the platform. They look at each other with a familiar smile.
"You look well," Butler says, taking his wife in his arms.
"Oh, Smedley, I missed you," Ethel Butler says, expressing the emotion he can't.
Butler grips his wife with greater force.
The next morning.
Butler and his wife are enjoying breakfast in the way people who enjoy each other's company get particular pleasure from the routine of meal-time.
"How is the garden coming along?" Butler says off-handly.
"Well, it would be fine if those darn gophers would leave the vegetables alone."
"I've told you before, Ethel. You need to put chicken wire under the earth. That's where they come through."
"Smedley. I've tried that. They just burrow through all the same with their nasty, strong teeth."
"Well. They don't know any better. They're gophers." He continues on the same line of thought, half to himself, "maybe I could pour some cement. Make a kind of fortification."
"Fortification? This isn't trench warfare we're talking about."
"Noooooo. That's true," Butler allows. Beat. "But it would work."
"And maybe I could keep a rifle in the kitchen?" Ethel Butler says, amused.
"If you promise not to hit Wilberforce."
The Butler home, after breakfast the next day.
The mail is arriving. Letters tumble through the door slot noisily.
Butler, looking buoyant, walks to the front door and picks the letters up. He stops. One is a postcard from France.
One it is a short note written in a cursive script:
We're having a grand time, now in Paris. It certainly deserves its title of City of Light!
Mrs. Butler approaches her husband, curious about what has arrived. She notices the postcard.
"Is a friend of yours traveling?"
"No, no. This is the sticky fellow."
"What's his living again?"
Ethel Butler takes another glance at the card and notices its European photo. "Well, he certainly does quite well for himself as a bond salesman."
A hot summer day at the New York Harbor Transatlantic pier.
Great ships, their hulls seemingly grander than anything built on land, and their horns as powerful as the bass note of titanic organs, are berthed here. A ship—bound from France—slowly enters the harbor led by a pair of tugboats, and it, too, finds a berth.
On the upper rails of the ship, the MacGuire family is arriving back from Europe. All are excited as they prepare to disembark.
"Look at those people down below!" Elizabeth MacGuire says, looking at the dock. "They look like ants!"
"It's as if we're in a tall building," MacGuire says, pleased by his wife's observation. Then he turns to his kids. "C'mon, you tykes, let's get off the boat."
His son looks up at him as he takes his hand. "You should call it a "ship," daddy, not a boat."
"Heh, heh. Yes, yes. Indeed."
The pier at ground level, 30 minutes later.
The MacGuire family is now assembled on the dock. They walk toward a taxi cab. Two porters help them.
"C'mon, dear," Elizabeth MacGuire calls to her husband. "Jump in."
"Just a moment, honey. I have to make a phone call."
August 22nd, 1934. The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Philadelphia. Day.
The interior of the hotel is palatial. Its lobby has the magnificent quality of splendor built to attract commerce. MacGuire is standing alone, to one side.
Butler appears on the right and walks with a stiff-backed gait toward MacGuire.
"Well, you're back," Butler says tersely, not shaking hands.
MacGuire smiles without reservation. "It's good to see you again, sir."
The two men move to a restaurant in the hotel. It has been closed for the summer. It has the strange, spectral feel of a large room emptied of people. MacGuire leads Butler to one of the most secluded tables on the far side of the restaurant. Both men sit.
"Staying in Philadelphia for a while, then?" Butler says, making conversation.
MacGuire's facial expression shifts. His complexion adopts a new hue, and becomes more pale. "No, sir, I"m on my way to a Legion convention in Miami. But sir, if you'll forgive me, we don't have much time. I have to speak plainly. What I have to say is of the utmost importance."
"I learned a lot in Europe. We weren't just traveling there. I was doing research."
"Research into what? The gold standard again?"
MacGuire laughs. "No, no, sir. We wanted to understand the way veterans work. The way veterans organizations operate within various countries. Whether they serve as the background of governments or not."
"Should veterans associations be acting as the background of a government?"
"Well, sir, one place we went was Italy. And those veterans, they're kind of the background of Mussolini. They help back him up. He gives them jobs, he finds ways to take care of them. He keeps them on the payroll and keeps them contented and happy. But that's not a way that would work in the United States. And we went on to Germany. And we looked at what Hitler was doing. And he needs veterans organizations, too, makes good use of them. But the way he does it wouldn't work in the United States either. We even thought of going to the Soviet Union. You know, the Russians have a lot of soldiers there. But that's not a capitalistic system, and that wouldn't do. And then we went to France. And we found exactly the kind of organization we that ought to have in this country. It's what you might call an organization of super-soldiers. It's called the Croix de Feu. It's got 500,000 men. But the difference between the Croix de Feu and these other organizations is it's mainly officers and non-coms who make it up. Because each man within the Croix de Feu is leader of ten others. That's 5 million men working as one unit. It has a lot of power in that country."
"And what do they do with that power?"
"Well, influence things, of course."
"Elections are how we're supposed to influence things."
"But you don't understand, sir. We want to support the president."
"The president doesn't need the support of that kind of organization. Besides, since when did you become a supporter of Roosevelt?"
"Don't you understand? The set-up has got to be changed a bit. We have the President vulnerable to us now. He has got to have more money. There is no 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 has got to change the method of financing the Government, and we are going to see to it that he isn't going to change that method."
"So the idea of this great group of soldiers, then, is to sort of frighten him, is it?"
"No, no, not to frighten him." MacGuire glances around the space of the empty restaurant. " This is to sustain him when others assault him."
Butler looks at MacGuire closely.
MacGuire continues. "We just want to help the President. He will come right along with us. He was born in this class. He was raised in this class, and he will come back. He will run true to form. In the end he will come around. But we have got to be prepared to sustain him when he does."
"Well, I do not know about that. How would the President explain it?"
"He will not necessarily have to explain it, because we will help him out. Now, did it ever occur to you that the President is overworked? We might have an assistant president, someone to take the blame. And if things do not work out, the President can drop him. [beat] Really, it wouldn't 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. The President himself wants to do something like that. [beat] He'll be a sort of secretary of general affairs—a sort of super-secretary."
At the far end of the restaurant, there is the echoing sound of a door opening. A woman in a mink stole looks through the door.
"Oh. Excuse me," the woman says distantly.
She retreats and closes the door again.
MacGuire lowers his voice and leans into the table. "Look, let's be honest. The President, if we're going to speak completely man-to-man, he's a cripple. He's not in good health. Well, if we went forward and we organized a sort of secretary of general affairs, somebody to take over the responsibilities that weigh upon his shoulders, that would be a relief for the President and the people. You know, we have got the newspapers. We will start a campaign that the President's health is failing. Anyone can tell that by looking at him. And the dumb American people will fall for it in a second."
Butler leans back in his chair. "So you have a kind of sympathy racket. You want someone you want to take all the patronage off his shoulders, and take all the worries and details off his shoulders, and then he will be a figurehead like the president of France, is that it? Is that where you got this idea?"
"Well, as I've said, I've been traveling around, looking around, and the Croix de Feu, they've got a great organization, they've got a great idea. Now, this super-organization—"
MacGuire, good salesman that he is, hesitates with a pregnant pause while looking fixedly at Butler.
"- Would you be interested in heading it?" MacGuire says, his tone off-hand.
Butler is poker-faced. "I am interested in it. But I do not know anything about heading it in particular, because, Jerry, you know my interest is, my one hobby is, maintaining a democracy. If you got these 500 thousand soldiers advocating anything of fascism, I will get 500 thousand more and lick the hell out of you, and we will have a real war right here at home. You know that."
"Oh, no, we do not want that," MacGuire holds up his hands. " We want to ease up on the President."
"Yes, and then you will put someone in there that you can run, is that the idea? The President will go around and christen babies and dedicate bridges and kiss children while your man, your super-secretary, is the one who really runs the show, and you fellows in turn are running the super-secretary? Mr. Roosevelt would never agree to that himself."
MacGuire's tone darkens. "Oh, yes, he will, he will agree to it. If he wants to go along, that's swell. And if he doesn't, we'll just get rid of him."
"I do not believe he will go along with it. And don't you know all this will cost money? What are you talking about?"
"We have three million dollars prepared to start it. And we can get 300 million more if we need it."
Butler tries to maintain his neutrality of expression. But despite himself, for a moment he is simply speechless.
Then: "Who's going to put all this money up?"
"Well, you heard Clark say he was going to put up 15 million to save the other 15 million."
"How are you going to care for all these men, these veterans?"
"Well, the government will not give them pensions or anything of that kind, but we will give it to them. We will give privates ten dollars a month and destitute captains 35 dollars. We will get them alright."
"It will cost you a lot of money to do that."
"We will only have to do it for one year and then everything will be all right again."
"This is quite different from agitating to re-instate the gold standard." Butler glances at his watch.
MacGuire begins to speak excitedly; eager to hold Butler's attention. "You just wait, sir. We're already starting to make some kinds of organizations. You watch, there's going to be an announcement for one of them in two to three weeks. It will come in the paper. There are going to be big fellows in it. This is going to be the background of it. These are going to be the villagers in the opera. The papers will come out with it."
"And this will be your veterans' organization?"
"No, it will be the background, the background of that. But it will be a sort of society to maintain the Constitution and so forth. As I said, we need an assistant president—somebody to take the blame. That's what the President himself is doing right now, that's what he built Hugh Johnson up for. But Hugh Johnson talked too damn much and he's got himself into a hole, and he's going to get fired by the President in the next two or three weeks. That's going to happen, too."
"How do you know all this?"
"Oh, we are talking to him all the time. We know what is going to happen," MacGuire says lightly. Then, another shift it tone. "This is a time of danger. We have to maintain the Constitution."
"I don't see that the Constitution is in any danger. Why are you doing this?"
MacGuire looks at his fingernails, inspecting their lustre. Then he smiles at Butler as if the answer is obvious. "I'm a businessman. I've got a wife and children."
The Butler home, a few weeks later.
Butler is reading the paper while eating breakfast. After several moments, Butler whistles under his breath.
"What is it, dear?" his wife says.
"Oh, just something here about a new organization, the American Liberty League," Butler says, as if talking to the paper.
"Oh yes? And what are they for?"
"Freedom. And property. They all speak the same, these outfits. Try to make themselves grand," Butler says. Then, as if as an afterthought, "They do include some mighty prominent fellows, though."
Butler stands. As he does, there is a feline hiss and squeal under his feet.
He glances down. "Wilberforce! You almost tripped me!"
Ethel Butler smiles. "You watch that one. He's a rascal."
Butler's voice is elevated, as if he is upset by the incident to a disporportionate degree. "Shoo!" he says sharply. "We have rascals outside. We don't need them in our home."
The Butler home. Evening.
Butler is in his garden. He stands alone on the lawn, looking at a stand of trees. Swallows swoop overhead, engaging in an orgy of mosquito-eating at dusk.
Then he re-enters the house.
The same night.
Mr. and Mrs. Butler are preparing to go to sleep. Butler sits up in the bed, dressed in pale blue pajamas, a book on his lap. His wife is busying herself in front of a mirror, applying a cleansing lotion to her face.
"If I told you I had a chest of gold in the basement, would you believe me?" Butler says, as if idly.
"Gold? That would be rich," Ethel Butler exclaims. "You know I could never believe something like that, Smedley."
"But if someone else—say, Mr. Grant up the street—said it too, would you believe me?"
His wife laughs. "Mr. Grant is a silly old goat."
"How about if Reverend Frost and I said the same thing? Would you believe me then?"
Ethel Bulter considers this one. "Now Reverend Frost is a man I could trust. That would make me think hard."
Butler's desk. The next morning.
Butler absent-mindedly looks through the contents of a desk drawer. In front of him are several business cards. Butler picks a few up, then discards them. Then he looks at one more closely.
It reads: Tom O'Neil, Editor, The Philadelphia Record.
The interior of the newsroom of The Philadelphia Record. Day.
It is mid-morning. We hear the constant bustle—like a traffic comprised of voices—of the newsroom.
Inside an office to one side of the main newsroom, sits Butler. He's seated in a simple wood chair. In front of him is Tom O'Neil. He a well-fed paunch but the solid shoulders and arms of someone in possession of considerable strength. He looks like someone with both the strong appetites of the self-indulgent and also the rather aggressive attitude toward labor of the hard-sacrificing.
Butler is already mid-way through conversation]
"I need someone I can trust," he says.
"Just because I put a reporter on this lead doesn't mean it's going to lead to a story," O'Neil says.
"But, Tom, I'd have a witness at least."
"What good would a witness do you? We're still unsure that this fellow MacGuire isn't just talking through his hat."
"But I could go to the government," Butler says earnestly. "They have offices looking into this sort of thing, don't they?"
"Well, the House of Representatives has a committee investigating un-American activities."
"That would be perfect."
O'Neil regards Butler with a seasoned, if not cynical expression, then holds up his hands, palms outward. "But they're investigating mainly fascist and communist groups—"
Butler, getting stirred up, interrupts. "This is fascist."
"Well, in your opinion, General, it is. In the eyes of another..."
"How about that fellow Comley French?" Butler says impatiently. "I know him, I like him. He could talk to MacGuire. If MacGuire's half as forthcoming with him as he is with me, we'd have a case right there."
O'Neil shrugs. "Well, you'd have an interesting story to tell your pals over a scotch." He catches himself with a laugh. "Oh. Did I say scotch?"
The offices of Grayson Murphy & Co. Mid-day.
The office bustles like that of the newsroom, but with a more formal, more straightened quality.
Inside the snug office of Gerald C. MacGuire, MacGuire sits at his desk, his jacket off and blooming ovals of sweat staining his shirt at the armpits.
The phone rings.
"Hello?" he says, picking up.
"My name is Paul Comley French. I'm a reporter with the Philadelphia Record. General Smedley Butler suggested I have a talk with you."
"About what?" MacGuire says, interested but wary.
"Well, that's something I wanted to explain during a meeting"
MacGuire looks at his not-especially cluttered desk. "I'm pretty busy, ah, Mr.—what was it again? Crumbley?"
"Comley French. I cover feature stories for the Record. I also work for a paper in New York and travel to the city often. I'm planning to take a train in an hour, actually. Could we meet this afternoon?"
MacGuire's tone is noncommittal. "Ah, maybe. What did you say your number was again?"
"27652, the Philadelphia exchange."
"Let me get back to you in a moment, Mr. French. I need to double-check my schedule with my secretary."
MacGuire hangs up. He quickly dials another number he knows by heart.
"Hello?" Butler's voice says.
MacGuire's tone instantly brightens. "General? It's me, Jerry MacGuire!"
"Oh, hello, MacGuire. What can I do for you?"
"There's a fellow on the phone by the name of French. He just called me and says he wants to drop by for a chat. Says you gave my name to him."
"Yes, that's right. I'd like you to speak to him."
"So he's a solid fellow?"
"He's very solid."
"A trustworthy fellow?"
"He's very sincere."
MacGuire seems quite heartened by this recommendation. His voice now adopts the sing-songy tone of one who has received good news.
"Now that the League is formed, we're getting our view out. But it's not necessarily the view that I personally subscribe to."
"All you have to do is speak your mind."
"I can't promise that I'll express myself with all the fine language of a professional speaker," MacGuire says warmly.
MacGuire grins with anticipation. "But I'll do my best."
MacGuire's office, later the same day.
MacGuire is explaining his worldview to French. His tone is expansive. French sits in front of him, his face a neutral receptacle.
"What we need is a man on a white horse—" MacGuire says.
"What do you mean by that?"
Eagerly: "Well, has General Butler told you about my trip to Europe?"
"He told me that you would explain everything."
Macguire leans forward, smiling. "They have good, solid veterans organizations over there, see? They've organized themselves into effective fascist groups. It's really quite thrilling. They march on the streets, they dress smartly."
"How does that connect to America?"
"Well, we need a similar organization over here, don't you understand? This is a time of danger. The communists are organizing. We need to hang together. That's the essence of the fascist idea: men working together toward a common goal under the inspired guidance of a strong leader."
"And so the man on the white horse would be a military fellow?"
"Well, yes, preferably. But not necessarily. But it would help. We need someone the veterans will instinctively trust. Someone they will already have some faith in."
"And then once you organized this veterans organization, what would you do?"
MacGuire's eye brighten. "Well, we'd march on Washington, of course."
"Like the Bonus?"
"No, no. Well, a little like the Bonus. But different. We'd help the plain soldier, see? We'd do what the Bonus organizers didn't have the resources to do."
"We'd give the plain soldier an allowance—a recognition for services to be rendered. You know, a kind of investment."
"Where would you get the money for that?"
"We could ask the soldiers for a dollar a year. That would raise some money."
"You'd ask the soldiers to pay money in order to fund an allowance that would be given to them?"
"You're not seeing it straight. We'd take a dollar from all soldiers. We'd only give the allowance to fellows in need. And we'd have access to outside funds as well."
"Well, John W. Davis of J. P. Morgan or Perkins of the National City Bank, or any number of well-connected fellows could help out."
"You mean, they'd supply their own money?"
MacGuire shrugs. "Or help open the coffers of others." He leans forward again. "See, that's the thing about powerful friends: they also know powerful people. Get them on your side and things start to happen."
"And then what would you do with all this money? Move your fellows of this veterans group to Washington? And then what?"
"Well, we could outfit them properly. Get them dressed up smart. Make sure they had all the equipment of soldiers."
"Well, a good rifle, for one."
"Getting rifles for a large body of men is no easy task, even if you have an amount of money in hand."
"Well, we wouldn't necessarily pay cash. We could get a credit and use it with the Remington company. They make a fine rifle, you know."
"Are you sure of this? That the Remington Company would extend you credit?"
"The DuPonts could help out." Beat. "They own Remington, you know."
"And then what? All these veterans would be dressed up smart and carrying a new gun. What would happen next?"
MacGuire laughs. "Oh, don't get me wrong. The rifles would just be for show. A way of showing that we meant business and were a serious group. We wouldn't want to use them."
"So why get them in the first place?"
"To support the man on the white horse, of course. To show that he had solid support."
"Shouldn't that support go to the President?"
"Look, we like the President. He's a decent fellow. But he isn't up to the task."
"And what would happen to him, then, after your man on a white horse appeared?"
"Well, we might go along with him. That would be just fine. And then we might do with him with Mussolini did with the king of Italy."
The conversation comes to its end, the two men, facing each other, MacGuire beaming, French looking at him with inexpressive circumspection.
The meeting room of the Special Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, November, 1934.
The room has many people, though it is far from full. At the main table sit the committee's organizers, the honorable John W. McCormack and Samuel Dickstein.
Beside them is a witness chair. Several clerks and attorneys fill out the chamber.
McCormack bangs his gavel.
MCCORMACK. This committee will now begin its session.
ATTORNEY. Sir, Mr. McCormack, sir. With all due respect, there are several journalists out in the hall who would like to witness these proceedings.
MCCORMACK. Transcripts of the testimony will be released to the newspapers in a timely fashion.
ATTORNEY. I think, though, the newsmen would like to listen to the witnesses themselves.
MCCORMACK. I think I've made myself clear, counsel. The newsmen will get their chance. Tell them to show some patience. [Glancing at a copy of the Philadelphia Record which is on the table in front of him] It would seem that some journalists have already been quite enterprising in managing to cover this story already.
Laughter. Gavel again.
MCCORMACK. This committee will now come to order.
BUTLER. I think I had probably better go back and give you the background. This has been going on for a year and a half. Along—I think it must have been about the 1st of July 1933, two men came to see me. First there was a telephone message from Washington, from a man who I did not know well. His first name was Jack. He was an American Legionnaire, but I cannot remember his last name—cannot recall it now accurately. Anyhow, he asked me if I would receive two soldiers—two veterans—
If they called on me that afternoon. I said I would.
About five hours later a Packard limousine came up into my yard and 2 men got out. This limousine was driven by a chauffeur. They came into the house and introduced themselves. One said his name was Bill Doyle, who was then the department commander of the Legion in Massachusetts. The other said his name was Jerry MacGuire.
CHAIRMAN. Where did MacGuire come from?
GENERAL BUTLER. MacGuire said he had been State commander the year before of the department of Connecticut and was then living in I Connecticut. Doyle was living in Massachusetts.
CHAIRMAN. Had you met either of these men before?
GENERAL BUTLER. Never had seen them before, as I recollect. I might have done so; but as far as my impression then was, they were absolute strangers. The substance of the conversation, which lasted about 2 hours, was this: That they were very desirous of unseating the royal family in control of the American Legion, at the convention to be held in Chicago, and very anxious to have me take part in it. They said that they were not in sympathy with the then administration—that is, the present administration's treatment of the soldiers.
They presented to me rather a confused picture, and I could not make up my mind exactly what they wanted me to do or what their objective was, but it had something to do with weakening the influence of the administration with the soldiers.
They asked me to go to the convention, and I said I did not want to go—that I had not been invited and did not care anything about going.
Then MacGuire said that he was the chairman of the distinguished-guest committee of the American Legion, on Louis Johnson's staff; that Louis Johnson had, at MacGuire's suggestion, put my name down to be invited as a distinguished guest of the Chicago convention. that Johnson had then taken this list, presented by MacGuire, of distinguished guests, to the White House for approval; that Louis Howe, one of the secretaries to the President, had crossed my name off and said that I was not to be invited—that the President would not have it. I thought I smelled a rat, right away—that they were trying to get me mad—to get my goat. I said nothing.
They said, "We represent the plain soldiers, and we want you to come to this convention." They said, "We want you to come there I and stampede the convention in a speech and help us in our fight to dislodge the royal family."
CHAIRMAN. When you say you smelled a rat, you mean you had an idea that they were not telling the truth?
GENERAL BUTLER. I could not reconcile and from the very beginning I was never able to reconcile their desire to serve the ordinary man in the ranks, with their other aims. They did not seem to be the same. It looked to me us if they were trying to embarrass the administration in some way. They had not gone far enough yet but I could not reconcile the two objectives; they seemed to be diametrically opposed.
Butler is continuing his testimony.
BUTLER. Then when he met me in New York he had another idea... Now, I cannot recall which one of these fellows told me I about the rule of succession, about the Secretary of State becoming President when the Vice-President is eliminated. There was something said in one of the conversations that I had, that the President's health was bad, and he might resign, and that Garner did not want it anyhow, and then this super-secretary would take the place of the Secretary of State and in the order of succession would become President. That was the idea.
He said that they had this money to spend on it, and he wanted to know again if I would head it, and I said, "No, I was interested in it, but I would not head it."
He said, "When I was in Paris, my headquarters were Morgan & Hodges. We bad a meeting over there, I might as well tell you that our group is for you, for the head of this organization, Morgan & Hodges are against you. The Morgan interests say that you cannot be trusted, that you are too radical, and so forth, that you are too much on the side of the little fellow; you cannot be trusted.
They do not want you. But our group tells them that you are the only fellow in America who can get the soldiers together. They say, "Yes, but he will get them together and to the wrong way."
They are for Douglas MacArthur as the head of it. Douglas MacArthur's term expires in November, and if he is not reappointed it is to be presumed that he will be disappointed and sore and they are for getting him to head it"
There is some hubbub among the committee members and staff.
MCCORMACK. (To court stenographer] Excuse me. May I speak with you a moment?
The hearing called to recess, two young staff members of the House are standing at the end of a hallway during the break, having cigarettes.
"Strong stuff, eh?" the first staff member says.
"Ah, he's just one man," the second staff member says with the cosmetic cynicism of the young.
"But what he said about MacArthur? Holy Murphy—that's dynamite."
The second staffer draws deeply on his cigarette. "What he said was that some people want Mac to lead up this outfit they claim they organized, not that Mac said yes."
This doesn't stop the first staffer from continuing, his voice wide-eyed. "Well, they seem pretty well-connected."
"Yeah. So Butler says," the second staffer says scoffingly.
The two staff members look up. Near them, also enjoying cigarettes, is a small group of journalists, excluded from the committee chamber. The staff members glance at the journalists with the worried expressions of gossips caught mid-tale. Then they retreat back to the chamber, leaving the journalists among themselves.
Paul Comley French is testifying.
CHAIRMAN. Will you state your name for the record?
FRENCH. Paul Comley French.
CHAIRMAN. With whom are you connected?
FRENCH. I am a reporter for the Philadelphia Record and the New York Evening Post.
CHAIRMAN. You have heard the General's testimony. Will you make any statement you care to make at this time?
FRENCH. The General told me about this in September. We talked it over and I got in touch with MacGuire in New York and arranged to come and see him.
CHAIRMAN. That is September of this year?
FRENCH. September 13, 1934, I came to New York, went to his office on the twelfth floor of 52 Broadway. The whole floor is occupied by Grayson M.-P. Murphy & Co. At first he was somewhat cagey in talking, and then he warmed up.
CHAIRMAN. You had this talk with MacGuire?
FRENCH. 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.
The hall outside the meeting room.
Two journalists are standing in the hall when the doors to the committee's chamber open.
Rep. John McCormack, a committee chair, steps out.
"Rep. McCormack!" the first journalist of the two calls out, his voice brassy and professional. "A few words on today's session!"
"I've said it before," McCormack responds. "You'll get a full transcript in due course."
"Why isn't press allowed in to witness the proceedings? Is it true that some of the witnesses are claiming a plot to assassinate the president?"
"You fellows are basing your questions on wild rumors, not facts. Just be patient."
The second journalist takes up the charge. "But could you say just a little about the people behind the alleged conspiracy, whatever it may be? Are you planning to call to testify all the people implicated?"
"I don't understand your question."
"Well, you've already called General Butler and Mr. French," the second journalist says. "But your committee is only scheduled to have these special New York hearings for a few days. What if there are several others you need to call?"
"Well—we'll call them if we have to."
"Even if they reside in New York?"
"I'm afraid I just don't follow your reasoning here."
"If it turns out you need to call other witnesses who are implicated by the testimony already given, will you extend your stay in New York so you can gather all the testimony you need to get to the bottom of things?"
"I don't see that we will be needing to call any witnesses except those whose testimony is material to our inquiry. We won't be calling new witnesses simply on the basis of hearsay."
"But sir—" the first journalist begins.
"Look," McCormack says. "I've said all that I'm prepared to say. Just be patient."
McCormack walks on. The two journalists look at each other.
Gerald MacGuire is testifying.
CHAIRMAN. In any event, the first time you went out there was some time in May or June of 1933?
MACGUIRE. That is right.
CHAIRMAN. And you and Bill Doyle went out to see him?
MACGUIRE. Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN. When you called up, did you tell him who you were?
CHAIRMAN. And you asked him if he would meet you?
MACGUIRE. I told him that I had met him around some place and that I was interested in the Legion and asked him if he could see us, and he said, "Fine; be glad to."
CHAIRMAN. And you and Mr. Doyle went up to see him?
MACGUIRE. That is right.
CHAIRMAN. You were there for about how long, Mr. MacGuire?
MACGUIRE. Well, roughly I should say about an" hour and ten minutes, something like that.
CHAIRMAN. What was the purpose of the visit?
MACGUIRE. Well, there are two different reasons. One was that we were thinking of forming a committee for a sound dollar and t bound currency, and the other was that I had always been a great admirer of General Butler and I thought that he would be a fine man to be commander of the Legion. Both of those subjects were brought up.
CHAIRMAN. Was there some talk about unseating the royal family of the American Legion?
MACGUIRE. No; I do not believe that was brought up. I think what was said was more or less general; that there was a good opportunity in the Legion for a man of his caliber and leadership and if there was any way possible and he was a delegate to the Chicago convention, we might be able to get him to run and be commander.
CHAIRMAN. With reference to the matter of being a delegate. was there any talk about how he would be a delegate and from where?
MACGUIRE. I think it was discussed and we asked him if he could be a delegate from Pennsylvania and he said no, that "The boys here do not like me and I do not think they would elect me from here." I think either Doyle or myself—I do not know which one it was; Doyle probably, because he knew more about the policies of the Legion that I; I do not know exactly what happened, but I think the General suggested that he had some friends Other places and he might try that.
CHAIRMAN. Did you or Doyle suggest his being a delegate from Hawaii?
MACGUIRE. As far as I can recall, Mr. Chairman, I think that generally speaking when discussed the possibilities of where he could a delegate from—well, you are a legionnaire, Mr. Chairman, and you understand that in order for a man to be on the floor and have a voice in the convention, he has got to be a delegate.
MACGUIRE. So, naturally, the first proceeding would be to try lo get him to be a delegate and, I think in discussing it, probably Hawaii was mentioned as well as Guam and a few other places.
CHAIRMAN. In the conversation did you or Mr. Bill Doyle say that you were very anxious to unseat those who were in the leadership of the American Legion?
MACGUIRE. I do not think we did in that way, in the way in which you arc putting it.
CHAIRMAN. Was there some talk along that line? Were you and Doyle against those who were in control of the Legion at that time?
MACGUIRE. No, sir; positively not.
CHAIRMAN. Was there any talk along that line?
MACGUIRE. There was talk- I thought that he would be a good man, so did Doyle, for commander of the Legion; and naturally, if you are going to have a man for commander, he has got to be against some people who are also putting a man up.
CHAIRMAN. What talk did you have with him about the sound dollar and the gold standard? Was the gold standard mentioned?
MACGUIRE. No; the gold standard was not mentioned. As a matter of fact, I do not think the gold standard or the sound dollar committee was gone into very much at that particular meeting.
CHAIRMAN. You said that in this talk-----
MACGUIRE. It was brought up, and the reason it was brought up is this-----
CHAIRMAN. Never mind the reason. In what way was it brought up? I would like to know just what the conversation was.
MACGUIRE. As I said, I was going to form this committee for a sound dollar; and I thought General Butler, being a pubic man and going out speaking for various movements as he has is the past and getting paid for it, would be glad to accept the fee for going out and speaking for the committee for a sound dollar. That was the object in bringing it up.
CHAIRMAN. Did you talk with him along that line?
CHAIRMAN. Did you leave a speech with him—a speech that he was to make to the convention if he went out there?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. Did you later? Did you at any time leave a speech with him?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. Urging the support of a resolution at the convention, placing the national convention on record as favoring a restoration of this country to the gold standard?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
MacGuire is continuing his testimony.
CHAIRMAN. Did you receive any money personally from Mr. Clark?
MACGUIRE. Yes, sir. I received $7,200-and-something, I just forget what was the full amount, for traveling expenses to Europe.
CHAIRMAN. When did you receive that?
MACGUIRE. I believe that was received in March.
CHAIRMAN. Of this year?
MACGUIRE. Yes; and I have received, I think, $2,500 at an* ; other time and $1,000 at another time.
CHAIRMAN. From Mr. Clark?
MACGUIRE. From Mr. Clark for expenses.
CHAIRMAN. Did you receive anything from anybody else!
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. Did you deposit that money?
MACGUIRE. Deposit the money?
CHAIRMAN. This money that you personally received from Mr. Clark, something over $10,000.
MACGUIRE. I deposited it in the Manufacturers Trust Co.
CHAIRMAN. In your own name ?
MACGUIRE. Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN. What branch of the Manufacturers Trust Co.?
MACGUIRE. The main office, 55 Broad
CHAIRMAN. Do you have any other account in any other banks?
MACGUIRE. The Irving Trust Co. and the Central Hanover,
CHAIRMAN. Are they both in your name?
MACGUIRE. Yes, sir; my name or my wife's.
CHAIRMAN. In what names are they? Are they in your joint names ?
MACGUIRE. Joint name, yes; G. C. and E. W. MacGuire.
CHAIRMAN. Have you any other deposits in any other banks?
MACGUIRE. No, sir; the Irving and the Central Hanover and the Manufacturers.
CHAIRMAN. Have you any deposits under any other name in any other banks?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. By the way, what is your salary with this concern?
MACGUIRE. My drawing account is $432 a month right now.
CHAIRMAN. Was that your drawing account when you started there?
MACGUIRE. No, sir. It was $7,500
CHAIRMAN. A year?
CHAIRMAN. It has been reduced?
CHAIRMAN. And you are on commission, are you?
MACGUIRE. Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN. And you earn commissions in addition to that?
MACGUIRE. I have; yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN. What were these amounts of $7,200 and $2,500 and $1,000 given by Mr. Clark for?
MACGUIRE. Expenses. The $2,500 and the $1,000 were in connection with the expenses of organizing the committee for a sound dollar and doing necessary work in that connection, and the $7,200 was for a trip to Europe that I made in connection with a study of securities, and so forth, over there.
CHAIRMAN. Did you know that Mr. Clark had a personal talk with General Butler?
MACGUIRE. It seems to me that he mentioned it to me, but I - am not sure.
CHAIRMAN. Who mentioned it?
MACGUIRE. That Mr. Clark did mention it, but he mentioned it in connection with-----
CHAIRMAN. Did you know that Mr. Clark talked with him about going to the convention ?
MACGUIRE. No, sir; I do not.
CHAIRMAN. And that he, Clark, said that he would see that he had a chance to speak there?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. That he would arrange it through you?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. Do you not remember giving him the speech that he was to make?
MACGUIRE. No sir.
CHAIRMAN. Will you say that you did not?
MACGUIRE. I did not.
CHAIRMAN. Did Mr. Clark call you up in Chicago at any time?
MACGUIRE. Mr. Clark? No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. He did not?
MACGUIRE. No, he did not. I called him in New York.
CHAIRMAN. Did he ever call you up in Chicago from General Butler's home?
MACGUIRE. From General Butler's home?
MACGUIRE. No, sir, to my recollection he did not.
CHAIRMAN. At the convention, where did you stay, what hotel?
MACGUIRE. The Palmer House.
CHAIRMAN. But at no time did you receive a call from Mr. Clark while you were in Chicago?
MACGUIRE. To my recollection, no.
CHAIRMAN. Particularly from General Butler's own home?
MACGUIRE. To my recollection, no.
CHAIRMAN. And was not the main subject of talk that you had with General Butler on several occasions the adoption of a resolution by the convention urging the Government to return to the gold standard?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. Was such a resolution adopted out there?
MACGUIRE. Yes, it was.
CHAIRMAN. Who proposed it, if you remember?
MACGUIRE. Well, I think I had as much to do with proposing it as anyone; and Bill Doyle.
CHAIRMAN. Did Clark at any time tell you that Butler would not go to the convention and that he was going to Canada?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. And for you to let loose the telegrams; let the telegrams go ?
MACGUIRE. Let me get that straight.
CHAIRMAN. Or words to that effect; something about sending telegrams to the delegates at the convention?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. Were telegrams sent to the delegates at the convention in connection with the adoption of this resolution to return to the gold standard?
MACGUIRE. Not to my knowledge. They were not sent by me.
CHAIRMAN. Do you know whether or not any expenses were paid out of this fund, any payments were made for the sending of telegrams to delegates at the convention?
MACGUIRE. Telegrams to delegates? I do not believe there were any telegrams sent to delegates concerning this resolution that you speak of paid for out of the expense fund that you mention.
CHAIRMAN. Do you know if any telegrams were sent at all in connection with the adoption of this resolution?
MACGUIRE. Yes. At the end of the convention, after the convention had adopted the resolution, I sent telegrams myself.
CHAIRMAN. How many?
MACGUIRE. Oh, I should think ninety-nine. That was part expense money; that is, part of the expense money was used for that.
CHAIRMAN. Prior to the adoption of the resolution?
MACGUIRE. Prior to the adoption—I do not believe so.
CHAIRMAN. So far as you know, you did not do it?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. And you definitely know that?
MACGUIRE. That is right, yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN. You definitely know that nothing was paid out of this fund for telegrams?
MACGUIRE. Excepting those telegrams that were sent afterward.
CHAIRMAN. Excepting the 99 that you have referred to?
MACGUIRE. Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN. Or around a hundred?
MACGUIRE. Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN. 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?
MACGUIRE. No, sir. He has been asked several times to contribute to different funds, but he has refused.
CHAIRMAN.You went to Europe, and you visited Italy?
MACGUIRE. Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN. And you sent the General a postcard from Nice?
MACGUIRE. Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN. You were in Germany?
MACGUIRE. Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN. You were in Russia?
CHAIRMAN. You were in France?
MACGUIRE. Yes; and England and Ireland.
CHAIRMAN. In August 22, 1934 did you call General Butler on the phone and ask him if he could meet you in Philadelphia that afternoon? Did you some time in August call him, when you were in Philadelphia, and ask him if he could meet you and did you meet him at the Bellevue?
MACGUIRE. I think in August I was going down on business to Philadelphia, and I called him and said I would be there and asked him if he was available and if he could meet me.
CHAIRMAN. Did he meet you at the Bellevue?
MACGUIRE. Yes. He met me around 5 o'clock at the Bellevue-Stratford. I was there with him for about 20 minutes.
CHAIRMAN. Did you talk to him about your trip to Europe?
MACGUIRE. Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN. And at that time I think you were going down to your convention in Miami?
MACGUIRE. Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN. Did you tell him now was the time to get the soldiers together?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. Did you tell him at that time that you went abroad to study the part that the veterans played abroad in the set-up of the governments of the countries abroad?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. Did you tell him that you went abroad and looked into the set-ups of the governments there and the part that the veterans played in Italy?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. Under the Fascist Government?
MACGUIRE. No, sir.
CHAIRMAN. Did you say that they were the real backbone or background of Mussolini, but that that system would not apply in America?
MACGUIRE. No, sir. The veterans were never mentioned when I met General Butler.
CHAIRMAN. Did you tell him about going to Germany?
MACGUIRE. Yes, sir.
CHAIRMAN. And that Hitler's strength in his organization was the veterans, but that that set-up would not go well in the United States?
MACGUIRE. I would like to tell you what I did tell him about Germany.
CHAIRMAN. Please tell us.
MACGUIRE. I told him that in my opinion Hitler would not last another year in Germany, that he was already on the skids, and that from observations that I made over there, a number of organizations were against him, and to my way of thinking he would not last any longer than any other dictator would last. I did mention the fact also that I thought Mussolini was on the skids.
CHAIRMAN. Did you at any time tell him about the set-up of the Hitler government and the part that the veterans played in that set-up?
MACGUIRE. No, sir. The veterans were not mentioned.
A cold, drizzly evening in New York City.
Black cars drive up and down the street, as do electric trolleys. Pedestrians move briskly, the few women carrying small umbrellas, and the men with their collars turned up and the rims of their fedoras turned down. All are in a hurry to get someplace warm.
A newsboy stands to one side, hawking the evening edition of the papers.
"Read all about it! War hero claims plan to overthrow Roosevelt!"
The crowds keep walking by. Very few pay attention to the newsboy. Fewer still stop to buy a paper.
A restaurant near Grand Central Station, the same evening.
Butler and French are sitting down for a meal before Butler returns to Newtown Square. They sit in a restaurant which is neither plain nor ornate. It seems to suit the style of the two men. Butler, in particular, seems quite fascinated by his surroundings. He keeps turning his head restlessly, at one point spotting a young mother with her infant son, and laughing tenderly when the son glances at him.
"You seem gay tonight," French says.
"Look at that fellow. Isn't he a tyke?" Butler says, still looking at the infant boy.
French turns to look. "He's a cute fellow."
"They grow so quickly, though, don't they?"
Butler turns back and looks at French with an expression of sudden gravity.
"We've got them now, don't you think?" he says with both forcefulness and a dash of anxiety.
"I beg your pardon?"
"The committee's testimony. MacGuire's story just isn't holding up. The man can barely count, for one thing. And the papers are covering this." Butler pulls up a copy of the New York Times. "Here. Look at this."
"Hmm, yes, so I have seen," French says phlegmatically. Beat. "Well, that's something."
Butler responds excitedly. "Something?! What can they possibly do now? They can't deny there are serious grounds for investigation!"
"Well, the word I've been hearing is that Representatives McCormack and Dickstein are going to limit the scope of this inquiry."
"How can they limit it? MacGuire's obviously dissembling. And at the same time, big names are being implicated. You heard the man himself: he was headquartered in the Morgan building in Paris."
A waitress arrives with the main courses.
"Thank you," French says to her.
"Thanks, Miss," Butler adds.
French resumes his conversation with Butler, his voice lowered an octave. "He's a bond salesman working for Grayson Murphy. He'd have a connection with the Morgans just as part of his regular day-to-day."
Butler instantly gets worked up again. "How do you do the "regular day-to-day" when you're over in Europe investigating fascism?"
"Look, General, if you'll pardon me for speaking plainly, it's obvious MacGuire is the sort who's going to deny anything that isn't in his interest. Who knows why he's done what he's done? He could give any sort of explanation, and why should the investigating committee take our word over his?"
"Or forgetting. Or confused."
"They need to get those other fellows on the stand. Then this thing will really turn into dynamite."
"Well, John Davis. J. P. Morgan. You know—the big wheels."
French casually takes a bite of his food. "You're forgetting DuPont."
"Yes! Right! Well, DuPont, too!"
"Well, I agree. But I wouldn't hold my breath."
"It's blown right open!" Butler says insistently, jabbing his finger at the front page of the newspaper.
French suddenly becomes more serious, looks around the restaurant, then lowers his voice considerably, as if eavesdroppers are nearby. "General, we've known each other a while. But the truth is, you have your expertise, and I have mine. I wouldn't know how to run an army any better than a spinster. But I do know the newspaper business. And I know a thing or two about government committees. And news stories don't have much of an effect unless they've got legs. And committees don't investigate issues that touch too many powerful nerves unless that pressure from the papers is there."
"But the people already know! The story is out there! What will happen if this story suddenly dies? The people will notice!"
"'The people' do whatever the people do," French shrugs. "It's only when particular groups organize that any one opinion starts to have an effect on how an institution in society acts next."
Butler looks crossly at his food; the expression of one whose appetite has become turbulent. "Well, I surely do believe that this story cannot be buried."
"A story doesn't have to be buried for it to begin fading."
"Some newsman you are!" Butler declares sharply. "You're the one who broke this story!"
"And I'm the one who's broken several stories. But General, I'm just telling you what I've learned from life's school."
Another meeting place, another group of men in conversation—this conversation greased considerably by a different form of consumable.
Several young people stand around in a New York speakeasy. On one side of the it, one of the young staff from the McCormack/Dickstein committee is surrounded by two or three friends. All are in an uproarious mood.
"Government work is swell!" the young man says.
"Well, it's secure," a friend says.
"Right. Well, Tommy, you can judge all you want. But I'd rather be in government than at a law office any day."
"Well," the friend named Tommy says, "maybe that's your temperament." Then he turns to the entire group and, indicating that the topic is now his friend the staff worker, "Jimmy and I have been friends since school. And he always preferred routine!"
All of Jimmy and Tommy's friends laugh.
"That's unfair!" Jimmy says, indignant.
"Working in a law office is a challenge. But it gets real exciting at times," Tommy says.
"So does the government!" Jimmy persists.
There is more laughter.
Another friend says: "My little sister Alice works in a government office. She tells me its duller than a wet bell!"
"Yeah, well, Alice works for city government," Jimmys says in a combative tone. "Let me tell you, federal government is a whole different story."
Jimmy's friends roll their eyes.
Jimmy, his eyes shining, takes another sip from his teacup, then continues, now excited and not thinking clearly, "Let me tell you, do you realize there was a—that's a plot to attack the president—?"
"We know about that. It was in the papers."
"No, you don't know the important part. Testimony was cut. It was taken from the record."
"What are you talking about?" Tommy says. "It was sworn."
"Yeah, it was sworn all right," Jimmy says. "But some of the really explosive stuff—it was just stricken. I had to do that myself."
To the side of Jimmy and Tommy and their friends stands another man. He looks at his drink, apparently oblivious to all else. But it is clear he is listening attentively to what is being said. But the conversation between Jimmy and co. comes to a halt. The other man exits.
Outside, it has been raining but the rain has stopped. The streets are slick and black with a cold gloss, as if asphalt has turned to patent leather.
The other man walks quickly away.
The interior of the office of Representative John M. McCormack.
Like a figure in an Edward Hopper painting, a secretary sits outside the office in an anteroom. The phone on her desk rings.
"Representative McCormack's office."
"Hello," a man says. His voice is gruff but polite. " This is John Spivak calling again. May I please speak to Mr. McCormack?"
"Just a moment," the secretary says blandly. She stands and enters McCormack's office.
Inside is McCormack, who sits at a desk littered with papers.
"Sir," the secretary announces. "It's that Spivak fellow again."
"Did he say what he wants?"
"He'd like to speak to you directly."
"Just tell him—." McCormack catches himself. "No, look, let's just get this done and over with. Yes, connect me, please."
The secretary nods and exits.
McCormack picks up his phone. "McCormack."
"Sir," Spivak says, his voice crackly and muted. "I was hoping I could come to your office and look at the transcripts you promised me."
"The transcripts have already been printed and distributed for press release. Didn't you get your copy?"
"But you said I could see the transcripts as they'd originally been produced. You promised."
"Yes, I have a note from two days ago. "I promise to let you see the originals" you wrote. "Originals" here refers to the transcripts."
"I see." McCormack says. His facial expression clearly indicates he's angry at himself, but he keeps that from creeping into his tone. "Well then, let me prepare something for you."
"I can come to your office?"
"I'm very busy. How about tomorrow morning?"
"If I could come today, I'd prefer it," Spivak says insistently.
"I said, I'm busy."
"I see. Tomorrow, then." Spivak hangs up.
"Jean," McCormack calls out loudly.
McCormack's secretary appears by the door.
"Yes, sir?" she says.
"Please note that Mr. Spivak will be dropping by tomorrow. Make sure there is a copy of the transcript ready for him."
"I thought you were done with him."
"I wish I were. But he's an insistent one."
"I could keep telling him you're out," Jean says, attempting helpfulness.
"That wouldn't work. And in any case, it turns out I promised him. Those radicals might lack manners. But they do have memories. It's best I just get this over and done with."
"Okay. So a transcript."
"Yes. The official one." Beat. "Oh, and Jean, also bring me an original of the transcript, too, would you? I have to make some notes."
Jean nods and, with a turn of her efficient heel, exits again.
McCormack's office, the next day.
McCormack is on the phone. He looks both harried and anxious to please.
"Yes, Senator. Yes, I understand. But please think of our point of view. We are representatives of the people. We have ensure this inquiry is as thorough as reasonably possible."
A knock on door.
McCormack looks up. "Yes?"
Jean appears. "Mr. Spivak, sir." Behind her, stands the bulky figure of Spivak.
McCormack waves Spivak in while continuing his conversation. "Yes. I understand. I understand."
Spivak enters. He wears a rumpled suit and has the face of a hard-bitten yet rather genial man.
"Thank you for seeing me, Representative," he says without hesitating.
McCormack waves at Spivak to sit down, then continues into the phone. "Yes, I see. I'll keep that in mind. Yes, goodbye, Senator." He hangs up.
"Yes—." The phone rings again. He calls to the anteroom. "Hello, Jean, could you hold the calls for a few minutes? I need to attend to Mr. Spivak."
"It's a call from the Senate, sir," Jean calls back.
"I just talked to Senator Marks."
"No. This is Senator Higgins."
McCormack sighs. "Okay." He takes the phone and holds his hand for a moment over the mouthpiece, addressing Spivak. "If you'll excuse me."
Spivak patiently waits.
A few minutes later.
Spivak and McCormack are talking, Spivak holding a reporter's notepad as he conducts an interview. McCormack responds but is clearly eager to wrap up the conversation as quickly as possible.
"Is it true that the committee is refraining from going all the way to the top?" Spivak says.
"The committee is doing its upmost to delve into this issue as thoroughly as it can."
"But is it true—?"
"Mr. Spivak," McCormack says impatiently. "We seem to be going around in circles."
Spivak looks at the desk top and sees the piles of paper on it. "Well, perhaps I could read the transcripts since you are so busy."
"That would be ideal."
"These are them?" Spivak asks, looking at one stack of paper in particular.
"It's all there," McCormack says blandly.
Spivak collects the large pile of papers without examining it carefully and places it in a brown leather briefcase.
"If you don't mind, I'd like to see you again," Spivak then says.
"I'm very busy."
"I can see that. Perhaps two days from now?"
"No later than next week?"
"Yes. No later than that."
"You promise?" Spivak is unable to keep his tone from being inflected with a certain adolescence.
"I'm a man of my word. You know that."
Spivak, not entirely pleased but nevertheless satisfied, gathers his things, puts on his hat and walks to the door. McCormack, eager to stretch, stands and follows Spivak to the secretarial area.
As the the main door to McCormack's office closes, Jean says, "He doesn't take hints."
"Those radicals are all the same," McCormack says. "They view every encounter as a battle of wills."
McCormack smiles and says more energetically, moving on, "Now, where are the originals?"
"Of the transcripts."
"I put them on your desk."
"You mean, the transcripts for Mr. Spivak, right?"
"Well, yes. I put them both there. I marked the originals with a note, 'For Rep. M.' The other ones I marked 'For S.'"
McCormack looks at her, his expression now purely crestfallen, as the penny drops. "Are you sure?"
McCormack rapidly returns to his office. He looks at his desk. On top of the pile is a note that reads, "For S."
McCormack lets out a deep and exhausted sigh.
On a street in New York City.
A young man selling newspapers stands. But unlike the newboys near Grand Central Station and throughout the city core, he is somewhat older—college-aged. He is gaunt, dressed in a simple cotton jacket and brown canvas pants. He stand on the street, hawking newspapers, holding one in his hand, a bundle of others lying at his feet, and calls out,
"Get your New Masses! Your New Masses here!"
A well-dressed man in a black coat carrying a walking can passes. The young man temporarily stops his hawking.
The well-dressed man passes.
Another man, this time dressed in a plain jacket smeared with grease appears.
"Brother," the young man says warmly. "Get your newspapers here."
"I speaka English. I no read," the other man says. He passes.
A third man appears. He also wears a simple coat, canvas pants and work boots. He has blond hair that is closely cropped at the sides.
"Get your New Masses, sir. Read about Wall Street's fascist conspiracy. We have the scoop the other papers won't publish."
The third man looks at the young man surmisingly. "So, do you have a job?"
"I work for the New Masses sir."
"That's less than selling apples. I meant, a real job," the third man says.
The third man's face instantly hardens. "I thought so. Radical shit. Get off our streets, you fucking Red."
"I have the right to be here."
"Just go. Mark my words."
The young man looks at the third man, who glowers at him. Neither moves.
"And you've got the balls of the brave, don't you, then?" the third man says, cruel and amused. "Well, we'll see how brave you are come nightfall. I'll be back."
The third man walks on.
A fourth man approaches.
"New Masses, sir?" the young man says, his voice full and direct, that of one not wanting to reveal his new-found caution. But his body language is different. He looks shyer now.
The interior of a restaurant in New York. Day.
John Spivak is arguing with another journalist.
"That's why you have trouble making friends at the Press Club," the other man says plainly.
"Why?" Spivak says.
"You go too far. Look at some of the stuff you say in these two articles."
"Morton, what I say is based on fact."
"No, it's not," Morton says. "Look at these claims about the Warburgs, and how they are hoarding their monies and letting down their Semitic brethren in Germany."
"But this is the truth. Felix Warburg is still doing business with the Germans even though they have gone Nazi."
"It comes off disturbingly. It makes you sound—"
"What?" Spivak says impatiently.
"I care about the working man—all working men. We need to have an honest debate in this country about how power is used to prevent the working man from gaining his fair share."
"Be that as it may, the McCormack/Dickstein committee has received ample coverage in the press. If you want to add to that coverage by revealing this material you say exists—"
"I don't say it exists, I can prove it. John McCormack was kind enough to give me—"
"Or stupid enough—" Morton says.
"It doesn't matter why he did it. The point is, he did. I now can prove that important testimony was given to this committee and was subsequently suppressed. This is a major issue."
"The committee itself stated it would not consider evidence that it considered hearsay. And that's why coverage in the other papers is over now. The issue is settled."
"Hearsay?" Spivak says, suddenly beside himself. "How can you call it hearsay when Paul French specifically says du Pont money will be used to finance buying Remington arms? Or when General Butler states that the American Legion is nowadays used as a strike-breaking outfit, and that's why he pulled out from it?"
"Calm down, John."
Spivak is still worked up. "I have the articles right here." He begins rifling through his briefcase, then pulls out a couple of issues of the New Masses. These are tabloid-sized papers that have been well-thumbed. "Listen to this, this is what French said and then was suppressed: 'During my conversation with him I did not of 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.' Or here is MacGuire on the Morgans' plan to organize a fascist army of veterans: 'The Morgan interests say you cannot be trusted... They are for Douglas MacArthur as the head of it. Douglas MacArthur's term expires in November—'"
Morton looks around the restaurant uncomfortably. "Okay, okay, keep it down, will you?"
"See, this is how it starts," Spivak says indignantly. "A fellow digs up uncomfortable truths, and the next thing you know everyone wants to keep him quiet."
"I don't need," Morton says with a touch of anger, "to be lectured by a Red on how people are forced to keep their mouths shut."
"Oh, yes, and you too, then, Morton?"
Morton's tone softens. "You're not thinking straight, John. You're getting hepped up. The committee did a good job. The newspapers covered the story. The plot was busted up."
"They just revealed the tip of the iceberg. Dickstein himself said he wished he'd called Morgan and Murphy and Warburg, for starters."
"Well—why didn't he?" Morton says, now with an edge.
'"Because the Warburgs control the American Jewish Committee and the Committee controls Dickstein!" Spivak says loudly.
Morton rolls his eyes. "So here we go, again. And how will Jones at the Times or Black at the Herald take you seriously if the core of your argument is an assault on our Semitic friends?"
"I'm trying to help."
"Well, don't help, then. It's not, as it turns out, helpful."
"We have free speech in this country!"
"Indeed. But sometimes it's important to choose one's battles by choosing one's words."
Spivak stands and puts on his coat, furious and determined to make his point with dramatic finality. "Wall Street will try again! You just watch! Ten years is all I give freedom in this country unless we all stick together and dig up the truth in its entirety!"
"There's no need to get upset. You did a good thing, John. You just didn't moderate yourself, that's all. You overreached."
Spivak looks at Morton darkly. He doesn't say any more.
Morton watches with some sadness as Spivak quickly exits. The chime over the door jingles loudly as he goes.
The Oval Office. Day.
Roosevelt, along with several advisors, including Ray Moley, James Farley, Louis Howe and Rexford Tugwell are sitting and scanning a wide range of newspapers.
"Those sons of bitches," Tugwell says.
Tugwell looks up. Roosevelt is regarding him with a degree of amusement.
"I'm sorry, sir," Tugwell says. "But this is big news."
Howe nods his head in agreement.
Roosevelt continues in a light tone. "Every day is big news if you look at the world that way."
"They wanted to do what the Italians did under Mussolini. They wanted to march on the capital," Tugwell says.
"Don't forget Hitler," Farley says, eager to contribute a comment.
Moley clears his throat. He glances first at Farley then Roosevelt.
"Hitler was elected. Let's not forget that," Roosevelt says. "Sometimes democracy can be used to dismantle itself."
Farley looks at Ray Moley uncertainly, with a "is that true?" expression on his face. Moley gives a near-imperceptible nod.
"Well, that's done with!" Roosevelt says brightly. "Let's move on, shall we?"
"We need an investigation at a higher level. What if this happens again?"
"Well, it won't from those quarters."
Roosevelt looks around the office. He realizes everyone is looking at him, and will keep looking at him until he somehow breaks the ice.
"Look, boys," he says. "I appreciate your concern. But let's keep this in perspective. I've been shot at. What's worse?"
Tugwell gets excited. "Sir, that was just one man! A nut! This is a whole... group!"
"And not exactly a marginal group," Howe adds.
"We don't know how marginal it is or isn't," Roosevelt says.
"Exactly!" Tugwell exclaims. "And that's why we need an investigation!"
Howe clears his throat. "The important thing is we win."
"This is what I'm saying!" Tugwell says.
"You're getting hot-headed," Howe says. "Victory requires coolness."
Moley nods agreement. Howe and Tugwell seem to catch this. Farley doesn't.
"Oh, well, Louis," Farley says as if this is a family fight, not an executive discussion, "a minute ago you said one thing, and now you're just taking the President's side."
Roosevelt looks at Farley with a glacial expression. Farley blushes.
"Louis expressed it correctly," Roosevelt says. "The important thing in politics—as in so much—is to win. We've reached the end of this game. The other side dropped the ball. Rubbing that in their faces is both bad form and bad tactics."
"Sir--" Tugwell says with a plaintive last gasp.
Roosevelt looks at Tugwell. Tugwell quiets. Roosevelt looks at all the others in the room.
Then Roosevelt suddenly breaks into a grin. "Well, look at you fellows! What a hang-dog crew! It's as if I'd beaten you all at cards!"
The office of Grayson M-P. Murphy. Day.
MacGuire stands in front of Murphy. MacGuire is speaking and sweating. Murphy is regarding him phlegmatically.
"Well, we handled that committee well, don't you think?" MacGuire says.
"You didn't even have to testify!" MacGuire points out brightly.
"And now it's closed! It's over and done with!"
"They didn't prove a thing!"
A large smoking room. Mid-day.
Du Pont, Knudsen, and Morgan stand to one side. Because of where they are in the room and the heavy drapes over the windows, the room is shrouded in shadows, as if layers of thin veils have been drawn across one side of the room and the other.
Separate from them stands Grayson Murphy. He has lost some of his froideur. In new circumstances, he now has something of the sweating manner of MacGuire.
"Things didn't go as planned. I acknowledge that."
"What things?" Morgan says in a slow, perplexed tone.
"Well, the army..." Murphy says with a self-conscious laugh.
"What army is that?"
"The veterans. You know..." Something catches in Murphy's throat.
"There seems to have been some sort of misunderstanding," du Pont says.
"I acknowledge full responsibility for this project's failure," Murphy says, head lowered, reiterating his contrition.
The shadows in the room seem deeper now, and they create a velvety chasm between Murphy and the rest.
Morgan speaks softly. "It seems that your idea was rather different from ours."
Murphy raises his head. "I did my best."
"As you saw it," Morgan says, retreating, now almost invisible.
Murphy looks at the others. He can barely discern them now.
The interior of a tenement building, New York City. Day.
MacGuire, his breathing labored,, is climbing a stair well. He's wearing a black overcoat and holding an bouquet of flowers. He keeps climbing, laboriously, as he makes his way to the fourth floor.
When he reaches apartment 403, he reaches up with his hand and knocks.
The door opens. In front of us is a woman with brunette hair; the waitress who served MacGuire the day of Roosevelt's inauguration.
"Darling, sorry I'm late," MacGuire says, attempting mightily to sound off-hand, romantic.
The woman looks at MacGuire with an inexpressive look—neither irritated nor tender. Yet beneath her apparent impassivity is a more complex anxiety. She does not answer MacGuire but simply steps aside, allowing MacGuire in.
He steps in, clutching the bouquet so hard that its stems bend. He lets out a friendly gush.
"These roses are fresh, darling. Don't you think they'd look swell on the windowsill?"
The woman doesn't answer, and, as MacGuire, smiling, turns to face her, two men appear from behind MacGuire. Both wear gloves. MacGuire lets out a small peep of horrified alarm. One grabs MacGuire's arms to pin them behind his back. The other holds a large handkerchief over MacGuire's mouth.
The woman—her face now visibly distraught—as MacGuire, under the handkerchief, breathes gaspingly and then collapses.
The interior of a city morgue, later.
A coroner is examining the corpse of Gerald Macguire.
"Heart attack," the doctor says brusquely.
He quickly leaves the examining room. A second man, holding a briefcase in one hand and a large envelope in another, follows him.
The interior of the newsroom of the Philadelphia Record, day.
Paul Comley French is arriving for work. Other newsmen sit at their desks, some already working on stories.
French sits at his own desk.
"Hey, French, question," another journalist says.
"You're not actually French, are you?"
"Well, perhaps, a way back."
The second journalist is moderately disappointed. "Oh. I thought you might be."
"Thought you might follow hockey," the second journalist says, persisting.
"I don't have much time for sports."
A third journalist, who has been listening, cuts in, his voice expansive. "Hockey is a grand game. It's even better than lacrosse."
"You like sports, then?" French asks the third.
"I like things that are swell."
French regards the third journalist with heightened interest. But the latter has returned his attention to a news story his is writing on his typewriter. The second journalist hums happily as he works.
Interior of the White House. Night.
Roosevelt is being helped to his bedroom by his porter.
"It's my duty, sir."
Roosevelt looks at the porter, whose dark face remains professional, inscrutable.
"You don't—" Roosevelt begins, struck by a thought.
Roosevelt stops himself. The porter looks at him phlegmatically; he knows enough not to finish a boss's sentences.
Roosevelt continues in a tone in equal parts shy and inquisitive, "Are you happy?"
The porter continues to regard Roosevelt with an inexpressive expression. But his silence itself suggests awkwardness.
"I have a good job," the porter says after composing his response. "And I'm serving a great man. There are those in this world who suffer much more greatly than I. What would the good Lord think of me if I weren't happy?"
"Right. Of course."
The two men look at each other for a moment; the porter with his placid eyes, flecked with the most delicate of bloodshot veins, and the president, with his hale, healthy face and torso, and wizened legs.
"Sir. If I may," the porter says.
The porter assists Roosevelt from his wheelchair, then takes off the heavy leg braces that Roosevelt wears. Then he helps Roosevelt get into his pajamas, and bed.
"Good night, Mr. President."
The porter exits, his feet quietly receding, as if slippered. Now all Roosevelt can hear is the distant hum of the city—cars outside, the faint jingle of a horse-drawn sleigh.
Roosevelt simply sits in the peaceful quiet of the room. He does not turn out the light.
The Butler home. Night.
Mr. and Mrs. Butler are in the kitchen, enjoying an evening cup of hot cocoa.
"Nothing quite like cocoa on a cold winter night."
"It makes me drowsy," Ethel Butler says. Then, "Smedley, let's get some sleep."
Mrs. Butler excuses herself and leaves the kitchen.
Butler follows her, but slowly. Then, instead of ascending the staircase, he detours to the hall of the house where his memorabilia are.
Butler looks at the medals that are kept in a case. He looks at them for several moments, and, from a distance, he resembles an aging soldier indulging in a moment of sentimentality. But up close, a troubled look crosses his face. He sighs deeply.
He turns and leaves the hall, following his wife to bed.
The exterior of the Butler home in the back garden. Evening.
Butler is among the bowers of trees and flowerbeds. He stops to look at Ethel's vegetable garden. We see that he has a contented smile on his face as he regards a barely visible concrete wall surrounding the garden.
Then he walks some more. It has rained earlier in the day. The grass is intensely green, and now, in the weakening light of day, its green is deepened and somehow magnified by the dark shadow of dusk. The sounds of birds, crickets, the dying drone of a cicada all are louder now, increasing in volume as the day's light fades in brightness.
Butler walks near the trees, clearly at peace. The drone of insects has become more distant. A few swallows silently dive and weave in the sky, their movements as elegantly unpredictable as those of a bat.
Then, a rustle from the bushes Butler steps forward, curious.
The rustle is louder now.
Butler walks to a small hedge. He looks cautiously over its edge. And looking at the ground, he sees a strange sight.
At first, he cannot mentally process what he's witnessing. It looks like a ball of fur is attached to a collection of feathers.
But then Butler realizes what he's seeing: Wilberforce is killing a pigeon.
Butler simply looks at the cat, momentarily speechless, and the cat looks back at him with feline equanimity.
The cat looks back. Its neat face is smeared with blood. It blinks.
Then, with a speed that startles, it looks at Butler, and, baring its small, sharp fangs...
hisses with rage.