The President and Protest: Hoover, MacArthur, and the Bonus Riot

The President and Protest: Hoover, MacArthur, and the Bonus Riot

The President and Protest: Hoover, MacArthur, and the Bonus Riot

The President and Protest: Hoover, MacArthur, and the Bonus Riot


Lisio re-examines the events surrounding the 1932 Bonus March on Hoover's White House by outraged veterans. Included is an incisive look at the protective motives of Hoover himself and how the president came to be vilified for the actions of MacArthur. The general's retaliation against the veterans was based on a supposed communist threat - which subsequent investigation failed to confirm - yet Hoover could never extract himself politically from the storm of controversy following the event.


Since the publication of this book in 1974, it has occurred to me from time to time that a brief summary of its major findings in a preface would enhance its value to scholars and students alike. Now Fordham University Press has graciously given me that opportunity. Thus, before discussing some manuscript sources that were closed when my research was undertaken in the late 1960s and 1970s, a short summary will acquaint the reader with the book’s scope, thesis, and major conclusions.

Following World War I, two new veterans’ organizations, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, steadily intensified their congressional lobbying for increased veterans’ benefits. In 1924 Congress avoided a third presidential veto by delaying payment of a World War I “bonus” until 1945, when compound interest from a trust fund could pay an average bonus of $1,000.00.

In March 1929, when Herbert C. Hoover became the thirtyfirst President of the United States, the country was “bright with hope.” As he took office, Hoover was known widely as “the Great Humanitarian” for his efforts to provide European relief during and after World War I. But by October 1929 the stock market had crashed, ushering in the Great Depression. That same year renewed lobbying generated more than forty pending veterans’ bills. In response, Hoover convinced Congress to create the Veterans Administration and to increase benefits for all the ex-servicemen. But the veterans severely criticized him when he opposed their demand for immediate payment of the bonus, which would have amounted to $4 billion—equivalent to the entire federal budget. Chapters 1 and 2 of this volume analyze the history of the bonus legislation and Hoover’s efforts on behalf of veterans.

After the American economy collapsed in 1929, millions of Americans lost their jobs, their homes, their sense of dignity. Many took to the rails, roaming the country by freight car looking for work. One such depression-weary group, the Bonus Army, carried its entreaties to Washington and became the depression’s largest and most famous protest.

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