Benjamin Franklin Butler: Lowell lawyer, pre-war Democrat, General in the Massachusetts Militia, military governor of Louisiana, Radical Republican, co-sponsor of the Civil Rights Act of 1875, leader of the prosecution of Andrew Jackson for his violation of the Tenure of Office Act. Vilified by the slavocracy for his military governorship of Louisiana, Butler played a significant role in the war and, despite his relatively conservative pre-war politics, advanced and increasingly radical agenda. While commanding a fortress in Virginia he was the first to designate slaves under the control of the Confederacy as contraband of war, and thus legally subject to confiscation, and de facto emancipation, by Union forces. As military governor of Louisiana he hanged a man for pulling down the U.S. flag after it was raised by Union forces, promulgated order No. 28 holding any "women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans" who "shall by word, gesture, or movement insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States...held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation." Butler's military activities met with less success than his political ones; on multiple occasions his leadership proved inept, and he was ultimately removed from command by General Grant. In 1866 Butler was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts on a platform of civil rights for freedmen, women's suffrage, an eight hour work day, and the greenback. He led the, ultimately unsuccessful, prosecution of Andrew Jackson.
In this course we will examine the fascinating life of Benjamin Franklin Butler and explore his impact on the U.S.
- Teacher: Alexander Swaim