Benjamin Franklin Butler

Benjamin Franklin Butler was a trial lawyer, Union Civil War general, governor and congressman.

Researching Butler, he appears to have been quite a charismatic, somewhat corrupt, but influential and effective politician.

During the Civil War, Butler helped concoct a legal loophole to free slaves. The Union would classify fugitive slaves as military contraband thus essentially taking possession of the slaves and then freeing them. This tactic lead the North to support general emancipation and ending slavery as goals of the war.

His commands during the Civil War were marred with shady deals across enemy lines that it is believed Butler himself knew about and financially benefitted from.

As a member of Congress, Butler authored the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1875. He also lead the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.

Butler died of a bronchial infection the day after he argued a case before the Supreme Court on January 11, 1893. He was 74 years old. On his monument at the Hildreth Cemetary in Lowell, Mass., is the inscription: “the true touchstone of civil liberty is not that all men are equal but that every man has the right to be the equal of every other man—if he can.”

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