Butler, Benjamin F. (1818–1893)

Author:Paul Finkelman

Page 283

A Massachusetts labor lawyer and Democratic politician, Benjamin Franklin Butler became a Union general in 1861. Butler declared that runaway slaves were "contra-bands of war," and used them as noncombatants, refusing to return them to their masters. Later he supported the use of Negro soldiers and in 1864 forced the Confederacy to treat black Union prisoners of war according to the rules of war by retaliating against Confederate prisoners. In 1862 Butler directed the occupation of New Orleans, where his strict application of martial law kept a hostile population under control with virtually no violence. In 1865 Butler advocated that black veterans be given confiscated land and the franchise. After entering Congress in 1867, Butler was a manager of President ANDREW JOHNSON ' S IMPEACHMENT. Butler approached the trial as if he were prosecuting a horse thief. Butler's lack of dignity in presenting EVIDENCE probably...

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