History In Ink®  Historical Autographs


1136104

Benjamin F. Butler

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Bold 3¼signature of the Union Major General, co-author of the Civil Rights Act of 1875

Benjamin Franklin Butler, 1818-1893.  Union Major General, American Civil War; United States Representative from Massachusetts, 1875-1879; Governor of Massachusetts, 1883-1884.  Bold signature, Benj. F. Butler / Mass, on 2” x 4” slip of paper.

Butler, a controversial political appointment as a Union Major General, became a powerful Radical Republican in the United States House of Representatives following the Civil War, authoring legislation to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan and to give former African American slaves the right to public accommodations.

Initially a Massachusetts Democrat, Butler believed that only a moderate Southerner could hold the Democratic Party together in 1860 and therefore voted for Jefferson Davis on the first 57 ballots at the party’s 1860 convention in Charleston, South Carolina.  He opposed Illinois’ Stephen A. Douglas and supported Vice President John C. Breckinridge, a Kentuckian, in the general election.  When the Civil War erupted, Butler, who sympathized with the South, nevertheless sought to join the Union Army, saying that he “was always a friend of southern rights but an enemy of southern wrongs.”  President Abraham Lincoln appointed him one of the first Major Generals in the United States Volunteers.

As a general, Butler was aggressive, controversial, and in some quarters reviled.  Southerners hated him.  He refused to return escaped slaves to their masters, instead giving them their freedom, reasoning that they were contraband of war because they were laborers for building fortifications and other military activities.  He commanded the expedition that captured New Orleans, and as the military governor he was rigid, censoring newspapers and taking action against both citizens and foreign officials, undermining even the orders of President Lincoln.  Southerners deried him as “Beast Butler.”  Lincoln replaced Butler in New Orleans and eventually, because of his military ineptitude, permitted Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to relieve him from command.

After the war, however, Butler became a driving force in Congress.  Elected as a Republican to represent Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives, he joined the Radicals and was prominent in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.  As chairman of the House Committee on Reconstruction, he wrote the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 that provided federal authority to prosecute and destroy the Klan in the South.  Butler and Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, a fellow Republican, authored the Civil Rights Act of 1875, the last of the post-war reconstruction acts, which guaranteed the right to public accommodations to all persons regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. (The Supreme Court held the act unconstitutional in The Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883), on the ground that the enforcement clause of the Fourteenth Amendment did not give Congress the power to prohibit discrimination by private persons as opposed to state and local governments, but Congress later embodied most of its provisions in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce.) 

This is a large 3¼ signature of Butler in black fountain pen.  It is centered on the paper and is perfect for framing.  The piece has minor age toning at the right end and mounting traces on the back.  It is in fine condition.

Unframed.  Click here for information about custom framing this piece.

 

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$135.00

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The watermark does not appear on the actual item.

 

 

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