Wednesday, February 24, 2010

History Card: Benjamin Franklin Butler

Benjamin Franklin Butler
1818-1893

During the American Civil War, his administration of occupied New Orleans, his policies regarding slaves as contraband, his ineffectual leadership in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, and the fiasco of Fort Fisher rank him as one of the most controversial political generals of the war. He was widely reviled for years after the war by Southern whites, who gave him the nickname "Beast Butler."

Butler was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from 1867 to 1875 and again in 1877 to 1879. Despite his pre-war allegiance as a Democrat, in Congress he was conspicuous as a Radical Republican in Reconstruction legislation, and wrote the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (Ku Klux Klan Act). Along with Republican Senator Charles Sumner, he proposed the Civil Rights Act of 1875, a seminal and far-reaching law banning racial discrimination in public accommodations. The law was declared unconstitutional, and racial minorities in the United States would have to wait nearly a century before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would revive, and expand, the provisions of the law Butler backed.

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