Ben Butler: The South Called Him Beast!

Ben Butler: The South Called Him Beast!

Ben Butler: The South Called Him Beast!

Ben Butler: The South Called Him Beast!

Excerpt

It was winter. A cold wave had plagued the nation for days, but in spite of the weather, dense crowds were making their way toward the Capitol in Washington, where a great drama was taking place: a final effort of the defeated Republican party to protect the civil liberties of Negroes in the South. Although the Democrats had captured the House in the previous fall, the Republicans would still be in control of Congress until March, 1875. They were determined to take advantage of their period of grace.

The spectators, however, were drawn by more than their interest in the problem of the Negro. They were coming to watch one of the most controversial men in Congress, General Benjamin F. Butler, Federal commander of New Orleans during the Civil War and radical of radicals since. Known for his biting sarcasm, his innumerable rows with opponents in and out of Congress, the bulky, balding representative, easily recognizable by the drooping eyelid which had disfigured him since birth, could always be relied upon to entertain the galleries. Now that he had become the chief champion of the Civil Rights Bill which Charles Sumner had advocated in vain until the day of his death, Butler was sure to put on a show.

The galleries were not disappointed. On February 3, 1875, the General took the floor. He was in no mood to spare Southern sensibilities. Vigorously condemning the prejudices of his opponents, he called for Federal protection of civil rights. "If bad men are in the majority," he shouted . . .

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