BENJAMIN F. BUTLER
No person can adequately comprehend the political history of Massachusetts for the thirty-five years beginning with 1850 without a knowledge of the character, career and behavior of Benjamin F. Butler. It is of course disagreeable and in most cases it would seem unmanly to speak harshly of a political antagonist who is dead. In the presence of the great reconciler, Death, ordinary human contentions and angers should be hushed. But if there be such a thing in the universe as a moral law, if the distinction between right and wrong be other than fancy or a dream, the difference between General Butler and the men who contended with him belongs not to this life alone. It relates to matters more permanent than human life. It enters into the fate of republics, and will endure after the fashion of this world passeth away.
I cannot tell the story of my life at a most important period without putting on record my estimate of him, and the nature of his influence over the youth of the Commonwealth. Besides, it is to be remembered that he took special pains to write and to leave behind him a book in which he gave his own account of the great controversies in which he engaged, and bitterly attacked some of the men who thwarted his ambitions. This book he sent to public libraries, including that of the British Museum, where he had good reason to expect it would be permanently preserved.
I shall say nothing of him which I did not say in public speeches or published letters while he was living and in the fulness of his strength, activity and power. History deals with Benedict Arnold, with Aaron Burr, with the evil counsellors of Charles I. and Charles II., with Robespierre, with Barère and with Catiline, upon their merits, and draws from