The Honorable Benjamin F. Butler Born On This Day ~ November 5, 1818

On this Day November 5, 1818 – Benjamin F. Butler – a lawyer and politician who represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives and later served as the 33rd Governor of Massachusetts and served as a major general in the Union Army during the Civil War – was born in Deerfield, NH. He is buried in his wife’s family cemetery, behind the main Hildreth Cemetery in Lowell, Massachusetts.

In the heat and throes of this 2012 presidential election countdown, it is important to note that Ben Butler – among his other political experience – ran for President in 1884 as the nominee of both the Greenback and Anti-Monopoly parties polling  over 175,000 votes. Also of note – as we continue in this country to struggle with rights and roles – in his early days in politics Butler first attracted general attention through his vigorous campaign in Lowell advocating the passage of a law establishing a ten-hour day for laborers. As Governor of Massachusetts , Ben Butler appointed the first Irish-American judge and the first African-American Judge – George Lewis Ruffin. He also appointed the first woman to executive office – Clara Barton – to head the Massachusetts Reformatory for Women. Butler authored, along with Sen. Charles Sumner, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, signed into law by President Grant. This law, a final act of Reconstruction,  gave African American U.S. citizens the right to public accommodation such as hotels, restaurants, lodging, and public entertainment establishments.

Butler’s memorial at the Hildreth family cemetery in Lowell, Massachusetts.

The inscription on the tomb of Benjamin F. Butler reads:  “the true touchstone of civil liberty is not that all men are equal but that every man has the right to be the equal of every other man – if he can.”


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