Benjamin Franklin Butler, 5 Nov 1818 - 11 Jan 1893
Wood engraving on paper
28cm x 23.5cm (11" x 9 1/4"), Image
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Benjamin F. Butler (1818–1893) of Massachusetts was a shrewd lawyer, politician, and former Civil War general, who was relieved of command on several occasions. He had been a frequent target of both the Northern and Southern press, which reveled in castigating his obstinacy and ineptitude as “Butlerism.” In 1862, his heavy-handedness as the military governor of New Orleans led to his recall. Later, he was a weak link in General Ulysses S. Grant’s grand strategy to end the war when his command was “bottled up” in Bermuda Hundred, Virginia. Yet Butler withstood criticism and controversy. In 1874, while serving as a U.S. congressman, he was the principal proponent of the “inflation bill” to increase the nation’s money supply through the printing of greenbacks (paper money not backed by specie). President Grant, intent upon a long-term, sound monetary policy based on the gold standard, vetoed the bill, thus bottling up Butler yet again.