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Lest we forget-ben Butler. [from the New Orleans, La., Picayune, February 1, 1903.]

The Scathing Denunciation of his course in war and peace, delivered in Congress by John young Brown.

By Captain James Dinkins.
Those who have respect for the maxim, de mortuis nil nisi bonum, will have very little to say for Ben Butler. [189]

He was in all truth the most ferocious, cruel and vulgar beast that ever figured in human form in this country.

But, living or dead, the truth of history must be written of him, and it is not worth our while to soil the mantle of Charity by spreading it over his beastly record. John Young Brown, of Kentucky, told the plain truth of him when he described him in Congress some years ago as ‘brutal in war, pusillanimous in peace, and infamous in politics.’ His character was as vile as his features were hideous and repulsive. He was unable to understand an honest man's thoughts, or a gentleman's feelings, and he therefore gloried in his villainy and boasted of his shame.

A man more utterly destitute of moral sense than Beast Butler never lived in this country.

Soon after the war one of our newspapers published an acrostic on Butler:

Brutal and vulgar, a coward and knave,
Famed for no action noble or brave;
Beastly by instinct, a drunkard and sot,
Ugly and venomous, on mankind a blot;
Thief, liar and scoundrel in highest degree,
Let Yankeedom boast of such heroes as thee.
Every woman and child shall for ages to come
Remember the monster, thou vilest of scum.

John Young Brown addressed the House in these words:

Mr. Speaker,—The South is broken. It lies in helplessness and despair, with homes dilapidated, villages wasted, its people bankrupt. Is there nothing in that situation to touch you with pity? If your magnanimity cannot be touched, will you not be moved by the sense of justice? By a conspiracy between the Attorney-General and Kellogg and a drunken Federal Judge, the sovereignty of State was overthrown. That usurpation has been perpetuated since by bayonets. But recently, one of your Generals entered the legislative halls, as Cromwell entered the English Parliament with Colonel Pride, and ruthlessly expelled the occupants. Onward and onward you go in defiance of the sentiment of the country, without pity and without justice, remorselessly determined, it seems, to drive the Southern people to destruction, to give their roofs to the flames and their flesh to the eagles. A Federal General steps on the scene and sends a dispatch to the world that the people of the State are banditti. We have heard it echoed everywhere that they were thieves and murderers and night-riders. The clergy of that State, Jew and [190] Gentile, have denied it. The business men and Northern residents have denied it. A committee of your own House, a majority being Republicans, has given its solemn and emphatic contradiction, and nailed the slander to the counter.

Now what should be said if that accusation should come from one— I speak not of men, but of language within the rules of this House—if that accusation against that people should come from one who is outlawed in his own home from respectable society, whose name is synonymous with falsehood, who is the champion and has been such on all occasions of fraud, who is the apologist of thieves, who is such a prodigy of vice and meanness that to describe him imagination would sicken and invective exhaust itself. In Scotland, years ago, there was a man whose trade was murder, and he earned his livelihood by selling the bodies of his victims for gold.

This man's name was linked to his crimes, and to-day, throughout the world, is known as ‘Burking.’ If I were to characterize all that was pusillanimous in war, inhuman in peace, forbidding in morals and infamous in politics, I should call it Butlerizing.

Speaking of the effect of Young's remarks, a newspaper writer gave the following descriptive account:

Butler himself was not one of the first to catch the meaning of the hot, biting words which rang out so clear and distinct that not one syllable was unheard in the farthest corner of the hall. Butler clutched nervously at his desk, and leaned forward, as if he wanted to drink in the fearful arraignment to the full. Brown was evidently deeply in earnest, and after the first interruption by Hale, of New York, had the benefit of an exceedingly attentive audience, every one, both on the floor and in the galleries, having turned to hear what he intended to say. He is one of the best speakers in the House and gifted with a tenor voice which sounds with all the clear ring of silver. He has a deal of warmth and earnestness in his manner that makes his delivery unusually impressive under any circumstances, and this increased to-day as he neared the climax of his characterization to a pitch of hot, passionate utterances that made him more eloquent than anyone who has spoken in Congress for years. As the full intent of his words became apparent, the Speaker rattled savagely with his gavel. But Brown was no more to be stopped than a whirlwind. He leaned forward, his face crimson with the passionate determination that moved him, and his hands clenched together as if to force the scathing words out faster and still more forcibly. As his voice died on their ears, the first impulse moved [191] everyone to a long breath of relief. Such stinging words, such terrible denunciation, put with so much of real eloquence, are rarely heard, and could not but have moved the most stolid auditor.

Brown was censured by the Speaker, and wore it as a badge of honor. He is the only man who ever pierced the rhinosceronian hide of Ben Butler.

The London Saturday Review, of June 14, 1862, said:

The proclamation of General Butler, at New Orleans, has been read in England with a horror which no other event in this deplorable Civil war has created. The attention it has excited in Parliament inadequately represents the general feeling of indignation among us. It is difficult to conceive that a civilized man can have written it, or that civilized man can have been fouud to carry it out. This is not a generation in which men shudder at the ordinary horrors and brutalities of war. The experience of the last ten years has taught us, as actors, as sufferers and as bystanders, that war is not made of rose water. It is hard to set a limit to the horrors which rough, uneducated men, with their passions strung to the highest point, will commit in the first revelry of success. But such excesses have been usually confined to the first sack of a stormed town, and they have always, among civilized nations, been the result, not of a commander's order, but of the ungovernable brute impulses of the men. They have always been checked and disavowed by commanding officers, not only as demoralizing to their troops, but as a blot upon the flags under which they were committed.

In dealing with women, even the sternest commanders have as a rule been gentle. No conqueror but has had to face their unarmed hostility, all the bitterer and bolder that it was secure of impunity. In some cases it may have been firmly though mildly checked, in most instances it has been contempuously passed by. Banishment from the places where their expressions of opinion might be embarrassing has usually been the extremest measure of rigor to which they have been exposed. Occasionally the animosity of some peculiarly brutal officer has hurried him beyond this limit, and he has inflicted upon women the punishments that are reserved for men. Such an instance was the well-known case of Haynau. But the execrations of all Europe spurned the perpetrator of that outrage, and rest upon his name even to this day. Yet his offense against humanity was light compared to that of which General Butler has been guilty. He outraged but one victim, and his cruelty left no stain upon her [192] fame. No commander of any civilized nation in the world up to this time has carried his contempt for manly feeling so far, as deliberately, for the purpose of repression, long after the excitement of battle was over, to let loose the lusts of men upon the women that had fallen into his hands. In this, as in other matters, the Model Republic has been the bearer of a new revelation to mankind. The Northerners are fond of boasting that they have to deal with a larger Civil war than ever before in history, started into being in the course of a single year, and that they have made themselves liable for a larger debt than any other State ever contracted in ten times the same period.

To these just subjects of exultation they may now add the gratifying reflection that they have by far the most ruffianly commander the world ever saw or dreamed of. If anything can add to the atrocity of General Butler's proclamation it is the slenderness of the provocation that called it forth. Even if the ladies of New Orleans had been detected conspiring in favor of the cause for which their husbands and brothers are fighting, it would have left an indelible infamy upon his name that he had attempted to punish them by subjecting them to the foulest dishonor a woman can undergo. But they have not been punished for conspiring. Their only offense has been that, ‘by gesture or word they have expressed contempt for Federal officers and soldiers.’ The Federal officers appear to be thin-skinned in the war of words—they find it an unequal combat.

The scarcasms of quick-witted French women, re-enforced possibly by the suggestions of their own consciences, have made them feel more keenly than they had felt before the bloodthirsty hypocrisy of their leaders. They feel even that derisive smiles are more than they can bear. If they are to continue to fight only with the same weapons, they are conscious that they may as well retire from the field altogether. But they have a weapon sharper than words, more cutting than sneering glances. They have an instrument in their armory which can tame the most taunting tongue, and quell the proudest woman's heart.

Physically they are the strongest, and, therefore, it is always in their power to inflict dishonor—that dishonor to which every woman is liable—of which no words can measure the hideous depth, and which no later reparation can efface. True, it is a kind of revenge which no man above the rank of a savage would employ. But what of that? The Federals have already shown to the world that they have a special interpretation of the word freedom, as well as of the [193] word bravery. It only remains for them to show that they have also a special interpretation of the word honor.

And it will be a sweet repayment for all the insults they have endured to hear the taunting accents change into sobs of despairing supplication—to see the disdainful cheek mantled with the blush of hopeless, helpless shame. Accordingly, General Butler issues his edict: ‘Any lady who shall, by word or gesture, express contempt of any Federal officer or soldier,’ shall be liable, without protection or redress, to be treated as common prostitutes are treated. General Butler spares us the details of that treatment—for the Americans are a very decent people. He is, no doubt, fully conscious that the insulted officers and men will need no special instructions. It may be said that this is no affair of ours, and that if General Butler and his officers choose to treat the ladies of the city they have conquered as Alaric's soldiers treated the nuns of Rome, or as the Sepoys are said to have treated our countrymen at Delhi, it does not concern us in England. It may be so. At least our indignation and our sympathy must be alike barren of practical result. We may be told, as we have been told before, that if we censure Americans with the freedom we have been wont to use toward Englishmen we shall embitter a powerful nation against our country; that we shall be sowing seeds of hatred that we shall reap in war. It is very possible. If generals in supreme command are so thin-skinned that to suppress a sarcasm or a gibe they are content to perpetuate an outrage to which the history of modern warfare can present no parallel, it is likely enough that they may wince at the outspoken language in which English politicians and English journalists record their judgment against deeds of infamy. Yet, it has not been the habit of those who guide opinion here to modify their censures of wrong on account of their sensitiveness or the power of the wrongdoer. The cruelty of the Minsk, the horrors of the Neapolitan prisons, the threatened bombardment of Palermo—all called forth a prompt and powerful reprobation from English writers and speakers. But none of these outrages will leave upon those who contrived them as deep a stain as that which this New Orleans proclamation fixed upon General Butler's name. The crimes of European despots have either been justified by some precedent of statecraft or of war, or were palliated by the barbarism of the people among whom they were committed.

But this Republican proceeding was done among people for whom their maudlin advocates here claim a special enlightenment and a [194] peculiar courtesy toward women, and is justified by no precedent, or vestige of precedent, in the horrible annals either of despotic repression or warlike success. Tilley and Wallerstein have not left in history a character for exaggerated tenderness—but no such disgrace as this attaches to their name. The late Grand Duke Constantine was not a sentimental Governor. It is said of him that on one occasion he sent to prison the husbands of all the Polish ladies of rank who refused to dance with Russian officers at a state ball. But when we come to speak of guilt such as that of the Republican General, even Constantine's blood-stained crime is spotless. He would have driven from his presence any officer—if any such European officer could have been found—who should have suggested to him the decree that the Polish Countesses might be treated as ‘women of the town.’ We can do nothing in England to arrest such proceedings. (We can only learn from them what South America might have taught us already—how Civil war can double its horrors when waged by a government of democratic origin. But, at all events, we can wash our hands of complicity in this guilt.) Unless the author of this infamous proclamation is promptly recalled, let us hear no more of the ‘ties that bind us to our transatlantic kinsmen.’ No Englishman ought to own as kinsmen men who attempt to protect themselves from the tongues of a handful of women by official and authoritative threats of rape. The bloodiest savages could do nothing more cruel —the most loathsome Yahoo of fiction could do nothing more filthy.

The infamous order.

The following is the infamous order issued by General B. F. Butler, while in command at New Orleans:

headquarters Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, May 15, 1862.
As officers and soldiers of the United States have been subjected to repeated insults from women calling themselves ladies of New Orleans in return for the most scrupulous noninterference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered hereafter that when any female shall, by mere gesture or movement, insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded as a woman of the town plying her vocation. By command of

[195] When Butler died the Nashville American had this to say:

Old Ben Butler is dead! Early yesterday morning the angel of death, acting under the devil's orders, took him from earth and landed him in hell. In all this Southern country there are no tears, no sighs and no regrets. He lived only too long. We are glad he has at last been removed from earth and even pity the devil the possession he has secured.

If there is a future of peace in store for Ben Butler, after his entrance upon eternity, then there is no heaven and the Bible is a lie. If hell be only as black as the good book describes it, then there are not the degrees of punishment in which some Christians so firmly believe. He has gone, and from the sentence which has already been passed upon him there is no appeal. He is already so deep down in the pit of everlasting doom that he couldn't get the most powerful ear trumpet conceivable to scientists and hear the echoes of old Gabriel's trumpet, or fly 1,000,000 kites and get a message to St. Peter, who stands guard at heaven's gate.

In our statute books many holidays are decreed. It was an egregious oversight that one on the occasion of the death of Ben Butler was not foreordained. The “ Beast” is dead. The cymbals should beat and the tin horn should get in its work.

Butler was outlawed by Mr. Davis in a proclamation.

It will always be a stain upon the Federal authorities that Butler was not promptly court-martialed and hanged; yet, strange to say, great and influential newspapers gloated over this horrible ‘Order No. 28,’ and chuckled over the fact that ‘rebel ladies’ of New Orleans did not dare to show their faces on the streets after it was issued. We view him and them with horror and scorn.

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