Benjamin Franklin Butler, an American lawyer and politician, born at Kinderhook, N. Y., Dec. 15, 1795, died in Paris, France, Nov. 8, 1858. He studied law with Martin Van Buren, and on being admitted to the bar in 1817 became his partner. He was appointed district attorney of Albany county in 1821, and held the office four or five years. In 1825 he was appointed one of the commissioners to revise the statutes of New York, and in 1828 was a member of the state assembly. He was attorney general of the United States under President Jackson in 1831-'4, and acting secretary of war from October, 1836, to March, 1837; and from 1838 to 1841 he was United States district attorney for the southern district of New York. He afterward returned to the practice of the law in New York, and was principal professor of law in the university of the city of NewYork, of which he had been one of the founders. During the greater part of his life he was an influential member of the democratic party, but on the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, abolishing the Missouri compromise, he joined the republicans, and voted for Fremont in 1856.
Benjamin Franklin Butler, an American lawyer and politician, born at Deerfield, N. H., Nov. 5, 1818. He graduated at Waterville college, Maine, in 1838, and commenced the practice of the law at Lowell, Mass., in 1841. He early took a prominent part in politics on the democratic side, and was elected member of the Massachusetts house of representatives in 1853, and of the state senate in 1859. In 1860 he was a delegate to the democratic national convention which met at Charleston. Here he endeavored to persuade the convention to simply reaffirm the principles enunciated in 1856 at Cincinnati, by the convention which nominated Mr. Buchanan for the presidency, but was defeated by a vote of 105 to 198. When a portion of the delegates reassembled at Baltimore, Mr. Butler, after taking part in the opening debates and votes, announced that a majority of the delegates from Massachusetts' would not further participate in the deliberations of the convention, on the ground that there had been a withdrawal in part of the majority of the states; and further, he added, " upon the ground that I would not sit in a convention where the African slave trade, which is piracy by the laws of my country, is approvingly advocated." In the same year he was the democratic candidate for governor of Massachusetts. At the time of President Lincoln's call for troops in April, 1861, he held the commission of brigadier general of militia.
On the 17th of that month he marched to Annapolis with the 8th Massachusetts regiment, and was placed in command of the district of Annapolis, in which the city of Baltimore was included. In May he was transferred to the command of Fortress Monroe and the department of Eastern Virginia. While here, some slaves who had come within his lines were demanded by their masters. He refused to deliver them up on the ground that they were contraband of war; hence arose the designation of "contrabands " often applied to slaves during the war. In August he captured Forts Hatteras and Clark on the coast of North Carolina. He then returned to Massachusetts to recruit an expedition for the gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi. On March 23, 1862, the expedition reached Ship island, and on April 17 went up the Mississippi. The fleet under Farragut having passed the forts, April 24, and virtually captured New Orleans, Gen. Butler took possession of the city on May 1, and governed it with great vigor until November, when he was recalled.
Near the close of 1863 he was placed in command of the department of Virginia and North Carolina, and his force was afterward designated as the army of the James. "While Gen. Grant was moving toward Richmond, Gen. Butler made an unsuccessful attempt to take Petersburg. In December, 1864, he conducted an ineffectual expedition against Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, N. C, and then returned to his residence in Massachusetts. In 1866 he was elected by the republicans a member of congress, and soon took a prominent part in its proceedings. He was the most active of the managers appointed in 1868 by the house of representatives to conduct the impeachment of President Johnson. In 1871 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the republican nomination to the office of governor of Massachusetts. In 1868 and 1870 he was reelected to congress, of which he is still a member (1873). - See " General Butler in New Orleans," by James Parton (8vo, New York, 1863).