Butler, Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) (1818-1893) to William Martin Dickson
Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC05872
Author/Creator: Butler, Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin) (1818-1893)
Place Written: Lowell, Massachusetts
Type: Letter signed
Date: 15 August 1865
Pagination: 7 p. ; 24.5 x 19.5 cm.
Summary of Content: Butler, a Union General and Radical Republican, discusses Jacob Dolson Cox’s views on creating separate states for former slaves. Informs Dickson, a Republican judge and political figure in Ohio, that ”The supposition that the negro can be segregated on a given portion of this country apart from the white man in a separate community occupying a part of our Sea Board, whether as a dependency or an independency, to say nothing of constitutional objections is simply absurd ...” Discusses pride of race, the failings of Native American reservations in Georgia, and the views of Clement Laird Vallandigham, a former Ohio Congressman. Spells Dickson’s name as Dixon.
People: Butler, Benjamin Franklin, 1818-1893., Dickson, William, 1827-1889., Cox, Jacob Dolson, 1828-1900., Vallandigham, Clement Laird, 1820-1871.
Historical Era: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877
Full Transcript: PrivateLowell, Mass,, August 15, 1865,, My dear Judge,, I assume that I am indebted to you for a marked copy of the ”Commercial”, containing your review of Genl. Cox’s letter, therefore I [inserted: venture to] address you this note. , Thanks for the calm and able manner in which you have discussed these very extraordinary propositions of your candidate for Governor., Although I have a high respect for Genl Cox as a soldier and a citizen, and would treat all that he says with due consideration, yet the monstrous assertions of fact and principles enunciated by him, would hardly leave me cool enough quietly  to consider them., If the results arrived at by General at by General Cox, as to the condition hopes and future of the Negro, are in truth the advance which the nation has made in its four years of travail and blood - then we have succeeded only in perpetuating the most heinous national crime, against four million of people, of which history will ever bear record., Have we liberated the negro to hate him? Fought for his emancipation for four years only to deepen our dislike to him? Called upon him to stand side by side with us in the shock of arms, our dead burned in the same battle fields with him in a common grave, only to intensify ”our pride or race”  , Have we broken up a social condition which at least he found tolerable, to put him in one where his existence is an impossibility? , The supposition that the negro can be segregated on a given portion of this country apart from the white man in a separate community, occupying a part of our Sea Board, whether as a dependency or an independency, to say nothing of constitutional objections, is simply absurd, and worthy only of the Statesmanship which dictated General Shermans order to enlist all the young and able-bodied into the army, and give to the other heads of families, forty acres of a rice swamp, to raise a grain that can only be cultivated by extensive and costly dyking for flowage, and machinery for cleansing. Or worse, an  appropriation of the choice Sea Island cotton lands to the negro, upon which he could hardly be defended for a series of years by the whole power of the United States., These are the choicest lands of the South / and are to be given up to the Negro because we hate him and have learned an intensity of ”pride of race” as against him., One would have thought that the experiment of the Indian reservations in Georgia would taught us better., The only excuse that I have ever seen for this order is the same put forth in the Editorial of the ”Commercial” to wit: that the Negro preachers upon being asked by Mr. Stanton and Sherman, said that they thought it was best for the blacks to live apart by themselves , Not an unlikely reply from their standpoint and experience of living with the whites, in a state of slavery., As the ”leaders of the Black race” as they are called, they would naturally desire to have their constituents under their own control, free from all contact or influence of white men, who might control them in their ”pride of race”.But alas! If the opinion of these ”black leaders”are to be taken as the solution of that most difficut Ethnological political and governmental questions, what becomes of our ”pride of race”? What of the argument that the black man has not intelligence enough to govern himself, if we allow the black preachers untaught save the glimmering of learning vouch safed  to them by slavery and amid chains, to determine this great problem of the age - the political enigma of the century., Should not these blacks then be, not Gospel ministers but Cabinet ministers; not ”Black leaders” but Generals of Armies: and I entirely agree. able to make negotiations of peace and surrender quite equal to the Sherman and Johnston treaty., If these are Genl Cox’s views on this question it may be open to discussion whether Valandigham, elected as an open enemy might not be preferred to a halting friend paralyzing the true sympathies of loyal men. Valandigham would be squarely against the loyal and true men, and would cause no division in their ranks.  Let us however be under no fear on this question. The right of suffrage is under bonds to the amount of more than the three billions of dollars that it shall be given to the negroes. Without their aid to make a loyal South, our debt will be repudiated by those who shall come into power - aided by their allies in the North. Can we suppose the Southern rebel will vote to pay for subduing himself: [struck: while] The grateful negro will gladly pay any price for the invaluable boon of freedom to himself and his race forever., But this note is already too long to allow farther development of this fact, Believe me, Yours truly, Benj. F Butler, , [written vertically along left margin of page 7], To, Hon Wm M Dixon., Cincinnati., Ohio.
Keywords/Subjects: Reconstruction;, Union General;, Slavery;, African American History;, US Constitution;, Law;, Segregation;, Freemen;, American Indian History;, Copperheads;
Sub Era: The American Civil War
Background: Butler served as a United States Representative from Massachusetts 1867-1874 and 1877-1878, and as Governor of Massachusetts 1883-1884. Cox served as Governor of Ohio 1866-1868. Vallandigham served as a Democratic Representative from Ohio 1857-1862, and was banished to the Confederate States during the Civil War.Order Image