Benjamin Franklin Butler
Painting: by Walter Gilman Page, 1900

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1883-1884

Like Governor Nathaniel Banks, Benjamin Franklin Butler faced a hardscrabble life as a youth. Both Banks and Bulter ran as members of at least five different political parties during their careers, testifying both to their determination and to their status as outsiders to the politically elite party system.

Mr. Butler was an infant when this father died. His mother, Charlotte (Ellison) Butler moved Butler and his brother Andrew to Lowell, Massachusetts. There she supported the family by running a boarding house. Butler completed undergraduate studies at Waterbury (now Colby) College. He returned to Lowell and worked as a teacher while studying law. By 1840, he was admitted to the bar, and practiced law in Lowell and later in Boston.

As his practice become more successful, Mr. Butler ran as a Democrat, winning seats as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1853) and in the Massachusetts Senate (1859). During the Civil War, Butler was commissioned as a Brigadier General in the Massachusetts Militia and was promoted to Major General in the U.S. Army. Shortly after his return from war, he was elected to Congress as a Republican serving 1867-1875. He was defeated in his Congressional reelection bid, but returned the next year as a member of the Greenback Party, serving 1877-1879. He made an unsuccessful run for the Governorship as an Independent in 1878 and as a Democrat in 1879.

In 1882, Mr. Butler was elected Governor as a member of the Democratic and National Party. Governor Butler found himself stymied by a solidly Republican Legislature. He undertook investigations of abuses of the charitable status granted to organizations, which resulted in neither criminal prosecutions nor legislation. Butler lost his first bid for reelection and proceeded to launch an unsuccessful Presidential campaign with the Greenback Party. He then retired from public life, enjoying his remaining days as a lawyer and businessman.