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The Bay State Monthly — Volume 1, No. 6, June, 1884   By:

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[Illustration: Ben F. Butler]



A Massachusetts Magazine



No. VI.


There is a belt extending irregularly across the State of New Hampshire, and varying in width, from which have gone forth men who have won a national reputation. From this section went Daniel Webster, Lewis Cass, Levi Woodbury, Zachariah Chandler, Horace Greeley, Henry Wilson, William Pitt Fessenden, Salmon P. Chase, John Wentworth, Nathan Clifford, and Benjamin F. Butler.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN BUTLER was born in the town of Deerfield, New Hampshire, November 5, 1818.

His father, Captain John Butler, was a commissioned officer in the War of 1812, and served with General Andrew Jackson at New Orleans. As merchant, supercargo, and master of the vessel, he was engaged for some years in the West India trade, in which he was fairly successful, until his death in March, 1819, while on a foreign voyage. In politics he was an ardent Democrat, an admirer of General Jackson, and a personal friend of Isaac Hill, of New Hampshire.

Left an orphan when an infant, the child was dependent for his early training upon his mother; and faithfully did she attend to her duties. Descended from the Scotch Covenanters and Irish patriots, Mrs. Butler possessed rare qualities: she was capable, thrifty, diligent, and devoted. In 1828, Mrs. Butler removed with her family to Lowell, where her two boys could receive better educational advantages, and where her efforts for their maintenance would be better rewarded, than in their native village.

As a boy young Butler was small, sickly, and averse to quarrels. He was very fond of books, and eagerly read all that came in his way. From his earliest youth he possessed a remarkably retentive memory, and was such a promising scholar that his mother determined to help him obtain a liberal education, hoping that he would be called to the Baptist ministry. With this end in view, he was fitted for college at the public schools of Lowell and at Exeter Academy, and at the early age of sixteen entered Waterville College. Here for four years, the formative period of his life, his mind received that bent and discipline which fitted him for his future active career.

He was a student who appreciated his advantages, and acquired all the general information the course permitted outside of regular studies; but his rank was low in the class, as deportment and attention to college laws were taken into account. During the latter part of his course he was present at the trial of a suit at law, and was so impressed with the forensic battle he then witnessed, that he chose law as his profession. He was graduated from the college in 1838, in poor health, and in debt, but a fishing cruise to the coast of Labrador restored him, and in the fall he entered upon the study of the law at Lowell. While a student he practised in the police court, taught school, and devoted every energy to acquiring a practical knowledge of his profession.


While yet a minor he joined the City Guards, a company of the fifth regiment of Massachusetts Militia. His service in the militia was honorable, and continued for many years; he rose gradually in the regular line of promotion through every grade, from a private to a brigadier general.


In 1840, Mr. Butler was admitted to the bar. He was soon brought into contact with the mill owners, and was noted for his audacity and quickness. He won his way rapidly to a lucrative practice, at once important, leading, and conspicuous. He was bold, diligent, vehement, and an inexhaustible opponent. His memory was such, that he could retain the whole of the testimony of the longest trial without taking a note. His power of labor seemed unlimited. In fertility of expedient, and in the lightning quickness of his devices to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, his equal has seldom lived... Continue reading book >>

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