Benjamin Butler


 “The Self-made Party”
  Cartoonist:  Thomas Nast
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   August 30, 1884, p. 573

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
Benjamin Butler's controversial record as a Union general, party-switcher, and promoter of various reform schemes, in addition to his odd looks, made him one of the more colorful characters of the late-19th century. In 1884, he was nominated for president by the Greenback-Labor and Antimonopoly parties. This cartoon by Thomas Nast interprets Butler's penchant for changing parties as self-serving, calculated efforts to secure political power for his own ends. The poster on the upper-left side announces his candidacy as a confidence game (swindle) and plays on the word "fusion" (meaning a coalition of political groups agreeing to back a single candidate or slate) by adding "confusion." In reality, though, the candidate's articulated political principles were fairly consistent over time.

Butler began his political life in Massachusetts as a Democrat, voting for the Southern Democratic presidential nominee, John Breckinridge, in 1860. As a Union general, he was a War Democrat, but was elected to Congress as a Republican (1867-75; 1877-79). In Congress, he endorsed the Radical Republican policies for Reconstruction and served as House prosecutor at the impeachment trial of Democratic President Andrew Johnson. Butler ran numerous times unsuccessfully for governor of Massachusetts, first as a Republican (1871, 1873, 1874), then as an independent (1878) and a Democrat (1879), before being elected to the governorship by a Democratic-Greenback coalition (1882).













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