“Nashville American” Spoke No Ill Of Dead “Butcher Of New Orleans” — Just Told The Truth
“Speak no ill of the dead” has always struck me as a stupid saying. We should tell the truth about the dead, as we must about the living. And the truth is told here about Yankee General Benjamin Butler in this editorial/obituary in the “Nashville American,” January 12, 1893. — JL
Old Ben Butler is dead! Early yesterday morning the angel of death acting under the devil’s orders took him from earth and landed him in hell. In all this Southern country there are no tears, no sighs, and no regrets. He lived only too long. We are glad he has at last been removed from earth and even pity the devil the possession he has secured….
When Grant died, it was with the respect and esteem of the Southern people. When Sheridan died, all the harm he did our cause during the bloody contest of more than a quarter of a century ago was forgotten and his seeming cruelty had grown to be held as love of country and his terrific assaults as great generalship. When old Tecumseh Sherman passed away, the people whom he devastated and robbed of property and precious lives were pleased to forget the bonfires he made of our cities, and the path of death he cut to the sea, and now they hold him up as one who loved well his country and was cruel only to be true.
[Ben Butler’s] stay in the South was a curse to our people and his dead body cannot shake the estimate formed of his character when he sat in New Orleans as a military satrap upon the lives and property of defenseless men and women.
We have no love for him, and praise of any kind solely because he is at last dead, would be the veriest hypocrisy from Southern people.
There is nothing in his entire life to excite our admiration. When it is said that he was possessed of great intelligence and undaunted energy all that is to his credit has been said.
He was a truckling demagogue whose selfishness amounts to pollution; he was an autocrat who used power to wreak personal revenge; he was mean and malignant, a hangman from prejudice, the insulter of women, a braggadocio, a trickster and a scoundrel, whose heart was as black as the smoke from the coals that are now scorching his soul.
If there be a future of peace in store for Ben Butler after his entrance upon eternity, then there is no hell and the Bible is a lie. If hell be only as black as the Good Book describes it, then there are not the degrees of punishment in which some Christians so firmly believe.
He has gone, and from the sentence which has already been passed upon him there is no appeal. He is already so deep down in the pit of everlasting doom that he couldn’t get the most powerful ear trumpet conceivable to scientists and hear the echoes of old Gabriel’s trumpet, or fly a million kites and get a message to St. Peter who stands guard at heaven’s gate.
In our statute books many holidays are decreed. It was an egregious oversight that one on the occasion of the death of Ben Butler was not foreordained. It should be a day of merrymaking. The “Beast” is dead. The cymbals should beat and the tin horn should get to its exultant work. Butler has gone where he can issue no more orders making the rape of Southern women a gala pastime. He has gone where there are no more spoons to be stolen. He has gone where it is not in his power to order hanged Southern gentlemen for alleged treason against Butlerism.
Good-bye Ben! You strutted through a few temporal triumphs; now rest if you can in the brimstone glare of hell fire. You laughed twenty-five years ago, when you branded your offensive personality upon the memories of your superiors; now smile if you can when powerless and sunk so low as to be beyond the sympathy of even Christian men and women.