Andrew Butler

Andrew Butler

Infobox Senator
name=Andrew Pickens Butler

jr/sr=United States Senator
state=South Carolina
term=December 4, 1846 – May 25, 1857
preceded=George McDuffie
succeeded=James H. Hammond
date of birth=birth date|1796|11|18|mf=y
place of birth=Edgefield, South Carolina, U.S.
date of death=death date and age|1857|5|25|1796|11|18|mf=y
place of death=Edgefield, South Carolina, U.S.
profession=Politician, Lawyer, Judge

Andrew Pickens Butler (November 18, 1796 – May 25, 1857) was an American statesman and one of the authors of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.


Butler, the son of statesman William Butler, was born in Edgefield, South Carolina. His early education was at Moses Waddel's Willington Academy, and he attended South Carolina College, now the University of South Carolina. Butler was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1818 and practiced throughout the state. He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives at a young age, and in 1824 was elected to the South Carolina Senate, where he served two terms and part of a third before being named a state judge.

Butler remained a state judge until 1846, when he was appointed to the United States Senate as a States' Rights Democrat. He was re-elected (by the South Carolina legislature) in 1848 and again in 1854, and he served as a Senator for the rest of his life. He was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during most of his tenure.

Butler was an ardent advocate of slavery. His most significant legislative accomplishment may have been co-authorship with Stephen A. Douglas of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The act provided for greatly desired westward expansion, but in order to gain Southern support, undermined the Compromise of 1820.

However, Butler's senatorial career is most noted for an event at which he was entirely absent. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, in the course of his "Crime Against Kansas" speech 19–20 May 1856, denigrated South Carolina and abused Butler in terms widely considered to exceed parliamentary propriety. Sumner likened Butler to Don Quixote and, regarding Dulcinea, said Butler "has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight. I mean the harlot, Slavery." He attacked Butler "ad hominem" ("The senator touches nothing which he does not disfigure") and mocked an aged infirmity ("With incoherent phrases discharged the loose expectoration of his speech").

Butler's kinsman, South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks resented this as an attack on family honor. Two days after the speech, guided by his interpretation of the Code Duello, Brooks soundly thrashed Sumner on the Senate floor with a gutta-percha cane. Butler later suggested that if present during the speech, he would have called Sumner to order, hoping to prevent further offense.

Butler has not left a strong historical mark. U. R. Brooks noted that biographical material to write from was scanty, and that Butler's power lay in his own presence with "grand gifts of eloquence, action, pathos, and convincing argument." Ellet wrote "Senator Andrew Pickens Butler was conceded to be the most unique and original intellect in the Senate. His face, though not handsome, was sturdily expressive, with massive features and 'troubled, streaming, silvery hair, that looked as though it had been contending with the blasts of winter'.... His power as a speaker stood acknowledged in the admiration of both Houses.... Like all men of impetuous impulse, he was very restless; one moment pacing to and fro the space behind the Speaker's desk, another giving the grasp of his hand to some younger Senator, the next taking active part in the debates of the day.... The moment a question was submitted to him, his mind instinctively applied all the great principles."

Butler County, Kansas is named for him. His brother William Butler (1790-1850) and his nephew Matthew Calbraith Butler also served in the United States Congress.


*cite book | first = Elizabeth | last = Ellet | title = Court Circles of the Republic | year = 1869 | publisher = Various Reprints | id = ISBN 0-405-06910-3 pp. 471, 472, 485

*cite book | first = U. R. | last = Brooks | title = South Carolina Bench and Bar | year = 1908 | publisher = The State Company pp. 9-20

*cite book | first = T. Lloyd | last = Benson | title = The Caning of Senator Sumner | year = 2004 | publisher = Thomson Wadsworth | id = ISBN 0-15-506347-2

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