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On Friday, April 5, 1878, Benjamin F. Butler, a Republican from Massachusetts, arose in the U.S. House of Representatives and offered a resolution stating “that the true Union, maimed soldier, Brigadier-General James Shields” be chosen as doorkeeper of that body. Although a seemingly innocuous motion, Butler's resolution would spark a debate over the election of a doorkeeper that would last into the following week. That debate — and the reactions to it — are in turn quite revealing of the political environment of the time. Specifically, the “doorkeeper controversy” of 1878 symbolizes the persistence of sectionalism in the immediate post-Reconstruction years. It also provides yet another example of the turmoil and controversy that characterized Ben Butler's colorful political career.
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