Major Pierce Butler in red uniform
Major Pierce Butler in red uniform

HORACE HONE A.R.A (1754-1825)

Major Pierce Butler in red uniform

1773 United Kingdom

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Major Pierce Butler in red uniform with buff coloured facings, silver lace and epaulettes
Set in the original gold bracelet clasp frame

Pierce Butler (July 11, 1744 – February 15, 1822) was a soldier, planter, and statesman, recognized as one of United States' Founding Fathers. He represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress, the 1787 Constitutional Convention, and the U.S. Senate. Butler, born the third son of an Irish baronet, could make no claim to title or family fortune so determined to make his own way in the army. He became a major in His Majesty's Twenty-ninth Regiment. In January 1771, he married Mary Middleton (c. 1750 – 1790). She was the orphaned daughter of Thomas Middleton, a South Carolina planter and slave importer. She was heiress to a vast fortune. Butler resigned his commission in the British Army two years later and settled with Mary in South Carolina, the year that this miniature was taken .

One of the largest slaveholders in the United States, Butler defended American slavery for both political and personal motives, though he had private misgivings about the institution, and particularly about the African slave trade. He introduced the Fugitive Slave Clause of the U.S. Constitution during the convention, and supported other measures to benefit slaveholders, including counting the full slave population in state totals for the purposes of Congressional apportionment.

In early 1779 Governor John Rutledge asked the former Redcoat to help reorganize South Carolina's defenses. Butler assumed the post of the state's adjutant general, a position that carried the rank of brigadier general. He preferred to be addressed as major, his highest combat rank.

In 1780 the British captured Charleston, South Carolina, and with it most of the colony's civil government and military forces. Butler escaped as part of a command group deliberately located outside the city. During the next two years, he developed a counterstrategy to defeat the enemy's southern operations. Refusing to surrender, allies in South Carolina, and the occupied portions of Georgia and North Carolina, organized a resistance movement. As adjutant general, Butler worked with former members of the militia and Continental Army veterans such as Francis Marion and Thomas Sumter to integrate the partisan efforts into a unified campaign. They united with the operations of the Southern Army under the command of Horatio Gates and later Nathanael Greene.
As a former Royal officer, Butler was a special target for the British occupation forces. Several times he barely avoided capture. Throughout the closing phases of the southern campaign, he personally donated cash and supplies to help sustain the American forces and also assisted in the administration of prisoner-of-war facilities.

Military operations in the latter months of the Revolution left Butler a poor man. Many of his plantations and ships were destroyed, and the international trade on which the majority of his income depended was in shambles. He traveled to Europe when the war ended in an effort to secure loans and establish new markets.

In late 1785 he returned to the United States. Butler's experiences as a soldier and planter-legislator led to his forceful support for a strong union of the states. He had come to appreciate the need for a national approach to defense. As a planter and merchant, he understood that economic growth and the international respect to support trade depended upon a strong central government. At the same time, he energetically supported the special interests of his region.

Butler retired from politics in 1805. He spent much time in Philadelphia. Continuing his business ventures, Butler became one of the wealthiest men in the United States, with huge land holdings in several states. Like other Founding Fathers from his region, Butler also continued to support the institution of slavery. Some historians claim that he privately opposed slavery, and especially the international slave trade, but he tried to protect the institution as a politician because of its importance to the Southern economy.

A Private English Collection
Height 48.00 mm (1.89 inches)
Stock Code
watercolour on ivory
signed with initials on the obverse and dated 1773
Ellison Fine Art

Ellison Fine Art
United Kingdom

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