Anthony Butler, lawyer, soldier, and politician, was born in South Carolina, probably in 1787 in Clarendon County, and established a sizable plantation in Russellville, Kentucky. At the outbreak of the War of 1812 he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel of the Twenty-eighth United States Infantry, on March 11, 1813. On February 21, 1814, he was promoted to colonel of the Second Rifle Regiment. After discharge he served as a member of the Kentucky legislature for two terms, 1818–19, but failed in a run for governor of that state in 1820. Butler was a resident of Mississippi in 1829 when his friend President Andrew Jackson, appointed him to succeed Joel Poinsett as United States chargé d'affaires in Mexico City. Historian Justin H. Smith commented that Butler's only qualifications for the post "were an acquaintance with Texas and a strong desire to see the United States obtain it." He had been through bankruptcy more than once, spoke no Spanish, was ignorant of the forms of diplomacy, and "was personally a bully and a swashbuckler." Further, Smith maintained, Butler was "shamefully careless," unprincipled in his methods, and "openly scandalous in his conduct...In brief, he was a national disgrace." Sam Houston wrote of Butler in 1832, "Such men as he is, would destroy a country, but take my word for it, he will never gain one!"
Butler was recalled to Washington early in January 1836 but remained in Mexico on his own authority and continued to report to Jackson on the actions and intentions of the Mexican government toward Texas. He at last returned to the United States in May 1836. He then took residence in Washington County, Texas, and in September 1838 was elected to the House of Representatives of the Third Texas Legislature. At the outbreak of the Mexican War he offered his services to Gen. Zachary Taylor, believing that his knowledge of the country would be useful. Butler moved to the North in 1847 or 1848. As a Mason he was grand master of Kentucky in 1812–13 and of Texas in 1840–41. In 1849 or 1850 he died on the Mississippi River attempting to save his fellow passengers from the burning wreck of the steamboat Anthony Wayne. His papers are preserved at the Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every dollar helps.
Eugene C. Barker, "The Private Papers of Anthony Butler," Nation 92 (June 15, 1911). Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1903; rpt., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Justin H. Smith, The War with Mexico (2 vols., New York: Macmillan, 1919). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Thomas W. Cutrer,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 16, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 1, 1994
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: