In the history of the United States, "waving the bloody shirt" refers to the demagogic practice of politicians referencing the blood of martyrs or heroes to inspire support or avoid criticism. In American history it gained popularity with an incident in which Benjamin Franklin Butler of Massachusetts, when making a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, held up a shirt allegedly stained with the blood of a carpetbagger whipped by the Ku Klux Klan.
The idea may be traced back to Julius Caesar's funeral in 44 BC when Mark Antony showed the toga to the crowd during his funeral oration, a scene which appears in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, but the speech mostly occasioned bathos.
Southerners mocked Butler's prop, using it to ridicule other defenses of Reconstruction policies. It also inspired the Southern Red Shirts.
- Red Shirts (Southern United States)
- Flag waver
- Russell, Francis. BUTLER the BEAST?