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Augustus Brandegee (July 12, 1828, New London, Connecticut – November 10, 1904, New London, Connecticut) was an American lawyer and politician who served in the House of Representatives for Connecticut.
Brandegee was the son of a New Orleans cotton broker. His first place of education was the Union Academy in New London. Following this, he was sent to Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven and entered Yale University in 1845. At Yale he was elected membership to Delta Kappa Epsilon and Skull and Bones.:87 He was graduated in 1849, and spent the next year in study at Yale Law School.
In 1850 he entered the law office of Andrew C. Lippitt and after admission to the bar in 1851 entered a partnership with Lippitt. In 1854 he was chosen to represent New London in the Connecticut House of Representatives. Although a young member of the House, he was selected as a member of the important judiciary committee. He was also chairman of the select committee to carry through the "bill for the defense of liberty," which was aimed at preventing the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law in Connecticut. Later, Brandegee chaired the committee on the Maine Law, and was responsible for passing the only propitiatory liquor law ever passed in Connecticut.
In 1855 he was elected Judge of New Haven's criminal court. During this time Brandegee began speaking in many towns on slavery issues. In 1860 he was chosen as one of the electors of Connecticut on a ticket headed by former Governor Roger Sherman Baldwin.
Brandegee was again elected to the Connecticut House as a Republican in 1858 to represent New London. He was reelected in 1859, but declined the office because of the death of his father. The following year he was elected to the House again, this time being chosen as Speaker of the House. During this first "War" session of the House, Brandegee managed to keep favor with both Democrats and Republicans. At the end of the year, fellow Bonesman and leader of the opposition, Henry C. Deming presented him with a silver service as a token of appreciation for his impartiality in presiding over the House.
United States House of Representatives
In 1863 he was elected to Congress from the 3rd district of Connecticut. Although the youngest member of the House, he was selected as a member of the House Committee on Naval Affairs, and later the Military Affairs Committee. Brandegee was also on the Committee on Naval Accounts, and Chairman of a Special Committee on constructing a post office and military route from New York City to Washington, D.C.
Respected as an ardent abolitionist as well as a friend of President Abraham Lincoln, he and a fellow Representative, Democrat James E. English of New Haven voted in favor of the momentous 13th Amendment in 1864 that outlawed slavery. Unfortunately Steven Spielberg's 2012 epic film Lincoln bestows Brandegee and English with fictional names and changes history to erroneously depict them both as Democrats voting against the amendment.
Also in 1864, Brandegee was a member of the Connecticut delegation to the National Republican Convention in Baltimore, which re-nominated President Lincoln, and nominated Andrew Johnson for the Vice Presidency. Brandegee continued in Congress throughout the Reconstruction Era. In 1866 he attended the National Union Convention at Philadelphia. He did not stand for reelection to Congress in 1866, his term expired in January 1867.
Post Civil War
In 1871 he was nominated for the office of Mayor of New London. He won and served a single two-year term. He was Chairman of the Connecticut delegation to the Republican National Conventions of 1880 and 1884.
In 1892 he was a founding partner of Noyes & Brandegee, which was one of the leading law firms in New London. After his service as Mayor his fellow Republicans had tried to convince him to run for Governor or Senator, but Brandegee declined any further elected offices, although he served as Corporation Counsel of New London in 1897 and 1898.
At a special meeting of the superior court on December 31, 1904, Judge George D. Stanton said of Brandegee:
|“||August Brandegee, a leader of the New London county bar for half a century, is dead. During all that time he reflected honor upon this bar. He gave to its member an example for emulation. He has left us a memory which is a benediction. We strive through this memorial to show that we appreciate what he was and what he stood for.
He was a learned lawyer. Coming to the bar filled with the learning of the classics, he readily absorbed the law written in the books, and yet was always more than the book lawyer. He never failed to appreciate that the law is not an abstract science, but a rule of action of men. Mercy and charity ever came to him as the hand maidens of legal principle. He approached the real of a cause with diffidence. He participated in the trial as a master.
He was a brilliant orator. Convention, legislature, congress and the courts thrilled with his eloquence. In manner unexcelled he clothed his thoughts in language chaste and beautiful, and drove his words deep into the hearts of his hearers. He stood for high ideals through all his public life. At a time when the Abolitionist met scorn and contumely, he laboured zealously to free the slave. A member of Congress through the war, he became the trusted friend of Lincoln, and rendered signal service for the cause of the Union. And then and ever after he put aside official station for the simple life.
He was a knightly man - hypocrisy, shame, expedients, pretensions - the whole brood of lies and deceits - were his enemies. He fought them all his days and when the end came, passed over God's threshold with escutcheon unstained and with plume untarnished.
- Catalogue of the Delta kappa epsilon fraternity. The Delta kappa epsilon council. 1910. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
- Dowd, Maureen (17 February 2013). "The Oscar for Best Fabrication". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 February 2013.