Benjamin H. Brewster

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For other people of this name, see Benjamin Brewster (disambiguation).
Benjamin Brewster
37th United States Attorney General
In office
December 16, 1881 – March 4, 1885
PresidentChester A. Arthur
Preceded byWayne MacVeagh
Succeeded byAugustus Garland
Attorney General of Pennsylvania
In office
January 16, 1867 – October 25, 1869
GovernorJohn W. Geary
Preceded byWilliam M. Meredith
Succeeded byF. Carroll Brewster
Personal details
Benjamin Harris Brewster

(1816-10-13)October 13, 1816
Salem, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedApril 4, 1888(1888-04-04) (aged 71)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Elizabeth von Myerbach de Reinfeldts-Shulte
Mary Walker-Deslonde
EducationPrinceton University (BA, MA)

Benjamin Harris Brewster (October 13, 1816 – April 4, 1888) was an attorney and politician from New Jersey, who served as United States Attorney General from 1881 to 1885.


Early life[edit]

He was born on October 13, 1816 in Salem, New Jersey, and grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Maria Hampton, a daughter of Dr. John Thomas Hampton, a soldier of the American Revolutionary War and a close friend of Thomas Jefferson. His grandmother, Mercy Harris-Hampton, was the daughter of Benjamin Harris, the "fighting Quaker" of the American Revolutionary War. Benjamin Harris Brewster was named after him.

Benjamin's father was Francis Enoch Brewster, a descendant of William Brewster, a passenger on the Mayflower.[1] The elder Brewster was a successful and well-known attorney in Philadelphia who had abandoned Benjamin's mother, Maria Hampton, for her companion Isabella Anderson, by whom he had two children out of wedlock. His step-brothers were Frederick Carroll Brewster (1825–1898), who became Attorney General of Pennsylvania, and Enoch Carroll Brewster (1828–1863).

Benjamin's sister, Anne Hampton Brewster (1818–1892), was one of America's first female foreign correspondents, publishing primarily in Philadelphia, New York and Boston newspapers. She was a "social outlaw" (as a friend described her) by refusing to marry, by converting to Catholicism, by moving out of her older brother Benjamin's house in order to live alone, by moving to Rome, and, foremost, by continuing to write through it all, first as a dilettante and then as a self-supporting professional.

In their father's will he had named his two sons Frederick and Enoch Carroll Brewster as his sole beneficiaries. Benjamin fought on behalf of his sister for her share of the estate and for the destruction of the will, which he eventually won.


He graduated from Princeton College in 1834 and was conferred upon the degrees of A.B., A.M., and LL.D. He studied law in the office of Eli Kirk Price,[2] a noted Philadelphia lawyer and legal reformer and who was head of the Philadelphia Bar, and he was admitted to practice on January 5, 1838.[3]


In 1857, he married as his first wife, Elizabeth von Myerbach de Reinfeldts, the widow of Dr. Shulte of Paris, France. Elizabeth died in 1868; however, Benjamin continued to spend many vacations with his wife's parents in Germany near Cologne. There were no children from his first marriage.

He was remarried on July 12, 1870. His second wife, Mary Walker, was born in Mississippi on December 13, 1839, and died on March 9, 1886, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Robert John Walker, Secretary of the Treasury under President James Knox Polk[4] and Mary Blechenden Bache.[5] Mary Bache was the daughter of Sophia Durrell Dallas and Richard Bache, Jr., who served in the Republic of Texas Navy and was elected as a Representative to the Second Texas Legislature in 1847. Sophia was the daughter of Arabella Maria Smith and Alexander J. Dallas an American statesman who served as the U.S. Treasury Secretary under President James Madison. She was a great-granddaughter of Sarah Franklin Bache and Richard Bache, and a great-great-granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin. In addition she was a niece of George Mifflin Dallas, the 11th Vice President of the United States, who served under James K. Polk.

Mary Walker had married as her first husband, on May 25, 1858, Adrian Deslonde, the son of André Deslonde, a sugar planter from St. James Parish, Louisiana. His sister, Caroline Deslonde, married P.G.T. Beauregard, the Louisiana-born author, civil servant, politician, inventor, and the first prominent general for the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. Through his sister, Mathilde, he was a brother-in-law of John Slidell, a U.S. senator from Louisiana and later a Confederate diplomat. John's sister, Jane Slidell, was married to Matthew C. Perry. Commodore Perry of the U.S. Navy compelled the opening of Japan to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854.


Benjamin and Mary had one child, Benjamin Harris Brewster, Jr., born on October 22, 1872, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Benjamin, Sr.'s great-grandson was Daniel Baugh Brewster (November 23, 1923 – August 19, 2007), a Democratic member of the United States Senate, who represented the State of Maryland from 1963 until 1969. He was also a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1950 to 1958, and a representative from the 2nd congressional district of Maryland in the United States House of Representatives from 1959 to 1963.[6][7]


In 1846 Brewster was appointed commissioner by President James K. Polk to adjudicate the claims of the Cherokee against the U.S. federal government. He was appointed Attorney General of Pennsylvania in 1867 by Governor John W. Geary.

He was chief prosecutor in the case of the U.S. Postal Service's Star Route Frauds.

In 1881, Chester A. Arthur appointed Brewster Attorney General of the United States, an office he held for the duration of Arthur's term.[2]


He died on April 4, 1888, at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he is buried in Woodlands Cemetery.[8]


  1. ^ In Memoriam: F. Carroll Brewster. Philadelphia: Allen, Lane & Scott. 1899.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  2. ^ a b "Attorney General: Benjamin Harris Brewster". U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  3. ^ "Benjamin H. Brewster (1882 - 1885): Attorney General". Miller Center of Public Affairs. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved December 6, 2015..
  4. ^ Society, Mississippi Historical (1902-01-01). Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society.
  5. ^ Rowland, Dunbar (1907-01-01). Encyclopedia of Mississippi History: Comprising Sketches of Counties, Towns, Events, Institutions and Persons. S. A. Brant.
  6. ^ Lamb, Yvonne Shinhoster (August 22, 2007). "Daniel Baugh Brewster; served in US Senate". The Boston Globe. The Washington Post. Retrieved December 19, 2008.
  7. ^ "Daniel Brewster papers". Archival Collections at the University of Maryland Libraries. Archived from the original on January 17, 2010. Retrieved December 19, 2008.
  8. ^ "Benjamin Harris Brewster.; Death Of The Prosecutor Of The Star Route Thieves" (PDF). The New York Times. April 5, 1888.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
William M. Meredith
Attorney General of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
F. Carroll Brewster
Preceded by
Wayne MacVeagh
U.S. Attorney General
Served under: Chester A. Arthur

December 16, 1881 – March 4, 1885
Succeeded by
Augustus Hill Garland