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


Early Life

He was born on October 13, 1816 in Salem, New Jerseymarker and grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker. 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.

His father was Francis Enoch Brewster, a successful and well-known attorney in Philadelphiamarker. He was a direct lineal descendant of Elder William Brewster , (c. 1567 - April 10, 1644), the Pilgrim colonist leader and spiritual elder of the Plymouth Colony and a passenger on the Mayflower.

His sister was Anne Hampton Brewster (1818 - 1892). She 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 Ben's house in order to live alone, by suing Ben for complete control over her share of their father's estate, by moving to Rome, and, foremost, by continuing to write through it all, first as a dilettante and then as a self-supporting professional.


He graduated from Princeton Collegemarker 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, 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.


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.

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. and Mary Blechenden Bache,. Mary 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, 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 also great-granddaughter of Sarah Franklin Bache and Richard Bache, and more noteably she was the great-great-granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin as well as niece of George Mifflin Dallas the 11th Vice President of the United States, serving 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, Louisianamarker. 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, who was the Commodore of the U.S. Navy who compelled the opening of Japan to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854.


Benjamin and Mary were the parents of one child, Benjamin Harris Brewster, Jr., born on October 22, 1872 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

His great-grandson is Daniel Baugh Brewster (November 23, 1923–August 19, 2007), a Democratic member of the United States Senate, representing the State of Maryland from 1963 until 1969. He was also a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1950-1958, and a representative from the 2nd congressional district of Maryland in the United States House of Representatives from 1959-1963.

There were no children from his first marriage.


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 Pennsylvaniamarker in 1867 by Governor John W. Geary.

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

Chester A. Arthur appointed Brewster Attorney General of the United States in 1881, and he held that office for the duration of Arthur's term.


He died on April 4, 1888 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is buried in Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.


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