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date: 17 August 2019

Brewster, Benjamin Harrislocked

(13 October 1816–04 April 1888)
  • Ari Hoogenboom


Brewster, Benjamin Harris (13 October 1816–04 April 1888), attorney general of the United States, was born in Salem, New Jersey, the son of Francis Enoch Brewster, a lawyer, and Maria Hampton. When Brewster was a year old, the family moved to Philadelphia. Shortly after his fifth birthday Brewster was severely burned, and his badly scarred face affected his personality. Its most obvious manifestation was his adopting—to partially cover his scars—the dress of an 1830s fop with a ruffled shirt, high collar, and white silk hat. His deformity repelled his father, whose reputation caused Brewster more hardship. Considered by proper Philadelphians to be “a blackguard in every sense, degraded & stained by every vice” (Wainwright, p. 155), his father abandoned his family, lived with his mistress, Isabella Anderson, had two sons by her (one of whom, Frederick Carroll Brewster, became a lawyer and jurist), and tried to disinherit Brewster and his sister. After Benjamin Brewster successfully contested the will in 1855, the estate was divided evenly among the legitimate and illegitimate children....

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