David Josiah Brewer (1837-1910): lawyer; elected judge of the probate and criminal courts of Leavenworth County, Kansas, 1862; justice of Kansas Supreme Court, 1870-1884; justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1890-1910.
David Josiah Brewer was born in Smyrna, Asia Minor, on June 20, 1837. He was the son of Rev. Josiah Brewer, a missionary to Turkey who established several schools for girls in Smyrna and neighboring regions. David J. Brewer's mother was Emilia Ann Field, a sister of Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field and of Cyrus W. Field, who laid the first Atlantic cable.
Upon their return to the United States in 1838, the Brewer family settled in Wethersfield, Connecticut, where Josiah Brewer was chaplain of the state prison. He held subsequent positions as editor, teacher and pastor, and moved with his family from Hartford, to New Haven, to Middletown, Connecticut, and finally to Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
While in Middletown, David J. Brewer entered Wesleyan College at the age of fourteen. After two years, he transferred to Yale, his father's Alma Mater. In 1856, he graduated from Yale with honors. Brewer studied law at the office of his uncle, David Dudley Field, and at the Albany Law School, from which he received a Bachelor of Laws Degree in 1858.
Deciding to go West, the young lawyer established a practice in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he married Louise Landon in 1861. That same year Brewer was appointed commissioner of the federal circuit court for the district of Kansas. He began his judicial career in 1862, when he was elected judge of the probate and criminal courts of Leavenworth County. Three years later, in 1865, Brewer became judge of the first judicial district of Kansas, a position he held until 1869, when he assumed the post of city attorney of Leavenworth. Elected a justice of the Supreme Court of Kansas in 1870, at the age of thirty-three, Brewer served for fourteen years, winning re-elections in 1876 and 1882.
President Arthur appointed Brewer to the federal circuit court for the eighth circuit in 1884. Five years later, he received an appointment from President Harrison to succeed Stanley Matthews on the U.S. Supreme Court. Brewer assumed his duties as associate justice in 1890 and served for twenty years until his death in 1910.
One of Brewer's colleagues on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court was his uncle, Stephen J. Field, who served from 1863 to 1898. Another, Justice Henry B. Brown, was a classmate of Brewer's at Yale.
Brewer was president of the commission created in 1895 to settle the boundary dispute between British Guiana and Venezuela. In 1898 the matter was settled by arbitration. His work on the commission deepened his concern for international peace and reinforced his belief in arbitration as a peaceful means of settling international disputes. Justice Brewer participated in most of the Lake Mohonk Conferences on International Arbitration and was a vice-president of the American Society of International Law.
The son of a missionary, Brewer was actively involved in a number of charitable organizations, such as the American Missionary Association, the American Bible Society, and the Associated Charities of Washington, D.C. He shared his father's concern for the rehabilitation of prisoners, especially during his years in Leavenworth.
While in Washington, D.C., Justice Brewer was a member of the faculty of the Columbian Law School (now the law school of George Washington University). In 1902 he delivered the Dodge Lectures at Yale on American citizenship and was in constant demand as a speaker, lecturing extensively across the country.
A trustee of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and a founder of the Intercontinental Correspondence University in Washington, D.C., Justice Brewer also found time to edit two collections entitled World's Best Essays and World's Best Orations .
In 1896 one of his four daughters died, followed by his wife in 1898. Emma Miner Mott became Brewer's second wife in 1901. Brewer himself died at his home in Washington on March 28, 1910.
From the guide to the Brewer family papers, 1714-1954, 1820-1930, (Manuscripts and Archives)
|creatorOf||Brewer family papers, 1714-1954, 1820-1930||Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives|
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|