Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Benjamin H. Brewster (1882–1885): Attorney General

Born in Salem, New Jersey, on October 13, 1816, Benjamin Brewster grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Brewster's youth was marred by a childhood burning that badly scarred his face and by the philandering of his father. Nevertheless, Brewster graduated Princeton in 1834 and was admitted to the Philadelphia bar in 1838.

Brewster remained a Democrat until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he switched parties to become a Republican and tied his political star to Philadelphia boss Simon Cameron. Although he longed for a Senate seat, Brewster used his political connections to become attorney general of Pennsylvania. In 1881, he gained national attention for investigating the Star Route fraud cases involving the corruption in postal service and figures connected to James Garfield's presidential campaign.

Following Garfield's assassination, new President Chester Arthur made Brewster his attorney general in December 1881. Brewster spent his few years in office unsuccessfully pursuing convictions of figures involved in the Star Route scandal, claiming that his efforts had deterred further kickbacks and corruption. Brewster also prosecuted members of the federal marshals, commissioners, and United States district attorneys for corruption. He left office in March 1885 and died in April 1888.