Benjamin, Judah

Benjamin, Judah (Philip)

(1811–84) lawyer, Confederate cabinet member; born in St. Croix, Danish West Indies. Son of European Jews, he was brought to South Carolina as a child. After attending Yale (1825–27) he settled in New Orleans; he became a widely respected lawyer and served Louisiana in the U.S. Senate (Whig, 1853–59; Dem., 1859–61). Favoring secession, he served the Confederacy as attorney general (1861) and then as secretary of war (1861–62); he was blamed for the Confederate army's lack of equipment, but Jefferson Davis promoted him to secretary of state (1862–65). He favored using slaves as soldiers. With the collapse of the Confederacy he fled to the West Indies and then to England (1866), where he made a brilliant new career as a British barrister, especially in appeal cases. He wrote the Treatise on the Law of Sale of Personal Property (1868), which at once became the standard in the field.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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