Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/302

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298 Southern Historical Society Papers.

sel turned back and put in at St. Croix. Here it was, on English soil, that young Benjamin first saw the light of day.

In 1815 the Benjamins moved to Wilmington, N. C. , and ten years later, when only a lad of fourteen, Judah was sent to Yale. He remained there only three years, and left before taking his degree. Upon attaining his majority he was admitted to practice at the bar in New Orleans, and soon forged his way to the front. In 1847 he was engaged as counsel in the famous Spanish land cases, which involved the ownership of immense properties in California. For his legal services in this controversy he received the largest fee on record at that time, $25,000.

Mr. Benjamin in 1852 was sent to the United States Senate from Louisiana, and five years later he was re-elected. His colleague was Mr. Slidell, who afterward figured so prominently in the Trent affair. It was during this time that he was tendered a position on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, by President Franklin Pierce, an offer which was declined, he preferring to devote his time to private practice for be it understood that " Mr. Benjamin, of Louisiana," stood second to no lawyer in the land.

In the Senate he was among the foremost, and Charles Sumner, whom he often opposed in debate, declared that Mr. Benjamin was the most eloquent speaker to whom he ever listened. The stormy days of '61 came on, and he, with the other Southern Senators, with- drew from that body. His farewell address occupied two days in its delivery, and was admitted by all to be the most eloquent and forci- ble effort on either side. It was in the main a demonstration of the legality of States' rights.


When the provisional government was formed at Montgomery, President Davis selected Mr. Benjamin as his Attorney-General. Upon the consummation of the Confederacy he was made Secretary of War, and later on, Secretary of State. An idea of the versatility and erudition of this genius, may be formed from the fact that he filled these three Cabinet positions to the satisfaction of the President and with credit to himself. Mr. Benjamin was commonly referred to as "the brains of the Confederacy," and it was a universal custom of President Davis' s to turn over to him every matter that belonged to no particular department. So numerous were his duties; and so great his capacity for work, that it was not unusual for him to remain steadily at his desk from 8 A. M. one day, until i or 2 o'clock the