Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
|Skip Navigation Links|
LYMAN DENISON BREWSTER, the son of Daniel and Harriet Averill Brewster and a direct descendant of the sixth generation of Elder William Brewster of Plymouth, was born in Salisbury, Connecticut, July 31st, 1832. He prepared for college at Williams Academy, Stockbridge, Mass., and was graduated from Yale in 1855. He was the poet of his class. Subsequent to graduation he travelled extensively abroad and upon his return began the study of law in the office of Hon. Roger Averill (afterwards Lieutenant-Governor), in Danbury, where he lived the remainder of his life. In 1858 he was admitted to the bar, and ten years later married Sarah Amelia Ives, who survives him.
Judge Brewster early attained prominence at the bar. In 1868 he was judge of probate, and in 1870 the first judge of the court of Common Pleas of Fairfield county, serving four years. In 1870, 1878 and 1879, he represented Danbury in the lower house of the State legislature, serving two years on the judiciary committee, also as chairman of the committee on constitutional amendments, and as a member of the committee on a reformed civil procedure, whose work resulted in the drafting and adoption of the present Practice Act. In 1880 and 1881 he was a member of the State senate and chairman of the judiciary committee.
He confined himself closely to the practice of his profession after 1880, and became very successful as a trial lawyer. His most important case was the suit involving the will of Samuel J. Tilden of New York. Appearing for the heirs at law, he attacked the validity of the residuary bequest creating the "Tilden Trust." The Court of Appeals of New York, by a bare majority, held the bequest invalid, the prevailing opinion indicating that the conclusion of the court was based largely on Judge Brewster's brief, in the preparation of which the best part of the four years was spent. Joseph H Choate was associated with him on the case, and James C. Carter was one of the opposing counsel.
Judge Brewster was a charter member of the American Bar Association, and until his illness in 1903 had attended all of his meetings. Since 1890 he had been chairman of the committee of the Association of uniform State laws, and from 1896 to 1901 was president of the National Committee of Commissioners on Uniformity of State Legislation, appointed by the governors of the various states. He practically gave up the last years of his life to this movement, and contributed more than any other one man to its success. In 1901 he wrote a series of exhaustive articles for the Yale Law Journal and Harvard Law Review, in defense of the Negotiable Instruments Act, which had been subjected to the criticism of Dean Ames of the Harvard Law School. He was an earnest advocate of reform in the business laws of the country, and gave forcible expression to his views in a paper on "A Commercial Code," which he read before the New York State Bar Association at Albany, in January, 1903. Immediately after reading this paper, which he had said would probably finish his work in behalf of uniformity, he was stricken with paralysis. The last year of his life, although one of partial invalidism, saw no impairment of his mental vigor, and on the day preceding his death brought about the settlement of a case in which he had been counsel. He died in sleep at his sleep at his home in Danbury February 14th, 1904.
A lovable Christian character shone all through his life, and during his last year of rest and freedom from activity his life became a benediction to all who came in touch with him.[footer.htm]