Judah Benjamin, 1811-1884, new book.
All historians of the law of Louisiana know of Judah Benjamin; all historians of the law of sale in England also know of Judah Benjamin. I shall not discuss the basics of his life. There is an adequate Wikipedia entry that I lack the knowledge to praise or condemn, with its speculations on his family life. He had a distinguished career as a lawyer and politician, and when the Civil War came, he became Attorney General and then Secretary of War and then Secretary of State for the Confederacy. After escaping at the end of the War, he eventually reached England, where he was admitted to the bar. There is no need to go further into his remarkable life.
This month Edinburgh University Press is to publish by William C. Gilmore, The Confederate Jurist: The Legal Life of Judah P. Benjamin (ISBN 9781474482004). It focuses on his career as Jewish lawyer, U.S. Senator, Confederate statesman, political exile, leader of the English bar, and distinguished jurist.
According to EUP, this is the first biography written from a legal perspective on the public life of Judah P. Benjamin (1811–1884), a prominent figure in the common law world in the second half of the 19th century. Drawing on a range of primary source materials including newspaper articles, case law and extensive archival research in the UK and USA, it charts his rise as a lawyer first in the mixed legal system of Louisiana and then nationally. In 1853 he was the first person of Jewish heritage to be offered nomination to the US Supreme Court – an honour he declined. Benjamin was also a member of the US Senate, a slave owner and a supporter of Southern secession. In the Civil War he served continuously in the Confederate Cabinet initially as Attorney General, then as Secretary of War and finally as Secretary of State. Following the victory of the Union he fled America, a fugitive. In political exile in England he requalified as a Barrister at Lincoln’s Inn. Within a decade he had written a scholarly and long-enduring treatise on commercial law and become the undisputed advocate of choice in appeals before the House of Lords and the Privy Council. This book considers the extraordinary career of this distinguished jurist and reflects upon his legal legacy. There is a forward by Stephen C. Neff, Professor of War and Peace at the University of Edinburgh and author of Justice in Blue and Gray: A Legal History of the Civil War (Harvard University Press, 2010).
William C. (Bill) Gilmore is Professor of International Criminal Law Emeritus at the university of Edinburgh