Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brewster, Abraham

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BREWSTER, ABRAHAM (1796–1874), lord chancellor of Ireland, son of William Bagenal Brewster of Ballinulta, Wicklow, by his wife Mary, daughter of Thomas Bates, was born at Ballinulta in April 1796, received his earlier education at Kilkenny College, and, then proceeding to the university of Dublin in 1812, took his B. A. degree in 1817, and long after, in 1847, his M.A. degree. He was called to the Irish bar in 1819, and, having chosen Leinster for his circuit, soon acquired the reputation of a sound lawyer and a powerful speaker. Lord Plunket honoured him with a silk gown on 13 July 1835. Notwithstanding the opposition of Daniel O'Connell, he was appointed legal adviser to the lord-lieutenant of Ireland on 10 Oct. 1841, and was solicitor-general of Ireland from 2 Feb. 1846 until 16 July. By the influence of his friend Sir James Graham, the home secretary,[1] he was attorney-general of Ireland from 10 Jan. 1853 until the fall of the Aberdeen ministry, 10 Feb. 1855.

Brewster was very active in almost all branches of his profession after his resignation, and his reputation as an advocate may be gathered from the pages of the 'Irish Law and Equity Reports,' and in the later series of the 'Irish Common Law Reports,' the 'Irish Chancery Reports,' and the 'Irish Jurist,' in all of which his name very frequently appears. Among the most important cases in which he took part were the Mountgarrett case in 1854, involving a peerage and an estate of 10,000l. a year; the Carden abduction case in July of the same year; the Yelverton case, 1861; the Egmont will case, 1863; the Marquis of Donegal's ejectment action; and lastly, the great will cause of Fitzgerald v. Fitzgerald, in which Brewster's statement for the plaintiff is said to have been one of his most successful efforts.

On Lord Derby becoming prime minister, Brewster succeeded Francis Blackburne [q.v.] as lord justice of appeal in Ireland in July 1866, and lord chancellor of Ireland in the month of March following. As lord chancellor he sat in his court for the last time on 17 Dec. 1868, when Mr. Disraeli's government resigned. He then retired from public life. There are in print only three or four judgments delivered by him, either in the appellate court or the court of chancery. As far back as January 1853 he had been made a privy councillor in Ireland. He died at his residence, 26 Merrion Square South, Dublin, on 26 July 1874, and was buried at Tullow, co. Carlow, on 30 July. By his marriage in 1819 with Mary Ann, daughter of Robert Gray of Upton House, co. Carlow, who died in Dublin on 24 Nov. 1862, he had issue one son, Colonel William Bagenal Brewster, and one daughter, Elizabeth Mary, wife of Mr. Henry French, both of whom died in the lifetime of their father.

[Burke's Lord Chancellors of Ireland (1879), pp. 307-14; Illustrated London News (1874), lxv. 115, 427.]

G. C. B.

  1. corrected to "first lord of the admiralty" in Errata (Wikisource contributor note)

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.36
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
299 i 14 f.e. Brewster, Abraham: for home secretary read first lord of the admiralty