David Josiah Brewer was born in
Smyrna, Asia Minor (now Turkey), on January 20,
1837, the son of missionaries, and grew up in Connecticut.
He attended Wesleyan University and then Yale
University, graduating from
the latter in 1856. He then read law for a year
before entering Albany Law School, from which he
graduated in 1858.
Upon receiving his law degree,
Brewer moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, where
he established a law practice. His lengthy
judicial career began in 1861, when he was named
Commissioner of the Federal Circuit Court in
Leavenworth. He held two other judgeships before
being elected to the Kansas Supreme Court in
1870, where he served for 14 years. He was named
to the United States Court of Appeals for the
Eighth Circuit in 1884, and appointed to the
United States Supreme Court by President Benjamin Harrison in 1889, where he served until his
An active member of the Court,
Brewer was a major contributor to the doctrine of
substantive due process, often voting with the
court's majority in striking down progressive
laws restricting property rights. He also wrote
the unanimous opinion of the Court in Muller
v. Oregon (1908), which upheld the
constitutionality of a law limiting working hours
for women in industry.
Between 1895 and 1897, Brewer
led the panel that settled the Venezuela-British
Guiana boundary dispute.
Brewer died of a heart attack
in Washington, D.C., on March 28, 1910. He is
interred in Leavenworth.
Brewer was the author of three
books: The Pew for the Pulpit (1897), American
Citizenship (1902), and The Mission of
the United States in the Cause of Peace
(1909). In addition, a series of three lectures
by him were published in 1905 under the title The
United States: A Christian Nation.
President Benjamin Harrison
Questions or comments about