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Brown, John W.

JOHN W. BROWN was the strong man of the class of 1822. He was born at Dundee, Scotland, Oct. 11, 1796; was brought to this country in 1801 by his father, who settled first in Putnam County, but soon after removed to what is now known as West Newburgh, where he conducted a fulling-mill. Receiving a good common-school education, but evincing studious habits and an inclination for the profession of law, he entered the office of Jonathan Fisk. For a time, both before and after his admission to the bar, he took considerable interest in military matters, became captain of the "Bell-Button Company," and subsequently colonel of the militia of the district. He was early appointed justice of the peace, and from 1821 to 1825 was clerk of the board of village trustees. In 1832 he was elected member of Congress, and re-elected in 1834. He was a faithful, but not especially a brilliant, representative. In the political discussions following his last election he became a strong opponent of the "Albany Regency," which controlled the Democratic party. The Constitutional Convention of 1846 was the outgrowth of this discussion, and in that Convention he took an active part as one of the delegates from Orange County. In 1849 he was elected justice of the Supreme Court for the Second Judicial District for the term of eight years. In November, 1857, he was re-elected, and served an additional term of eight years, the last years of each term having been spent as an associate judge of the Court of Appeals. Not one of his decisions as judge was ever reversed by the Court of Appeals, notwithstanding the fact that in several instances doubtful and intricate points of law were involved. His decision in the case of the seven million canal loan was especially in opposition to a strong element in public opinion. Distinguished as he was as an advocate, he became far more distinguished as a judge. In many respects he was peculiar. Very few men had a keener appreciation of the value of money than he, and it was for this reason that he was a moderate man in his charges for legal services, and equally moderate in his expenditures. Penurious he never was,—the rapacity of many was not in his composition; had it been, abundant wealth, instead of a simple competency, would have resulted from his practice. He was a gentleman in the strictest sense, and all his business intercourse with his fellow-men was marked by the most thorough integrity. A strong man when aroused in any emergency,—one who could sway a jury and awe a mob,—he was remarkably kind and sensitive. His wife was Eliza, daughter of Selah Reeve. Chas. F. Brown, at present judge of the County Court, is his son.


 

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