Judah P. Benjamin

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Judah Philip Benjamin​​​

(U.S. Senator for Louisiana, trusted advisor to President Jefferson Davis, known in the Union states as "the brains of the Confederacy, relocated to London to become successful appeals attorney)

Judah P. Benjamin.jpg

Born August 6, 1811​​

St. Croix, British Virgin Islands​​ Alma mater:
​​ Private academy at
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Harvard University (two years)

Died May 8, 1884 (aged 72)​​
Paris, France​​

Resting place:
​​ Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise in Paris

Political Party Whig-turned-Democrat
Spouse Natalie St. Martin Benjamin (married 1833)

One daughter:
Ninette Benjamin De Bousignas
Philip and ​Rebecca de Mendes Benjamin

Religion Nonobservant Jew

Judah Philip Benjamin (August 6, 1811 – May 8, 1884) was a Louisiana politician who was the most trusted advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis during the American Civil War. In the Union states, he was often called "the brains of the Confederacy."[1]


Born in Christiansted on St. Croix in the British Virgin Islands, Benjamin was the son of Sephardic English immigrants Philip Benjamin (1779-1853) and the former Rebecca de Mendes (died 1847). At the age of two, he relocated with his family to Wilmington and then Fayetteville, North Carolina, the latter on the Cape Fear River. There Benjamin received his first formal education at a private academy run by Colin McIver, a Scottish Presbyterian minister. The family moved again because of the Panic of 1819 to Charleston, South Carolina. From 1825 to 1827 at the ages fourteen and sixteen, he attended Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. His political enemies later claimed that Benjamin had left Yale early because he was allegedly caught stealing from fellow students. This has never been confirmed, and he was given a clean release by the Yale president.[1]


In 1828, at the age of seventeen, Benjamin relocated to New Orleans in 1828; In 1833, he wed the former Natalie St. Martin. He was elected in 1842 to the Louisiana House of Representatives and in 1845 to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention.[2]

In the middle 1840s, he purchased the Belle Chase Plantation in Plaquemines Parish near New Orleans, at which he built a mansion and pioneered more efficient means of sugar processing. In 1852, he sold the plantation and ceased to be a slaveholder. In 1852, he organized the Jackson Railroad, which subsequently became the Illinois Central. In 1853, he entered the United States Senate upon his election as a a Whig by the Louisiana legislature]. He was re-elected in 1859 as a Democrat but with his colleague, John Slidell, resigned from their Senate seats in 1861 with the advent of war[1] ad did all of the southern senators except Andrew Jackson of Tennessee.

Benjamin served in three positions in the Confederate Cabinet. He was first Confederate attorney general , with service from February to September 1861. He then became secretary of war, a post he filled until March 1862. He was the Confederate secretary of state from March 1862 to the end of the war in April 1865. Along with John Reaqan and Stephen Mallory, Benjamin was one of only three men to serve in the Confederate Cabinet throughout the duration of the war. Throughout his service Benjamin was often unfairly villified by members of Congress and the military. [2]

With the collapse of the Confederacy, Benjamin relocated to London, England, and was admitted to the bar there in 1866. Between 1866 and 1883, he practiced law brilliantly before English courts, with specialization in handling appeals. [3]

Personal life and death

Benjamin was a non-observant secular Jew. Reports that he had delivered a Yom Kippur address at a synagogue in San Francisco, California, in 1861 cannot be confirmed. He did on occasion, in the company of President Davis, attend St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the Confederate capital of Richmond. For many years, Benjamin was estranged from his wife, the former Natalie St. Martin (born c. 1817; date of death unknown), a New Orleans native whom he married in 1833 in a Roman Catholic ceremony when she was sixteen years of age.[1] Natalie had little interest in her husband's political career and after fifteen years of marriage relocated with their only child, later Ninette Benjamin De Bousignas (died 1898), to Paris, France, where she spent the remainder of her life. In Paris, she lived lavishly and allegedly engaged in numerous extra-marital affairs. There was never a divorce, and Benjamin made an annual trip to Paris to visit his wife and daughter.[4]

Benjamin died in Paris at the age of seventy-two and is interred there with his wife at Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise. The date of his wife's death is unknown.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Judah Philip Benjamin. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on April 16, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Benjamin, Judah Philip. A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography: Louisiana Historical Association. Retrieved on April 16, 2020.
  3. A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography bases its short article on Benjamin on these source: to David C. Roller and Robert W. Twyman, eds., The Encyclopedia of Southern History (1979); Robert D. Meade, Judah P. Benjamin (1943); Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607-1896 (1963).
  4. Natalie St. Martin Benjamin. Findagrave.com. Retrieved on April 16, 2020.