Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BROOKS, James, journalist, born in Portland, Maine, 10 November, 1810; died in Washington, District of Columbia, 30 April, 1873. His father, a sea captain, was lost at sea while James was yet a child, and the family were left destitute. He was sent to a public school in Portland, and at eleven years of age became a clerk in Lewiston, Maine, then a frontier town. His employer, observing the eagerness of the boy for learning, offered to release him from his apprenticeship and to aid him in obtaining an education, he at once entered the academy at Monmouth, taught school at ten dollars a month and board, and was graduated at Waterville in 1831. Returning to Portland, he began to study law, teaching meanwhile a Latin school in that city. He contributed to the Portland "Advertiser," and in 1832 went to Washington as its correspondent, thus introducing the fashion of regular Washington letters. After that he traveled through the south, writing letters from the Creek, Cherokee, and Choctaw country in Georgia and Alabama, at the time when those tribes were compelled to move west. His correspondence at this period was a revelation in journalism. In 1835 he was a member of the Maine legislature, and introduced the first proposition for a railroad from Portland to Montreal and Quebec. After the adjournment he sailed for Europe, and traveled on foot over Great Britain and the continent, writing letters descriptive of his travels.
In 1836 he came to New York and established the "Express," of which, for a time, both a morning and an evening edition were published, and, although he met with discouragements at first, the paper soon became a success. Mr. Brooks made political speeches in Indiana for Harrison in 1840. In 1841 he married Mrs. Mary Randolph, a widow, of Richmond, Virginia, whom he required to manumit three or four slaves before the wedding. In 1847 he was elected to the New York legislature, and two years later to congress, where he remained two terms, 1849-'53. He took ground in 1850 in favor of the compromise measures, in 1854 became identified with the American party, and after 1861 with the Democratic Party. He was elected to congress again in 1865, and, by repeated re-elections, served till 1873. He made two later trips to Europe, and acquired four languages. In 1867 he was a member of the state constitutional convention, and in 1869 was one of the government directors of the Union Pacific railway. In February, 1873, the house censured Mr. Brooks "for the use of his position of government director of the Union Pacific railroad, and a member of this house, to procure the assignment to himself or family of stock in the Credit Mobilier." Mr. Brooks believed that this was undeserved, and the mortification it caused him probably hastened his death.
In 1871-'2 Mr. Brooks, in pursuit of health, made a voyage around the world, and gave the results of his observations first in letters to the "Express," and afterward in "A Seven Months' Run, Up and Down and Around the World" (New York, 1872). His valuable library was sold at auction in New York in June, 1886.--His brother Erastus, journalist, born in Portland, Maine, 31 January, 1815. When eight years old he was clerk for a Boston grocer, who taught him to sand the sugar and water the milk, attending an evening school at the same time. He afterward became a printer, and edited and published a newspaper, called the "Yankee," at Wiscasset, Maine, acting as his own compositor, press-boy, and carrier. Leading articles, essays, and stories were composed as he set the types, without the intervention of manuscript. In addition to this work he began to prepare himself for College, teaching school at the same time. After studying for some time at Brown, he took charge of a grammar school at Haverhill, Massachusetts, and at the same time became editor and part proprietor of the Haverhill "Gazette," which he finally sold to John G. Whittier. In 1836 he was engaged as Washington correspondent of the New York "Daily Advertiser," and of several New England papers, and in the same year became joint editor and proprietor, with his brother, of the New York "Express," retaining the place until 1877. He acted as Washington correspondent of the "Express" during sixteen successive sessions of congress, and in 1843 went abroad as one of its foreign correspondents. He was elected to the New York state senate in 1853, and again in 1855. His support of the bill divesting Roman Catholic bishops of the title to church property in real estate involved him in a controversy with Archbishop Hughes, which was afterward published in two rival volumes (New York, 1855). In 1856 he was nominated for governor of New York by the American party, but was not elected, though leading his party vote by several thousand. He subsequently joined the Democratic Party. He was a delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1867, and in 1871 was appointed a member of the constitutional commission. In 1878, 1879, and 1881 he was elected to the assembly, and in each of these years was the democratic candidate for speaker, and the leading democratic member on the committee of ways and means. In May, 1880, Mr. Brooks became a member of the State board of health. In April, 1886, he delivered before the New York legislature, by its invitation, a eulogy on his friend Horatio Seymour.
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