A Civil War Biography

James Topham Brady

Brady was born 9 April 1815 in New York City. He was educated under the guidance of his father, Thomas S. Brady, who was an eminent lawyer and jurist. Beginning at the age of sixteen the young Brady often acted as a junior counsel to his father. James Brady was admitted to the New York bar in 1836 and established his own practice in the city. He made a name for himself early in his career securing the release of a young English girl, Sarah Coppin, whose parents had died on the voyage to the US. She had been robbed, cast out into the street, then bound out by the authorities. Brady liberated the girl. Brady became proficient in all aspects of the law winning cases involving patents, medical jurisprudence using the moral insanity plea, criminal charges, and civil claims. He seemed specifically proficient in criminal cases and is said to once have successfully defended four clients charged with murder in a single week.

In 1843 he was appointed district attorney of New York and two years later was named corporation attorney for the city. In the case of New Jersey Governor Rodman M. Price, Brady's client was awarded $300,000, the largest civil case award up to that time.

In 1859 he was chosen by Daniel Sickles to be serve as counsel in Sickles' trial for killing Philip Barton Key. Brady was charged with making the defense's opening statement where he introduced the temporary insanity defense. Although a natural political leader Brady chose to remain in the legal profession instead of accepting political office. He favored state-rights and supported Breckinridge in 1860. He did support the Lincoln administration during the war. Late in the war Brady was appointed to the commission inquiring into the administration of the Department of the Gulf under Benjamin Butler and Nathaniel Banks. Throughout his life Brady was also a frequent contributor to the Knickerbocker Magazine. He died 9 February 1869.

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