Benjamin Gratz Brown (May 28, 1826 – December 13, 1885) was an American politician. He was a U.S. Senator, the 20th Governor of Missouri, and the Liberal Republican and Democratic Party vice presidential candidate in the presidential election of 1872.

B. Gratz Brown
20th Governor of Missouri
In office
January 4, 1871 – January 3, 1873
LieutenantJoseph J. Gravely
Preceded byJoseph W. McClurg
Succeeded bySilas Woodson
United States Senator
from Missouri
In office
November 13, 1863 – March 3, 1867
Preceded byRobert Wilson
Succeeded byCharles D. Drake
Member of the
Missouri House of Representatives
from St. Louis
In office
Personal details
Benjamin Gratz Brown

(1826-05-28)May 28, 1826
Frankfort, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedDecember 13, 1885(1885-12-13) (aged 59)
Kirkwood, Missouri, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic (Before 1854, 1872–1885)
Republican (1854–1870)
Liberal Republican (1870–1872)
Other political
Unconditional Union (1860–1866)
Radical Republican
Mary Gunn
(m. 1858)
RelativesMason Brown (father)
Montgomery Blair (cousin)
Margaret Wise Brown (granddaughter)
EducationTransylvania University
Yale University (BA)
University of Louisville (LLB)
Military service
Allegiance United States (Union)
Branch/serviceUnion Army
Years of service1861–1863
Rank Colonel
Commands4th Regiment U.S. Reserve Corps
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

Born in Frankfort, Kentucky, Brown established a legal practice in St. Louis, Missouri. Both of his grandfathers, John Brown and Jesse Bledsoe, represented Kentucky in the Senate. After settling in St. Louis, Brown won election to the Missouri House of Representatives. He became an ally of Thomas Hart Benton and Francis Preston Blair Jr. in the struggle for control of the state Democratic Party against pro-slavery forces. As the 1850s progressed, Brown continued to speak against slavery, and he helped found the Missouri Republican Party.

During the Civil War, Brown worked to keep Missouri in the Union. In 1863, he was elected to the Senate as a member of the Unconditional Union Party. In the Senate, he aligned with the Radical Republicans and opposed many of President Abraham Lincoln's policies. He was part of a movement that unsuccessfully sought to replace Lincoln as the 1864 Republican nominee. After the war, Brown strongly opposed President Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction policies and supported the Freedmen's Bureau bills.

Brown resigned from the Senate in 1867 but helped found the Liberal Republican Party in 1870. The party chose Brown as its nominee for governor, and he defeated incumbent Republican Governor Joseph W. McClurg. Brown sought the new party's 1872 presidential nomination but was defeated by Horace Greeley. After the nomination of Greeley, the 1872 Liberal Republican convention chose Brown as the party's vice presidential nominee. Seeking to avoid splitting the vote of opponents to President Ulysses S. Grant's re-election, the 1872 Democratic National Convention subsequently nominated the Liberal Republican ticket. The Republican ticket nonetheless triumphed in the election, as Grant won 55.6% of the popular vote and a majority of the electoral vote. Greeley died after the election but before the electors officially cast their votes, and Brown received some of Greeley's electoral votes. After the election, Gratz returned to his law practice and affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Early life


Brown was born in 1826 in Frankfort, Kentucky, the son of Judith Ann (Bledsoe) and Mason Brown. He was the grandson of Senators John Brown and Jesse Bledsoe of Kentucky. He graduated from Transylvania University in Lexington in 1845 where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity, and from Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1847.

He studied law, and later settled in St. Louis, Missouri. There he joined his cousin, Francis P. Blair, Jr., and Senator Thomas Hart Benton in a struggle against the pro-slavery faction for control of Missouri's Democratic Party. He was a correspondent for the Missouri Republican at the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1851) and served as the secretary at the treaty negotiations.[1][2] He married Mary Gunn (1842–1888) in 1858, and together they had six children.

Political career

Speech of the Hon. B. Gratz Brown, of St. Louis, on the subject of gradual emancipation in Missouri - delivered in the House of Representatives (Missouri) Feb 12, 1857

Brown became a member of the Missouri House of Representatives and served there between 1852 and 1858. An able lawyer in St. Louis, Brown made a speech in 1857 against a joint resolution opposing emancipation. The speech marked the beginning of the Free Soil movement in Missouri. He was a leader of the movement. After that, he edited the Missouri Democrat between 1854 and 1859. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Missouri in 1857.

On August 26, 1856, he fought a duel on Bloody Island (Mississippi River) with Thomas C. Reynolds (then the St. Louis District Attorney) over the slavery issue. Reynolds was not hurt but Brown was shot in the leg and limped for the rest of his life.[3]

Brown became a founding member of the Republican Party in Missouri. Throughout the 1860s, he and Blair contested control of the state's Republican party. He worked to prevent Missouri from seceding from the Union in 1861. After that, he served as an officer in the Union Army during the first half of the Civil War, raising a regiment (the 4th U.S. Reserves) and serving as its colonel. He recruited over 1,100 soldiers for his regiment, many of whom were St. Louis-area German-Americans, a key constituency that Brown courted for his political advantage.

Brown resigned from the Army after he was elected in late 1863 as an Unconditional Unionist to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the expulsion of Waldo P. Johnson. Brown opposed Abraham Lincoln's moderation and objected to the Emancipation Proclamation because it did not free slaves in Missouri and other loyal border states. He was a key figure in the move to replace Lincoln with John C. Frémont in the presidential election of 1864. In the Senate, Brown was chairman of the Public Buildings and Grounds committee and of the Committee to Audit and Control the Contingent Expense. Following Lincoln's assassination, Brown was vehemently opposed to new President Andrew Johnson's moderate plan of Reconstruction. He also supported the Radical-sponsored Civil Rights Bill and Freedmen's Bureau Bill. Brown left the Senate in 1867 because of ill health.

In 1870, dissatisfied with the Missouri Republicans, he joined the new Liberal Republican Party. The party nominated Brown for governor, and he defeated Republican incumbent Joseph W. McClurg. Brown served as the Governor between 1871 and 1873.

Presidential election of 1872

Greeley/Brown campaign poster

Brown was one of the contenders for the Liberal Republican presidential nomination, but lost to newspaper editor Horace Greeley. Brown was the vice presidential candidate under Greeley in the presidential election of 1872 for the Liberal Republican and Democratic parties. Greeley died on November 29 of illness, before the electoral college could vote, and the electoral votes (63 of 66) that were to have been for Greeley were split among four others, including Brown, who received eighteen of those electoral votes. The Republicans, incumbent president Ulysses S. Grant and the vice presidential candidate, U.S. Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, won the election anyway.

Brown returned to his law practice, quit the Republican Party and resumed his ties to the Democrats. He died in Kirkwood, Missouri and is interred there at Oak Hill Cemetery.


  1. ^ Lowe, Percival Green (1906). Five Years a Dragoon ('49 to '54) and Other Adventures on the Great Plains. F. Hudson publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-598-28424-2.
  2. ^ Charles Kappler (1904) Treaty of Fort Laramie with Sioux, Etc. Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. II. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, pp. 594–596. Accessed May 4, 2013 at Archived 2014-08-12 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Crack of the Pistol Political Duels". Retrieved 2019-06-13.
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Missouri
Served alongside: John B. Henderson
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Public Grounds Committee
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Missouri
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Liberal Republican nominee for Governor of Missouri
Succeeded by
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Liberal Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Missouri
Succeeded by