Governor John Brooks

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John Brooks

Birthdate: (72)
Birthplace: Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
Death: March 1, 1825 (72)
Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States (influenza)
Place of Burial: Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Capt. Caleb Brooks and Ruth Brooks
Husband of Lucy Brooks and Judith Brooks
Father of Lucy Brooks; Lieut. Col. Alexander Scammel Brooks; John Brooks, Jr. and James Brooks
Brother of Theodore Brooks
Half brother of Mary Pratt; Abigail Brooks; Ebenezer Brooks; Elizbeth Brooks; Rebecca Brooks and 6 others

Managed by: Private User
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About Governor John Brooks

John Brooks (baptized May 4, 1752 – March 1, 1825) was a doctor, military officer, and politician from Massachusetts. He served as the 11th Governor of Massachusetts from 1816 to 1823, and was one of the last Federalist officials elected in the United States. He served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and in the state militia for many years afterward. In the post-war years he also had a medical practice in Medford, Massachusetts, and served as president of the Massachusetts Medical Society.


John Brooks was born in Medford, Massachusetts, the son of Caleb and Ruth Albree Brooks, who were local farmers, and baptized on May 4, 1752. After education in the local schools, Brooks studied medicine with Dr. Simon Tufts alongside Benjamin Thompson. In his free time he engage in military drills with other local boys and carefully watched the maneuvers of British Army troops stationed in nearby Boston. When his apprenticeship with Dr. Tufts ended Brooks established a medical practice in Reading, where he was active in the local militia.

Revolutionary War service

When Paul Revere gave the alarm that sparked the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, Brooks, then 22 and a major in the Reading militia, marched with his unit in response. His troops were among the first to reach Concord as the British took the road back to Boston, and are credited with beginning the running battle that took place. Brooks later described that day as the most difficult of his life. He then joined the Continental Army as a major in Bridge's Regiment, and was among the troops sent to fortify Breed's Hill on the night of June 16–17. He missed the next day's Battle of Bunker Hill, because he was sent by Colonel William Prescott to request reinforcements. He continued to serve in the Siege of Boston, transferring to the 19th Continental Regiment in 1776. One of Brooks' subordinates in this unit was William Hull, with whom he formed a fast friendship. After the British withdrawal from Boston, Brooks' regiment next saw action in the October 1776 Battle of White Plains, and was in General George Washington's retreat across New Jersey afterward. Brooks was ill in camp when the army engaged in the Battle of Trenton on December 26. At the end of 1776 he transferred to the 8th Massachusetts Regiment, where he was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

The 8th Massachusetts was among the forces Benedict Arnold led in relief of the Siege of Fort Stanwix in upstate New York, and was present at the Battles of Saratoga. In the second battle on October 7, 1777, Brooks gained a reputation for fearless leadership in assaulting the Hessian fortifications on the British right. In the winter of 1777–78 Brooks was at Valley Forge, where he served as a leading drill master under Baron von Steuben. Brooks was temporarily named adjutant to General Charles Lee when the army followed the British across New Jersey in 1778, engaging them in the Battle of Monmouth. Brooks' regiment was involved in garrison duty either in New England and the New York City area until the end of the war.

In 1783 Brooks played a prominent role in events that became known as the Newburgh Conspiracy, concerning army pay arrears and pensions at Newburgh, New York. He was one of three officers who delivered a letter to the Continental Congress, and participated in hearings in which the army delegation outlined serious discontent among the officers at Newburgh. He then carried letters back to the army headquarters, and took part in actions orchestrated by Washington supporters to put down any ideas of mutiny. He was accused, apparently falsely, of informing Washington of the conspiracy (Washington was tipped off by Alexander Hamilton to anticipate unrest.) Historian Richard Kohn writes that details are lacking of Brooks' actions and motivations in the critical days of the conspiracy in February and March 1783, but describes his role in the affair as "crucial".

Post-Revolution and War of 1812

After the war Brooks returned to medical practice, taking over the office of Dr. Tufts in Medford. He also remained active in the state militia, and joined the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in 1786. In the militia he rose to the position of major general, and led troops that assisted in putting down Shays' Rebellion in 1787. He was elected to the state convention that ratified the United States Constitution in 1788.

In 1792 Secretary at War Henry Knox offered Brooks a position as brigadier general in the Legion of the United States, a reorganization of the United States Army headed by General Anthony Wayne. Brooks refused the appointment, which went instead to his friend William Hull. He was again offered a position as brigadier general in the United States Army by George Washington when war was threatened in 1797, but refused. During the War of 1812 Brooks was the state militia's adjutant general.

Governor of Massachusetts

Brooks, a strong Federalist, served in the state legislature for a number of years, and was elected governor in 1816, replacing the retiring Federalist Caleb Strong. He won reelection annually until 1823, when he retired from public service. The politics of the state continued to be dominated by Federalists, despite their general decline elsewhere in the nation, in part because Brooks adopted moderate positions that denied the opposition Democratic-Republicans opportunities for vigorous opposition. He included Republicans in patronage appointments, and courted Republican politicians on the national level, including President James Monroe.

The Panic of 1819 and the granting of statehood to Maine (which was until 1820 part of Massachusetts) introduced fractures in the strong Federalist party system in the state. Dissident Federalists such as Josiah Quincy III joined Republicans in calls for a constitutional convention, citing the state constitution's requirement that Maine be allocated representation in the legislature as a reason. Brooks lobbied against the idea, but a convention was held over his objection. Nine amendments produced by the convention were eventually approved, but Federalists managed to block most of the substantive reforms that had been sought.

Brooks announced in 1822 that he would not seek reelection in 1823. The 1823 election saw the victory of Republican William Eustis over Federalist party leader Harrison Gray Otis. Otis did not even carry his hometown of Boston, and the election is widely regarded (along with the election of former Federalist Josiah Quincy as Boston mayor) as marking the effective end of the Federalist Party as a force in Massachusetts politics.

Brooks was a leading member of the Massachusetts Medical Society for many years, serving as its president after his retirement from politics, and was also president of the Bible Society of Massachusetts. He died in Medford on March 1, 1825, and was buried in Medford's Salem Street Burying Ground, where the family grave is marked by a large obelisk.

Family and legacy

Brooks married Lucy Smith, with whom he had five children, two of whom died young. His two sons were both active in the United States military. The Maine towns of Brooks, established in 1816, and Brooksville, founded in 1817, were named for him.


Governor John Brooks united the gentleman, the soldier, the civil magistrate, and the citizen, in a most perfect harmony of all the qualities which give respectability to public and private life. He was born in the village of Medford, near Boston, Massachusetts in the year 1752. His family traces back to the earliest settlement in the country. His father was a respectable farmer; and he himself passed the early part of his life in the usual occupation of village husbandry. The circumstances of the family prevented his acquiring an academical education; but he attained, in the town school of Medford, sufficient knowledge of the learned languages to enable him to engage to advantage in the study of medicine, - the profession of his choice. While at school in Medford, the celebrated Count Rumford, a native of the neighboring town of Woburn, was his associate and friend; and the intimacy than formed was kept up by correspondence, till the death of that distinguished philosopher and friend of man. Having completed his medical studies, he established himself in the adjacent town of Reading, and there he was found at the commencement of the revolutionary war. No part of the community engaged with greater ardor in the cause of the country than the members of the medical profession; a circumstance, no doubt, to be ascribed in part to the brilliant example and commanding influence of Dr. Joseph Warren, the martyr of Bunker Hill. A company of minute-men was raised in the town of Reading, and young Brooks, a stranger, just established in the town, and but twenty-three, was chosen its commander. He was indefatigable in drilling and disciplining the men, and prepared himself for this duty by carefully observing the military training of the British soldiery, in Boston. When the new organization of the troops, at the beginning of 1776, took place, he was attached to Colonel Webb's regiment, of the Connecticut line. After the British retired from Boston, Major Brooks marched, with the greater part of Washington's army, to Long Island; and was actively concerned in the service of that station, and in performing his duty in the skillful retreat which the army was compelled to make. Major Brooks was part of the advanced guard for Washington's army in White Plains, after the retreat from Long Island. For gallantry, Major Brook's regiment received the particular thanks of Washington. Major Brook's regiment marched under the command of General Lee, through New Jersey, to reinforce Washington, on the right bank of the Delaware. In the campaign of 1777 Major Brooks was advanced to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and attached to the eighth regiment of Massachusetts troops, recruited principally by him. When Colonel M. Jackson the commander of this regiment was severely wounded in 1776, the command in the field devolved principally upon Lt. Colonel Brooks during the campaigns of 1777 and 1778 and till he was promoted to the command of the seventh regiment, with the rank of colonel, on the death of Colonel Alden, in 1779. In the spring of 1777, Lt. Colonel Brooks was ordered to march his regiment of recruits to Albany and join the northern army. On his arrival there, Fort Stanwix on the Mohawk was besieged by a portion of Burgoyne's army. A division of the American army under General Arnold was ordered to the relief of the fort, and Brooks' command formed a part of that detachment. Colonel Brooks occupied a prominent position in Colonel Trumbull's picture of the surrender of Burgoyne. He was next ordered with his regiment to Pennsylvania, to join the army under Washington Soon after his arrival, the army took up its winter quarters in Valley Forge. Here Baron Steuben joined the army as inspector general, and introduced his new system of military maneuvers. Colonel Brooks was designated by Washington to assist the baron. Colonel Brooks acquired the confidence of Washington, and established an enviable reputation, for military science and the personal qualities of the brave officer. Colonel Brooks, like most of his brethren in arms, retired in poverty from the service of his country. He immediately resumed the practice of his laborious profession, in Medford and the neighboring towns. The community, however, was not willing to release its claim on his public services. He was, immediately after the close of the war, appointed major general of the third division of the Massachusetts militia. He was frequently chosen a representative to the general court of the commonwealth. He was a delegate to the convention of 1788, by which the constitution of the United States was adopted. He was for several years a senator for the county of Middlesex, and a member of the executive council. When the army of 1798 was organized, Washington designated General Brooks for the command of a brigade; but not thinking the dangers of the country to be such as required from him a second sacrifice of the comforts of domestic life, he declined the appointment. He was appointed adjutant general of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, under Governor Strong, after the war of 1812, and upon the retirement of the chief magistrate, Brooks was called to the chair of the state. Governor Brooks was admirably fitted to cooperate in the work which then took place, of allaying party dissension. He remained in office for six successive terms, from 1816 to 1822, and brought the state into a good degree of internal harmony. After his voluntary retirement from the chair of state, Governor Brooks still continued to serve the community in various important capacities, and to manifest his sympathy in the public spirited objects which were present for his approbation. He was a member of the Massachusetts medical society; and of the Cincinnati Medical society; of the Washington monument society; and of the Bunker Hill monument association. He received from the university at Cambridge, at different periods, the honorary degree of Master of Arts and Doctor of Laws. ------------------------------ wiki John Brooks (May 4, 1752 – March 1, 1825) was the 11th Governor of Massachusetts from 1816 to 1823; he was the last significant Federalist elected official in office in the United States.

Before entering public life, John Brooks had established careers in medicine and as a military leader during the American Revolution. Having already trained as a doctor in his hometown of Medford, he began his medical practice in Reading, where he became the Captain of the Reading Minutemen. He led them in the Battle of Concord and at Bunker Hill. He accepted a commission as Captain in the Continental Army and took part in battles in White Plains, Valley Forge, and Long Island.

He returned to take over the practice of his mentor Dr. Simon Tufts in 1783, and two years later was elected to the General Court. He was appointed Major General of the Middlesex Militia in 1786, which he led in suppressing Shays' Rebellion. He was appointed Adjutant General (1812– 1816) and won the governorship with the Federalist Party in 1816.

It was during Brooks's tenure that Massachusetts' territory of Maine became an independent state. Having served seven terms, Brooks declined to run for an eighth term and retired to private life. His body is interred at Salem Street Burying Ground in Medford, Massachusetts.

The Maine towns of Brooks, established in 1816, and Brooksville, in 1817, were named for him

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Governor John Brooks's Timeline

May 4, 1752
Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
June 16, 1775
Age 23
October 19, 1781
Age 29
Medford, Middlesex, MA, USA
Age 30
Brookfield, Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States
July 26, 1791
Age 39
Cumberland, New Jersey, United States
March 1, 1825
Age 72
Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
Medford, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States