THE common ancestor of the Bradburys in America was Thomas Bradbury, born in the
County of Essex, England, baptized in the church of Wicken Bonant February 28, 1611, who came to New England as
the agent of Ferdinando Gorges about 1634. Arriving at Agamenticus, now York, Me. , he married and settled in Salisbury,
N. H., in 1636. James W. Bradbury, sixth in descent from Thomas, the eldest son of James and Ann Moulton Bradbury,
was born in Parsonsfield, Me., June 10, 1802. He attended the public schools and Gorham Academy, and entered the
Sophomore class of Bowdoin College in 1822, graduating with high rank in the famous class of 1825. Among the members
were Henry W. Longfellow, Josiah S. Little, Jonathan Cilley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John S. C. Abbott, and George
After graduating Mr. Bradbury taught at the Hallowell Academy one year. He then studied law with Hon. Rufus Mclntire,
also with Hon. Ether Shepley. In 1829 he opened a school at Effingham, N. H., for the instruction of teachers,
which, it is believed, was the first normal school in New England.
In 1830 he opened a law office in Augusta, where he has resided for sixty-three years. At the Bar were Peleg Sprague,
React Williams, and George Evans, and to gain a foothold in a field filled with such talent required ability and
great energy. But he soon built up a very large practice, which, probably, was not surpassed by any in the State.
ft was said of him: "He was a sound lawyer, a skillful, eloquent advocate who never failed to do full justice
to his clients." In 1833 he formed a partnership with Horatio Bridges, and in 1841 he took into partnership
Richard D. Rice, who had read law with him, which continued until Rice went upon the Bench in 1852. He then invited
Lot M. Morrill to take charge of the business of his office, the firm being Bradbury & Morrill. This partnership
continued several years after Mr. Morrill had been elected
to the Senate.
In 1846 Mr. Bradbury was chosen United States Senator for the term beginning March 4, 1847. In the Senate at that
time were Webster, Clay, Calhoun, Benton, Cass, Douglass, Seward, Chase, and others of great distinction. The Mexican
War was then raging, and Mr. Bradbury gave President Polk his hearty support, though the voting of men and supplies
for the army was stoutly resisted by the President's opponents, and the ratification of the treaty of peace with
Mexico was so strongly opposed that a change of two or three votes would have defeated it. When bills for the organization
of the territories acquired by the treaty were introduced, amendments were offered by the Abolitionists prohibiting
slavery in all of them. This was resisted by the southera members. Intense and excited debate sprang up and continued
day after day. The South urged that the territories were the common property of the whole Union, that they were
owners in common with the North, and it would be a violation of their rights to deprive them of the right to move
into them with their families as constituted. The reply was that they had not a right to carry their local laws
into the territories, and that the North was opposed to the extension of slavery. The excitement continued to increase
and extended throughout the Southern States, and finally became dangerous. Threats of secession were made if the
northern members insisted in applying the provision to all the territory. These threats were treated and believed
by the Abolitionists as mere buncome. In the midst of this excitement Mr. Clay returned to the Senate. A compromise
was talked of. The conservative members of both parties, Democrats and Whigs, favored it. But every attempt at
any compromise was resisted by the extreme North and the extreme South. Each demanded all. Jefferson Davis and
John P. Hale voted together against every compromise. When Mr. Clay's compromise bill (as it is called) was reported
by a committee, Mr. Bradbury acted and voted with the conservatives in support of it. They kept advised of the
movements of the excited South and were aware of the danger. In their conference meetings Mr. Clay went with them.
Mr. Webster was consulted. Both believed in the danger, and enough was known to warrant the belief. But the ultra
northern members and the people of the North did not believe there was the slightest danger. They regarded the
threats of secession as the merest gasconade. Mr. Bradbury and the other conservatives who supported the compromise
believed that its adoption would probably prevent any future attempt at secession; and if not, it would postpone
it until the relatively rapid increase of the strength of the North would give it such preponderance as to make
any attempt a failure. He regarded Mr. Webster and Mr. Clay as acting throughout the struggle from high motives
of patriotism, and wisely, too, and Mr. Webster's 7th of March speech as one of the most patriotic acts of his
life. He has ever been fully satisfied that he was right in his active efforts in support of the compromise of
Mr. Bradbury served on the Judiciary Committee, the Claims Committee, and the Special Committee on French Spoliations.
He saw the need of a tribunal to adjust claims against the Government, and he prepared and had an amendment to
a pending bill adopted and passed by the Senate, which finally resulted in the establishment of the Court of Claims.
The French Spoliation bill, to satisfy claims for damages committed by the French prior to 1800, was also championed
by him and passed by the Senate. It was through Mr. Bradbury's exertions that the first appropriation was made
for improving the Kennebec River; he always looked carefully after the interests of his constituents and of the
public as well. Mr. Bradbury declined a re-election to the Senate and returned to his law practice at Augusta.
He has always been a Democrat from conviction, and has always taken a leading part in the political movements of
the day; was a delegate to the Baltimore Convention in 1844, and threw the vote of Maine for Mr. Polk, which resulted
in his nomination. He took the stump and aided materially in the election, and the admission of Texas, which was
an issue in the campaign.
He has always kept up his interest in Bowdoin College; elected on the Board of Overseers in 1846, and in 1861 was
chosen one of the Trustees; for twenty years has been chairman of the Finance Committee. He has also been an active
member of the Maine Historical Society since I846, and was its President from 1867 to 1887; was given a complimentary
dinner in Portland by this society on his eighty-fifth birthday, June 10, 1887. He put through the Legislature
the charter for the first railroad in Maine, the Portland, Saco & Portsmouth, in 1835, also the charter for
the Atlantic & St. Lawrence road.
At the present time. Mr. Bradbury, though he has passed his ninety-first mile-stone, is still vigorous. He takes
care of a large private business, is a constant attendant at the Congregational Church, of which he has long been
an active member, and at the meetings of the Historical Society. His mind is still unimpaired, and his interest
in the affairs of the State and Nation is apparently as great as ever.