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BRANXHOLM, Thomas (1816 - 1900), eighth Justice General


Justice General Thomas U. Branxholm (1888)

8th Justice General of the Federal Union
February 10, 1871 - June 26, 1896

Appointed by: Walter Esdaile

Preceded by: Michael Bullock

Succeeded by: John Mairland

Justice of the Supreme Court
June 3, 1859 - February 10, 1871

Appointed by: Wright Gallman

Born: June 26, 1816
Kingsford, Adashawnee province

Died: September 15, 1900 (aged 84)
Ellsburgh, Federal District

Thomas Uriel Branxholm (June 26, 1816 - September 15, 1900) was an Almorean jurist who served as the eighth Justice General of the Federal Union from 1871 until his retirement in 1896, having served as a justice of the Supreme Court from 1859 to 1871. His thirty-seven year tenure on the Supreme Court is one of the longest in Almorean history.

Branxholm supported the rise of corporations and transnational business interests in Almorea during the late 19th century. The Supreme Court often took a "laissez-faire" stance on pressing issues during his time as Justice General. Branxholm is considered to be one of the most influential Justices General for his influence on Almorean conservative economic philosophy.

Early life

Thomas Uriel Branxholm was born on June 26, 1816, in Kingsford, Adashawnee province, the third child of Hiram Branxholm (1779 - 1849), a banker, and Malvina Wheeling (1787 - 1871). His older brother Charles (1813 - 1895) became president of the Ellsburgh Stock Exchange; Malcolm (1820 - 1902), one of his two younger brothers, entered the Almorean army and rose to the rank of general. Branxholm's father served as Deputy Secretary of Trade from 1824 to 1827. In 1832, he was elected to Congress as a Reformist, but barely had a chance to take his seat, owing to the following year's coup that overthrew the government in Ellsburgh.

Amidst a febrile environment in the capital, Branxholm attended King's College from 1833 to 1837. After graduating with a bachelor of arts, he read law and was admitted to the Adashawnee bar in 1840. In 1841, he obtained a doctorate of laws from the University of Adashawnee.

Judicial career

From 1840 to 1846, Branxholm ran a private practice in Kingsford. In 1842, he was elected to the Adashawnee House of Delegates as a conservative Stalwart. In 1846, Branxholm was elevated to the national Chamber of Representatives through a special election. By the late 1840s, the Stalwarts were growing increasingly unpopular. In return for supporting President Perseus Scott's controversial excise tax bills in early 1848, Branxholm was saved from the consequences of the impending Liberal landslide in that year's elections. In June 1848, he was appointed to a seat on the New Arvan Circuit Court, responsible for hearing cases in New Arvan province. This was an undesirable judgeship, but better than leaving Congress without a backup plan.

Branxholm worked diligently as a circuit judge, riding justice ayres through New Arvan during 1849-50 and calling out local militias against militant Marian separatists. In 1853, he was appointed by President Wright Gallman to the Trannsa District Court of Appeals, a job that brought more prestige and a better salary. Branxholm attempted to intervene during the Panic of 1858, an economic crisis that originated in the stock market, by issuing an emergency injunction to put Harcourt and Neyman Bank under Adashawnee provincial administration. His order could not be executed in time, and the bank collapsed, triggering chaos in the Ellsburgh Stock Exchange. In May 1859, he was nominated by President Gallman to succeed justice Edwin Barbour. Branxholm was confirmed in a 24-9 vote by the Senate and installed on June 3, 1859, at the age of forty-two.

At the start of the War of Disunion, Branxholm supported President Oliver Dalton's suspension of civil liberties in the name of national security. In September 1861, he joined a 7-3 majority in approving the president's wartime powers to levy conscription and close press outlets. In 1865, he joined a slim 6-4 majority in supporting the federal military occupation of Roonmore, Queensland, Gray Hills, and New Arvan in the aftermath of the war. Branxholm, with his personal knowledge of New Arvan, felt that military rule was the only way to ensure peace until local economies could be rebuilt. Branxholm cemented his firmly conservative credentials by supporting President Walter Esdaile's draconian measures against former rebels in 1867. In 1870, he testified before a congressional telegraph committee for two days about arcane property rights.

Justice General

When Justice General Michael Bullock died in December 1870, President Esdaile favored the conspicuously loyal Branxholm to succeed him. Owing to Esdaile's unpopularity with Congress, Branxholm only squeaked into office by a close 18-15 Senate vote. He was installed as Justice General on February 10, 1871. During his first year as Justice General, Branxholm heard arguments between the president's lawyers and those of his moderate opponents in Congress, who were seeking to dissolve his special courts set up to try former rebels for treason. Deferring to Congress' constitutional power to establish federal courts, Branxholm and the other justices found against Esdaile in early 1872.

In 1876, with the decision Levencadder Steel Company vs. Federal Union of Almorea, the Supreme Court found that Congress has some power under the Constitution to regulate business between provinces, but that individual provinces have the right to regulate most business practices. The decision gave Congress and the Almorean government little leeway to pass antitrust legislation during the years of the Second Industrial Revolution. The decisions Montsargard vs. Black (1879) and Graeme vs. Taigh Bancaidh (1885) had similar results. In the latter case, Branxholm found that Almorean banks were under no obligation to provide insurance to their depositors, and called for such legislation to be passed by Congress. During violent railroad strikes in the summer of 1885, Branxholm supported President William N. Freyne's decision to send in federal troops.

In 1886, Branxholm upheld a challenge to Almorea's first national minimum wage law, insisting that Congress did not have the power to regulate business to such an extent. After Congress angrily passed a revised wage bill in 1887, and the president signed it, Branxholm allowed the law to stand. In the decision Fowlis & Sons vs. Queensland National Timber Supply (1889), Branxholm rejected the notion that monopolies are harmful to the economy and the public, and could not therefore be regulated by legislation. This case was the high-water mark of the Supreme Court's laissez-faire attitude under Branxholm's tenure. In 1890, Branxholm defended the Electoral Convention against short-lived calls for its abolition, praising it as "one of the jewels, in my estimation, of our finely-balanced constitutional system."

In 1893, a year after Congress passed a ban on communist literature, Branxholm and the Supreme Court defended it against a challenge from Almorean labor unions, who claimed it violated their right to free expression of thought. Branxholm described communism as a seditious threat to the Almorean order, which merited appropriate action from the government. After the death of his wife in 1894, and suffering from severe depression, Branxholm informed President James Hubertson of his intent to retire on his eightieth birthday. During his last months on the court, Branxholm helped arrange the selection of his good friend, justice John Mairland, to succeed him. Branxholm remained in his post as Justice General until, true to his word, he resigned at the age of eighty on June 26, 1896.

Retirement and death

Branxholm, now an elderly widower, settled down in Ellsburgh and began to live off his considerable pension. In 1897, in recognition of his long service on the Supreme Court, he was granted senior status by Congress and received the Collar of the Gold Eagle. Branxholm's enhanced status allowed him to sit in occasionally on oral arguments during his last years. His health remained generally good, but in 1898 he sailed to Argus to receive treatment for hypertension, visiting a mineral spa in Segentova and unsuccessfully seeking out Noronnican doctors in Altera.

Branxholm died of heart disease in Ellsburgh on September 15, 1900, aged eighty-four. He was buried at the Cathedral of Hadraniel the Archangel in Kingsford.

By his wife, Mary Chauncey Peniel (1817 - 1894, m. 1840), Branxholm had five children, Edwin (1840 - 1897), Lucey (1841 - 1930), Hiram (1844 - 1925), Carrie (1848 - 1931), Anne (1850 - 1918), and Sariel (1859 - 1942).

The Federal Union of Almorea