Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 68, page(s) 593-594


FRANKLIN CHAMBERLIN was born at Dalton, Massachusetts, April 14th, 1821, and died at Hartford, Conn., September 10th, 1896. He was prepared to enter college as a sophomore at sixteen, but gave up a college course on account of the limited means of his parents, and was for a time engaged in business and teaching. In 1842 he began his law studies in the office of the Hon. William Porter of Lee, then District Attorney for western Massachusetts, and in 1843 entered the Harvard Law School, where he was a classmate of President Hayes, and studied under Professors Greenleaf and Parsons.

In 1815 he was admitted to the Massachusetts bar and at once formed a partnership with Mr. Porter, whose daughter, Mary W. Porter, he married the same year. Nine years later Mr. Chamberlin moved to Springfield and formed a partnership with Hon. Reuben Chapman, afterwards chief justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. Mr. Chapman being called to the bench, Mr. Chamberlin came, in 1862, to Hartford, where the remainder of his life was spent in practice, first with the late Ezra Hall, then with the late E. S. White, and still later with Hiram R. Mills. At Hartford he gave his attention to the study of insurance law, and for a dozen years was constantly under retainer of the leading insurance companies and connected with nearly all the important insurance legislation of the State. When the New York Association of Underwriters undertook in 1886 the preparation of a uniform policy to be used by all companies, Mr. Chamberlin was employed with Mr. William Allen Butler and Mr. A. H. Sawyer of New York, as counsel for the work. His practice, however, was not confined to any specialty, but was varied and profitable.

Although a staunch Republican in politics, Mr. Chamberlin had little taste for political life, and declined a nomination to Congress while in Springfield. He sat, however, in the Connecticut legislature in 1865, and was chairman of two committees.

As a lawyer Mr. Chamberlin's chief characteristics were integrity, respect for the responsibilities of his profession, unflagging industry and zeal in preparation for his work, and a philosophic temper of mind which led him to draw conclusions from the underlying principles of jurisprudence, independently of technicalities. Upon broad grounds he rapidly reached conclusions as to what the law should be, without regard to any particular decision which he could recall. Subsequent examination of authorities confirmed or modified, or even reversed, his own conclusions; but he vigorously criticised and protested against such as he could not bring into harmony with his own ideas of the proper application of the elementary principles involved.

Keen and accurate in his judgment of men, he adapted himself quickly to their peculiarities. Never technical, narrow, or harsh, and endowed with unusual grace and facility of expression, he was a speaker to whom juries and courts listened unwearied.

For a synopsis of the personal traits of Mr. Chamberlin, part of an editorial from the Hartford Courant printed a few days after his death may be quoted: "Mr. Chamberlin's nature was universally lovable. His warmly affectionate disposition knew no bounds in generous helpfulness to those whom he loved, and the extent of his ready financial assistance to others in time of need was most remarkable. His genial, sunny temper was nowhere so noticeable as in his own home, where he was veritable sunshine to all who knew him. The charm and elegance of his courtly manner, that of a true gentleman of the old school, his long experience at the bar, and his extensive travels, combined to make him a man noticeable in the social world, as in any other, and a personality invariably attractive to friends and strangers alike."

Suitable resolutions were passed by the Hartford County bar at a meeting called to take action upon his death.