Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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The Hon. THOMAS DAY, for many years, Reporter of the Judicial Decisions of the Supreme Court of Errors, died on the first day of March, 1855.
At a meeting of the members of the Hartford County Bar, holden at the Court Room, on the third day of March 1855, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted:
Whereas the Hon. THOMAS DAY, one of our most venerable citizens and a member of this Bar, has been removed by death, therefore,
Resolved, That the event calls upon us for an expression of our share in the common sorrow.
Resolved, That we cherish the highest esteem for the many excellencies and great worth of the deceased. By a long and honorable performance of various important trusts, he was entitled to the respect awarded to fidelity in public duties. Connected for many years with a high position, in the administration of state affairs he was unswerving; as counselor, safe and judicious; and on the bench, he was an example of judicial integrity; as a reporter of the decisions of the Supreme Court of Errors, his accuracy and discrimination commended themselves to the profession, and in our sister states, as well as in this, those Reports were received and approved, as of the highest authority; while, during a long and useful life among us, his quiet virtues and uniform courtesy won for him the highest respect as a citizen. Thus he honored his public stations, and has left a name above approach. We lament his death and will cherish the memory of his many virtues.
Resolved, That we sympathize with the family of the deceased, and tender them our affectionate condolence in their affliction.
Resolved, That as testimony of esteem, we unitedly attend his funeral this afternoon.
Resolved, That a copy of the foregoing resolutions be signed by the Chairman of this meeting and communicated to the family, and published in the daily papers in this city.
Resolved, That Hon. Martin Welles be appointed to communicate these resolutions to the Honorable Superior Court now in session, and request that the same may be entered upon the records of said court.
On Monday, the 12th of March, 1855, which was the time assigned by the members of the Bar presenting the resolutions, Hon. Martin Welles addressed the Court as follows:
MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT:
The Bar of this County have requested me to present these resolutions to the Court and to move your Honor that they be entered upon its records; that these expressions of respect and esteem may be preserved in the most enduring form. It is fit that these memorials should live - should remain as evidence of our deep and grateful sense of obligation to this distinguished man, for his faithful and invaluable services to the profession.
For duration, those services are probably without a parallel in the annals of the Law. From 1802 to 1853, he has reported the decisions of the Supreme Court of Errors. During this period, seven different Chief Justices have presided in that Court, each holding office, with perhaps one exception, until disqualified by age.
As a result of these protected labors, we have twenty-six volumes of Reports.
In addition to these Reports, he has edited, with valuable notes, several elementary works and many volumes of English Reports. What a record of mental power do these volumes present on the part of the Bar and the Bench! What labor - what research - what talent - what nice discrimination - what enlarged views, and what careful adjustment of conflicting claims.
In these volumes the dead speak; from them, while our language shall last, there will be going forth an influence, superior to mere legislation, which shall affect all our relations and reach to every interest.
Of Mr. Day, as a Reporter, it has been truly said, that he had no superior in the ability to grasp the precise point decided, and to present that point clearly and definitively; in the power to extract the spirit of the decision separated from all extraneous matter.
Were I to discriminate among the Reports, I should say that the first five volumes of Day's Reports were more rich and valuable in the arguments of counsel, than any other Reports I have seen, and were I called upon to recommend to a young lawyer the best collection of law arguments I have ever known reported, I should not hesitate a moment in selecting the masterly arguments contained in those volumes.
It is melancholy to reflect that of all those distinguished men who prepared and presented those ingenious and learned arguments, nearly all, with their reporter, are silent in death. Of those who remain, I scarcely remember one, except Chief Justice Williams, and Mr. Staples of New York. When I look back over the list of great men, whose names are presented in those early volumes, even no farther than my own recollection, it seems one long procession to the tomb.
Of Judge Day, as Chief Judge of the County Court, for a series of years, (the court then consisting of three judges,) I can not forbear to speak; of him, in that capacity, I feel entitled to be my testimony, having been associated with him, for many years, as a humble member of that court. I am sure that a more just, upright and impartial judge never sat to decide controversies among men, and no man whispered, or even suspected, that he could be swerved from the right. Although naturally timid, in the administration of justice he was fearless and independent. As an accurate and learned lawyer, he had few superiors, and his opinions on legal questions were regarded, by the bar, as entitled to great respect.
In his charges to the jury, which were always written, he was brief and comprehensive, yet clear and distinct, presenting and deciding each point of law, raised by counsel on the argument, and nothing else. As your Honor will remember, he carefully abstained from passing that just boundary, which separates the province of the court from the province of the jury. Shunning no responsibility on questions of law, he assumed none on questions of fact.
That he was a popular judge, possessing the entire confidence of the Bar and community, is fully evinced by his annual appointments to that office for such a series of years.
Of him as a man, it is unnecessary for me to speak. Here, in this city where he resided so long, and discharged so many important public trusts, he was known and read of all men, and by all approved. His has been a favored lot. Spared the exhausting and wearing contests, which attended the active duties of the profession, he stood by, a clam intelligent spectator of the conflict, recording the result. While others have been assailed in the ferocity of party spirit, or wounded by the shafts of calumny, he has passed smoothly on, "by gentle wings up-borne." Enjoying the consolations of friendship, and possessing an easy fortune and an extensive reputation, blest with all that is valuable in possession for earth, and all that is cheering in prospect for heaven, he has been kindly, calmly brought to the "consistent close of a consistent life,"-"content to live, yet not afraid to die."
And when the appointed hour came, he left us: to use the words of the just and beautiful eulogium, at his funeral, as "one who had passed through life - without a cloud upon his sun, or a spot upon his character."
I move that these resolutions now presented, be entered upon the records of this court.
Judge ELLSWORTH responded to the resolutions as follows:
GENTLEMEN OF THE BAR: I most cheerfully grant the motion. It is wholly unnecessary to say that I most heartily concur in the sentiments of these resolutions. They express nothing too much in eulogy of that respected man, whom we all reverenced, - in whom we all placed the most unbounded confidence. His abilities, and his judicial knowledge were of the highest order. When I came into active life in this county, in 1813, there was already no superior guide, no one whom I could more freely and safely consult in relation to any question before the court. He would have done honor to any judicial station that could have been assigned him in the state. He was a most amiable man, eminently distinguished for his taste, and of the strictest integrity, - an integrity founded in deep religious sentiment. The pervading religious element of his character made his last days truly happy. We can not doubt, gentlemen, that one so eminently distinguished for his virtues on earth, is received to enjoy, in the next world, the society of the truly great and good, who have gone before him.
I rejoice that these resolutions are to stand upon the records, as a perpetual memorial of our departed friend.[footer.htm]