Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
|Skip Navigation Links|
He was born October 23d, 1844, at Thompsonville, Connecticut. A direct descendant of Begat Eggleston of Exeter, England, who came to Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1630, and settled at Windsor, Connecticut, in 1635, he inherited the sterling qualities that distinguished the founders of his native State; and his natural gifts were developed and strengthened by the discipline he gained through the necessity of reliance upon himself in securing the education that should best fit him for his chosen profession.
Upon the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted at the age of seventeen in Company I of the 44th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers. When his term of enlistment expired he completed his preparation for college at Munson Academy, and at the age of twenty entered Williams College where he was graduated in 1864. After teaching school for a time he came to Hartford where he studied law in the office of Strong and Buck. On March 19th, 1872, he was admitted to the bar, and continued in the active practice of the law at Hartford until a short time before his death.
He had to a marked degree the instinct of service, and this was shown throughout life in all his relations. His friends he served loyally and most effectively. The unfortunate, who by chance or circumstance seemed specially entitled to his help, he served generously, and so modestly that more often the author of kindness remained unknown. As a boy his hot struggles to win an education were suspended to serve his country in her hour of need. The offices he accepted in connection with his professional work were executed in the true spirit of public service. When he was appointed State's Attorney he accepted that position not merely as an opportunity to increase professional reputation but as a call to high public service. He was more than counsel for the State; he was the administrator of an important office. His preliminary investigation of the truth of the complaints that came before him was made with a fairness, shrewdness and thoroughness that enabled him to so marshal and carry on the work of a criminal term as to protect the unfortunate against unfounded accusation, to save the court from futile trials, and to secure conviction, in the trials undertaken, with a degree of certainty that induced the guilty to shrink from a contest ordinarily hopeless, and to rely rather upon the mercy of the court and the fairness of the Attorney in the apportionment of punishments. His pursuit of a detected criminal was relentless; his protection of one unjustly accused was resolute. Indeed, his administration of the office of State's Attorney for twenty years was so exceptionally just, wise, and able, and his name became so closely associated with this signal public service, as to withdraw attention in some degree from the equally important service he rendered in his office of lawyer.
As a lawyer he was distinctly a trial lawyer. Wise and sound in the counsel that preceded litigation; indefatigably thorough in preparation for a combat undertaken; cautious, courageous and resourceful in pressing the fight to a successful issue. His industry was more than exceptional; it was phenomenal, intense, unceasing, all-pervading. He had a personal, aggressive combativeness in attack that was always undaunted, and often irresistible, coupled with a wary watchfulness in defense that was unceasing and untiring. His somewhat obtrusive pugnacity in challenging every adverse movement might give to his opponents the impression of an overbearing nature. This was, however, but a weapon used in the fight. His abounding cheerfulness, enjoyment of humor and acts of kindness, showed his real nature. No one observing him during his conduct of an important trial could help feeling a keen interest in its progress and a sympathy with the fighter. The qualities essential to a good lawyer he possessed in common with many others; but the power of impressing others with that interest in himself and confidence in his judgment and ability, which was one secret of his singular success, had the flavor of his own personality. Not especially endued with polish of manner or graces of oratory, he was built physically and mentally for effective work. His grasp of essentials was intuitive. His plain directness gave attractive charm to his statement of facts, and convincing force to his logic, controlled by a practical common sense and sympathetic knowledge of men. A pleasing self-reliance, an unfailing spring of animal spirits, a rugged honesty, persistent uncompromising purpose, the genial charm of a kindly helpful heart, were all suggested by his presence, and combined out only to arouse in court and jury a friendly attention to arguments he advanced and interest in the cause he urged, but also to impress upon clients and friends a sense of his personal power that inspired confidence, dispelled fear and assured support.
From boyhood be was stimulated to make the most of his natural gift by the constant pressure of a strong ambition; an ambition to succeed as a lawyer. But his ambition for personal success was controlled by his instinct of service that led him to seek success, in serving the court whose commission he held, as well as the clients for whose right he fought. He aroused in his clients a confidence similar to that felt, in the early days of law procedure, for the sworn champion who waged battle for the right of his principal in lists where justice presided at the combat and adjudged right to the victor.
The picture of the lawyer and of the man are one. Its most striking feature may be best portrayed in the words which fitly voice the thought of those his life had served when death proclaimed the completion of his service.
"That sturdy, stalwart presence was a tower
Of strength and hope, in many n trying hour:
In friendship warm and wise,
In large self-sacrifice;
In countless kindnesses we proved his power."