Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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CHARLES HAWLEY died at Stamford, on the 27th day of February, 1866, in the 74th year of his age. He was born in that part of Huntington which now constitutes the town of Monroe, on the 15th day of June, 1792. He retained his faculties in full vigor till the close of his life. He argued several cases, some of them involving intricate questions of law, at the last October term of the Supreme Court in Fairfield County. The thoroughness and energy with which he presented them were a subject of remark, both with the bar and the bench.
Mr. Hawley graduated with honor at Yale College in 1813. As an undergraduate he was somewhat distinguished for wit and humor, and gained a high college reputation by writing a dialogue for one of the college exhibitions, which furnished much amusement by its sarcastic exposure of the follies and absurdities of the time.
He studied law, partly at Newtown with Hon. Asa Chapman, soon after a Judge of the Supreme Court, and who generally had a number of students in his office, and partly at Litchfield with Judge Gould. Under the influence of such teachers he acquired a taste for special pleading, and attained to a skill in it which was of essential service to him, particularly before that looseness of practice which has resulted from allowing almost every kind of special matter to be given in evidence under the general issue, had begun to prevail. He was admitted to the bar in Fairfield county in 1815, or early in 1816, and soon after opened an office in Stamford. Meeting with those discouragements which almost invariably dishearten the young practitioner, he went to East Haddam for the purpose of locating himself there, but fortunately for himself, judging from his future success, he soon abandoned the idea and returned to Stamford, where he remained till his death.
In 1821 he married Mary S. Holly of Stamford, who with most of their children survives him.
It was very fortunate for Mr. Hawley that in 1824 he received the appointment of Judge of Probate for the district of Stamford, which then embraced several towns, which office he held till 1838, discharging the duties of it to the general satisfaction of the public. The receipts from this source for this long period of time, thus early in his professional career, which though not large were sure, with the aid of a moderate patrimony, enabled him to lay the foundation of an estate, larger probably than has been left by any lawyer in the state. His pecuniary success was owing however in a great measure to a minute attention to every legitimate source of income and to great care and caution in making investments. He never risked any thing in hazardous or even doubtful experiments.
He repeatedly represented the town of Stamford in the House of Representatives of this state, and the twelfth district in the Senate. He held the office of Lieutenant Governor of the state from the year 1838 to 1842.
As a lawyer Mr. Hawley stood in the first rank. His mind was quick, acute and logical. His industry in his profession was almost without a parallel. He never remained from home longer than business absolutely required, and while there he could be found at almost any hour of the day and evening engaged in the thorough investigation and preparation of the large docket of cases which occupied his attention for nearly half a century. No point that could possibly be made available in behalf of his client was either overlooked or disregarded, and a memorandum with references to authorities was made for future use. Hence his opponents were often surprised on a trial with points which they had not anticipated. On the trial of a case which he feared might result adversely to his client, be was careful to lay a foundation for further proceedings. On a trial to the jury he relied chiefly on a critical examination of the evidence and logical inferences from the facts established by it. He never addressed the bystanders instead of the jury. He never traveled out of the case to drag in facts to prejudice their minds.
Although a slight acquaintance with him would satisfy any one that he was a man of fine taste, and that he was familiar with literature, both ancient and modern, yet it was rare that any thing of the kind could be discovered from his efforts at the bar, unless it could be inferred from the chasteness and correctness of his language. Even in cases which are generally considered as justifying the giving a looser rein to the imagination, he seemed to avoid it, either as an unworthy artifice, or from fear of a failure. This was the more surprising as he was occasionally led by overpowering emotions to exhibit bursts of genuine eloquence. Yet the arguments of Mr. Hawley produced a strong impression on a jury. They gave him credit for addressing their understandings instead of their feelings. As he was well known throughout that county in particular, his personal character gave his views much weight with the jury. As he was of good height and a large frame, and had a fine intelligent countenance, his personal presence was commanding. He had also the advantage of a deep strong manly voice.
His deportment was uniformly correct and dignified. He never engaged in any unseemly wrangles with his brethren. He treated them as well as the court with constant though not obtrusive courtesy. Though not peculiarly liberal in his practice, he never resorted to any dishonorable trick or stratagem. His example had a strong influence to raise the tone of professional character in the bar of the county.
Rev. Mr. Thurston, the pastor of the Congregational Church in Stamford, at which Mr. Hawley habitually worshiped, gives, in a sermon preached at his funeral, the following testimony as to his religious character:
"Mr. Hawley was a firm believer in the Christian religion, and in that form of it expressed by the doctrines which are usually called evangelical. His intellectual convictions were perfectly clear and solid, and had been for many years. But he himself discriminated sharply between the assent of the understanding and the acceptance of the heart. As to the latter he was cautious, on his guard against self-deception, possibly self-suspicious even to an extreme. He said, (they are his own words,) "I hope and I tremble." This, with a deep sense of unworthiness, was probably the reason why he never united with the church. The evidences are numerous which indicate that religion with him was far more than a speculation of the reason, or a cold dogma. The few days since his death have brought me repeated testimonies of those who have known of his deep concern for many years. His constant attendance upon public worship marked his life and example to the citizens of this town. Probably there is no other person who has been within the walls of the House of God so many Sabbaths for fifty years. His reading was characteristic of a profound religious mind. Edwards on the Affections seems to have been a hand-book with him. The works of John Foster, Chalmers and Robert Hall, men of great thoughts and elevated piety, were his study; and his frequent marks upon the margin of the most emphatic, pungent and evangelical passages, are significant of his own sentiments and feelings. Accustomed to use forms in family worship, he wrote during the war supplications for his son in the public service and for the country, in most fitting terms of paternal love, Christian patriotism, and unaffected piety."