Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 60, page(s) 590-592


John Perkins Cushing Mather, a prominent member of the New London County bar, died at his residence in New London on the 12th day of February, 1891.

He was the son of Capt. Andrew Mather, a native of Lyme in this state, who for many years, and until his death, was a commander in the United States revenue marine, and for a long period in the latter years of his connection with the service was in command of the cutter stationed at New London. His family residence was at New London. There his son John was born on September 23d, 1816, in the homestead that continued to be his home through all his long life. The son entered Yale College at the age of seventeen, and graduated in the class of 1837.

Choosing the law to be his profession, after he left college he entered upon its practical study in the office of the late Lyman Law of New London. He was admitted to the bar in 1839, and commenced a practice at New London, which was actively continued (except as it was interrupted or encroached upon by the duties of judicial or political positions to which he was called), until his retirement from professional and public business in the year 1886.

He was chosen mayor of the city of New London in 1845, and held that office by re-election until he resigned it in 1850 to become the secretary of the state.

In 1849 he was elected one of the representatives of the town of New London in the General Assembly, and served on its judiciary committee. In 1850 he was elected by the General Assembly secretary of the state, to fill out the unexpired term of Hon. Hiram Weed, who died during his term, and was continued in the office for three annual terms next following. In the elections of 1851, 1852 and 1853 he was the nominee for that office on the democratic state ticket, which was headed, in each of those elections, with the name of the Hon. Thomas H. Seymour. In 1851 there was no choice of state officers by the people, but the General Assembly by its vote chose the democratic candidates. In 1852 and 1853 Mr. Mather, with others of the democratic nominees, was elected by the popular vote.

In 1858 Mr. Mather was appointed, by President Buchanan, the collector of customs at New London. That office he held until the early part of President Lincoln's term in 1861, when he gave place to a republican successor appointed by the new president.

In 1866, 1867, 1868, 1870 and 1873, he was the judge of the police and city court of New London. In 1871 he was judge of the probate court for the New London district. He was a little later one of the five revisers of the statutes of the state by whom the revision of 1875 was prepared. In 1878 and 1879 he sat in the state senate, from the New London district.

In 1879 he was appointed judge of the Court of Common Pleas in New London County, and remained in that office, by reappointment when his first term closed, until in 1886 he relinquished it because he had reached the limit of age fixed by the constitution of the state.

This enumeration of the various offices filled by Judge Mather during his extended career, may well serve to indicate the extent and variety of his qualifications for rendering useful service to his fellow citizens in public stations of trust and responsibility. It exhibits the subject of our sketch, however, as devoting much of his time through a course of many years to public affairs more or less connected with or related to politics or political influences. But he was not a politician, and he was not an office seeker. The duties of these places were cast upon him by the common voice of fellow-citizens who recognized his fitness to serve them and who called him to that service because he was the man capable and trustworthy for the duty. The attractions of politics or of office were never, to his view, sufficient to draw away his mind from its attachment to his chosen profession of the law. From first to last, - at all times, - he was faithful and earnest in his devotion to the duties of that profession. He was, above all things else, the lawyer always.

To the more showy branches of legal practice, that so much fill the eye of the general public outside the bar, he seemed not so much adapted or inclined. He made no effort to attain distinction as an orator, or as a brilliant contestant in the struggles of the court room. His habit was quiet, unobtrusive, devoid of all the pretensions that might challenge the admiring notice of the populace. His sphere was that of the counsellor, and in that field of service he was in a rare degree wise and prudent. His knowledge of the law was full and profound. He was patient to hear, keen to observe and to scan, close and sound in reasoning, careful in considering, firm in his conclusions and faithful to them, and his speech was the plain and direct and clear expression of the wisdom that was in him.

On the bench he exhibited admirably these qualities so much to be desired and so highly to be prized in those of our profession who are called to judicial positions. Alike by his brethren of the profession and by the laity outside the bar, he was recognized by the observant ones as the right man for the place, the upright and learned magistrate, the model judge. Many there are of the members of the bar - of the junior, perhaps, especially - who cherish grateful memories of his kindly disposition and demeanor.

After he left the bench in 1886 Judge Mather lived in quiet retirement at his ancestral home in New London. He was never a man of robust physique, and in his last years, as bodily strength declined and infirmities grew and multiplied, he remained more and more in the seclusion of his home, among his books. He had always been an enthusiastic book-lover, and in his last years his library was, more than ever before, the place where he loved to be.

He died of an attack of bronchitis, at about three o'clock on the morning of the 12th of February, 1891. Late in the evening of that night his physician saw indications that the end was at hand. The patient received with undisturbed composure the announcement that before the rising of the morning's sun his eyes would have closed forever upon all the things of the earth, and he calmly awaited the end.

With serene soul, and brave heart, and unfaltering step, this honored brother in our honorable profession, who had finished his work here, calmly and quietly passed out through the invisible portal into the eternal mysteries of the world beyond.