Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
|Skip Navigation Links|
THOMAS BURR OSBORNE died at his residence in New Haven on the 2d day of September, 1869, in his seventy-second year.
He was born in that part of Weston which is now Easton, in Fairfield County, July 8th, 1798. He graduated at Yale College in 1817; studied law with the late Seth P. Staples, Esq., and was admitted to the bar at New Haven in 1820. In the same year he commenced the practice of the law in Fairfield, (then and for many years after one of the shire towns of Fairfield County,) and continued to reside there until 1854, when he removed to New Haven. He was thus identified during the whole period of his professional practice with that brilliant era of the Fairfield County bar when Sherman, Bissell, Booth, Hawley, Dutton, and others scarcely less distinguished, were his associates, and among then he took a prominent position as a sound lawyer, an able advocate, and a man of the purist character and of spotless integrity. From the confidence reposed in his ability and character he was made the recipient of many public offices and trusts which withdrew him during a large part of his career from active labors as an advocate. He was appointed clerk of the Superior and County Courts of Fairfield County in 1826 and held that office until 1839. In 1836 he was sent to the legislature as representative from Fairfield. In 1839 he was elected to Congress and re-elected in 1841. In 1844 he represented his senatorial district in the legislature, and was in the same year appointed Judge of the County Court for Fairfield County, which office he held for several years. In 1850 he was again sent to the legislature from Fairfield. In 1855, (the year following his removal to New Haven,) he was appointed Professor of Law in the Yale College, and serve in that capacity with great fidelity and acceptance until, in consequence of advancing years, he found the duties of the station burdensome, when, in 1865 he resigned the office.
Judge Osborne was of rather a retiring disposition, averse to the public struggles and displays by which men generally achieve reputation, but on those occasions (and they were not few in his professional and political career,) when his powers were called into action, he evinced signal vigor and ability. As a judge his reputation, through necessarily loyal, was of the highest, and indeed his qualities of mind and disposition, while they peculiarly fitted him for the bench, also caused him to enjoy its duties far more than the active rivalries of the bar.
In his private and social life Judge Osborne was a model. A man of deep-seated affections he loved the quiet happiness of the domestic circle beyond all other enjoyments, and to his religious character he manifested the same profound but unobtrusive earnestness and devotion. He was married September 26, 1826, to Miss Elizabeth Huntington Dimon of Fairfield, who died August 19, 1851. Two children survive him-Arthur D. Osborne, now clerk of the Superior Court in New Haven county, and Mary Elizabeth, the wife of Hon. Henry B. Harrison, of the New Haven bar.
At the meeting of the New Haven County Bar held after Judge Osborne's death to take appropriate action in view of that event, the following remarks by Charles Ives, Esq., so felicitously express the estimate in which he was held by those who knew him best that they are here inserted.
"Judge Osborne was so fortunately situated that he was not under the necessity of mingling in those forensic strifes that so severely try the nerves, and ruffle and harass the spirit, and which at times, cannot but have a disturbing effect upon the temper. He was able to follow the law as a student, to learn and teach its philosophy; some of use are obliged to be its pack-horses. Thus pursuing the law as a science, his mind was enlarged and disciplined, and it was delightful to see in his old age how pure and calm and philosophic it rose, uncontaminated, above the grosser things of life. As I have met him from day to day, during the last twenty years, and heard him, with his keen, reflective, philosophic mind, discourse in regard to local, state and national affairs, the philosophy of life, man and his destiny, he has reminded me, more than any man I have ever known, of Socrates, whose delight it was to converse with young men in the streets and market-places, upon laws, politics, ethics, religion and other subjects of interest.
"I have know Judge Osborne during his residence in New Haven, a period of some fifteen years, and I think I can safely say that, during that time, so upright has been his life, so calm, so pure, so genial and lovable has he been in all his relations, that he dies without an enemy, and probably not leaving a man behind who has ever heard anything said to his discredit. It is a happy thing for a man to pass through the world and so fill up the measure of a long life, that he may lie down at last in the grave with the blessings of a whole community upon his memory."