Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 36, page(s) 587-588



ISAAC TOUCEY was born at Newtown, Connecticut, November 5th, 1796, and studied law with the Hon. Asa Chapman of Newtown, afterwards a Judge of the Supreme Court of Errors of this State. Mr. Toucey commenced the practice of his profession in Hartford in 1818, and soon attained a high rank at the bar. He held the office of State Attorney for Hartford county from 1822 till 1835. In the latter year he was elected a representative to Congress, and continued to represent his district in that capacity for four years. In 1846 he was elected Governor of the state. During the latter part of President Polk's administration Mr. Toucey filled the office of Attorney General of the United States. In 1850 he was a member of the Senate of his native state. In 1851 he was elected to the Senate of the United States and held that office through his term of six years. When Mr. Buchanan became President of the United States, Mr. Toucey went into his cabinet and held the office of Secretary of the Navy during that administration, at the close of which he went back to private life. In addition to the public stations which he filled during his long and useful life, there were others which he was offered and declined. Among these was a seat on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States. From his admission to the bar, till his election to the U. S. Senate in 1851, Mr. Toucey was constantly devoted to the duties of his profession, with the exception of the four years during which he represented his district in the lower house of Congress. He justly ranked among the ablest lawyers in the state. He was thorough and indefatigable in the preparation and trial of his causes. His manner was imposing, but somewhat cold and formal. But his courage was undaunted and his perseverance unflagging. He never despaired or gave up the cause of his client until every resource which the law furnished had been exhausted. He was a very accurate lawyer, learned and exact in pleading, and clear and orderly in the presentation of his case. He was tall in person, and though of slender figure he had fine features and a commanding presence. He spoke slowly, but with great precision. His diction was strong and clear, but without a particle of ornament. He addressed himself exclusively to the understanding of both courts and juries. He was never eloquent in the popular sense, but was often comprehensive and powerful in argument. The writer of this notice once asked the ablest lawyer in Connecticut which was the most powerful argument he had ever heard at our bar. He answered unhesitatingly, "The argument of Mr. Toucey before the Supreme Court of Errors in the case of Phalen v. Clark." With such intellectual and professional qualifications it is not surprising that he attained high professional and public honors.

The private character of Mr. Toucey was without a stain. He was a consistent and devout member of the Episcopal church. He was eminently a just man. During an intimate acquaintance with him of nearly twenty years, during some of which his political action was assailed with unsurpassed bitterness, the writer of these lines never heard him utter one word of resentment. In his own convictions he was as firm as a granite rock and he held to them with a strength and tenacity of will that were never surpassed; but without the least trace of bustle or bluster. His self-possession never forsook him, and on all occasions he exhibited the bearing of a high-toned gentleman. His administration of the Navy Department during the last part of Mr. Buchanan's administration has often been severely criticised. This is not the place in which to vindicate his political career; but it may be said with entire truth, of which there exists ample and conclusive proof, that these criticisms were without foundation. This has been frankly admitted by those of his political opponents who have taken the trouble to ascertain the facts.

After the close of his public career at Washington, Mr. Toucey returned to his residence at Hartford, where he continued to reside until his death, which took place July 30th, 1869.