Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 29, page(s) 614-615


I RECALL from the printer these closing sheets to add another worthy name to the list of our memorable dead. Jonathan Barnes Esq., for many years the acknowledged head of the Middlesex County bar, and a man of great classical as well as legal attainments, died at Middletown, where he resided, on the 24th of December, 1861, at the age of seventy-two. The following notice of him is taken from the Sentinel & Witness, a Middletown paper.

JONATHAN BARNES was born in Tolland, in the year 1789, and was the son of Jonathan Barnes, an attorney of eminence in Tolland county. He was graduated at Yale College, in 1810. Having finished his collegiate course he commenced the study of law with his father, but removed to Middletown in 1811, and pursued and completed his studies with Chauncey Whittelsey, Esq., a prominent lawyer of this place. He was admitted to the bar in 1813, and from that time almost to the day of his death he has practiced in Middletown. We do not believe that any lawyer ever left behind him such an example of unremitting and unfaltering labor in his profession. He was constantly employed in the duties of his calling, never absent from the city, and seldom even away from his office. In sickness and in health he was to be found at his post, and at last he died with "the harness on."

In his profession he stood among the first, as the many clients who entrusted their interests to his charge can testify. He never strove to shine, but simply endeavored to do his duty to his client, preferring rather the approval of a mind conscious of right than the plaudits of the public. His store of legal erudition was vast and varied, and was so systematized that it was on every occasion ready for use. His style of speaking corresponded with the character of the man. He never attempted empassioned declamation, or brilliant figures of rhetoric, but calmly made his statements of fact, and reasoned out his positions. He had a fine command of language, and a polished taste in the choice of it. He never gave utterance to anything low or vulgar; and if his arguments had been taken down as they fell from his lips, they would have made finished essays.

His reading outside of his profession was extensive and various, and upon almost every subject of ordinary conversation he could talk easily and interestingly. His love for literature never deserted him, even amid the trying duties of his profession. He devoted a portion of each day to reading the classics: and late in life he was probably more familiar with the great writers of Greek and Roman literature than when he received his diploma. To his classical attainments he added an excellent knowledge of several modern languages, and his acquaintance with the Hebrew text of the old Testament would have done credit to a theologian.

He did not aspire to political honors, and never stood before the public as a candidate for office. He preferred the quiet routine of the daily duties of his calling, and was contented never to quit them to join in the scramble of scheming politicians. If he had entered public life he would undoubtedly have been successful and distinguished, for he who served individuals so well and so faithfully would surely have served the public with exemplary fidelity.

He became a member of the North Congregational Church, on the 5th of July 1829, and has been ever since a pious and consistent christian. While he was in the enjoyment of health he was a regular attendant upon the service of the sanctuary, and even when stricken with disease he was present in his pew as often as possible. For many years he was a teacher in the Sunday school of the church which he attended, and many of those who searched the scriptures under his guidance, and are now pursuing their various avocations in all parts of the country, remember to this day with delight the expositions which he gave. He died on the 24th of December 1861, and has gone down to the grave in the fullness of age. Leaving behind him a character fragrant with every excellence.