Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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SIDNEY BURR BEARDSLEY, ex-judge of the Supreme Court of Errors, died at Bridgeport where he had resided most of his professional life, on the 21st day of April, 1890, aged sixty seven.
Judge Beardsley was born in Monroe in this state in 1823. He was the son of Hon. Cyrus H. Beardsley, who in 1846 was speaker of the House of Representatives of the state for several years judge of the County Court of Fairfield County. He prepared for college and entered Yale College, but did not graduate, afterwards receiving an honorary degree, studied law, and was admitted to the bar of Fairfield County in 1843. He began the practice of law in Norwalk, but soon after removed to Bridgeport, where he resided until his death.
Judge Beardsley was a man of strong intellect, characterized by sound judgment and vigorous common sense, rather than brilliancy. As an advocate at the bar he never attempted to be rhetorical, nor to play upon emotions or passions of a jury, but presented his points in plain and simple language, addressed to their understandings, and with great clearness both of conception and statement. His arguments to the court were generally a thorough discussion of the legal principles involved, and were never overlaid with exhaustive legal authorities nor weakened by legal niceties. He soon acquired a prominent position in his profession, and a large and lucrative practice. He had very little personal ambition, and his best professional efforts were always called out by his interest for his clients rather than by a desire to add to his own reputation. He was entirely unassuming and wholly without pretension, and seemed indifferent to those honors that most men are so eager to obtain. He was elected to the State Senate in 1858, and was induced to run for Congress in 1869 upon the Republican ticket against William H. Barnum, afterwards United States senator; carrying his own city of Bridgeport and most of the towns of his county, but defeated upon the whole vote. There is believed are the only political offices that he ever held or aspired to.
While Judge Beardsley was very successful at the bar, his mind was pre-eminently judicial in its character. He looked the judge. Quiet, imperturbable, with a compact and sturdy frame, and a countenance that, though easily lighted up, wore in repose a look of austerity, he seemed well adapted to hold the scales of justice, and lay down, with calm and sound judgment, the law between man and man. He had in a high degree that special judicial faculty that enables a judge to see through the complications of a case into the heart of it and to strip the legal question involved of all the inessentials that so often cluster about and obscure it.
It was therefore with much satisfaction to the profession and the public that in 1874 he accepted a seat on the bench of the Superior Court from which he was elevated to the Supreme Court of Errors in March, 1887. The last position he held, faithfully and acceptably discharging its duties, until the first day of November, 1889, when a resignation sent to the governor several months before, took effect. His failing health was the cause of his resignation.
Judge Beardsley was a man of fine social qualities and was always a welcome attendant upon the festive gatherings of his professional brethren, and a welcome guest at private hospitalities, while he found much pleasure in receiving his friends at his own attractive home. In all the intercourse of life he was courteous, affable and kindly. He was true and faithful in his friendships, and the writer feels that in his death he has lost a warm personal friend.
He was married in his early manhood to Ann Eliza Daskam of Norwalk, who with a son and two married daughters, survives him.
At a meeting of the Fairfield County bar, held soon after Judge Beardlsey's death, appropriate resolutions of affection and respect were passed, upon which a number of the leading lawyers of the county spoke in eulogistic terms of his fine qualities of personal and professional character. Among those who addressed the bar on that occasion were Messrs. D. B. Lockwood, H. S. Sanford, J. B. Curtis, R. E. De Forest, L. N. Middlebrook, A. B. Woodward, G. W. Warner, S. B. Sumner, and A. B. Beers. A paper read by Judge Lockwood gives so full and interesting a sketch of the judge both in his professional life and in his personal relations, that it is given entire. It was as follows:--
"During the session of the county court at Fairfield in December 1849, I was introduced to Sidney B. Beardsley. I had been for some months reciting to the late Hon. Thomas B. Osborne, than a resident of Fairfield, and was desirous of entering a law office to pursue my studies. Upon asking Mr. Beardsley upon what terms I could study law under him, he promptly replied that if I would enter his office he would charge me nothing for tuition. In January, 1850, I entered his office as a law student, where I remained until my admission to the bar in August, 1851. During the time I was a student in his office I conceived an attachment for him which has ripened into a friendship of forty years' duration. The memories of those student days crowd in upon me like a flood upon this occasion. In those days there were a great many more trials before justices of the peace in surrounding towns than now. He always took me with him on such occasions, and my first insight into the practice of law was gained in legal contests before county justices, where Belden and Sturges and Loomis and Ferry and Treat, and others of equal ability, were his opponents.
"As a lawyer he seemed to me to comprehend a case more readily than any other lawyer I ever knew. His mind was symmetrical, well balanced and comprehensive, and he almost invariably reached the right conclusion, apparently by sort of intuition. He was a strong advocate, not indulging in flights of eloquence nor addressing the passions or emotions of a jury, but in plain concise and vigorous language he appealed to their intelligence and common sense. While at the bar he had a large clientage, and was retained in most of the important cases that were contested in our courts. In the trial of cases he took but few notes, but his retentive memory enabled him to state correctly any important item in testimony. He was a man of keen perceptions, a good judge of human nature, and could fathom the motives of men. He was a favorite with the members of the bar, and as courteous as he was congenial. He possessed a rare combination of brilliant qualities that made him the most companionable man I ever met.
"In 1874 he was appointed one of the judges of the Superior Court. Hon. Nathaniel Wheeler was that year a member of the state senate, and united with the members of the bar in pressing his name for the position of judge, for which he was eminently well-fitted. As a judge - a trier of cases - he had few equals. He was endowed by nature with a legal mind. While fully recognizing the demands of justice and law, he had at the same time a lively conscience and a tender heart. He had a keen appreciation of what constituted judicial integrity, and had the faculty of discovering what belonged to equity and good conscience. He was the "upright judge." In 1887 he was promoted to the bench of the Supreme Court of Errors, which position he held until November 1st, 1889, when failing health compelled him to relinquish its arduous duties. In this, the highest court in our state, will be found the most enduring monument of his professional learning in the opinions he has left recorded.
"As a citizen and in all the relations of private life he won the respect and esteem of all with whom he became associated. He was the idol of his family, and was tenderly and devotedly attached to his wife and children and grandchildren and the endearments of home.
"His death is a public loss; and while we are met to express our mutual sympathy and to speak our common grief, I cannot but feel a personal loss in the death of him who was my godfather in the law. And as we lay to rest to-day as the shades of evening gather, and bid him good-night, let us hope in some happier clime to bid him good-morning."[footer.htm]