Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 47, page(s) 604-606


ALFRED BLACKMAN, for many years a leading member of the New Haven bar, died at that city the 28th of April, 1880, in his seventy third year. He was born in Newtown, in this state, on the 28th of December, 1807, and there spent his boyhood. He was graduated at Yale College in the class of 1828, and after completing his law studies settled in Humphreyville, (now Seymour,) where he practiced his profession until 1842, when removed to Waterbury, and a year later to New Haven, where he spent the rest of his life.

In the year 1842 he was elected to the State Senate from the fifth senatorial district, and in 1855 represented the town of New Haven in the lower house of the General Assembly; and while residing in New Haven he held successively the offices of Judge of Probate, Judge of the County Court, Mayor of the city, and clerk of the United States District Court, holding the last office from 1853 to 1868.

In the year 1871, owing to the infirmities induced by repeated attacks of rheumatic gout, he established his office at his residence, retiring from public practice, but continuing his advice and counsel to some of his old clients. His health gradually failed from the inroads of the disease, which had become chronic, and during the last thee or four months of his life he was confined to his house, retaining however vivacity and cheerfulness that had characterized him through life, and a lively interest in all that was going on in the outside world.

At a bar meeting held upon the occasion of his death, and which was presided over by Charles Ives, one of the older members of the New Haven bar, who has himself since passed away, the following felicitous sketch of his character was given by ex-Governor Charles R. Ingersoll, in seconding some appropriate resolutions that were offered.


Mr. Chairman: There are a few of us here-and when I look around upon the many who are here the reflection that here are so few becomes a very sober one-to whom the event that brings the bar together at this time haws come with a peculiar impressiveness. It breaks about the last link that has connected us with the old bar of New Haven County. That bar, I mean, into which you, Mr. Chairman, and I entered more than a generation of men ago, but of whose contests we were for a while at least, the spectators rather than the sharers. In the lists of those days there was no more active champion than he whose death we are now here to deplore. Thirty years ago, in all courts and in all that our courts had to do, Alfred Blackman was a conspicuous man. And conspicuous, I beg to be understood, Mr. Chairman, because he deserved to be so. For no one of this bar whom I can recall had less desire than he for the distinction which comes from mere display. Nay, nothing would so quickly loosen those finely feathered arrows of his irony which upon just occasion he could so happily use, as the shams and vanities of human life - and nowhere was he so impatient of their exhibition as in the circle of our profession. But he was, at that time, in full tide of professional success-in the prime of life-a busy general practitioner-with a reputation already made as a trusted and faithful lawyer-and that it was certainly his ambition to be. And faithful, Mr. Chairman, let me add, in that high sense which implies something more than mere fidelity to the clients whom one serves. For he had an ardent temperament and it carried him into his cases with his whole strength and an unstinted zeal, but it did not betray him into a forgetfulness of that respect which belongs to the good opinion of our fellow-men or of those grave responsibilities which are suggested by the attorney's oath. And for this vocation he was, I think, admirably equipped. His intellectual qualities were indicated by this robust frame, lighted up as it was by a bright and cheerful countenance. They were sound and vigorous throughout, cultivated by much reading and reflection, but rich in "saving common sense" and with faculties that had been quickened and sharpened and made ready for the varied demands of general practice by a genial association with his fellow-men, and a keen observation of human nature in its manifold phases. In this latter respect he was remarkable. He had rare sagacity. His perception of human motives-his penetration into the hidden springs of human conduct-seemed to me instinctive, and he had that power we call magnetic of putting himself in accord with the varying moods of those he sought to convince. His presentation of cases was, therefore, always forcible, but in those cases where the tribunal was a jury drawn from the body of New Haven County, among whom the earlier portions of his professional life had been passed, I have heard appeals from him which were as effective as any I ever heard at this bar. In this he was greatly aided by a characteristic aptness of language. How he delighted in those simple and sturdy phrases which he would call his "old Saxon," and which went so straight to the understanding and the sympathies of his hearers! He had, indeed, a natural fondness for the study of the English tongue, and frequently I have found him in his office enjoying the "good reading" which he used to say he never failed to find in his Worcester's Dictionary, of which the best edition he could command was always upon his office table. And to this taste was doubtless due that excellent diction he possessed, and which was manifested in every thing coming from his pen.

It is not easy for me, Mr. Chairman to discriminate between the professional and the merely personal character of Judge Blackman. He had such a strong individuality that to those who knew him well he was the same man, whether within or without his office. But he had a large acquaintance and many associations in this community that were not professional. I need not speak of the respect which his sterling qualities commended as a citizen, and which led him, without his seeking, into many positions of public trust. No one was better known upon our streets, and his affable presence, companionable ways and shrewd and lively conversation, brought him from all pursuits warm personal friends. It was my good fortune to be among them. He came to New Haven about the time I came to the bar, and we happened to become office neighbors, and so we continued to be so long as he continued in practice. The association soon brought us into relations of friendship. I forbear to speak of its enjoyments here. But it has led me to see much of him since his infirm health compelled him, some years ago, to lay aside his armor and retire to the quiet of his home and library. The shades of life's evening have been slowly, but very surely, closing about him for much of this time, and he has suffered much, occasionally very much. But it has brought no gloom to his clear conscious and cheerful spirit. And the same bright disposition, kind heart and buoyant temper that distinguished him in the heat of life's battle, has, in mercy, attended him as he has "gathered the drapery of his couch about him."