Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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LOUIS H. BRISTOL was born on March 2d, 1839, in New Haven, where he lived until his death on July 20th, 1910.
He came of New England ancestry, and the family has been represented for three generations at the Connecticut bar. His grandfather, William Bristol, was a judge of the Superior Court, a member of the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut, and a judge of the United States District Court for this district. William B. Bristol, his father, practiced law for many years in New Haven County, and had the sound judgment, ability and integrity which have always characterized this family.
He prepared for college in New Haven, chiefly at General Russell's school, and graduated from the Academic Department of Yale in 1859. He studied law in his father's office and the Yale Law School. He was first associated in practice in with his father, then with his brother, and in 1888 formed a partnership with Henry Stoddard and John W. Bristol. Some years later John K. Beach and Samuel H. Fisher became members of this firm.
When he came to the bar nearly fifty years ago, a group of exceptionally able men were in successful practice in New Haven. Among them were Alfred Blackman, John S. Beach, Charles R. Ingersoll and Henry B. Harrison. They soon recognized his unusual character, learning and industry, and they gave him their confidence and friendship. With them as associates or opponents he did his earlier work at the bar. In this work he searched out and mastered the principles and appreciated and understood the spirit of the great system of law which we have inherited. With a proper regard for the formalities which safeguard rights and secure orderly and convenient method, he never laid a mistaken emphasis on the letter. With him the law served justice and advanced and facilitated legitimate business. Litigation was a means of determining questions of substance. Among the cases in which he was interested were Lamphear v. Buckingham, which helped to establish the practice in hearings in damages in tort actions after default or demurrer overruled; Clarke v. Tappin and Dale v. Gear, relating to the admissibility of parol evidence affecting written instruments; the New Haven Wire Company cases, in which a method of protecting credits extended by foreign bankers was upheld; Leffingwell's Appeal from Probate, involving the construction of the Act of Congress providing for the payment of the French spoliation claims; White v. Howard, Austin v. Wright, and the cases relating to the will of Philip Marett and the Storrs School.
While he continued to be interested in court work, the duties of the advocate were more and more overshadowed by those of the counsellor. He became, and long continued to be, a counsellor at law in the fullest and best sense of the term.
It was in conference with his clients and with lawyers that his thorough legal knowledge and ability to apply legal principles so as to secure practical results were most useful. And it was here that his natural and inherited endowment of sound judgment and strong common sense enabled him to render his greatest service. When he had deliberately reached a conclusion he acted upon it with confidence, and others learned that in this reliance upon his own judgment he was fully justified. These qualifications caused his office practice to increase, and led the managers of our leading financial, manufacturing and commercial interests to seek and follow his advice.
When we commemorate those whose record is completed and who have deserved and won our favorable judgment, we often say of them that they have lived for truth and have stood for reality. And these things can generally be said with sincerity of any man who has had real success at the Connecticut bar. No one ever practiced among us of whom these things can be more truly said than of Louis H. Bristol. In every sense he was intellectually and morally honest and sound. And in our time we have had no lawyer who has done effective and useful work more modestly or quietly.
I used to go to him for advice in my earlier years at the bar, and always found him approachable and friendly. In the discussion of those questions on which younger men need the counsel and suggestion of those of longer experience and riper judgment, he always had something to say that was worth remembering and which gave real assistance.
His friendships were intimate and of long standing, and were largely with men of his own profession. They included one of special closeness with Governor Ingersoll, which was almost lifelong. He had unusual powers in conversation and in drawing interesting talk from his companions, to whom he was always ready to listen. He had a wide and thorough acquaintance with good literature, and his library was one which gave a lover of books a pleasure to enter.
He has taken high and permanent rank among the veterans of his profession in this State. He will be remembered as one of the lawyers whose strong and cultivated minds, deep reflection, wide experience of life and thorough understanding of principles of law, have made their counsels the safe foundation of social order and sound successful business. It can only be known in the close relations of the profession how often they prevent controversy and secure good understanding. He accomplished his results, not by aggressive contentiousness, nor by weak compromise and concession, but by the clear knowledge of what is reasonable and right and by his power to make these things prevail.
He has taken his place with the men who have honored this bar. He and they have no small part in making and keeping this the land of steady habits and of real progress, a commonwealth in which justice prevails and law is the safeguard of life, liberty and property. They have made and kept our courts such that the humble and powerful meet therein as equals before the law, tribunals wherein no man, however poor or friendless, need lack a strong and faithful advocate nor an upright and impartial judge.
To the names of those whom the bar of this State has recently lost, whom we rejoice to have had as our associates, and who have deserved well of this Commonwealth and its people for their services to the cause of justice, - to the names of David Torrance, Charles R. Ingersoll, Jeremiah Halsey, Frank T. Brown and Goodwin Stoddard, is now added the name of Louis H. Bristol.[footer.htm]