Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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ISRAEL M. BULLOCK, of the Fairfield County Bar, was born at Thompson, Connecticut, the 20th of May, 1844. After a preparatory course of study in his native town, and at Suffield in this state, he entered Brown University at the age of eighteen, where, in 1865, he graduated with high honors. At the close of his first collegiate year he enlisted in a regiment of Rhode Island three months volunteers, and after serving his country in that capacity to the end of the term of his enlistment, was honorably discharged. He studied law with G. W . Phillips, Esq., of Putnam, and was admitted to the bar of Windham County, but soon after began practice at Norwalk. His talent and integrity soon gained him the confidence of the people of that town, and they sent him as their representative to the General Assembly of 1869. Removing to Bridgeport in August of that year, he entered into partnership with Amos S. Treat, Esq., with whom he continued to be associated in business until the fall of 1874, when the firm was dissolved. From that time he practiced law alone, until February, 1879, when the writer became his partner. During the last two or three years of his life his health gradually failed, and his decease occurred on the 20th of October, 1879.
Endowed with unusual mental activity and stimulated by what seemed the certain promise of great professional and political success and distinction, it was a severe trial to him to realize, day by day more and more clearly, as he was compelled to, that all his bright anticipations were to be eclipsed by an early death; but it is the testimony of those who were most intimate with him in his sickness, and nearest him in his last hours, that no murmur escaped him. He yielded with perfect resignation to the divine decree. It was "the will of God," he said.
His funeral was largely attended by the Bench, the Bar, the Masonic fraternity, and many others who had known him in social and business relations. On every hand expressions of sorrow were heard; not simply that an amiable companion had been removed from earth, but that society and his profession had been thus unseasonably deprived of so valuable a member and so bright an ornament.
There was a strong conviction in the minds of all who knew him that his future career would be singularly distinguished. Judging from what he had already attained, this belief certainly appears to have been well grounded. He came a stranger to this part of the state, a young man just admitted to the bar, with no large circle of acquaintances or family influence to introduce or aid him. He came among many older and well established lawyers. Every one who has tried the experiment knows how little there must have been in such circumstances to draw out or encourage a beginner, and how much to hinder and dishearten him. Still, within the short space of ten years we find him a representative in the legislature from one of the most populous and important towns in the state, prosecuting attorney for the city of Bridgeport, city judge of Bridgeport for three years, and corporation counsel for the same municipality. Besides this, he had inquired as early as 1876 a private practice nearly if not quite as large and lucrative as any other in Fairfield County. He was intrusted with the sole management of many very important causes, not only at his own bar, but in other parts of the state, and conducted them with so much skill and energy that he rarely met defeat. He gained and retained to a remarkable degree the confidence of his clients. While he was living those who had once employed him sought his advice in any new emergency. and when they had obtained it relied implicitly upon it. And even when the result of the litigation was less favorable than they had hoped, they were never disposed to attribute it to any failure of judgment, or relaxation of effort, or want of ability on his part. Now these results, in a life that closed at thirty-five, were not accidental. Their explanation must be found in rare qualities of mind and heart possessed by him. What they were, it is interesting and profitable to inquire. One noticeable trait, to which was doubtless due some measure of his success, was the caution and deliberation which he observed in all his professional business. It. entered into even the minutest details of his practice. He was systematic and exact in the preservation and arrangement of his papers, in the keeping of accounts, in disposing of correspondence, in remcmbering and punctually performing every appointment and engagement. Little things, perhaps we say, and yet they form a material part of the basis of all human attainments. Though his perception was quick, and his logical powers at once comprehensive and ready, yet when consulted, even on matters of minor importance, he bestowed upon them his closest attention and profoundest thought. The opinion which perhaps was immediately suggested to him, and which in the end he would probably be confirmed in, still, he was unwilling to adopt and give, until he had examined the whole field, however familiar, and viewed it in every possible light. When his opinion was thus formed it was generally found unassailable. He had from the outset a distinct and firm theory of the cause, and when in the production of evidence, and as an advocate, he came to defend it, every step was taken with precision, for a fixed purpose. and with telling effect. In his arguments to the court or jury his claims were presented so concisely and clearly that they could not be misunderstood, and with a force of reason and authority that could not be easily resisted. So, at all times, himself persuaded, and with an eye single to persuasion, he was earnest, perspicuous, convincing, eloquent. Almost from the time of his admission to the bar he had been so actively engaged in the discharge of professional and official duties that he had perhaps found less opportunity than some of us enjoy for pure legal study. Probably he had not read in course a very large number of legal treatises. His reading however had been thorough and thoughtful. His memory was retentive. He had obtained a complete mastery of the essential principles of the science, and in his application of them to the facts of his cases he exhibited a skill rarely excelled by the most experienced practitioners.
It is not the province of this sketch to dwell upon Mr. Bullock's moral and social qualities, except as they bear upon his professional character. It would be superfluous to do it. His memory in this respect is tenderly preserved in the hearts of his family and personal friends. Their spontaneous utterances, by lip and pen, have already expressed, and will again repeat, all that the warmest affection can say (and it is not too much) of that depth of kindness, that firm fidelity, that devotion to duty which adorned his private life. Yet it is appropriate to put it upon the record while we are considering what he had accomplished, and the greater attainments that were promised him, that in his chosen occupation, in his natural ambition to reach the honors and emoluments connected with it, in the eager competition and numberless temptations necessarily attending it, in his relations to the court, and in his intercourse with his clients and his brethren of the bar, he ever maintained a strict integrity and a spotless honor.
Finally, I attribute no little of his success to a certain seriousness in his disposition and deportment which all his acquaintances must have observed. It was not melancholy or moodiness, but that quality which distinguished him front the trifler, the cynic, the laughing philosopher, and led him to look upon this world and its business, human labor and human affairs, even in their minutest and humblest particulars, as grave realities, not to be ridiculed or slighted, but to be deeply considered and earnestly grappled with. He attributed to these things a dignity transcending their immediate importance, inasmuch as they constitute the means of man's intellectual and spiritual development, and in their tendency and influence reach beyond time and enter into the problem of his eternal destiny. It is to men of this stamp that others turn, from the company of merry-makers, whenever in their temporal affairs they find themselves involved in difficulty or confronted by dangers. It is on the shoulders of such men that others, lay their burdens when they become too heavy for themselves to bear. This characteristic, possessed Mr. Bullock to a remarkable degree, at times perhaps subjected him to the suspicion that he lacked sociability, and it perhaps did unfit him for the companionship of triflers, but it brought men to him in real trouble, when in the stress of their affairs they realized that they were too serious to be treated as a farce. It enthroned him then in their confidence, and assured them that from him their business would receive a treatment commensurate with its importance to them, and that in his services they would have the benefit not only of a clear head and a strong will, but also of a lively sympathy. It was this that preeminently qualified him to be a counselor and champion. More such men are needed in this skeptical and insincere age, and heartily indeed may we lament that such a one has thus, in the flower of his life, been stricken down.
* Prepared at the request of the Reporter by R. E. De Forest, Esq., of the Fairfield County Bar.[footer.htm]