Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 47, page(s) 612-615


CALVIN GODDARD CHILD was born in Norwich, Conn., April 6th, 1834. He was a direct descendant of the noted divine, Dr. Joseph Bellamy, grandson of Judge Calvin Goddard, for whom he was named, and son of Hon. Asa Child, United States District Attorney for Connecticut under President Jackson. The family of Childe, from which he sprang, migrated from England to Roxbury, Mass., in 1630, and subsequently settled in Woodstock in this state. The summers of his boyhood were often spent in North Woodstock on the farm of his grandfather, Rensselaer Child, with great benefit to his then delicate constitution. He prepared for college at the University Grammar School in the city of New York. From that city he entered the Freshman class at Yale College, and was graduated in 1855 with a fair record as scholar and writer. After his graduation at the Harvard Law School in 1858 he practiced law in Norwich, Conn., until 1864, when he formed a law partnership with Thomas E. Stuart, Esq., in the city of New York, where he continued business until 1867, meanwhile residing at Southport in this state. In 1867 he removed to Stamford in this state, and entered into partnership with Joshua B. Ferris, Esq., a prominent member of the Fairfield County Bar. Samuel Fessenden, Esq., was also a member of the firm from 1870 to 1873, when it was dissolved. In May, 1862, Mr. Child was appointed Executive Secretary of Governor Buckingham, and in August following aid-de-camp on his staff. His active and untiring services during those troublous times, when all the energies of the state and its officials were taxed to the utmost, won the confidence and warm regard of the great war Governor. In 1870 he was appointed United States District Attorney for Connecticut, which office he held up to the time of his death. After his removal to Stamford he was much employed as counsel for the New York & New Haven Railroad Company, and his private practice was extensive and constantly increasing. The secret of his success was an open one. He was careful in his preparation of his cases, and skillful and eloquent in their presentation. "An easy and graceful speaker, his rhetoric was cultivated by extensive and careful reading, and enlivened by a ready flow of humor." He was thoroughly versed in the branches of law on which he was most engaged - corporation cases and suits for the United States Government. For criminal practice generally he had but little taste. He had no fondness for unduly straining doubtful bits of testimony against the accused. His extreme sensitivities made him, at times, in doubtful cases seem to lack grip and force; but when the nature of the case aroused him and justice was in danger of defeat he exerted himself with vigor and effect. While an officer of the Government he kept the record books, reports, and accounts, and all the minor details of the office, with scrupulous accuracy. He showed a remarkable aptitude in dealing with the many cases arising under the internal revenue laws - cases which usually and naturally excite friction and irritation. The Attorney had a happy way of doing the disagreeable part of the business so as to give the least possible offense. In all his official relations he upheld the honor and dignity of the Government, and while demanding for it all of its rights he used none of its powers to oppress or annoy. His word was sacred, and every one with whom he dealt recognized in him a courteous and upright representative of the United States. His whole career at the bar was characterized, as his brethren have put upon record, "by conscience devotion to his clients, courtesy to his brethren, fidelity to the court, and honor to himself." He was no fomenter of litigation. He had the distinctive characteristic - the sure mark of the honest lawyer, often so little considered by the lay world, but the crowning test with the members of his profession - he always insisted on a careful and critical examination of a client's case before suit, and if he had no case that should be litigated he told him so. His conspicuously fair and gentlemanly conduct of a case in court made the trial a pleasure alike to colleague and opponent. He promoted in various ways the elevation of professional standards, and the growth of associations, state and national, calculated to foster a high sense of professional honor. "As a citizen," says a townsman, "he was foremost in every good word and work, and held in high esteem throughout the entire community." His character, as a whole, was rounded by many qualities rarely united in the same person. Gentle in manner, inflexible in principle; intensely earnest, yet courteous to everybody; just, but always generous to a fault; scholarly and patrician in his tastes, while social in all his instincts; reverent, reserved, refined, while greatly given to hospitality and winning in his address; with no lack of dignity he had a certain perennial youthfulness of temperament and appearance that was in itself an inspiration. His was that brave, cheerful, elastic spirit, which, like the rare book of which the poet sings,

"Always finds us young

And always keeps us so."

He bore the physical disabilities of his later years, not only with serenity and fortitude, but with a boyish enthusiasm. His unfailing humor had the honey of wit without its sting. It was honey of the honeycomb, as graceful in form as it was graceful in flavor. A faithful officer, a good counselor, an accomplished advocate, it is not in these relations that his loss is most deeply felt. That gracious blending of nobleness and gentleness, manliness and tenderness, practical force and poetic fancy, and integrity almost austere, sweetened by the heartiest of good fellowship, made him the most charming of companions, and his home and home-life a delight to his guests, a benefactor to his neighbors. Everybody who knew him was his friend, and the rare thing about it was, that as the circle widened the stronger grew the attachment. His sympathy was inexhaustible. Never a sad heart came to him that did not go away comforted; never a suffering body that he was not ready to aid to the utmost of his ability.

His religious sentiment was persuasive, although by no means demonstrative. As his scholarship was without pedantry or ostentation, so his religion was free from bigotry, and of course from all traces of cant. A born Puritan he became the most catholic of Churchmen. He was a member of the Congregational church from 1850 to 1875, when he joined the Episcopal. His pastor thus bears testimony to his usefulness in the latter church. "Few men in so short a public church life acquired so much consideration and influence. The conscientious attention which his trained legal mind had already given to the constitution and laws of the church, and to the special subjects which are now up for consideration, especially the tenure of church property, gave great promise of usefulness."

In March, 1880, he was stricken with apoplexy, and after another attack at Saratoga in the following August he failed steadily until his death, which occurred on September 28th, 1880. He married, in 1858, Miss Kate Godfrey of Southport, who with a family of four children survives him. His loving interest in his friends, far and near, lasted as long as his mental consciousness, and when his memory had failed him on all other subjects. To many of those friends thinking over his bright career, before almost unclouded, and so suddenly eclipsed at mid-day, may recur (as it has to one of them) the noble threnody of his favorite author, commemorative of another gentle and not more royal soul -

"Who reverenced his conscience as his king.

Wearing the white flower of blameless life."