Connecticut State Library with state seal

Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 19, page(s) 524-525

LEMAN CHURCH

This [Harwinton v. Catlin] was the last of several cases argued at this term [Supreme Court of Errors, 1848-1849 term], in which Leman Church, Esq., was originally concerned, and in which he would have appeared as counsel before this court, had his life and health been preserved. But he died, at Canaan, July 9th, 1849, about three weeks before the commencement of the term.

He was the third son of Nathaniel Church, Esq., of Salisbury, in this state, and a younger brother of the Hon. Samuel Church, the present Chief Justice. He was a lineal descendant, in the sixth generation, of Richard Church, one of the first settlers of Hartford. He was born at Salisbury, in the year 1794. His early literary advantages were chiefly confined to the district schools and public libraries of his native town. There are few better English scholars than he was. He was also a proficient in mathematical studies.

In the spring of 1813, he commenced the study of law, in the office of his brother above-mentioned, with whom he continued, a most diligent and ambitious student, until he joined the law school in Litchfield, where he continued until he was admitted to the bar.

He soon afterwards opened his office in Canaan, where he remained until his death. Few young men have commenced professional life under so many disadvantages. It was, at that time, a most unpromising field. He was without friends or patronage; and was, for some years, subjected to a bitter opposition, which few men beside himself could have met and overcome. But opposition stimulated his efforts, and he was determined to succeed. When not absent on business, he was always to be found at his office, and at his books, although he had but few of them. Places of public resort or amusement, had no attractions for him.

For some years of the early part of his practice, he was in the habit of preparing all his causes for trial, with great care - those even in a justice's court, as well as in the higher tribunals. He always understood his adversary's case, and was seldom taken by surprise. Another peculiarity of his early practice, was, always to attend the courts in his county; and it was remarked of him, that he was the first in the court-house, at the commencement of a term, and the last to leave it; regardless too, whether his business would pay his expenses or not. He often remarked, that this was the great secret of his success; and that a young lawyer, who was not a constant observer of the business of the courts, would never succeed.

He read but few elementary books of his profession; Coke on Littleton, Blackstone's Commentaries and Chilly on Pleadings furnishing nearly the whole. But reported cases he studied with great care, and always read them with his pen in his hand, treasuring up every principle worthy of preservation, involved in them. In this way, he laid the foundation of his subsequent distinction as a lawyer. For several years before his death, he was engaged in a very laborious and extended practice, equal perhaps to that of any other lawyer in his county.

His habits of thought were intense, and often oppressive, so that he resorted much to novel-reading, as he said, "to stop thinking."

As a public speaker, he was fluent and perspicuous. Of all advocates, he was apparently the least dependent upon preparation. He seemed to throw out his thoughts, without premeditation. His unadorned diction and inartificial method certainly bore no marks of study. And yet, as already suggested, he was a diligent student, and habitually prepared his causes in the most thorough manner. His peculiarities resulted, primarily, from the original cast of his mind; but they were probably cherished from choice. He chose to appear to be, what nature had made him. He never appealed to the passions, in his addresses. He sometimes indulged in wit, or pleasantry, but generally confined his efforts to close argumentation. The severity of an adversary never disturbed him; but when he had a debt of this sort to pay, his retorts were severe and withering. In his professional consultations and advice, he was frank, and never concealed from his clients the difficulties in their way. He therefore bore defeat, and prepared them to bear it, with great composure.

He despised all appearance of foppery, and could hardly conceal his contempt of those who indulged in it. It is not surprising, therefore, that in his personal appearance, his dress and equipage, he was negligent - perhaps even to a fault.

His integrity of purpose appeared in all that he did; and nothing could divert him from what appeared to be his duty. To the court he was always respectful. Though often familiar and sometimes jocose, he was careful never to give offence, but was, on the contrary, a favourite with the judges. To his professional brethren he was courteous and kind.

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