Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Born at Salisbury, in this State, February 4th, 1785; educated at Yale-College, where he graduated in 1803; commenced his professional studies, in the spring of 1804, with Judson Canfield, Esq. of Sharon, and remained in his office about a year; then attended the law lectures of Judge Reeve and Judge Gould, at Litchfield, until Sept. 1806; when he was admitted to the bar of the county of Litchfield. In June 1807, he was examined and admitted to the bar of the supreme court of the State of Ohio, to which State he, at that time, contemplated a removal. In the spring of 1808, he commenced the practice of the law in Salisbury, in which town he has ever since resided. In May, 1810, he was appointed, by the Hon. Gideon Granger, Post-master general, to the office of deputy-post-master in that town; which office he retained until the spring of 1820, when he resigned it, upon being elected a member of the General Assembly. He was member of the convention which formed the constitution of this State, it 1818. He was a representative of the town of Salisbury, in the General Assembly, in the years 1821, 1823, 1824, 1829 and 1831; being first clerk of the house in 1823. He was a member of the senate of this State, in the years 1825, 1826 and 1827. In May 1821, he was appointed judge of probate for the district of Sharon; and in 1823, he succeeded Seth P. Beers, Esq. in the office of State's Attorney for the county of Litchfield. These offices he continued to hold until May 1832, when he resigned them, and accepted the office of an associate judge of the superior court and supreme court of errors, to which he was then appointed, to fill the vacancy to take place an the 10th of January, 1833, by the promotion of Judge Daggett to the office of Chief Justice.
It is a source of gratification and pride to the subject of this notice, that during his political life, he never opposed the appointment to office, by the General Assembly, of any man, in consequence of the political opposition of the candidate to himself, or the party to which he was attached.
The Hon. SAMUEL CHURCH, Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of Errors, died on the 13th day of September, 1854.
A brief biographical sketch of his early life, and public services, will be found, appended to the fourteenth volume of the Connecticut Reports.
In May, 1832, he was appointed, by the General Assembly, an Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of Errors, and in May, 1847, Chief Judge of the same court.
Not one of the several places of honor and trust conferred on him, was so conferred at his solicitation. The high and important public duties, entrusted to him by his fellow-citizens, were discharged with the purest motives, and an earnest desire to administer justice. No other Judge, with the exception of Judge Wadsworth, who was appointed in 1725, and retired in 1752, and Judge Dyer, who was appointed in 1766, and retired in 1789, ever held, for so long a period, the office of Judge of the Supreme Court of the State. His written opinions commence in Vol. Ix. of the Connecticut Reports, and extend to Vol. xxii., inclusive.
He was ardently attached to his profession. Regarding the law as a science, he gave authority to principles, rather than a multiplicity of cases. Established in a position, where access to large law libraries was often impossible, he had collected a select, and extensive one for himself, every volume of which he carefully studied, and possessing a remarkably retentive memory, he was enabled to refer to the cases, and the principles therein embodied, with great advantage.
As a legal practitioner, he was remarkable for the care with which he prepared his cases for trial, seldom, if ever, attempting to argue one, before he had studied its every point, and drawn up a complete outline of his course of argument. With a large country practice, often extending onto the neighboring states of New York and Massachusetts, he seldom failed to meet an engagement.
In his habits of life, he was regular, and untiringly industrious. To his perseverance, industry, and punctuality, he owed his elevation to a position of respectability and honor. Retiring in his manners, rather averse to general society, or to forming the acquaintance of strangers, he was genial and sociable with his personal friends. To his own family, he was devoted, and with them, his kindness knew no limits.
His religious opinions were well known. An earnest and sincere member of the Protestant Episcopal Church, he loved the Christian character wherever found, and under whatever name. He made no display of his religious feelings or belief; but a strict performance of his religious duties, in which he regarded all others as included, was the great object of his life.
For many years, previous to his final illness, his health was, at times, imperfect, and many of his official duties were performed, while enduring intense suffering, but his appointments were punctually kept, often against advice and remonstration of physicians and friends. His last judicial opinions were written, a few weeks before his death, amid severe suffering, and when scarcely able to sit at his desk.
The Bar of Litchfield County, on the 8th of November, succeeding the death of Judge Church, convened and adopted the following resolutions:
Resolved, That we cherish with profound respect, the memory of the Honorable SAMUEL CHURCH, late Chief Justice of the Superior Court of this state, and deplore the dispensation of divine Providence, which has removed him from his official station, and from all earthly relations.
Resolved, That in view of the fact, that among us was his birth-place and that here his character was formed; that, before us, has been exhibited his long career of spotless professional integrity, and able and useful official duty, we are penetrated with a profound sense of loss which this Bar, and the people of this state, have sustained in his death.
Resolved, That although we are thus afflicted, we are consoled by the assurance, that he was well prepared to enter upon his changeless destiny, and that he died in the calmness of Christian confidence, and the serenity of Christian hope.
Resolved, That the Superior Court be requested to ensure these proceedings to be entered upon its records, and a copy of them furnished the family of Judge Church.
These resolutions were presented to the Court by CHARLES SEDGWICK, Esq., who spoke as follows:
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR HONOR:
I move, at the instance of the Bar, that the order prayed for in the last resolution, be adopted by this Court. In this county, where Judge Church was born, where he always had his home, and where his remains repose, and in this Court, where, in former years, he won a distinguished reputation, as a lawyer, and where, in later years he presided with so much ability, as a judge, it is peculiarly proper, that the testimony, which shows in what estimation he was held by his contemporaries, should be perpetuated.
When I first knew him, forty years ago, he was a young, active, ambitious lawyer, just entered upon a career of successful practice, and yet so far advanced in it, that important interests were committed to his charge, and important cases to his management; nor did any one, to my knowledge, ever complain of a want of fidelity in him, for the discharge of every professional duty. After a service of twelve years, as State's Attorney for this county, he received the appointment of Judge of this Court. It is believed, by those who knew him best, that he possessed elements of character, which eminently fitted him for that position; and those who have lived to witness his whole career, are happy in the belief that their expectations of him have not been disappointed. He lived to a good age, and died with his armor on. I believe it is the first instance, in which a Chief Judge of this Court has died in office. If the fact is otherwise, the event must have occurred at a very early period of our judicial history.
For many of the last years of his life, the religious element of his character was very conspicuous. He loved to converse on serious subjects, and those who have been intimately acquainted with him, were aware, that he had made himself familiar with those amazing solemnities, which invest the future destiny of every human being. In the last conversation I had with him, he spoke of the approaching termination of his official labors, and of the probability he should not long survive; saying, "as the circle of friends here is constantly growing smaller, and the circle there," pointing upwards, "is constantly growing larger, I am ready to go, whenever the summons shall come to call me away." These were the last words I ever heard him utter. The next time I heard of him he had passed away.
"Multis ille bonis flebilis, occidit."
He has gone to the "land of silence," as if to admonish us all, and especially those of us, around whom the shadows of life's evening are gathering, that in the midst of life, we are in death; and that even virtue and benevolence can oppose, successfully, no shield to the shaft of the great destroyer. He sleeps in the beautiful township of his nativity, and in a spot of earth selected, by himself, for his own burial-place, but a very few days before he was summoned to its occupancy; and though deep are the slumbers that rest upon his mortal remains, and "low is the pillow of dust," on which his venerable head reclines, yet green be the turf above his resting-place, and green in our hearts, the undying memory of his useful public services, and his eminent private worth.[footer.htm]