Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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FRANCIS PARSONS was born in the town of Amherst, Massachusetts, on the 16th of February, 1795. His father was the Rev. David Parsons, D. D., for nearly forty years the pastor of the First Congregational Church there. His mother was a sister of Hon. Thomas S. Williams, for several years Chief Justice of this state. He graduated at Yale College in 1816, and after spending a year and a half as a teacher in Virginia, entered the law office of Judge Williams, then a practicing lawyer at the Hartford bar, and upon his admission to the bar settled in Hartford, where he always afterwards resided.
I can not give a better sketch of his professional and general character than is given in a brief memoir of him prepared for circulation among his friends by Rev. E. P. Rogers, D. D., of Albany, a kinsman of the family, from which I take the following extract:
"After his admission to the bar he steadily pursued the practice of law, and for more than forty years was engaged more or less in business. He soon rose to eminence as a sound lawyer, judicious in counsel, honorable and high-minded in the management of his cases; always frank and courteous in his deportment towards those who were opposed to him in court; never allowing himself to use any of the arts of the pettifogger; kind and considerate towards his juniors; moderate in his professional charges; and through all his professional career establishing the reputation of an able lawyer and an honest man, at the same time and on an equally durable foundation. He never encouraged needless litigation and always advised an amicable settlement of cases whenever it was practicable.
"Mr. Parsons never sought the distinctions or the emoluments of office. He was singularly unambitious, and never courted popular favor. Yet whenever it seemed to him to be his duty to sustain public trusts, he never shrunk from labor or responsibility. He served the public faithfully as city attorney, in the legislature, and on the bench of the county court. In all these public stations he exhibited the same industry, integrity and fidelity which were the leading features of his character in all the business of life.
"Hartford, which for more than forty years was his residence, has always been distinguished for its general intelligence, its high standard of business integrity, and its elevated tone of christian morality. It has always numbered men of the highest excellence of character among its citizens. To fill a high position in such a community is no ordinary tribute to any man. Yet it is not claiming too much for Mr. Parsons to say that he always stood among the first men of the city. To none were more important trusts committed, of a public and private character; no man enjoyed more of the confidence of his fellows; none were more thoroughly identified with all great enterprises of public utility, philanthropy and benevolence, and none have left behind them a purer record. His heart and his hand were always open to every good cause; his voice and pen always ready for the defence of truth and the maintenance of principle. With a heart most keenly alive to all the amenities and charities of private and social life, with a most sympathetic nature and loving spirit, he was yet, in the defence of what he deemed right, firm even to sternness, and steadfast as the everlasting hills. Forgiving and forbearing to the last in private and personal relations, in his public trusts and duties he was the bold, uncompromising champion of truth, and the determined foe of any thing like guile or injustice. The only enmities which he ever provoked were from those whose vices or crimes it was his duty to rebuke or to punish or whose lawlessness he was called on to restrain. And in regard to them he always had integrity and firmness enough to prefer `the praise of their censure, to the censure of their praise.'
"They who knew Mr. Parsons only as a public man, though they saw much to command their respect and confidence, yet could have no adequate conception of the finer and more winning traits of his character in the social relations of life. To know him best it was necessary to see him in the domestic circle and among his friends. He was a most affectionate husband and a tender father. His hospitality was unbounded. He delighted in the society of his friends, and always made them welcome to his dwelling. His manners were frank, affable and simple. He enjoyed social life with zest, and was fond of wit and humor, yet had the keenest sensibility to what was touching and pathetic. A story of distress, or any incident calculated to reach the feelings, would at once excite his sympathy and bring a tear to his eye. His pecuniary gifts, both to objects of public utility and of private charity, were really munificent; and it was often a matter of wonder to his friends, how, with his comparatively moderate fortune, he could give away so much. His kindness to the poor was one of the most remarkable features of his character. He not only gave his money to the needy, but he gave his time, and his counsels, and kind words that were often more valuable than money. He visited them when sick, counselled them as to their temporal affairs, and often kneeling by their side invoked upon them the blessings of Heaven. His loss is felt not only in the forum and the varied walks of public life, but in many lowly dwellings, and his memory will be long cherished with grateful affection in the hearts of the poor."