Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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ORVILLE HITCHCOCK PLATT was born in Washington, Connecticut, July 19, 1827, and died at his country home there, April 21st, 1905. He attended, as a boy, the school in his native place afterward widely known as "the Gunnery," and was admitted to the bar at Litchfield county in 1849. He then opened a law office in Philadelphia, but after two years returned to Connecticut and engaged in the practice of his profession at Meriden, of which city he remained an inhabitant through life. He was successively clerk of the State Senate, Secretary of the State, a Senator, a member of the House of Representatives in 1864 and 1869 (in the latter year being its Speaker) and State's Attorney for New Haven County from 1877 to 1879, when he was elected to the Senate of the United States. Of that body he continued to be a member uninterruptedly until his death. He was from time to time upon its committees of finance, Indian affairs, the judiciary, private land claims, and patents, and, after the relinquishment by Spain of her sovereignty over Cuba, from which were reported the measures which definitely settled the character of those relations, and are known as the "Platt amendments."
Senator Platt's legal training served him well in his work as a Senator. He had a practical sagacity and sound common sense that with its aid made him generally recognized as a safe guide in large affairs, as well as in lesser ones. During the last ten years of his service in the Senate there were very few in that body who had an equal in influence in shaping legislation.
He took his election to the Senate not as a reward to be enjoyed, but as an opportunity to be made the most of. In committee and out of committee he was a faithful worker. He entered on old age without claiming its privileges, and without feeling its weaknesses. His influence was greater, his position higher, after he had passed the age of seventy, than it had ever been. He was one of those in whom the process of education never stops till life stops. Largely his own teacher from boyhood on, his horizon was always extending.
In one thing he never changed. As boy and man, as a member of the bar and a member of the Senate, his honesty of purpose and honesty of word held the perfect confidence of all who knew him.
History was one of his favorite studies, and two valuable papers from his pen are contained in Vol. VI of the Papers of the New Haven Colony Historical Society. In 1889 he received the degree of LL.D. from Yale University.
Senator Platt had an extensive practice before entering the Senate, and occasionally afterward appeared in important causes in the courts of Connecticut. He was plain and direct in his manner of argument, careful in preparation for it, and well able to see where the case would be apt to turn.