Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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EDWARD WOODRUFF SEYMOUR, a Judge of the Supreme Court of this state, died at Litchfield, on the 16th of October, 1892. He was born at Litchfield, August 30th, 1832, the eldest son of Chief Justice Origen S. Seymour. His mother was a sister of George C. Woodruff, Esq., of Litchfield, a prominent lawyer there, and Judge Lewis B. Woodruff of New York. He graduated at Yale in 1853, and was admitted to the bar in Litchfield in 1856, where he continued to practice until 1875, when he removed to Bridgeport, and formed a partnership with his younger brother, Morris W. Seymour, with whom he was associated until 1889, when he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Errors. He was for several years judge of probate in the Litchfield district. He represented Litchfield in the state legislature in 1859-60-70-71. He was a member of the state senate in 1876. He represented his district in Congress from 1882 to 1886. He was senior warden of St. Michael's Church, and, since the death of his honored father, has been one of the representatives of the diocese of Connecticut in the general conventions of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. He married Mary Floyd, daughter of Recorder Frederic A. Talmage, of New York city, and grand-daughter of Colonel Benjamin Talmage of revolutionary fame. Of his immediate family, his venerable mother, his widow, and his brothers, Rev. Storrs O. and Morris W., survive him.
These statistics are required for an obituary notice. They tell of a busy life, of large responsibilities, and of a varied public service. But they are, after all, but the anatomical skeleton in a portrait, partial, cold, incomplete, until they are clothed with the flesh and blood which gave them form and color, and quickened by the soul which gave inspiration and expression to the subject of our sketch.
There are men of rugged strength whose greatness is angular; there are men of professional eminence whose personality elsewhere is insignificant; there are men whose hands are clean in private life, but who consent to corruption in public affairs; there are men of moods, intellectual and spiritual, to-day full of sunshine, tomorrow stirred as by an earthquake. Judge Seymour was in none of these classes. His strength was symmetrical; he brought his personal character to his public service and to his profession; the surface of his character was sensitive to impression, it was easily moved by sympathy, sociality, and mirth, but beneath the surface the depths were always calm. He was as pure in his political life as in his closet. He was a disciple of the same Master in his office as in his church pew. He never forgot the old-fashioned virtues of modesty and self-respect, nor learned, for his own use, the morals of intrigue or the manners of the "hustler." In public and in private, at home and on the platform, at the bar and on the bench, he was the same strong, sincere, just, kind, considerate, charitable man. He was a rare type of the finer civilization of New England. His roots ran back to the revolution and farther back to the colony, in the lines of the best blood and culture. There he found his patriotism, his faith in the people, his reverence for the common law and the constitution of 1639, and his obedience to God. His education in our national university, his experience and observation in metropolitan activities of law and business and politics, and his fairly wide reading of the best literature, broadened him, and filled with overflowing charity a soul naturally kind. His love for mother earth, and its fruits, and flowers, and rocks, and springs, and for the clouds and the stars, and the sunrise and the sunset, fed with geniality and poetry a soul naturally alive to sentiment and imagination. The seed sown in his experience in love and friendship, as son, and husband, and brother, and kinsman, and companion, brought forth fruit an hundred fold from the fertilities of his heart.
As a lawyer he was thorough, quick in perception, sound in reflection, pleasing and effective in speech. He prepared his causes conscientiously. His knowledge of men, his quick wit, his rare appreciation of humor and humorous things, his abounding good judgment, his intellectual alacrity in emergencies, and his courage in a crisis, gave him a fine outfit for practice. He cross-examined a witness always with skill, and sometimes with genius. But no temptation to score a point ever led him into the petty tyranny of abusing a witness. He wore the golden rule on his heart and remembered that the man in the witness box was a brother.
He used his own natural eyes rather than the microscope or the telescope. He dealt, in logic and analogy, with things at hand. He emphasized general principles rather than exceptions. He believed in the course of a current rather than in the opposition of a trifling eddy. He cared nothing for technicalities excepting as they are necessary to clothe procedure in decent form for larger use. As a judge he was accurate, logical, penetrating, intuitive, and full of that common sense which is the basis of judicial wisdom. And as a judge, without being hortatory, he warmed his opinions with wholesome morals. Such ethics, for instance, as we find in the opinion in Coupland v. Housatonic Railroad Company, in the 61st Conn., make good reading. His career as a lawyer and judge strengthens our attachment to our profession which he adorned.
He made friends for good and all, as he was a friend for good and all. His sociality was sincere and full of sympathy and sparkle. His religion was sunny, sensible and satisfying. He was incapable of bigotry or blind partisanship. He had, neither by inheritance nor culture, in law, politics, religion or science, any least characteristic of the traditional Pharisee. His opinions, which he held with reasonable firmness, were always open to revision and correction, and the truth was always and everywhere his supreme ideal.
His life, so genuine, so attractive, lifts our hearts as we feel, and rejoice in the feeling, how good and true a man may be; it transfigures our human nature into the ideal of its birthright of holy charm.
We may not enter the sanctities of a home and a home circle which his presence filled with radiance and affection. But we may remember the spot which was his birthplace and residence: Litchfield, with its picturesque beauty, and its marked influence upon the professional, judicial and political history of our commonwealth, and its social life, abundant in courtesy, and intelligence and refinement. Perhaps no single community of like numbers in our state or in the country has yielded better results in many good ways, notably in the culture of jurisprudence and in the development of a charming sociality, simple, free from snobbery and pride, and full of neighborly kindness and refinement. With most of the honored Litchfield names Judge Seymour was connected by family ties or personal intimacy, and his life was a natural and complete growth, in flower and fruit, of that brave soil.
Judge Seymour is mourned by the bar and by the bench of the state with a common and tender grief. Years of closest intimacy bound many manly hearts to him with a love which may not be told, but which must be undying. His grave is the tomb of hope and promise and of a life broken when it was strongest. He was buried in the afternoon of a gentle October day, when the sun shone through the clouds and brightened the gold and scarlet and crimson of fading nature, and he was buried in love.