Memorials of Connecticut Judges and Attorneys
As Printed in the Connecticut Reports
volume 43, page(s) 602-604


HENRY HOWARD STARKWEATHER, died at Washington, during the session of Congress, of which he was a member, on the 28th of January, 1876. He was born in Preston, in the county of New London and state of Connecticut, on the 29th day of April, 1826. He was of respectable parentage, and received counsels well fitted to the susceptibilities of early life. He was impressed from his boyhood with the conviction that if he accomplished any thing commendable in life it must be the fruit of his personal endeavor. Although his early years were devoted to labor on his father's farm in his native town, he employed his leisure hours in reading, in the observation of men, and in the study of the causes that lie at the foundation of the triumphs and defeats by which the history of the world is marked. He thus laid down at the beginning of life the great law which guided him to its close.

At the age of twenty-two he went to Norwich and entered the law office of the Hon. Lafayette S. Foster, under whose guidance and tutelage he studied until he was admitted to practice in 1850. Shortly after his admission to the bar he formed a partnership with the Hon. Edmund Perkins of Norwich, then a leading lawyer in Eastern Connecticut, with whom he was associated for several years. He was an assiduous worker, and soon acquired an enviable position among his professional associates, among whom were numbered some of the ablest and most distinguished in the state.

He labored in his profession but little more than a decade when his tastes and inclinations led him into political life. He was appointed postmaster at Norwich in 1861, and thereafter gave but little if any attention to his profession. In politics he was originally a whig, but was active in the formation of the republican party, by which organization he was elected a member of the lower house in the state legislature in 1856. He was also a delegate to the republican national conventions in 1860 and 1868. It is conceded that the places of responsibility in which he moved were filled to general acceptance and with marked ability.

As a private citizen, as a member of a Christian church, as a lawyer, as a politician, as representative in Congress for a longer period than any of his predecessors, he was respected, honored, and successful. He entered Congress in 1867 without the prestige of a great name. His approach was heralded by no marked achievements, by no appendage that would lift him up to high eminence at the outset. In the absence of these, accompanied with an unpretending, unobtrusive demeanor, it would not have been deemed strange had he ranked among the least distinguished of the representatives of the nation. But he had influence from the beginning, and his influence had rapid and consistent growth, till it culminated in placing him among the wisest, the safest, the ablest members of the body to which he belonged at the time of his death. It has been said of him, and we believe justly, that none among the republican members of the house had won more or better friends, and, with a single exception, had gained greater influence or a more thorough understanding of the principles which lie at the foundation of our national prosperity. There were none among them whose wisdom was more sought in emergencies, none whose judgment was more respected, none whose keen penetration and foresight did better service in seasonably detecting threatened evils, and in devising the best means for the general good.

Mr. Starkweather was remarkable for power of intuition. What the mass of men learn by protracted examination and study, by reasoning and deduction, he comprehended at a glance - a power that contributed greatly to his influence and success.

He was distinguished for strong common sense. He did things at the right time and in the right place. He never violated the laws of propriety in his business transactions or in any of the relations of life. He knew well how to avoid in language and practice whatever would subject him to the envy or censure of his associates, or awaken anywhere aversion. He had a kind regard for the feelings and interests of others, and a way of showing it, that commended him readily to the confidence of all. He had a classic face, full of tenderness and power, which well expressed the features of his mind. The law of kindness was written all over it, and on all his movements, so prominently that none feared betrayal in unbosoming to him their burdens or seeking his counsel. Another marked trait of his character was inflexible honesty. In his counsels, in his measures, in his life, everywhere, its principles governed him. He never sacrificed it to secure personal gain, or to please, or to carry out any purpose, however seemingly important. He was a philanthropist and patriot in the best sense, and above all a Christian gentleman, without affectation of sanctity; without any ostentatious observance of the ritual of Christianity, entirely exempt from all taint of sectarian bigotry, he was a cordial believer in the principles of the Christian religion. A religion of kindness, of integrity, and of benevolence in its largest breadth was his religion. The virtues of which humanity is capable had in him evidently more than ordinarily consistent and vigorous development. The remembrance of them is fragrant. It is pleasant to call to mind an example of such excellence, when many are proving faithless to their trusts, and utterances of the degeneracy of the race are being heard from so many tongues. It is pleasant to trace in such a life so much that is ennobling and pure, now left as a legacy to his family, to the church, and to the nation. We rise to a higher appreciation of man's dignity and glory in the contemplation of these virtues. But we mourn that his light went out in the pride of his manhood, "before even the frosts of age had silvered his locks, or the hand of Time furrowed his brow," and we shall ever retain the remembrance of his person and character with mingled feelings of reverence and love.