Norris Galpin Osborn.

Men of mark in Connecticut; ideals of American life told in biographies and autobiographies of eminent living Americans (Volume 1) online

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no doubt been helpful to him in later life. Having determined to
join the legal profession, he left the Hartford Post and entered the
law office of the late Henry C. Eobinson at Hartford. While a stu-
dent here he supported himself by keeping books for Trinity Col-
lege. In this manner he earned $300, which was then sufficient for
the modest wants of the future governor. He studied his law books
with understanding and enthusiasm and in 1881 he was admitted
to the bar in Hartford.

Having acquired a good groundwork in the law he started to
practice for himself in the office of Mr. Robinson, going each evening
to his home in Simsbury. He made immediate and rapid progress
in his profession and it soon became evident that he was learned in
the law, of a judicial temperament and an able trial lawyer, a for-
tunate combination of qualities, but one seldom found in individual
lawyers, yet always a guarantee of success. As he prospered in his
profession, so he grew in influence in the political world. In 1883,
two years after he was admitted to the bar and but six years after
he left the High School, he was chosen by the Eepublicans of his
district to represent the town of Simsbury in the State House of
Representatives. His career in the legislature was active from the
start, and he soon won for himself a place of prominence in the
General Assembly. As chairman of the committee on state's prisons
he prepared a bill which created the present Board of Pardons.
Formerly any inmate of the state's prisons who applied for a pardon
was required to submit his petition to the General Assembly, a slow
and cumbersome method, which took up the time of the State Legis-
lature which should have been devoted to matters of more general
interest. Mr. McLean's bill brought about a radical and progressive
change, by providing for a board to consist of the Governor, ex officio,
the Chief Justice and other members of the bench, a representative of
the medical profession, and other citizens. He not only prepared the



156 GEORGE PAYNE MCLEAN"

bill, but also saw that it passed the General Assembly at once. This
substantial public service was rendered by him in 1884, only one year
after he had become a member of the assembly. He was made clerk
of the Board of Pardons, a position which he held until he became
Governor of the State.

In 1885 Governor Harrison appointed Mr. McLean a member
of the commission to revise the statute laws of the State. His asso-
ciates on this commission were Judge Hovey, Judge Fenn, and Judge
Walsh, and although it was but four years after he was admitted to
the Bar, he was of valuable assistance to the other commissioners.
Subsequent events proved how well they accomplished the delicate
and difficult task of revising the state's laws. The same year of his
appointment on this important committee he was urged to take the
Eepublican nomination for state senator from the Third District.
He was elected by a large majority and took his seat in 1886. In
the Senate, as in the House of Eepresentatives, his ability as an
orator, parliamentarian, and politician soon manifested itself and
made him one of the leaders of the majority. In the presidential
campaign of 1888 he did effective work for the national ticket, mak-
ing speeches to appreciative audiences throughout the State, and it
was in no small degree due to his efforts that Connecticut gave such
a large majority to President Harrison. In 1890 he was a candi-
date for Secretary of State, but this was the year of the famous
"deadlock," and he was not elected. But Mr. McLean was by this
time one of the recognized public men of the State and this slight
check did not hinder him in his rapid advancement. In 1892, and
on the advice of the entire Congressional delegation from Connecti-
cut, President Harrison appointed him United States Attorney.
During the four years which he held this position he won for the
government every criminal case and lost but one civil case. At the
same time he acted as counsel for the State Comptroller and the
State Treasurer. When in 1893 the corporation of Yale University
brought an action against the State Treasurer to enjoin him from
paying to Storrs' Agricultural College any part of the funds acquired
by the state under certain Congressional enactments, Mr. McLean
represented the state and defeated the corporation. Eleven years
later Yale University conferred upon the successful attorney, who
had in the meantime become an ex-governor, the honorary degree of



GEORGE PAYNE MCLEAN 157

M.A. This is the most recent honor bestowed upon Governor Mc-
Lean and it is significant for two reasons. It shows how a man,
whose school training ends with a High School diploma, may
through useful activity in life receive scholastic distinction from one
of the first universities of the country; and it shows furthermore
the impartial manner in which a great and broad institution of
learning will confer deserved recognition even upon one who opposes
it in a matter of importance.

In 1900 the Eepublican State Convention, which met in New
Haven on September 5th, nominated George Payne McLean for Gov-
ernor. When informed of his nomination he entered the convention
and thanked his supporters in a short speech which is remembered
as a model of tact, sincerity, and oratorical effect. "It is un-
necessary for me to say," he declared, "that if elected, I shall be
elected without pledge or promise to any man save the one I shall
make to every citizen of Connecticut, without regard to party, when
I take the oath of office. It is unnecessary for me to say that my
sole hope and effort will be to keep unspotted before God and man
the bright shield of the State I love." To his hearers these eloquent
words had the ring of sincerity, and time has shown that during the
two years he was chief executive of the State he never forgot the
promises he here made.

After receiving the nomination the Govemor-to-be threw all his
enthusiasm into the campaign. He addressed large audiences
throughout the entire State. His speeches were eloquent, but more
than that. He delivered them with tact; he gave his listeners facts
and he presented them with all the skill of an able and well-trained
lawyer. During recent years a candidate's personality has had a
great effect upon the voters. Mr. McLean's was all in his favor.
He went among the people and they did not fail to notice his sin-
cerity, his frankness, his amiable disposition, and his pleasing per-
sonality. When the ballots were counted there were 95,822 for
McLean and 81,421 for Judge Bronson, his Democratic rival. He
was inaugurated Governor on Wednesday, January 5th, 1901, and held
office for two years. Regarding his record as Governor of the Com-
monwealth it suffices to say that he fulfilled his ante-election prom-
ises and more than justified the expectations of his friends and sup-
porters. He has shown himself to be an able and reliable man, of



168 GEORGE PAYNE MCLEAN

sterling character and amiable disposition, and what is always popular
with men in high position, approachable to every one.

Although there are doubtless many chapters still to be written,
the story of ex-Governor McLean's life already serves as an inspira*
tion for younger men and as a source of pleasure to those beyond him
in years. In his case, application plus natural ability have made
success.




C.^^^^^Wo^^i^-'M//^^^^ ^^~^



OWEN VINCENT COFFIN

COFFI]^, HON. OWEN VINCENT, ex-governor of Con-
necticut, president of the Middlesex Mutual (Fire) Assur-
ance Company of Middletown, Connecticut, was born in
Union Vale, Dutchess County, New York, June 20th, 1836. His
first ancestors in America were Tristram and Dionis (Stevens) Coffin,
who came from England to Haverhill, Massachusetts, in 1642, Tris-
tram Coffin later becoming the chief magistrate of Nantucket. His
father was Alexander Hamilton Coffin, a farmer by occupation.

The usual interests and tasks of life on a farm filled the days of
Mr. Coffin's boyhood. Farming, reading, and school took most of
his time. He was, and remains, very fond of music. His favorite
study was natural philosophy, which he began to study at school at
the age of nine. He inclined to very general reading, with a particu-
lar interest in history and with Cowper as his favorite poet. His
education was acquired at the Cortland Academy, Homer, New
York, and at the Charlottesville (New York) Seminary. At seven-
teen he went to New York to be a salesman for a mercantile house, and
two years later, in 1855, he became the New York representative of
a prominent Connecticut manufacturing firm. In 1858, Mr. Coffin
married Ellen Elizabeth Coe of Middletown, Connecticut, by whom
he has had two children, a daughter and a son. The latter, Seward
Vincent Coffin, is the only one now living, and is connected with
the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company. When the Civil
War broke out, Mr. Coffin was a strong supporter of the Union cause,
though he was physically debarred from active service; but he fur-
nished a substitute, though not required to do so. He was president
two terms of the Brooklyn, New York, Y. M. C. A., which aided
largely during the period of the War in valuable field hospital work,
and he was also active in the same work in connection with his
membership of the New York Committee of the United States
Christian Commission.
In 1864 Mr. Coffin moved to Middletown, where he has since made



I
I



162 OWEN VINCENT COFFIN

his home. During his residence in Connecticut he has been connected
as president, secretary, treasurer, and director with banking, rail-
road, fire insurance, manufacturing, and other business corporations.
Since 1884 he has been president of the Middlesex Mutual (Fire)
Assurance Company. From 1865 to 1878, when he suffered a serious
breakdown in health, he was secretary and treasurer of the Farmers
and Mechanics Savings Banlv of Middletown during the most im-
portant period and most rapid growth of that bank and he held the
same offices and that of director for several years in the old Air Line
Eailroad Company. He has been for years and remains a
director of the reorganized Boston & New York Air Line Eailroad
Company. In politics he has always been a Eepublican, but per-
sonally decidedly averse to standing for any public office, then, or
later for other positions, until his candidacy for governor seemed
to come in sight. From 1872 to 1874 he was mayor of Middle-
town. He was tendered a renomination by leading men of both
parties and assured of unanimous reelection, but felt obliged by
other engagements to decline. In 1887 and 1889 he served as State
senator two terms, and was urged to accept the unanimous nomina-
tion when tendered for a third term, but pressure of business duties
led him to decline. In 1894 he was nominated for governor. His
popularity with the people carried him through, thousands of Demo-
crats voting for him, and he was elected governor of Connecticut
by the greatest majority recorded up to that time, a fact considered
prophetic of his successful career as the chief magistrate of the State.
Mr. Coffin has been as prominent in ecclesiastical, intellectual,
and social affairs as he has been in those of state and business. In
church classification he is a Congregationalist. He was a member
of Plymouth Church, Brookl}Ti, New York, for many years, and
after coming to Connecticut to reside joined the old First Church
of Middletown, in which he retains membership. He was first
assistant moderator of the Triennial International Congregational
Council in Portland, Oregon, in 1898; superintendent of Sunday
schools in Brooklyn and in Middletown for many years; moderator
of the Congregational Council of Connecticut one term, and president
of the Middletown Y. M. C. A., the Middletown Choral Society, and
many other public or semi-public organizations. Though not a col-
lege man Mr. Coffin has had the honorary degree of LL.D. conferred



OWEN VINCENT COFFIN 163

upon him by Wesleyan University and is an honorary member of
the college fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon, Aside from this
Greek letter society he is not connected with any secret organization.
He is a member of the old local literary society called the Conver-
sational Club. The sports he most enjoys are shooting and fishing.
He was for years president of the Middletown Eifle Association and
he was vice-president of the Connecticut Eifle Association during
the presidency of the late General Hawley. He is interested in
athletics and considers regular outdoor exercise invaluable for people
of sedentary occupations.



THOMAS M. WALLER

THE HON. THOMAS M. WALLER of New London, beginning
life as a New York newsboy and rising to many positions
of public preferment, including those of governor of Ms
State and of consul general to London, has had a career that fasci-
nates by its romance and convinces by its success.

"Governor Tom Waller," as he is still familiarly and affectionately
called, was born in New York City in 1840, of Irish parentage. His
father, Thomas C. Armstrong, his mother, Mary Armstrong, and his
only brother, William, died before he was eight years old, leaving him
entirely alone and unassisted to face the world. Sufficient courage
to bring him success could not have developed so quickly without his
having inherited a good-sized germ of it; inheritance and develop-
ment together produced an asset which dwellers in the sumptuous
houses of the metropolis might have envied at that very moment
when he was an orphan in the streets. And if ever he deserved the
title of "Little Giant," later bestowed upon him, it was then.

With pennies given him by a stranger, the boy bought a few
papers and started upon his career, soon doubling his capital and
putting aside a fair percentage. But there were broader fields for
him. Without realizing how broad, his boyish fancy began to pic-
ture them till, after one summer as a newsboy, restlessness aroused his
spirit of adventure. It was in the days of the gold fever of '49. We
cannot dismiss this newsboy period, however, without enjoying one
glimpse of it which he himself gives, with a quotation which at the
same time will illustrate that native wit which on many occasions
has served as a sesame for him. The quotation is from a speech
delivered not many years ago in Brooklyn. "The papers I was sell-
ing on the streets of New York," he said, "were so filled with accounts
of mountains of gold that I thought gold would not be 'worth a cent,'
and with this apprehension, instead of going west with the star of
empire, I went to Connecticut. I went there as to a reformatory
school, thinking that when I was good enough I would return to New





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THOMAS M. WALLER 167

York and become a New York politician. I have stayed there a
good while. I have returned to New York, but only to do business,
not to be a politician. I have had some temptation to step into the
political waters here, but I have resisted it. I am satisfied that a
larger probation is necessary. I am not good enough yet."

His next step after being a "newsy'' was to become a cabin boy in
a fishing vessel sailing from New York. Speak of it as he will now,
it was almost impossible that he should not be caught in the strong
current toward California. He had gone so far as to make his plans
to sail in a schooner for the Golden Gate, when he came under the
notice of Eobert K. Waller of New London. Mr. Waller was of a
benevolent disposition and his farsightedness was to be tested. Dis-
cerning the boy's capabilities, he offered him a home and education,
and the boy had sense enough to prefer them to the glittering allure-
ments of the gold fields. He adopted him into his family and gave
him the name to which he was to bring honor. The little fellow,
who had picked up some schooling at odd moments in New York,
was put into the New London schools, where he made rapid progress
and entered the Bartlett Grammar School of which E. B. Jennings
was the master. There he was graduated with high honors in a class
which included several who were to become prominent in life, and
there he began to develop those oratorical powers which later were to
enable him to hold large audiences spellbound. He took the first
prize in oratory at the school, at the age of seventeen, and has taken
it in the forum, at the Bar, and in the convention hall many times
since.

His inclination was toward the law. After a due course of study,
he was admitted to the Bar and soon had established a lucrative
practice. His power to move a jury was particularly wonderful.
With the coming of the Civil War, his warm heart and good red
blood compelled him to throw aside his law books and enlist. He
was appointed sergeant in Company E of the Second Connecticut
Volunteers April 22nd, 1861, but being incapacitated by a serious dis-
ease of the eyes he was discharged on June 27th. Thwarted in this
direction, he forthwith proceeded to employ his talents as a speaker
in aiding the recruiting of other regiments in his own and other
states. It was then, in this worthy cause, that he first gained fame
as a public speaker.



168 THOMAS M- WALLER

In 1867 and again in 1868, he was chosen representative from
'New London to the General Assembly. One of his most notable
efforts of this period was his argument in behalf of a bridge across
the Connecticut Eiver at Saybrook. Senator W. W. Eaton, the "War
Horse" of Hartford, was the leader of the opposition, which saw
in the plan nothing but irremediable injury to commercial interests
along the river, "God's highway." To-day when a wooden bridge
has been succeeded by an iron one and that in turn is being succeeded
by one still greater, to meet the growing requirements, it is difficult to
recall or conceive the amount of excitement which the bridge project
aroused and consequently the reason for the tremendous rejoicing by
its advocates when the resolution was adopted. The point of Mr.
Waller's argument was, "You can't resist the nineteenth century."

In 1870 Mr. Waller was elected Secretary of the State on the
Democratic ticket, a position which did not interfere with his law
practice. In 1876 he was sent to the House again and was the choice
for speaker. The commendable shortness of that session was ascribed
largely to his proficiency. After the close of the session he was
appointed by the judges state's attorney for New London County.
It fell to his lot to have to conduct some of the most remarkable cases
known to Connecticut jurisprudence. Whatever the cases were, it
m.ight be said, he made them interesting. One of them was outside
his county — over in New Haven County, where State's Attorney
Tilton E. Doolittle was disqualified because of professional relations
with the accused. It was the Hayden murder trial, where the State
introduced expert testimony on a more comprehensive plan than had
been known up to that time. One juror by preventing a conviction
made his name celebrated.

Mr. Waller, as mayor of New London for a period of six years,
gave that city a sharp, strenuous administration, so much so indeed
that at one time there was a mass meeting to censure him for ener-
getic efforts to work improvements. However, at that meeting he
was permitted to speak in his own defense. The meeting adjourned
without action and at the next election the people continued the
reformer in office.

In 1882, while still state's attorney, he was nominated at the
State Democratic Convention for governor. With his brilliant cam-
paign oratory supplementing his record, he won a splendid victory.



THOMAS M. WAXLEE 169

Those who had professed to fear a whirlwind administration were
happily disappointed in the dignity and conservativeness of it, in
good keeping with those of Puritanical predecessors. At the next
convention he was renominated unanimously by acclamation. It was
the year of Cleveland's first presidential campaign. Waller's name
v/as like a watchword, and "Our Tom" received even a larger vote
titan did Cleveland, who carried the State. By the peculiarity of the
old Connecticut law, however, he failed of election because he did not
have a majority over all, and a Republican General Assembly chose
his Republican competitor, the Hon, Henry B. Harrison of New
Haven.

In the National Democratic Convention which chose Mr. Cleve-
land, the "Little Giant" from Connecticut had made a speech which
was notable for its eloquence and power. On Mr. Cleveland's acces-
sion to office, he gave Mr. Waller the very responsible and lucrative
appointment of consul general to London, England. In that office
the late governor made still another record for himself, and for his
country as well. His achievements on several occasions elicited words
of high praise from the State department at Washington. At the
close of his four years' service, a banquet was tendered him by Eng-
lishmen and Americans, including the United States officials in
England, and a massive silver loving-cup was presented to him in
appreciation of what he had done.

On his return to America, he resumed the practice of law, the
firm of Waller, Cook & Wagner being established at No. 15 Wall
Street. "I work five days a week in New York that I may live two
in Connecticut," he once remarked. His name has been mentioned
since his retirement to private life as a worthy one for the vice-
presidency of the United States on the Democratic ticket and again
for governor, but he practically has abstained from politics. He had
ro sympathy whatever with the free-silver movement. Governor
Morgan G. Bulkeley appointed him on the commission for the World's
Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893 and he was chosen first
vice-president of that body, in which capacity he frequently had to
preside in place of President Pabner, and his zeal had much to do
in making it the crowning exposition of the world up to that time.
His last public service was as delegate from his town to the Con-
stitutional Convention in 1902, where his voice ever was uplifted in



170 THOMAS M, WALLER

the interests of reform and fair representation for the people. The
document as indorsed by that non-partisan body bears the impress of
his ideas in many places. That the reforms failed of approval by
the Legislature was a disappointment to him.

Mr. Waller married Miss Charlotte Bishop of New London and has
a family of one daughter, the wife of Professor William K. Appleby
of the University of Miimesota, and five sons, Tracey, Martin B.,
Robert K., Charles B., and John M., all of whom, excepting John,
who is a senior in Amherst College, are members of the Bar. The
ex-governor spends a good share of his time now at his beautiful
home in New London, but seclusion is impossible for one with pro-
nounced ideas on affairs of public moment or for one whose opinion
party leaders and the public generally are desirous to learn.

Since the above was written, the Hartford Courant, alluding to
Governor Waller's appearance and speech as the president of the
Democratic State Convention of September, 1906, editorially said: —

"Whoever heard Governor Waller's rattling speech at yesterday's
Democratic Convention will be ready to aver that he is not a day
over thirty years of age, no matter when he was born. It was com-
mon talk about the convention that he was asked to speak only as
he was going to bed the night before. It was essentially and neces-
sarily an impromptu address, but it was full of fire, sparkling with
quick wit, eloquent, and at times very right. Somebody said it was
'the old Tom Waller.' Utterly wrong ; it was the young Tom Waller, —
who, in our opinion, will be young as long as he lives.

"Governor Waller never made a better off-hand speech than that
of yesterday. He was never younger than he was yesterday. We
look confidently to his appearance in, say, fifteen years, as a new boy
orator; and we venture the safe prediction that the people will hear
him gladly."




Q.






GEORGE EDWARD LOUNSBURY

LOUNSBUEY, GEOKGE EDWAED, the late ex-governor of
Connecticut, State senator, manufacturer and scholar, who
lived in Eidgefield, Fairfield County, Connecticut, from early
boyhood until his death which occurred August 16th, 1904, was born
in Poundridge, Westchester county, New York, May 7th, 1838. His
parents WRre Nathan Lounsbury, a farmer, and Delia Seofield Louns-
bury, and his first American ancestor was Eichard Lounsbury,
who came from Yorkshire, England, about 1650 and settled in Stam-
ford, Connecticut. Mr. Lounsbur/s grandfather, Enos Lounsbury,



Online LibraryNorris Galpin OsbornMen of mark in Connecticut; ideals of American life told in biographies and autobiographies of eminent living Americans (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 30)