The current website of the New London County Bar Association is a fairly no-frills affair. It gives a directory of lawyers in the organization, directions to the courthouses in the area, advice on how jurors should dress and conduct themselves, and a few other odds and ends. The only nod it gives to the history of the association is a sporadic list of past presidents, which happens to include a person mentioned in this week's selected eBay item.
This eight-page pamphlet dates back to 1881 and details resolutions adopted by the New London County Bar Association. Particular mention is given to an address given by John Turner Wait in memory of the Honorable Lafayette S. Foster. Wait is the first president recorded by the association, serving from 1874 to about 1895 (the latter date is appended with a question mark). The association's records get more sporadic after that, recording only the non-consecutive terms of the same person before adding year-to-year presidents from 1955 to 2009.
Foster had a rich life of public service, studying law in Norwich but joining the bar in Maryland after taking over an academy there. He returned to Norwich, served in the Connecticut house of representatives, made a few unsuccessful bids for governor, served as mayor of Norwich, and finally served in the United States Senate from 1855 to 1867, including a term as president pro tempore and acting Vice President following President Abraham Lincoln's assassination. After a brief period as a Yale University professor, he was appointed associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court and served until 1876. He died on Sept. 19, 1880 at the age of 73.
The Senate service carried Foster right through the Civil War. According to another memorial, he reluctantly recognized that slavery was recognized in the Constitution and protected by certain guarantees, but made no secret that he hated the system. "To found a government on a principle so clearly violative of human right, so offensive to God, must sooner or later call down His curse," he once said in opposition to expanding slavery beyond its constitutional limits. "It is surely better that we refuse to incorporate this demand into our organic law, even in view of the most terrible alternative which can be presented. None can be so terrible as the wrath of God, which would surely visit us if we consented to this enormity."
Foster's memory also lives on at the Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries and Connecticut State Library. The judicial website described him as "a man of persistence and strong religioius convictions" who upon his death donated his library to Norwich and his home to the Norwich Free Academy. "He was no seeker after popularity, certainly he never descended to any truckling arts to secure it, and probably to some extent he lost favor by the high tone of both his character and bearing, and by the selectness of his friendships," the Connecticut State Library's colorful obituary reads in part. "He was a man of the most absolute integrity."
The library also includes the text of Wait's address, which he gave upon the admission of several other resolutions on Foster's character presented to the bar association and Connecticut Supreme Court. Wait said he worked for a time as a student in Foster's law firm and had quite a few compliments to bestow upon him. "I will close my imperfect remarks by saying that my brothers of the bar unite with me in the desire to bear public testimony to the worth and virtues of the Hon. LaFayette S. Foster, and that the resolutions which have been presented to the court are the heartfelt expression of their regard and affection for the lamented dead," he concluded.
Wait was a notable figure in his own regard. Born in New London in 1811, he commenced practice in Norwich and served in both the Connecticut General Assembly and five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. When Wait died in 1899 at the age of 87, he earned praise on the level of his former mentor. "In all these various positions he was an honest, capable, faithful, and conscientious public servant, and one of the foremost citizens of the town," one resolution adopted by the bar association read in part.
The pamphlet is offered by seller tholc13krab, who says it is in good condition aside from a central crease and some soiling on the edges. The starting bid is $9.95, and another $2.95 is needed to ship it from Maine. The auction ends at about 2:55 p.m. on Thursday.