HON. W. W. EATON, HARTFORD: Ex Congressman.
William W. Eaton was born at Tolland, October 11, 1816, and received a public school education there, preparing
him for business life. His father, Hon. Luther Eaton, was a man of notable honesty and integrity, possessing the
fullest confidence and respect of the community in which he resided. He was also a man of political influence and
control, at one time representing the old twentieth district in the state senates. Mr. Eaton inherited the strict
probity and independence of conviction of his father, and from the earliest period of his life his course has been
one of fearless adherence to what he has believed to be right. On arriving at his majority he engaged in mercantile
pursuits at Columbia, S. C., and spent three or four years there in business. The strong individual views which
characterized his subsequent course in public affairs were established in part at least by his residence at the
South. At the conclusion of his commercial career, which lasted upwards of four years, he returned North and commenced
the study of law at his old home in Tolland, and was admitted to the bar in Tolland county. In 1847 he was elected
a member of the Connecticut house of representatives from Tolland, and was returned the following year from that
town. From that time until now he has been a prominent figure in Connecticut politics. In 1850 he was elected to
the state senate from the old twentieth district. At the end of the session of the general assembly that year Mr.
Eaton remoted to Hartford, and has since been a resident here. He received the appointment of clerk of the Hartford
county court, and proved himself a thoroughly competent official. In 1853 he was elected a member of the house
from Hartford and was chosen speaker, a position for which he was amply qualified both by reason of ability and
experience. Mr. Eaton was also a member of the house from Hartford during the sessions of 1863, '65, '70, '71,
'73, and '74. In 1873 he was elected speaker for the second time, and discharged the duties of the position with
characteristic efficiency and success. Mr. Eaton possessed special adaptation for the legislative function, and
his career in the general assembly was marked by the highest personal integrity and uprightness. During the session
of 1874 he was elected United States senator from Connecticut, succeeding Hon. William A. Buckingham, whose term
expired March 4, 1875. Upon the death of Senator Buckingham in February, 1875, Mr. Eaton was appointed United States
senator, filling the vacancy caused by Mr. Buckingham's death, and assumed the duties of the office February 13,
1875. Commencing his full term on the 4th of March following, he remained in Washington during the succeeding six
years, establishing for himself a record in which the state might experience a just sense of pride. During the
concluding years of his senatorial life he was senate chairman of the committee on foreign relations, one of the
most important in congress. He was opposed to the appointments of the electoral commission by which, in 1876, the
election of President Hayes was ratified, and was the only democrat in the senate who voted against the measure.
Mr. Eaton was one of the strongest advocates of tariff reform during his term in congress, and was the author of
an important measure providing for the appointment of a tariff commission. His term expired March 3, 1881, before
his bill could be made a law, but the subsequent congress enacted a measure covering the main provisions of Mr.
Eaton's act. He was a hard money democrat, and held positive views with regard to the greenback controversy which
agitated the country a few years ago. In the fall of 1882 he received the democratic nomination for congress from
the first district, and was elected by a handsome majority. At the close of his term he retired from active political
life, though his voice is still heard and his influence felt in the councils of his party.
Illustrated Popular Biography
Compiled and Published by J. A. Spalding
Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co.
Hartford, Conn. 1891
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