Governors of Connecticut

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Richard Dudley Hubbard

From: The Governers of Connecticut
By: Frederick Calvin Norton
Published: 1905


GOVERNOR Hubbard was a poor boy who rose by his own exertion to the highest place at the bar, and became an orator of national reputation.

Born in Berlin, September 7, 1818, he was the son of Lemuel Hubbard, an old resident of the town who descended from George Hubbard, one of the early magistrates of Guilford, and a frequent Deputy from that town to the General Court.

The young man was left an orphan early in life, without means to pay for an education. However, he decided to attend college, and after a preparatory course at East Hartford, entered Yale College in 1835. He was obliged to support himself while studying at Yale, but he took high rank in his class and was graduated in i 839. Then he studied law in the office of William Hungerford at Hartford and was admitted to the bar in 1842. In 1846 Hubbard was chosen state’s attorney for Hartford County, and this office he held with the exception of two years until 1868. He often represented the city in the General Assembly and rose to a lofty position as an able lawyer.

Entering into politics early in life Hubbard was always prominently identified with the Democratic party, yet during the Civil War he was an unwavering supporter of the Federal government.

In 1867 he was elected to Congress from his district, and was a member of that body during the 4oth session. Life at Washington was apparently uncongenial to Hubbard, for at the next election he declined being renominated. He again took up his law practice and having formed a partnership with Hon. Loren P. Waldo and Alvin P. Hyde devoted the remaining years of his life to his profession.

In 1877 Hubbard was nominated for governor of the state, and elected by a good majority. He was the first one to serve under the two years’ term.

In speaking of the importance of some of the enactments during Governor Hubbard’s administration, the late John Hooker in publishing the personal correspondence between them, in his “Reminiscences,” says:

“Governor Hubbard in his first message to the General Assembly stated in very strong terms the injustice done to married women in respect to their property by the law as it stood, being the ancient English law with a few recent modifications.”

Mrs. Isabella Beecher Hooker in her autobiography in “The Connecticut Magazine” says: “In 1870 1 presented a bill to the Connecticut Legislature making husband and wife equal in propertv rights and persisted in its passage without avail through succeeding legislatures until 1877. Governor Richard D. Hubbard was an intimate friend of my husband and myself and had become much interested in our cause. He requested Mr. Hooker to draft a bill for a public act remedying the injustice. The bill was passed in 1 1877 and still holds its place in the statute book without material change.”

This notable enactment has had far reaching consequences and proved a master stroke at the opportune time. It gave woman her property emancipation in Connecticut, abandoning the old idea of the superior rights of her husband. Samuel Bowles, the distinguished editor of “The Springfield Republican,” pronounced it “a great step forward.”

Governor Hubbard was renominated in 1879, but failed to be elected. His administration as governor was marked by his earnest desire to serve the state as well as possible, and to do his whole duty irrespective of any partnership whatever. Retiring from the office, he never held a public position afterwards and his lucrative practice engaged his attention until his death, which occurred on February 28, 1884, at his home in Hartford.

When George D. Sargeant died in i886 it was found he had left $5,000 for a statue of Governor Hubbard. One was made, placed in a conspicuous place on the Capitol grounds, and it faces Washington Street. The statue represents the governor standing in a position as though addressing the court or jury. It was unveiled on June 9, 1890, in the presence of the state officials and other prominent citizens. It bears the inscription: “Richard D. Hubbard, Lawyer, Orator, Statesman.”

"As an example of a self-made man,” says a biographer, “there was none more shining. From a poor boy, through years of patient toil and studied application to his books he forced himself to the top and compelled admiration and respect of everybody in his native state, not excepting political foes.”

The following professional estimate of Governor Hubbard is taken from the “Judicial and Civil History of Connecticut.”

“it was, however, in the field of the law that he won his great success. He was not only the first lawyer in the state, but its greatest orator. His superiority as a lawyer was owing less to a laborious study of books, though he was always a diligent student and very thorough in the preparation of his cases, than to his perfect comprehension of legal principles. He obtained a complete mastery of the science of law. He had strong common sense, by which he tested everything, and with sound men ot judgment he united great quickness of apprehension and brilliancy of imagination. His mind was eminently a philosophical one, and found recreation in abstract speculation: nothing interested him more than the great mysteries and baffling questions of life.

“It was as an orator that he was best known to the general public. With great natural powers of speech he improved himself by a good classical education and by a life-long study of ancient and modern classics. There was in his speeches a special quietness of manner, an exquisiteness of thought, a fertility of imagination, and a power and grace of expression that made them captivating. Some of his addresses, in commemoration of his deceased brethren at the bar, are remarkable for their beauty. That upon William Hungerford is one of the finest pieces of composition that our language contains. To his profession be was ardently attached; he loved its science, its eloquence, its wit, its nobility. He was proud of its history, of its contribution to philosophy and literature, and its struggle in defense of human rights, and assaults upon human wrongs. While he was the ablest and most accomplished lawyer of our state, his culture was
Peculiarly his own. He sought and studied the great arguments and orations of the past and present. He was a profound student of Shakespeare and Milton; he delighted in John Bunyan, Thomas Browne, Thomas Fuller and Jeremy Taylor. He was cultivated in the French language, and enjoyed the suggestive methods of French wit, and was familiar with their great dramatists and public orators.”
 

Gov. Hubbard

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