Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BALDWIN, Roger Sherman, jurist, born in New Haven, Connecticut, 4 January 1793 ; died there, 19 February 1863. He affords an admirable instance of all that is best in the intellectual and moral life of New England. By descent and education he was of genuine Puritan stock. His father, Simeon Baldwin, was descended from one of the original New Haven colonists, and his mother was the daughter of Roger Sherman, a signer of the declaration of independence, both families being from the earliest times identified with the cause of civil and religious liberty. Roger Sherman Baldwin entered Yale at the age of fourteen, and was graduated with high honors in 1811. Beginning his legal studies in his father's office, he finished them in the then famous law school of Judges Reeve and Gould, at Litchfield, Connecticut By the time that he was ready for admission to the bar, in 1814, he had developed a mastery of the principles of law that was considered very remarkable in so young a man. His habits of concentration, his command of pure and elegant English, the precision and definiteness of his methods, soon brought him into prominence in his profession, and at a comparatively early age he attained distinction at the bar. His preference was for cases involving the great principles of jurisprudence rather than those that depended upon appeals to the feelings of jurymen. Nevertheless, he commanded rare success as a jury lawyer, being gifted with a certain dignified and lofty eloquence that carried conviction and sustained the current belief that he "would not undertake the defense of a cause of whose justice he was not personally convinced. One of the most famous cases in which he was engaged was that of the "Amistad captives" (1839), now well-nigh forgotten, but which assumed international importance at the time. A shipload of slaves, bound to Cuba, had gained possession of the vessel. They were encountered adrift on the high seas by an American vessel and brought into New York, where they were cared for. The Spanish authorities claimed them as the property of Spanish subjects, and the anti-slavery party at the north, then becoming a formidable element in national politics, interested itself in their behalf. The case was first tried in a Connecticut district court, decided against the Spanish claim, and carried to the Supreme Court of the United States. The venerable John Quincy Adams and Mr. Baldwin were associated as counsel, the latter practically conducting the case. His plea on this occasion showed such a grasp of the legal technicalities involved, that such men as Chancellor Kent rated him with the leading jurists of the time. After serving his own state in assembly and senate (1837-'41), he was elected governor in 1844, and reelected for the following term. In 1847 he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Jabez W. Huntington as United States senator. He at once took a leading place among the statesmen of the period, was reelected for a second term, and always advocated the cause of equal rights for all during the heated controversies preceding the outbreak of the civil war. In 1860 he was one of the two electors "at large" for the choice of Mr. Lincoln, and in 1860 was appointed by Governor Buckingham a member of the "peace congress" of 1861, consisting of five delegates from each state, who, it was hoped, would devise a basis of amicable settlement of the differences between north and south. In his opening address, John Tyler, of Virginia, president of the congress, said: "Connecticut is here, and she comes, I doubt not, in the spirit of Roger Sberman, whose name, with our very children, has become a household word, and who was in life the embodiment of that sound, practical sense which befits the great law-giver and constructor of govern-merits." The labors of the congress came to naught, owing mainly to the precipitancy with which some of the southern states passed ordinances of secession. This was the last public service undertaken by Mr. Baldwin other than the personal assistance which every patriotic citizen lent to his country during the early years of civil war.
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