BENJAMIN HUNTINGTON, born in Norwich, CT. April 19, 1736, graduated at Yale, in 1761. He married, May 5, 1765, Anne Huntington, (184.108.40.206.7.) of Windham, CT., who died October 6, 1790. He entered, soon after leaving college, upon the practice of law in his native town, and rose rapidly to the front rank of his profession. He seems to have been unusually devoted to his profession, being at once a severe student, and an active and successful advocate and business man. Though rather shunning than courting public life, he was not allowed to excuse himself from its claims; nor, when called to meet them, did he shrink either from public duties or dangers. In 1775 he was appointed, by the legislature of his native State, on the committee of safety, appointed to advise with the Governor of the State during the recess of the legislature. Only the ablest men and truest patriots of that trying day, would have been put upon that important committee. Again, in 1778, on the recommendation of Washington, he was appointed by the legislature, one of the convention to be held in New Haven, for the regulation of the army. From 1780 to 1784, and again in 1787 and 1788, he was a member of the Continental Congress; and when the new government went into operation, in 1789, he was chosen to represent Connecticut in the First Congress of the United States.
From 1781 to 1790, and also from 1791 to 1793 he was also a member of the upper house of the Connecticut Legislature. On the incorporation of Norwich city, in 1784, he was chosen, for an indefinite period, its first Mayor, in which office he served until his formal resignation, in 1796. He was also appointed in 1793, a judge of the superior court of Connecticut, holding this office until 1798. Thus, for more than twenty years, during the most eventful period of our history, in which we had claimed and won our independence, and had commenced our most successful career in self-government, was he found continually called to serve his constituents in offices always onerous,
and often hazardous. How well he discharged these trusts, their own recurrence will unequivocally evince. A word on this point, however, is due both to his memory and to the truth of our revolutionary history.
For some reason, never explained, he was not in the early stages of preparation for the struggle, prominently identified with its measures. Our explanation is that he was not only a young man, and therefore hesitated to put himself forward; but also, that he had formed such an ideal for his professional course, that all his strength and time were required in attaining it. The stamp act dates with the year of his marriage, just as he had laid the plans for his professional studies, on which his entire success was to depend. And, with a nice discernment of what was most needed by him, to prepare for
the future call which his country would make upon him, no less than to meet the high demands of his profession, he gave himself to an earnest pursuit of legal study and practice.
And, for the time being, he could be spared from the more public discussions and services which the incipiency of our revolution required. His family were well represented in them by older members: Hezekiah (220.127.116.11) ripe in years and counsel; Samuel (18.104.22.168.4) already strong and facile for action; Jabez (22.214.171.124.1) with means and a heart for the work, and in the work; and still others of his own family name, scarcely less ready, and restive for the impending struggle, rendered it possible for him, without a breach of faith to the cause, to await a more mature preparation for ampler service to be rendered at a later date. And that future service fully justified his decision. By the May of 1775, he was found ready for an exigency which none but a
strong man and a true patriot could meet. He filled acceptably the post to which the patriot legislature of his native State called him; and the fact of that appointment is itself, no equivocal testimony respecting the position of their agent. They who were called, in that crisis, to take the place of the legislature in advising with their chief executive, during its period of adjournment, were known and tried men. Nor would Washington have recommended him for appointment by the legislature to that convention to be held in New Haven, in 1778, while the war was yet in progress, to arrange for its increased efficiency, unless he had already furnished ample proof, both of an interest not to be bribed, and a courage never to be intimidated.
And that his family were thoroughly patriotic, and ready for any sacrifice for which their country might call, is abundantly attested by this instance of their personal devotion. On an occasion of pressing want on the part of our revolutionary army, an earnest call was made upon the families of Norwich, for supplies of clothing. In the absence of Judge Huntington, then away in the service of the State, his wife, selecting a single blanket, in which to wrap her youngest child, forwarded all the rest to the army; and supplied their place on the beds at home by blankets cut from the carpets on the floor, preferring for the present, well sanded floors, without their accustomed covering, that so the noble patriotism of the needy army might be encouraged and rewarded.
Few men and few families of those trying days can show a purer and more patriotic record than he and his. He died in 1800.
CHILDREN, BORN IN NORWICH, CT.
- HENRY, born May 28, 1766.
- GURDON, born March 16, 1768.
- GEORGE, born June 5, 1770.
- LUCY, born January 21, 1773.
- NANCY, born March 30, 1775, and died unmarried in Rome in 1842.
- BENJAMIN, born March 19, 1777.
- RACHEL, born April 4, 1779.
- DANIEL, born December 27, 1781, and died on the 30th of the same month.