Lafayette S. Foster:
Connecticut Statesman, Jurist and Acting Vice President of the
Born in Franklin,
Connecticut, on November 22, 1806, Lafayette Sabine Foster was a
descendant of Miles Standish and the eldest son of Welthea Ladd
Foster and Captain Daniel Foster, a veteran Continental Army
officer. In 1828, after graduating with highest honors from Brown
University, Lafayette took up the study of law and moved south to
head an academy in Centreville, Maryland. He passed the Maryland bar
in 1830 and returned to Connecticut to study law under the tutelage
of Norwich' s Calvin Goddard. He was admitted to the bar of New
London County in 1831 and practiced law until 1835, at which time he
became the editor of The Norwich
Republican, a Whig journal in Norwich, Connecticut.
Bolstered by a thriving law practice and formidable debate skills,
he was elected to a series of local, state and federal government
State House of
Representatives: 1839-1840, 1846-1848, 1854, 1870.
Speaker of the House
of Representatives of Connecticut: 1847, 1848, 1854, 1870.
Mayor of Norwich:
Senator from Connecticut: 1855-1861, 1861-1867 (Chair, Committee
on Pensions; Member, Judiciary, Foreign Relations and Indian
Tempore of the U.S. Senate: March 7, 1865 to March 2, 1867.
President of the United States: April 15, 1865 to March 2, 1867
due to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (Vice
President Andrew Johnson having succeeded to the Presidency upon
the death of President Lincoln).
A man of persistence and
strong religious convictions, Lafayette S. Foster took the notion of
service to his government and its citizens very seriously. His
dedication to public affairs was evidenced by both the positions he
held and those he did not attain, namely his bids as Whig candidate
for Governor of Connecticut (1850 and 1851) and his Democratic
candidacy for U.S. Representative (1874).
The Honorable Lafayette
Foster's legal career was pursued intermittently with his political
career. Brown University conferred the degree of L.L.D. on him in
1851. His counsel was well regarded: he was a close and trusted
advisor to President Lincoln and a respected leader of the Senate.
However, he lost the support of the Connecticut Republican Caucus
back home, presumably due to his conservative views, and failed to
obtain his party’s nomination for a third term. He resumed his law
practice in 1867. In 1869, he returned to public service to once
again become a State Representative from Norwich. He was then
elected Speaker of the House for a fourth term. In June of 1870, he
resigned to accept the position of associate justice on the bench of
the Connecticut Supreme Court. Lafayette Foster served on the Court
until 1876, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Returning to the practice of law, he delivered a course of lectures
on "Parliamentary Law and the Science of Legislation" at Yale from
1875 to 1880. In 1878, he was appointed a commissioner to devise
simpler rules and forms of legal procedure for the state courts. He
was also appointed a commissioner from Connecticut to settle a
disputed boundary issue with New York State during 1878-1879. He
died in Norwich on September 19, 1880, at the age of 73.
Lafayette S. Foster was
not only a statesman and a jurist, but also a philanthropist. He
willed his personal library to the town of Norwich and his residence
for the use of the Norwich Free Academy. He also endowed two ongoing
academic endeavors: the Lafayette S. Foster Professorship of
English Common Law at Yale University and the Lafayette
Sabine Foster Prize in Greek at Brown University.
of Connecticut Legal History