Consistency is the crowning glory of meritorious fame. It is a bright jewel in the escutcheon of a name. It sheds a radiating lustre over the actions of men. "Be consistent" was a Roman motto and once guided its sages, heroes and _literati_ in the path of duty--the surest path of safety.
Consistency dignifies the man and prepares him for noble and god-like deeds. It is based upon wisdom and discretion--the pilot and helm of the bark of life in navigating the ocean of time. Without it the breakers of chaos, the sand bars of folly--the rocks of disaster cannot be avoided. Without it the brightness of other talents and attainments of a high order are often eclipsed by the clouds of error and obscured by the breath of ridicule. With it--mediocrity shines and enables the plough-boy of the field--the mill-boy of the slashes--the apprentice of the shop to reach the pinnacle of enduring fame and leave the indiscreet classical scholar to sink into a useless gilded ornament in the world. Dr. Young has truly said--"With the talents of an angel a man may be a fool." Consistency is susceptible of cultivation and should be kindly and earnestly pressed upon youth by parents and teachers. It is of more importance than the entire contents of the magazine of classic lore combined with an eloquence that could move the world of mankind.
The sages of the American Revolution were remarkable for consistency. Many of them rose from the humble walks of life to eminence by the force of their own exertions guided by this darling attribute and became the most useful men of that eventful epoch.
Among this class Samuel Huntington held a respectable rank. He was born on the 2d of July 1732 at Windham, Connecticut. He was the son of Nathaniel Huntington a plain farmer, who gave this son only a common English education whilst three of the others graduated at Yale College, all of whom became ministers of the gospel, one of them attaining a fair eminence as a theological writer. Their pious mother led them to the pure fountain of gospel truth and had the pleasure of seeing the four walking hand in hand towards the goal of unfading joy. Samuel followed the plough until he was twenty-two years of age. He was remarkable for industry and sterling honesty. He was an extensive reader and a close observer of men and things. His native talent was strong, his judgment clear, his reflections deep. From his childhood to his grave consistency chastened every action. This was his strong forte and insured his success through life. It was a passport beyond the power of a college to give.
Samuel Huntington went from the plough to the study of law in his father's house, loaning books from Zedekiah Elderkin of the Norwich bar. With astonishing rapidity he mastered the elementary books--was admitted and opened an office in his native town. His reputation as an honest and consistent man was already on a firm basis. His fame as a safe counsellor and able advocate soon added another story to this superstructure. He did not aim at Ciceronean power or Demosthenean eloquence but closely imitated Solon and Socrates. His manner was plain but marked by a deep sincerity that seldom fails to impress the minds of a court and jury favorably--often foiling the most brilliant displays of forensic eloquence. With his other strong qualities he combined the motive power of business--PUNCTUALITY. Although he had gained a lucrative practice in his native town he removed to Norwich in 1760 where a wider field opened before him. Carrying out the principle of consistency, in 1762 he emerged from the lonely regions of celibacy with Martha, the accomplished daughter of Ebenezer Devotion and entered the delightful bowers of matrimony--thus giving him and her an importance in society unknown to single blessedness. Martha proved an amiable companion--blending the accomplishments of a lady, the industry of a housewife, the economy that enriches, the dignity of a matron--the piety of a Christian.
In 1764 Mr. Huntington was elected to the Assembly and made a very efficient member. In 1765 he was appointed king's attorney and performed the duties of that office until the pestiferous atmosphere of monarchical oppression drew him from under the dark mantle of a corrupt and impolitic ministry. In 1774 he was elevated to the bench of the Superior Court and the next year was a member of the Council of his state. When the all important subject of American rights and British wrongs came under discussion he threw the whole force of his influence in favor of the cause of equal rights. In October 1775 he took his seat in the Continental Congress and became a prominent and useful member. In January following he again took his seat in the Hall of Independence and fearlessly advocated the necessity of cutting the Gordian knot that held the Colonies to England. The solemnity of his manner, the strong force of his reasoning, the lucid demonstrations of his propositions and the unvarnished sincerity of his patriotism--were calculated to carry conviction to every heart and impart confidence to the wavering and timid. He was present at the birth of our nation on the 4th of July 1776 and aided in presenting the admired infant at the sacred font of LIBERTY and became a subscribing witness to the imposing ceremonies of that eventful day. He was continued in Congress until 1781 when ill health compelled him to retire for a season.
He was a man of great industry, honesty of purpose, profound research, clearness of perception and had acquired a large fund of practical knowledge. Human nature he had studied closely. He was well versed in general business, political economy, principles of government and rules of legislation which gave him a place upon important committees. He succeeded Mr. Jay as President of Congress and so ably discharged the duties of that responsible station that when compelled to retire from ill health a vote of thanks was placed upon the record. Hoping that he might be able to return the chair was not permanently filled for a long time. During a part of the _interim_ of his absence from Congress he presided on the bench and was a short time in Council. In 1783 he returned to Congress and at the termination of the session declined a re-election. He had aided in finishing the mighty work of national freedom--the star spangled banner was floating in the breeze of Liberty--his country had triumphed over a merciless foe--her political regeneration had been consummated--America was disenthralled and he desired retirement from public life. This he was not permitted to enjoy. In 1784 he was appointed Chief Justice of his state--the ensuing year Lieutenant Governor and the next year was elected Governor of Connecticut, which office he held until the 5th of January 1796, when death took him from earth and its toils. He had lived the life of the righteous man--his last end was like his. He was a ripe shock full of corn--uniformly beloved in life--deeply mourned in death.
Mr. Huntington was a man of middle stature, dark complexion, keen eyes, countenance expressive, with a deportment calculated to make a favorable impression at first sight. In his life we find much to admire--nothing to condemn. His superior virtues and uniform consistency eclipsed the frailties of his nature. In the performance of all the duties of public and private life he was a model worthy of the closest imitation. From the plough in the field through his bright career to the presidential chair in Congress--to the chief magistracy of his own state--his every action was marked with consistency. His fame is based upon substantial merit--he rendered his name dear to every freeman. The history of his examples should exercise a salutary influence over the mind of every reader capable of appreciating the high importance of being consistent in all things and of perpetuating our UNION through all time.
Source: Sages and Heroes of the American Revolution, by L. Carroll Judson: Copyright, 1854 Available for download at the Project Gutenberg website.