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Edward John Phelps

Lawyer/U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain

Centurion, 1893–1900

Born 11 July 1822 in Middlebury, Vermont

Died 9 March 1900 in New Haven, Connecticut

Buried Greenmount Cemetery, Burlington, Vermont

Proposed by Edward Patterson, John Bigelow, and Frederic R. Coudert

Elected 1 April 1893 at age seventy

Proposer of:

Century Memorial

The death of Edward J. Phelps evoked a general feeling of regret from men of all parties at home and from a wide circle of friends and admirers abroad, for he had come to be known as a man of the highest character, marked ability, sturdy independence and genuine patriotism.

From his father, who was for a number of years a justice of the Supreme Court of Vermont, and later during two different periods United States Senator from that State, always a conspicuous and honored figure in the public affairs of his time, he inherited those qualities which fitted him for distinction in his chosen profession of the law, and for the discharge of the weighty responsibilities that were later placed upon him. He lived nearly all his life in his native State, where political distinction has been rarely attained by members of the party to which he belonged, and in which professional ability seldom confers professional celebrity. He certainly held the highest rank at a bar distinguished by many able men; was engaged in the most important litigations in the State, and was recognized as a leader where merit is the only test, and where a fictitious reputation is not easily acquired. His talents and temperament qualified him in an unusual degree for the diplomatic service, and as Minister to England, to which important position he was appointed by President Cleveland, his sincerity of feeling, perfect simplicity, faculty of fluent speech, dignity of bearing, and rare and indispensable discretion won him instant recognition in the aristocratic and literary circles into which he was introduced, and insured his acceptability as a welcome, worthy representative of the dignity of his country, not by declaiming, but by exemplifying its highest virtues, and brought him a host of friends and an enduring title to respect and gratitude.

In the Behring Sea arbitration he was one of the counsel representing the United States, and made the closing argument in its behalf. He made many contributions to the literature of his profession, and since 1881, with the exception of the time when he was in England, has lectured at Yale University as Kent Professor of Law at its Law School. He has stood in late years, on many occasions, as a champion of national honor and public security in spite of party ties.

In personal intercourse he was a polished man of the world, with a graceful, easy bearing and distinguished courtesy which made him the centre of attraction in any society, and won him influence and admiration as an honor to his country and his time.

Henry E. Howland
1901 Century Association Yearbook