OCTOBER 9, 2001
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Good morning. On behalf of my colleagues, I welcome all of you to this special session of the Michigan Supreme Court. Thank you for joining us here today as we open the new term of court and at the same time commemorate the city of Detroit’s 300th birthday. Since our prior term of court ended on July 31, much has changed in our country. Indeed, it is four weeks to the day since the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In that time, it seems to me there are two important principles or ideas that have emerged. In the first place, we Americans were robbed of the notion that we were safe in our homes, and we also have witnessed extraordinary acts of heroism by ordinary Americans in the last thirty days. The history of Detroit similarly reflects these notions that ordinary people became heroes and carved out of the wilderness a safe home for us, a home that became a great city and the foundation of a great state. So today, on behalf of our Court, we particularly want to recognize the city of Detroit, to welcome the mayor of Detroit, Dennis Archer, a colleague of ours on this Court, and to thank him for being with us here today. I would also like to extend a very special welcome to many members of the Supreme Court Historical Society who are with us today. I would especially like to recognize former Attorney General Frank Kelley, State Bar of Michigan executive director, John Berry, my friend and colleague, John Feikens of the federal district court, and judges of our state bench who are here this morning: Harold Hood of the Michigan Court of Appeals, retired Judge Stewart Hoffius from Kent County, Judge Wendy Potts of the Oakland Circuit Court, Judge Gladys Barsamian, Judge Denise Langford Morris of the Oakland County Circuit. And I especially want to thank and commend the members of the Historical Society who helped put together this special session, especially our dedicated president Wally Riley and our new executive director, Angela Bergman.
On September 11, terrorists attacked all that Americans hold most dear—our people, the cities where they live and work, and our democratic way of life. It is fitting that we should gather here in the city that in World War II was known as “the arsenal of democracy.” Detroit is a town that throughout its history has never been afraid, and that is what I think it will take to preserve our heritage of freedom, the often-unheralded work of preserving freedom. Today we honor an important element of Detroit’s contribution to the life of a free people, that is, the founding of Michigan’s justice system.
Detroit’s history and the history of the Michigan judicial system are tightly intertwined, going back to the days when the French and the British fought for control of the area. Because the area was occupied by armies, the early judicial systems of our state were military in nature. Detroit became a center for law in the wilderness that is now the state of Michigan. The Governor and judges of the Northwest Territory, acting as a legislature, created the Supreme Court of the territory of Michigan in 1805. As the seat of the territorial government, Detroit was the home of the Supreme Court. Court sessions were first held in the homes of various prominent citizens of the time, in the council house, and eventually in the capital building in the heart of the city.
Despite the physical relocation of our Court from Detroit to Lansing, the ties between Detroit and the Court have remained strong. The city has given sixteen of her native sons and daughters to serve on this Court and many more justices have called Detroit home at one time or another. In deciding how the Supreme Court could best honor Detroit and its contributions to the state’s justice system, we concluded that a special session of the Court was appropriate. It is appropriate that we hold the special session in Detroit, the birthplace of our Court. Our speaker today is well-versed in the long shared history of the city and the Court. He is one of Detroit’s own, a former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, founder and president of Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and now the founder of a new, we understand, professional golf league. I am honored to present this morning Thomas E. Brennan.
FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS E. BRENNAN: Thank you, Madam Chief Justice. May it please the Court, I count it a singular honor, Madam Chief Justice, that you have invited me to address the Court and the assemblage gathered here on the occasion of this historic session of the Supreme Court of Michigan. While it is proper that the Court normally sits in the state capital, it is especially fitting that the justices have agreed to convene here at Wayne State University, in the very heart of the city of Detroit, as a special observance of the 300th anniversary of this great metropolis. The charge I’ve been given by the Court and the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society is a daunting one—to shed some light on the earliest system of justice in these precincts and to comment upon the connections between the Supreme Court and the establishment and growth of this fair city.
Tuesday, June 11, 1805, began like most days in Detroit except for an unusually brisk breeze on the river. At sunrise, the garrison turned out and stood readily in the fort. The boom of the morning cannon echoed across the river and woke the five hundred residents of the town. Many of the French families whose farms were stacked along the river on either side of the stockade—the Campaus, the Rivards, the Beaubiens, and such—ambled into town to attend mass at St. Anne’s. Father Dillet and the rector, Father Gabriel Richard, were presiding over a special ceremony that morning. John Harvey, the town baker, was up early baking bread. About 9:00 a.m., having run out of flour, he decided to hitch up his wagon and drive over to May’s Mill to get a fresh supply. As he led his horse out of the barn, he paused to tap out his pipe, tapping it against the heel of his shoe. A plug of burning tobacco fell to the ground and was promptly blown into the barn where it burrowed into a pile of dry hay. In a matter of minutes, the barn was in flames.
The Detroit of 1805 occupied about four acres and consisted of roughly three hundred frame buildings separated by twenty-foot wide streets. By three o’clock that afternoon, the city was a charred ruin. Only a few blackened chimneys stood forlornly pointing skyward among the ashes. That was the desolate scene that greeted Augustus Bray Woodward as he stepped ashore on June 30, 1805, to undertake his duties as chief justice of the territorial court of the newly established Michigan territory.
If the Court please, it has been the privilege of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society on a number of occasions to present portraits of former members of this bench. It would be particularly appropriate on this day, when we mark the 300th anniversary of the city of Detroit, to present the portrait of Augustus B. Woodward, the first chief justice of the Michigan territory. Unfortunately, no such portrait exists. Neither are there any photographs, sketches, or other memorabilia from which a likeness can be reconstructed. So with your indulgence, Madam Chief Justice and justices, I will try to paint a word picture of the man so that we can share a few insights about one of our more important antecedents.
His parents named him Elias. He didn’t like the name—it was too commonplace. He chose rather to be called Augustus, perhaps in admiration of the Roman emperor of the same name. He was the son of a New York merchant, John Woodward, a patriot who fought in the Revolutionary War and who lost his business and his fortune because of it. Augustus entered Columbia College in 1789 at the age of fifteen. There he earned a bachelor of arts degree and received an excellent classical education. He studied Greek and Latin, became fluent in French, and also exhibited a keen interest in the physical sciences. In fact, even before attending Columbia, when he was yet fourteen years of age, Woodward conceived of the idea of classifying the sciences. It was a project he doggedly pursued for the rest of his life.
After graduation, Woodward moved to Virginia, where he taught school, studied law, and met Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson and Woodward, though a generation apart, had a great deal in common. They were both republicans with a small “r.” They believed that the sovereignty of a nation or a state should be exercised by representatives elected by the people. They were dreamers, free thinkers, visionaries. Today we would say that they pushed the envelope. They knew how to think outside the box. The two men became fast friends, and, about the time Jefferson went to Washington as vice president, Woodward also moved to the capital city where he was one of only eleven lawyers.
His biographer, Arthur M. Woodford, whose work I have liberally used in preparing these remarks, describes young Augustus on the day he was admitted to the D.C. bar. Woodward arrayed himself, Woodford says, in his best attire. This consisted of a long, loose-fitting blue coat with enormous brass buttons, a scarlet cravat, and a buff waistcoat. The latter was worn open and from it protruded an immense mass of ruffles. These, together with the broad ruffles at his wrists, were invariably so soiled that it might almost be doubted whether they had ever been white. His pantaloons hung in folds to his feet, meeting there a pair of boots that were also well greased. Woodford describes Judge Woodward as ungainly, if not grotesque, prototypical of Irving’s Ichabod Crane. He stood 6’3″ or 6’4″ tall and was thin, actually gaunt, and stooped. His complexion was sallow. He had a long narrow face that was dominated by a big nose. His only vanity was a generous crop of thick black hair.
We’re talking here about a bachelor, a man who never married, a man whose modest one-room apartment, which served both as his office and his living quarters, was strewn with books and papers—on the floor, on the chair, on the table. Dirty laundry was tossed in a corner, with no sign of a broom anywhere. He seemed to revel in appearing bizarre or eccentric. He was known for his slovenliness. The historian Silas Farmer concludes: Whatever was odd and unreasonable he was sure to do. If there was a thunderstorm, his chair was placed outside the door, and he would calmly sit and take his shower bath. Augustus Woodward was in fact a walking, breathing mass of contradictions. On the one hand, he was an oddball, a gawky, funny-looking character who seemed always to be in a fight with someone, contentious, partisan, self-absorbed, arrogant, capricious. On the other hand, he was a genius, a patriot, a leader, a builder, a wise and hard-working judge, who enjoyed the respect of the bar and the community.
It was common practice for the territorial court to convene—as you mentioned, Madam Chief Justice—at midday at a private home or a tavern and stay in session until two or three o’clock in the morning. During those marathon sessions, the court and counsel would share food and drink while debating the law or discussing points of fact. Woodford describes the scene in these words: “Judges and attorneys eating lunch and passing the bottle back and forth between bench and bar while a hearing was in progress.” There was no love lost, Woodford tells us, between Woodward and his colleague, Witherall. The two usually sat with their backs toward each other. If he was bored, Woodward would sometimes tell the clerk to mark him absent and then tilt back in the chair and fall asleep. On one such occasion, a lawyer took the opportunity to say a few things highly critical of the good judge. Witherall couldn’t resist poking Woodward and teasing him about the attack. Woodward sat up and began to berate the lawyer, threatening him with contempt of court, to which counsel astutely replied, “You can’t cite me, you’re not here. The record shows that you are absent.” Not to be bested, Woodward roared at the clerk, “Mark me present” and proceeded to give counsel a dressing down.
In 1822, there was a vacancy in the office of clerk of the court. The local bar petitioned Woodward to appoint one Trowbridge, then the deputy clerk. Woodward visited with Trowbridge, congratulating him on the support of the bar and suggesting that upon his appointment as clerk he ought to name one Lucius Lyon, a young friend of the judge, to be his deputy. Trowbridge replied that he didn’t need a deputy, could do all the work himself, and wanted to save the expense. The next morning Woodward handed down an order appointing his father, John Woodward, to be the new clerk of the court. John, who still lived in the east, was then nearly eighty years old. He died at Erie, Pennsylvania, on his way to Detroit.
The chief justice’s action, as you can well appreciate, was roundly criticized. It sometimes seemed that he was trying to be unpopular. Certainly he was indifferent to what people thought of him. Woodward never had much use for William Hull, the first governor of the Michigan territory. And the feeling was mutual—the two men bickered almost constantly. History has judged Woodward to be the better man. It was Hull who ignominiously surrendered Detroit to the British without a shot being fired. He was ultimately court martialed, convicted, and sentenced to death. Pardoned at the last minute by President Madison, Hull spent the rest of his days trying to regain some measure of public respect.
Woodward, on the other hand, stayed in Detroit during the British occupation. The military commander who was under instructions to leave the American civil and common law intact dealt with Woodward, and Woodward was approached to become the secretary of the territory under the British. He responded by saying that he was subject to the rule of the United States, and he wrote to Washington for instructions. None came, so he never accepted the office. Woodward was criticized in some quarters for fraternizing with his captors, but in truth he was a strong voice for his fellow Americans, urging protection against Indian massacres and raising money to assist victims of Indian atrocities. Justice Campbell later called Woodward a brave and good man who loved his countrymen. Woodward’s fellow Detroiters saw him as their champion.
One episode during that melancholy period illustrates the judge’s character. In June of 1811, Woodward was assaulted by one Whitmore Knaggs, a ruffian who had been kidnaped as a child and raised by the Indians. Knaggs had a commission in the militia from Governor Hull and, being grateful for that patronage, took it upon himself to punish Woodward for censuring the governor during a legislative session. Knaggs found Woodward at an afternoon tea party, had him summoned outside, and proceeded to berate and threaten the judge, shaking his fist in Woodward’s face and finally hitting him in the chest, causing him to stumble backwards. Woodward rose to the challenge, and the two men exchanged blows until they were finally separated by spectators. Knaggs, being well bloodied, left and Woodward returned to the tea party. The next day Woodward issued a warrant for Knaggs’ arrest. When the defendant was brought before the bar of justice, he found his victim sitting in judgment. Knaggs’ attorney accused the judge of a conflict of interest and sought to have him disqualified. Woodward refused to step aside, Knaggs was tried before a jury and convicted. Woodward’s adversaries promptly wrote to Washington, urging that he be impeached.
Now let’s move ahead two years. Detroit is in British hands. William Henry Harrison is raising an army in Ohio to liberate the Michigan territory. He sends a division of Kentucky soldiers under General Winchester to establish a foothold on the Raisin River at a place called Frenchtown, now the city of Monroe. The British surprised the American forces, and, after a spirited fight, accepted the surrender of Winchester and his troops. Tragically, the redcoats allowed their redskinned allies to get out of hand. In what Woodford describes as an orgy of blood letting, 397 Kentuckians were murdered, scalped, or carried away into the forest. Judge Woodward responded to the massacre by setting up a relief committee, raising ransom money, tracing known survivors, and communicating with the families of the victims. One of the residents of Frenchtown was Woodward’s old adversary, Whitmore Knaggs. After the battle, Knaggs was indicted by the British for violating his parole by bearing arms against the British at Frenchtown. In spite of their former animosity, Judge Woodward stepped forward to make an eloquent and effective defense of Knaggs, whom incidentally he called an ignorant and turbulent man. But Woodward obtained affidavits from eyewitnesses that proved Knaggs had not fought against the British, but merely attempted to protect his family from the Indians. In time, Woodward became such a thorn in the side of the British command that he was granted safe passage to New York. There he was received as a hero and lionized by the American press, one Georgetown newspaper saying, “we cannot therefore but express our high approbation of the very correct course pursued by Judge Woodward. He determined to remain on the spot, consoling his fellow citizens, assisting them, and encouraging them as far as practicable. No one will hesitate to approve and applaud his conduct, which was humane and intrepid.”
While much more could be said about Augustus Woodward, the patriot, I would turn now, if the Court please, to another aspect of the man that needs viewing.
No portrait of the judge would be complete without some mention of his scientific attainments. It has been said that Woodward was among the first to recognize the coming of the scientific age. In 1816, he published his seminal work, a system of universal science. It is difficult to imagine how vast the challenge the man undertook. His purpose was no less than to organize and catalog all human knowledge. Explaining his book, Woodward declared, “The power of intellect appears inadequate to grasp the mighty mass and a correct and satisfactory division of the knowledge at present in the possession of the human race or an elegant and appropriate classification and nomenclature of the sciences have not yet been effected.” Among his incredibly ambitious goals, the judge wanted to annunciate the principles upon which a great national institution could be constructed—an institution which he saw as becoming the seat of all learning, talents, erudition, and genius in the United States of America.
Like his mentor, Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia, whose system of cataloging books was used by the Library of Congress until 1899, Woodward was a man of action as well as dreams. In company with Rev. John Montiff and Father Gabriel Richard, Woodward drafted a charter for an institution he called the Catholepistemiad or the University of Michigania. His plan was to create an organism that would propagate the epistemic system on which he had expounded in his treatise. On August 26, 1817, the governor and judges of the Michigan Territory signed the University Act into law. It was from the first, enormously controversial, but then it was enormously ahead of its time. In time, the Catholepistemiad would mature into the University of Michigan. At the end of the 19th century, its president, James B. Angell, would say, “In the development of our strictly university work, we have yet hardly been able to realize the ideal of the eccentric but gifted man who framed the project of the Catholepistemiad.”
Woodward’s plan was not a mere charter. It was detailed blueprint for the organization of a university. What made it particularly controversial was Woodward’s invention of words to describe his various concepts. Faculty were called didactors. The curriculum was not called a curriculum, it was called the didaxia. The individual departments or sciences were not called sciences or departments, they were called didaxium, and they were each given strange sounding names. Anthropogloxica was the name for literature. Mathematica referred to mathematics. Physionaustica was natural science and history.
Physiosophica was the word for philosophy. Despite the fact that Woodward worked out his epistemic system with great scholarship and attention to detail, his detractors found it fertile soil in which to plant their ridicule. Governor Cass called the Catholepistemiad a pedantic and uncouth name. Isaac Christiancy thought it was un-Christian. And Justice James V. Campbell said it was neither Greek, Latin, nor English, but merely a piece of language run mad. Another wag wrote a piece in the Detroit Gazette, which announced that the Pigtail Club was being reorganized as the Pigtailonia Society of Michigania and would henceforth meet at the Gruntania Place. You can see that the politics of the early nineteenth century were not a whole lot different than they are today.
One last bit of color must be applied to our portrait of Judge Woodward, if it please the Court. Mention must be made of his judicial personality, and I think the best way to describe it is to tell you about two cases he decided, which I will call the Dennison case and the Pattison case. Both involved the issue of slavery. Woodward’s personal opinion about the institution of slavery fairly leaps from the pages of his biography. In this territory, he said, slavery is absolutely and peremptorily forbidden. Nothing can reflect higher honor on the American government than this interdiction. The slave trade is unquestionably the greatest of the enormities that have been perpetrated by the human race. The existence at this day of an absolute and unqualified slavery of the human species in the United States of America is universally and justly considered their greatest and deepest reproach. But as much as Woodward deplored slavery, he also felt the duty as a judicial officer to uphold the treaty of 1794 with Great Britain, which guaranteed the protection of the property rights of British settlers in America. The Dennison family were slaves owned by one Katharine Tucker, a widowed British citizen. The Dennisons claimed that they were entitled to their freedom under a Canadian law enacted in 1793 that called for the emancipation of all slaves at their twenty-fifth birthday. Judge Woodward concluded that the emancipation statute was in conflict with the treaty and that, under the Constitution of the United States, treaties made under the authority of the United States were the supreme law of the land. So saying, he dismissed the writ of habeas corpus and restored the Dennisons to Mrs. Tucker.
The second case involved some slaves belonging to a Richard Pattison, and others who were property of one Matthew Elliott. Both lived across the river in Ontario. Elliott was a British Indian agent who many people had blamed for inciting a number of uprisings and atrocities against American settlers. When Elliott came to Detroit to reclaim his slaves who had escaped across the river with Pattison’s people, he was greeted by a hostile mob of Detroiters. Elliott took refuge in the home of his attorney, Elijah Brush. Brush tried to reason with the crowd assembled at his doorstep, assuring them that Judge Woodward would see that justice was done in the matter. Since it was only a few months after the Dennison decision, there was some skepticism among the townspeople about what Woodward might do. Squire Smith, the town’s leading innkeeper and self-appointed spokesman, informed Attorney Brush that the people of Detroit were willing to support the constitution, but if Woodward should decide that Elliott’s slaves were to be restored to him, Judge Woodward himself was going to be tarred and feathered.
Four days later there was in fact an application of the traditional tar and feather punishment just outside the back door of Squire Smith’s tavern. It seems that one James Huard, an employee of Mr. Elliott, came to Detroit to testify on behalf of his employer. He stopped in to Squire Smith’s place to get a drink of grog. The other patrons greeted him with stony silence. Huard made the mistake of ingesting too much alcoholic courage. He became noisily aggressive, declaring that all in the room were a damned rascally set of beggars. Well, after a long night of picking at feathers and scraping tar from his skin, Huard found his wig nailed to a post on a street corner.
Judge Woodward was astute enough to consider the Pattison case first. He held that, under the law of nations, the property of a citizen of one country found within the territory of another country ought to be restored, but that there was no obligation to restore persons. He went on to hold that there could be no property right in persons under the common law and that, since the Northwest Ordinance prohibited slavery, there were only two instances when persons might be held to service—those in actual possession of British settlers when the territory was occupied by the United States, and those who were fugitives from a state of the American Union where slavery was still permitted. Since there was no treaty with the United States and Great Britain requiring the return of fugitive slaves, Woodward ruled that those who had escaped across the river were entitled to freedom in the United States. His opinion was greeted with great delight by the people of Michigan and generally approved throughout the northern states.
Thomas Cooley later observed that the Northwest Ordinance was the beginning of the end of slavery in America. Augustus Woodward’s decision in the Pattison case advanced the cause of freedom in Detroit and reflected the sentiments of her people. In the decades that followed, Detroit became a bustling terminus of the underground railroad. Little wonder that nearly two centuries later this great city and its environs are home to great numbers of persons of African heritage.
If the Court please, it is with this word picture of the first Chief Justice in mind that I would like to return for a moment to the arrival of Augustus Woodward on these shores. Despite the fact that the city was a charred ruin on June 30, 1805, the people of the town turned out to receive their new jurist. His reputation had preceded him. The villagers were anxious to get a glimpse of this important figure, this close friend of President Jefferson, this powerful leader who would somehow help them to rebuild their city. There was a high sense of anticipation. The next day Governor William Hull arrived and promptly administered the oath of office to Woodward and to Frederick Bates, another member of the first territorial court.
Obviously, the first order of business confronting the governor and judges was the rebuilding of the city. Augustus Woodward was given the job of laying out a plan. He tackled the assignment with his customary energy and with a vision reaching far beyond the horizons of his contemporaries. Woodward’s scheme was intended to be expandable, beginning at the banks of the Detroit River and spreading north, east, and west as generations of new inhabitants would swell the population of the city. He envisioned great thoroughfares two-hundred feet wide, large open circular plazas with space for parks, churches, schools, and public buildings. The basic unit of Woodward’s design was an equilateral triangle of which each side was 4,000 feet. The apex of the first unit was at the present side of Grand Circus Park where Bagley, Washington Boulevard, Madison, and Broadway converge on the grassy hub like the spokes of a wheel. The first phase of Woodward’s plan was intended to accommodate a population of 50,000, about one hundred times the number of persons then living in Detroit. The locals simply couldn’t understand it. Detroit hadn’t changed much in its first one hundred years. They couldn’t imagine a future in which tens of thousands would make their homes in the city.
Woodward’s plan was abandoned after only eleven years. But here again history has confirmed the genius of this eccentric judge. Experts have declared the Woodward plan to be amazing, a startling matrix for a modern city. One leading city planner observed, “Nearly all of the most serious mistakes of Detroit’s past have arisen from a disregard of the spirit of Woodward’s plan.” Woodward intended that the main highway in the renewed city would be that which followed along the course of the river. He named it Jefferson Avenue in honor of his patron and friend. The street he named for himself was supposed to be only a secondary road. As it gained greater importance, the designer, not wanting to appear self-aggrandizing, claimed that the avenue was not named for anyone, but rather was called Woodward because it ran toward the wooded land north of town.
Over the intervening decades, the association of Woodward Avenue with the first chief justice has deepened, not only historically, but also symbolically. The Woodward Avenue of the twenty-first century, like its name giver, is an amalgam of contradictions. The City-County Building, the public library, the Art Institute, Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, and dozens of other prominent public and private edifices stand proudly beside the vacated sites of former landmarks. Busy restaurants share frontage with abandoned stores. Dancing neon words compete with incomprehensible graffiti for the attention of passersby.
May it please the Court, I cannot conclude this journey into the past without reflecting on the troubles of our own time, and the lessons to be learned from history that may guide us and those who come after us. The early settlers of the city of Detroit lived with the daily threat of terrorism from a native population that surrounded the city. They knew the horror of a fire that destroyed their homes and businesses and left them deprived of possessions and devastated in spirit. Their response was embodied in the motto adopted for the city that remains its mantra to this day: speramus meliora resurget cineribus—we hope for better days; it will rise again from the ashes.
Life itself, may it please the Court, is full of inexplicable contradictions. We poor mortals will never understand why an omnipotent and merciful creator would allow evil and pain and tragedy and horror and grief to be visited upon his people. And yet we see rising from the ashes of our sorrow the inspiration of heroes, the crescendo of patriotism, the wellspring of generosity, and the benediction of sacrifice that for more than two centuries have been the stout bulwarks of American freedom. As this city and this nation enter a new and uncertain time, fraught with danger and doubt, challenging the very foundations of our faith and our resolve, the example of people like Augustus Woodward should help to inspire us to a new level of confidence, a new commitment to our common purpose, and a new hope that the aspirations we share for our children and grandchildren will indeed be realized.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you, Chief Justice Brennan for your remarks. If I were Judge Augustus Woodward here this morning, I might say that it was a physiophagia anthropomorphica speech that you gave, which I would translate to mean literate and philosophical. We thank you. It is fitting that a renaissance man such as yourself, and a man of vision, would pay tribute to a renaissance man and a man of vision who is so central to the history of the city of Detroit and the history of our state and our Court, so we thank you again for your great service to the Court.
At this time I would ask Mayor and former Justice Archer to come forward as I present this proclamation to you on behalf of the city.
Whereas the city of Detroit in its 300th year is being recognized for its rich and lasting contributions to Michigan, the United States, and the world in the arenas of government, the arts, and culture, sports, labor, and industry;
Whereas Detroit, as capital of the newly created Michigan Territory in 1805, hosted the territorial supreme court created that year;
Whereas Detroit, the Supreme Court, and the Michigan Territory benefitted significantly from the wisdom and creative energies of Augustus B. Woodward, the first chief justice who devised a plan for the city, established court procedure, and replaced British and French law with the stable foundation of American law;
Whereas, in the Detroit residence of James May, the council house, the courthouse, and other local venues, the Supreme Court held its early meetings and took its first notable actions affecting civil rights, the death penalty, and other matters;
Whereas Detroit has contributed over the lifetime of the Supreme Court sixteen justices;
Whereas Detroit, its government, and its courts, through the decades, have ably and with distinction assisted the Supreme Court in the pursuit and administration of justice;
Now, therefore, the justices of the Michigan Supreme Court declare this day, October 9, 2001, a day of tribute and appreciation for the city of Detroit, its longstanding dedication to the interests of justice, and its common history with the Supreme Court.
In witness thereof, we herewith have set our hands and cause this seal of the Michigan Supreme Court to be affixed at Lansing, the capital, this ninth day of October in the year of our Lord, 2001.
Congratulations, Mr. Mayor.
DETROIT MAYOR DENNIS W. ARCHER: May it please the Court, members of the bench and bar present, our host, President Irving Reed of Wayne State University. I want to thank the Michigan Supreme Court for this special session, which pays tribute and honor to the city of Detroit for our 300th birthday that we just celebrated on July 24, 2001. Mr. Chief Justice Brennan has given us an overview, written in prose and spoken in his usual eloquence about our past, and he has done a great job of outlining and talking about our former Chief Justice, Augustus Woodward.
As he was talking about the various departments that were named, that would be the future of the University of Michigan, and the words he used to describe the various departments, it sounds like the same words I’ve heard from Mr. Justice Young and Mr. Justice Cavanagh on the golf course that we’ve played on from time to time. I would also observe that in the few short years that I was privileged to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court, and while Mr. Chief Justice Brennan did not make note of it, I can say to you that we did not have the privilege of sharing food or drink during the discussions when we met and had members of the bar come before us to present their cases.
But I would like to say that, in listening to the history of our city and Augustus Woodward’s contribution as outlined by Mr. Chief Justice Brennan, I’m reminded of the hard work of Edsel Ford who chairs our 300th Commission, and Maude Lyon, the executive director, and the vision that they and the commissioners had to celebrate this year. And it is ironic that the strength and the vision and the commitment to civil rights as was set forth by Mr. Chief Justice Brennan call to mind two statues that will be unveiled this month—one on the banks of the river, on the Detroit side, and the other on the banks of Windsor. These statues will have been designed and sculpted by Ed White, an African-American, and they will be in honor of the role that the city of Detroit played in the underground railroad. So your remarks, Mr. Chief Justice, and the person who you spoke of today and his history and his feeling about civil rights and the issue of slavery could not have been more timely.
While you also spoke briefly of the future, let me also add my remarks. As a person who has had the privilege of leading the city as mayor for the last almost now eight years, I believe that the future of the city of Detroit is brighter than ever. This Court has played and will continue to play an important role in reminding us of the rule of law. No matter how hard times become and no matter what the future holds for us, as it relates to America’s response to the act of war imposed upon us by the terrorists on September 11, I am absolutely convinced that the rule of law, the respect for the law, and the strength of the city will be even greater than they were at the time that we became the arsenal of democracy as a city. I thank you on behalf of all of our citizens for your continued leadership. Madam Chief Justice, let me thank you for our ability to communicate so quickly on the morning of the 11th and the manner in which we worked out what to do about Wayne Circuit Court and the 36th District Court for that day. Thank you for your part in the role that we continue to play to provide safety and security, not only for the members of the bench and bar at our City-County Building, but for all citizens who might come into it so that they might be safe and sound and be given a sense of security.
So again, I want to thank you for having this special session. We appreciate more than you know the proclamation coming from the Michigan Supreme Court. I’m sure that all will note, it was a unanimous decision. I will pass it along for safekeeping to Maude Lyon who is here today, so that we might keep this proclamation in our archives as we now begin to prepare for the next hundred years a very bright future for the city of Detroit. Thank you very much, and God bless the Court.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you Mr. Mayor. We are honored by your presence and privileged to have you with us this morning. Before I adjourn, I want to introduce our colleague, Charles Levin, who has joined us, and to especially thank and commend President Reed for welcoming us to Wayne State University in this wonderful, magnificent Spencer Partridge Auditorium. Thank you. I also want to note, for all of the members of the Historical Society present and the public, the passing of our wonderful colleague, James H. Brickley, a week ago Saturday. Justice Brickley’s gentle spirit guided this Court for many years. I would thank you all for being present. This special session stands adjourned.