NOVEMBER 22, 1889
GRAND RAPIDS, MICH., Nov. 22, 1889.
Sir: I send per express to Lansing, in care of the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Mr. Charles C. Hopkins, a portrait of my father-in-law, EDWARD MUNDY, late a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Michigan. I beg leave to offer it to the Court, to be added to those of the other Justices already in its possession, should the Court think proper to accept the gift.
I would be glad to have a day fixed when it may be formally presented.
I am sir, with high respect,
Your obedient servant,
LANSING, Nov. 4, 1889.
D. MCCONNELL, ESQ.,
Grand Rapids, Mich.
My Dear Sir: It gives me pleasure, in behalf of our Court, to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the second inst., and am happy to inform you that the excellent portrait of your distinguished father-in-law, the late Judge MUNDY, came safely to our Clerk, Mr. Charles C. Hopkins, who now has it in charge. The members of the Court highly appreciate this act of consideration and kindness on your part, and the Court will, on the morning of the twelfth instant, receive and accept this valued likeness of the Judge, if that time will be agreeable to you.
With kind regards, I am,
T.R. SHERWOOD, Chief Justice
At the opining of Court, on Tuesday, November 12, 1889, Mr. John S. Lawrence, in making the formal presentation, on behalf of Mr. McConnell, spoke as follows:
May it please your Honors:
It was suggested by the Chief Justice, early in present year, that it would be gratifying to the Court if the likeness of all the early Judges of this State could be secured and placed upon the walls of the court-room. I am here to offer to the Court a portrait of one of its earliest Justices, the late EDWARD MUNDY.
Justice MUNDY belonged to a generation whose members have mostly passed away, but fortunately, while personal memories were fresh, a memorial of him written by Judge Witherell was inserted in the reports, and this was so thorough in its details, and so full of kindly interest in the subject, that little was left to add at this time.
It is not unfitting, however, upon an occasion of this character to ask your Honors to suspend for a time the labors of the busy present, and turn to the contemplation of the men whose work, forty years ago, made much that we prize today possible. Of such men, Justice MUNDY was one of the most prominent. His part in the early history of the State is one that may be regarded with pride by his family, and with reverence and pleasure in this place. It was not alone as a member of this Court that he gained his honorable record. His appearance in public life began before the admission of Michigan to the Union. He was a member of the convention that framed the first Constitution, and was elected the first Lieutenant Governor of the State at the same time that Stevens T. Mason was made Governor. They both remained in those positions from 1835 to 1840, and during a portion of this time Justice MUNDY was acting Governor of the State. In 1847 he was appointed Attorney General by Governor Greenly, in which position he continued until he became a Justice of this Court, in 1848. Upon his decease, in 1851, he was succeeded by the late Justice MARTIN.
Under the Constitution of 1835, which remained in force during the incumbency of Justice MUNDY, the Justices of the Supreme Court had as well duties in the circuit courts at nisi prius, and much of their work was not of an appellate character. The record of his labors as a circuit judge is necessarily lost, in so far as it could give an idea of the man; but an examination of his decisions in this Court, mostly to be found in the first volume of the Michigan Reports, enable us to form for ourselves an exceptionally clear idea of his personality. In them are to be discerned qualities of high order. Their author was plainly a man of vigorous intellect and sound legal training, and there is much evidence, in the conciseness and lucidity of these decisions, of a fine literary taste. If it is considered that Michigan in Justice MUNDY’s time, a frontier state of but small population, it is impossible not to pay tribute as well to the distinguished expounder of the law, as to the perfection of the law, itself. This same State of Michigan is now a center of civilization, the hive of more than two million people; and yet, under new conditions, and after progress so rapid that the generation of forty years ago would scarcely recognize the country in which it lived and was active, the same law, which was laid down as governing the relations of men then, accommodates itself with precision to the affairs of to-day. We turn with confidence to the early cases in this Court, a Court which has justly earned a foremost place in the tribunals of the world, for principles, which, as admirable in form as they are legally correct, must remain the unchallenged guides of our jurisprudence. Our early Justices could scarcely have dreamed that they were establishing law for such a future; but the common law, expounded by the men of clear intellect who have adorned this Bench, is a fountain of truth, and truth is eternal.
The portrait, which is the gift of Col. Daniel McConnell, of Grand Rapids, the late Justice’s son-in-law, shows a man of splendid physique and strong manly countenance. I trust it may remain long in the reverent custody of this Court.
Mr. Chief Justice SHERWOOD, in accepting the portrait, remarked:
It is not fitting on this occasion that I should attempt a response to the eloquent and appropriate address of Mr. Lawrence, on the presentation of this portrait of the late Judge MUNDY to this Court.
This distinguished citizen, whose life, and public service to the State, it is intended to commemorate, belonged to a generation of eminent men, nearly all of whom have passed away but who, while living, so wisely moulded our institutions in their formative period that posterity should not fail to reap the benefit of their labors, in the prosperity we now, as a commonwealth, are permitted to enjoy.
Although this learned jurist was personally known but to a single member of the present Court, none of us have failed to recognize and appreciate the legal learning and ability he brought to bear in the discharge of his judicial duties, and the part he took in laying broad the foundation of our judicial system, and in the administration of the law, as we find it recorded in the reports of the decisions he gave, and in the history of our State. I will only say further to Mr. Lawrence that his motion, with pleasure, is granted, and that the Court is greatly obliged to Mc. McConnell for this likeness of Judge MUNDY. It will be assigned a place upon the walls of our court-room, beside those of his pioneer associates upon the Bench of the Supreme Court.
Judge CAMPBELL spoke substantially as follows:
The portrait of Judge MUNDY, which did not impress me at first as much as it does on further view, brings up the remembrance of the remarkable men who shaped the early course of Michigan. Judge MUNDY’S public life began with the territorial period, and the prominent citizens of those early days were remarkable for their culture and breadth of views. They did what they could to advance the interests of education and general enlightenment, as equally necessary to the prosperity of our institutions with law and sound policy.
Judge MUNDY was a Jerseyman, and New Jersey has given us a good many valued citizens. He was educated it Rutgers College, which has always stood deservedly high among our colleges. He graduated in 1812, at what was then the usual graduating age of eighteen, and the practice then existing, which has to some extent been unfortunately departed from,–of making the college course almost exclusively one of training and not of cramming,–enabled the graduate to have a sufficiently long period of special preparation for active life before he reached his legal majority, and so let him start in his vocation as soon as he came to manhood. He was admitted to the bar and began practice in New Jersey. About 1819 he moved to Illinois, and remained there several years. An unfortunate fire caused him considerable loss, and he went back to New Jersey, where he continued some years in other business pursuits, which interrupted his legal practice for a time. In 1831 he came with his family to Michigan, and settled in Ann Arbor, then a new village, but having some very strong men among its citizens. He was appointed justice of the peace by the Governor. The office was then more important socially than now, as the practice prevailed–as in England and the older states–of giving the position to men of some local prominence. He was subsequently made a judge of one of the territorial courts. He had become very well known and respected, and in 1835 was a member of the first Constitutional convention to prepare for the admission of the State. That was an able body, and Judge MUNDY impressed himself strongly enough upon its proceedings to secure the nomination to the office of Lieutenant Governor on the same ticket with Governor Mason. They were both elected and re-elected together, and continued as colleagues until the change of State politics left both out. During this period Judge MUNDY presided at the annual meetings of the Senate, and was at different times acting Governor. The balance of parties was close and much political feeling prevailed, which affected all public men to some degree. But while, as a man of positive convictions, he did not escape his share of this feeling, he was generally respected in his office as a fair and able president of the Upper House.
He was for several years one of the appointed Regents of the University, and it was in that capacity that, as secretary of the board, I first became well acquainted with him. As a resident of Ann Arbor he naturally is called on to attend to its local matters, as well as to meet with his colleagues. He showed an enlightened and active interest in the University, which was then just graduating its first classes, and maturing its plans.
He stood high at the bar, and at that time the local bar of Washtenaw included some eminent men. He was connected in business for some time with the just retired, learned, and sagacious first Chief Justice of the State, WILLIAM A. FLETCHER, and there were two other gentlemen among his fellow citizens who at no distant intervals occupied seats on the Supreme Bench. One was the now venerable ALPHEUS FELCH, still living in unimpaired vigor of intellect, after filling high National and State offices. The other was GEORGE MILES, an accomplished jurist, whose life was not prolonged, but who is remembered with great respect. Besides these were several others who were ornaments of the State Bar, and of extended reputation.
Judge MUNDY held at one time by appointment from the Governor and Senate the office of prosecuting attorney, and was in 1847, and till his elevation to the Bench, Attorney General of the State.
In 1848 the increasing needs of the State led to the appointment of a fifth Judge of the Supreme Court, and the creation of a new judicial circuit. At that time the circuit courts were presided over by Supreme Court Judges. The first Bench consisted of a Chief Justice and two associates. A fourth Judge had been added some years previously, CHARLES W. WHIPPLE, and when the fifth was provided for the choice fell on Judge MUNDY, who removed to Grand Rapids on that account. I never practiced before him at the circuit. But his work in the Supreme Court appears in his published opinions, which indicate legal knowledge and sound scholarship. He died in 1851, after a judicial career which, though short, was useful and respected.
He was a gentleman of fine appearance and dignified presence, but of remarkable grave and reticent manners almost approaching an air of melancholy. He was not, however either morose or lacking in warmth of feeling or amiability, and he had cordial friends. He was courteous in demeanor and high principled. He was a religious man, strongly attached to the Protestant Episcopal Church, and interested in the well-being of society. There are not many left who knew him, but he deserves to be remembered as one of the good citizens who moulded our institutions.