NOVEMBER 15, 1898
Upon the coming in of court on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 15, 1898, an oil portrait of the Honorable SANFORD M. GREEN, formerly a justice of the court, was presented to the court, on behalf of the bar of the State, by the Honorable THOMAS A. E. WEADOCK, of Bay City, who spoke as follows:
In behalf of the bar, and especially the bar of Saginaw Valley, I present to this court a portrait of the Honorable SANFORD M. GREEN, of Bay City, an associate justice and presiding judge of the Supreme Court of Michigan from March 2, 1848, to January 1, 1858, when the present court was organized. The painting is by PERCY IVES, of Detroit, and the photograph followed was selected by Judge GREEN.
When THOMAS JEFFERSON was President of the United States, on the 30th of May, 1807, at Grafton, Rensselaer county, New York, SANFORD M. GREEN was born. He was a descendant of the Greenes of Rhode Island, from which family came Gen. NATHANIEL GREENE, who stood next to WASHINGTON among the military heroes of our war for independence. His father was a farmer of small means, and young Green left his home at 16, to acquire an education and better his fortunes. At 19 he began teaching school, and for several years followed that well-trodden path to greater usefulness, and improved himself while he taught others. In 1828 he cast his first vote for Gen. ANDREW JACKSON for president, and he has voted at every presidential election since, having always been a Democrat, but always independent in his politics, as in everything else. He began reading law in 1829, and, having completed his five years of study, he was admitted to the bar, and began to practice at Brownsville, New York. In the spring of 1837 he removed to Michigan, and became interested in the land on which is now the thriving city of Owosso. He resided there five years, filling the offices of school assessor, justice of the peace, supervisor, state senator, and practicing his profession, until 1843, when he removed to Pontiac, where he prepared the Revised Statutes of Michigan,
Enacted in 1846, to which work he was appointed by the Supreme Court of the State. This revision still stands unchanged after 50 years, three compilations having been made in the meantime.
On March 2, 1848, Judge GREEN was appointed by Governor RANSOM associate justice of the Supreme Court, to fill a vacancy caused by the promotion of Judge WHIPPLE, and to hold the circuit courts for the Fourth circuit.
Formerly, under the act of 1851, the judges of the Supreme Court elected one of their number presiding judge, and Judge GREEN was elected to that position at the commencement of the January term, 1854, and served until the January term, 1856. His opinions as a member of this court are found in 1st to 4th Michigan, inclusive, in which they cover nearly 300 pages, and embrace nearly every subject of litigation; dower, riparian rights, practicing physicians, pleading, railroads, constitutional and criminal law. The most notable ones are those in People v. John Doe, on challenge to the array; People v. Michigan Southern Railroad Co., on private property for public use; Wetherwax v. Paine, on commercial paper, –still a ruling case; and Hibbard v. People, where it was held that section 7 of the prohibitory law, allowing the seizure and destruction of liquor, was unconstitutional. He concurred with the majority of the court in holding the prohibitory law of 1855 constitutional, in People v. Gallagher, and the law remained in force until 1875. His opinions were clear, confined to the case before him, amply sustained by authority, and never too long.
When his service on the supreme bench was ended, December 31, 1857, he became judge of the Sixth circuit, which position he held until 1867, when he resigned, and removed with his family to Bay City, and has resided there continuously since. In June, 1872, at the unanimous request of the bar, he was appointed circuit judge to succeed Hon. T. C. GRIER, who had died in office. He continued to hold the office by successive elections, there being no opposing candidates, until December 31, 1887, when he retired from the bench, with the respect and veneration so justly due him. The bar which had known him best unanimously resolved that he retired from the bench “carrying the esteem and admiration of his professional brethren, whose earnest wish and hope is that in his old age he may reap the harvest of attachment and respect which ripens from the seed of good works, sown through a long life of exceptional industry and faithful, honest manhood.” Such men as he have created and maintained that high regard for the judiciary in this country, State and Federal; and lawyers are especially proud of the fact that the department exclusively set apart for them in our country has commanded the respect and support of all good citizens. It will be an evil day for the Republic when popular clamor, or the schemes of political charlatans and designing men, can influence, in any way, the decisions of our courts, or punish the honest and fearless men who adorn our judiciary.
Judge GREEN could not remain idle, however, and he again opened a law office, confining his attention to counsel, and continued his work on “Crime; Its Nature, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention.” This he regarded the most important of the books he published. In 1860 he published “Green’s Practice,” which has remained from that time to this the standard work upon that subject in Michigan. In 1876, a new edition of the work, entitled “Green’s New Practice,” in two volumes, 1740 pp., was published, and in 1884 a second edition of the same work was brought out. In 1879 he published a compilation of Michigan township laws, with valuable forms, 10,000 copies of which were purchased by the State for use by township officers. His work on Crime was published by Lippincott & Co., in 1889, and attracted general attention. The subject was one to which he had given much thought during his long judicial service. The common-law phrase, “not having the fear of God before his eyes, and being instigated by the devil,” was not accepted implicitly by him as the cause of crime. He took a philosophic view of it, which led him to the belief that bad blood, inherited from vicious parents, bad books, bad companions, bad habits, bad food, and, above all, idleness and intemperance, so weakened the moral nature that crime was a disease, rather than a deliberate defiance of the law, but the good of the person offending, as well as the protection of society, demanded treatment of the criminal by the State; and, while he deplored the fact that our system of detention and imprisonment was inadequate, it was the only thing available, and his sentences were eminently just. In the preface to his work on Crime he said: “The treatment and care of these moral diseases, from which all sin and crime proceed, are subjects of more interest and importance to mankind than all others. Sin may never be entirely eliminated from the world, but I believe that, by means that have been proven to be practicable, it may be lessened.” Whether we agree with his theory or not, all who know him agree to the purity of his character, and his high purpose to better the condition of his fellow men.
The work of the Bay circuit was great, and the questions important, and he attended to his duties with a manly independence, an unwearied industry, and a dignity that commanded the respect and won the full confidence of the community. His sense of honor forbade his asking any man to favor his nomination or vote for him at the polls, and yet the last time he was a candidate he received every vote in the district but five, and during his long judicial career he was never called upon to punish any one for contempt.
Judge GREEN was a splendid type of physical manhood; over six feet in height, and well proportioned, he was a man who commanded attention and won respect. He is now in his ninety-second year, and in the full possession of his mental faculties, and is likely to round out the century before passing to the reward of a pure and useful life, where he shall greet on the farther shore the loved one gone before him. He has earned a place among the great judges of Michigan, and I am glad to say that Chief Justice GRANT suggested the presentation of this portrait at a notable meeting of the Saginaw Valley Bar. I have the honor to ask that the portrait be accepted by the court, to be placed in this court-room, and that suitable mention of the fact be made on the records of this court and in the official Reports.
Gentlemen of the Bar:
It is 40 years since Judge GREEN was a member of this court. Few lawyers who then argued cases before him are now living, and I do not know any who are now in actual practice. He is the last of his associates upon the bench. To speak with or of him seems like speaking to or of a man of a past generation. He stands forth like the last tree of a once great forest.
It was not my good fortune to know him personally, but he was known to us all through his well-thumbed book of Practice, then the guide of all young lawyers. We who entered the profession 20 to 40 years ago owe Judge GREEN a debt of gratitude for that valuable book. When we followed its directions and precedents we never went wrong.
I have attended two bar banquets in Saginaw within the last six years. At neither of these was Judge GREEN able to be present in person, but he was present in letters, which showed that, though he was old in years, he was still young in thought and vigorous in mind.
It must be and is a pleasure to every one to be reminded after he has passed off the stage of activity, that he is still remembered, and that his services to and for his fellow men and his State are appreciated. I trust it will be as gratifying to him to know that he is thus remembered as it is to you and to us to remember him.
I recently heard a physician say that he had about concluded that no one died of old age till he was over a hundred years old, and that under that age he died of disease. Let us hope that Judge GREEN May prove the truth of the statement.
Please, Mr. WEADOCK, convey to him the good wishes of all the members of this court, and our hope that he may pass the hundredth mile-post of life’s journey, and that each year may bring him additional pleasure and comfort.
In behalf of the court and the State I gladly accept this portrait, which his personal friends pronounce to be very life-like. It will be hung upon the walls of this room, a fitting memorial to one who rendered valuable services to his State.