October 13, 1885
At the opening of Court on the morning of Tuesday, October 13, 1885, a portrait by Lewis T. Ives of the Honorable Thomas McIntyre Cooley, lately Chief Justice of the State of Michigan, was presented to the Court by the State Bar.
Mr. HENRY F. SEVERENS, speaking for the Bar, addressed the Court as follows:
May it please your Honors:
The Bar of the State, foreseeing the approaching retirement from the bench of Judge Cooley, their friend and the associate of your senior members, have considered how they might bring here some token of their kind regard for him, which might be commemorative also of an event so adapted to cast the hue of sadness over us, breaking as it does, the associations of so many years.
Among the distinguished men whom our young and thrifty Michigan has already contributed to the history of the time the recent Chief Justice of the Court holds a prominent and honorable place. I am sure your honors will not think I pass beyond the bounds of what may fitly be said of one yet living if on this occasion I speak of the illuminated record our brother has made, and in doing so press no fact beyond its fixed and well-known place.
In the products of that faithful zeal in his professional work, and that wonderful facility for accurate execution, which seems like a gift of genius, we all share advantages which it is a duty as well as a pleasure to acknowledge. We do not ignore his fame as an author of the highest repute in various branches of legal and historic lore, but it is rather of him as a member of the Court that we wished to speak today. Fifty volumes of your reported decisions bear witness to the great value of his services to the State as an essential component of the Court. I count the early period when he was its Reporter, for a good reporter is almost the equivalent of a good judge.
The jurisprudence of the State, which was at the beginning of his official life in a plastic state, has taken form and mould, and it is needless here or elsewhere to recount how much he has done to help in the perfecting of our system of law, and to establish the high character which he and his associates have created for the Court in the respect of the profession and people, not only of our own State, but in other states and countries wherever a kindred system of law and government prevails. And how grand is the work in which he shared of laying deep and strong the foundations of the order and justice of a new State!
Since he came into the Court an almost infinite variety of questions, ranging from those occurring in the daily life of the people to those of the highest import to society, have here been solved. In the forensic struggles of opposing interests and the judicial recognition and adoption of the sound and durable, and bringing away of what was fictitious and unsubstantial, the clear and glowing light of justice has shone above the clouds of self-interest and error.
While the truth could soar hither with an abiding confidence, full many a Dædalus has seen the waxen wings of his own construction melted away in his presence and his offspring tumbled downward into the sea.
Far into the future and beyond our shortened ken, the work he helped to do here will live and animate the growing body of our law as it progresses toward the perfect form which we may hope the learning and wisdom of his successors may evolve. And beyond our thought of time, the student of the judicial history of the State, and the professional man, searching at the root for the exposition of principles which govern the social life of men, will read his name and see the monument he built for himself in these early reports of the State’s dawning years.
Of those who composed the new organization of the Court now nearly thirty years ago, but one beloved and honored name remains upon our roll of judges.
To him, who has seen so many changes since that time, this retirement of his early associate must be an event of deprivation and sorrow. The other members of the Court will miss his ready familiarity with the work of their predecessors, his sound legal judgment and active aid. To the members of the Bar, who turn loyally to the fealty due to the changed Court, some natural expressions of sadness incident to the change must be excused.
We have wished to preserve the face and lineaments of our friend, and by the hand of another we have caused his portrait to be put upon canvas. And because the Court and Bar have a joint interest in the subject, we have though it might be as agreeable to your Honors as to ourselves that the portrait should be a part of the belongings of the Court and hang upon its walls.
We trust you will deem the work sufficiently worthy of the subject to grant our request and aid us in making, so far as we can, his face a perpetual presence here.
My associates have desired that I should speak for the Court on thus occasion, because I have been longer connected with Judge Cooley than any other member of the Court. I do it with pleasure at the same time, of course, with other feelings that naturally arise in looking over the long period in which we were associated in one capacity or another. It certainly is a pleasure to us, and a pleasure to everyone, I think, to have perpetuated in this court room the memory of a judge who has done so much to illuminate the law, and who has done so much to give credit to himself in the, administration of justice, as well as in other labors not less illustrious.
As one of the original members of the present Supreme Court, it was my pleasure to join with the other members of the Court in the unanimous selection of Judge Cooley as our first Reporter. Some of the members of the Court, as then constituted, had not had any personal knowledge of him. Judge Christiancy and myself had known him tolerably well—Judge Christiancy very intimately. We selected him because we had noticed in his management of cases, even in his early standing at the Bar, a very great discrimination in picking out and enforcing the strong, and important points in a case. He was able to select from what might possibly appear a confused mass of material that which was really the key to every transaction with a clearness of mind which enabled him to be one of the best reporters, I think by general consent we ever had in the United States.
When a vacancy was created by the death of Judge Manning there was a general feeling that Judge Cooley as reporter had shown such qualities as would make him fit for a judicial office, and his selection had but very little opposition. From that time to this his career has been an extremely honorable one. It is hardly necessary for me to speak of his labors as a judge as they appear to the outside world. Every one knows what they have been. But I can speak with a great deal of feeling upon his action as a judge outside of the court room, and in association with his brethren. He was not only willing to take upon himself all the labor that fairly belonged to him, but he was always courteous in his demeanor to his associates, and ever ready to listen to argument or any suggestions which they might wish to make. In other words, he was all that any of us could desire as an associate on the judicial bench.
It would hardly be desirable, I think, to dwell upon this subject longer, but I can say with the utmost truth that Judge Cooley’s associations with his brethren on the bench were always such as they will remember with pleasure, just as his conduct on the bench is remembered by the outside world, not only with pleasure, but with great respect and reverence.
My acquaintance with Justice Cooley was simply that of a practitioner before this Court. As such a practitioner I most heartily join in every word that has been said in commendation of his ability and integrity as a judge. His name is not only inseparably linked with the law in Michigan, but he has enriched the jurisprudence of his country by his labor and his learning. He has been and is an honor to our State and Nation.
The Court gladly receives this life-like portrait, and will assign it a proper place on the walls of the court room.
The Clerk will enter the proceedings upon the Journal, and they will be published in the Reports.