APRIL 5, 1898
At the opening of court on Tuesday, April 5, 1898, being the first day of the term, oil portraits of the Honorable ALLEN B. MORSE and of the Honorable JOHN W. McGRATH, former justices of the court, were presented to the court, on behalf of the bar of the State, by the Honorable JOHN W. CHAMPLIN and the Honorable GEORGE H. DURAND, respectively, also ex-members of the court.
Mr. CHAMPLIN spoke as follows:
May it Please your Honors:
I have the honor, as well as the pleasure, of presenting to this court a portrait of one who was formerly one of its members, and chief justice.
Judge MORSE is still among us, engaged in the practice of the profession of which lie is so fond. This is not a time for pronouncing a eulogy or panegyric upon his life and character. To do so would be contrary to his wishes, as well as a violation of the proprieties of the occasion.
ALLEN BENTON MORSE was born at Otisco, Mich., January 7, 1839. His youthful years were spent upon his father’s farm. His education was acquired mostly in the public schools of his town. He took a two years’ course at the Agricultural college, near Lansing, where he finished his education, and in 1860 began the study of the law. He pursued his studies until the southern states plunged into open rebellion and resistance to the laws of the United States. His country called for volunteers, and he enlisted as a private in the 16ith Michigan infantry in 1861. In 1863 he was transferred to the 21st infantry, which was recruited and rendezvoused at Ionia, and which went to the front in the Western department. Soon after the battle of Chickamauga, he was assigned to duty as acting assistant adjutant-general on the staff of Col. F.T. SHERMAN, who commanded the 1st brigade of Sheridan’s division. While acting in this capacity he lost his left arm at the battle of Missionary Ridge. He left the service in 1864, and returned to Ionia, and entered again upon the study of the law, and was admitted to practice in February, 1865. He was elected to the office of prosecuting attorney of Ionia county for two terms, which he filled with ability and success. After his term of office expired, and during the succeeding years, he was professionally engaged in the defense of many important criminal suits, and built up a reputation as a successful lawyer. He was elected to the senate of the State of Michigan for 1875, and served upon several important committees. His reputation and ability as a lawyer brought him the nomination for justice of the Supreme Court, to which office he was elected in the spring of 1885. The resignation of Chief Justice COOLEY in October of that year caused a vacancy in the court, and Judge MORSE was appointed to fill it, and he entered upon the duties of chief justice in October, 1885. Thus he commenced and ended his judicial career as chief justice of this court. While upon the bench, in 1891, he was the recipient of the honorary degree of LL. D., conferred upon him by the Agricultural college through its board of trustees, as a testimonial of their regard for his great judicial ability.
As an associate of Judge MORSE upon the bench, I can certify to his unfailing industry and untiring zeal to get at the pith of the controversy, without favor or prejudice toward either of the parties litigant. He was quick to seize upon the decisive points involved, and to determine them upon reason and authority. He did not adopt blindly the decisions of other courts, but investigated the reasoning upon which the cases were decided; and if it appeared to be sound, or commended itself to his judgment, he would rely upon it as strengthening his position. It sometimes occurred, as it will occur in the administration of justice, owing to the different mental capacities of different men thinking upon the same
subject, that a decision of our own court, previously announced, would not meet with the approval of his convictions; that he would be inclined to differ from the decision expressed by his predecessors; but regarding the question as settled, and giving weight to the maxim of stare decisis, he would forego his dissent, and be ruled by what had been established as the law in this State. This was especially so when the decision had been of so long standing as might reasonably be presumed to have become a rule of property. He recognized that the certainly of a rule is often of more importance than the reason of it. He did not yield blind obedience to decisions which were contrary to principle, for to do so would be to perpetuate a wrong and render it immortal.
The first published opinion of Judge MORSE is found in the 58th Michigan Report, at page 220. The case involved the constitutionality of Act No. 320 of the Public Acts of 1885, which provided for the appointment of inspectors of election from two of the leading political parties. It was a concurring opinion with Mr. Justice CAMPBELL, in which he stated his own reasons for declaring the act unconstitutional. His work on the bench is evidenced in the published opinions of the court from volume 58 to volume 93. He resigned the office of chief justice October 1, 1892, and resumed the practice of law. The year following he was appointed consul to Glasgow. His guiding principles in the administration of justice while upon the bench were right, justice, law; and these principles are apparent in all of the decisions he made. He was bold and fearless in announcing his convictions. He “hewed to the line, let the chips fall where they would.”
In an association of more than six years with Judge MORSE upon the bench, I was enabled to form a just estimate of his judicial character. I found him attentive, careful, and conservative, and remarkably free from bias. His aim was to accomplish just results between parties litigant, in accordance with the law as disclosed by the record. I feel a just pride in presenting to this court, on behalf of the bar of this State, his portrait, and request that it be accorded a place upon the wall of this courtroom as a commemoration of his services in the jurisprudence of this State.
Mr. DURAND said:
May it Please the Court:
When the distinguished sons of a State are honored, the State is honored. The glory of a State is in its people; and when those to whom power has been confided have performed their functions in so able a manner as to add luster to its history, the first human impulse is in some way to express appreciation of the work and character of such as have been unusually prominent in advancing and preserving the rights and liberties of the people, and the general prosperity and stability of the State. While in our own day and country we do not crown our living men with laurel, and lead them out to receive the ostentatious adulation of the public, yet we may modestly say something of their lives, and point them out as men who have been true and faithful to the trusts that have been reposed in them. It is not fair that all the pride we feel in our honored countrymen should remain unspoken until the history of their intellectual achievements is written on the monuments erected over their graves. It is quite commendable that a portion of the recognition to which an honored fellow-citizen is entitled should be bestowed during his lifetime, so that he may have the satisfaction of knowing, while he yet lives, that the story of his life is one in which his State takes a laudable pride, and that his life-work is being pointed to as worthy the emulation of those who are fitting themselves to assume the honors and take up the burdens which he has so faithfully carried.
Animated by this feeling of admiration and affection for a distinguished citizen of Michigan, the bar of the State has honored me with a commission to present to you this very perfect portrait of Judge JOHN W. MCGRATH, late the chief justice of this honorable court, and to ask that it be given a place on these walls.
Judge MCGRATH began his education upon the farm,–that wonderful school of nature from which have been graduated so many of the world’s greatest jurists, statesmen, and soldiers. He learned to love labor and respect the laborer. He became so impressed with the dignity and importance of this basic principle of all true progress that it became a part of himself, and he has never forgotten to appreciate the wants and espouse the cause of those who earn their bread by honest toil. His subsequent development in college and university only served to give more perfect expression to that which he had learned in forest and field. His extensive intercourse with the world and with men in high station has never made him ashamed to recall his early home in the wilderness, nor to diminish his love and respect for those sturdy pioneers who directed his boyhood ambitions toward the goal which leads to success and fame.
He has held various positions of public trust, and, in the performance of his duties, displayed such qualities of ability and integrity as to impress the people with his real worth, and they in turn exalted him to the greatest honor that can be given a lawyer, by electing him as one of the judges of this court. Here, as elsewhere, he showed himself a man of much ability and untiring energy, as well as studious, aggressive, and forceful. What prejudices he may have had he kept well in control. His sympathies were always alert, and his heart was not hardened, nor his ears closed to the just complaints of either the rich or the poor.
Those of us who have had the pleasure of sitting with him on this bench know how ably and conscientiously he performed his high judicial functions. He was affable, patient, quick to perceive the salient points in a case, and apt in applying the law to them. He gave to each case his best thought. He was exhaustive in his research, and came to the consultation room fortified with authorities to sustain his contention, and with clearly-defined views of the principles which he thought should obtain. He was courteous of the bar, and listened with respectful attention to the arguments of counsel for contending litigants. He was considerate of the feelings of his brethren on the bench, and, however he might differ from them as to the conclusions that should be arrived at in a case at bar, yet he had their unqualified respect because of the able and fearless way in which he maintained his own views.
The reported opinions written by him portray his character and attainments more faithfully than either friend or foe can picture them. They show his ability, his learning, his knowledge of the world and its affairs, his untiring industry, his close application to the study of the law, and, above and beyond all, the bear abundant testimony of that high regard for the rights and liberties of the citizen which characterizes him as a just and upright judge. They constitute a record to which we and the generations which will come after us may always turn with the proud satisfaction of knowing that at least he did not lower the high standing which is accredited to the recorded enunciations of this court.
He is yet at the zenith of his manhood, and I have said all, and undoubtedly much more than he would wish me to say; but I could not say less, and express a fair judgment of his true manliness and worth. I am sure that you fully concur in my estimate of his character, and that, in granting the request we have made, you will gladly join with us in wishing for him many more years, of usefulness and accumulating honors.
Chief Justice GRANT responded as follows:
Gentlemen of the Bar:
It gives me exceeding pleasure to accept, on behalf of my associates and of the State, the portraits of Justices MORSE and MCGRATH, which you have presented. In accepting them we heartily endorse what you have said in regard to their character, and the eminent services which they rendered in their official capacity to the State. Except my brother Justice MOORE, we were all associated with these gentlemen on the bench and in the consulting room. We there came to know them intimately, and formed friendships which will be life-long. They brought to their judicial work ability and learning, and were animated with the sole desire to reach the right, justice, and law of the cases brought before them for determination. It is well to hang upon the walls of this room, in lasting form, the faces of those who have been engaged in the difficult task of interpreting statutes, deciding constitutional questions, and applying those principles of the common law designed for the protection of the rights of citizens, All will recognize the difficulty in speaking of them, while they are living, as we would like to. I will therefore say no more than to voice the sentiments of my associated and myself in saying that we are glad to receive these portraits, and to order them to be hung upon the walls of the court-room.
I wish also to say that we rejoice that steps are being taken to obtain the portraits of some of the earlier justices of this court which we do not possess. I refer to those who were judges prior to the organization of the court under the Constitution of 1850. Two of them are still living,–Judge SANFORD M. GREEN and Judge JOSIAH TURNER. Provision has already been made to secure a portrait of Judge GREEN, who is now over 90 years of age. We understand also that efforts are being made to secure one of Judge TURNER and of the late Judge DOUGLASS.