Presentation of the Portrait of Benjamin Graves

January 8, 1884

At the opening of Court on Tuesday, January 8th, 1884, being the first day of the January term, the Honorable George V. N. Lothrop addressed the Court as follows:

May it please your Honors: I am charged by my brethren of the Bar of Michigan with the performance, this morning, of a most agreeable duty.

At the end of the year just now closed, Mr. Chief Justice Graves retired from this bench. His judicial career had been long and most honorable. He had shown very high judicial qualities of mind and character. He had brought to his duties learning, patience of temper, habits of laborious investigation, a discriminating judgment and the most conscientious purpose. He had a profound reverence for the worth and dignity of his great place. To decide a cause was, with him, more than the disposition of the controversy of the litigants. It was to do justice, and to maintain law, as the sovereign order of the State. This made his presence on the bench always instructive and impressive.

The Bar of Michigan justly thought that this retirement of Judge Graves should be marked by a distinct expression of their respect and esteem. Accordingly, on the evening of December 27th last, the Bar of Michigan gave Judge Graves a public reception at the Detroit Club House, which was honored not only by the profession, but by many eminent citizens at large. At the same time a brief address was prepared, elegantly engrossed on parchment, and, after being largely signed by lawyers, was presented to Judge Graves as a permanent memorial of the occasion.

While this was intended as a most sincere and individual tribute to Judge Graves, it had, I think, a still further meaning, of which I may properly here speak. I am justified in saying that it was felt not only as a tribute to Judge Graves, but also to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court of this State has always possessed the esteem and confidence of our entire people. It is not yet fifty years since our State was formed; but the government then organized was organized as a government of law; for it was felt that just laws, wisely administered and cheerfully obeyed, gave a security greater than could be given by arms. The men who founded this State were a handful in number and poor in wealth; but they were men of rare foresight. They looked forward to a commonwealth, not inferior to any other in institutions of learning, in social and religious culture, and in liberty protected by law. Their work was not in vain. All that is now about us testifies to this–the nearly two millions of people now gathered in our domain, the noble building where we now stand, the University of which we are so proud, our schools and churches, our prosperous towns and cities, and, more than all, the innumerable homes which shelter instructed, cultured, refined and happy men and women, the glory and perfection of any state.

Such fruits are possible only where there are upright judges and a pure administration of law. From beginning to end, the roll of the names that have adorned our Supreme Bench is without stain or reproach. To their great honor they have moulded a system of jurisprudence just, equal and liberal, practical in character, and of great simplicity, where the magistrate never ceases to be the citizen. At the same time their labors have been marked with distinguished learning and scholarship. Perhaps to-day we stand too near for perfect criticism. But I sincerely believe, what it gives me pleasure here to declare, that in our reports may be found judgments that would do honor to Westminster Hall or to the United State Supreme Court,–judgments that in learning, in judicial sagacity and in comprehensive wisdom, are worthy to stand beside those of Mansfield, of Marshall and of Kent.

If I may add a word personal to myself, I wish to say that it has been my happiness to know personally every judge who has ever sat in the Supreme Court of Michigan. To the larger part of the living bar, the names of many of the earlier judges are only historical names. To me they are the names of personal friends. And, as I stand here, I recall with emotion that it is just forty years, at this term, since I first essayed to speak in the Supreme Court of Michigan, and that here a large part of the humble labor of my life has been done.

I have therefore felt it a personal privilege, in offering our tribute to Judge Graves, also to offer a tribute equally sincere to the high tribunal of which he was so long a distinguished member.

May it please the Court: In the name of the Bar of Michigan, I now bring to you a copy of their address to Chief Justice Graves, and, in their behalf, respectfully ask that it may be entered on the journal of this Court, and given an appropriate place in the Reports of Michigan.

The Address was as follows:

To the Honorable Benjamin F. Graves, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court:

The undersigned, members of the Bar of Michigan, deploring the loss which they, with all your fellow-citizens, sustain in your relinquishment of office, wish, in these few, imperfect words, to testify to you their sense of your merits and of their own appreciation. Upon the Circuit and Supreme Court bench you have given the long service of twenty-five years. Patient in hearing, careful in judgment, courteous to the bar, studious and learned without ostentation, wise without pretension, in private life pure and upright, without suspicion and above reproach, you have commanded the respect and won the love of all. Your high bearing and good example have kept before us, as ministers of the law, the dignity and responsibility of our profession, and worthily shown how men should serve in places of public trust. Nothing graces an honorable retirement like sincere respect and affection won by duty well done; and we follow you with the earnest prayer that your future may be as rich in peace as your past has been in good service.

We congratulate you that you still have good health, and we trust that your learned leisure, like a sound and healthy tree, may bear further fruit in the field of enlightened jurisprudence.

We shall not say farewell, for we hope that days and years may be graciously added, and that in your future life and new labors the ripest blessings of a kind Providence may be your happy lot.

Signed by: Geo. V. N. Lothrop, Henry C. Wisner, John D. Conely, Otto Kirchner, William P. Wells, Henry D. Barnard, Levi L. Barbour, Geo. H. Lothrop, DeWitt C. Holbrook, Henry A. Haigh, Oscar M. Springer, Henry M. Cheever, S. M. Cutcheon, Andrew Howell, J. W. Finney, James F. Joy, A. C. Blodgett, C. A. Kent, Henry M. Duffield, Geo. W. Moore, F. H. Canfield, John H. Bissell, E. W. Pendleton, Henry H. Holt, Henry M. Campbell, Alfred Lucking, L. N. Keating, J. H. Chandler, Geo. H. Hopkins, C. E. Warner, J. Patchin, Jas. W. Romeyn, Theodore Romeyn, C. I. Walker, Levi T. Griffin, Hoyt Post, Geo. Jerome, Fred A. Baker, Geo. Gartner, Samuel T. Douglass, Thomas Weadock, C. P. Black, James A. Randall, George P. Voorheis, T. J. O’Brien, Isaac Marston, Don M. Dickinson, Hugh McCurdy, Martin V. Montgomery, Henry Russel, William A. Moore, Charles M. Swift, Charles B. Lothrop, C. J. Reilly, Edward A. Gott, Wm. T. Mitchell, A. H. Wilkinson, T. Crocker, E. H. Flinn, J. W. Champlin, John Atkinson

The Honorable Charles Upson then addressed the Court as follows:

May it please the Court: The sentiments of the members of the Bar on the occasion of the recent voluntary retirement of Chief Justice Graves from the bench of this Court, have been appropriately and feelingly expressed in the communication lately addressed by them to him, to which your attention has, in such felicitous language, just been called. The present has also been deemed by them a proper occasion for some further manifestation of their respect and esteem calculated in some degree to preserve and perpetuate his presence here after his retirement.

On behalf, therefore, of the members of the Bar of this State, I have now the honor and the pleasure of presenting to this Court a portrait of the Honorable Benjamin F. Graves, late Chief Justice of this Court, accompanied with their respectful request thta the same be assigned a permanent place in the Supreme Court Room.

The Chief Justice said: It affords the members of the Court very great pleasure to receive and assign to a suitable place in the hall where he so recently presided the admirable likeness of their late associate. It also gives them the highest satisfaction to respond affirmatively to the request that they should place upon their records the very feeling and appropriate address which was presented to Judge Graves by the bar of the State. The address was a spontaneous tribute by the bar to official worth and official integrity, but no one could know so well as the members of the Court how truthful was all that was said and how well deserved. All of us have known him long and intimately; two of us have practiced before him when he has been sitting at the circuit in the trial of causes; two of us have sat with him upon the bench in the closest possible official relations for sixteen years. His kindness, his courtesy, his devotion to duty, his indefatigable industry are known to all men; but none could know so well as those who were officially associated with him how little he spared himself, how patiently he gave his time and attention to the study of records and to the examination of the printed arguments and the authorities, how anxious he was not only to do what justice seemed to him to demand, but also to put upon record the right reason for the right judgment. All these things were seen most clearly by those who were associated with him in the consultation room and in the disposition of causes. Passing by without remark all that has been said that is complimentary to the Court, it is a pleasure to say that nothing could be more truthful than what is said concerning Judge Graves himself, and nothing better deserved. And the Court are gratified with the reflection that while it is well on personal grounds that these things should be said, it is still more important for public reasons. It is always conducive to public virtue, to good order in the State and to a proper and thorough administration of the law, when faithful and conscientious public services are cherished and so suitably commemorated.

The Clerk of the Court will be directed to enter the address at large upon the Journal of the Court, and the Reporter will give it appropriate place in the next volume.