In Memoriam Daniel Goodwin

JANUARY 10, 1888

In the matter of the presentation of resolutions on the death of Hon. Daniel Goodwin, late Judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Michigan, who died August 24, 1887, aged 87 years and 9 months.

Hon. MOSES TAGGART, Attorney General, addressed the Court as follows: I am requested by the Detroit Bar Association to present resolutions adopted by it, commendatory of the life and public services of Judge Daniel Goodwin, and of regret at his death, and loss to the state of one so able and useful.

Well is it for us to occasionally suspend the grind of every-day work, the rivalries, earnest contentions, heat, and excitement incident to the filling of our places in this bustling world, and turn our thoughts for one moment to the Beyond, where rests one who made history for Michigan, and who has now passed from our vision, and yet who was but shortly with us, performing the same work, on a broader field perhaps, as are we.

To do this upon the loss of such a man as Judge Goodwin is honor to the memory of one most deserving, and a source of profit to ourselves.

Certainly one who has filled such a place in the van of the many leaders of this great Commonwealth should not soon be forgotten, and we but poorly pay the debt due his memory in making brief record of his work, and giving expressions to feelings of deep respect for his life and services.

Fitter will it be that those better acquainted with the lamented Judge, his fine traits of character, well-stored professional and judicial mind, speak in his praise, than one whose knowledge is largely based upon the history of Michigan, a history with which, for many years, the name of Daniel Goodwin was so closely identified.

A few years will leave no one to speak of the ablest and best except from hearsay, or the record of works left behind, professional or otherwise, the best criterion, possibly, from which to measure the real merit of a life work, as it does not flatter, as friends after death, nor criticize, as enemies in life.

The late Judge Goodwin was born in Geneva, New York, November 24, 1799, and was a descendant of Ozias Goodwin, who settled in Hartford, Connecticut, as early as 1635.

His history at Union College, where he graduated, in 1819, with such classmates as William H. Seward, Bishops Doane and Potter, was that of a most successful student, he standing with the best in his class.

Such foundation as this, added to thorough training in the law with one of New York’s ablest lawyers–John C. Spencer, of Canandaigua–and his vigorous mind, gave him vantage ground that, but for feeble health in early manhood, he might have taken a still more active part in the leadership of the able men with whom he was associated in the Territory and State of Michigan.

Before Michigan became a State he was appointed its United States District Attorney, and was so zealous in the strict performance of official duty, in prosecuting violators of international law in the Patriot War, as to incur the hatred of many and endanger his own personal safety.

Judge Goodwin’s success in presiding over the only two constitutional conventions, whose action has been ratified by the people, his efficient services as prosecutor of violators of law, his legislative work, and the record of his decisions as a judge, show that his capacity was not limited to any narrow sphere of mental labor.

July 13, 1843, he was appointed Judge of the First Circuit and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a position held by him until his resignation, in October, 1846.

In 1851 he was elected a circuit judge in the Upper Peninsula, and he was continuously elected, until thirty years of his life were given to judicial labors in that part of the great State which he had assisted in forming, and had lived to see become one of the leading commonwealths of the Nation.

During the later years of his life, we are told that he presided as judge with ability and impartiality, and was called upon to try and determine questions of great importance, both public and private.

His opinions, found in the first and second Douglass Reports, show his cultivated mind, the thoroughly equipped lawyer and judge.

Looking at his life from this distant stand-point of his most active and useful labors, all that knew him, or knew of him, must agree that he had a strong, well-balanced mind, and lived a life that bore fruits of which the most ambitious might well feel proud.

Wherever he was placed, whatever were the duties incumbent upon him, he was always equal to the requirement.
The mature mind, ripened by a life of industry and noble endeavor, the feeble body, weakened by age, had done their work, each performed its allotted part, and, like the summer grain, awaited the harvest.

The Judge was ready and prepared for the final summons. Nature’s inexorable decree has been executed.

I respectfully ask that the resolutions be spread on the Journal of the Supreme Court, and that a copy of the same be published in the next volume of Michigan Reports.


Resolved, That in the death of the Hon. Daniel Goodwin, who departed this life on the 24th inst., this Bar loses one who has long been one of its oldest surviving members, and the city of Detroit one of its earliest and most distinguished citizens. He had acquired high distinction at the Bar of Detroit, when Michigan was yet a territory, a position which he maintained through a long and useful professional career. He presided over the convention which formed our first State Constitution, as well as over the subsequent convention which amended it. He was United States District Attorney for this district under the administrations of Jackson and Van Buren; he was Judge of the Supreme Court of the State and of this circuit from 1843 to 1846, and of the Upper Peninsula, or portions of it, from 1851 to 1881, all of which important public trusts he discharged with marked ability and fidelity. In this community, which he has so long honored, and which so continuously honored him, he has been a familiar presence for over sixty years, and during all this period he has been known to us as a man of pure, unspotted character in every relation in life.

Resolved, That the sympathies of the Bar be extended to the surviving family of the deceased, and that a copy of these resolutions be transmitted to them, signed by the chairman and the secretary.

Resolved, also, That the United States District Attorney, the Attorney General of the State, and the Prosecuting Attorney of Wayne county be and they are each hereby requested to submit copies of these resolutions to the United States Circuit and District Courts, to the Supreme Court of this State, and to the Circuit Court for the county of Wayne, when said courts shall be in session, with the request that they may be duly entered on the journals of said courts, respectively.
DETROIT, August 29, 1887.
[Signed] HENRY B. BROWN,

May it please your Honors:
It gives me pleasure to learn of the action of the Detroit Bar upon the subject, and that their action is presented to this Court, in this form, for entry on its records. Although I had no previous intimation that these resolutions were to be now presented, and therefore shall not be able to say all I would, yet I cannot let the occasion pass without a word in commendation of the life and distinguished public services of Judge Goodwin.

I first became acquainted with the judge when, in 1861, I began my professional career at Marquette. He was at that time judge of the district court of the Upper Peninsula, as it was then called. My first practice was in his court, and, inexperienced as I then was, I have reason to remember with gratitude the leniency with which he always treated young practitioners, in matters of practice, so far as he could consistent with the substantial rights of the parties litigant. In fact he sought first of all, in his courts, to do justice, and misapprehension of technical rules of practice by those who, like myself, were as yet unskilled in them, was never allowed to stand in the way of a fair trial on the merits. At the same time, he was not disposed to countenance or encourage slovenly practice. Thoroughly versed in the old established rule of procedure, and recognizing the utility and necessity of their proper observance, he at all times impressed upon attorneys the importance of systematic and orderly practice. Whatever of method in practice and habit of thoroughness in preparation I have acquired is due in a great degree to ideas inculcated by him in my early practice in his courts.
The idea that the legal profession was one in which success meant to win by chicanery, or without regard to the right, met with no favor from him. Upon the bench, or in social intercourse, his influence was always calculated to inspire the young attorney with the idea that to be right was better than to win, and so to exalt and ennoble to his mind the profession of his choice.

For many years, and for a meager compensation, he performed the duties of judge of the courts of the Upper Peninsula, then a comparatively inaccessible region, satisfied with doing his duty thoroughly and well, and making the matter of compensation, or the result to him, a secondary consideration.

Judge Goodwin has left us, but in the salutary effects of his life and services upon the political institutions of the State, as well as upon its jurisprudence, he has left an enduring monument.

His example also is left, and by it “he, being dead, yet speaketh.” By it we who remain are admonished that the first and main object of life should be a conscientious and thorough performance of duty, whatever the compensation or consequences to ourselves may be.

I am glad to be able to second the application of the Attorney General to spread these resolutions upon the records of this Court.

By request of the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Campbell on behalf of the Court, responded as follows:
It certainly is a very great pleasure to me to express my feelings in regard to Judge Goodwin. None of my brethren had the opportunity of knowing him, or, at all events, of knowing him in more than a very slight way. So far as I am concerned, Judge Goodwin is one of my first boyish recollections. He was admitted to the Bar before my father came to Detroit, and I have no recollection of any time I did not know him as a citizen, and later became quite intimately acquainted with him.

Judge Goodwin was, in many respects, not only a remarkable man, but one who has left his mark in many ways upon our institutions. He was educated very thoroughly before he entered the Bar. He was a good scholar, and never let his faculties grow rusty. Although I imagine he had not kept up that sort of knowledge of ancient literature which some graduates propose to themselves, yet he remained very familiar with all those things that are usually attended to by scholars. He maintained his habit of reading very thoroughly, and always kept informed of what was going on in the world about him. There are few men who could have given better information of current political affairs in this or other countries.

At the time he came to the Bar, although Detroit and Michigan had not a great many people, such lawyers as there were, were of the first quality. His associates at the Bar were some of the most remarkable men we have had. They included Solomon Sibley, one of the most eminent men of the North-west; Elon Farnsworth, his partner, afterwards Chancellor; William W. Petit, an able southern lawyer, who died soon after his arrival; Andrew G. Whitney, Governor Woodbridge, the elder Judge Chipman, both Judges Witherell, Alexander D. Fraser, and a few others.

The most brilliant advocates of that time were General Charles Larned and Judge George A. O’Keefe.

Judge Goodwin at once obtained a responsible position at the Bar and got a large practice.

He was not only a zealous lawyer, but having abundant leisure, as in those days courts did not sit often, he also interested himself in politics, and was an active politician. He was a man of very decided views. All of the earlier political movements in the State and Territory will be found to have had Judge Goodwin among their active friends and opponents.

He was also to some extent a military man. In the celebrated contest when we came near having war with Ohio, he was a field officer, and very zealous in the service, and would have done his full share of any work that might have been required.

When the time came for the State to prepare for admission into the Union, he was one of the most prominent men interested in the matter, and was nominated to the Senate and confirmed as District Attorney of the United States several months before the State was admitted. There is a little peculiar history connected with that. Every one knows, who is familiar with our history, that the majority of the people of the State very distinctly rejected the proposition of Congress that we should give up the strip of land on the lower part of the State of Ohio. The chances of admission seemed a little remote. After the rejection of this proposition by the regular convention, some members of the Democratic party proposed to call a convention on their own account at Ann Arbor, and that body, which had no legal standing, adopted the proposition of Congress, and

During the interval all the United States district officers had been appointed; Judge Goodwin was appointed district attorney, Judge Wilkins district judge, and some others to various posts; and all of this was done considerably in advance of the final admission of the State. As soon, therefore, as the State was received into the Union it was already provided with all these officers. Judge Goodwin proved one of the best and most faithful men in office, his position requiring not only a good deal of ability but a good deal of prudence. During the time he was in office as district attorney the Canadian Rebellion broke out. It became necessary for the United States to take very active means to prevent the United States from becoming involved in trouble with Great Britain. Judge Goodwin acted with singular discretion. His natural sympathies were, perhaps, to some extent in favor of the invaders, certainly not in favor very strongly of Great Britain. At the same time he carried out the duties of his office faithfully, in enforcing the neutrality laws. I never heard of any complaint whatever made of him in connection with his official procedure, although it was one which required extreme circumspection.

In 1843 Chief Justice Morell failed of re-appointment, and Judge Goodwin was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court in his stead. The Bar of Wayne county, inasmuch as a change was to be made, were extremely gratified with his appointment, as he was known to be a close practitioner and an honorable man, attentive to business, prompt and efficient. During the short time he remained on the Bench, I think he gave as good satisfaction as any one ever did in the circuit or Supreme Court. He was so familiar with all the rules of practice and evidence that it was an easy matter for him to dispose of cases very rapidly. He left amid the universal regret of our Bar and people; he left the Bench, for the reason that many others have left it, because he could not support himself upon it. His decisions, of course, the Bar have had more or less occasion to examine, but in nearly all cases his opinions were very satisfactory. I do not think we have had a man at the Bar more familiar with old common law than Judge Goodwin, his only fault being that he adhered perhaps too strictly to some rules not entirely adapted to our circumstances, but in the main he gave great satisfaction.

He remained in practice at the Bar at Detroit until he was elected to the Upper Peninsula district court. During that time he was counsel in most important cases that arose in the eastern part of the State and in the north. He was familiar with corporation law, and particularly with United States jurisprudence. He was not merely strong in arguing law questions.

He was a man of a good deal of power before a jury; juries always listened to him with respect. When he went to the Upper Peninsula there was no resident Bar up there of any account. The business was done in the main by lawyers who came up in the season of navigation. His jurisdiction in the first place covered the entire Upper Peninsula. He was re-elected over and over again. One of the best tests of his ability is that while he disposed of a great many cases, you will not find that a great many were ever brought into this Court for review. I am inclined to think that we never had another judge in the State who had so few decisions brought up to this Court. And he seems to have retained his mental vigor always. He was a man who was, in many things perhaps, naturally excitable, but I never heard that said of him on the Bench. He always managed to keep order without offending the prejudices of any one. He was a thorough gentleman in all his ways; I never heard of his giving offense to any reasonable man by his course on the Bench. After the district court was abolished in that region, he still retained the position of circuit judge until the election of 1881. He was then dropped, and people generally think it was very unwisely done. After that he did business as counselor, and up to the time of his death, although he latterly was somewhat feeble bodily, I think his mind was as vigorous as ever.

In private life he was a very pleasant gentleman. In all the intercourse I have had with him I never had anything occur that was in the least unpleasant. He was friendly, courteous, and always liked to accommodate any one he could. He did not confine his energies to the making of money; he never made a great deal of it. He always aimed rather at doing his business thoroughly. In the ordinary affairs that interest communities, in charitable, religious, and public movements of all descriptions, he took his part, and with satisfaction to his neighbors.

I think Judge Goodwin was a man whose memory will certainly be cherished by every one who knew him. As a man he was excellent, as a judge he was excellent; he was an excellent member of society; he was a representative man.

I wish I could express more fully the feeling I have in regard to him. It is one of admiration, and of great regard.

At the conclusion of Justice Campbell’s remarks, Chief Justice Sherwood said:
It is well to have so lived as to deserve the tributes of respect paid to our departed friend which we have heard this morning.

I never enjoyed the personal acquaintance of Judge Goodwin.

The history of Michigan, however, shows that he was an active participant in the early movements of her people, in laying broad foundations of the State and its future prosperity.

His distinguished labors in the convention which gave us our present organic law, and as a jurist, both upon the circuit and in the Supreme Court, are eminently worthy of commemoration and of the recognition now asked, and which it is our pleasure to grant.

This Court will always regard with favor any effort on the part of the Bar to keep fresh and green in the memory of our citizens the life, character, and public service of those who were pioneers in establishing our system of jurisprudence.

The motion of the Attorney General will be granted, and the resolutions of the Bar of Detroit will be entered at large upon the Journal of this Court, and, with the proceedings had thereon, published in the next volume of Michigan Reports.