In Memoriam Edward Cahill

April 10, 1923

Upon the convening of Court on April 10, 1923, Charles W. Nichols, of Lansing, presented the following memorial, prepared by a committee of the Ingham County Bar Association, and moved the Court to place it upon the records of the Court:

 May it Please the Court:

On July 27, 1922, Hon. Edward Cahill, at one time a member of this Court, and for many years a distinguished member of the bar of this State, was called by the grim reaper to take his place in the ranks of the great unknown.

EDWARD CAHILL was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on August 3, 1843, thus lacking only a few days of attaining the ripe age of seventy-nine years at the time of his death. JUSTICE CAHILL lost his father before he was twelve years old and his schooling appears to have been broken up by the necessity of doing something toward earning a living. He, however, attended the common schools and the preparatory department of Kalamazoo College, served as a page at three successive annual sessions of the- legislature in 1857, ’58 and ’59 and learned type-setting in the offices of the local papers. When the war came on, he enlisted as a private in the Eighty-ninth Illinois, and, being discharged for disability, raised a company for the First Michigan Colored Infantry and became a captain. He was admitted to practice in 1866 and practiced four years in Ionia county and two in Chicago, after which he came to Lansing where he has since lived and practiced his profession. He retired from the active practice of the law about ten years previous to is death.

JUSTICE CAHILL was for many years a member of one of Lansing’s leading law firms, Cahill & Ostrander. He was a circuit court commissioner for Ionia County and twice prosecuting attorney for Ingham County. In 1890 he was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of this State to fill the vacancy caused by the death of JUSTICE CAMPBELL. His first opinion as a Justice of the Supreme Court was in the case of Glover v. Reid, 80 Mich. 228, submitted at the April term, 1890. JUSTICE CAHILL’S work upon the Supreme bench was brief. He was succeeded by JOHN W. MCGRATH of Detroit who was elected to fill the unexpired term of JUSTICE CAMPBELL. JUSTICE CAHILL was for many years a member of the commission on uniform laws and took an active part in the work of this commission.

JUSTICE CAHILL, both as an attorney and as Justice of the Supreme Court, enjoyed in a very high degree the confidence of both the bench and the bar. For a great many years he was regarded by both the bench and the bar as one of the leading attorneys of the State and his home city. JUSTICE CAHILL was an independent and fearless thinker. While he was Republican in politics, he never hesitated to vote and act independently if his conscience and judgment as a good citizen so dictated. JUSTICE CAHILL was a man who was always profoundly interested in civic matters and his declining years did not seem to lessen his interest in such things. His home life was ideal. Personally, he was a type of man that is often referred to as “a gentleman of the old school.” Always courteous, gentle in his manner, but very firm and decided in his opinions, he at all times enjoyed the love and respect of his fellow men to the fullest degree. In short, it may be truthfully said that JUSTICE CAHILL lived a clean life, a well rounded-out life, a life devoted to the highest ideals, a life full of accomplishments.

It is with a sense of profound loss we have witnessed the passing from our midst of one more of our oldest and most esteemed brethren.. In his death, the State, the community in which he lived, his associates, the bar and these friends have sustained a great loss.


Mr. CHARLES W. NICHOLS spoke as follows: If I may be permitted, I would like to add just a few words to this memorial in a purely personal way.

When I came to Lansing a very young man, JUSTICE CAHILL had just retired from the bench and resumed his practice with the late JUSTICE OSTRANDER under the firm name of Cahill & Ostrander. When, a few years later, I entered upon the practice of law in Lansing, this firm was one of the leading law firms of the city. Like all young practitioners, I dreaded the day when I should come into conflict with the older and more experienced members of the bar. I recall very vividly my first experience with JUSTICE CAHILL as an adversary. It was a rather long and bitter contest over the validity of a tax title. The case was heard before the late JUSTICE PERSON who was then our circuit judge. To my surprise and great joy, I was treated by both JUSTICE CAHILL and JUSTICE PERSON with the utmost respect. During the course of the entire trial, there was never a word or act on the part of JUSTICE CAHILL intended to embarrass or flustrate me on account of the disparity in our learning and experience. If he entertained in some measure a feeling of contempt for my blundering ways and ignorance of the law, like a true gentleman, he concealed it.

I can pay no higher personal tribute to the splendid life and character of JUSTICE CAHILL than to say that he was always considerate of others, a quality of mind and heart that to me is more blessed than any other.

 CHIEF JUSTICE WIEST spoke as follows: EDWARD CAHILL, patriot, soldier, lawyer and sometime Justice of this Court, man of letters, active and useful citizen, met his every obligation in a spirit of righteous endeavor, attained eminence in the honorable profession of the law, commanded the respect due a conscientious citizen, lived his day, filled with achievement his page in history, left a precious memory and has passed on.

His life should prove an inspiration to the youth of today. As a boy he was a legislative page in the old capitol building. As a youth he learned the printer’s trade. As a young man he answered the call of Abraham Lincoln in 1862, and served with distinction in the great Civil War as a lieutenant and captain. At the close of the war he was admitted to the bar and commenced his professional career as a country lawyer at Hubbardston, Ionia County, where he remained until June, 1871, when he moved to Chicago and lost his library in the great fire. In 1873 he came to the city of Lansing, was prosecuting attorney for Ingham County, and Justice of the Supreme Court, and ranked as an eminent lawyer.

EDWARD CAHILL honored the great profession of which he was a member. He respected his brethren of the bar. He was a builder, not a wrecker. Any man, with a crowbar, can wreck a building—he needs no plan—but it takes an artisan, trained of eye and skilled of hand, with plan in mind, to erect an enduring structure. He stood for high professional ideals and scorned platitudinous babblings against the profession. He was keen in denouncing unprofessional conduct and unrelenting of purpose in purging the bar of any unworthy member, but pursued the culprit to cleanse the bar and ennoble the profession.

He had faith in American institutions and government within constitutional limitations. His service on this bench was short, but at the great American bar his service extended beyond half a century. Thirty-three years ago today, as a Justice of this Court, he listened to arguments in Glover v. Reid, 80 Mich. 228, and wrote his first published opinion in that case.
He was endowed with talents of a high order and served his generation well. He loved good literature; had the grace of a sense of humor. He was a companionable man. In civic affairs he was active, entertained strong convictions, lived up to them, and was assertive thereof.

The memorial presented, and words of appreciation spoken, will be recorded and published in the Reports.