In Memoriam Edwin F. Conely

JUNE 3, 1902

Upon the convening of court for the June term, 1902, on Tuesday, June 3d, the Honorable OTTO KIRCHNER, Of Detroit, addressed the court as follows:

 On the morning of Sunday, April 20th, EDWIN F. CONELY, for many years one of the leaders of this bar, passed to his eternal rest. His brethren of the Detroit bar, with whom the years of his early manhood and of his maturity had been spent, assembled and gave expression to their sense of loss in an appropriate memorial. It has been spread upon the records of the local courts and of the federal courts of the Sixth judicial circuit. To me has been assigned the privilege to present it here, with the request that it be given a permanent place upon the records of this court. The memorial is as follows:

EDWIN F. CONELY was born in New York City in 1847, and came to Michigan with his parents in his early childhood, where he has since remained. He was admitted to the bar in 1870, and, with the exception of a short period while he was superintendent of police of the city, has been in active practice. He was a member of the legislature of 1877-78, a professor of the law department of the University of Michigan for some years, a member of the commission to revise the charter of the city, and a member of the board of water commissioners. He was gifted by nature with unusual ability, and he supplemented his natural gifts with persistent and patient industry. His knowledge was broad and general, reaching far beyond that pertaining to his profession. In every sphere of his life work, in the legislature, in command of the police force, on the municipal commissions, as professor of the University, as well as in his extensive practice in the courts, he was preeminent.

He was, however, essentially a lawyer, not narrow and technical, but broad and well rounded. He gate to the profession he loved and honored a constant and devoted allegiance. Out of the many public honors which his career brought to him, he accepted only those which were in some way associated with or helpful in the study and knowledge of the law. He was, notwithstanding the demands of his very large practice, a daily student of the principles of the law, and a learned counsel in the truest sense of the term. His presence was most attractive. A genial, kindly nature lent to a quiet dignity a gentleness which happily tempered the masterfulness of his disposition. As an advocate he was eloquent, persuasive, and convincing; and his wealth of legal knowledge, and his accurate analysis of authorities, placed him in the very foremost rank of the profession. He was most scrupulously honorable in his practice. He never attempted to deceive the court or the opposite counsel. He was faithful to his clients, yet he recognized that this obligation was subordinate to the higher duty he owed justice. He is a splendid example of the highest type of our profession. In his busy, active life he filled many positions of great trust and grave responsibility, and in every case with conspicuous honesty and ability. In his personal relations with his brethren in the profession, his clients, and his friends, he was a charming and amiable companion.
April 21, 1902.

I deem it a privilege to bear testimony to the fidelity of the memorial. In the past 30 years I have come in frequent contact with our deceased brother as associate as well as opposing counsel. I knew him well. He was able man. He was strong and forceful, not only because he was generously endowed by nature and because he was learned, as well as industrious and painstaking in all that he undertook, but because he brought to the discharge of his high duties an honest and fearless mind. The honest man was the broad and surest foundation of the great lawyer. Both as an associate counsel and as an adversary in the courts he had gained the admiration and good will of his professional brethren. He possessed the unqualified confidence of the judges before whom he practiced. The quality of his mind was perhaps most obviously manifested in the precision and clearness with which he presented his case. His tremendous power of statement, not exceeded by any of his contemporaries, was, to my mind, his most distinguishing, and at the same time, his most distinguished, characteristic as an advocate. He was a sincere lover of justice. No one will doubt it who ever had occasion to adjust with him matters out of court.

Devoted as he was to his profession and all that pertained to it, he yet found time to cultivate letters and the fine arts. He was familiar with Italian and German. He spoke and wrote French faultlessly. He had been an extensive traveler,— for pleasure, to be sure; but not for that alone. He was a constant learner, and gleaned knowledge wherever she could be found. In his travels, as well as in his literary and linguistic pursuits, he had a well-defined purpose. He had hoped to round out his career in the field of diplomacy. Much of his reading was devoted to that end.

He has passed away from us in the zenith of his power and usefulness, at a time when his future seemed big with promise of achievements. Instead of these there have been opened to him, let us hope, as he hoped and believed, vistas that are the “substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.” He has left a fragrant and grateful memory; and the mound that covers his earthly remains is watered by the tears of his friends.

The Honorable GEORGE W. WEADOCK, of Saginaw, spoke as follows:
May it Please the Court:

As it was my privilege to know Mr. CONELY in his lifetime, I regard it a privilege to be present today to support the motion to spread upon the records of this court the memorial offered as a tribute to his memory. The highest tribute that can be paid to Mr. CONELY’S memory is the truth; and it seems unnecessary to speak of the high qualities of Mr. CONELY as a man and a lawyer to your honors, before whom he appeared so often, and to whom he was so well known, or to the circuit courts of this State, in which he practiced his profession, for the same reason. And it would also seem impossible to add anything to the memorial presented to this court. It was prepared by his brethren of the Detroit bar, his associates in his profession and in his home, the men who knew him best, and is the best evidence of his high standing at the bar and among his fellow men.

It was not my good fortune to know Mr. CONELY in all the various positions that he filled, as mentioned in the memorial. My knowledge of him was confined to what he was as a lawyer, and covers a great many years, and always on the opposite side of litigation in which he was engaged. Upon one occasion we were opposed to each other in a hotly contested case, which continued over a full month; and during all of that time he was always genial, affable, and nothing took place that would in any way lessen the highest respect for him, but, upon the contrary, one grew to appreciate his abilities and manly qualities more from day to day as the trial progressed.

In all negotiations in his professional life he was manly and fair, and was not loved by his professional brethren alone. I had occasion to mention the fact of his death to one of his former clients, and, as I did so, the tears welled to his eyes, his voice choked with emotion, and he could speak no further. This evidences the high regard in which Mr. CONELY was held by those with whose interests he had been intrusted.

Take him all in all he was a model lawyer and a model man, and it is only right and just that this memorial should be spread upon the records of this court, and that his brethren of the profession, especially the young men, may know of his great qualities and be guided by them.

Remarks of Mr. MARK NORRIS, of Grand Rapids:
May it Please the Court:

In seconding the resolutions of the bar of Wayne county, the sad thought comes that no words that we can utter can lessen the regret of his friends, or assuage the grief of his family, at the sudden summoning of our departed brother. This testimonial of esteem means naught to him. It cannot reach his ear. Of his life on earth nothing remains save the memory of his deeds in the hearts of those who knew him. This memory is all that our departed ones can leave us; and it is fitting that such expressions of esteem should be voiced and recorded as examples to those whose footsteps may follow in the same pathway.

I had known Mr. CONELY as an acquaintance, reputed to be one of the leaders of the bar of this State, for a considerable time. It had not, however, been my fortune to be close enough to him fully to appreciate his power and character until about four years ago. At that time it was my privilege to be associated with him in some important litigation. Then for the first time did I get near enough to fall under the charm of his personality. He was then in robust health; his step active and firm; his eye keen and bright was the fitting emblem of the intelligence which animated it. He had a smile and a cheery, courteous greeting for all. The atmosphere about him spoke of vigorous, confident, and intelligent manhood. The human machine was working smoothly and well. In the consultation room I found a mind of wide, strong grasp; an intellect which seized the salient ruling points, and comprehended their bearings and relations, with ease and swiftness.

He was a worker. No half-hearted preparation satisfied him. When he rose to address the court, what he had to say was based upon a careful study of the case; and I noticed that he sought to limit his words by full notes of the order and arrangement of his argument. He was learned in the law; not as a bookworm, with a knowledge of cases merely , but with a wide knowledge of legal principles, good familiarity with decisions and precedents, and the ability to apply them to the case in hand. He had lofty conceptions of right and justice, and the courage to challenge any deviation therefrom. I heard him administer a well-earned rebuke to an official who had allowed private pique to influence his official action. These qualities of courtesy, diligence, and learning, with his known fidelity and courage in the duties of life, won for him the confidence of clients and of courts, together with those material rewards which come from work well done.

But a few days before his death I was again called to consult with him. I had not seen him for some time, and I was shocked at the change. The bright, vigorous, breezy personality was gone; and, while the cheerful spirit and the unclouded intellect were still there, it was evident that work had become a task, and that the will alone drove the machine to its daily labor. The courage was still there, dauntless as of old; for, while accepting the charge I had to give him, he warned me with his old bright smile, and without apparent dread, of his coming trial and the possibilities before him. So with the shadow of the destroyer across his pathway, we clasped hands and parted, to meet no more on earth. As the papers a little later heralded his demise, I remembered our parting, and thought how well he exemplified the poet’s lines:

“The longer on this earth we live,
And weigh the various qualities of men,
The more we feel the high, stern-featured beauty
Of plain devotedness to duty:
Steadfast and still, nor paid with mortal praise,
But finding amplest recompense
For life’s ungarlanded expense
In work done squarely and unwasted days.”

Chief Justice HOOKER responded for the court as follows:

Among the many lawyers who have honored this court with their presence and aid, none had a more marked individuality than Mr. CONELY. It was manifested in his method of presenting his cases, as it was in his intercourse with men. He was exceptionally clear and concise in what he said; he brought out with the clearest emphasis the strong points in his case, and, having done so in a convincing way, he never committed the mistake of weakening them by repetition, undue elaboration, or by allusion to unimportant features.

Mr. CONELY never made the mistake of having or taking more than a professional interest in his case. His client was entitled to, and his case received, his most earnest and attentive examination and consideration; but he felt under no obligation to stultify himself by distorting the law, or asking the court for a legal ruling that had not the semblance of authority, precedent, or reason to rest upon. Nor did he deem it a part of his employment to engage in personal encounters with opposing counsel, or make his client’s animosities and quarrels his own, thereby lessening the efficacy of his efforts. No man had a more profound respect for his profession, and no man was more regardful of its ethics. As a consequence he always had attentive listeners.

His moral attributes were not second to his intellectual powers. Mr. CONELY impressed one, as a lawyer who appreciates the obligations of his profession, and recognized that his official duty was to see that his client had his lawful rights. He was not one who looked upon the law as an instrument to be scientifically played upon in the interests of injustice, wrong, and oppression; and I have much mistaken the man if he would knowingly prostitute his talents and his high office as a counselor by a deliberate attempt to defraud or wrong a client’s adversary.

So no man exerted a better or healthier influence upon the members of his profession; no man was a more shining and illustrious example to him who is just beginning to tread the uncertain paths of the profession. His geniality, his power, his success, his popularity, and the high respect accorded to him, were a constant object lesson of what a lawyer might be. We shall all miss Mr. CONELY, and none of us will soon forget the many virtues of a man whom all will agree that it was a pleasure and an honor to know. His death has added another name to the scroll of our illustrious and honored dead. It will be perpetuated upon our records and in the pages of our reported cases, through the tribute that has today been paid to his many virtues by his sorrowing friends.