In Memoriam William Leland Carpenter

APRIL 7, 1936

Upon this coming in of Court in the afternoon of Tuesday, April 7, 1936, at 1:30 o’clock p.m., Chief Justice WALTER H. NORTH spoke as follows:

Today’s session of the Court has been convened in honor of the memory of Justice WILLIAM L. CARPENTER, who served as a member of this Court. Any person present who is disposed to do so is earnestly invited to take part in our memorial exercises. The Court at this time will be pleased to hear appropriate remarks along this line, and I think, without calling on you individually. Judge ALLAN CAMPBELL is here to respond for the Wayne county circuit court.

 Hon. ALLAN CAMPBELL: May it please the Court:
I have been designated by the circuit bench for the third judicial circuit to join in this tribute to the Honorable WILLIAM L. CARPENTER. Justice CARPENTER was a member of that bench for over eight years, from 1894 to 1902. In the latter year he was elected to fill a vacancy as a Justice of this Court.

During the time Justice CARPENTER sat on the Wayne circuit bench he earned the respect of his colleagues and the bar. As a judge he was a patient listener, with a profound knowledge and a profound respect for precedent, and his only impatience was exhibited when he was confronted by insincerity or unfairness in the argument of counsel before him.
Three hundred years ago Francis Bacon, the great Lord Chancellor, described the ideal trial judge. Much, if not all, of what he said was descriptive of Justice CARPENTER. Lord Bacon said:

“Patience and gravity of hearing is an essential part of justice; and an overspeaking judge is no well-tuned cymbal. It is no grace to a judge first to find that which he might have heard in due time from the bar; or to show quickness of conceit in cutting off evidence or counsel too short, or to prevent information by questions, though pertinent. The parts of a judge in hearing are four: To direct the evidence; to moderate the length, repitition, or impertinency of speech; to recapitulate, select, and collate the material points of that which hath been said; and to give the rule, or sentence. Whatsoever is above these is too much, and proceedeth either of glory or willingness to speak, or of impatience to hear, or of shortness of memory, or of want of a stayed and equal attention. It is a strange thing to see that the boldness of advocates should prevail with judges; whereas they should imitate God, in whose seat they sit, who represseth the presumptuous, and giveth grace to the modest; but it is more strange, that judges should have noted favourites, which cannot but cause multiplication of fees, and suspicion of byways. There is due from the judge to the advocate some commendation and gracing, where causes are well handled and fair pleaded, especially toward the side which obtaineth not; for that upholds in the client the reputation of his counsel, and beats down in him the conceit of his cause. There is likewise due to the public a civil reprehension of advocates, where there appeareth cunning counsel, gross neglect, slight information, indiscreet pressing, or an overbold defense; and let not the counsel at the bar chop with the judge nor wind himself into the handling of the cause anew after the judge hath declared his sentence; but, on the other hand, let not the judge meet the cause halfway, nor give occasion to the party to say his counsel or proofs were not heard.”

Justice CARPENTER was a great reader, and his wonderful memory enabled him to store up and make available a vast fund of legal learning, as well as much historical knowledge. It was his pride that he scorned the use of digests. He seemed to be able to remember the precedent that he needed without the aid of any index or digest. His hatred of shams was so intense that if he became convinced that anyone was dishonest or unfair he would thereafter view such person and all his actions with the sharpest resentment. The converse of this was also evident. His friends were many, and his loyalty to them was unfailing. It seemed as though one who had been fortunate enough to win his affection and confidence would be sure of a continuation of that feeling under the most trying circumstances.

Justice CARPENTER’S mind was essentially that of a realist. He did not demand of human nature impossible perfection, but he did demand honesty and loyalty. If he thought he discerned in anyone those traits, Justice CARPENTER remained his friend to the last.

It was his lot to outlive many of his close friends, and his failing health in the last years of his life cut him off from the associations which had filled the more active years of his life with such keen enjoyment. The death of Mrs. Carpenter, and of his son Rollo, darkened the last few years, but outwardly, at least, he still remained calm, patient, and cheerful.
To me it seems a peculiarly difficult thing to express in words the affection and respect in which Justice CARPENTER was held by those of us who had the privilege of knowing him. His humanity, his fairness, and his learning constitute a noble tradition for the judiciary of Michigan.

 MR. THOMAS G. LONG: May it please the Court:
It is with a deep sense of gratefulness that I come before this bench today. Grateful that I have been accorded the opportunity to speak in memory of my friend WILLIAM L. CARPENTER, formerly a Justice of this Court, who on January 21st, last, deceased, for he was a very true and real friend to me. He and my father had occupied adjoining rooms in the dormitory out here at the College of East Lansing, during part of the course that they were there together, some two years. They had kept in touch through life thereafter. When informed by my father he had a son that was about to study law, hoped to be a lawyer, the Judge said: “Send the young man in when he is ready. I will see he gets
started right.” This he did. But it was many years before I could truly appreciate how well he had done that kindly service. Later when Justice CARPENTER resigned from the bench and entered private practice he shortly thereafter invited me to become associated with the firm of which he was a member. This I did and continued to be associated with him throughout the last 25 years or more of his life. It is of that period of his life that I can speak of my own knowledge.
Of his work on the bench—Supreme and Circuit, I can speak only from the record and the words of his contemporaries of that period, of whom a few remain. Our business association during the 25 years and more was most intimate. The Judge always liked someone to work with him. We worked together, discussed together, and together reviewed the work of each other.

One of the first things to impress anyone working with Justice CARPENTER was that he was a hard worker. He worked hard at whatever he undertook to do. The accomplishment of that for which he strove was for him always hard work. He did not pass over anything lightly. Whatever was worth doing at all was to him worth doing well. When a brief or document had seemingly been completed on one day, he would be found the next day or still later reviewing it and picking up some inaccuracy, omission or lack of clarity and making further improvement.

His conception of the law was that it is something for the guidance and assistance of ordinary human beings in their practical every day affairs of life. He continuously strove that his work and the results produced thereby should so guide and assist. The point he made in his brief must serve that end. The words of his contract, will or other document must prove such guidance and assistance for all concerned therewith. He always felt there was a logical basis or method for resolving every problem or situation so that the rule of law and the right conduct of a party would be in complete accord. It was this conception which caused him to labor so ardently and so hard. Nowhere are the results of such application of such conception better shown than in the opinions he wrote while on the Supreme bench. One reading those opinions must be impressed that he must early have read Justice Story’s “Advice to Young Lawyers” and thoroughly absorbed and accepted it and determined to make practical application thereof, for nowhere to my knowledge is it better exemplified. Perhaps it is sufficient if it is merely a coincidence and a tribute to Justice CARPENTER that his mind should work on the lines by the distinguished Justice Story laid down as right, sound and best. That all may more clearly have in mind what I mean I have taken the liberty of transposing words and form in a few of the lines which adequately and accurately set forth the thought I have and would convey as describing the quality, of his opinions:
“Pregnant in matter, in expression brief,
Each sentence standing with bold relief;
Beginning with dignity; expounding with grace
Each ground of reasoning in its time and place;
Order reigning throughout; each topic touched,
Its power urged neither too little nor too much;
Each strong thought given its most attractive view,
In diction clear and yet severely true.”

His briefs, too, show that same standard. But his opinions as judge of this court are public and permanent and are best referred to as the embodiment and monument of his work.

Justice CARPENTER, as a practicing lawyer, was at all times most fair and frank with the court. He would labor long and patiently over a statement or expression that it might not by its form or words by any possibility give or permit a wrong impression as to fact or law. His fairness and frankness with the court are well exemplified by what he did in a case before this court. He had labored long and arduously in writing the argument on a point in a brief which had then been printed and filed. Thereafter he came to have doubts concerning the soundness of that argument. When the case came on for oral argument he stood before this bench 25 years ago this April term and said in substance that when he had written the argument of the brief on the particular point he had been thoroughly confident of the validity of the premise on which based and of the cogency and soundness of the argument, but that he had since come to doubt whether he had omitted to give due weight to one element, stating it, and that in duty to the Court and client he left the point to stand on the argument as written in the light of such explanation.

He always strove for softness and smoothness of expression—possibly I should say due respectfulness. For many years it had been my custom when I had completed a brief for this Court to turn it over to him that he might—as I always said to him—censor it. He would go through it, smoothing off a rough place here and changing a sharp word or expression there, and withal never weakening but usually strengthening the statement.

He was always most kindly and considerate toward others. Not only was this always his intention but as well always his practice. In all of more than 25 years daily association with him I never knew or heard of a single time or instance when he in any slightest degree acted otherwise toward those with whom he was working. It was not second nature to him but his very nature—he could not be otherwise.

The sidelights of judicial administration were to Justice CARPENTER of great interest. Recognizing that justice is administered by men, he studied extensively the circumstances under which cases of great interest or bearing in the development of the law had been decided and the incidents attendant upon their decision. This related more particularly to cases of national consequence. He was possessed of a vast store of knowledge of this nature. He delighted in his later years to sit at a luncheon table or other gathering of younger members of the bar and recite and discuss such circumstantial and incidental matters. To better indicate just what I mean I refer to the Dred Scott decision, the trial of Aaron Burr, the Legal Tender cases, many of Chief Justice Marshall’s decisions, and so on without number. And he made practical use and application of such knowledge in the every day practice of the law. He applied such knowledge in selecting from an entire situation or group of facts those which would be the differentiating facts, and in selecting from legal principles of possible application, which would be conflicting if all were applied, those which would be given predominant weight and determinative effect. Possibly this is all no more than saying that he had a keen perception of the response of the human mind trained in the law to a given set of facts or legal situation. However this may be, such was his method and the basis from which he developed his method, and it was effective. In this he combined practical use and personal enjoyment.

Of his work on the circuit bench I know only from others. He was on the Supreme bench before I was admitted to the bar. I have been told that attorneys on both sides of any important or difficult case, requiring deep penetration for the truth of the facts or fine discrimination as to the application of the law, were always more than content to find their cases assigned to him for trial, and not infrequently jointly sought to so have it assigned. Never from the lips of any attorney who practiced before him, whether such attorney represented the successful or the defeated party, have I heard directly or indirectly one word of criticism of the manner of conducting the trial or arriving at the decision.

If that greatest of philosophers. was correct when he appraised the qualities of a judge and said:
“Four things belong to a judge:
to hear courteously,
to answer wisely,
to consider soberly, and
to decide impartially,”
then Justice CARPENTER was in very truth a judge for he had observed and exercised these qualities at all times.

Finally, may I conclude my inadequate and incomplete appraisement of the life and character of Justice CARPENTER by referring to the question put, and in the putting answered, by the prophet of old:
“What does the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

All these things Justice CARPENTER did, and he did them in full measure. If there is anything more or better that can be said of any man, I am not capable of saving it. I thank you very much.

 MR. HENRY A. HAIGH: May it please the Court:
It is a great satisfaction for me, and it will be an abiding comfort, to be able to be present at this impressive session of this Honorable Court called to consider the character and the valuable work of a very dear friend of mine, former Justice of this Honorable Court, WlLLIAM LELAND CARPENTER.

I have listened with sincere approbation to the very interesting words that have been spoken by those who have preceded. My heart goes out in heartfelt gratitude for the kind words so aptly spoken, so well deserved. What I can say on this occasion will be rather personal. I assume that personal qualifications of an individual have some bearing, perhaps a great bearing, on his character as a judge.

Justice CARPENTER was my lifelong friend. I knew him and I loved him dearly from early manhood till the day he died. I visited at his boyhood home, the old Carpenter homestead out on beautiful Lake Orion, and he came many times to my old home, my old ancestral home, in Dearborn, where I was born and still reside.

I was with him in school, in college, in the university, in adjoining law offices where we were entered to study, and I was with him when he opened an office of his own and remained with him in those early, rather crucial, formative days, and somewhat anxious days at times, but still very happy for the most part, until we both finally entered the office of the late Colonel John Atkinson, where Justice CARPENTER remained until he ascended the Wayne circuit bench; and I, upon the death of John Atkinson, drifted into other occupations.

That is a long time ago. It is over 40 years. And while my friendship with Justice CARPENTER remained undiminished and was always very delightful to me, I had no full knowledge of his work as a jurist. I knew it was all right, but I am not well qualified to speak in detail about it. What I am going to say, with the Court’s permission, will seem quite personal. I want to take up his early days, his early predilections, and perhaps go into some matters that may seem not exactly in keeping with the time and place, but it has been suggested to me from a very good authority and a very high source that these associations, these outside qualifications, these attractive features of Justice CARPENTER’S career, incidents of his early training, his associations, his predilections, inherited qualities, temperament and mental attitudes, are equally interesting as throwing light upon his character as a judge. And I have thought possibly I might acceptably pay my tribute to my dear friend’s memory by some brief narration of some of these extrajudicial, or perhaps you might call them nonjudicial phases of his varied life. For this I have some small qualification, for Justice CARPENTER and I were of almost the same age. We were both born in the same year, 1854-82 years ago now—and while in some respects it does not seem so long, yet in other respects it is a pretty long time ago.

The first thing I want to call attention to is a matter that has already been referred to, Justice CARPENTER’S love of history. Next to the law, Justice CARPENTER was deeply interested in history, especially in American history.

Although looking back at this mutual year of birth, 1854, it does not seem so long, yet so fleetly fly the years of life when busy and prosperous and happy as Justice CARPENTER’S were, that measured by the ceaseless flow of historic events it was quite a long time ago.

I advert to this to show that within the range of Justice CARPENTER’S life he had a personal or current view of his favorite subject, embracing very much of the most interesting, thrilling features of our history. For example, when Will Carpenter came into this busy world of American life the beloved, almost sanctified name of Abraham Lincoln was hardly yet generally known. That seems impossible, doesn’t it? And yet it was. Those great Douglas debates which brought Lincoln into such prominence had not been held until nearly five years after that. Even the preceding rather turbulent term of poor James Buchanan had not come to pass. It was back in the more placid period of President Franklin Pierce, an able, honest statesman coming from the Green Mountain state whence came our Calvin Coolidge, that Will Carpenter began his pilgrimage on earth. That seems, in that way, a long time ago.

Does it not seem almost startling that at that time only 13 presidents had occupied the executive office, and that since that time 20 presidents have come and all but two are dead? In other words, during Justice CARPENTER’S career, which seems so brief, nearly two-thirds of our thrilling national American history since the Constitution, and measured by presidential terms, have come and gone. Justice CARPENTER thus had an almost personal insight, a contemporaneous and current view of a very wide sweep of American history, the subject which next to law claimed his chief interest. And what pleased him much,. and pleased me more, on occasion he dearly loved to talk about it. He did enjoy a talk. The Judge liked to talk about anything that was worth while.

This brings me to the CARPENTER memory. It has been referred to. Justice CARPENTER, many of you know, had a most remarkable memory, a wonderful memory. To me it seemed at times almost mysterious, wizard-like. Any fact that he deemed important, coming to his attention, was somehow automatically filed away in the crystalline convolutions of his brain, there to remain on instant call when needed, whether in a day or decade or any time after. It was probably this remarkable memory for facts, exact and ready, coupled with his quick capacity to coördinate and apply them properly, that was in part the secret of Justice CARPENTER’S mental strength.

On many a pleasant stroll along the ocean shore of Florida, where our families wintered briefly during many winter seasons, have I been not only charmed but almost nonplused by this easy flow of facts, dates and incidents in American and in English history too, running like a mental panorama without apparent effort or hesitation.

Justice CARPENTER, as I said, dearly loved conversation if the companionship were genial and responsive. Moreover he was a man of much sentiment, when relaxed as on these occasions, and association with him under those circumstances was not only satisfying but it was simply delightful. Also Justice CARPENTER was capable of very deep feeling for friends and fellow mortals, not often expressed, but when realized, showed that here was a tender heart and an honest soul. Justice CARPENTER, moreover, was a very natural, normal, intensely human moral. He was fond of life in all its finer phases, fond of fun, fancy, light talk, jokes, and stories, even funny stories, and Justice CARPENTER could tell a story, even a funny story, and tell it well. But I never in all my long commingling with him heard him tell a shady or untoward tale. He like humor and enjoyed it but he wanted it wholesome. How often have we heard or known of genius spoiled by oddity, or of great learning ruined by intolerance or pedantic conceit? Not so with Justice CARPENTER. He undoubtedly had a mind much above the average in strength, range and usefulness, but it never hurt him, never hurt his friends. He remained plain, simple, unspoiled by pedantry or intolerance toward others, a kindly, sympathetic friend. This quality in Justice CARPENTER’S character must have had a bearing on his legal and judicial, as well as on other phases of his life.

Now, possibly a brief outline of early experiences might be of interest as throwing light on Justice CARPENTER’S later life. After those happy boyhood days at Dearborn and Lake Orion, and after attendance at our respective district schools, Will Carpenter and I entered the Michigan Agricultural College nearby this city. It was in the early part of 1871, 65 years ago. Here my association with him became more intimate. I soon learned not only greatly to like him but to respect him highly, and to value his friendship. I discovered that he knew much more than I; that he had a stronger brain and much better memory. Boys size up each other, especially college students, often with unerring accuracy. And so it was with Justice CARPENTER. Passing quickly to the head of his class, he maintained that supremacy to the end of his college course. Genial, fond of college life, popular, fond of his fellows, but his studies always claimed his first consideration. Early planning a career which appealed to him he followed it persistently and unerringly to the zenith of its success when he became recognized as a great jurist and an honored member of this Court.

Now I would like to say a word about Justice CARPENTER’S two brothers. I don’t think it is very generally known but it is a significant fact, Justice CARPENTER had two distinguished brothers, both students at the Michigan College, both destined to attain eminence, and a success almost if not equal to that of our beloved jurist whose qualities we are commemorating here today.

Rollo C. Carpenter, the elder brother, who graduated two years in advance of Justice CARPENTER, was one of the early prodigies of Michigan Agricultural College to bring great honor to his Alma Mater. His standing was so high, and his other qualities so proficient that he was retained in the College as instructor and professor of mathematics, and finally experimental engineering when that became a feature out there, and he advanced so rapidly in prestige that he was called to Cornell University as professor and later dean of the department of mechanical engineering, where he served with distinction to the end of his useful life, thus achieving the zenith of success in his chosen calling.

Louis G. Carpenter, the younger brother, youngest of the trio of Carpenter brothers, graduated from Michigan Agricultural College with highest honors. I think he remained there some time. I haven’t noted that here—but he in turn embarked on a career which took him to the zenith of success in his chosen calling, that of engineering. Going westward, he was given a professorship in the State College of Colorado as professor of irrigation engineering, I think was his title, I am not just sure. This subject was attaining great importance in that region so dependent on riparian and other water rights in irrigation and power production. While in the Colorado College, Louis G. Carpenter was chosen State hydraulic engineer, his duties extending to regulation and conciliation of convicting riparian and irrigation rights. The importance and value of these rights became so enormous about 40 or 50 years ago that litigation over them became rife all along the eastern slope of the Rockies. Individuals were suing to enjoin retention of water needed for irrigation. Water companies were at loggerheads. Cities, counties, and even States were litigating. While I cannot under take accuracy of details, I understand that the suits between four States, there might have been five, but I think four States, embracing a territory larger than that of New England, were consolidated and tried in the Federal court at Denver. And in this case Louis G. Carpenter was an important expert witness, and the court commissioned him to make a full report with recommendations; and this report together with further expert testimony was made in part the basis of a final judgment in the case, and thus was finally adjudicated a controversy involving many millions and for which Louis G. Carpenter later received wide credit. His Alma Mater conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Engineering and he received other honors from other sources. Thus the tradition of the three Carpenter brothers for success in their several callings was again maintained.

This incident of the remarkable achievements of the three sons of a quiet Oakland county farmer, coming from a quiet home, and going forth to honors and great success, causes one to wonder what part heredity may have had in this result. I happen to know that the father of the Carpenter brothers was a man of unusual intellect, wide reading, and very wonderful memory, and I know that the mother was a dear, sweet woman, devoted to her family and the welfare of her children, especially the three remarkable sons. Such instances of great success by all the sons of a single family are rare, but they do exist–some right here in Michigan. I simply want to cite the case of the three Carpenter brothers explaining to some extent the brilliant success of the Carpenter whose career we commemorate today.

After graduating at Michigan Agricultural College, Justice CARPENTER entered law school at the University of Michigan in the fall of 1876. And here I followed him. I always followed him more or less. I followed him to my great advantage for it gave me the continued inspiration of his diligent scholarship.

The University of Michigan in the year 1876, though it was great, was not as great as the University of Michigan is today. But it had a law department of considerable renown, and it had a law faculty that I believe has never been surpassed before or since. Just naming them would be almost sufficient in this assemblage and before this Court. There was THOMAS M. COOLEY who was dean and lecturer on constitutional law; JAMES V. CAMPBELL, Charles A. Kent, lecturer on contracts; and William P. Wells, who was Kent Professor of Law. These were four of the inspiring teachers whose words of wisdom it was Carpenter’s privilege to enjoy. Justice COOLEY stood at the zenith of his great fame. His work on “Constitutional Limitations” I think that very year was translated into French and into German; quite an unusual thing for a work of that sort. And later his textbooks on “Torts” and “Taxes” had placed him well to the head of law writers of America. Justice CAMPBELL was, of course, revered down there by all as a patriarch of old. The boys, old or young, all seemed to feel that way toward Campbell. Kent was liked for his plain, sort of homespun simplicity and rugged style–he knew the law, too. And Wells was popular for his courtly suavity and capacity always to interest his students.

There were other great men at the University at that time whose wonderful lectures the law students had the privilege of attending. Dr. James B. Angell, already established in his position of the most wonderful president the University ever had, gave that year a series of lectures on international law which Justice CARPENTER attended whenever possible. Dr. Charles K. Adams had wonderful lectures on American history, which both Justice CARPENTER and I often attended to our great delight. Adams left Ann Arbor to go to Cornell where he was chosen president, and later he became celebrated as the wonderful president of Wisconsin University where he served all his life and died not very long ago. Over in the medical department there were two boys when we were there, their names were Mayo and they were listening to lectures. Nobody knew—I don’t suppose they realized or anybody else—that they were destined to become probably the most famous surgeons in the world.

It is certainly truthful to say that these advantages then offered at the Michigan University were fully appreciated by the students of 1876, and certain it is that Justice CARPENTER’s omnivorous hunger for knowledge was not neglected. It seems certain that Justice CARPENTER’s future career was to a considerable extent favorably influenced not only by the additional advantages but by the atmosphere, the ideals and the examples that were there.

Our class of 1878 had in it some bright young men with whom Justice CARPENTER made very pleasant and afterwards very useful acquaintance. Among them I recall Henry M. Campbell–who was son of Justice CAMPBELL and later of the firm of Russell & Campbell. Alfred Lucking was a member of that class, who came later to Detroit with John D. Conely, his former preceptor, forming the firm of Conely & Lucking. They had a successful career and Lucking later became counsel for Henry Ford and acquired to some extent a national recognition.

William H. Wells, who belonged to the class preceding ours but attended our classes during our first year, was much liked. He went into the office of Ashley Pond, and after the latter’s retirement from the old distinguished firm of Newberry, Pond & Brown, became the distinguished firm of Wells, Angell, Boynton & McMillan. One of the members of this justly famous firm still survives and on occasions still frequents the halls of the University of Michigan, Herbert E. Boynton.

I don’t know whether the Court cares to listen to remarks on a session of the Court 60 years ago, but if you have the patience I will tell you what happened.

Chief Justice NORTH: It is a good question, we will listen.

MR. HAIGH (continuing): After graduating at Ann Arbor, Justice CARPENTER and I came up to Lansing in the spring of 1878, and appeared in this courtroom. I cannot at the moment remember just where Carpenter was, I seemed to have lost sight of him. I was excited. But sitting somewhere near where I am standing now—there weren’t so many tables back there as there are—the kindly old antique crier, I have forgotten his name, announced the court, and we all stood, and then the grand old quartet, the Big Four of Michigan, came in. They wore no gowns, but it was to me an impressive sight—Justices COOLEY, CAMPBELL, CHRISTIANCY and GRAVES, a wonderful array. Since saying this I am a little uncertain about Justice CHRISTIANCY. I think perhaps he had gone to Washington then and Justice ISAAC MARSTON had taken his place. Anyway it was simply wonderful to me. The first time I had ever been in a great big courtroom like this. It looked the same as it does now, too. Soon a courtly gentleman, whose valued acquaintance I enjoyed, rose and moved our admission to the bar of the courts of Michigan. He must have stood well with the Court for his motion was at once granted with a smile from the Chief Justice. That gentleman was the Honorable Otto Kirchner, then Attorney General of Michigan, and known for many years after as one of the famous practitioners of the State.

After graduating at Ann Arbor, Justice CARPENTER went to Detroit and, of course, I followed him. He went into the office of Honorable Michael E. Crofoot, former judge at Pontiac, who had an office in the then new and very wonderful Moffat building. He was very fond of Justice CARPENTER and helpful to him. I went back to the office of Moore & Griffin, just across the hall, where I had been before. I met Justice CARPENTER every day. I also found the firm where I had been changed to the name of Moore, Canfield & Warner. A forceful gentleman by the name of Don M. Dickinson had taken Levi Griffin away to form the firm of Griffin, Dickinson, Thurber & Hosmer, which soon became one of the very great, interesting firms when Justice CARPENTER went there to seek his fate. It was a firm where every member became prominent. Don M. Dickinson soon became a national character, member of two Federal cabinets and an important political figure, I think. And Henry Thurber was secretary to President Cleveland, and George Hosmer was 40 years on the Wayne circuit bench. And then there were two boys there, I haven’t mentioned them here. They were later members, Ben and Charles Warren. Charles Warren became as eminent as any of them. He went twice to the Hague international conferences, was sent to Mexico, and to Japan, and then wrote a book. He died only recently.

There were other lawyers that were active in Detroit at the time, whose influence must have inspired the young attorney. Next door was the venerable, Theodore Romeyn. I think he was the first treasurer of the State of Michigan, but he was practicing law when Justice CARPENTER went down there. Old Levi Bishop was there, and Ashley Pond, and Alfred Russell, and so on. I could name many of them. These were some of the lawyers whom young Justice CARPENTER met and was influenced by, and who must to some extent have helped to fix his ideals upon the high plain of action and practice which he always followed. The ethics of that bar were high. Misconduct of attorneys was not thought of. To be a good lawyer was to be a gentleman. That was the rule and that was generally the case.

A few words about the courts before which Justice CARPENTER went to practice. Jared Patchen was the sole judge of the Wayne circuit court. He was pretty busy, an interesting old man. He wore a blue coat with brass buttons, swallow tail coat. I don’t think he stayed there very much longer. Judge Cornelius J. Reilly succeeded him. And there was the superior court, presided over by Judge Lyman Cochrane. He was an able judge. George Swift, who was first recorded of Detroit, was still judge of the recorder’s court. Edgar o. Durfee was judge of probate court, I guess for 50 years pretty near. The Federal court was presided over by Henry B. Brown. Judge Brown was a delightful gentleman to meet. He was a great lawyer, a remarkable man and he succeeded Judge John W. Longyear of this city. Judge Longyear did not live very long, but I think if he had lived out the ordinary term he would have been one of the great Federal judges of the State. But he died and Judge Brown was appointed in his stead, and Judge Brown became afterwards a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

These were the forums in which Justice CARPENTER began his practice. Of course the number of judges soon was increased, but the old traditions hung around the ancient sanctuaries and had their influence. Justice CARPENTER was there in time to catch this old-time spirit.

Perhaps the most important of the interesting incidents of Justice CARPENTER’S career was the opening of an office in the old Buhl Building in 1879. Here I followed him and shared office space for several years until we went with Colonel Atkinson. They were anxious years but very happy, and I look back to them with great pleasure.

Justice CARPENTER continued working with his usual interest and even increased zeal when he had an office of his own. While he had but few clients at the start, he seemed busier than ever. If he were not at his desk he was at the bar library nearby where he kept up a systematic course of reading for a long time. The Buhl Building was a busy place in those days and some good lawyers had their offices there, Maynard & Swan, Meddaugh & Driggs, Duffield & Duffield, Atkinson & Atkinson, Sullivan M. Cutcheon, Otto Kirchner, and the grand old time leader, George V. N. Lothrop, the Nestor of the bar.

Another thing in connection with Justice CARPENTER’S early days in practice which showed breadth of mind and desire for mental equipment was his constant reading of history and some biography, which has been referred to by the previous speaker. Justice CAPPENTER was intensely interested in that. This was, of course, outside of his reading in the library. It was in his room. It was a rather dreary room as I recall, but here that first winter I remember he read pretty nearly the whole of Hume, and he read Macaulay’s essays on English history, and I think he must have read about the Chief Justices for he often talked much about John Marshall, whom he liked, and Roger B. Taney, whom I think he was inclined to criticize.

Justice CARPENTER also soon acquired a reputation as a young lawyer who knew the law. The other young lawyers with their first cases would come to him for counsel, which was freely given. I recall many instances of this while Justice CARPENTER was starting. It was one of the reasons for his early favorable reputation, and later no doubt the reason for Colonel Atkinson asking him to join his firm. John Atkinson was a great trial lawyer and at the time his practice was increasing and he wanted assistance, especially in briefs, and Justice Carpenter was already famous in that. It all goes to show that Justice Carpenter during the early days of his practice and in his early formative period was unconsciously, or possibly consciously, preparing himself for the great public duties that he later was called upon to perform, duties so well performed as to raise him into the high rank which he attained.

After serving with distinction on the bench of the Supreme Court for nearly six years, Justice Carpenter retired to resume practice in Detroit. It seemed a long time to us and we were glad to have him back. I remember a noted judge once said to me, “After a lawyer becomes a judge he cannot, as a rule, return to practice with much success.” Justice Carpenter reversed this rule by becoming in due course the head of one of the best and largest law firms in the State. He was successful and seemed happy in his old haunts, taking occasionally a mild turn at local politics and going as a delegate to a State and a national convention. In the office of this important firm in Detroit, Justice Carpenter was surrounded by a coterie of very able associates.

Looking back along the years in which our lives often ran parallel, I cannot recall a single instance of regret, nor do I recall a single mean, unmanly or unjust word or act of my old friend in the course of his life. Of course he could be critical, very critical, sometimes severely so, perhaps it would seem at times unjust, but often on reflection I discovered it was deserved. Now, when his years have ended and mine are waning, I feel I owe to his memory a debt of undying gratitude.

What little I knew of law I mainly learned of him, and in any of the honest action and fair conduct that I may have tried to follow, I had the example of the honesty and truthfulness which were habitual with him. He abhored a lie whether by speech or action, and he despised deceit.

If I tried to enumerate or catalog some of the elements of Justice Carpenter’s wonderful career I would write down about like this:

First, his inheritance of a healthy body, a good brain, and a wholesome, cheerful disposition. He was well-born and he had only to live well, live right to live long and be successful. Next, he had the good fortune of boyhood in the open, on the farm where frugality and thrift prevailed, and evil conduct was unthought of or banished by high home influence. Then he had the advantage of a common school. I don’t know whether you all agree, but I think the common district school of Michigan cut a great figure in the history of this State and the nation. He had the advantage of attendance at a college where he and most of the students helped to pay their way. He selected a calling that appealed to him and impelled a laudable ambition. He had ambition in the right direction. He attended law school and listened to lectures by inspiring teachers whose influence was emulating. His selection of associates was wise and his habitual exercise of kindness, fairness and honesty made him many friends and he held them secure. Add to this the habitual practice and discharge of the obligations of social and domestic life, his faithfulness and affection and kindly attitude toward  his fellow men, and we have the counterpart of a man we justly loved and whose memory we commemorate here today.

Justice Carpenter lived to a good age. Though not of strong or robust build, and having to conserve his strength somewhat his life was well organized, carefully lived, and was very happy, as are most all useful, successful lives. He had no vices to overcome, nor failures to repair. Of course he had the sorrows incident to all lives. His last few years were saddened by the passing of his beloved and very companionable wife, with whom he was absolutely devoted. But he had the remaining solace of an exemplary son, to whom he was deeply attached, and the affection of a devoted daughter, happily married, and he had the joy of healthy, hearty grandchildren. The sudden and tragic death not long ago of this only son, so worthy, so promising and so beloved, hastened Justice Carpenter’s demise. I saw him just after this son’s funeral. He had been ailing and this terrible shock seemed more than he could bear. There was desolation pitifully depicted on his drawn face and sorrow unbearable seemed to be breaking his torn heart. He grasped my hand but uttered no word; neither did I. But finally he said, “We cannot talk about it. We cannot talk about this thing. It has happened and I must bear it. Now I have new duties to perform.” The nurse took me away and I left, hoping I would see him again, but I never did. Not very long ago I read the shocking headlines, “Justice Carpenter is dead.”

Many hearts were saddened by those fateful words. Does it not seem sad when a life like that, so dear, so useful, passes on and is no more? Strickened dear ones cry out in anguish, but only hooloc echoes answer back. And yet, nature never destroys; she may change but does not annihilate. So may we not with reason hope that when that tried soul passed out on that dark winter’s night that somehow it found rest and solace, yes, and renewal, in the realms of the Eternal morning.


Is there someone else who wishes to participate in these exercises? If so we would be glad to listen. If not, perhaps, we can fittingly close the exercises in this manner: Because of his long years of close acquaintance with Justice Carpenter, it is highly fitting that Justice Wiest on this occasion should respond for the Court, and he is requested to do so.


The life of William L. Carpenter was one of splendid attainments in citizenship, the legal profession and judicial offices.

We, who lived with him and had view of his professional and judicial accomplishments, now speak of him and his record of service with pride. There was no desire on his part to be spectacular, nor did he seek plaudits, being content to serve in the profession and on the bench within alloted ethics and the law of the land.

In the discharge of judicial duties he set an example of quiet dignity, strict integrity, and forceful purpose.

He served under no master but the law.

We are all servants of the law; the law that represents the wisdom and experience under developed civilization, the liberty of the individual; the security of human rights and obligation of subjects toward government of their own creation, and of that government toward its subjects.

There is recorded in no small measure the endeavors of our departed brother toward such ends.

His opinions as a member of this court are in 23 volumes of the Reports. They were not spontaneous effusions but the result of the studious efforts of one who recognized that he was announcing legal principles for permanent guidance.

While this hour is one of retrospection, it should also bring introspection, for when we, in turn, shall become silent, we will be remembered, not by our own estimates but by that of others.

He earned the tributes of fond remembrance uttered here today. He was my friend for quite half a century.

He has, of right, a lasting place high in the professional and judicial history of this, his native State.


The purpose of the session having been accomplished now in honor of the memory of Justice Carpenter, the Court will stand adjourned until tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock.