Presentation Of The Portrait Of The Honorable Randall Manning

APRIL 3, 1889

 On the afternoon of April 3, 1889, Hon. A. C. Baldwin presented to the Court an oil portrait of RANDOLPH MANNING in behalf of his children, in the following well-chosen words:—

A duty has been required of me, and one which I cheerfully perform, by the children of a former distinguished member of this Court, of presenting his portrait to his associates and successors.

Only a quarter of a century has passed since RANDOLPH MANNING occupied a seat upon your Bench, yet during the brief period that has elapsed new faces have appeared, new practitioners have arisen, and now few attorneys come before your Honors that were contemporary with him. Such are the changes that passing time, even in this Court, rapidly presents to our vision.

It is meet that one who occupied so prominent a position in the infancy of our State, and did so much in aiding to firmly establish a reputation for impartiality, strict justice, and ability in her courts, should have so perfect a representation of the man as is the picture before us permanently placed upon these walls.

Judge MANNING was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, May 19, 1804; studied the profession of law in the city of New York; and in 1832 he came to Michigan, then a territory, commencing the practice of that profession at Pontiac.
Ever careful and studious, his persistency, energy, and ability at once gave him a standing among those of the first rank.
In 1835, when the question of the admission of this State into the Union was being agitated, he was elected, from his county of Oakland, one of the delegates to assemble at Ann Arbor in May of that year, to form a Constitution for the new State. Upon the organization of that body, Mr. Manning was placed upon the judiciary committee, his associates, among others, being Ross Wilkins, William Woodbridge, Isaac E. Crary, and Robert McClelland, men of great prominence and ability; whose names are historic, not only in Michigan, but in the United States.

In November, 1836, he was elected a Senator from the then Fifth district, embracing all the territory of our State north of Wayne and east of the principal meridian; holding the office for only one session.

In February, 1838, Governor Mason appointed him Secretary of State, an office he held for two years. After his appointment he removed to Detroit, where he continued to reside until 1847, when he returned to Pontiac.

The organization of our judiciary system under the Constitution of 1835 established a separate court of chancery. Upon the resignation of Chancellor FARNWORTH, in 1842, Mr. Manning was appointed, performing the duties of that important office with distinguished ability, and giving great satisfaction to the Bar of the State. The Legislature, in 1846, made radical changes in our judiciary system, among others abolishing the court of chancery as a separate body, and transferring its jurisdiction to the circuit courts of the several counties, taking effect in January, 1847. After this radical change was made, in 1846, he resigned the office, and in the following year returned to Pontiac, where he continued to reside until his death. His opinions while chancellor are contained in Walker’s Chancery Reports. That volume alone furnishes a fitting memento of his capacity and industry and conscientiousness in molding the equity system of our practice; and though that court had only a brief existence, and Judge MANNING occupying its bench only four years, and also notwithstanding the subsequent blending of law and equity in the same tribunal, as under the system now established in our circuit courts, the equity principles and policy he enunciated are still cited with approbation. By virtue of his office as chancellor he was ex-officio a member of the Board of Regents. He was also a member of the State Board of Education for one year, 1849.

He was also Reporter of the decisions of this Court, commencing with the January term, 1847, and ending with the October term, 1850.

Upon the organization of the present Supreme Court, in 1857, Mr. Manning was elected one of the Judges, taking his seat January 1, 1858. In the original organization, after the first election, the judges were to draw for their respective terms. That of Judge MANNING was for four years, and in 861 he was again elected for a second term of eight years. His labors as a member of this Court will be found in Vols. 5 to 12, inclusive, of the Michigan Reports, the last case in Vol. 12 being one of his opinions, ending his life’s work as a jurist and as a member of this Court.

I have thus briefly scanned the official career of this distinguished man. He had no political aspirations; he had no personal enemies. Intent upon performing such duties as were incumbent upon him, public and domestic, quiet, modest, and unassuming, he gave all his time to the conscientious examination of the matters submitted to him and requiring his attention.

I became acquainted with him in my youthful days, in 1838. Shortly after his return to Pontiac, our offices were in adjoining rooms, and, for many years meeting him daily, it gave me a fair opportunity of knowing the man; and in all the relations of life he was always courteous; always careful of the feelings of others; ever ready to aid by his counsel and advice in solving the many knotty questions of law that present themselves to the young practitioner. As a counselor, he had few equals. He abhorred chicanery and trickery; he had no toleration for them. In all his professional dealings he was a staunch supporter of the right; and during more than a quarter of a century’s practice in the early days of Michigan’s history no person lisped a word that could tarnish the name, public or private, of RANDOLPH MANNING.
February 29, 1832, he was married to Miss Eliza F. Randolph, of Plainfield, New Jersey, with whom he lived until Feb. 20, 1846, at which time she died, leaving one child, a daughter. In 1848 he was again married to Miss Eliza W. Carley, who lived until 1859, when she died, leaving two children, a son and a daughter. The three children still survive, and the daughters are now present with us. In his domestic relations Mr. Manning was extremely fortunate. He was emphatically a home man, and in the society of his family his leisure hours were generally spent.

After his election to this Court, he had a room fitted up in his house for his study and his library; and there, when released from his official care and duties connected with this Court, he would invariably be found. For two or three of the last years of his life he was a sufferer from heart disease, but his condition was not considered precarious.

On the thirty-first day of August, 1864, he spent most of the afternoon with one of his associates, the venerable Justice CHRISTIANCY. Judge MANNING accompanied him a short distance to the depot, being in his usual health. After his return home he spent the evening with his family, his appearance giving no indications or intimation of any change in his physical condition. About 9 o’clock in the evening his elder daughter left the room, knowing or supposing nothing of any danger. Returning immediately, she found her father unconscious, and he survived but a few moments, passing away without previous warning, without protracted pain.

It is well that a filial tribute be given to such a father, to such a man; and I ask, in behalf of his children, that your Honors will permit this life-like portrait, dedicated to the memory of their beloved father, to have a fitting place upon these walls.
And may we look upon it as an appropriate memento of a lawyer of the old school, and as a recognition of the merits of the able and upright judge, RANDOLPH MANNING.


May it please the Court:
I desire to add just a word to what has already been said of Judge MANNING. I knew him quite intimately when he was a member of this Court, and I always felt, as an advocate before this Court, that, whatever of merit my case had, it was sure to receive all the consideration and attention it merited.

I believe that I hardly know in any other of my acquaintances of a character so remarkable for its purity, its honesty, and its simplicity. In these respects, it was a character surpassed by none, equaled by few.

Then, there was this most admirable trait in his character: the young man who first appeared before this Court soon felt that he was pleading his clause to a sympathetic Bench; there was a kindliness and sympathy on the part of Judge MANNING that helped him over the rough places.

I commend the spirit that has prompted this gift to the Court, and heartily concur in the remarks already made.


It gives the Court great pleasure to receive this picture of Judge MANNING from his family and friends, and it is thankfully accepted.

It would be highly gratifying to the Court if the likenesses of all the earlier judges of this State could be secured and placed upon the walls of the court-room. It was not the privilege of any of the members of the Court, as now constituted, to have the personal acquaintance of Judge MANNING, except our venerable associate, Mr. Justice CAMPBELL. I will therefore ask him to make response for the Court to the presentation address of Judge Baldwin.

I feel it an honor and a great pleasure to testify, in an imperfect way, to the great respect I always had for Judge MANNING, and to express the gratification it affords the Court, and me especially, to have this portrait before us. It in a most striking and remarkable likeness, and I can hardly understand how the artist succeeded in making so perfectly the image of one who has been dead for nearly a quarter of a century. The artist was acquainted with Judge MANNING, and his recollections were perhaps sufficient, for certainly his artistic taste has produced as perfect a picture as though he had the original before him.

It was my good fortune to know Judge MANNING for 20 years before he went on the Bench of this Court. I not only knew him, but knew him intimately, and I hardly knew a man more worthy of love and affection, as well as respect. His career, as far as official positions are concerned, has been well set forth by Judge Baldwin.

I first knew Judge MANNING but very slightly when he was Secretary of State under Governor Mason, but when he became chancellor circumstances brought it about so that I was in the habit of seeing him at least once a week, and sometimes as often as once a day. I saw him nearly every day during the preparation of Walker’s Chancery Reports, in order to carry on the preparation of the book, to get his criticism and suggestions; and at that time I was honored by his friendship, which I am happy to say I had during the rest of his life.

As chancellor, I think he made a very plain mark upon the history of our judiciary; one that has not faded, and never will fade. It was his good fortune to be in office during a time that might be called the formative period of our jurisprudence.

There is probably on one before me who remembers the peculiar exigencies of this time. We had gone through, in this State, a very curious and a very sad experience. Nearly the entire State had become bankrupt. A great number of corporations had been created, and most of them had failed, and it became necessary to wind up their affairs. Probably hundreds of corporations were wound up during the time of Chancellor MANNING. Now, while a great many of these corporations were honestly and carefully conducted, a great many were got up for the purpose of swindling, and it became necessary for the chancellor in dealing with them to deal also with the reputations of men for fairness and uprightness; to deal with frauds, and give redress to persons defrauded. Judge MANNING was one who respected the feelings of his fellow men, but his love of justice was never surrendered, and he was fearless in the exercise of his duty. It could not fail to happen, where the business reputations of men were involved, that every decision adverse to their interests should cause more or less ill-feeling on their part, and it is undoubtedly a fact that in his decisions against these corporations and other combinations he made many enemies by his frank and straight forward expressions. He was clear-sighted, not easily reached by sophistries, and, when he made up his mind, the only thing left was to decide the case fairly on its merits, without reference to what the ultimate consequences might be. The abolition of the court of chancery was finally brought about in part by the combined influence of those persons whose affairs had been dealt with in his court. That, however was not perhaps the chief reason for the change. Those were days of experiment, and many experiments were tried in judicial methods.

During the time he was chancellor, as has been stated, he was also ex-officio member of the Board of Regents of the University. It was also in this capacity that I was brought into close communication with Judge MANNING. During that period he joined with others in giving me the position of Secretary of the Board of Regents, where I had an opportunity of seeing how much attention was paid to their duties by the ex-officio members. It certainly did great credit to them that no member of that board ever fell behind them in their zeal for the interests of the University. They spent their time and talents and energies in furthering the interests of that institution, and Judge MANNING fell behind no man in zeal, or in the wisdom that accompanied that zeal.

After he left the court of chancery and removed to Pontiac, my acquaintance with him was chiefly professional, and we has some business in common, so that I was about as well acquainted with him in his professional capacity as in his judicial; but in all capacities it was always my pleasure to find him a genial and good man, whom no one could know without respecting and loving.

When the Supreme Court was re-organized in 1857, and the present Court established, his name came foremost in the choice for Justices. There was no opposition to his nomination, and he was elected one of the Justices of the Supreme Court. Judge MANNING drew the term of four years and when, in 1861, a re-nomination took place, there was no one thought of in his own party as a competitor for the position. Charles I. Walker was nominated against him, and distinctly refused to run against Judge MANNING, and did all in his power to throw the votes of his own party in his favor. He was unwilling to have his name up against Judge MANNING at all, and the election was almost practically unanimous. Judge MANNING did not remain on the Bench a very long time after this election. He died in the summer of 1864. The opinions rendered by him while on the Bench added to the reputation he had already obtained, and are among the landmarks of the law, and the Reports of this Court during the time he was on the Bench will show what he did. But they do not show under what disadvantages he did it. He died of angina pectoris, which came on in frequent paroxysms at least two or three years before his death. He was taken very frequently, while on the Bench and in the working room, with severe spasms of pain; not only severe in the anguish they caused, but actually seeming to stop the whole force of life; although it did not prevent him from speaking, it stopped him from movement. Severe as these attacks were, he never allowed them to interfere with his attending Court, and he never strayed out of Court when at all able to be in his seat. He exhibited an exemplary diligence in the performance of his duty that certainly could not be too highly commended. I need not say that the respect and affection I had for Judge MANNING continued throughout his life, and his death was a pain to me, as the death of a near and dear friend. Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since he died, and it has been brought very forcibly to me today that there are now in this court-room perhaps but two or three persons who ever practiced before the Court while Judge MANNING took part in its deliberations. There is perhaps not a single person except Judge Baldwin within the sound of my voice who ever knew him as chancellor.

Such men when they die do not lose their influence, and I believe the time never can come when the name of Chancellor MANNING or Judge MANNING will be separated from the legal reforms of the State, or from the rules of justice, that he did so much to establish. He was worthy of veneration, and his name and memory will always be cherished.
We accept the portrait with great pleasure, and it will be preserved on the walls of the court-room.