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same men who denounced the Constitution as a "league with Death and a covenant with Hell," denounced with more bitterness the court which declared that the Constitution meant what it said. The Chief Justice in particular was singled out for most virulent abuse. conventions, popular meetings, church conferences, vied with each other in the epithets of slander. He was charged with bargain and sale, with disclosing the secrets of the bench, with besmirching the ermine by a corrupt bargain for political effect. It adds nothing to the fame of Abraham Lincoln that he repeated this unworthy and malignant charge. It was to be expected of such a man that, as President, he should utterly ignore a decision of the same court, which declared that his conduct as executive was in violation of the supreme law of the land. But the
REFINEMENT OF VENOM was reached when death knocked at the door of this brave judge. It had been customary, during the entire history of the Republic, to commemorate our departed Chief Justices by a marble bust in the National Capitol. When the bill for thus embalming the memory of Taney was presented to the Senate, so violent was the opposition of the majority that the effort was abandoned. Under the leadership of Charles Sumner, this majority spread on the records of these Ambassadors of the States epithets of obloquy and studied phrases of infamy, aimed at the name and fame of the departed judge. Be it said to the shame of the profession that lawyers joined in this unworthy tirade. Be it said to the honer of the bench, that, out of eighty-eight years of his life, intelligent malice could find no other ground of cavil than this most righteous judgment. Be it said to the praise of human nature and the glory of the American name, thai, ten years afterwards, the passion of the hour had so far subsided that the National Legislature accorded this tardy tribute to the memory of this pure and stainless life!
If I were called upon to express in one word that characteristic of the English and American Circuit Judges which, throughout their history is most marked, my answer would be Integrity. Is it not remarkable that, out of the long list, so few have forgotten the honor of the bench? Is it not worthy of note that, in spite of human nature such as ours, in spite of the blandishments of princes, and, what is more dangerous, the tumult of the people, in spite of gold, in spite of steel, the history of the circuit bench is so stainless ? While the easy virtue of other judiciaries is the butt of popular gibes and the jest of the stage.
THE MASCULINE PURITY of the Anglo-Saxon bench is so universal as to excite no comment. It is doubtsul if any other department of government compares, in the official integrity of its officers, with the Bench Presidents accept gifts which would blast forever the fame of a judge; senators and representatives amass fortunes in “ways that are dark;" aldermen get wealth by "tricks that are vain ;" but the Circuit Judge dies poor. By a single decision he could ofttimes gather in his thousands. By only disclosing in advance to a confidential friend an intended ruling, be it the perfection of justice, he sometimes has an opportunity to heap up a glittering pile. Occasionally, such vast interests hang upon an expected judg. ment that by its effect on the markets, millions are made and unmade in a day. Through such stupendous, though often insidious temptations, the ermine passes with hardly the smell of fire. This almost unbroken record of judicial integrity is not the less remarkable because the chances of detection are so small. The bench seems to be pure, not so much because it fears exposure, as because it loves purity for its own sake. Indeed, instances are noi wanting wherc the fortuity of cir. cumstances has brought to the bench men whose previous career promised only continued depravity, and yet who seemed, by mere contact with the judgment-seat, to be elevated into an atmosphere of probity to which they were strangers before. Some of the most illustrious of judges have received their office as a reward for at least questionable, if not disreputable, political services. But, at donning of official robes, they seem to have so shaken off the habiliments of error, that their judicial careers were distinguished not less for lucid learning than for luminous virtue.
If time availed, it would interest if not instruct, to take more than passing notice of the
Circuit JUDGE IN GEORGIA. He was a splendid figure in the epic era of our commonwealth, when, unfettered by a code, unenlightened and unbefogged by a maze of decisions through which to search for the last one on the point at issue, he drew for judgment on the rich treasury of the common law, and lis. tened to the rare eloquence of a royal race of advocates who came to the forum fresh from communion with nature in her wild, uncultured beauty. Of their labors little is left of record. Of their assiduous efforts to preserve uniformity of procedure in the various circuits, we are reminded by their conventions, at which points of practice were discussed, and decisions on important topics read, and approved or rejected by a majority vote.
Dudley and Charlton have preserved in their reports some of these most noted opinions. It is only justice to say that in these volumes, now so seldom consulted, are found gems of legal lore. One opinion in particular is recalled as having been characterized by a distinguished jurist as worthy any court in ancient or modern times. It is
A CURIOUS FACT that Georgia had a Chief Justice when the Superior was her highest court, and that this Chief Justice had the whole State for his circuit, and was the only judge who rode a circuit. From 1777 to 1789 the Superior Courts were composed of this Chief Justice for the State at large, and three Associate Justices for each county. Probably it is the shade of this circuit-riding Chief Justice which offers to be resurrected in the proposition, lately advanced, to have one Superior Court judge for the Stare at large, whose duties shall be the assistance of overworked judges. Considering that the genius of our institutions requires the completest independence of the legislative and judicial departments, it is remarkable that, of the one hundred and ten years of Georgia's sovereignty, her Circuit Judges have been for nine years elected by the people of their respective circuits, for thirteen years appointed by the Governor, and for eighty-eight years elected by the General Assembly. Thus, while under the American theory the three departments of government should be officered by the direct voice of the people, and while probably the most palpable violation of this theory lies in permitting the law-making power to choose the law.construing power, yet it remains that the most perfect theoretic method has been in vogue only one-tenth as long as the most imperfect theoretic method. That elections by the Legislature have so long obtained is still more striking when we remember that, during these eighty-eight years, the unsuccessful candidates have far outnumbered the happy few, and that each of these unsuccessful candidates is apt to become at once an ardent enemy to this method of election, from sincere conviction that the Legislature is really incapable of appreciating true merit.
One scene in the history of the Georgia Circuit Judge deserves embalming in more pretentious records than those of this Association. This scene covered those few years immediately succeeding the war, in which
THE ALIEN AND THE RENEGADE fattened on the miseries of our people. Few who' did not share that wretchedness can imagine the utter destruction, not only of physical resources, but also of the reign of law, which overspread our State in 1865. With rare courage and unequalled tact, our Circuit Judges addressed themselves to the reorganization of courts and the reinvig. oration of our judicial system. What disastrous violence, what untold evils, were averted by their prompt and brave assumption of the respon. sibilities of that trying hour, can only be imagined. When it is remembered that millions of ignorant slaves were thrust upon a people wasted by such a war, and that thousands of disbanded soldiers, ragged and hungry and without occupation, roamed over the land, the quickly established supremacy of law is marvelous. Fortunate it was that these Circuit Judges had to deal with a people as loyal to their duty to the courts of their State as they were loyal to the political faith in which they were reared. Heroic beyond expression as were these troops in battle, more heroic still were they in becoming, in the face of such discouragements, the faithful defenders of the civil power. The Georgia Circuit Judge was to be tried still further. When the military, in undisguised violation of all legal right, was thrust upon us, the Circuit Judge stood firm. Threats did not move him. Offers of promotion were spurned. If he succumbed to physical force, it was not for fear of the bayonets which gleamed in the court-yard. The fearless courage with which he braved the perils in his path deserves to win for him that epitaph applied for similar conduct to “the noblest Roman of them all,” “ In arduis fidelis."
THE EDUCATING INFLUENCE of the circuit bench is often overlooked. The Supreme Judge comes in contact with only the learned few. But the Circuit Judge is always in the public eye. The unlettered crowd which attends and often throngs, his steps are keen of perception and quick to learn from external sense. The judge is to them the incarnation of the law. As the books are closed to them, his words are the only authoritative expression, accessible to them, of that great rule of action which holds society together, The court room is the law school of the public. From what transpires there, the public forms its ideas of legal right and wrong. The sense of justice innate in every breast is often rudely shocked by judicial proceedings which the public cannot reconcile with its conceptions of morality. From-such scenes the people turn away with, first, a decreased respect, and afterwards sometimes a contempt for law; and in so far as the sceptre of law, to be effective of good, must sway the popular breast, in so far does it fail of its mission when it is unsupported by the public notion of right and wrong. Who can limit the injury inflicted by such a state of sentiment?
But of all the paraphernalia of justice, the Circuit Judge is most rigorously and ceaselessly watched, and most mercilessly held to account. . Nor is this scrutiny confined to his judicial conduct. His private life is the cynosure of all eyes. His peccadilloes are inagnified into faults, bis faults into public evils. Even his mistakes are often distorted into willful errors. Without debating the justice of such judgments, the fact remains that the Circuit Judge is inspected as no other public servant. Nay, more: by a sort of
POPULAR TRANSFIGURATION his personality is unconsciously mistaken for the fleshly interpretation of justice. Not having the marble image, with its blindfold and scales to gaze upon, the public measures the idea that image represents by the mental and moral attainments of its expounder and executor. Burdened with such responsibility, the Circuit Judge bears on his shoulders a weight utterly out of proportion to his comparative station among public servants. With what tremendous energy, with what sleepless vigilance, therefore, should he guard public and private life, and walk before men“ without fear and without reproach!”
THE MODEL CIRCUIT JUDGE is a theme worthy the painter's brush, the sculptor's chisel and the poet's harp. We may not have found him yet, but we may well pause to ponder on his royal image. Unlike the wistful search for the golden fleece, our seeking will not be in vain; for in the quest, we must needs hold
up before us the picture of such illustrious virtues, that our own lives will thereby be inspired, as the sea, gazing on the sun, catches his glow in her waves. In legal education he has not spared assiduous study, preferring final excellence to early display. His mind is stored with the great principles of the law. Versed in modern decisions, giving due weight to latest opinions, he does not stick in the bark, and to him the lowest argument is stare decisis. Profound in the law's learning, lucid in its application, luminous in its exposition, he knows no party, and, on ascending the judgment seat, strips himself of bias. He is merciful to the prisoner until this mercy comes in conflct with justice to the public. He is gracious to the bar, until graciousness