Abbildungen der Seite

former home, on the green banks of the Kearsley, where I shall be surrounded by friends and kindred who have gone before, in the Goodrich cemetery.




The period of which we write embraces most of the pioneer epoch of central Michigan. At this time, from 1836 to 1848, Judge Epaphroditus Ransom, one of the chief justices of the supreme court, was ex-officio presiding circuit judge. His circuit then “embraced nearly one fourth of the present inhabited area of the lower peninsula, commencing with Branch county at the southeast, thence north to Montcalm, and including all the territory between that line 'and the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Most of this vast tract was hardly more than an unbroken wilderness, the courts of which were held in the primitive schoolhouses and reached by the judge on horseback.” There were two associate or side judges, elected in each county, who sat with the judge during the term of court in their own county seat. - Many interesting incidents are given of Judge Ransom and his legal cortege making their accustomed journey through the woods from county seat to county seat, in rude cavalier style. The early settlers, those true founders of this state, first reared the log house, then the schoolhouse, the meeting house, and lastly the courthouse. These four, the home, the school, the church, and the court of justice, constitute the four corner stones in the fabric of our civilization. The mechanics were at first the most needful class, then came the professional men, and among them the lawyer.

“I have a great reverence,” says Kennedy, "for the profession of the law and its votaries; but especially for that part of the tribe which comprehends the old and thorough paced stagers of the bar." For the present these reminiscences will bide with the old stagers of the Calhoun and Kalamazoo county bars. Perhaps no profession abounds with so great a number of social, companionable fellows; free lances, ready at any time to discuss, in their shrewd, quaint, off hand manner, the faults and foibles of mankind, especially of that class with whom they have been in such close intimacy. And what a fund of material for the raconteur, rich in anecdote and incident, they have gathered from their experience in “trying cases," which, as they meet in the bar room, or congregate in the courts, they weave into admirable stories. A knot of old lawyers thus assembled reminds one of a set of players in the green room, breaking their “unpremeditated jokes in the interval of business.” And what a contrast between such an encounter of rival wits and the after meeting of these same rivals, in an encounter of serious and almost tragic earnestness on the boards. The old lawyer seems to resort to colloquial life for diversion, or for relaxation from the strain of hard labor. Here he finds leisure, and a tonic that invigorates him for his accustomed business routine and severe mental contests in the court room. But the old stagers are gone. Their eloquence is a thing of the past. The old forums, now occupied by their successors, no longer echo with the brilliant oratory of the old days. The decline of oratory in America is very apparent. There is scarcely a lingering trace in our courts of the forensic eloquence once so potent at the bar of Lexington in Henry Clay's best day, or at the Mississippi bar in S. S. Prentiss' day, or at the Columbia county (N. Y.) bar in Elisha Williams' time. Not that we now lack genius or talent in the profession of law, but that there is a lack of enthusiasm to kindle that genius and talent into a blaze of eloquence. Not that there is a lack of logic or learning at the bar of to-day, but that we need the intense passion to set that logic and learning on fire, before we can have genuine eloquence. Bradley, Stuart, Littlejohn, Chipman, Church, when aroused, and Van Arman at bis best, were eloquent men. They, as younger men, belonged to the epoch of oratory we have referred to, and may be said to have been among the last orators of this period of eloquent speech.

The power of public speaking is probably the most transitory of all kinds of intellectual influence, for it dies with the death of its individual auditors. The artist leaves behind him his picture, the author his book, for the world to enjoy, to profit from, and judge them by, long after they are gone. Bat the orator whose speech is never reported leaves only a recollection. No description can reproduce his eloquence, no tradition can do more than repeat the glowing story, and murmur of that wonderful power, that fascination which once drove audiences wild with delight. It is gone—vanished like a glory from the earth. Gone as completely as an ended song, a forgotton

dream. What do the people now know of Mrs. Siddons' grace, John Kemble’s dignity, Booth's pathos and passion, Henry's marvelous eloquence, or the wonderful power of the orators of forty years ago. The young generation begin to smile when we who have heard Bradley, Stuart, Littlejohn, Chipman, and their compeers, praise them so highly, and reply that we are overpraising past orators. And how can we prove anything? We can only say, “ It was so.”

The great theme, which is necessary to make the great orator, is gone, or divided up and become sectional in its application. We have no broad national questions as in the past, and without the great theme we cannot have the great orator.

The old members of the Calhoun county bar were, intellectually, strong men and able lawyers. Among them were men who aided largely in establishing the institutions of this state. The bar, in its best days, was conspicuous for its legal talent; and for that which is the glory of any professioncharacter above reproach. Bradley, Pratt and Van Arman were self-made men. Crary, Church and Gordon had the benefit of a collegiate course, and a thorough legal training.


Crary was born October 2, 1804, at Preston, New London county, Ct. He was of genuine Puritan stock of the Scotch border. He was the great, great grandson of Elder William Brewster, of the Mayflower company. His early youth was spent on the farm. He graduated at Washington (Trinity) college, and read law with Henry W. Ellsworth; practiced two years at Hartford, Ct., and at the same time assisted Geo. D. Prentice editorially on the New England Weekly Review. He came to Marshall, Mich., in 1832, where he commenced practice. Here he was appointed general of militia; was a member of the constitutional convention of 1835 and also in 1850; the same year (1835) was elected delegate to Congress from this then territory; was representative in Congress from 1836 to 1841; was member of the state legislature and speaker of the house in 1812. He died in Marshall, May 8, 1854. Isaac E. Crary was the friend and able adviser of Rev. John D. Pierce in founding the educational system of Michigan. Dr. Horace Bushnell, in his lecture on the historical personages of Connecticut, pays a high tribute to Mr. Crary in placing his name among the eminent historical characters of that state, and further says, “ he is now using that talent for which he was honored here, in helping to form a new state in the west.” Mr. Crary became law partner with Abner Pratt in Marshall. He was a well read lawyer, safe counselor, clear, logical reasoner, and known more for his able management of suits than for forensic eloquence. Law, education and politics found in him an able and sterling exponent. A democrat of the old school, during the first epoch of politics in Michigan, whenever he appeared at the hustings his recognized ability and umblemished character gave great weight to his speeches. He “took the stump' for Van Buren in 1840, and for Polk in 1844, and in the unwritten political history of that day are many sound, logical speeches from Isaac E Crary.

'Tis said that every man has his weakness. Achilles had his in his heel. Isaac E. Crary showed where his was when in Congress, by his persistent attack on Gen. Harrison, the President. This aroused John Quincy Adams' ire, but instead of himself punishing the “Wolverine” member for his temerity, he handed him over to Tom Corwin, who in that masterpiece of wit and ridicule, so used up our representative that “the old man eloquent” the next day in the house, referred to the “late Gen. Crary." Crary and Corwin are both dead, but that inimitable speech of the latter will ever live in the humorous literature of this country. “Never was speech couched in droller vein."


James Wright Gordon was born at Plainwell, Conn., in 1809. He earned · his B. A. in 1829, and his M. A. in 1830, at Trinity College, New York; was professor in Geneva College, New York, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar. He settled in Marsha!l in 1835 and soon attained a deservedly high position at the bar. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1839, and by retirement of Gov. Woodbridge in 1841 became governor, and held the office during 1841-42. He died at Pernambuco, in South America, where he held the office of consul, December, 1853, aged forty four. Gordon was naturally endowed with a strong intellect and good hard sense. His attainments, untiring energy, and a character above reproach, placed him among the ablest and most influential members of the old bar. There were but few important suits during the early days of the Marshall bar in which he was not retained as counsel on one side or the other. And he was nearly as well known at the Kalamazoo bar as at home. A defect in his palate rendered his voice husky. But while one noticed this defect as he began his speech, one soon became so interested in what he said as to forget the defect and only listen to the argument of the speaker. The writer has often heard Gordon at the bar and “on the stump," and has invariably found that the charm of his reasoning made one oblivious to this defect. It was a triumph of the reasoning powers over a poor voice.

Gordon got his political education at the feet of the Gamaliel of whigism

at Ashland. The old whig party in Michigan had no abler nor bolder leader than he was. His opponents in the political field were usually the same that he had met at the forum-Bradley, Pratt, Church, Stuart, Balch, Chipman and Van Arman. He was a foeman worthy of their steel in either contest.

Gordon, in 1847, was the whig candidate for Congress, against Bradley, the democratic candidate. I remember that the news of Bradley's election came to Gordon while he was addressing the jury in an important case in the old court house at Marshall. Every one present noticed the change wrought on his countenance as it was announced to him that "he was defeated for Congress!” Van Arman was his opponent in the case, and Gordon had been making one of his most powerful arguments against the strong points and skillful logic of his wily antagonist. He was nearly half through and seemed determined to win the suit. But no sooner had the news of his defeat reached him than his looks and manner of speaking evinced it. He continued and concluded his speech, but there was a perceptible difference between the first and the last half of that address to the jury. It was addressing a jury under great difficulty; his inspiration was gone. Gordon lost the case, and his client always maintained that if he had not been told of his defeat until after his speech he would have won the suit. Two defeats in one day, and both by democrats, nearly used him up.

EDWARD BRADLEY. Edward Bradley was born in the year 1808, in East Bloomfield, Ontario county, N. Y. He spent his boyhood on the farm, where he received the benefit of a common school education. He attended the academy at Canandaigua for a short time. Here he made, for the time, rapid progress in his studies, and caught the love of study in this old seat of learning that stimulated him to higher attainments in knowledge in after years. At twentyeight he was appointed associate judge of the common pleas court of Ontario county. In 1839 he came to Michigan and began the study of law in Detroit, completing the same with Gibbs and Sanford, in Marshall. With them he began his practice. He was a member of the Michigan senate of 1842. elected to the lower house of Congress in 1847, and died in New York city, August 5, 1847, while on a tour for the benefit of his health.

Edward Bradley possessed rare natural gifts, was eminently social, and had ready wit and humor. Although limited in his early education, he had, by study, made high attainments in law. Self-made men are the readiest and strongest men; because they learn how to use their education in getting it. The value of learning is in knowing how to make the best use of it. The same is true of the possession of genius or talent. Bradley had chosen the

« ZurückWeiter »