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a model orator by the students, here he was to us a Cicero in real life. His power over that court and jury was a masterly achievement of argument and oratory. He often had them in tears, and we remember that the sturdy old pioneer clergyman, Rev. Mason Knappen, one of the jurors, cried like a child. The whole court and attendant crowd hung with breathless attention on every word he uttered, and when he had finished, it seemed to us that there were no higher forensic honors in his profession for him to win, and that he could then retire with fame enough. He won the case. His opponents were N. A. Balch and James Wright Gordon. As this was a case of malpractice, the highest medical or surgical authorities in the west were summoned as witnesses. All the noted physicians in central Michigan were present, besides Dr. Zina Pitcher, 'of Detroit, the learned and erratic Dr. Lamborn, Prof. Meeker of the La Porte school, and President Brainard of the Rush Medical College of Chicago, who were on the witness stand.
Fitch and Gilbert, of Marshall, had attached Judge Lee’s goods for debts, and in taking out the attachment Gilbert had made a great mistake, in swearing that Judge Lee was about to defraud them of the debt in removing his goods. This was not true, and Pratt, Lee's law partner, had Gilbert indicted for perjury. The case now became serious, as Pratt's hatred of Fitch, who was a radical abolitionist, now took a more violent political turn. Gilbert, alarmed, speedily secured Gordon, Bradley, Van Arman, and Stuart as his counsel. Bradley and Gordon withdrew, and Van Arman, whom all wished to retain, was considered too aggressive to get along with Pratt, for the case was lost unless Pratt was pacified. It was an admirable stroke of policy in giving Stuart the management of the suit. To add to the difficulty the “gworn twelve" were known to be bitter democrats. Pratt seemed to have the case entirely in his own hands, and thoughts of the penitentiary loomed up in Gilbert's mind. Stuart's defense was a masterpiece of legal tactics in managing Abner Pratt when mad. He based that defense on the proposition that his client did wrong in attaching Judge Lee's goods; that Pratt did right in indicting Gilbert. But the question with the jury wasdid Gilbert intend to commit perjury? To convict him they must have proof of that. There was no proof that he even intended to swear false, or to misinterpret the case against Lee. It was a mistake, a blunder of an impulsive young man, with no intention of committing a legal or a moral wrong. Before he had been talking twenty minutes he had judge and jury in tears. Had that speech been preserved, says one who heard it, it would have been called the greatest forensic achievement of Stuart's life. Mr. Stuart himself is inclined to this belief. Stuart's style was eminently persuasive. It enabled him at this time to enforce the essential facts in the case
with a pathos that carried both judge and jury. And it set at naught the idea that his strength lay mainly with the jury, and in the blandishment of his oratory. This would excite laughter in those who knew Judge Pratt. To think that the tactful blandishments of oratory could move him. No, the reverse of this was true. There was so much hard sense, sound logic, and law, in the defense of his client, that the Achillean wrath of Abner Pratt was subdued by it, court and jury carried, and Gilbert acquitted.
This case reminds us of this fact, that a client's cause, as well as truth and justice, often suffer in the court room nowadays, by the harsh and overbearing manner of practitioners toward opposing counsel, or adverse witnesses. Many lawyers show a lack of common courtesy, as well as common sense, in the management of their suits; and if they only knew how much they go at discount, for this very reason, with judge and jury, they would not only mend their pleas, but also their manners, at the bar. We think the old lawyers clung closer to the law and the facts in the case, than their successors at the bar do. The practice was simpler then, less text-books to study and authorities to quote, and they plainer and more direct. The old lawyer seemed to try the case more on its merits, and seemed less inclined to resort to legal technicalities to win his suit. Stuart not only knew how to present his client's cause and argue it before judge and jury with consummate ability, but to do it in such a manner as to win favor even from the opposite party for his fairness and candor in trying the case. He has said that it took him forty years to learn how to make a speech. In this saying he evinced the true idea of the orator, for although he soon learned how to make a good speech, yet, like the true artist, he was not satisfied till he had produced the masterpiece of his art. This he has done.
Since the above sketch was written Mr. Stuart has passed away. He died at his late home in Kalamazoo on the 12th day of May, 1887, in the 77th year of his age.
NATHANIEL A. BALCH.
Nathaniel A. Balch, the Nestor of the Kalamazoo bar, was born at Athens, Windham county, Vermont, on the 22d of January, 1808. He fitted for college at Chester academy and graduated at Middlebury in 1835. He was principal of the Bennington acadeny for two years. He read law with Gov. John S. Robinson, of Bennington. He also read medicine and quite extensively in theology before he left his native state.
He removed to Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1837, and became a law student of Stuart & Webster. He had charge of the Kalamazoo Huron Institute for
some time, and in 1838 became principal of Marshall college, where he remained two years. He was admitted to the bar in 1842; was prosecuting attorney for Kalamazoo and Barry counties, and member of the state senate in 1847. Mr. Balch is an able Greek and Latin scholar, and has been a diligent student in acquiring knowledge during his entire professional life. His broad and thorough reading has fully equipped him for the discussion not only of law questions but of all others. Hence at the bar he has been a formidable opponent-one strongly entrenched in argument and very difficult to defeat. He has been called the metaphysician of the Kalamazoo bar. A close reader, he thought over his cases profoundly. He had the faculty of not only working up a strong case for his client, but of so identifying himself with his client's cause as to make it his own. His language is good, his address forcible and commanding; for behind all his legal learning and attainments one recognizes the intellectual power of the man. Mr. Balch when fully aroused was a master in argument. He brushed aside technicalities, when in his way, as mere cobwebs; and, on the other hand, made them strong as iron if his case needed their support. During forty years’ practice he has been counsel in most of the important trials in western Michigan. Mr. Balch is an able impromptu speaker on almost any subject, holding the closest attention of his audience at all times. The same may be said of him as a conversationalist. He can draw from his rich stores of knowledge something to entertain and instruct any company. He has been president of the Kalamazoo bar association from its earliest organization. He has now retired from practice.
Elisha Belcher was born in Rhode Island, in 1800; came when a child to Massachusetts, and when a young man removed to Ohio. Ile was a student in Kenyon college where he got enough of the classics to aid him in his profession in after years. In 1826 he located at Ann Arbor, Mich., and later removed to Ionia. He must have picked up his profession along the way between Massachusetts and Ionia, for he appears as attorney in some of the early cases in the latter place. He came to Kalamazoo in 1834, and soon became one of the leading lawyers of the west. He removed to Otsego in 1850 and died there in 1852.
Mr. Belcher was a man of close observation and an apt student in the common school of life. Having worked up from the ranks of hard toil he had retained the plain manners of, and the close sympathy with, the class from which he sprung. And when he became an able lawyer his plain habits made him hosts of friends. His unadorned speech, sincerity and candor, won
their way to the hearts of the jury, and were potent in establishing his own convictions upon their minds. Belcher had a large, muscular frame, and great vigor of body and mind. A clear, logical reasoner, his argument was marked more by strength than beauty of diction. And when he had once presented his case to the “sworn twelve,” if the verdict was not in his favor, his defeat never hurt him; for, as lawyer and man, he stood high with court, jury, and people.
It is sad to reflect on what Belcher might have been. There was enough native talent, legal ability, solid attainments, genial humor, and sterling manhood enslaved by the habit of strong drink to have placed him in the front rank of our western bar, and to have made him distinguished among his fellow citizens, and in the councils of the Nation. Belcher's office was always a pleasant resort for the Branch students, in whom he was ever interested, and always took pleasure in giving them advice in their studies. Many & delightful reminiscence did he give them from his life in Kenyon college. And, speaking of his habits, he freely acknowledged that he was a slave to “rum," and warned them never to take the first glass. That was their only safety. Kind recollections of the old barrister are yet fresh in the memory of his student friends.
Joseph Miller was born in Litchfield county, Ct., Dec. 13, 1816, and got his education in an academy at that place. He began reading law in his father's office; completed his course and removed to Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1837, where he was admitted to the bar. He was a law partner of C. E. Stuart for muny years, and was made United States district attorney for this district, by President Buchanan. He died April 6, 1861. Mr. Miller displayed marked ability in the preparation of his cases, was correct in citations of law, accurate and concise in argument, logical and effective in his brief speeches before the bar. Getting the pith of a client's case, if there was a possible chance for friendly adjustment between the parties he always urged it. How much bitter fead and money “ Joe” Miller has saved citizens of this county, by such sound advice, who can tell ? The old law office of “Stuart & Miller” in 1843 was on the east side of Portage street, Kalamazoo. It was in this old office that Joe Miller, as the legal Vulcan, forged the weapons for his partner, Stuart, to use in combat with their foes in the court room. Let Miller fit the case for trial, and let Stuart present it to the jury, and the verdict of the “stubborn twelve," it was usually thought, would be given in their favor. Miller was a lawyer of close and profound research. With him knowledge came by analysis and close inductive reasoning. It there was an imperfection in the law, or a flaw in the argument of his opponent, his eagle eye detected it at a glance. He excelled in the "weightier matters of the law." He was at first merely a court, but eventually became a jury lawyer as well. As he grew in practice his reading became more extensive, till in the zenith of his fame he was the peer of the foremost jurist in western Michigan.
Horace Mower was born in Woodstock, Winsor county, Vt. He graduated at Dartmouth college, read law with Hon. Andrew Tracey, of Woodstock, and came to Kalamazoo in 1838; was a member of the state legislature in 1847, and appointed judge of New Mexico, and served two years. He had a fine classical education, and was the finest belles lettres scholar in Kalamazoo. He was affable, gentlemanly, social, and had wit and humor. He was an astute lawyer, and, in bis best days, was the pride and ornament of the Kalamazoo bar. As a lawyer he was not as logical, as a thinker he was not as profound as some of his compeers, but he was endowed with extraordinary tact and was full of expedient and resource. He was not noted for sustained oratory, but with an occasional burst of genuine eloquence he would carry his audience by storm. His irony and satire were inimitable, and often fell with withering effect upon his opponent or an obstinate witness. He was compactly built, of medium size, had an aquiline nose, and an eye like a falcon, was always neatly dressed, walked with an elastic step, evincing the energetic, stirring man. He was quick to see the weak point in an enemy's argument or design, and as quick to give a thrust, which he did so dexterously that surprise and discomfiture came at one stroke. The old whig party had in him a leader, strong, eloquent and brave. No man in this entire border had more influence among the old whigs than had Horace Mower. Says Hon. Gilbert E. Reed, of Richland: “Horace Mower was the sharpest lawyer in western Michigan. Had he lived and remained free from dissipation, he would have been one of the first of the bar of this state. In his best days he was the strongest man in the old whig party in this part of the state.” He died Dec. 11, 1860.
Marsh Giddings was born Nov. 19, 1816, in Sherman, Fairfield county, Connecticut. He was the son of William and Jane (Ely) Giddings, who removed with their family to Richland, Kalamazoo county, Michigan, in 1830. His father died that same year. Marsh early manifested a fondness for books * See vol. 5, page 375.