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he was, while he remained in it he was an ardent and able advocate of its cause. He was one of Michigan's pioneer politicians and jurists, and a man who, at various periods, has occupied a conspicuous place in public estimation, and who, had he been less erratic in politics, might have been a notable power in the state and nation. He died at his home in Allegan on the 21st of May, 1880.
In person Littlejohn was tall and commanding, and had a dignity of bearing that made one think of Chatham, while a dark, piercing eye revealed the man of intellectual power. And, as was said of Pinckney, he had enough intellectual jewelry to have equipped two or three orators.
The first utterance claimed your attention; the orator held you through his entire speech subject to his control, for there was a glowing warmth of feeling which communicated itself to his auditors and carried them with him whether they agreed with his argument or not. As his eloquence sprang from the inspiration of great thoughts he carried his listeners, in the discussion of his theme, through the higher intellectual realms. His imagination was vivid and clothed his subject with beauty and grandeur. By some he was called a florid speaker. But his rhetoric, be it ever so florid, always gave point to his logic. The picture was not overdrawn, for he was always clear and well understood. The orator is a painter, merely using words instead of colors, to depict the scene. Littlejohn was in his best days a Rubens who painted grand pictures that were always faithful and true to life. He spurned affected phrase, his words flowed with an inherent force, and the simplicity of a bird song, each one carrying a message to the mind of the hearers not to be forgotten. "The best things in his speeches were the sudden flashes and the thoughts not dreamed of before.” Here is where Littlejohn, as an orator, found his great opportunity; when these new thoughts inspired him his language would have “the power of prose to take poetic tone, the power which loads a sentence with impressiveness and enabled him to carry his audience to the height of enthusiasm by his grand eloquence.
The true orator's thoughts receive color from his surroundings, and he is better understood when he speaks through them to his auditors. Littlejohn, in his speech at Battle Creek, in the political campaign of 1856, seeing in the hickory pole, that had just been erected, an emblem of the democratic party, exclaimed: “That hickory pole, standing firm and strong while bearing aloft the flag of our Union, represents the leader of our party, proudly bearing aloft our time honored banner. That pole is sound to the heart like the principles of our party and, like it, clad in an invulnerable armor for the handling of its enemies.” I have given but a crude idea of his illustration, but as he gave it in his own graphic and eloquent words, it was received with
tumultuous applause. Wm. A. Blake and Jas. H. Hopkins, of Galesburg, who heard Littlejohn during this campaign, say that his eloquence was grand beyond description.
P. H. Whitford says he went from Galesburg to Marshall on July 4, 1845, to hear Littlejohn deliver an oration there. The orator stood on the steps of the old court house, and when he came to the point where the revolutionary sires were summoned to arms, he raised his hands, as he stepped forward, while his voice thrilled through the large audience and made every heart beat with a patriotic fervor, and everyone present feel like going to battle. He inspired the auditors' hearts with the lofty feelings of his own. “I shall never forget,” says Mr. Whitford, “that eloquent appeal to arms, nor that overpowering thrill of emotion that went through that vast crowd.” Hon. 8. F. Brown, of Schoolcraft, who heard Littlejohn deliver a Fourth of July oration at that place some time in the "fifties,” says he was a most eloquent man. Hon. C. E. Stuart, of Kalamazoo, told the writer that he considers the speech that Littlejohn made in Detroit, at a democratic meeting, the most éloquent speech he ever heard.
Nature had not only endowed Littlejohn with an intellect of the highest order, but she had given him all those gifts that lead to eminence in public life. In addition to these gifts he possessed a judicial mind, legal acumen, and keen discrimination, that enabled him readily to distinguish between right and wrong, and to see at a glance what the average judge would have to get by study and reflection. His sense of justice was so strong that his feelings or emotional nature did not deter him from coming to and holding just and legal conclusions. It has been considered one of the most difficult things for a judge to keep his feelings from swaying his judgment. The opinion rigidly obtains that the technical heart of the stern judge must be proof against the feelings of sympathy, charity, or any expression of pity toward the accused. Law has a head to think and decide, and an'arm to execute, but it has no heart and cannot feel. Its stern dictum, expressed through its highest judicial functionary, must decide where the right and the wrong lies in every case. But in doing this the judge should always be humane. If Littlejohn erred, as judge, it was on the side of humanity. His large sympathetic nature may have often moved him to temper the severity of the law to the condition of the criminal at the bar. Ezra Beckwith, of Galesburg, who has often served as juror when Littlejohn was on the bench at Kalamazoo, says: “I have seen the tears fall down Judge Littlejohn's cheeks while giving sentence to a criminal. A young man, probably demented, had obtained some property by false pretenses. The jury, trying him, brought in a verdict against the young man. Littlejohn,
in addressing him, said: “Your sentence should have been non compos mentis, but as the jury have brought you in guilty, I will make it as light as possible. It will be twenty dollars, or twenty days in jail. Which would you prefer?” The father of the boy urged the twenty days in jail as best. It was enforced. “The case following this,” says Mr. Beckwith, "was that of a bigamist. A man had married when his first wife was alive, and pleaded in court that he did not know that she was living.” The judge replied, "we have just had a case where we have been lenient to an unfortunate young man. And we think justly so. But there is no leniency to be given such a man as you. A man ought to know where his wife is. We sentence you to five years in the penitentiary.”
Judge Littlejohn was never diverted from the facts and the law in the case by the special pleading, sophistry or eloquence of the lawyers, but could unravel from the intricate web of the case its true history, and thus reach the most just and correct conclusions.
There is a peculiar feature in the circuit court system. It is this: There are certain cases tried before the judge on the basis of law and testimony, justice and equity not being considered in trying them. Then the same judge sits in a court of chancery to try these other cases on the basis of justice and equity. Now, it seemed that Judge Littlejohn, whether sitting in the circuit court or in chancery, was always sitting as a judge in a court of equity. That is, in whatever court he was presiding, he always endeavored as we have said, to tem per the severity of the law to the weakness of the criminal, with justice and equity, for he really put every man's case in equity, tried it slowly, got all the facts and clear evidence in the case, and held to them through all the conflict and arguments of the counsel on both sides. Instead of making law the stern, unfeeling, technical arbiter between man and man, he strove to make it the benevolent interpreter and guide through the mazes of the trial.
An old member of the bar, noted for his bull dog tenacity in all his suits, had asked the judge to charge the jury so and so. The judge replied, “I decline, sir, to charge the jury as you request.” Being still importuned by the lawyer to charge thus and thus, the judge, growing indignant at such persistent impertinence, turned to the lawyer, and, with a manner and emphasis that would have made any other member of the bar quail, retorted, “I tell you, sir, that I decline to charge as you direct. It is not in accordance with the law and the facts in the case.”
LIST OF MEMBERS OF THE KALAMAZOO BAR FROM 1831 TO 1886.
COLLECTED BY T. F. GIDDINGS, COUNTY CLERK OF KALAMAZOO COUNTY.
Date of admission to
Com. prac. this court,
Died at Grand Rapids.
Lives at Paw Paw.
Died at Otsego, 1852.
Resided at Marshall.
Died in an eastern state.
May 2, 1837..
Abel, J. C.......... May 18, 1836.
AtLee, Samuel Yorke...... June 14, 1843..
Austin, William G......... Mar. 16, 1853.. ........
Alley, Joshua F. ........... Feb. 26, 1873.. ........ Annabel, E. R............. Oct. 2, 1882..
Allen, Amos D............. July 17, 1885.
Alcott, A. N....... ........................ 1831 | Belcher, Elisha........... Nov. 1, 1836................ Brackett, John E..........
1840 Balch, Nathaniel A. ........
1812 Bradley, Edward........... June 18, 1816........ Breese, J. W............... June 20, 1819.
Booth, William D. ......... June 25, 1859.......... Boardman, Gilbert S..... May 24, 1862.......... Burns, J. Davidson. ....... June 27, 1863....
Buskirk, C. A....... Sept. 9, 1863.
Buck, Geo. M... Oct. 6, 1871.
Boudeman, Dallas ......... June 29, 1872........ Bleazby, Arthur A........... Nov, 8, 1873.
Burke, Lawrence N..... Feb. 6, 1875.
Bascom, Wm. F.. Oct. 7, 1880.......... Balch, Frank C...
Burrows, Julius C..... ... ...
1863 | Burns, Robert..........
1861 Briggs, Henry C............. .................
Balch, Walter 0............ ...................... 1836 Comstock, Horace H........ May 2, 1837.......... ...... Clark, Walter............. June 18, 1840................ Cooper, J. Morris........ ........... Clark, Samuel.............
1812 Chipman, John S............ Nov. 24, 1813.......... ..... Coffinberry, Salathiel C..... Sept. 10, 1857...... Cranson, Joel H...... June 1, 1860........ Cole, Hiram..............
Resides at Kalkaska, 1886.
Resides at Salt Lake City, 1886.
Died at Kalamazoo, Oct., 1870.