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Died. President

1858. 1858. ME., N. H., Mass.,

1881. BUCHANAN. RHODE ISLAND, (Jan. 12.) (Jan. 21.)

(July 25.)

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*The Fourth Circuit was vacant from May 7, 1873, to April 1, 1874, when a new allotment was made.





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The Bar of the Supreme Court of the United | the administration of justice and attracted the States met in the court room in the Capitol, on attention of the profession and of the public. Monday, October 12th, at 12 o'clock M., to pay Resolved, That we commemorate with no less respect to the memory of the late Benjamin R. satisfaction and applause the moral qualities Curtis.

which illustrate the whole professional service On motion the Hon. John A. Campbell of our deceased brother-bis justice to all, his was appointed Chairman, and D. W. MIDDLE- kindness to associates, bis fidelity to the courts TON, Clerk of the Court, Secretary.

and to the law, his scrupulous contribution of On motion of Hon. P. Phillips, the chair his best powers and his complete attention to appointed the following Committee on Resolu- every cause whose advocacy he assumed-his tions, viz.: Reverdy Johnson, Philip Phillips, resolute maintenance of the just limits which William M. Evarts, Benjamin H. Bristow, separate the duties of an advocate and the duties George H. Williams, John A. J. Cresswell, of an adviser and of a declarer of the law upon Richard T. Merrick, T. D. Lincoln and R. M. professional opinions—his fidelity to society, to Corwine.

government, to religion, to truth—all these traits The committee, through its chairman, re- of duty, as the rule of his life, we present to the ported the following resolutions:

living lawyers and to their successors for their THE BAR OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE sincerest homage. UNITED STATES, assembled upon occasion of Resolved, That the Attorney-General be rethe death of their brother Curtis, in testimony quested to present these resolutions to the Su: of their great affection and esteem for bim in preme Court, and to move, in our behalf, that life, and of their sense of the great loss which they be entered upon its minutes; and that the the courts and the bar of the whole country and chairman of this meeting be requested to forthe community at large suffer in his death, ward a copy of them to the family of our deadopt the following resolutions:

ceased brother:
Resolved, That we find in the professional life. Which resolutions were unanimously adopted.
labors and honors of Benjamin Robbins After the reading of the resolutions, Mr. Re-
Curtis, as displayed in an elevated and ex. verdy Johnson said:
tended career of judicial and forensic duty and MR. CHAIRMAN: Before moving, as I propose
distinction, the imposing traits and qualities of to do, the adoption of the report of the com-
intellect and character which, in concurrence, mittee, I beg leave to trespass for a few moments
make up the true and permanent fame among upon the time of the meeting. The event which
men of a great lawyer and a great judge. bas brought us together was a severe blow upon

Resolved. That the example presented by his the heart of the entire profession. Of the many
life, of great natural powers faithfully disci- bereavements which we have had heretofore to
plined and completely developed, expanded by deplore, no one has given us more sincere sorrow
large acquirements, and kept vigorous and alert than the death of BENJAMIN R. CURTIS. In all
by strenuous exercise, applied to noble uses, respects he was a man to be loved and admired.
and effecting illustrious results upon a conspic As a friend he was warm and sincere; as a law.
uous theater of action and in manifold and di- yer, learned and accomplished; as a judge, of
versified opportunities of public service and of transcendent ability. To those who knew him
public notice, is rare among lawyers as among intimately (and I am of that number) his death
men, and furnishes a just and assured title to is a great personal affliction.
permanent renown in the memory of his coun- My acquaintance with him commenced when,

in 1851, upon the recommendation of Mr. WebResolted, That in the special qualities which ster, he became one of the Associate Justices of mark him as a consummate forensic advocate the Supreme Court, and this acquaintance soon and as an authoritative judge, the structure of ripened into a close friendship which continued Mr. Curtis' mind and its discipline combined unbroken to the last. And having been a very the widest and most circumspect comprehen. constant attendant on the court for the last six sion of all facts of legal import, however multi- years of his connection with it, and during the tudinous; a luminous and penetrating insight seventeen years that have elapsed since his resinto the intricacies and obscurities of the most ignation, when, at every session, he appeared complex relations; and an efficacious power of as counsel, I was afforded the best opportunity reason, which produced the many admirable of forming an opinion of him as judge and law. exhibitions of his faculties at the Bar and on the yer. I think, therefore, that I have a just estiBench, which for forty-two years have served | mate of him in both characters. As a judge of

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this high tribunal, it is impossible to imagine in this country or in England, have so faithfully
one who could be more fully competent to dis- illustrated the power, dignity and honor of the
charge its high and arduous duties. With a legal profession as MR. CURTIS.
wealth of learning always adequate to the oc- His learning was profound and copious; his
casion, he was ever felicitous in his application mind clear, earnest and powerful, and all his
of it to the case before him. His judicial opin- faculties were severely disciplined.
ions-indeed, all of them—were models of a cor. His arguments at this bar, probably the most
rect style. It may with perfect truth be said of perfect models of forensic debate known to the
them, what, upon an occasion like the present, profession, rested upon the fundamental prin.
he said of the opinions of the late pure and great ciples of the science of law applied and an-
judge, Chief Justice Taney, that they were char. alyzed by deep but seemingly easy thought, and
acterized by purity of style and clearness of enforced by a logic whose severe features were
thought.” His arguments at the bar possessed never disfigured by enfeebling ornament. An
equally sterling merit. The statement of his appreciative listener could not refuse to follow
case, and the points which it involved, were al- him in his course of reasoning, for his state-
ways transparently perspicuous. And when his ment of his case was so plain, simple and per-
premises were conceded or established, his con suasive, that st commanded attention to the fuller
clusion was a necessary sequence. His analytical development of his propositions. However vo-
and logical powers were remarkable. In these luminous the record or complicated the nature
respects, speaking from the knowledge of the of the case, a statement easy, clear and concise,
great men whom I have heard during a very though full and comprehensive, disclosed at
long professional life. I think he was never sur- once the exact questions at issue, and deeply
passed. And his manner of speaking was ex impressed upon all who heard him the convic-
cellent. He ever suited “the action to the word, tions in the mind of the advocate. When, in that
the word to the action," and never overstepped great trial in which the President of the Repub-
"the modesty of nature." He was always calm, lic was arraigned before its Senate, sitting as
dignified and impressive, and, therefore, per- a High Court of Impeachment, MR. CURTIS
suasive. No lawyer who heard him begin an had concluded his opening statement for the
argument ever failed to remain until he hud con- defense, there was-nothing left of the case.
cluded. Were I to select instances as exhibit- His convictions were ardent, hearty and
ing his highest judicial excellence and his high-earnest, and he clung to them with a firmness
est forensic ability, I would point, for the one, and tenacity that nothing could affect save only
to bis dissenting opinion in what is known as the proof that they were erroneous.

Dred Scott case." and for the other, to In the dark hours of our national trouble his
his opening argument in the defense of Presi. voice was heard above the tempest of loosened
dent Johnson in the Impeachment Trial. Able passions vindicating the supremacy of law; and
as was the opinion of the majority of the court when the clash of arms had ceased but the
in that case, delivered by Chief Justice Taney, i storm still raged, he poured forth in this hall
it was admitted at the time, I believe, by most his appeal in behalf of a calm and considerate
of the profession, that the dissenting opinion of justice which should bear no sign of wrath or
Judge Curtis was equally powerful. Lawyers passion.
may differ, as they have differed, as to which The death of such a man is a severe loss to
of these two eminent men were right, but they the country as well as the profession.
will all concede that the view of each was main. I did not rise for the purpose of pronouncing
tained with extraordinary ability, whilst those a eulogy on MR. CURTis, that I leave to others
who knew them both will never differ as to the —but only to gratify a demand of my own feel.
sincerity of their respective convictions, ing. I knew him well and was honored by his

As to the other—his defense of President friendship and a reasonable share of his confiJohnson–having listened to it, and having dence. I have listened to him with instruction more than once read it carefully, I think I am and delight in public, and been greatly benejustified in saying that it covered every question fited by his counsels in private; and as I ad. which the case involved, and, although it was mired and loved him in life, I would place upon afterwards enforced by his able associates, it of his grave a humble tribute of respect for his itself greatly contributed to the defeat of the memory. impeachment. Nothing could have exceeded The Hon. John A. Campbell, Chairman, the clearness of statement, the knowledge per- then addressed the meeting as follows: tinent to the contest, or the power of reasoning A natural sorrow exists in the judicial tribuby which he maintained his conclusions. It was, nals and among the legal profession of the I believe, and, having been one of the judges, Union by the event of the death of the late JusI think I know, generally thought to be fatal tice CURTIS. to the prosecution. When such a man, lawyer His connection with the distribution of that and judge, in the inscrutable dispensation of justice which constitutions and laws define and Providence, is taken from the profession, they regulate during a period of eventful history, has cannot avoid feeling that it is not only a private been so intimate, so useful to the country, and but a public calamity. And it is due to his so honorable to himself and to his profession, memory that we should express the sense of our that its severence occasions a pause and is felt loss and the great regard we entertained for him as a calamity. To form and to maintain this as a man, a lawyer, and a judge. And this will connection was the aim of his life, the cherbe accomplished by adopting the report of the ished and continuing aspiration of a mind and committee. I, therefore, move its adoption. character well composed. To the members of

Mr. Johnson was followed by Mr. R.T. Mer- the same profession, such a life, such a mind, rick, who said:

such a character are objects of particular interMR. CHAIRMAN: Few men in any age, either I est. His aspirations were favored in his birth

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place, by his education and by his associations. with the majority of the court. He did not disThe history of Massachusetis just before the sent often, and ňis dissent was usually with a Revolution, during the Revolution, and until large minority-rarely, if ever, did he stand the time that Justice Curtis received his im- alone. They show that in some of the most impressions and impulse, was determined in a great portant cases, he prepared the opinions of the measure by its legal profession. During that court. That these opinions embraced intricate period its courts were occupied by men of ex questions of constitutional law, of admiralty jutraordinary endowments, and of large and liberal risdiction, of commercial law,of the law of patculture in law, jurisprudence, philosophy, scients, of common and equity law. The range of ence and literature. The profession of the law his professional experience in Massachusetts had was not misdescribed by the terın of a learned been wide and comprehensive. His professional profession. Dane and Parsons and Dexter; Otis studies had embraced the principles of law and and Story and Wilde; Parker and Shaw, had the understanding of jurisprudence, and the stamped their names and characters upon it. court rested with confidence upon his ability to The competitors that Justice Curtis had to en. expound principle and procedure. The opin. counter were Webster, Choate, Loring, Bartlett ions show elaboration, a mastery of facts, au. and others, whose impulses were the same as thorities and arguments, and a skillful em: his own. The scrutiny his arguments had to ployment of precise and accurate statement and experience was that of Story, Parker, Shaw, discussion. But these Reports exhibit an imWilde, Putnam, Dewey, Metcalf, Sprague. perfect history of the duties actually performed.

His first conviction must have been that, to The duties of the Justices of the Supreme consummate his purpose, he must need to Court consist in the hearing of cases; the prep: “Pitch his project high: sink not in spirit.”

arations for the consultations; the consultations

in the conference of the judges; the decision His first counsel to himself,

of the cause there, and the preparation of the "Let thy mind still be bent, still plodding where, opinion and the judgment of the court. Their And when, and how the business must be done.'

most arduous and responsible duty is in the conAfter twenty years of labor on this “ project" ference. and under this counsel, in 1851 he was selected, It was here that the merits of Justice CURTIS as was the report of that day, by Mr. Webster, were most conspicuous to his associates. The as the fittest person to fill the vacancy, occa- Chief Justice presided, the deliberations were sioned by the death of Justice Woodbury, in the usually frank and candid. It was a rare inci. Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Web- dent in the whole of this period, the slightest ster said he wanted a full term of lifelong serv. disturbance from irritation, excitement, passion ice. He called for Justice Curtis in the me- or impatience. There was habitually courtesy, ridian of professional life. The appointment good breeding, self-control, mutual deference. came to Justice CORTIS. He was not required In Judge CURTIs,invariably so; there was nothto pursue it or to beseech it. It came to him by ing of cabal, combination, or exorbitant desire a divine right--as the fittest.

to carry questions or cases. Their aims were At the time the court was presided over by honorable and all the arts employed to attain Chief Justice Taney, who had established, to the them were manly arts. The venerable age of acknowledgement of all, that his commission was the Chief Justice, his gentleness, refinement, held by the same title. He was then seventy- and feminine sense of propriety, were felt and three years of age, bowed by years and infirm. realized in the privacy and confidence of these ity of constitution. In the administration of consultations. None felt them more, none has the order and procedure of the court there was described them so well as Justice CURTIS has dignity, firmness, stability, exactitude, and with done in his graceful tribute to our illustrious these benignity, gentleness, grace, and right Chief Justice since his death, in the Circuit coming. The casual visitor acknowledged that Court of the United States, in Boston. it was the most majestic tribunal of the Union, In these conferences, the Chief Justice usualand that the Chief Justice was the fittest to ly called the case. He stated the pleadings and pronounce in it the oracles of justice.

facts that they presented, the arguments and Justice Curtis at the same time met seven his conclusions in regard to them, and invited associatesJustices McLean, Wayne, Catron, discussion. The discussion was free and open McKinley, Daniel, Nelson and Grier.

among the Justices till all were satisfied. All of these had passed the meridian of ordi- The question was put, whether the judgment nary life before their junior associate had come or decree should be reversed, and each Justice, to the bar. There was much stateliness in their according to his precedence, commencing with appearance, and, with diversities of character, the junior judge, was required to give his judg. education, discipline, attainments and experiment and his reasons for his conclusion. The ence, all of them had passed through a career concurring opinions of the majority decided the of honorable service, were men of strong reso- cause and signified the matter of the opinion to lution, large grasp of mind, and of honorable be given. The Chief Justice designated the purpose. The reception of Justice CURTIS judge 10 prepare it. Justice Curtis always was cordial and hospitable, and with all of came to the conference with full cognizance of these his judicial career commenced and ter. the case, the pleadings, facts, questions, arguminated with a single exception. The death ments, authorities. Åe participated in the disof Justice McKinley made a vacancy, and that cussions. His opinion was carefully meditated. vacancy was supplied by one recommended by He delivered it with gravity, and uniformly it the Justices—Justices Catron and CURTIS bear. was compact, clear, searching, and free from ing their recommendation to the President. all that was irrelevant, impertinent, or extrinsic.

The Reports of Howard disclose that during As a matter of course, it was weighty in the dehis judicial term he was generally in accord | liberations of the court. The older judges spoke of this period with great satisfaction. Justice | Tis by those who did not concur with him. I Nelson, in a letter written within the last year, can speak positively as to some, and shall speak said to me that it was the happiest period of his as to myself. Our relations had been cordial judicial life, and alludes affectionately to the and kindly. He informed me by letter of his share of Justice Curtis in these proceedings. resignation. I expressed to him my sincere reThe Chief Justice so regarded it. The rever-gret for the occurrence, and I testified to the ad. ence of the junior Justices was gratefully felt miration and respect I bore for his ability and and recognized by him.

integrity and usefulness in the court. These reThe last event at the spring term of the year lations remained undisturbed by time, distance, 1857, was the delivery of the dissenting opinion the corroding effects of sectional strife and civil of Justice CURTIS, in the case of Dred Scott. war, until the hour of his lamented death.

The court adjourned then, and it proved to My personal intercourse with Justice Curtis be the last event in the judicial career of Jus after his resignation was limited, and I had but tice CURTIS. I have never supposed that his little contact with his subsequent professional resignation had any connection with that or any life. During the period of his connection with other occurrence in the court. There was noth the court,his ambition seemed to be to associate ing in the deliberations in that cause to dis- his name honorably and permanently with the tinguish it from any other. Upon the argu- administration of justice in this country, and ment in 1856, it was found there was a diversity for this end he sought to understand the whole of opinion upon the matter proper to be decided. science of law and procedure, and to have a A plea in abatement to the jurisdiction, which clear conception of a legitimate internal policy presented the capacity of a person of African for the Union. His ambition imposed a necesdescent to be a citizen, had been demurred to sity for labor, continual improvement, habitual and the plea rejected. There was trial and judg: iniercourse with judicial and public administra. ment for the defendant, declaring the plaintiff tion, and the discussion of constitutional and to be a slave.

legal questions, and oversight and counsel in The question was: could he insist upon an the affairs of individuals and communities. error in the sustaining of his own demurrer after To reach the eminence to which he aspired trial and judgment?

and to which he attained he inust have realized At that term, Chief Justice Taney, Justices to himself Wayne, Daniel, Nelson and Curtis, held the

“This life of mine, affirmative and constituted a majority. A re

Must be lived out, and a grave thoroughly earned." argument was ordered, and at the next term, His plan was pursued with constancy, and the Justices McLean, Catron, Nelson, Grier and lives of few show more consistency and symCampbell held the negative. Justice Nelson metry. The prizes of ambition he accepted were doubted at the first argument, and moved for within the scope of this aim; those he relina re-argument, and upon that joined the mi quished or neglected were inconsonant. His nority, and so the plea in abatement and the tasks of real life were determined, and to these questions arising upon it in the opinion of the tasks he confined his appointed work. In his majority of the court were not before the court. course he found that the justice a state or a naThe case, as reported in 19 Howard, S. C. R., tion can distribute bears a small proportion to discloses that each member of this majority held the demands of society for justice. to this opinion, and that neither of them in their He found, likewise, that justice, though the separate or concurring opinions examined the chief, is not the only virtue—that it is the minmerits of the plea or passed an opinion on it. istry to reason and the master of human action,

The same report shows that each member of but is not all of humanity. this minority did examine the plea and record. So, in his onward progress to the goal he had ed their opinion of it. It was agreed at a day set before him, besides virtue and knowledge, in the term that the questions should be con public reputation for incorrupt integrity, large sidered and each Justice might deal with them and useful endowments of mind, influence with as his judgment dictated. The abstinence of a courts and tribunals, he also acquired faith, portion of the court on the one side, and the dis knowledge of religion, and entered into a close cussion by the others, was regulated by their communion with his God; and thereby he own opinion as before expressed. And the facts earned his grave and his rest from his labors. being understood, no censure was deserved by The tribute which the courts and the memany. My belief is, that Justice Curtis mis: bers of the legal profession from different Slates conceived the facts and supposed a portion of have willingly rendered to his memory, exthe court had concurred in deciding a case which presses to his family, to his friends, and to the they had before determined was not before the country that “Blessings are on the head of the court. I make this statement in justice to him just.' as well as to my other brethren. The state. The resolutions were thereupon unanimously ment I make is confirmed by Justice Nelson in adopted, and the meeting

adjourned. a letter of his published by the biographer of Mr. Attorney-General Williams moved the the Chief Justice. In respect to the merits of court that these proceedings be entered of recthe respective opinions, I have no design to say ord on the minutes of the term, and made the & word. They are marked with great ability, following remarks: and are an honor to the court which was able to MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT: BENJAMIN R. produce them. They will be considered here. Curtis, formerly an Associate Justice of this after as a link in the chain of historical events, court, and one of the most distinguished members and justice will be done to all parties connected of its bar,departed this life on the 15th day of last with them.

month; and his professional associates here, I am not aware that there was any hostility feeling like a family bereft of its head, have exor unkindness felt or expressed to Justice Cur- I pressed the sense of their bereavement in fitting

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