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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS,

PRESENTED BY r"



UNITED STATES OP AMERItJA.





^c



MEMORIAL



IRA HARRIS





ALBANY: /
JOEL MITNSELL

18V6.



.H5I



cmovial of |va gatti^.



31EM0IR.



Ira Harris was born on the 31st day of May, 1802,
at Charleston in the county of Montgomery and state of
New York. He was the son of Frederick Waterman Har-
ris, and the eldest of a family often children. His mother's
maiden name was Lucy Hamilton. His parents removed
from Charleston in 1808 to Preble, Cortland county, and
settled upon a ftirm of some four hundred acres — rich val-
ley and mountain land — where l)y thrift and diligence they
secured to their children a condition in life superior to
that they had enjoyed. They were both natives of the
state ; on the father's side of English and on the mother's
of Scotch ancestry. The first paternal ancestor in this
country came from Deal, England, and joined the" colonists
led by Roger Williams to the shores of Narragansett. "
The first maternal ancestor in America emigrated from
Glasgow, Scotland.

Ira attended the district school of the neighborhood, until
the year 1815, when he entered the academy in the village
of Homer — five miles distant from his home — where he
pursued his preparatory collegiate studies. In September,
1822, he joined the junior class in Union college at Sche-
nectady, and graduated with the first honors in 1824.

Having determined to pursue the legal profession, he
returned to Homer and became a student in the law office



4 Memorial of Ira Harris,

of Augustus Donnellj^ continuing there for one year.
With a view of obtaining better advantages for the pro-
secution of his studies, he then moved to Albany and
entered the office of Chief Justice Ambrose Spencer. Here
he remained as a student until 1827, when he was admitted
to the bar and began his professional career in the capital
of the Empire state. He soon after associated himself in
the practice of the law with his fellow student in college,
Salem Dutcher. This continued until 1842, when, Mr.
Dutcher removing to ISTew York, Mr. Harris formed a
partnership with Julius Rhoades.

It was not long after his admission to tlie bar before his
sterling traits and ability made themselves felt. His know-
ledge of the law and untiring assiduity, brought him con-
spicuously before the public and made for him a place of
at least equality among the most distinguished of his com-
peers. Thoroughly conversant with his case, complete
with all the l>earings of tlic law upon it, tlie decisions affect-
ing it marshaled in order, these with his deep mellow
voice, his calm, measured and persuasive style of speaking,
his methodical arrangement of matter, the logic of his
argument, his frank, open manner, his noble presence and
dignified bearing, all combined to influence courts in his
favor and to exhilnt his case in the light of apparent truth.

He was fond of the law and respected his profession,
believing the former to be the bulwark of all civil rights
and the shield of society ; and deeming the latter the
vehicle of the former, in erecting its safeguards and indicat-
ing its justice. Equity jurisprudence was the predomi-
nant favorite in his studies, and its practice more consonant
with his nature, abhorring as it did trickery and chicanery
in all the legal pathways.

The great public recognized these (|ualities, and in
1844 Mr. Hai-ris was elected to represent Albany county
in the assembly of his native state, and in the following



Memorial of Ira Harris. 5

year was reelected. He at once became a leading member
of tbe bouse and took an active part in its debates. In tbe
spring of 1846 be was cbosen to tbe distinguisbed bonor
of a seat in tbe convention of tbat year appointed to re-
vise tbe constitution of tbe state.

In tbis eminent and dignified body, Mr. Harris took a
bigb and bonorable stand. His imposing appearance and
bland address, no less tban bis profound learning, made
bim conspicuous. His comprebensive mind embraced
fully tbe subject for wbicb tbe convention bad been called
and every braucb appertaining received bis careful atten-
tion. Especiall}^ did tbe cbanges made in tbe organic law
by abolisbing all traces of feudalism from land tenures,
hy securing to married women tbeir rigbts in property,
inberited and acquired, by establisbing an elective judi-
ciary, by uniting law and equity jurisdiction, and by pro-
viding for tbe simplification of pleadings and practice in
tbe courts, receive powerful aid from bis eloquent advo-
cacy. Altbougb in tbe minority bis influence was felt and
acknowledged, and bis views were treated witb marked
respect.

In tbe autumn of tbe same year be was elected to tbe
state senate and after serving tbere witb distinction tbrougb
one session be resigned bis seat, upon being elected in the
si)ring of 1847 a justice of tbe supreme court of tbe state,
drawing tbe four years' term.

Sucb rapid and even dazzling advancement bas occurred
to but few, and proves bow bigb Mr. Harris stood in the
estimation of bis fellow-men.

At the expiration of bis term of four years, and in the
3^ear 1851, be was reelected judge for tbe entire term of
eight years.

The reputation of Judge Harris at the bar bad been
long established, but it was not till bis elevation to tbe
bench tliat his al)ilities were fully displayed. It then ap-



6 Memorial of Ira Harris.

peared that he was peculiarly possessed of qualities which
rendered him a consummate judge. He exhibited pro-
found and accurate knowledge of the law, great judicial
capacity, strict integrity and severe impartiality. His de-
meanor was dignified and courteous. His understanding,
sagacity and industry won praise from all parties. The
lofty purity and rigid morality which pervaded his whole
life and formed its chief characteristics shone conspicu-
ously in the discharge of his judicial duties. He was quick
to grasp the general rights and equities of a case and
tenacious in holding to them against the sophistry and
technicalities of professional learning. While possessing
great power in despatching business, he still gave patient
attention to all suits and arguments, and by unusual
suavity of manner, without lessening the dignity of the
judge, he gained great popularity with all who came within
the purview of the court. His charges to juries were
models of excellence in the clea-niess and iinjiartiality witli
which the facts proven and the law l)eai-ing upon them
were presented.

The published opinions of Judge Harris during the
twelve years he sat upon the bench are continually re-
ferred to for lucid exhibition of tlie principles of the law.
They evince extensive learning and keen discernment —
power of analysis and strength of reasoning — subtlety in
weighing doubtful decisions and perspicuity in style. They
will ever prove the true monument to his memory — more
enduring than bronze or granite.

Upon leaving tlie bench Judge Harris jtassed a year in
foreign travel. Returning home he was in 18(51, after an
exciting contest, elected by the legislature to the senate
of the ITnited States. To apytreciate this distinguished
honor it needs but to be stated, that Wniliam AT. Evarts
and Horace (Jreeley were liis conq)etitors and that he was
tVie successor of William H. Seward. He had [)assed



Memorial of Ira Harris. 7

triumpliantl}^ tlirough the varions grades of advocate, state
legislator, member of tlie state convention, and justice
of the supreme court of the state, and had now reached
an eminence next to the loftiest summit in the republic.

In the broad and distinguished arena of the senate, the
corresponding qualities of Senator Harris were eminently
manifested. His tall and majestic form was seen in that
famed chamber, moving in the consciousness of strength
yet in the humility of a retiring nature. His merits were
immediately recognized. Placed upon the committee on
foreign relations, the judiciary and the select joint com-
mittee on the southern states, his services upon these ex-
ceedingly important committees were most prominent and
valuable. His industry was as persistent as his more
shining qualities were great. He exerted vast influence
in shaping the course of government during the most try-
ing period of our national history.

He was the intimate and trusted friend of President
Lincoln, and perhaps no fact could be adduced more plainly
showing the solid and excellent qualities of the senator
than that he held such relationship to that eminently pure,
wise and shrewd statesman, as learned in human nature,
as noble in all his other attributes. In his darkest hours
of administration Abraham Lincoln always found light in
the cooperation of Senator Harris, and in his saddest
moments of despondency, sympathy and support.

The senator's loyalty to the union was intense, and from
the side of the north he never for an instant swerved. Dur-
ing the civil war he was most eflicient in raising a regiment
of cavalry for the union, which was called after his name, as
was also another body of troops. In private and public
his patriotic voice was ever heard in defense of tlie union,
stimulating still farther the ardent, and transfusing his
own glowing energy into the lukewarm. Many an officer
and private soldier has reason to remember the acts of



8 Memorial of Ira Harris.

kindness received at his hands, and no one can now realize
the arduous hibor and fatigue he endured in behalf of our
armies.

Although Senator Harris was warmly attached, upon
principle, to the Whig and Republican parties, and, as we
have seen, was chosen by his party to fill many prominent
offices, yet strictly, he was not a politician, and had little
taste or tact for political management. His action was
guided by his judgment of the right regardless of popular
eifect. This was evinced in the case of the expulsion of
Senator Bright of Indiana. Before hostilities had com-
menced between the North and the South Mr. Bright
wrote a letter introducing to Jefierson Davis a friend who
wished " to dispose of what he regards a great improve-
ment in fire-arms." The Republicans in the Senate and
the party generally deemed this letter evidence of treason
and demanded the expulsion of the Senator. Mr. Harris
yielded to none of his associates in the intensity of his
loyalty to the Union or in the l)itterness of his hatred of
treason, but his Judicial mind failed to discover in the
letter conclusive proof that it was written with a treason-
able design, and following this conviction he stepped up
on a plane higher than that of party and defended the
Indiana Senator.

In 1867 the term of Senator Harris expired, but his con-
stituency, unwilling that his abilities should be hidden in
retirement, elected him delegate to the state constitutional
convention of that year. This was the second time he was
deemed worthy of that honor — an honor that rarely falls
to the lot of any one.

His speech in that convention on " Government of Cities "
was rich in knowledge and wisdom, and was conceded to
be one of the most powerful and eloquent that was de-
livered upon any subject in that body, comprising some
of the ablest and most distinguished citizens of the state.



Memorial of Ira Harris. 9

Upon the adjournment of the convention Mr. Harris,
who had been in public office for twenty-three years con-
tinuously, became released from official cares and anxieties.
His, had been a busy and laborious life. He had achieved
greatness. I^Tow, as the shadows were deepening on the
downward path, it might naturally be supposed that he
would, during the remainder of the journey, enjoy that
rest and repose which lie liad so richly earned. He was
passionately fond of the country, and had a farm at Lou-
donville near the city, to which, when relieved from duty,
he repaired with delight, and from which he never departed
without regret. But to him ease was inglorious, while
vigor remained. Hence he at once addressed himself to
the great work of imparting to otliers his own professional
knowledge. He had been connected with the Albany Law
school from its organization in 1850, and lectured to the stu-
dents whenever his official duties permitted. He now ac-
cepted the appointment of professor of equity juris[)rudcnce
and practice and devoted himself wholly to the school up
to the time of his decease. The themes he had chosen were
kindred to his tastes and he never failed to impart to his
3^oung pupils something of his own enthusiasm in the
pursuit of knowledge and his (nvn high purposes in its
use after being acquired. His lectures proved eminently
successful and popular and worthy of his reputation.

Mr. Harris was likewise distinguished as a friend to
liberal education. He was for many years president of
the board of trustees of Union college, where his ripe cul-
ture and broad educational views were exliibited and
esteemed. He was president of the Albany Medical college
and of the board of trustees of Vassar college ; was one
of the founders of the Rochester university and its first
and only chancellor.

He rarely turned aside from professional and official
paths for enjoyment in the fields of literature. He Avas,
2



10 Memorial or Ira Harris.

however, twice lured to the platform, from liis usual pur-
suits, by subjects very inviting to him. In 1846, lie en-
joyed an opportunity of revisiting the scenes of his early
student-life and pronouncing the oration on the occasion
of a jubilee anniversary of the old academy at Homer.
Again, a few years later, he was equally pleased by de-
livering, at the invitation of friends in Alliany, a lecture
upon the life and character of Roger Williams.

To com])lete his successful career Mr. Harris added the
graces of the Christian gentleman. He held for a long-
term of years the otSce of deacon in tiie Emmanuel church
in Albany and was also president of the American Baptist
Missionary Union.

Mr. Harris leaves a widow, four daughters and two sous.

In 1869 he suffered a slight attack of paralysis, which
his rolnist constitution so (pdckly repelled that on the
following day he conferred the degrees upon the stu-
dents at the commencement exercises of Union college.
As the years came on, however, the attack was occasion all}'
repeated, each time with increased force. Although none
of these attacks impaired his splendid physical shape, yet
they took from his step its elasticity and threw over his
handsome and benevolent features a look of weariness.

At last on Sunday, the 28th day of November, 1875, he
received a shock which prostrated him and rendered him
unconscious. He remained in that state until the follow-
ing Thursday — the 2d day of December — when at the
hour of nine and a half in the morning, life departed, and
that grand and manly form, never again to know fatigue,
is now at rest in the Rural Cemetery of Albany.

To Ira Harris was granted distinguished abilities and
shining virtues. He was crowned with success in life.
The grave has closed over his remains, but his memory
will be revered so long as talent is honored and worth
venerated.



EXTRACTS FROM THE PRESS.



[Fi-din I 111' Aibaiiij Evening Jouriml^ Dect'iiibur 2, 1S75.]

Death of Judge Harkis.

X FIK illness of Ju(lij;'o Harris teniiinated tliis iiiorning-
ill liis death. The announcement will be received with
sincere sorrow not only by this entire comnmnity but
throughout the state and far beyond its borders. For half
a century the lamented dead had stood among our most
illustrious citizens — foremost, indeed, in pul)lic distinc-
tion. But he was more than the honored representative
of a locality — he was one of the first men of the state.
Still more, he had held and dignified a high national posi-
tion. In every sphere he won respect and esteem. A
worthy citizen, an able lawyer, a fiiithful legislator, an up-
riglit judge, a learned instructor, an eminent senator and an
earnest Christian, he lived a long and useful career, and in
the fullness of his years sinks to rest wdth a wreath of honor.

Ira Harris was l)orn in Charleston, Montgomery county,
on the 81st of May, 1802. Both of bis parents were natives
of this state ; but back of them he traced his lineage to
the little earnest and intrepid colony founded by Eoger
Williams on the shore of the N"arragansett, from which
he fairly inlierited his religious associations and convic-
tions. At the age of fifteen, he entered the Homer aca-
demy in Cortland county, and went thence to Union
college, where he graduated in 1824. Among his promi-
nent classmates were Bradford R. Wood of this city.
Judge Sutherland and William Tracy of New York — the
latter long associated with him as trustees of their Alma



12 Memorial of Ira Harris.

Mater. Judge Piirker was a junior in ITnioii at the same
time. Leaving college young Harris came to this city and
studied law in the office of Ambrose Spencer — then one
of our briglitest legal lights. In 1827 he was admitted to
practice, and formed a })artnership with Salem Dutcher,
who had been a fellow student at college. The firm
speedily acquired great prominence and for many years
prosecuted a very large and successful business. In 1842
it was dissolved by the retirement of ]SIr. Dutcher, who
removed to New York, a .id Mr. Harris then associated
himself in the practice of law Avitli Julius Rhoades.

His entrance upon public life was made in 1844 when
he was elected to the assembly. The following year he
was reelected, and in 1846 he was chosen to the senate
where he served one session. The same year he ^^•as elected
a delegate to the constitational convention that gave us the
organic law under which, with some amendments, the state
is living to-day. Michael HofFnum was the political leader
and master mind of that body, and among other members
were Samuel J. Tilden, Charles O'Conor, ArphaxadLoomis,
Ambrose L. Jordan and Lemuel Stetson. Though Mr. Har-
ris belonged to the minority, he nevertheless bore a prond-
nentpart in the work of the convention, and held honorable
rank among these distinguished and experienced men.
Continuing his public career without interruption, he was
in 1847 elected judge of the supreme court under the new
constitution and drew the four years' term. Upon its ex-
piration, he was again elected for the full term of eight
years. He thus served u})on the bench for twe'lve years,
and gained great distinction as an acute and upright jurist.
Indeed, he was peculiarly and conspicuously fitted lor judi-
cial service. His whole port and mien, his stately figure
and his dignified bearing gave all the outward adornments
and seemed singularly suited to the position of j udge. But
with these external attributes he united in an eiiuaily



Memorial of Ira Harris, 13

marked degree the more vital and essential qualities. He
was a master of tlie principles and precedents of law. He
understood the whole body of our jurisprudence and was
guided by its best spirit. He grasped the beauty of equity
as well as the rigorous interpretation of law. And with
all this he possessed a happy gift for the lucid and succinct
exposition of legal principles and their application, so that
his decisions reported in the books have always held high
rank as his action on tlie bench always commanded respect.
In 1861, Judge Harris was elected to the Uintcd States
senate, his competitors in the republican caucus being
Horace Greeley and William M. Evarts. Entering the
senate just at the outbreak of the rebellion, he served
throughout that momentous period of our history, and
contril)uted l)y his counsels, his voice and his vote to the
triumph of the Union cause. He was the warm personal
friend of Abraham Lincoln, and after the dread Good
Friday was among those chosen from the senate to ac-
company the remains of the beloved president to their
final resting place. As a senator he held honoral)le rank
upon the important committees on foreign relations and
judiciary, and in the former was closely associated with
Senator Sumner, to whom he became greatly attached.
Indeed, the last time we ever saw Charles Sumner — some
months l)efore his death — was in tlie house of Judge
Harris where these two friends discussed till late at night
the situation of the country. Judge Harris was also a
member of the select joint committee on the southern
states, and, while he seldom spoke at length, he had an
influential share in the vital legislation and action which
that critical period required. His term as senator expired
in 1867 and he was then chosen a delegate at large to the
constitutional convention of this state which assembled
that year. In the deliberations of that body his experience,
ability and standing gave him prominence and weight.



14 Memorial of Ira Harris.

Since that time he has devoted himself almost exclu-
sively to his duties as professor of the Albany Law school,
with which he has been identified from its establishment
tAA'enty 3'ears ago. His special department was equity
jurisprudence and practice. He was an admirable lecturer,
and won the regard of the students in an eminent degree
both l)y his simple and luminous development of tlie law
and by the encouragement and inspiration he imparted to
the yt)uug men he was training for an arduous and res[»()n-
sil)lc profession. At the same time he cherished a warm
interest in other fields of educational work. For many
years, and down to his death, he was president of the board
of trustees of Union college. He was also one of the
active foundei'S of Rochester university and its first and
only chancellor, remaining a meml)er of the l)oard of
trustees from its establishment to the present time. A
deacon of the Emmanuel Baptist church in this city, he
has long been one of the most prominent lay representa-
tives of his denomination in the country, and has been
equally zealous and infiuential in its various organiza-
tions — having held among otlier places that of president
of the Baptist Foreign ISIission Society. He was a sincere
Christian and lived a life without reproach.

The eminent citizen whom we mourn thus goes to his
final rest full of years and honors. Not snapped away in
the midst of his greatest usefuhiess, he was permitted to
round out liis career and substantially to finish his valua-
ble work. He leaves the legacy of a good name and an
influence whicli has made its impress upon his special
spheres of activit}' and will be felt long after he has gone.
In private life, in [lublic station, in Christian labor he ful-
filled every duty, and adorned a worthy life with a blameless
character. Our citizens will extend their sympathy to the
bereaved family, and will themselves unite as mourners in
the obse({uies which are announced in our local columns.



Memorial op Ira Harris. 15



(Pi'din the local column.)

Death of Judge Harris.

Hon. Ira Harris, one of Albany's most clistinguislied
sons, died tliis morning at a quarter past nine o'clock, of
paralysis. A review of his life and services will be found
on our second page.

The disease wliicli terminated his life, first attacked him
some six years ago in Schenectady, while in attendance
upon the commencement exercises of Union college.

He soon rallied from the stroke, so as to be about as
usual, but never after was in full health and strength. At
intervals during the following years he had similar attacks
of more or less severity, each of which sensibly subtracted
from his vital forces.

Two Sundays ago, as he was about proceeding to church,
he was struck with paralysis and was confined to liis house
for several days. He then l)egan to mend and had so far
recovered that on Saturday last he took the air in his
carriage. On Sunday he had another attack and relapsed
into unconsciousness, and remained in that state to the end.

The funeral will take place on Saturday afternoon from
Dr. Bridgman's clnirch. We are unable at this wi'iting to
give the hour.

Judge Harris leaves four (laughers and two sons. The
daughters are Mrs. Henry R. Eathbone, of Washington ;
Mrs. Ewing Miller, of Columbus, Ohio, and the two Misses
Harris, of this city. Both the sons, William H. Harris and
Ira Harris, reside in Kansas cit}^



16 Memorial of Iea Hapris.



[From the Albany Argvs, December 3, 1875.]

A GREAT Man has Fallen.

Ira Harris: Born in Charleston, Montgomery county, May 81, 1803;
died in Albany, December 2, lS7o, 9:20 a.m.

J_RA Harris was a great man in all tlie essentials and
qualities of greatness. He was great in native endowment.
A paternal ancestry traceaLle to the colonists led l)y Roger


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