John M. (John McAuley) Palmer.

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Charles J. Hull was a unique character. He was born near Hartford, Con-
necticut, March 18, 1820, and died at Houston, Texas, February 12, 1889. He
first studied medicine, graduating from Rush Medical College in 1851. He then
went to Cambridge and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1853. During
the same year he was admitted to the United States supreme court, on motion
of Hon. Reverdy Johnson, of Baltimore. His success was phenomenal, and by
investing his earnings in real estate in this and other cities, and building tene-
ment houses and selling them on time he amassed a colossal fortune. He, Chan-
cellor L. Jenks and Van H. Higgins each seem to have had a genius for money-
making. They all dealt largely in real estate, and the rise in value made them
rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

The city of Chicago has been quite as much indebted to the legal profession
for its progress and its advancement as to any other class of citizens which can
be named. It is quite true that whenever any great public measure has been
proposed, the people, after due deliberation and consideration, have worked to-
gether for the public good, and we have always, I think, been more united than
the people of any other great city in this country, and in carrying forward these
enterprises the legal profession has always led or been at the front. We regard,
it as something to the credit of our profession that this should be so, and we
think that it is no more than right and proper that this record should be made
before the present generation shall have passed away and been forgotten.

Many of our pioneer lawyers have achieved national fame, and such men
as John Dean Caton, Henry W. Blodgett, Jonathan Young Scammon, Justin
Butterfield, Norman B. Judd, Isaac N. Arnold, Thomas Hoyne, Hugh T. Dickey.
Mark Skinner, E. B. McCagg, Edwin C. Larned, Grant Goodrich, James H.
Collins, George Manierre, Giles Spring, and many others of that era, will take
rank with the most renowned who have figured in the annals of our profession.
John Wentworth, William B. Ogden, and his brother, Mahlon D., were lawyers,
and while Wentworth and William B. Ogden did not follow the profession to
any extent, they both attained great eminence. Mahlon D. Ogden was for a
number of years the probate judge of this county. Thomas Drummond and E.
B. Washburne spent their early years in the practice of the law at Galena and
removed here later in life, but they both became eminent. This is true also of
John M. Douglass, who removed from that city and became first the general
solicitor of the Illinois Central Railroad and then its president. Van Higgins,
John N. Jewett and Edwin A. Small were also immigrants from Galena and have


sustained to the fullest extent the reputation of the Galena bar, which at one
time was second to none in this state.

The early bar of Chicago was composed of a class of strong-minded, able
men, who utterly despised meanness and trickery. They were men of honor,
and when they had passed their word you could always depend upon it. I came
among the pioneers when they were yet in their prime, and joined them when
they were in full and complete possession of the field, but I always received fair
and courteous treatment at their hands ; and now, after the lapse of years, I wish
to enter up this verdict, that they were not only wise and honorable men, but
men who are entitled to be remembered as long as our history endures.

Thomas Hoyne said, in an address before the Chicago Bar Association on
February 10, 1881: "It has been my lot, after enjoying their friendship person-
ally, to stand at the graves of many who have passed away. I studied my profes-
sion among them, and never wanted for encouragement in my needs, nor in the
instruction which they taught did I miss the very highest motives of honorable
ambition in the struggle upon which, alone and unfriended, I was entering.
Whatever ambition they entertained and whatever worldly objects they aspired
to master, they seemed to have remembered what Judge Henry Brown was ac-
customed to write in his lectures : 'They were just and feared not, and all the
ends they aimed at were their country's, their God's, and truth's.' While the
weather-scarred tombs and headstones of many of them have been removed from
the old cemetery to plant Lincoln Park on the spot where their virtues were com-
memorated, their memories live in the hearts of all who knew them. I sincerely
trust they may ever be cherished by the profession which they honored and the
city which their lives adorned." This tribute to the memory of the pioneer
lawyers who composed the early bench and bar is not only well deserved, but
is just and true, and I indorse every word of it.

It is now several hundred years since Jack Cade arose and announced to the
world that as soon as he and his followers got into power they would kill all the
lawyers. Jack was doubtless a great reformer, but that threat proved his ruin,
for instead of killing all the lawyers he got killed himself, so that the race sur-
vives and flourishes in undiminished splendor. We have now about one lawyer
to every one hundred of the inhabitants of this state, and yet they are not happy.
If those who constitute the profession were properly educated and entertained
correct ideas of their relation to the community and the state, they could, if
united, not only advance the science of jurisprudence, but promote the adminis-
tration of justice in the most enlightened manner. But do they or will they?
The late Judge Jameison, in a discourse before the State Bar Association in
1879, said that he "could not recall any important change, either in the common
or the statute law, which had ever been brought about by the united efforts of the
bar, and that it alone has never combined for any useful purpose, moral, benevo-
lent, or scientific." This was a somewhat drastic criticism, but yet it is too true
that lawyers are apt to be the conservators of ancient barbarous usages rather
than advocates of those more enlightened methods which are demanded by an
enlightened age. Maine says :


It is indisputable 'that much the greatest part of mankind has never shown a par-
ticle of desire that its civil institutions should be improved since the moment when ex-
ternal completeness was first given to them by permanent record. One set of usages has
occasionally been violently overthrown and superseded by another; here and there a
primitive code pretending to a supernatural origin has been greatly extended and dis-
torted into the most surprising forms; but, except in a small section of the world, there
has been nothing like the gradual amelioration of a legal system. There has been
material civilization, but instead of the civilization expanding the law the law has limited

The world is filled with charlatans, and very many things are proposed for
the amelioration of the wants of the people which are not only impracticable but
if adopted would prove deleterious to the best interests of those whom it is sought
to benefit. There never was a time when there was such a need of good, sound
lawyers as there is to-day, and if the profession is to maintain its high and exalted
position in the state it must keep pace with the requirements of the age and be
well grounded not only in the science of jurisprudence in its broadest and most
comprehensive sense, but in the science of government and in the science of

It is often said that this is a country of law, and that in the complex affairs
of life involving the duties and obligations of citizenship and the intercourse of
man with man in a civilized state, differences and contentions must unavoidably
arise, and when they do, then lawyers are called upon for advice and counsel, and
are often intrusted with the most valuable and important interests, and become
repositories of the most sacred and confidential trusts. Under such circum-
stances a perpetual obligation rests upon them to not only perform their duties
with fidelity, but to see to it that the administration of the law itself shall be so
improved as to produce substantial results. Who is there who knows the wants
of the community any better than the members of our profession, and who knows
so well the defects in our laws and in their administration as we? Why should
not we join with our fellow citizens in altering, enlarging, and adopting the
processes of the law to the changing condition of things, and why should not this
state become the model state in its practical methods of administering justice
and in the attainment of the same?

The practice of the law ought not to be reduced to a simple trade or an
ordinary collecting agency, but those who engage in it should regard them-
selves ministers of state, and in all the storms and stress of social agitation teach
their fellow citizens reverence for law, and so conduct themselves as to make it
worthy of their reverence. Under our system of government we have dispensed
with almost every guard against danger or ruin except the intelligence and virtue
of the people themselves. Here every citizen is himself in some measure in-
trusted with the public safety, and acts an important part for its weal or woe. In
the days that have passed and gone the legal profession have always been the
leaders of men, and the great majority of those who have occupied the presi-
dential chair and who have done yeoman service in the senate and house of
representatives have been lawyers.

"We. belong to a learned and noble profession which has held in its ranks



some of the greatest men in all time, from Cicero to Bacon, from Bacon to
Mansfield, from Marshall to Story, to the great judges and lawyers of our day.
Let us show ourselves worthy of them. Let us act as becomes their brethren
and do all that we can to elevate the profession which is our pride and boast,
and make it a means of beneficence to all the people of the land."

We may ignore the past and disregard its teachings ; but "in that unceasing
march of things which calls forward the successive generations of men to per-
form their part on the stage of life we at length are summoned to appear. Our
fathers have passed the hour of visitation ; how worthily let the growth and
prosperity of our happy land and security of our firesides attest."

In looking over a legal directory of this city which was issued in 1857, out
of some three hundred and five names only about forty remain, and but few of
those are now in practice. Of those who came here in the '305 and who lived
beyond 1850 scarcely one survives. Those who have passed away have, we are
proud to say, left us the legacy of a good name and the splendid example of
honest men.



JOHN GORDON IRWIN, Edwardsville The names Irwin, Irvin, Irving
and Irvine, when first known to written records, were spelled "Erevine."
That name is first found in Ayrshire, Scotland, among the descendants of
the original Scots of history. A man of note among them was Crine Erewine,
who married a daughter of King Malcolm II, and who was the father of Duncan
I, also king of Scotland. He is the accredited progenitor of the Dumfriesshire
Irvines, who at a later period were known as the Irvines of Bonshaw. Rev. Dr.
Christopher Irvine, of Mountjoy, Omagh, Ireland, a man of letters, is authority
for the following account of the origin of the family in Ireland : "The Irvines,
Irvings or Irwins were one of the ancient original families or clans of Dumfries-
shire, Scotland. They were located in Annandale, Evisdale, Eskdale and Wan-
chopdale, on the coast of this shire. They developed into five separate divisions
or sub-clans by the year 1500, or the sixteenth century, and from the year 1600
became widely spread through England and Ireland. Between 1610 and 1668
the chief exodus to Ireland took place. Members of the different sub-clans set-
tled in Ulster, in the northern counties of that province. The Irvings of Bon-
shaw were the first or chief sub-clan, and the Laird of Bonshaw was recognized
as the chieftain of the whole Dumfriesshire clan or name. King Robert Bruce
made one of this family, Sir William Irvine, his secretary, and gave him the
forest of Drum, in Aberdeenshire, and thus the various branches of the name
were derived in the north of Scotland. The Irvines of Drum, the lineal descend-
ants of Sir William, still retain the possessions granted to him by Robert Bruce."
From the same authority we learn that Edward Irving of Bonshaw was a "tur-
bulent chieftain" whose son Christopher married a Johnston. Clan alliances
resulted from, this marriage strong enough to compel the king to make peace
with them and appoint a Johnston his head warden. The descendants of this
Chistopher still reside at Bonshaw. The writer just mentioned says : "Though
it may be hard to trace the several families of the Irvines who settled in Ireland,
yet they mostly all belonged to the Dumfriesshire clan, though some may have
come from Aberdeen and the north of Scotland." Edward Irving had a brother
Christopher who was known by the border name of "Black Christie." He was
a zealous adherent of Mary, Queen of Scots, and made himself offensive to the
Reformers by the part he took in the turbulence of his times, and they gave him
his nickname. His son John had a son Christopher who obtained a grant from
James I and settled in the county Fermanagh, Ireland, in 1613. This Chris-
topher, was a lawyer, bred at the Temple, in London, and his descendants still



occupy the estate granted to him. The arms of this branch of the family are
identical with those described below.

John Gordon Irwin, whose name heads this review, is of the fifth generation
of the descendants of James Irwin, of Acres, Ballybay, county Monaghan, Ire-
land. This ancestor settled at Acres more than two hundred years ago. The
circumstance which is said to have driven him to that locality implies that it
must have been about 1641, as the tradition is that it was for safety at the time
of an uprising against the Protestants of Ulster. How long he or his ancestors
had been in Ireland before his removal to Acres is uncertain, but before that he
resided in the vicinity of Rockcurry, in the county Cavan. The proximity of
Acres and Rockcurry to the locality of the grant made to Christopher Irwin
suggests, but does not certainly prove, him to have been the first of the family
to settle in Ulster. It is impossible to trace the connection between the different
branches of the family in this country, or between them and the parent
stocks in the old country ; but such facts as are certainly known
all tend to prove the descent of all of them from the Bonshaw clan. The first
migrations to this country were to Pennsylvania, about 1729, whence the first
comers spread into Virginia. The next generation spread through the south,
into Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky, and doubtless into other
states. The Mecklenburg colony in North Carolina was the radiating center
of other branches whose ancestors came from Ulster a few years later than the
coming of the first pioneers of the family to Pennsylvania and Virginia. One
Christopher Irwin, a son of William Irwin, of Virginia, settled in Wilkes county,
Georgia, at the close of the Revolutionary war. He was a captain in the Con-
tinental army, and his youngest son, David Irwin, attained distinction in Georgia
as a district judge, and as one of the compilers of the first code of that state,
which he afterward revised and which became known as the "Irwin Code."
Jared Irwin, twice governor of Georgia, and otherwise very conspicuously identi-
fied with the pioneer history of that state, civil and military, was the son of an
Ulster colonist who settled in Mecklenburg county, North Carolina, about
thirty years before the beginning of the Revolutionary war. He had two
brothers, whose names were William and John. All three of them went with
their father to Burke county, Georgia, when Jared was seven years old. The
families of Jared and David acknowledged kinship, but their descendants of the
present generation do not know who the common ancestor was. Another kins-
man of Jared Irwin's father was Robert Irwin, one of the signers of the Mecklen-
burg declaration of independence, and afterward colonel of a regiment of Meck-
lenburg militia, who fought with great distinction under General Sumter at
Hanging Rock. The descendants of these branches of the family are numer-
ous in the south. Three of those we have named and others of the family found
opportunity to gain honorable distinction in support of the cause for which the
fathers of the republic pledged life, fortune and sacred honor. Others of later
generations have occupied positions of honor and trust in public and profes-
sional life, and many of them made enviable records for their patriotic support
of state and country in connection with the military history of the south, in-


elusive of all the Indian campaigns of that part of the country, the war for in-
dependence, the war of 1812, and the Confederate side in the civil war.

A digression at -this point to bring out the historic antecedents of the
Scotch-Irish will be pertinent to many of the sketches this work contains. The
legal profession is perhaps as largely made up of this element as of men of
different lineage. Those of this stock who came to this country in colonial times
took no pains to register their descent, or transmit an account of themselves
or their ancestors to their posterity. If they had any ancestral pride it was not so
much the pride of family lineage as in the achievements of Wallace at Stirling,
of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, of the Earl of Alar at Harlaw, of Knox
and the Reformers during and following the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, and
of William of Orange at the Boyne. The memory of these great events, which
successively contributed greatly to the glory of Scotland, in the overthrow of
medisevalism and the establishment of civil and religious liberty, they cherished
as the proudest distinction of all classes of their native land. They cared far less
for family antecedents than for the perpetuation of the principles for which their
countrymen fought on battle-field and rostrum until their supremacy was con-
ceded. Family and tribal and clan supremacy were mile-posts which they had
left behind them on the way toward republicanism, the goal of civilization.
These mile-posts were but reminders of the putrescent remains of feudalism,
which they remembered with no feelings of pride. Experience in the school of
adversity had developed in them hatred of caste and class, and of everything
which savored of aristocracy, and had molded them into a homogeneous body
of compatriots of strongly republican principles and tendencies long before
any of them emigrated to this country. As an illustration of the sort of pro-
vincialism generally cultivated by them, it is current tradition in Virginia that
the father of President Tyler boasted that he cared nothing for any of his an-
cestors except Wat Tyler, the blacksmith, who had asserted the rights of op-
pressed humanity, and that the device on his shield should be a sledge hammer
raised in the act of striking. Another Virginian of literary distinction said he
could not help looking with contempt upon the miserable figment which sought
to trace the distinguishing points of Virginia character to the butterflies of the
English aristocracy. Such expressions as these, coming from such men, no
doubt exerted a wholesome influence in favor of republicanism at a time when
it was by no means certain that republican principles could gain ascendancy
in this country. But it is not to be inferred from them that all of the English
aristocracy who became pioneer settlers in Virginia were of the butterfly order
of creatures, or were so considered by their fellow citizens of other classes.
Neither socially or politically was there ever a sharply drawn line between the
upper and middle classes, or between the latter and their countrymen of lower
station, in either England or Scotland. Marriages between the children of fam-
ilies with titles and those of families without titles were not infrequent. As a
class peers enjoyed no exemptions from public burdens and no civil immunities.
All the peerages were not hereditary, and many of those that were, lapsed by
attainders and forfeitures, and by extinction of the line of succession. Only


the eldest son of a lord could succeed him in a peerage when it was hereditary.
The younger sons of noble families were on a political level with commoners,
and in the honorable pursuits had no advantage over them. If they wanted
seats in the house of commons, they had to compete with commoners to get
them. In the towns and cities tradesmen and craftsmen were organized into
guilds, in which commoners, gentlemen and lords mingled on terms of indus-
trial equality. Members, regardless of rank, had to serve an apprenticeship
to obtain the advantages to be derived from them, and commoners were often
the superior of lords and gentlemen while they were learning their trade. A
great many upper-class men entered guilds as apprentices during the period's of
the migrations to this country, to fit themselves for usefulness and success in
the new world. The consequence of the mingling of gentlemen and yeomen
in rural pursuits, and of the upper and middle classes in trades and crafts and
in professional vocations, was that there never existed in England or Scotland
a public sentiment like that which separated the aristocratic and industrial classes
in the south during the slave regime in this country. There was no pernicious
discrimination between gentility and industry. Such a sentiment as that was
condemned. It was not in accord with the predominant spirit of Anglo-Saxon
civilization, and is a sort of provincialism for which slavery must be held ac-
countable. It is not yet extinct either north or south of the old color line.
But for the intermingling of the blood of the middle and lower classes with that
of the aristocracy the latter would long ago have shared in. the inanition which
has overtaken all the royal families of Europe. Their best blood is not that
derived from baronial ancestors, but has come from the bone and sinew of the

All lawyers and all students of history know what the fruits and conse-
quences of feudalism were. It developed abuses of power on the part of the
crown and great barons and tenants in capite, which resulted in making multi-
tudes of men of noble and gentle blood, and many a knight, who was but a
commoner in rank, too poor to hold the estates or titles of their ancestors.
Revolt against these abuses had a leveling influence upon the masses: The
religious reformation of the sixteenth century, and progressive changes in in-
dustrial conditions co-operated to the same end. Finally industrial
achievement took precedence over feudal honors and advantages, and the
principles of civil and political equality gained ascendancy. The Scotch-Irish
element of our population is the product of the agitation and conflict, and race
and class fusion in Scotland and Ireland out of which these principles came.
Industrial ambition and enterprise and religious zeal led their forefathers to
Ireland, whence they were driven to this country by industrial as well as religi-
ous tyranny and oppression and the biting poverty resulting from these causes.
They transformed Ulster from fens and bogs into fruitful fields and built up
wealth-producing industries in manufacturing lines, only to be deprived of the
benefits of their thrift and toil and enterprise by rapacious landlords, and the
greedy and unscrupulous commercial policy of England. These were the ex-
periences which taught them to hate aristocracies and made them ardent re-


publicans at heart before coming to this country. They were poor, but had
none of the spif it of serfs or underlings in them. Their contempt for aristocracy
of the butterfly variety inspired the pen of Burns when he wrote "For a' that
and a' that." The man who hung his head because of "honest poverty" was
but a "coward slave" in their estimation. Rank worthily gained was but the
"guinea's stamp," "The man's the gowd for a' that."

Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord,

Online LibraryJohn M. (John McAuley) PalmerThe bench and the bar of Illinois : Historical and reminiscent (Volume v.2) → online text (page 11 of 83)