John M. (John McAuley) Palmer.

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and foe. He closed one of the most radical and impassioned anti-slavery
speeches ever made in congress by unflinchingly declaring: "I do assist fugi-
tive slaves. Proclaim it, then, upon the housetops ; write it on every leaf that
trembles in the forest ; make it blaze from the sun at high noon and shine forth
in the milder radiance of every star that bedecks the firmament of God ; let it
echo through all the arches of heaven and reverberate and bellow along all the
deep gorges of hell, where slave catchers will be very likely to hear of it. Owen
Lovejoy lives at Princeton, Illinois, three-quarters of a mile east of the village,
and he aids every fugitive that comes to his door and asks it. Thou invisible
demon of slavery, dost thou think to cross my humble threshold and forbid me
to give bread to the hungry and shelter to the houseless? I bid you defiance
in the name of God !"

Grant Goodrich, who died March 15, 1889, occupied a high rank among the
pioneer lawyers of Chicago, for he, like Caton, commenced at the "beginning of
time," as reckoned in our calendar, and continued with us until all the proph-
ecies concerning our greatness as a city had been fulfilled. He appeared here
just as the Indians were abandoning their hunting grounds and before their
trails through the country had been obliterated and before roads and highways
had been marked out.

At the age of eighteen years he entered the law office of Dixon & Smith
at Westfield, New York, and in due time was admitted to the bar, and in a
short time after left for the west and became a partner here with Giles Spring
in 1834. No one who engaged in the practice here ever pursued his profession
with greater diligence and success than he, and no one has a better record for
honor and fidelity than he. He was for some time a partner with George Sco-
ville, and in 1854 he entered into partnership with William W. Farwell, who
was afterward elected to the circuit bench, and in 1856 Sidney Smith entered
the firm, and it became Goodrich, Farwell & Smith. In 1857 he went to Europe
and remained there until the spring of 1859. Upon his return he was elected
one of the judges of the superior court of Chicago, which he held for one term.
He established a large business, and was at various times engaged in some
of the most famous cases which were ever brought in our courts. In 1874


he retired from the practice. In 1847 the constitution of the state of Illinois
was revised and a new judicial system adopted for the state, in and by which the
judiciary was made elective. A county court was established in each county
with probate jurisdiction, to be held by one judge, who was to be elected by
the qualified voters of the county and hold four years. In the general overturn-
ing which took place by the inauguration of a new judicial system and the
election of all the judges, provision was made in the supplement to the new
constitution that "the Cook and Jo Daviess county courts shall continue to
exist, and the judge and other officers of the same remain in office until other-
wise provided for."

By an act of the general assembly, approved November 5, 1849, entitled
"An act to establish the tenth judicial circuit, and to fix the times of holding
courts in the fifth, sixth, seventh, ninth, and eleventh judicial circuits, and for
other purposes," it was provided in the eleventh section as follows : "From and
after the first Monday in January next the circuit court in and for the county
of Cook shall be holden on the first Mondays of May and December in each
year, and that there shall be added to the name and title of the 'Cook county
court,' created by an act of the legislature, approved on the 2ist of February,
1845, ar >d referred to in the twenty-first section of the schedule of the constitu-
tion, the words of 'common pleas,' so that the title and name of said court shall
henceforward be the 'Cook county court of common pleas,' and the regular
terms of said last named court shall hereafter be held on the first Mondays of
February and September in each year, instead of at the time heretofore desig-
nated by law ; and the said Cook county court of common pleas and the said
circuit court of Cook county shall have equal and concurrent jurisdiction in all
cases of misdemeanor arising under the criminal laws of this state and
in all cases of appeals from justices of the peace arising or instituted within said
county of Cook, any law in any wise to the contrary notwithstanding, and all
appeals from justices of the peace within said county of Cook shall be taken and
carried to whichever of said courts the term of which shall be held next after
any such appeal shall have been applied for and taken."

By an act of the general assembly, approved February 6, 1849, it was pro-
vided by the first section "that on the first Monday of April, in the year of
our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-nine, and every fourth year
thereafter, an election shall be held in Cook county, at which election there
shall be chosen one judge of the court created by an act entitled 'An act to
establish the Cook county court,' approved February 21, 1845, a l so a clerk of
said court, and a prosecuting attorney, to perform the duties provided for in
said- act, who shall each hold their respective offices for the term of four years
and until their successors shall be elected and qualified."

The Jo Daviess county court, which by its organization was to be held by
the judge of the county court of Cook county, was repealed February 8, 1849,
and all of its business transferred to the circuit court. By an act passed Feb-
ruary 6, 1849, provision was made for the election of a judge of the county court
on the first Monday of April, 1849, an ^ every fourth year thereafter.


When the constitution of 1848 went into effect, and the election of the
judges had been transferred from the general assembly to the people, Judge
Hugh T. Dickey, of the Cook county court, was nominated for judge of the
seventh judicial circuit by the Democrats, and was elected without opposition.
Judge Dickey, soon after his election, resigned the office of judge of the county
court of common pleas, and Giles Spring was elected as his successor, and
was commissioned April 14, 1849, and held the office until his premature death,
which took place May 15, 1851.

Spring was, in his way, a character, and has left behind him a name that will
be long remembered for his talents, his keen and cutting intellect, and his eccen-
tricities. Judge Goodrich, who was at one time his partner, in a discourse be-
fore the Historical Society a few years ago, among other things said :

"Spring was a phenomenon, a natural-born lawyer. His education was
quite limited, and he paid little respect to the rules of grammar, yet he could
present a point of law to the court and argue the facts of the case to the jury
with a clearness and force seldom equaled. He seemed sometimes to have an
intuitive knowledge of the law and mastery of its profoundest and most subtle
principles. His brain worked with the rapidity of lightning and with the force
of an engine. In argument he possessed a keenness of analysis, a force of
compact, a crushing logic which bore down all opposition." He studied law in
Ashtabula, in the law office of Giddings & Wade, the historic Benjamin F. Wade
and Joshua R. Giddings, and removed to Chicago in 1833, and sixteen years
after, or in 1849, was elected judge of the Cook county court of common pleas,
but died May 15, 1851. On the death of Spring, in May, 1851, Mark Skin-
ner was elected judge of the Cook county court of common pleas
and held the office for two years, but owing to declining health did not seek a
re-election, and was succeeded by Judge John M. Wilson, one of the most re-
markable jurists, in some respects, that ever held a judicial position in the courts
of this county. He was a classmate of President Pierce at Bowdoin College,
and had had superior advantages in his preparation for the bar. He possessed
great grasp of intellect and strong reasoning powers, and was master of the
common law and the science of pleading, and was equally at home on the chan-
cery side. He presided with great dignity on all trials, ruled with promptness,
and disposed, in the course of a year, of an immense amount of business. When
at the very height of his prosperity he engaged in some unfortunate financial
speculations which involved him in irretrievable disaster, and his old age was
spent in poverty and in distress. He retired from the bench a number of years
before his death, and through the influence of his old friends he received the
appointment of justice of the peace for North Chicago, but the change in his
circumstances was so great that he did not enjoy the position, and it was not
very remunerative or in accordance with his tastes, and he gave up the position
and removed from the north side to Englewood, where he died in 1884, uni-
versally lamented.

He was one of the best trained lawyers who ever sat upon a bench in this
city, and, as the late Judge Arrmgton said, he possessed "an intellect of great


severity, characterized by continuity of logic. All the evolutions of his mind
appear to run on regular and systematic sequences, so that it would not be a
difficult task to take any of his published or manuscript opinions and throw it
into a series of formal syllogisms by merely supplying the suppressed premises."
The supreme court paid him the compliment of adopting no less than six of his
published opinions as their own. His brother, Solomon, was for a number of
years a member of the well known law firm of King, Scott & Wilson, and he
died many years ago.

Mark Skinner was born at Manchester, Vermont. His father was a lawyer
and a prominent man in that state, as is evidenced by the fact that he held,
at various terms, the offices of prosecuting attorney, probate judge, member of
the legislature, governor, representative in congress, and chief justice of the
state. Mark Skinner spent a year at the New Haven Law School, then entered
the office of Judge Ezek Cowen, at Saratoga Springs, a celebrated lawyer, who
is known the world over as the author of Cowen's Treatise, and finished his
studies under the tutelage of Nicholas Hill, at Albany, who was a master of his
profession, and who perhaps never had his superior in this or any other country
in analyzing a case and making a brief and presenting the law points which it
involved to a court of last resort. Mr. Skinner arrived here in July, 1836. He
was soon after admitted to the bar and formed a partnership with George An-
son Oliver Beaumont, with whom he continued in business until 1844, and in
1847 ne formed a partnership with the late lamented Thomas Hoyne, which
continued until he was elected to the bench.

Mr. Skinner was not only a highly educated man, but one of the best
trained men in the profession. He was identified with almost every public
enterprise and improvement which was projected during his time. He was
city attorney in 1840, school inspector in 1842, United States district attorney
in 1844, was a member of the legislature in. 1846, was chairman of the meeting
called by the citizens of Chicago, in 1846, to make the necessary arrangements
for the great river and harbor convention in 1847. He helped organize the
Young Men's Association and the Chicago Lyceum, and was a member of the
United States sanitary commission and president of the Chicago sanitary com-
mission during the war. He was a trustee of the Illinois Charitable Eye and
Ear Infirmary and was long connected with the Chicago Relief and Aid So-
ciety, the Home of the Friendless and the Reform School. Mr. Skinner led
a busy life, but it closed on the i6th of September, 1887, while on a visit to the
home of his youth, and he sleeps with his fathers, honored and respected by
all who knew him.

Justin Butterfield was without doubt one of the greatest lawyers of his time
and belongs to that early group who attained national distinction. He was
appointed commissioner of the general land office in June, 1849, n ' s rival being
Abraham Lincoln. Daniel Webster was a great friend of Butterfield's and
Butterfield reciprocated the friendship, dressed like him, and imitated to a great
extent his methods. He took part in many noted trials, and many anecdotes
are told of his powers and quaint methods. One of the most remarkable cases


that he ever was engaged in was that of Joe Smith, the great head of the Mor-
mon church at Nauvoo. An attempt was made to remove Smith from the state
into Missouri on extradition papers charging him with conspiracy against the
life of the governor of that state, and also of being a fugitive from justice, but
as he had never been in Missouri, it was very properly contended that he was
not a fugitive from justice, and accordingly a writ of habeas corpus was sued
out before Judge Pope to liberate him. The case excited great interest and on
the day set for the hearing Smith appeared in court attended by his twelve
apostles, and the court-room was crowded with ladies, who were given seats
alongside of the judge. When Butterfield's turn came to address the court
he arose with great dignity and, turning to the court, said : "May it please the
court, I appear before you to-day under circumstances most novel and peculiar.
I am to address the pope (bowing to the judge), surrounded by angels (bowing
still lower to the ladies), in the presence of the holy apostles on behalf of the
prophet of the Lord." It is needless to say that Judge Pope, after this, was de-
cidedly of the opinion that Smith was not a fugitive from justice and that he
was unjustly restrained of his liberty, and discharged him. Butterfield had a
sharp, decisive and incisive way in presenting a case to a court or jury which
never failed to arrest the attention, and we think that it is the universal opinion
of all who were acquainted with him that he was in many respects the foremost
lawyer of his time in the state of Illinois, if not in the western states.

There are very many anecdotes told of his wit and acumen, but I will refer
to only one or two. Jesse B. Thomas, who was the circuit judge for this
judicial district, was a slow man and when puzzled how to decide a question
sometimes postponed the matter as long as possible. Butterfield was once
interested in a case which Thomas had had under consideration for months,
and became greatly irritated by the delay. Coming into court one morning
while the court was engaged in trying criminal cases, he arose on the call of
motions and said with great gravity : "I believe, if your honor please, this court
is called the over and terminer. I think it ought to be called the oyer sans
terminer," and sat down. The next morning when counsel was called for
motions, Mr. Butterfield called up a pending motion for a new trial in an im-
portant case. "The motion is overruled," said Judge Thomas abruptly. "Yes-
terday you declared this court ought to be called oyer sans terminer," con-
tinued the judge, "and, as I had made up my mind in this case, I thought I
would decide it promptly." Mr. Butterfield seemed for a moment a little dis-
concerted, but directly added: "May it please your honor, yesterday this court
was a court of oyer sans terminer ; to-day your honor has reversed the order ;
it is now terminer sans oyer. But I believe I should prefer the injustice of in-
terminable delay rather than the swift and inevitable blunders your honor is
sure to make, by guessing without hearing argument."

Judge Caton says that very soon after the law was passed taking away the
right of a nisi-prius judge to charge a jury orally and substituting therefor
written instructions, Mr. Butterfield was asked by Judge T. Lisle Dickey, at the
Kendall county court, if he didn't think it was an excellent law, to which he


replied : "Oh, yes," said Butterfield, "it is a most excellent law. Tie up the
hands of the court and turn loose the pettifoggers and undoubtedly justice will
be done." Judge Caton then adds : "I thought then and still think that this
was a forcible way of stating an undoubted truth. If a judge is worthy of the
seat he occupies he is entitled to confidence and respect and should be entrusted
with the impartial administration of justice in his court. Courts are instituted
to administer impartial justice, according to law, to all suitors before them and
not to sit by and see justice perverted because one lawyer happens to be smarter
than the other, and should not be compelled to act as mere stakeholders be-
tween the advocates."

He was very familiar with the Scriptures, and when he was United States
district attorney Ben Bond was United States marshal, and one or two of his
brothers were deputies, and were quite annoying to Butterfield, whose patience,
at one time, was tried beyond endurance. He remarked to someone, "I would
to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost
and altogether such as I am except these Bonds." Butterfield died in October,
1855. He had two sons who were bred to the law, but who died before he did.
Lewis, born in 1817, and admitted to the bar December 16, 1840, died in
Chicago October 27, 1845. Justin, born in 1819, and admitted to the bar June
10, 1840, died of consumption, in Washington, March 5, 1852. His oldest son,
George, an officer in the navy, died about 1850. His survivors were William,
the first graduate of Rush Medical College ; and three daughters, Mrs. Sidney
Sawyer, Mrs. Frances Getatly and Mrs. William S. Johnston, Jr., who died
January 7, 1875.

Isaac N. Arnold, who was himself a lawyer of great ability, said at the time
of his death, which occurred on October 25, 1855, "that he was one of the ablest,
if not the very ablest, lawyer we have ever had at the Chicago bar. He was
strong, logical, full of vigor and resources. In his style of argument and his
personal appearance he was not unlike Daniel Webster, of whom he was a great
admirer and who was his model."

Thomas Hoyne was one of the most eminent lawyers that ever practiced
at the Chicago bar. He came to Chicago in 1839 to meet the early friend and
companion of his youth, George Manierre, who had preceded him but a few
years. His career is something unique in our history, for, commencing with a
clerkship in the circuit-court clerk's office, he afterward filled the office of city
clerk, probate judge, United States district attorney, United States marshal and
acting mayor of the city of Chicago. He was an intimate friend of the late
Judge Breese and had been engaged in writing an introduction to his work,
entitled the Early History of Illinois, and had completed his task on the 25th
day of July, 1883. The next day he left Chicago to pass his accustomed
vacation at Saratoga and other eastern summer resorts, when he met his
death on the night of July 27th near the village of Carlyon, in the state of New
York, in a railroad collision. I served with him as one of the directors on the
Chicago public-library board for several years and can truly say that his stal-


wart character, unswerving integrity, his generosity and sincerity of conviction
stamped him as one of nature's noblemen.

Among the most enterprising, public-spirited and useful citizens that ever
took up their abode among us was Jonathan Young Scammon. He came here
in 1833 and was appointed reporter of the decisions of the supreme court of
Illinois in 1839 and issued four volumes, which bear the marks of great care and
industry. The first edition of Volume I of his reports was destroyed by fire in
December, 1840, while in the hands of the binder, causing a heavy loss of time
and money. That Mr. Scammon labored under many difficulties in preparing
his reports for publication is evident by what he says in the preface to Volume I
of his series, from which it appears that printed abstracts and briefs were entirely
unknown and he had to prowl through the record and briefs of the appellant and
then sit by and take notes of the points and authorities of the appellee at the
time the case was argued, as no briefs were required to be filed by the appellee.

In many cases counsel neglected to sign their names to the abstracts and
the dockets were so kept that it was often impossible to tell who did appear in
the case. Some of the opinions of the supreme court had been printed by a Mr.
Walters, with marginal notes by a Mr. Forman, and Mr. Scammon says in
regard to them that these are sometimes cited as "printed opinions" and some-
times as "Forman." He closes his remarks and explanations in his preface as
follows :

The references made in the work are those usually found in law books. It is only
necessary to observe that the Revised Laws of 1833 have been uniformly cited as "R. L."
and the edition of the statutes published by Mr. Gale in 1839 as "Gale's Stat." The re-
porter has spared no expense in endeavoring to get the book up in a style not unworthy
of the court and the state. It is due to the court to state that during almost the entire
period included in these reports the supreme court was holden at a great distance from the
residence of the judges, and most of the members of the bar, and at a place but illy pro-
vided with accommodations, and in which a good law library was a desideratum not to be
realized. The court has, consequently, been often obliged to decide cases without that
full argument and consultation of authorities which are afforded to the judicial tribunals
of other states and countries.

The notes and references of the reporter, though not so numerous and full as he de-
sired to make them, he trusts will yet be found convenient to the profession. The continu-
ance of these reports will depend upon the patronage of the profession. The work is
published upon the responsibility of the reporter, and it has cost him a large sum of
money. Should they be continued he hopes that the experience he has had in preparing
this volume will enable him to present to the public and to the profession a more desirable

Mr. Scammon published four volumes of reports and then resigned and
was succeeded by Charles Oilman, who received his appointment on the 3Oth
day of January, 1845. Mr. Scammon was associated in the practice of the law
for many years with E. B. McCagg, who still abides among us, honored and
respected by all who know him. After pursuing the law for a number of years
Mr. Scammon engaged in the banking business. It seemed to be his great
delight to aid and assist every project and enterprise -which would have a


tendency to develop the city of Chicago and the west, and he lent his assistance
to the building of railroads, the establishment of parks, water-works, churches,
colleges, newspapers and everything else of the kind.

Henry W. Blodgett, who was one of the early pioneers of Cook county,
and who for so many years occupied a seat upon the bench of the United States
district and circuit courts, is entitled to more than a passing notice, for his life
is identified not only with the history of Chicago, but of the country itself. (See
sketch elsewhere.)

Henry Moore came to Chicago in 1834 from Concord, Massachusetts, and
was admitted to the bar the same year. He was a lawyer of fine abilities, a very
attractive and interesting speaker and very soon became prominent. He was
for a short time a partner of E. G. Ryan. His health was not strong, and he
returned east in 1841, and died at his old home during that year.

Henry Brown, who had been a judge of Herkimer county as early as 1816,
came here in 1836 and was soon after elected a justice of the peace, and in 1842
became city attorney. He prepared a history of Illinois in 1844, which was
published in New York in 1844. He was a scholarly man and devoted a great
deal of time to his literary pursuits. He died of cholera in 1849. His son,
Andrew J. Brown, now deceased, resided in Evanston, which he made his
home for many years.

Next to J. Y. Scammon, Paul Cornell may be regarded as among the most
enterprising men ever connected with the Chicago bar. He was born at White
Creek, Washington county, New York, August 5, 1822, and came west when
nine years old. He studied law in the office of William A. Richardson, at Rush-
ville, Schuyler county. He first came to Chicago in 1845, but did not remain

Online LibraryJohn M. (John McAuley) PalmerThe bench and the bar of Illinois : Historical and reminiscent (Volume v.2) → online text (page 3 of 83)