John M. (John McAuley) Palmer.

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thing besides sit around and calculate their chances of being set at liberty by those
who are "in the push" or be pardoned outright by a sympathetic governor.


The holding of the important terms of the United States circuit court here
by Judge John McLean, of the United States supreme court, was always an
event of transcendent interest, and many cases were tried before him which
excited great attention. Among the first important cases which I recollect
was one involving the right of bridging the Mississippi river at Rock Island
by the Chicago & Rock Island Railroad Company, which first came up on an
application for an injunction, which he refused, and in doing so rendered a
memorable opinion in which he said that there was such a thing as ''land com-
merce as well as water commerce," and that one could not be protected to the
exclusion of the other. This opinion, when announced, was considered as the
harbinger of a new era, and from that time we can date the progress of our
railroad system, which now recognizes no obstacle, whether mountain, plain or
river. Another great case, which was participated in by John A. Wills and a
son of Judge McLean for the plaintiff and James F. Joy, of Detroit, for the
defendant, was the case which involved the title to certain lands near the mouth
of the Chicago river, owned either by the Michigan Central Railroad Company
or the Illinois Central Railroad Company and which were claimed by outside
parties, who were represented by John A. Wills and a son of Judge John Mc-
Lean. It was in this case that Joy created a sensation of large dimensions. He
took exceptions to the presence of young McLean in the case, and one morning,
when somewhat exasperated, arose, and, addressing the court, said that he
regarded it highly improper for his son to be employed in that case, and that it
looked as if he had been so employed for one purpose, and that was to either in-
fluence his honor to make rulings favorable to the plaintiffs or that the court
might be held in restraint in expressing its full and unbiased opinions upon the
various questions which might arise in the case, and he protested against it.
Mr. Joy said that he felt that he was obliged to make these observations, for,
knowing &s he did the high character of the court, he wanted nothing to occur
which would embarrass the court in a fearless discharge of his duties, and he


felt that the parties which he represented were not only entitled to this, but they
ought to feel that this was the case, and he thought if his son had a proper ap-
preciation of the proprieties of the case he would instantly retire from the case
and relieve the court from all embarrassment. This announcement, when made,
was like the shock of an earthquake, not only upon the court, but upon the son,
and the whole legal fraternity, and for the time being produced not only a sens-
ation, but a scene of confusion and consternation never before known in legal
circles or in our legal annals. The judge was for the moment astonished and
crushed, and the son squelched. John McLean was at that time an old man
and one of the most learned and respected jurists of the age. His reputation
for honesty and integrity was beyond all question, but it was evident to all that
the court was in a most embarrassing situation. The court soon .rallied and
explained that he had nothing to do with his son's employment and that it was
very embarrassing to him to find himself in such a situation, and although such
a matter was, to a certain extent, beyond his control, he would try to perform
his duties fairly and impartially to the best of his ability and with due regard
to the rights of all. Mr. McLean's son was an able lawyer and had been re-
tained in the case, it was said, by Wills, who was something of an adventurer,
but an able, daring man, and who had promised young McLean great wealth
if they won.

Young McLean had in the course of the trial, which had proceeded several
days when the episode we are narrating occurred, very injudiciously taken a
very active part in the proceedings, and had incurred the hostility of Joy when
Joy broke on him and the family. From that moment fell disaster overtook the
plaintiffs, and it is needless to say that the plaintiff was discomfited, beaten, and
overthrown completely and entirely. It was a case which was engineered by
Wills, and was one of that series of cases which have from time to time been
commenced and carried forward for no other purpose than to steal the lake front
or the riparian rights by some one who had the audacity to trump up a claim
founded on the claims of the Beaubiens or the claim of some squatter or that of
some one who had located on the same by the use of Valentine scrip.

If any one wants to know who James F. Joy* is he need only refer to any
history of Michigan, whether legal or otherwise, for he was one of the fore-
most lawyers of that state for over fifty years. His career was remarkable.
He was repeatedly mentioned for one of the justices of the supreme court of the
United States, filled all manner of local offices, and was the leader of the bar
in Michigan, if not the northwest. He nominated James G. Elaine for president
in the national Republican convention of 1880.

The district court of the United States for the state of Illinois was estab-
lished March 3, 1819, and Nathaniel Pope was appointed district judge. He
died in 1850, 'and was succeeded by Thomas Drummond, who continued to fill
that office until he was appointed circuit judge, in December, 1869. The dis-
trict court of the United States had and exercised circuit-court jurisdiction, and
the district judge held the circuit court for a long period, although Judge Mc-

* Died September 24, 1896.


Lean of the United States supreme court was the judge of this circuit, which
was called the seventh, from 1837 down to the time of his death in 1861.

Judge Nathaniel Pope is identified with perhaps one of the most important
measures ever adopted as an act of successful statesmanship ; and although it
has been often told it is worth telling again, as it is to his efforts and through
his influence that Chicago is now the great city of Illinois instead of a part of
Wisconsin. Judge Pope was first secretary of Illinois territory in 1818, and as
such received the petition from the inhabitants to enter the Union as a state.
By the ordinance of 1787 it will be remembered that it was provided in the fifth
article that there should be formed in the said territory not less than three nor
more than five states, and the ordinance defines the boundaries of the three
states of Illinois, Ohio and Indiana. But there is a proviso which declares that
if congress at any time shall find it expedient "they may form one or two states
in that part of said territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn
through the southerly bend of Lake Michigan."

It became evident to Judge Pope that, as Wisconsin was to be erected north
of that line, Illinois would be excluded from any port on Lake Michigan, and
the port of Chicago being north of the line, Chicago would be in Wisconsin,
and the Illinois and Michigan canal (which then had become a near certainty)
would be partly in and partly outside of the state of Illinois unless the line of the
latter state could be extended further north. He at once consulted with sen-
ators and representatives and induced them to agree to the ordinance which he
had drawn for the admission of this state into the Union with a new northern
boundary line, which he located at 42 30' north latitude, the present northern
line of our state. Could he, or could others, have looked into the future, even
twenty-five years, there might have been many objectors found, as there have
been since, but no prescience could have supposed that in seventy years the
part of Illinois included by that change of boundary would have given her the
second largest city of the Union, and that in the fifteen counties organized out
of the territory then taken from Wisconsin there would be a majority of the
population of this state, by the census of 1880, while three-fourths or four-
fifths of all the wealth of the state would be found north of the southern bend
of Lake Michigan.

Before the state was divided into two circuits we used to have in attendance
upon the various terms of the United States court, held by Judge Drummond,
many of the leading lawyers in the central and southern 'portion of the state,
such as Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Edwards, Archibald Williams, O. H.
Browning, H. M. Wead, and Charles Ballance, of Peoria. Mr. Ballance had for
a number of years pending in the United States courts a series of cases involving
the title of a large quantity of land and town lots at Peoria which required an
investigation into all the old French claims and conveyances, and they took up
a great deal of time, but he became such an expert in the trial of these cases
that scarcely anyone could cope with him without having taken a regular course
of study in these matters. He very frequently made use of the American state
papers, and sometimes filled the court with witnesses to prove the condition of


things at an early date at Peoria. His adversary was one Forsythe, who had,
when we saw him, become bronzed in the war which he had waged for years in
these matters. Ballance and Judge Drummond came frequently into collision
over law points, but in the final round-up Ballance most always came out ahead.

Nathaniel Pope was the first judge to hold a federal court in Chicago,
which was in 1837, over George W. Meeker's store, on Lake street, between
Clark and Dearborn. Judge Drummond also held court for a short time in the
same place, but very soon after Judge Drummond removed from Galena to
Chicago, and perhaps before, the United States courts were held in what was
known as the Saloon building, at the southeast corner of Clark and Lake streets.
In 1857 the United States courts were removed to the Larmon building, corner
of Clark and Washington. Immediately after the fire the courts, with the
custom house, were removed to Congress Hall, at the corner of Michigan avenue
and Congress street, then they were transferred to the Republic Life building,
on La Salle street, and finally to the government building, at the corner of Dear-
born and Monroe streets.

Thomas Drummond, who succeeded Pope, was one of the most industrious,
painstaking and laborious judges who ever sat on a bench. He died May 15,
1890, at his country home at \\heaton, a suburb of Chicago, at the age of eighty
years. For over thirty years he sat on the federal bench and administered
justice in a firm and impartial manner. He was born in Maine in 1809. His
father was a farmer of Scotch descent. He graduated from Bowdoin College in
1830, studied law in the office of William '1. Dwight, a son of President Dwight
of Yale College, in Philadelphia, and was admitted to the bar in 1833. in 1835
he removed to Galena and there entered upon the practice of his profession,
which he continued for about nineteen years. In 1850 he was appointed by
President Taylor judge of the district court of the United States for the district
of Illinois. In 1856 he removed to Chicago. In 1869, when the federal circuit
courts were created, he was appointed by General Grant to the office of circuit
judge, which office he filled to the time of his death.

Abraham Lincoln, prior to 1860, tried many cases here in the United States
district courts. I had made his acquaintance as early as .1856, and had, as a
young and ardent Republican, frequently occasion to consult with him in regard
to political matters while acting as secretary of one of our young Republican
clubs. I recollect that one time while Judge Drummond was holding court in
the old Saloon building, Norman B. Judd and myself were sitting chatting to-
gether on one of the front benches in the-court-room, and Lincoln was walking
backward and forward across the court-room, waiting for the call of a case
in which he was interested. Robert S. Blackwell was making a most elaborate
address to a jury, and was, it seemed to us, at times rather incoherent, as he
talked of many things entirely foreign to the subject,, and to illustrate some point
in his discourse proceeded to narrate at great length the habits of the storks in
Holland, which lived, he said, among the dykes and destroyed insects, which
would, if not disposed "of, eat through and destroy the same. Lincoln stopped
and listened for a few moments to what Blackwell was saying, and, coming


to 'where we were sitting, hit Judd on the knee with h'is hand and said: "That
beats me ! Blackwell can concentrate more words into the fewest ideas of any
man I ever knew. The storks of Holland ! Why, they would eat him up before
he began to get half through telling that story about them."

The last case that Mr. Lincoln ever tried in any of the courts in Cook
county that we remember anything about was what is known as the "Sand-bar"
case, which involved title to a large amount of "shore" property on Lake Michi-
gan, north of the Chicago river. It had been tried three several times previ-
ously, and came on for the fourth time before Judge Drummond and a jury in
the Larmon block, northeast corner of Clark and Washington streets, on March
19, 1860, two months prior to the great Chicago convention. Lincoln stopped
at the Tremont House, and he never was in Chicago but twice afterward ; once
on November 24, when, as president elect, he came to meet the vice-president
elect ; and again in May, 1865, when all that was mortal of him lay in state in the
court-house. The title of the case was William S. Johnson versus William
Jones and Sylvester Marsh. The counsel for the plaintiff were Buckner S.
Morris, Isaac X. Arnold and John A. Wills. The counsel for defendant were
Abraham Lincoln, Samuel W. Fuller, Van H. Higgins and John Van Arnam.
The trial closed April 4, by a verdict for defendants, and it is a most curious
thing that everyone who was concerned in that case or had anything whatever
to do with it, the judge on the bench, the clerk of the court, the parties, and
every lawyer engaged in it, are all dead and in their graves.

There have been very many elaborate attempts made to analyze and expound
Mr. Lincoln's character as a lawyer, but for myself, having both seen and heard
him try a number of cases in the United States courts, I think Judge Drum-
mond has succeeded in making plain his true status at the bar better than any-
body, for he says : "With a voice by no means pleasant, and, indeed, when
excited, in its shrill tones sometimes almost disagreeable; without any of the
personal graces of the orator ; without much in the outer man indicating
superiority of intellect ; without great quickness of perception, still his mind
was so vigorous, his comprehension so exact and clear, and his judgment so sure
that he easily mastered the intricacies of his profession and became one of the
ablest reasoners and most impressive speakers at our bar. With a probity of
character known by all ; with an intuitive insight into the human heart ; with a
clearness of statement which was itself an argument ; with uncommon power and
felicity of illustration, often, it is true, of a plain and homely kind, and with
that sincerity and earnestness of manner which carried conviction, he was per-
haps one of the most successful jury lawyers we have ever had in the state."

One great source of litigation at that time was tax title litigation over lands
situated in the military tract, and in this species of litigation Archibald Williams,
Robert S. Blackwell, O. H. Browning and Bushnell, of Quincy, were experts.
The well known treatise on tax titles by Robert S. Blackwell is quoted as author-
ity upon the subject to this day. The admiralty law was assiduously cultivated
commencing about the year 1852, and Robert Rae and A. W. Arrington were
the leading proctors and settled many interesting questions relating to inland


navigation, although Grant Goodrich and Joseph N. Barker did a large business
in that line. All of the lawyers of that time took admiralty cases or any other
cases which were brought to them, and scarcely one but what was at home in
any department of the law. From this time dates the growth and development
of the great subject of corporation law, but it is unnecessary to pursue this sub-
ject further.

We have deemed it proper, in giving a sketch of the early bench and bar,
to refer to these matters in order to show the great progress which has been
made since that time in every direction and in every department of the law, for
at that time interstate law, municipal law and railroad law were almost un-


For a number of years immediately succeeding the great panic of 1837 the
Chicago bar increased slowly, and we may safely say that it was not until about
1851 or 1852 that a simultaneous movement seemed to commence which re-
sulted in the location here of a large number of lawyers of the very highest men-
tal endowments and training in their profession. These men, by all the stand-
ards, must be classed with the early bench and bar, although not present at the
founding of the city.

The business directory which was published by J. W. Norris in January,
1846, contains the following list of attorneys, with their place oj business :

Abell, Sidney, 37 Clark street; Arnold (Isaac N.) & Ogden (Mahlon D.),
123 Lake street; Brown, Henry and Andrew J., 126 Lake street; Brown, John,
90^ Lake street; Butterfield, Justin and J., Jr., 70 Lake street; Clarke, Henry
W., southwest corner Clark and Lake streets ; Cowles (Alfred) & Brown (Wil-
liam H.), State Bank building, southwest corner La Salle and South Water
streets ; Curtis, James, court-house, southwest corner Randolph and Clark
streets; De Wolf, Calvin, 71 Lake street; Dickey, Hugh T., 102^ Lake street;
Freer, Lemuel Covell Paine, 53 Clark street, opposite City Hotel; Gardiner,
Charles, 71 Lake street; Gregg, David L., United States attorney, 65 Lake
street ; Hamilton (Richard Jones) & Moore (Thomas C.), 59 Clark street ; Hoyne,
Thomas, 51 Clark street, opposite postoffice; Huntington, Alonzo, 98 Lake
street; Leary, Albert Green, 53 Clark street; Lee, David, 103^ Lake street;
McDougall, James A., 118 Lake street; Mcllroy, Daniel, court-house basement;
Manierre (George) & Meeker (George W.), 100 Lake street; Morris (Buckner
S.) & Greenwood (George W.), 59 Lake street; Phelps, Pallas, Clinton between
Madison and Washington streets ; Scammon (Jonathan Y.) & Judd (Norman
B.), 23 Lake street; Skinner, Mark, 92 Lake street; Spring (Giles) & Goodrich
(Grant), 124 Lake street; Stuart (William) & Larrabee (Charles R.), 59 Clark
street; Thomas (Jesse Burgess) & Ballingall (Patrick), 92 Lake street; Tracey,
Elisha Winslow, 123 Lake street; Wright, Walter, 94 Lake street.

Soon after 1846 business revived and days of prosperity came. The west
began to attract great attention, and the fertility of the prairies of Illinois and
the comparative ease with which the soil could be subdued and cultivated be-
came noised abroad, and the farmers of New York and New England turned


their steps hitherward in great numbers. Soon the merchants followed, and the
lawyers of the country were not backward. They had all heeded the advice of
that great philosopher who said : "Go west, young man, and grow up with
the country." Chicago became in a very short time the great objective point,
and among the "sooners" were such men as Melville W. Fuller, S. K. Dow,
Samuel W. Fuller, A. W. Arrington, B. F. Ayer, Cyrus Bentley, William C.
Goudy, M. F. Tuley, Lambert Tree, Robert Hervey, Richard Merrick, Joseph
P. Clarkson, E. W. Tracey, John Van Arnam, Emery A. Storrs, Wirt Dexter,
James M. Walker, Charles Hitchcock, B. F. Gallup, John A. and George W.
Thompson, Thomas F. Withrow, John P. Wilson, E. W. Evans, H. T. Helm,
Alexander S. Prentiss, B. F. Strother, Sidney Smith, William W. Farewell,
James L. High,* William K. McAllister, Corydon Beckwith, H. G. Miller, Pen-
over L. Sherman, William H. King, Ira W. Scott, George Payson, Joseph E.
Gary, Henry M. Shepard, Van H. Higgins, John X. Jewett, John M. Douglass,
James P. Root, A. M. Pence, D. L. Shorey, John A. Jamieson, Homer N. Hib-
bard, Robert S. Blackwell, Henry Frink, Henry S. Monroe, and many others.

Richard Merrick came here from Maryland, and was for a time a partner
with Corydon Beckwith, but left here and took up his abode in the city of Wash-
ington, where he died a few years ago. He possessed great oratorical powers
and attained great distinction at the bar in the District of Columbia.

Corydon Beckwith was, without any question, one of the greatest lawyers
that ever practiced at the Chicago bar, and he had as worthy compeers such
men as William C. Goudy, Wirt Dexter, B. F. Ayer, Henry G. Miller, John A.
Jewett, Melville W. Fuller, Emery A. Storrs, Sidney Smith, William K. Mc-
Allister, A. W. Arrington, William H. King, Charles Hitchcock, John A.
Jamieson, Robert Hervey, Joseph E. Gary, Van H. Higgins, and many others
who would compare favorably with the members of any other bar in the United
States. We have not singled these out as being all those who have achieved
eminence, because there were many who devoted themselves more or less to
special branches of the law, such as real-estate, insurance, admiralty, and cor-
poration law, who became distinguished, and they would, if it were possible,
receive at our hands particular attention for their knowledge, skill and ability
in the profession. On other pages of this work will be found the individual
biographies, however, of very many who are not referred to here at all and who
are justly entitled to be classed with the early bench and bar, but it is not pos-
sible to go into details in regard to them.

H. F. Waite,f long at the head of the well known firm of Waite & Towne,
was in full tide of practice in 1851, and so were Paul Cornell and William T.
Barron. Barren met a sudden and tragic death in January, 1862, in a railroad
collision in Hyde Park by having his head severed from his body, dying in-
stantly. I made the acquaintance of John H. Kedzie on board the old steamer
Ocean on a voyage from Buffalo to Detroit in 1852, and my first meeting with

* James L. High died October 3, 1898.
t Horace F. Waite died April 30, 1898.



George Manierre was on a steamer, during the same year, while going from
Chicago to Milwaukee, as we were setting out on a reconnoitering expedition
through the west. Arno Voss, Joshua Marsh, Henry E. Seeley, John W.
Waughop, O. R. W. Lull and George Scoville had, I believe, commenced prac-
tice here before the year 1850.

H. G. Miller came to the city in 1851, and very early became known as a
powerful advocate and strong trial lawyer. He graduated from Hamilton Col-
lege in 1849, an d studied law with Ward Hunt, who was for a number of years
an associate justice of the United States supreme court. He first opened an
office with Alexander S. Prentiss, a sort of the well known John Prenliss, at one
time a member of congress from Otsego county, New York, but soon afterward
went into partnership with Thomas Hoyne. Alexander S. Prentiss possessed
every qualification for a successful lawyer, but was cut off in his prime, by an at-
tack of cholera, in 1854.

Penoyer L. Sherman, who came here from central New York soon after
Miller & Prentiss, had a very fine training as a lawyer, having graduated from
Hamilton College in 1851, and having studied law under that well known lawyer
and able advocate, Daniel Gott, of Syracuse, New York, and after coming here
studied for some time in the office of Collins & Williams. Mr. Sherman was for
some time associated in business with Francis Kales. He has long made chan-
cery practice a specialty, and is among the very best posted men in that depart-
ment of the law of anyone at the bar. He has been for many years master in
chancery of the superior court of Chicago, and has discharged the duties of that
office with eminent ability. Arthur W. Windette, the late William T. Burgess,
John Woodbridge and Edward Roby have always been noted for their skill in
chancery and have all done a large business in that line.

Online LibraryJohn M. (John McAuley) PalmerThe bench and the bar of Illinois : Historical and reminiscent (Volume v.2) → online text (page 7 of 83)