San Francisco (Calif.). Bar.

In memoriam. Eugene Casserly online

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013 787 390 4


Hollinger Corp.


013 787 390 4

San FVa 1 1 c i ^ c c? . Jo ar.


3 3



The Committee appointed on the 15th day of June, 1883,
by the Bar of San Francisco, to prepare a memorial of the
late Eugene Casserly, reported the following :

EUGENE CASSERLY was born at Mullingar, in the
County of Westmeath, Ireland, in the year 1820. His father,
who was a schoolmaster, well versed, like so many Irish
schoolmasters of his day and generation, in ^he literature of
Greece and Rome, emigrated in the first quarter of the pres-
ent century to the City of New York. Here he presided for
several years over a school of high reputation, and. edited sev-
eral classical text-books, well known at the time, and one of
which received high commendation from no less distinguished
a scholar than the late Charles Anthon.

Eugene, a precocious child, acquired under his father's
tuition and discipline an acquaintance, which he never ceased
to cultivate and extend, with the masterpieces of classical liter-
ature. During some years he ably assisted his father in the
discharge of his scholastic duties; but at the age of twenty a
crisis occurred in his life which induced him to leave the
parental home, and pursue an independent career, relying on
his own resources to obtain a livelihood. A mere student.

with the sensitive temperament which close intercourse with
books, rather than with men, is prone to foster ; possessed of
no practical experience in those pursuits which constitute the
business life of an active commercial community; diffident of
his own ability to an extent that excited, sometimes the raillery,
sometimes the remonstrance of those who knew him best; yet
resolute and self-reliant, determined to owe no man anything —
to shun the humiliating vassalage of debt and obligation — it
need not be said that his first experience in the battle of life
was one of hardship, poverty, and privation ; borne, however,
with unwavering firmness. At about this period in his life he
commenced the study of law in the office of Mr. John T.
Doyle, who had then recently been admitted to the bar ; accept-
ing such employment in literary and editorial work as occa-
sionally presented itself Mr. Casserly was admitted to the
bar of the Supreme Court of the State of New York in 1844,
and soon after that time formed a partnership with Mr. John
Bigelow, which, however, was not of long duration, as Mr.
Bigelow soon withdrew from practice, and accepted a position
offered him by William C. Bryant on the editorial staff of the
New York Evening Post. During that ordeal of expectation
which Mr. Casserly, in common with every young member of
the legal profession who commences practice alone, was des-
tined to undergo, much of his involuntary leisure was devoted
to literary and editorial labor. He was a correspondent of
several newspapers, and assumed for a time the editorship of
the Freeman's Journal., which he managed with signal ability.
Political affairs, too, attracted his attention ; he was an active
member of the Democratic party, and took a lively interest in
the contest which resulted, in 1844, in the election of Polk
and Dallas. With the development of his vigor as a writer,
and his sagacity as a politician, there arose a justly increased
confidence in his own powers, and a marked recognition of his
influence, indicated by the attentions he received from some of
the ablest men in the legal and political circles of NeW York.
At the age of twenty-seven he was appointed to the office of
Corporation Attorney of the City of New York.

In 1850 Mr. Casserly left the City of New York, and ar-
rived in San Francisco— which thenceforward became his per-
manent place of residence— in October of that year. Soon
after his arrival he engaged in certain newspaper enterprises m
San Francisco; but on the destruction of the printing offices
and material in the great fire of May, 185 1, he abandoned
journalism, after a rather thankless and unprofitable experience
in that line of industry.

In the winter of 1851 he was elected State Printer,
an office from which he derived large emoluments, though
it was his boast that the public printing was done more
economically under his administration than under that of his
predecessor or successor in office. On the expiration of his
term of office, Mr. Casserly turned again to his profession,
which he pursued with eminent success. About this time
(1853) he married the daughter of Mr. John Doyle, whose
family had also left New York and become residents of San
Francisco. Mrs. Casserly and three children of this marriage
union survive the late head of the family.

During the early period of the civil war, when doubt and
hesitation were prevalent in many quarters as to the proper
course to be pursued by the State of California in that great
conflict; when some prominent political agitators denounced
the Government as the aggressor in the strife, and others re-
garded the situation with the cold indifference of neutrality,
Mr. Casserly assumed a prominent place among those wiser
counsellors who insisted on the necessity of maintaining^ the
constitutional rights of the Union, and of suppressing by force
of arms the rebellion against its lawful authority. " Distinct
as the bilIo7vs, yet one as the 5^«"— such was his idea of the
relation between the States and the Union.

In December, 1867, Mr. Casserly was elected by the Legis-
lature of the State of California to the United States Senate,
in the place of Mr. Conness, for the period of six years from
March 4, 1869. The problem of the reconstruction of the

Union was then the most important question that occupied
the attention of the country. It was beset with difficulties
that seemed almost insurmountable. Mr. Casserly advocated
on all occasions a conciliatory policy, as the most effective
means of healing the dissensions of the past, and re-establish-
ing the Union on a firm basis of amity and concord. Al-
though the party to which he belonged was in a hopeless
minority in the Senate, so far as mere numbers were con-
cerned, his moral influence was felt, and his speeches were
listened to with marked attention in that body.

After serving about three-fourths of his six years' term in
the United States Senate, Mr. Casserly resigned his seat on
account of ill health, and returned to San Francisco. He re-
sumed, to a limited extent, the practice of his profession, but
did not long continue it, finding more congenial employment
in less exacting pursuits, and partaking more largely of the
leisure which he had fairly earned by many years of laborious

The last public service that he rendered to the State was in
the capacity of delegate at large to the Constitutional Conven-
tion of 1879. Being essentially a conservative, he had little
sympathy with many of the bold and startling innovations that
were then advocated as improvements in our system of State
Government. Study and observation had concurred to teach
him the folly of rash experiments in legislation, and to con-
vince him that

" The way of ancient ordinance, though it winds,
Is yet no devious way. Straightforward goes
The lightning's path, and straight the fearful path
Of the cannon ball. Direct it flies and rapid,
Shatt'ring that it may reach, and shatt'ring what it reaches.
The road whereon the human being travels,
That on which blessing comes and goes, doth follow
The river's course, the valley's playful windings.
Curves round the corn-field and the hill of vines,
Honoring the holy bounds of property.
And thus secure, though late, leads to the end."

During the last year of his Ufe, increasing ill health confined
Mr. Casserly very much to his own house. His powers grad-
ually failed until, on the 14th of this month, he quietly passed

As a lawyer, Mr. Casserly was always zealous for what he
regarded as the rights of his client, and persistent in the asser-
tion of those rights under the various forms in which they could
be most advantageously presented. His industry was one of the
most remarkable of his endowments; his power of application
was marvellous ; he was never satisfied until he had thoroughly
explored the subject under consideration, and exhausted every
accessible source of information respecting it; "«// repuians
actum diim quid siipet-esset agendu?n." His style of oratory at
the bar was grave, thoughtful, and impressive. He sought
rather to convince the reason by logic than to control the
judgment by appealing to the passions of his audience. Yet
there was a power in his measured, deliberate utterances,
which is lacking in much that passes current as forensic

As a political leader, he was not destitute of that saga-
cious insight which is the most essential attribute of states-
manship. Long before the Chinese question was regarded as
one of any gravity — as early as April, 1868 — he publicly
pointed out the mischiefs that would inevitably result from the
introduction of Chinese labor into California, and on a subse-
quent occasion declared that it would have been better that
the Overland railroad should never have been built, than that
thousands of coolie laborers should have been imported to
construct it. So pronounced was his opinion on the impolicy
of encouraging Chinese immigration, that when the American
negotiator of the Burlingame treaty, which was concluded in
1868, was publicly entertained in this city, Mr. Casserly de-
clined to attend the banquet given in his honor.

Mr. Casserly was blessed with a large capacity for intellec-
tual enjoyment. A life - long student, his mind was richly

stored with treasures which the world of books had yielded to
his research. He could appreciate the marvels of the sculp-
tor's and the painter's art, the glowing creations of dramatic
genius, the impassioned personations of the stage, and the
grandeur and sublimity of nature.

Mr. Casserly was a man of very decided views, and he
always possessed the courage of his convictions. His opinion
once deliberately formed, he never hesitated, on any fit occa-
sion, to express and defend it. No man had less of the syco-
phant or parasite in his nature. Though by no means insensible
to the good opinion of others, he never stooped to obtain it at
the sacrifice of self-respect. The popularity he desired was
"that which follows, not that which is run after." If not beset by
" troops of friends," he had at least a sufficiency, both of his
own and of a younger generation, whom he had " grappled to
his soul wdth hooks of steel."

In the various important positions, public and private, which
Mr. Casserly filled, he never failed in the honest, faithful and
satisfactory discharge of his duties.

In his domestic relations, he was singularly happy. But
the inner life of the home circle is invested with a sacredness
which should guard it from intrusion, even though the object
may be to disclose the graces, the affections, and the charities
which have made it their cherished abode.

In his religious convictions, Mr. Casserly was a steadfast
adherent of the Catholic faith, and much esteemed by the
higher ecclesiastics of the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese
of California.

His earthly career is closed, but his influence, like that of
every one who has contributed his quota to the aggregate of
human action, is of perennial duration. As in the outer
world, the lowest whisper that is breathed, the slightest motion
that is made, effects a physical change which is recorded some-
where in the vast volume of nature, though no trace of it is

visible to us, so in the moral world every act or utterance, right
or wrong, though we cannot define the scope of its operation,
is a permanent contribution to that sum of mingled good and
ill which is constantly descending, as a lasting heritage, to
all future generations.

" We men who, in our morn of youth, defied
The elements, must vanish. Be it so !
Enough, if something from our hands have power
To live, and act, and serve the future hour,
And if, as tow'rd the silent tomb we go,
Thro' love, thro' hope, and faith's transcendent dower.
We feel that we are greater than we know."

For the Committee.


San Francisco, June i8, 1883.


Online LibrarySan Francisco (Calif.). BarIn memoriam. Eugene Casserly → online text (page 1 of 1)