55 Com. L. J. 290 (1950)
Judge Frederick L. Siddons, Ninth President of the League

handle is hein.journals/clla55 and id is 296 raw text is: Judge Frederick L. Siddons,
Ninth President of the League
MORRIS WEISMAN
(of the Philadelphia Bar)
Historian and Vice-President of the League,
Chairman, Associate Editors

F REDERICK L. SIDDONS used to say that because
he was born in London, England, and, therefore,
was ineligible for the Presidency of the United States,
he would have to be contented with the second best
office: Chief Executive of the Commercial Law League
of America. And though he became President of the
League in 1903, he was destined for higher office. In
1915, President Woodrow Wilson appointed him to
the Supreme Bench of the District of Columbia.
His parents brought him to America when he was
fourteen and the family settled in Washington. Sid-
dons, who received his early education at home,
matriculated at the Old Columbian University, now
George Washington University. He was graduated in
June, 1887, and a few days later, was admitted to the
bar of the District of Columbia.
As a young attorney, Siddons revealed an atten-
tion to detail which in some is the mark of incompe-
tency, in others of superiority. The difference lies in
an ability to choose between the petty and the
important. He attracted the attention of Jackson H.
Ralston, who correctly appraised Siddons' endow-
ments and possibilities. They formed the partnership
of Ralston & Siddons. Ralston, whose ability and bents
were antithetical to Siddons, went here and there in
behalf of the firm, while Siddons kept the home fires
stoked and burning. The firm prospered.
When Ralston received a streamlined invitation
from William C. Sprague-Meet Me At Detroit
August 15-17, 1895, Commercial Law Convention-
he naturally decided to go, but an unexpected, last
minute involvement forced a change in his plans. In
his place he sent Norman R. Metcalf, a young associ-
ate, who proved to be the only delegate from Wash-
ington. Sprague appointed him a member of the com-
mittee that drafted the Constitution and By-Laws
of the League and asked E. K. Sumerwell to intro-
duce him generally to the other delegates. Metcalf
returned to Washington, enthusiastic about the new
organization. He filled Ralston with excitement and
the latter joined the League.
In 1896, Ralston attended the Second Convention of
the League and became interested in the report of
the League's Committee on Judiciary. Presented by
Elbert C. Ferguson, of Chicago, the report contained
recommendations for uniform legislation throughout
the United States, and to further this work a perma-
nent Committee on Legislation was appointed. It
proved to be the League's most important committee
and each year it presented a comprehensive report,
replete with documented data, manifestly the result

.)or

of intense research. There was an acute and crying
need for remedial legislation-and indubitably a
native of Washington was best qualified to secure the
enactment of new laws! In 1898 Ralston was ap-
pointed Chairman of this Committee.
Ralston prepared an excellent report for presenta-
tion at the next scheduled Convention at Asbury
Park, but the moving fingers of fate wrote other
orders. As special counsel for the United States in
the celebrated Pious Fund Case, Ralston had to appear
before the Arbitration Court at Hague, just prior to
the Convention. That case involved a claim for mil-
lions of dollars against Mexico for its seizure of
Roman Catholic Church lands during that country's
rule over California.
Before sailing, Ralston prevailed upon the unwill-
ing Siddons to attend the Convention and present the
Report of the Committee on Legislation. Though he
was a first attender, Siddons, as Ralston's partner.
was given the privilege of presenting the important
Report and he distinguished himself, scoring a per-
sonal triumph which catapulted him to unexpected
prominence.
Meanwhile, Ralston won fame and fortune at The
Hague. A rare linguist, he delivered his technical
argument in eloquent French and won the case. The
Court decreed that Mexico should pay the United
States $1,420,682.68 for annuities in arrears and
thereafter $43,050.99 annually. It took a railroad
train to bring the money back in silver dollars in
which it was paid, says H. Winship Wheatley, who
was associated with the firm at the time.
Siddons now became a regular Convention at-
tender. In 1900, he was appointed Chairman of the
Committee on Resolutions and his intelligence and
outstanding competence were confirmed. In 1902 he
was named First Vice-President of the League and
the following year became President.
-III
The noisy but ephemeral characteristic of the year
of 1903 was a flood of exposes which surprised and
shocked the less hardened citizenry of that time. Thus,
President Theodore Roosevelt, who had proclaimed
his square deal, whirled his big stick for reform and
progress. Ida M. Tarbell disclosed the faults and repre-
hensible practices of the Standard Oil Company. Lin-
coln Steffens, muckraking for McClures, showed up
the shame and corruption of city government. The
epochal news of the year passed virtually unnoticed:
among the sand dunes, at Kitty Hawk, North Caro-
r        rkA  r    I A I  I A W  -I   I I RP 'J A I

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