72 Judicature 78 (1988-1989)
From Pound to Harley: The Founding of AJS

handle is hein.journals/judica72 and id is 80 raw text is: Editor's note: The American Judicature
Society has commissioned Michal R.
Belknap, a historian and law professor
at California Western School of Law, to
prepare a history of the Society detailing
its integral role in court and legal reform
in the twentieth century. In this article,
Professor Belknap discusses the found-
ing and the founders of the Society, and
their relationship to the Progressive
movement in America.
One summer day in 1911 a lit-
tle skiff drifted lazily across
the blue waters of Lake Mich-
igan. On board were Herbert
Harley, destined to become the secretary
of the American Judicature Society, and
a scruffy looking 65-year-old bachelor
named Charles Ruggles. Although he
looked like a tramp, Ruggles was in fact
a fabulously wealthy lumberman. The
skiff belonged to him rather than to his
companion, a fellow resident of Manis-
tee, Michigan, who had abandoned the
practice of law to run a newspaper. Like
Harley, Ruggles had reservations about
the American judicial system. I can get
along with the laws of God all right, he
is supposed to have remarked that day.
It's the laws of man that trouble me.
His comment stuck in Harley's mind
and inspired him to establish the Ameri-
can Judicature Society. Just as a mighty
river may begin with a tiny trickle of
water from a crack in a rock, so great
human institutions may sometimes have
their origins in obscure and insignifi-
cant circumstances, Glenn R. Winters,
who succeeded Harley as secretary of
AJS, wrote many years later about this
conversation.' The exchange between
Harley and Ruggles in the little skiff is
the stuff of which legends are made. It is
not, however, by itself sufficient to ex-
plain the appearance of the American
Judicature Society in 1913.
Although Harley himself traced the
origins of AJS to that casual conversation
on Lake Michigan, the organization is
much more than just the fortuitous pro-
duct of a chance exchange between two
amateur sailors whiling away a lazy sum-
mer afternoon. It is an outgrowth of a
major tum-of-the-century social and pol-
itical phenomenon known as Progressi-
vism. Founded by Harley and Ruggles in
1913, the American Judicature Society

Herbert Lincoln Harley
Founder of the American
Judicature Society and its
Secretary-Treasurer from

was one of a host of convulsive reform
movements [that] swept across the Ameri-
can landscape from the 1890s to 1917.'2 It
represented a response to demands for law
reform that had been building up for a
number of years before Harley and Rug-
gles had their sailboat conversation, and
which by then already had begun to pro-
duce results. What the two Manistee men
did was to create a prototypically progres-
sive organization that would eventually
provide an already existing movement for
the reform of the administration of justice
with focus and direction.
Ruggles-the godfather of AJS
Such a society could not have had a more
improbable godfather than Charles Rug-
gles. He was not associated with Pro-
gressive causes, and his business was
lumber not law. A local historian once
described this wealthy and eccentric lum-
berman as one of the picturesque, [but]
not one of the more attractive charac-
ters.., among Manistee's early pioneers.
A native of Bangor, Maine, where he was
born on March 3, 1846, he grew to
maturity in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Rug-

gles was intelligent, but he suffered from
dyslexia and eye problems. These han-
dicaps kept him from learning to read.
Ashamed of his inability to master the
written word, he kept it a secret even
from his friends and devoted his life to
proving that he was not a fool.''S
Aware that young Charles was making
little progress in school, his father, who
was in the lumber business, took him
into the woods at an early age. When the
boy reached 18, he went to work for the
Diamond Match Company. Among the
jobs young Ruggles performed for that
Oshkosh firm was industrial espionage.
By getting a watchman for the rival
Detroit Match Company drunk, he man-
aged to steal its formula for enhancing
the friction of matches. Unfortunately,
some of his other tasks exposed him to
toxic chemicals, and phosphorous poi-
soning soon put an end to his career in
the match business.
When a physician informed Charles
that outdoor living might improve his
health, the whole Ruggles family moved
from Oshkosh, Wisconsin to Manistee,
Michigan. Manistee was then a raw vil-
lage on the verge of a lumber boom. Al-
though only 20, the ambitious and hard-
working Ruggles quickly achieved
success there. Buying up tax-delinquent
real estate, he used profits derived from
selling it to purchase timber lands, lum-
ber camps and saw mills. Around 1870,

78 Judicature   Volume 72, Number 2  August-September, 1988

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