About | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline

1 George F. Hoar, Some Famous Judges 357 (1903)

handle is hein.lbr/smfmjdg0001 and id is 1 raw text is: 




SOME FAMOUS JUDGES

         By George F. Hoar


NQUESTIONABLY the most im-
      portant character in the legal history
      of Massachusetts is Chief Justice
 Lemuel Shaw. He was a great lawyer be-
 fore he came to the bench. He had written
 one or two very able articles for the Vor/l/
 American Review, one of them a vigorous
 statement of the opinion of Massachusetts
 upon slavery. He was the author of a
 petition signed by many of the leading
 men of Massachusetts in opposition to
 the high tariff of 1828. No more power-
 ful statement of the argument against
 high protection can be found. I have
 been surprised that the modern free-trad-
 ers have not long ago discovered it, and
 brought it to light. He was one of the
 managers of the impeachment of Judge
 Prescott, securing a conviction against a
 powerful array of counsel for the defend-
 ant, which included Daniel Webster. He
 was consulted in difficult and important
 matters by eminent counsel in other coun-
 ties than Suffolk.
   But all these titles to distinction have
been forgotten in his great service as
Chief Justice of Massachusetts for thirty
years. No other judicial fame in this
country can rival his, with the single ex-
ception of Marshall. He was induced to
undertake the office of Chief Justice very
reluctantly, by the strong personal ur-
gency of Mr. Webster.     Mr. Webster
used to give a humorous account of the
difficulty he had in overcoming the mor-
bid scruples of the great simple-hearted
intellectual giant. He found Mr. Shaw
in his office in a cloud of tobacco-smoke.
Mr. Webster did not himself smoke, and
was at some disadvantage during the in-
terview for that reason.
  Mr. Shaw was rather short in stature
and, in the latter part of his life, some-
what corpulent.    He had a massive
head, a low forehead, and strong and
rather coarse features.  He reminded
you of the statues of Gog and Magog
in the Guildhall in London. His hair
came down over his forehead, and when
he had been away from home for a week
    - OL. XXXIV.-39


or two, so that his head got no comb-
ing but his own, it was in a sadly tan-
gled mass. His eye was dull, except
when it kindled in discussion, or when he
was stirred to some utterance of grave
displeasure.
   There is an anecdote of Mr. Choate
which occasionally goes the rounds of the
papers, and which is often repeated quite
inaccurately. The true version is this. I
heard it within a few hours after it hap-
pened, and have heard it at first hand
more than once since.
   Mr. Choate was sitting next to Judge
 Hoar in the bar when the Chief Justice
 was presiding, and the Suffolk docket was
 being called. The Chief Justice said
 something which led Mr. Choate to make
 a half-humorous and half-displeased re-
 mark about Shaw's roughness of look and
 manner, to which Judge Hoar replied:
 After all, I feel a reverence for the old
 Chief Justice.
   A reverence for him, my dear fellow?
said Choate. So do I. I bow down
to him as the wild Indian does before his
wooden idol.   I know he's ugly; but
I bow to a superior intelligence.
  Judge Shaw's mind moved very slowly.
When a case was argued, it took him a
good while to get the statement of facts
into his mind. It was hard for him to
deal readily with unimportant matters, or
with things which, to other people, were
matters of course. If the simplest mo-
tion were made, he had to unlimber the
heavy artillery of his mind, go down to
the roots of the question, consider the
matter in all possible relations, and deal
with it as if he were besieging a fortress.
When he was intent upon a subject, he
was exceedingly impatient of anything
that interrupted the current of his thought.
So he was a hard person for young advo-
cates, or for any other unless he were
strong, self-possessed, and had the respect
of the judge. My old friend and partner,
Judge Washburn, once told me that he
dreaded the law term of the court as it
approached, and sometimes felt that he
                                 357

What Is HeinOnline?

HeinOnline is a subscription-based resource containing nearly 3,000 academic and legal journals from inception; complete coverage of government documents such as U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Reports, and much more. Documents are image-based, fully searchable PDFs with the authority of print combined with the accessibility of a user-friendly and powerful database. For more information, request a quote or trial for your organization below.



Contact us for annual subscription options:

Already a HeinOnline Subscriber?

profiles profiles most