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from the fortunate circumstance that the appointment of Chief Justice fell to John Adams, instead of to Jefferson a month later, and so gave it to a Federalist and loose constructionist to start the working of the Constitution, than I can separate the black line through which he sent his electric fire at Fort Wagner from Colonel Shaw. When we celebrate Marshall we celebrate at the same time and indivisibly the inevitable fact that the oneness of the nation and the supremacy of the National Constitution were declared to govern the dealings of man with man by the judgments and decrees of the most august of courts.
I do not mean, of course, that personal estimates are useless or teach us nothing. No doubt to-day there will be heard from able and competent persons such estimates of Marshall. But I will not trench upon their field of work. It would be out of place when I am called on only to express the answer to a motion addressed to the Court and when many of those who are here are to listen this afternoon to the accomplished teacher who has had every occasion to make a personal study of the judge, and again this evening to a gentleman who shares by birth the traditions of the man. My own impressions are only those that I have gathered in the common course of legal education and practice. In them I am conscious, perhaps, of some little revolt from our purely local or national estimates, and of a wish to see things and people judged by more cosmopolitan standards. A man is bound to be parochial in his practice — to give his life, and if necessary his death, for the place where he has his roots. But his thinking should be cosmopolitan and detached. He should be able to criticise what he reveres and loves.
The "Federalist," when I read it many years ago,
seemed to me a truly original and wonderful production for the time. I do not trust even that judgment unrevised when I remember that the Federalist” and its authors struck a distinguished English friend of mine as finite; and I should feel a greater doubt whether, after Hamilton and the Constitution itself, Marshall's work proved more than a strong intellect, a good style, personal ascendency in his court, courage, justice and the convictions of his party. My keenest interest is excited, not by what are called great questions and great cases, but by little decisions which the common run of selectors would pass by because they did not deal with the Constitution or a telephone company, yet which have in them the germ of some wider theory, and therefore of some profound interstitial change in the very tissue of the law. The men whom I should be tempted to commemorate would be the originators of transforming thought. They often are half obscure, because what the world pays for is judgment, not the original mind.
But what I have said does not mean that I shall join in this celebration or in granting the motion before the court in any half-hearted way. Not only do I recur to what I said in the beginning, and remembering that you cannot separate a man from his place, remember also that there fell to Marshall perhaps the greatest place that ever was filled by a judge; but when I consider his might, his justice, and his wisdom, I do fully believe that if American law were to be represented by a single figure, sceptic and worshipper alike would agree without dispute that the figure could be but one alone, and that one John Marshall.
A few words more and I have done. We live by symbols, and what shall be symbolized by any image of the sight depends upon the mind of him who sees it. The setting aside of this day in honor of a great judge may stand to a Virginian for the glory of his glorious State; to a patriot for the fact that time has been on Marshall's side, and that the theory for which Hamilton argued, and he decided, and Webster spoke, and Grant fought, and Lincoln died, is now our cornerstone. To the more abstract but farther-reaching contemplation of the lawyer, it stands for the rise of a new body of jurisprudence, by which guiding principles are raised above the reach of statute and State, and judges are entrusted with a solemn and hitherto unheardof authority and duty. To one who lives in what may seem to him a solitude of thought, this day — as it marks the triumph of a man whom some Presidents of his time bade carry out his judgments as he could - this day marks the fact that all thought is social, is on its way to action; that, to borrow the expression of a French writer, every idea tends to become first a catechism and then a code; and that according to its worth his unhelped meditation may one day mount a throne, and without armies, or even with them, may shoot across the world the electric despotism of an unresisted power. It is all a symbol, if you like, but so is the flag. The flag is but a bit of bunting to one who insists on prose. Yet, thanks to Marshall and to the men of his generation -- and for this above all we celebrate him and them its red is our life-blood, its stars our world, its blue our heaven. It owns our land. At will it throws away our lives.
PROCEEDINGS IN SANDERS THEATRE, HARVARD
Introductory Remarks by Henry Pickering Walcott, Acting
President of Harvard University.
One hundred years ago President John Adams of Massachusetts nominated Jobn Marshall of Virginia, then Secretary of State, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. For more than a generation he presided there, and largely in consequence of his influence it became the most august judicial tribunal on the face of the earth, of which De Tocqueville wrote, “In the hands of the Supreme Court repose unceasingly the peace, the prosperity, the existence even, of the Union.” In the year 1806 Harvard College bestowed upon Marshall its highest honorary degree, and now, in another century, we meet here in this Memorial Hall to again do honor to the undiminished memory of John Marshall.
I have the honor of presenting to you the orator of this afternoon, James Bradley Thayer, Weld Professor of Law.
Address of Professor Thayer.!
It is one hundred years ago to-day since the Supreme Court of the United States first sat at Washington, the new capital,— that “wilderness city, set in a mud-hole,” of whose beginnings we have lately been reading. The Court sat with a new Chief Justice, John Marshall of Virginia. It is in commemoration of him and of this event, so auspicious, the beginning of inestimable benefits to his country, that we have gathered now, moved by an impulse that brings together others of our countrymen all over the United States. Outside of Virginia, few have a better right to celebrate this event than we who are here assembled; for the President who selected and commissioned Marshall was John Adams of Massachusetts, alumnus of Harvard and member of the Suffolk bar.
1 This address of Professor Thayer is printed by kind permission of Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin and Company, publishers of a volume entitled “ John Marshall,” by the same author, in which most of this address is contained.
At that time Marshall was something over forty-five years old. He was born on September 24, 1755. His home had always been in Virginia. The first twenty years of his life were passed wholly in that part of Prince William county which became, two or three years after his birth, the new, wide-spreading frontier county of Fauquier,— so named, after a Virginia fashion, from the new royal Governor of 1758. He was born in the eastern part of it, and after some ten years went with his father to the western part, at Oakhill and the neighborhood, just under the Blue Ridge. They show you still at Midland, on the Southern Railroad, a little south of Manassas, a small, rude heap of bricks and rubbish, as being all that is left of the house where Marshall was born; and children on the farm reach out to you a handful of the bullets with which that sacred spot and the whole region were thickly sown before a generation had passed, after Marshall's death. His education was got partly from his father, a man of character and marked courage and capacity, who served as colonel in the War of Independence, and partly from such teachers as the neighborhood furnished. For about a year, also, he was at a school in Westmoreland county, where his father and George Washington had attended; and there James