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He was a
books and cases; but that, which is the result of long continued, laborious services, and comprehensive studies. He read to learn, and not to quote ; to digest and master, and not merely to display. He was not easily satisfied. If he was not as profound as some, he was more exact than most men. But the value of his learning was, that it was the keystone of all his judgments. He indulged not the rash desire to fashion the law to his own views; but to follow out its precepts with a sincere good faith and simplicity. Hence he possessed the happy faculty of yielding just the proper weight to authority; neither, on the one hand, surrendering himself blindfold to the dictates of other judges, nor, on the other hand, overruling settled doctrines upon his own private notion of policy or justice.
In short, as a magistrate, he was exemplary and able, one whom all may reverence, and but few may hope to equal.
But, after all, it is as a man, that those, who knew him best, will most love to contemplate him. There was a daily beauty in his life, which won every heart. He was benevolent, charitable, affectionate, and liberal, in the best sense of the terms. Christian, full of religious sensibility, and religious humility. Attached to the Episcopal church by education and choice, he was one of its most sincere, but unostentatious friends. He was as free from bigotry, as any man ; and, at the same time, that he claimed the right to think for himself, he admitted without reserve the same right in others. He was, therefore, indulgent even to what he deemed errors in doctrine, and abhorred all persecution for conscience' sake. But what made religion most attractive in him, and gave it occasionally even a sublime expression, was its tranquil, cheerful, unobstrusive, meek, and gentle character. There was a mingling of Christian graces in him, which showed, that the habit of his thoughts was fashioned for another and a better world. Of his particular opinions on doctrinal points, it is not my intention to speak. Such as they were, though good men may differ as to their correctness, all must agree, that they breathed the spirit of an inquisitive Christian.
He was a real lover of the constitution of the United States ; one of those, who assisted in its adoption, and steadily and uniformly supported it through every change of its fortunes. He was a good old-fashioned federalist, of the school of the days of Washington. He never lost his confidence in the political principles, which he first embraced. He was always distinguished for modera
tion, in the days of their prosperity, and for fidelity to them, in the days of their adversity.
I have not said too much, then, in saying, that such a man is a public loss. We are not, indeed, called to mourn over him, as
who is cut off prematurely in the vigor of manhood. He was ripe in honors, and in virtues. But the departure of such a man severs so many ties, interrupts so many delights, withdraws so many confidences, and leaves such an aching void in the hearts of friends, and such a sense of desolation among associates, that, while we bow to the decree of Providence, our griefs cannot but pour themselves out in sincere lamentations.
OF THE CHARACTER OF THE HON. ISAAC PARKER, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE
SUPREME COURT OF MASSACHUSETTS.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE Parker brought with bim to the bench the reputation of an able, active, and learned advocate. He had well earned that reputation, by a course of long and honorable practice in the then District, now State of Maine. His talents, high as they were, were not his only recommendation. He possessed, what talents may adorn, but what talents, however shining they may be, never can supply, the Mens conscia recti, an inflexible integrity, a deep-rooted and enlightened virtue. His private life was without reproach, his honor without stain, his political and civil career straightforward and steady. His manners were frank, modest, and winning, without ostentation and without affectation. Nature had given him a mild temperament, a quiet and moderated cheerfulness, an ingenuous countenance, and social kindness, which pleased without effort, and was itself easily pleased. But his most striking characteristic was sound sense, which, though no science, is, in the affairs of human life, fairly worth all others, and which had in him its usual accompaniments, discretion, patience, and judgment. In his professional harangues he was persuasive and interesting; he had the earnestness of one, who felt the importance of fidelity to his client, and, at the same time, the sincerity of one, who felt the dignity of truth, and of that jurisprudence, whose servant he was, and whose precepts he was not at liberty to disown, and was incapable of betraying. In the sense sometiines affixed to the term, he did not possess eloquence; that is, he did not possess that vivid imagination, which delights in poetical imagery, or in rhetorical flourishes, in painting the passions, or in exciting them into action. He was not addicted to a rich and gorgeous diction, or to coloring liis thoughts with the lights and shades, or the brilliant contrasts, of a variegated style. But in a
just sense, if we look to the means or the end, to his power of commanding attention, or his power of persuading and convincing the understanding, he might be deemed truly eloquent. His reasonings were clear, forcible, and exact; his language, chaste, pointed, and select; his fluency of speech, uncommon; his action, animated; so that in their actual union they gave a charm to his arguments, which won upon the ears and captivated the judgment of his audience.
Such was the reputation and character, which he brought to the bench. He took his seat among distinguished men ; and he sustained himself as a worthy and equal associate. He did more, and accomplished what few men do accomplish ; he moved on with a continual increase of reputation, even to the very hour of his death. He lived through times, happily now past, of peculiar delicacy and difficulty; in the midst of great political changes and excitements, when the tribunals of justice were scarcely free from the approaches of the spirit of discord, and the appeals of party were almost ready to silence the precepts of the law. During this period, his firmness, moderation, patience, and candor secured to him the public confidence. When the office of Chief Justice became vacant by the lamented death of Mr. Chief Justice Sewall, all eyes were turned towards him as the successor. His appointment gave universal satisfaction. And yet, if he had died at that period, half of his real merits would have remained unknown. His ambition was now roused to new exertions by the responsibility of the station ; his mind assumed a new vigor ; his industry quickened into superior watchfulness; and he expanded, so to say, to the full reach of his official duties. It was a critical moment in the progress of our jurisprudence. We wanted a cautious, but liberal mind, to aid the new growth of principles, to enlarge the old rules, to infuse a vital equity into the system, as it was expanding before us. We wanted a mind to do, in some good degree, what Lord Mansfield had done in England, to breathe into our common law an energy, suited to the wants, the commercial interests, and the enterprise of the age.
We wanted a mind, which, with sufficient knowledge of the old law, was yet not a slave to its forms; which was bold enough to invigorate it with new principles, not from the desire of innovation, but the love of improvement. We wanted sobriety of judgment; but, at the same time, a free spirit, which should move over the still depths of our law, and animate the whole mass. Such a man was Mr. Chief Justice Parker. And whoever, in this
age, or in any future age, shall critically examine the decisions of the Supreme Court, during the sixteen years, in which he presided over it, will readily acknowledge the truth of these remarks.
There was in his mind an original, intrinsic equity, a clear perception of abstract right and justice, and of the best mode of adapting it to the exigencies of the case. He felt, as Lord Ellenborough before him bad felt, that the rules, not of evidence merely, but of all substantial law, must widen with the wants of society ; that they must have lexibility, as well as strength ; that they must accomplish the ends of justice, and not bury it beneath the pressure of their own weight. There is in this respect much, very much, to admire, and, (if it were possible, in our reverence for the dead,) to envy, in bis judicial career. Few men have ever excelled him in the readiness of grasping a cause, of developing its merits, or of searching out its defects. He may have had less juridical learning than some men; but no man more thoroughly mastered all, that was before him, or expounded with more felicity the reasons even of technical doctrines. He had an almost intuitive perception of the real principle, pervading a whole class of cases, and would thread it through all their mazes with marvellous ability. His written opinions are full of sagacity, and juridical acuteness, at the same time, that they possess a singular simplicity and ease. He rarely fails to convince, even when he questions what seems justified by authority. His judicial style is a fine model. It is equally remarkable for propriety of language, order of arrangement, neat and striking turns of expression, and a lucid current of reasoning, which flows on to the conclusion with a silent but almost irresistible force. In bis inore studied efforts, in some of those great causes, in which the whole powers of the human intellect are tasked and measured, he was always found equal to the occasion. There are not a few of his opinions, on some of these intricate subjects, which would bear a close rivalry with the best in Westminster Hall in our own times. There are some, which any judge might be proud to number among those, destined to secure his own immortality.
But we must stop; the time for mourning over such a loss cannot soon pass away. We have lost a great magistrate, and an excellent citizen. Vain is the voice of sorrow, and vainer still the voice of eulogy. They cannot recall the past. His place cannot be easily supplied; for it is difficult to combine so many valuable qualities in a single character. To sum up his in one sentence, we may say, that, as a judge, he was eminent for sagacity, acuteness, wisdom,