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whirl and rush of swiftly succeeding events to devise one that was new and commensurate with the public exigency. Experi. ment may be tried in the hours of peace, and if experience fails to demonstrate the wisdom of the measure or exposes its imperfections, it may be abandoned or another may be substituted in its place without great injury to the government.
Not thus, however, wben Secretary Chase was summoned to the performance of the great duty under consideration, as a failure might bave been irreparable. Certain success was required, and the result shows that the duty was assigned to a strong, sagacious, practical intellect, which readily apprehended the nation's capacity, and was able to grasp the national wealth with a firm hand and appropriate it to meet the stern and in. exorable demands of the public emergency. Complete success followed, and it would seem to be a sufficient commentary upon the usefulness of any man to be able to say of him, that under such momentous and inflexible conditions he could and did devise a system of finance which was commensurate with the unexampled demands upon the national treasury.
Wide differences of opinion exist as to the wisdom of the system as a permanent one, but this is not the occasion for a discussion of the system, nor is such an examination necessary to a correct view of the mental and moral condition of its author, as it is rather from the survey of a long and earnest life of public service and the diversity of the labors to which his powers of mind were so nobly and successfully devoted that the inquirer is enabled to draw the most correct conclusions concerning his worth and capacity.
Superior fitness for a particular station is frequently the result of experience in the performance of the same or similar duties, and the mistakes resulting from the want of such qualifications have proved that they can bardly be too bighly estimated, but we know that there are some few in every generation to whom are vouchsafed an intellectual elevation that enables the possessor almost instinctively to comprebend many of the perplexities of life, for the unravelling of which by others must be paid the hard tuition of patient toil and study and long investigation. Sagacity and forecast, wben such gifts are possessed, supply to a large extent the usual demand for an acquaintance with the duties of the particular station or for an extended preliminary preparation for their performance.
Gifts of tbe kind in a high degree were possessed by the sub
ject of these remarks, as sbown throughout bis public career as Governor of a great State, Senator in Congress, Secretary of the Treasury, and Chief Justice of this bigb tribunal. Mere versatility of mind could not have so honorably met the demands of these higb positions. Success in so various and such important labors, without much opportunity for previous preparation, furnishes indubitable evidence of a strong and vigorous mind and a bigb order of intelligence, wbich enabled the possessor to analyze and comprehend many things with ease and facility, which a mind of lesser grasp would only have pushed further off with every attempt to encompass and expound.
Opportunity for preparation in legal knowledge he did have in his early manhood. Prior to the time he entered public life he was engaged in the practice of the law, and became eminent in bis profession, as sufficiently appears in the volumes of the published decisions of this court; and he was eminent as the Governor of his adopted State, and as a Senator in Congress before he was called to preside over the national treasury, until it may be said, if the period of eight years during which he was the Chief Justice of this court be included, that he has exemplified his greatness in almost every variety of trial which arises in civil life.
Difficult and untried questions were constantly arising during the early stages of the late rebellion, and none will deny the eminent usefulness of the Chief Justice in solving the difficulties, or call in question his sagacity or forecast in respect to the effect and termination of that unhappy conflict, as it is within the recollection of many that he was able to look beyond the mist of civil agitation, and even through the darker and more frigbtful cloud of civil war, and to see nearer and nearer every hour the approaching dawn of a day under whose light all those tbreatening aspects would be dispelled.
Difference of opinion cannot exist as to the variety or importance of his public services, but it is a mistake to suppose that purely intellectual efforts are in every case the unfailing index of the greatness of a man, or that they always furnish the correct means of estimating the value of his public services; as such efforts, though great, may be accompanied by such vices of heart and defects of disposition as greatly to lessen or even destroy their influence in such an estimate. Purity, impartiality, love of justice, and respect for public and private rights are essential elements of greatness in a public man, and in every
such respect the character of our deceased brother challenges our highest admiration. His respect for public and private rights is universally acknowledged, and neither envy vor malice ever called in question the purity of his life or his impartiality in the performance of his public duties.
Throughout his career as Governor, Senator in Congress, and Secretary of the Treasury; he always manifested a love of justice, and the same trait of disposition and character is evinced in all his judgments, whether rendered in this court or the Circuit Court. We all know with what diligence and patience he investigated litigated questions, and how willing he was to review or even to surrender bis own opinion in order to be right at last.
Men find it easy to review others, but much more difficult to criticize and review their own acts, and yet that is the very summit to which the upright judge should always be striving. Judges sometimes surrender with reluctance a favorite opinion, even when condemnation confronts it at every turn, and they find it wellnigh impossible to yield it at all when it bappens to barmonize with the popular voice or is gilded with the rays
of successful experiment.
Pride of opinion at such a time is too apt to predominate over a love of justice, but it was exactly under such circumstances that the late Chief Justice was called upon to review as a judge one of the most striking and conspicuous of bis acts as the guardian of the national treasury at a moment when the fate of the nation so much depended upon its correct administration.
Great success attended the financial scheme when it was adopted, and time had secured for it an, extensive approval, as the war of the rebellion was victoriously ended and the national wealth was rapidly increasing. Circumstances better calculated to foster pride of opinion cannot well be imagined, but the Chief Justice, who had so creditably met the demands of duty in such a great variety of other responsible positions, did not hesitate to apply his best powers to the task of reviewing the measure in question, and finally recorded his opinion that it was not justified by the Constitution.
Judges and jurists may dissent from his final conclusion and bold, as a majority of the justices of this court do, that he was right as Secretary of the Treasury, but every generous mind, as it seems to me, should honor the candor and self-control which inspired and induced such action.
During the rebellion probably no ove mind could have successfully met all the requirements of public duty which the exigency presented, as the country bad a war to wage, a Union to preserve, and a Constitution and government of laws to upbold and maintain, for which purpose a conservative judgment in the judiciary was wellpigh as essential as the courage of the soldier, or the wisdom of the executive, or the patriotism and forecast of Congress. Heavy responsibilities rested upon all, and it was fortunate that the Supreme Court, throughout a large portion of that period, enjoyed the benefit of the wisdom and forecast of the late Chief Justice.
Defects he doubtless bad, but he had a calm, composed mind, in wbose placid depths the bewildering events of the national conflict were wisely and clearly reflected, and in most cases correctly exhibited to the otherwise perplexed comprehension of many other persons. Clearness, repose, and depth characterized his intellect. Few men were better able to analyze the events of that period as they occurred, and to foresee with more unerring accuracy their effect upon the future welfare of the country when the conflict should end; and it is to these rare, great attributes of mind that the inquirer must turn if he wonld understand how it was that he was able to discharge with such success the duties of Chief Justice after years of such diverse employment and without much opportunity of preparation, except what he acquired in those employments and in his early practice. Revered and conspicuous names had previously filled that station, but it may be said, without fear of contradiction, that our departed associate was a fit successor of Marshall and Taney.
Summoned, as he was, to the station of Chief Justice of this court from a life largely spent in the executive, legislative, and administrative departments of the public service, surprise may well be felt at his great success as a judge, especially in view of the events which transpired within the period he held the office, and of the great importance and exceptional character of the judicial duty he had to perform. Numerous cases presented for decision within that period involved questions of prize and the exposition of the law of nations or the application of the laws of war, and many others have respect to the rights, obligations, duties, and privileges of citizens, and it is for that reason as well as others that they will ever be regarded as of great value to the public as well as to the legal profession.
But it would be a great error to suppose that the Chief Justice entered upon his high office with partial qualifications for its important duties. On the contrary he brought to the office a profound and comprehensive mind, familiarized with almost every variety of public duty, and matured, strengthened, and developed by a long and most instructive experience. He was deeply versed in the great principles of jurisprudence, and upon bis accession to the bench bent all the energies of his powerful mind to a mastery of the peculiarities and history of Federal judicial decision. His faculties were eminently adapted to the comprehension of legal science, and so readily did he solve controverted questions of private right that the principles of law and equity seemed almost inherent in his nature.
Appointed, as it were, by common consent, he seated himself easily and naturally in the chair of justice and gracefully answered every demand upon the station, whether it bad respect to the dignity of the office or to the elevation of the individual character of the incumbent, or to his firmness, purity, or vigor of mind. From the first moment he drew the judicial robes around him he viewed all questions submitted to bim as a judge in the calm atmosphere of the bench, and with the deliberate consideration of one who feels tbat he is determining issues for the remote and unknown future of a great people.
Throughout bis judicial career he always maintained that dignity of carriage and that calm, noble, and unostentatious presence that uniformly characterized his manners and deportment in the social circle, and in his intercourse with bis bretbren his suggestions were always couched in friendly terms, and were never marred by severity or barshpess. Even when disease bad sbattered his physical strength and written its effect in deep and haggard lines upon his countenance, it was unable to rob him of bis accustomed air of grandeur, which was merely the outward expression of an elevated and noble nature. Disease, however, overpowered his strengtb and he has closed his life, rich in honor and highly rewarded by the affection and respect of his countrymen. He died with the armor of duty on, wearing the honors of a great and conscientious magistrate
Since death was inevitable, the highest affection could scarcely desire a more fitting departure from the scenes of earth, as he bad rounded an arduous and useful life with a period of eight years of most delicate and important service as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the nation, having accomplished a long,