« PreviousContinue »
Hence he was called “Dictator John.” The British overran South Carolina, drove Rutledge from the State and defeated Gates. But Rutledge did not despair; he applied all his energies to the task of reorganizing the army; he commissioned Sumter as a Brigadier-General, he conferred elevated rank on Pickens and Marion, procured from Congress a commission for Morgan, so that when Greene arrived he found Morgan at the head of his riflemen in Gates's army. Greene, in a letter written after the battle of Cowpens, describes the wretched condition of affairs, and then says: “We are obliged to subsist ourselves by our industry, aided by the influence of Governor Rutledge, who is one of the first characters I ever met.” In January, 1782, he called the Legislature together and surrendered his powers, because he thought them too great to be vested in any man in a free country, except to meet a pressing emergency temporarily.
No complaint was ever preferred against him for his administration while Dictator. He was an active and prominent member of the Convention which framed the Constitution of the United States; he overcame the opposition which the Constitution met with in South Carolina, when it was submitted for ratification to the State Convention. He filled the office of Chancellor of the Equity Courts of his State and in 1791 was appointed Chief Justice of its law court. He was appointed by Washington and confirmed by the Senate as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States immediately on its organization in September, 1789, his commission being
rst date. Having been appointed Chief Justice of South Carolina in February, 1791, he resigned the office of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. In 1792 he lost his wife, an event that touched the deepest feelings of his heart, for he was both gentle and tender by nature. He died July 18, 1800, leaving eight children, six sons and two daughters.
He was tall, well-framed and robust; his forehead broad, his eyes dark and piercing; his mouth indicated firmness and decision; his hair, combed back according to the fashion of the day, was powdered and tied behind. His aspect was resolute, and wore an expression of thought and determination. His feelings were warm and ardent, and he
had an impulsive energy which, however, was controlled by a vigorous common sense. Earnestness was the secret of his power; the supreme element of his character was
Ellsworth was appointed March 4, 1796, and he too, like Jay, while holding the office of Chief Justice, was sent on a foreign mission. He was selected by President Adams as one of the envoys to France on February 2, 1799, and left for Paris in the fall of that year. He attained eminence at the bar very early in life, but he cut no figure in the Revolution until he took his seat in Congress in the fall of 1778; from that period till 1782 he was an active member of the Committee of Appeals and aided Robert Morris in his financial schemes. After the Revolutionary war he was a conspicuous member of the Convention of 1787. He was jealous of the dominance of the larger States, and to his unyielding pertinacity the country is indebted for the final compromise of the Constitution, which gave to each State equality of representation in the Senate. He always urged the necessity of preserving the existence and agency of the State governments; the only chance, said he, of maintaining a general Government lies in creating it on those of the individual States. To the sarcasm of Wilson, “ that we are forming a government for men and not for imaginary beings called States,” and to the invective of King against the phantom of State sovereignty," he replied that his happiness depended on the States as much as a new born infant on its mother for nourishment.” In the Convention of his State called to ratify the Constitution he made an admirable speech, urging union as the only mode of saving Connecticut from the rapacity of New York on one side and of Massachusetts on the other. He said: “If we do not unite shall we not be like Issachar of old, a strong ass crouching down between two burdens ? "
Elected to the Senate under the new Constitution, he framed the Judiciary Act of 1789, which alone is a monument to his skill and intellectual vigor. While he presided in the Court but little business came before it, and no case of great importance was decided.
Ellsworth was tall, erect, with firm and penetrating blue eyes, and of dignified demeanor. His manners were
plain, simple, and unaffected. Patient, attentive, and laborious he was endowed with great power of reflection, investigation, and argument. President Adams speaks of him “as a great man of business." He himself said that he had no imagination nor had he any fertility of mind or opulence of knowledge. It might be said of him what Hazlitt said of Pope: "He would be more delighted with a patent lamp than with the
Pale reflex of Cynthia's brow,'
that fills the sky with its soft silent lustre, that trembles through the cottage window, and cheers the watchful mariner on the lonely wave."
In Ellsworth's speeches there is no fancy, no grace, no splendor of diction, no genius; for genius is a mind in which imagination, intelligence, and feeling exist in an elevated proportion and in exact equation. It has a penetrating view of ideas, and incarnates them powerfully in brass, in marble, or in language. Ellsworth was a man who studied one subject at a time and kept at it till he mastered it; he seldom worked with other men's tools; he had great penetration, remarkable power of analysis, and, like most men of intellect without much culture, he seized on the strong point, and left it for no other-like Hercules with his club, armed with a single weapon, but that one powerful and massive. He was earnest in tone, energetic in manner, lucid and simple in language, illustrating by a diagram, not a picture. In early life he was intended for the ministry, and studied theology a year after he graduated from Princeton College.
He was called to the bar in 1771, and married shortly afterward Miss Wolcott. Having nothing to live on, his father gave him a lease of a small, wild, uncultivated farm near Hartford. After three years' struggle with poverty, success at the bar was attained. Although a grave and religious man of the New England type, he had conversational talents, and was agreeable in the social circle. He was a domestic man and especially fond of little children. Both of these traits are portrayed in the following letter written to his wife while he was Senator in the first Congress when sitting in New York:
“The family in which I live have no white children. But I often amuse myself with a colored one about the size of our little daughter, who peeps into my door now and then with a long story, which I cannot more than half understand. Our two sons I sometimes fancy that I pick out among the little boys playing at marbles in the street. Our eldest daughter is, I trust, alternately employed between her book and her wheel. You must teach her what is useful; the world will teach her enough of what is not. The nameless little one I am hardly enough acquainted with to have much idea of; yet I think she occupies a corner of my heart, especially when I consider her at your breast."
The story told of him by one of his biographers I can scarcely credit. After a protracted absence in Europe, he returned home. The whole family, who were expecting his arrival, descried him at a distance in his carriage, and hastened forth to welcome him. The biographer says he alighted from his carriage; but he spoke not to his wife, nor did he embrace his children. He glanced not even at his twin boys; but leaning over the gate and covering his face, he silently breathed a prayer in gratitude to God. The picture may be true; but it is not natural. Any man, except, perhaps, Simeon Stylites, would have kissed his wife and children first.
Chase, when made Chief Justice in 1864, though younger than Taney, older than Marshall, in face, figure and majestic presence, was more distinguished than either. He was less a lawyer than Taney, but he brought to the bench a stock of learning equal to that which Marshall had begun with. His health failed in 1870; his eyes lost their lustre, and his face became wan and emaciated, so that in fact his judicial life practically terminated several years before his death in 1873. When appointed he had been for many years engaged in political affairs, and it was difficult for him to throw off the hopes and aspirations and love of power which political life engenders. He was, in fact, an able politician, and felt that he could best serve his country as a statesman. He gives this estimate of himself in a letter to the Rev. Joshua Leavitt, dated October 7, 1863. “I really feel," he says, "as if with God's blessing I could administer the government of this country so as to secure and imperdibilize (there's a new word for you) our institutions, and create a party
fundamentally and thoroughly democratic, which would guarantee a succession of successful administrations."
This aspiration was not entirely suppressed while he was robed in the ermine of justice. Mr. Justice Clifford says: “ 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 had respect to the dignity of the office or to 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 him, as a judge, in the calm atmosphere of the bench, and with the deliberate consideration of one who feels that he is determining issues for the remote and unknown future of a great people. Throughout his judicial career he always maintained that dignity of courage and that calm, noble, and unostentatious presence that uniformly characterized his manners and deportment; in the social circle and in his intercourse with his brethren, his suggestions were always couched in friendly terms, and were never marred by severity or harshness."
The faculty of reason was very broad and strong in him, yet without being vast or surprising; his education had all been of a kind to discipline and invigorate his natural powers; his oratory was vigorous, with those qualities of clearness, force, and earnestness which produce conviction. His force of will was prodigious; his courage to brave and his fortitude to endure were absolute. His adhesion to the Christian faith was constant and sincere, and he accepted it as the master and ruler of his life. He had devout confidence in the moral government of the world by a personal God, as a present and real power controlling and directing all human affairs. He was all his life a great student of the Scriptures, and no modern speculations ever shook his belief.
Chief Justice Waite was a native of the State of Connecticut, and a graduate of Yale College. His father held a high judicial position in Connecticut. Having studied law he emigrated to Ohio, prompted, no doubt, by the sturdy independence of his own nature. He achieved marked success in his profession, which caused him to be