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cases, the charge of the court presents to the jury a question of confidence. If they choose to trust it, they may—if they choose to take upon themselves the responsibility of deciding questions of law, they may do it, without a breach of their relations to the court, and the court must record and leave their verdict as they choose to return it But, in such cases, the responsibility is all their own, and if the decision be wrong the error is solely theirs.
The exercise, by the jury, of this power of deciding law questions in criminal, differs from the exercise of like power in civil cases, perhaps in this, that in criminal cases it is an exertion of power which the law does not deny to them, and is not therefore an abuse of authority, unless made contrary to their honest convictions, and in violation of conscience. But, in civil cases, when the court stand as indifferent as the jury to the parties, and where it has the power of granting new trials, to disregard its instruction, is at once to lose sight of the relations which should subsist between court and jury, and thereby to violate the conscientious obligations which those relations impose upon them.
THE CHARACTER OF CHIEF JUSTICE EDDY.
GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY:
BEFORE saying one word as to our official duties, permit me to offer some tribute of respect (very short and imperfect though it be) to the memory of one with whom I have had the honor to be associated during a considerable part of my public life; first as a member of Congress, afterwards as a member of this Court. I speak of my immediate predecessor on this bench, the Hon. Samuel Eddy, now deceased. It is this last relation only that justifies the mention of his memory here, and on this occasion. He held for a long time, as you well know, gentlemen, the highly responsible office of Secretary of this State, an office to which even his political adversaries, during the heat of the most vehement contests for power, concurred in electing him. For six years he was one of the representatives of the people of this State in Congress. He was afterwards, for seven years, Chief Justice of this Court; an office to which he was elected, and in which he was likewise continued, with the concurrence of all political parties. He was discharging the duties of this station to the entire satisfaction of the public, when attacked by that infirmity, which, after prompting his resignation, eventually bore him to the tomb.
Gentlemen—These facts afford strong historical evidence of the merits of the man—and they are facts which do not mislead, or deceive. Judge Eddy was not a man to surround himself with false appearances, and then glide into universal confidence and esteem in their disguise. He knew not how to appear to be other than exactly what he was, and he is one of those few characters, who stand forth occasionally as witnesses to all time, how much superior, and, in the long run, more successful, is that plain honesty, which looks straight forward to nothing but a conscientious discharge of duty, to that versatile duplicity, which puts on any appearance that may answer best a present purpose. In the little I have to say, I shall follow the example which my predecessor has left me; I shall deal plainly in all things, and knowingly exaggerate nothing. It has been said, and truly said, that Judge Eddy's ruling idea or attribute was the love of the true. I would, however, qualify this general proposition a little. He loved the true well, wherever he could clearly see it; but he loved it best, in that form in which it was the most positive, definite, and certain. His love of the true, in this form, was so intense, that he would sometimes appear to be opposed to it in any other. This love was the fountain of all his perfections, and imperfections—for he was human. His mind was rather strong and active, than comprehensive and far-reaching. Not that it was deficient in the latter qualities, but that he loved a general truth, a general proposition, less than the particulars which it represented; the reason of things less than the things themselves. For particular truths-facts-his search was most diligent; for these his curiosity was insatiable; his avarice unbounded. He picked them up wherever they could be found, and was continually hoarding the precious specimens. A glance at the course of his studies, will show that the tendency of his mind was continually to the more and more definite and palpable. He seems in early manhood to have turned his attention to the study of Theology; not for a profession, but from inclination or a sense of duty. In some of the general propositions of this science, there was something too vague and indefinite to satisfy a mind like his. He sought, therefore, to realize it in that definite and positive form of the true, (in which his mind so much delighted,) by the strict interpretation of the letter of the Sacred Book.
In philosophy, Locke was his favorite. He found much in the mind of that great philosopher which was in harmony with his own. They both loved the positive, the tangible, and certain; both equally contemned, whatever had not assumed that form as little better than a dream of the imagination. Such minds may not be qualified to dive into the yet unfathomed depths of science and philosophy—to explore the vast and hitherto unknown, and bring to light new truths from the spheres which favored genius alone can visit, but they are precisely such minds as are absolutely necessary to bring those new truths and discoveries to perfection—to educe from them, and apply to use, all that they contain. Without precisely such minds, no great movement, no great step in social progress, could ever be perfected. The progress of Judge Eddy's study was to the last, from the less to the more certain. Thus in the latter part of his career, we find him engaged in the study of mineralogy, conchology, and their kindred sciences, as an amusement, and in the administration of the law as an official duty. The same love of the true in its positive and definite form, is as manifest in the Judge, as in the scholar or philosopher. On the bench his love of the true took form in his love of the just, and he here sought to ascertain what was the just—what was the legally true—in the letter rather than in the spirit of the law. That is to say, he sought for the spirit where it ought to be found (but is not always) in the words of the statute, and in the dicta of Judges, and resorted to the general intention—the scope and drift of the whole—to solve any particular difficulty, with great reluctance. These are safe rules, gentlemen. They may result in some decisions of apparent hardship, but they will not be without their general benefit, they will stimulate caution in the use of legal language, and promote precision in legal forms and contracts. It is easy to see how they may diffuse their own spirit through society, and bring every thing up to their own level. The ruling idea of the mind of Judge -Eddy, the love of the certain and definite, caused him to delight in exactness-precision. That which he felt so distinctly himself he looked for every where, and he sought to create it where it was wanting. He expected to find it in the language of the law, in the words of legislative enactments, and in the phraseology of judicial decisions. He looked for it in legal instruments, and required it in all legal proceedings, and in the complete and perfect discharge of every duty, whether to be performed by the highest public functionary, or by the waiter on the court. It is well, aye, it is absolutely necessary, that we should have such minds among
There is a continual tendency in the conduct of human affairs, and especially in the discharge of legal duties, to looseness-negligence, which sooner or later runs into confusion, and produces a thousand serious evils, without having been of the slightest benefit to any body. The leading attribute of his mind could be satisfied only with this exact and perfeot discharge of duty, and his idea of what duty was, bore the stamp of his own character. Hence, he at times appeared harsh and hard to those who had formed a different standard and who felt that a less punctilious performance was well enough. But to those who observed whence this real or apparent harshness originated, it presented only a new proof of the consistency of his mind; they saw in it nothing but his love of the exact and certain, carried into all his judgments—even unto those rendered on the minor duties of life. If fault this was, it was a fault springing from his very virtues, and without which we could not have known them. But this hardness or rigidity of character belonged altogether to the region of the intellect -to the head and not the heart of the man. It presented itself in the. exterior-in the flinty surface, created and worn to a polish by attrition; but all beneath it was as soft and tender as the heart of childhood. I can remember very well, and perhaps there are those present who may likewise remember, the occasion on which the sight of a distressed woman—the wife of a miserable man then on trial for his life --melted the stern Judge into tears, and disqualified him for the full discharge of his official duty. Indeed when the infirmity which carried him off began to impair the force of his intellect—when the spirit was retiring from the head, and concentrating itself in the heart, as if for its final flight—the child-like softness of his feelings was sufficiently evident upon the mere mention of some of those transactions which had formerly interested them.
Nobody could ever doubt the integrity of Judge Eddy; his open and fearless honesty spoke in every word and act; it was this that inspired the public with entire confidence in the man; it was this for which his fellow-citizens would have excused a thousand errors, if such he had committed. Gentlemen, the public mind is always indulgent, whatever may be the act, when satisfied that it is done under a conscientious sense of duty. His judicial decisions were generally the result of a thorough investigation of every fact and every legal principle having a bearing upon the case, and when once he arrived at a conscientious conviction of what the decision should be, neither men nor angels could have prevented his deciding according to that conviction ; his warmest friend would have fared no better than his worst enemy,
he had. In the discharge of a judicial duty, no thought of popularity ever entered his mind. He held in small estimation that popularity which is to be run after. The result showed that public favor, public confidence, need not be sought for by him who honestly does his duty, but that it follows him like his shadow. I would not be understood, gentlemen, to say that Judge Eddy was a popular man, in the common acceptation of the phrase. In a judicial station there is too much to do, and there is too much to be done in a way that looks not to popular feeling, to the excitement of the day, to think of such sort of popularity; on the bench, party must not only not be named, but not thought of; yet he had popularity, but it was something more than that which grows out of the fever of a day, a week, or a year.
It was that sort of popularity which commanded public confidence, public respect, which lasted through life, which endured without changes, and gained strength in the midst of all that was mutable and fluctuating around him. Parties rose-parties fell—formed anew