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the police chief to submit to the authority of the Board of Commissioners and deliver up certain property and records pursuant to the statute in question, and the other to compel the City Treasurer to accept their drafts in obedience to the same law.
The Democratic defendants contended that the Act had never been constitutionally passed, and relied upon the journals of the Legislature to prove the generally conceded circumstances of the exclusion of the amendments, which, by the way, were acknowledged to be quite unimportant.
The political and legal interest throughout the State became intense, and the decision of the Supreme Court, where the application was argued exhaustively before the main court, was awaited with eagerness. The Chief Justice owed his appointment to the Democratic party. He was comparatively young, and his future in some measure depended upon its pleasure. But he never wavered. That lofty sense of honor and justice, that total lack of all selfish personal ambition, and that recognition of the sanctity of the law, which characterized his career, now asserted itself and rendered him totally oblivious to all extraneous considerations, not directly pertinent to the legal merits of the controversy. He prepared and delivered the unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court in favor of the validity of the Act, declaring that the courts are not at liberty to inquire into or dispute the veracity of the duly authenticated acts of the Legislature, and that "my general conclusion, then, is that both upon the grounds of public policy, and upon the ancient and well settled rules of law, the copy of a bill attested in the manner above mentioned, and filed in the office of the Secretary of State, is the conclusive proof of the enactment and contents of a statute of this state, and that such attested copy cannot be contradicted by the legislative journals or in any other mode." The opinion is to be found in Pangborn et al. v. Young."
The Police Commission assumed control of the Department and this form of rule was afterwards maintained with satisfactory results. Mr. Jacob Weart, who was associated with Mr. Cortlandt Parker as counsel for the relators, points out that the decision was immediately thereafter followed in Minnesota; and that subsequently a case arose in California where the opinion of Chief Justice Beasley was not only approved and followed by that court, but the Judge who decided the case was so pleased by the New Jersey decision that he sent our Chief Justice a complimentary copy of his opinion.
'32 N. J. Law, 29.
This decision meant much to the Chief Justice, for it developed in him a fuller consciousness of his strength and a greater degree of confidence and independence of thought, and it brought the entire State to a realization of the calibre of the man who presided over its Supreme Court.
His decisions were not often reversed by the Court of Errors and Appeals, but one notable exception occurred in 1886 in the litigation arising out of Governor Abbett's Railroad Taxation Act which Beasley declared unconstitutional. This decision threw the State into confusion, as it was not only deprived of its chief source of revenue for the ensuing fiscal year, but subjected it to the necessity of refunding to the railroads the enormous sums of money that they had already conditionally paid. An appeal was taken and a few months later Chief Justice Beasley's decision was overruled and the Act maintained.
An interesting feature of the work of the Chief Justice in the Court of Errors and Appeals was his occasional conflict with the able Chancellor, Abraham O. Zabriskie. In such instances their struggles to sway the majority of the court in arriving at what each considered the correct conclusion, were models of legal debate. One of the most titanic of these clashes may be found in the case of Stevens v. Paterson & Newark R. R. Co., in which the Chief Justice carried with him the concurrence of the majority of the court, but the strong dissenting opinion of the Chancellor was followed by two of his associates.
The fame of Mercer Beasley is not confined to New Jersey. In every state in the Union his name commands respect and he is one of the few of the state justices familiar to lawyers throughout the Union. The Trenton Times in editorial comment upon his death related that a New Jersey traveller while attending a trial in the court of Auckland, New Zealand, was startled to hear a barrister conducting a case mention the name of Chief Justice Beasley and cite one of his opinions as authority. At the termination of the case the English Court adopted, with complimentary comment, the reasoning of the great New Jersey jurist.
Near the close of his long life, Chief Justice Beasley again had the opportunity to render a decision of vast political significance and to quiet a tumult that had shaken the State for weeks, frustrating the exercise of the governmental functions, and completely disrupting the State Legislature, where the controversy arose. In Sackett's "Modern Battles of Trenton" will be found an in
$34 N. J. Law, 532.
teresting account of the conditions that led up to the situation, unparalleled in New Jersey. A string of race-tracks drew to New Jersey a horde of rascals whose gambling netted the proprietors and their cohorts enormous profits. The returns from a single track averaged $4,000 a day. They became a powerful factor in the politics of the State, having large interests to subserve and unlimited wealth to invest in political ventures. Their suppression was made the campaign pledge of the Republican party, and, despite devious political moves in the nature of gerrymander bills and the like, the ensuing election resulted in an overwhelming Republican victory. The Democratic hold-overs in the Senate devised a plan to prevent the seating of the newly elected members, claiming that the Senate is a continuous body and that the hold-over Senators had the exclusive authority to pass upon the qualifications of new members. Governor Werts, a Democrat, sustained this contention. In a tumultuous and dramatic session the claims of the new members to seats were repudiated and, as a result, two State Senates were organized. Violent battles for possession of the Chamber occurred. The Republicans threatened to have the Republican Sheriff swear in a posse of special deputies to assist them, and in reply the Democrats declared that they would meet this move by having the Democratic Governor summon the State Militia to oppose such reinforcements. To avert bloodshed, both plans were dropped, but the situation became more and more chaotic. Urgent matters were being neglected and all legislation was at a standstill. The State and nation were observing the events with anxiety. Each side was equally obdurate and finally it was determined to seek the aid of the court. An imposing array of counsel appeared to present the claims of the rival Senates, Thomas N. McCarter, Cortlandt Parker, Joseph Coult, Samuel H. Gray, and John W. Griggs representing the Republicans; and Allan M. McDermott, Frederick W. Stevens, Richard V. Lindabury, and Attorney-General Stockton arguing for the Democrats.
The Republicans contended that the credentials of election entitled the holder to his seat, and that the Senate's authority to pass upon the qualifications and election of the members was not acquired until twenty-one counties were represented on the floor of the Chamber.
The arguments advanced on behalf of the Democratic members were, briefly, that the Senate is a continuous body; that the
applying Senators-elect were not full-fledged Senators until their credentials had been accepted by the hold-over Senators who constituted for this purpose the Senate of New Jersey, a quorum of which had the right to effect a temporary organization.
Politicians and lawyers hazarded many guesses as to the forthcoming decision of the court, and numerous large wagers were made upon the outcome. Some feared that the court would decline to accept jurisdiction over a question concerning a coordinate branch of the government. Others predicted that it would merely make suggestions as to a method of compromising the rival claims. The Supreme Court suspended its decision for several days and then reached a conclusion which was concurred in by all except one of the judges, former Governor Abbett. The day arrived upon which the opinion was to be pronounced. It was expected that the aged Chief Justice would render the decision. The old Supreme Court Room contained an anxious and expectant throng of spectators. Prominent citizens in all walks of life attended, although judges, lawyers, and legislators predominated. Finally the nine members of the court filed into the chamber led by the gray-haired Chief Justice, now eighty years old, his black-robed body bent by the weight of time, and his face deeply furrowed with lines of thought and care. Despite his feebleness, he had written with his own hand the decision of about five thousand words which he was about to deliver! His first words were waited with bated breath, and when he prepared to read a solemn hush spread over the room. He broke the silence with his mellow voice and as he proceeded to read, slowly and deliberately, the tense feeling of awe became even more pronounced. The opinion was lengthy, but the interest did not abate, until he concluded in the following words: "In our opinion, when a majority of the Senators organized the Senate and elected Mr. Rogers its President, such action was and is conclusive upon this court, as well as upon all departments of the government." These words embodied the decision, which was again adverse to the Democratic party, but which was accepted without murmur by all persons, and a critical episode in the history of the State had passed without serious consequences.
Mr. Beasley's nature was absolutely devoid of egotism, and inordinate personal ambition never entered his mind to corrupt its judicial functions. His constant and supreme solicitude was
'Werts v. Rogers, 56 N. J. Law, 480, 28 Atl. 726.
for the correct evolution of New Jersey Law. He guarded against the creeping in of an unsound principle as sedulously as an anxious mother would protect a child from the germs of disease. It was customary for the members of the Supreme Court to meet in conference at the Chief Justice's home in Trenton. A member of his family relates that after dinner preceding such meeting and while awaiting the arrival of his colleagues, the Chief Justice would often appear preoccupied and concerned, pacing back and forth with head bowed. Then he would pause, lift his thoughtseamed face, tinged with a shade of sadness by heartrending private griefs, but now totally transformed with enthusiasm, and with his piercing grey eyes aglow, exclaim: “O, if I can only win over Justice this point will be settled correctly forever." He had great courage in adhering to his carefully formulated conception of a legal proposition, and, although he never failed to give careful attention to the counsel and opinions of his associates when aroused in a case, his firmness and earnestness, as well as the persuasion of his logic, rendered his thought dominant in the tribunals in which he sat, to a greater degree than is usual.
In his private life, despite his high position and unusual mental acquisitions he was easily approached and had a most attractive personality. His tastes and habits were extremely simple and his most prominent trait was modesty. As a conversationalist he was original and versatile, and he took much pleasure in the companionship of men of intellect. Justice Bradley of the United States Supreme Court, who has been denominated the most learned jurist that ever adorned that Bench, was his intimate friend and invariably his companion during the summer vacation. The Chief Justice was an omnivorous reader, and his taste was not confined to any certain branch of literature. He not only found solace in the old masterpieces, but he loved Dickens and Thackeray, and delighted, in his leisure hours, to revel in what he called his "summer library", the current books of fiction. When melancholy crept upon him, or hard work distressed him, or if, for any reason, his mind required comfort or diversion he would turn to some Greek tragedy or book of philosophy and translate passage after passage into English until he felt sufficiently weary to rest peacefully, when he would retire. He had no aptitude for mathematics and once said he detested the sight of any book on this subject except Euclid.