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"Justice Butler was a court lawyer; trained in the rough and tumble of general practice. He had the trial lawyer's conviction that the trial and argument of cases were necessary to turn out a complete lawyer. He was a voracious worker, absorbing and disentangling the tough material of facts with skill and patience, and arranging them with clear precision. He was conscious of his office as a judge, scrupulous to maintain its high dignity, and somewhat withdrawn into the reserve which he felt should characterize the position.
"But behind any aloofness, members of the highest court hold and express convictions. Difference in point of view on great national issues finds its way not only into Congress, but ultimately in the Court, sometimes with urbanity, as with Justice Sutherland, often with a passionate conviction, as with Pierce Butler, who stood by his guns and would not be silenced. By such stuff, whatever the immediate result in a particular case, is the democratic process enriched.
"He was brought up in a school of thought which had not learned to doubt the implications of its perhaps over-simplified assumptions-laissez-faire, individualism, free competition. These things meant the American way. By this way he had come to the top and the failure of others to arrive seemed to indicate personal fault rather than economic disadvantage. The frontiers were open. Success was at the end of a straight road.
"He did not change as the frontiers changed; and perhaps this quality of steadfast resistance to a different world was what Justice Holmes had in mind when he spoke of him as a 'monolith.' He had courage and unalterable convictions. To those to whom his outlook seemed inexpressive of our changed economy, and narrow in dealing with the human problems of constitutional construction, Pierce Butler appeared ultra-conservative. For those who thought like him he expressed the American way. We all know that he filled his high office with zeal and a courteous dignity.
"His partner, for many years, in St. Paul, was the Honorable William D. Mitchell, a former Solicitor General and Attorney General of the United States. I move that Mr. Mitchell be elected Chairman, and Mr. Charles Elmore Cropley, Clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States, Secretary of this meeting."
This motion having been carried, Mr. Mitchell took the chair and called upon a Committee on Resolutions" for its report.
Mr. George Wharton Pepper, acting for the Committee, presented the following
At a meeting of the members of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States held on January 27th, 1940, to take appropriate action following the death of Mr. Justice Butler, the Committee appointed by the Solicitor General reported this Minute for submission to the meeting:
"Pierce Butler's life story is an epic of America. From his birth on a small Minnesota farm to the day of
Those who composed the Committee were: Mr. William D. Mitchell, of New York, Chairman; Messrs. Henry F. Ashurst, of Arizona; Garret W. McEnerney, of California; Patrick J. Farrell, John Spalding Flannery, and George E. Hamilton and Mrs. Mabel Walker Willebrandt, of Washington, D. C.; Messrs. Alexander W. Smith, Jr., of Georgia; James M. Sheean, of Illinois; Robert Stone, of Kansas; William Marshall Bullitt, of Kentucky; J. Blanc Monroe, of Louisiana; William L. Rawls, of Maryland; Barton Corneau, Robert G. Dodge, and Charles B. Rugg, of Massachusetts; Charles W. Bunn, Michael J. Doherty, and Fred B. Snyder, of Minnesota; Daniel N. Kirby, of Missouri; John W. Davis, Charles Evans Hughes, Jr., Daniel J. Kenefick, and Nathan L. Miller, of New York; Arthur T. Vanderbilt, of New Jersey; J. Crawford Biggs, of North Carolina; Charles J. Murphy, of North Dakota; Robert M. Rainey, of Oklahoma; John G. Buchanan and George Wharton Pepper, of Pennsylvania; P. F. Henderson, of South Carolina; William L. Frierson and J. E. McCadden, of Tennessee; Hatton W. Sumners, of Texas; George T. Donworth, of Washington; and Louis Quarles, of Wisconsin.
his death while a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States his record was one of obstacles surmounted, of professional distinction achieved, and of merit appropriately rewarded.
"His father and mother, Irish immigrants from County Wicklow, had settled in Dakota County, Minnesota, where they lived the life of pioneer farmers. They reared a family of eight children, of whom the future jurist was one. He was born on St. Patrick's day (March 17th), 1866. Strong of body and of vigorous mind, he dominated his environment and used its limitations as opportunities for self-development. A country school-teacher at sixteen, he qualified for admission to Carleton College at Northfield, Minnesota, from which he was graduated in 1887. During his student days he did farm chores early and late, and in the daily interval rode a farm horse to school. Having determined to become a lawyer, he moved to Saint Paul and in 1888 was admitted to the bar.
"His abilities were early recognized, and after serving for two years as an assistant he became the County Attorney of Ramsey County. In this way he acquired proficiency in the art of the successful trial lawyer and was noted for his capacity to win the confidence of all the diverse elements of which local juries were composed.
"In 1897 he began the general practice of the law. Here again his character and ability made their mark and important clients were eager to retain him. While throughout his career he represented great railroads and other powerful corporations and became in this sense a corporation lawyer, he never sacrificed his independence of judgment and it was always he who dominated the client. His professional services were often placed at the disposal of the Government and he figured in many important cases arising under the Anti-Trust Laws and the Railroad and Utility Statutes. He was of the sort that men instinctively trust. He became one of the notable figures in the life of the great Northwest.
When it was known that he was to appear, the court room was wont to be crowded with people eager to hear him and to see him in action.
"He had great energy, prodigious memory and large capacity for logical thinking. His character was a unit without internal stress. There was inherent a belief that there exists a philosophical rightness, and he sought to apply it to each matter in hand. A skillful legal tactician, his sole strategy was to drive forward unswervingly in the direction which he regarded as the right one. Expediency never justified retreat or indirection.
"As senior member of the firm of Butler, Mitchell and Doherty, he was constantly at work and always with notable fidelity to court and client. For the five years from 1913 to 1918, he served as a member of the Committee of Counsel for the Federal Valuation of Railroads. In 1919 he was of counsel for shareholders in proceedings in Canada under the Canadian Northern Acquisition Act. Later he was appointed one of the counsel for the Dominion of Canada in the Arbitration at Montreal held under the Grand Trunk System Acquisition Act. In this proceeding William H. Taft sat as one of the arbitrators. Although Mr. Taft dissented from the decision supporting the views urged by 'Mr. Butler, their association led to a warm friendship. The acquaintance with his powers and fairness gained in the course of that association doubtless was a factor in Chief Justice Taft's later recommendation of Mr. Butler for appointment to the Supreme Court, when a vacancy was caused by the retirement of Mr. Justice Day. It was on November 23, 1922, while he was serving as counsel in the Toronto Railway Arbitration, that he, a Democrat, was nominated by President Harding to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. The nomination not having been acted upon at that session of Congress, the President re-nominated him on December 5, 1922. He was confirmed by the Senate on December 21, 1922, and on the 2nd of January, 1923,
the judicial oath was administered and he took his seat upon the Bench.
"During his seventeen years of service on the Court he saw his country pass through an era of unstable prosperity and into a period of resulting depression. Under such circumstances it was not surprising that many should lose faith in the soundness of the American tradition; but with such a life story behind him, it was inevitable that the faith of Mr. Justice Butler should never waver. He had, indeed, that capacity for deep emotion which was his by inheritance, but his experience had taught him to think realistically.
"Fearful of the rule of men in place of the rule of law, he appealed to the accumulated body of the law as a continuous social expression and not as what might appear at a particular time to be enlightened social self-interest. He did not believe that the law is merely what the judges may from time to time say it is. He believed that there is a law that is greater than the judges and he was zealous to avoid its misapplication merely because the end in view appeared at the moment to be desirable.
"He had faith in the power of objective reasoning and in the intellectual integrity of man, with correlative responsibility of the individual to develop himself and pursue the course that to him seemed right. This faith in the individual man was expressed by resistance to any attempted infringement of the bill of rights, and, in the absence of constitutional amendment, to centralization of government and to extension of its powers over the individual. He felt that greater material welfare under a paternal government-if possible of achievement-rather than ennobling the citizen would debase him by destroying his integrity and denying his will to exercise his moral and intellectual forces. He refused to concede that the individual is a helpless creature of an environment built by others, and opposed the kind