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was abolished, and amendments were made to the Constitution to make it conform to that great change in the social relations of the States affected by the cvont. New laws were passed extending the jurisdiction of the court and vastly augmenting its labors and responsibilities.
Gratitude is due to Providence tbat the lives and health of the present members of the court have been preserved throughout that period and for the success which has attended their efforts, aided by the wise counsels of the late Chief Justice, in upholding all the safeguards of liberty ordained in the Constitution. Civil war raged for a time with all its demoralizing influences, but the court continued calm and unswerved, and the Constitution remains unimpaired to shed its benign influences upon the whole people of the country and to secure the blessings of liberty to the present generation and to their posterity.
Death has now again entered those walls, and, for a second time within the period mentioned, has removed the Chief Justice of the court. Such a loss is deeply felt by the whole country, and by none more heavily than by those connected with this tribunal. Whenever a good man dies, in any walk of life, there group around bim in his last reposo a mourning throng of sad regrets from the hearts of all who may have either experienced or witnessed his beneficence. But when, from some dignified and elevated station of public trust, obcdient to tho inevitable summons, a great and good man drops suddenly and noiselessly away, in the comprehensive sphere of whoso high duties nothing remains but the solemn and suggestive silence of vacancy, a people's grief surrounds the grave to do justice to bis motives and to award their saddened and affectionate approbation of his official services and public acts.
Difference of opinion, envy, or jealousy may have created barriers to a just appreciation of such a man during the active and angry struggles of life, but when the curtain of death interposes its impenetrable mystery between him and the living, that involuntary homago which human nature instinctively pays to its truc noblemen, is almost always sufficient to hush such influences and override every such barrier.
Passions of the kind cloud the understanding and too often prevent any impartial judgment upon the life and character of a contemporary until the brief contentions of the world are left behind bim and he has passed that solemn portal towards which all human lifo is only the pathway. Influences of the kind sometimes affect cven the public judgment and compel men at last to exclaim, “Our blessings brighten as they take their fight.” Whether good or bad, the public man to whom, under a government of the structure of ours, bas been committed the sacred duty of bigh public offico, can ask no more, nor can his friends, than that those who desire to review his acts shall bo governed by the inflexible standard of justice, looking to his motives and purposes as embodied in his acts, when properly construed in the light of the circumstances of his life and the nature, difficulty, and peril of his public duty.
Without a thougbt of anything'so invidious as a comparison of merit, it may be safely said that of all the characters who were chief and prominent amid the swift and terrible commotions from which our country has little more than just emerged, none boro a more perplexing and onerous sbare of the public duty than the man to whoso memory, more especially as its Chief Justice, the supremo judicial tribunal of the nation now pays its sad tribute of mourning and respect.
Called to preside over tho administration of the national finance at a most alarming and painful period, when the past systems were manifestly inadequate to the cnormous and unprecedented strain upon their resources, the energies of a comprehensive and creative mind were demanded to wield and shape the available wcalth of the nation into such a channel that it should, to the largest extent possible, promote the development of the military and naval power of the country and give it the most efficient and direct support. Manifold difficul. ties attended the undertaking as the vital forces of the nation were suddenly wrenched from their accustomed pursuits of peace and were assembled at the call of the government, in the tumultuous arena of civil war, the immediate effect of which was to diminish very largely the ordinary national income and to increase fearfully the national expenditure. Immediate decision was indispensable, as the emergency would admit of no delay, and the requirement was not only that the reserved wealth of the nation should be evoked to meet the public emergency, but that it should be fused and melted into a current form.
With such demands upon the position our lamented brother was called to the office of Secretary of the National Treasury, not to administer a settled and tried system, but in the rapid whirl and rush of swiftly succeeding events to derise one that was new and commensurate with the public exigency. Experiment may bo 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, when Secretary Chase was summoned to the performance of the great duty under consideration, as a failure might have been irreparable. Certain success tras required, and the result shows that the duty was assigned to a strong, sagacious, practical intellect, wbich readily apprehended the nation's capacity, and was able to grasp the national wealth with a firm band and appropriate it to meet the stern and inexorable demands of the public emergency. Complete success folloired, 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.
Wido differences of opinion cxist 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 carnest 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 hardly bo too bighly estimated, but we know that there are some few in every generation to wbom aro vouchsafed an intellectual elevation tbat enables the possessor almost instinctively to comprehend many of tho perplexitics of life, for the unravelling of which by others must be paid the hard tuition of patient toil and study and long in. vestigation. Sagacity and forecast, when such gifts are possessed, supply to a largo extent the usual demand for an acquaintance with tho 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 shown throughout his public career as Gorernor of a great State, Senator in Congress, Secretary of the Treasury, and Chief Justice of this high tribunal. Mere versatility of mind could not have so bonorably met the demands of these high positions. Success in so various and such important labors, without much opportunity for previous preparation, furnishies indubitable evidence of a strong and vigorous mind and a high order of intelligence, which enabled the possessor to analyze and comprehend many things with case and facility, which a mind of lesser grasp would only bavo pushed further off with every attempt to encompass and expound.
Opportunity for preparation in legal knowledge he did have in his carly manbood. Prior to the time he entered public lifo he was engaged in the practice of the law, and became eminent in his 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 lio was called to preside over the national treasury, until it may be said, if the period of eight years during wbich he was the Chief Justice of tbis court be included, that he bas exemplificd his greatness in almost every variety of trial which arises in civil life.
Difficult and untried questions were constantly arising during the carly stages of the lato rebellion, and none will deny tho eminent usefulness of the Chief Justico in solving the difficul. ties, or call in question his sagacity or forecast in respect to the effect and termination of thit 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 frightful cloud of civil war, and to seo nearer and nearer every hour tho 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 caso the unfailing index of the greatness of a man, or that they always furnish the correct means of estimating the value of bis 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 nor 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, ho always manifested a love of justice, and the same trait of disposition and character is erinced in all bis judgments, whether rendered in this court or the Circuit Court. We all know with what diligence and patience le 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 other3, but much more difficult to criticize and review their own acts, and yet that is the very summit to which the npright judge should always bo 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 harmonize with the popular voice or is gilded with the rays of successful experiment.
Pride of opinion at such a time is too apt to predominato 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 tho guardian of the national treasury at a moment when tbe fute of the nation so much depended upon its correct administration.
Great success attended the financial scheme when adopted, and time had secured for it an extensive approval, as
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 varioty of other responsible positions, did not hesitate to apply his best powers to the task of reviewing the measure in question, and finally recorded bis opinion that it was not justified by the Constitution. Judges and jurists may dissent from his final conclusion and
as a majority of the justices of this court do, that he was right as Secretary of the Treasury, but every generous mind, as
seems to me, should honor the candor and self-control which inspired and induced such action.