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JOSEPH P. BRADLEY, LL.D. MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY died at his residence in Washington on the morning of Friday, January 22, 1892. On the coming in of the court, on that day, the Chief Justice said: “Since the adjournment yesterday a very heavy loss has befallen the country and the court, and a great sorrow been visited upon us in the death of Mr. Justice Bradley. The court will not proceed with business, but will adjourn until Tuesday next at the usual hour, when motions noticed for Monday will be entertained.”
On the following Sunday, brief services were held at the house of the deceased in Washington, and on Monday, the 25th, the remains, accompanied by the family, and by the court and its officers, were taken to Newark, New Jersey, where, after public funeral services in the North Reformed Church, on Broad Street, they were buried.
At noon on Saturday, the 6th day of February, 1892, the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States and the officers of the court met in the court room in the Capitol, to take action in this matter. The meeting was called to order by J. Hubley Ashton, Esq., of the District of Columbia. On his motion, George Gray, Esq., of Delaware, was called to the chair, and James H. McKenney, Esq., Clerk of the court, was requested to act as Secretary.
On motion of George Harding, Esq., of Pennsylvania, the chair appointed George Frisbie Hoar, Esq., of Massachusetts, George Harding, Esq., Cortlandt Parker, Esq., of New Jersey, J. Hubley Ashton, Esq., Thomas J. Semmes, Esq., of Louisiana, Joseph H. Choate, Esq., of New York, John T. Morgan, Esq., of Alabama, and John B. Henderson, Esq., of Missouri, a committee to prepare and report resolutions for consideration and adoption by the meet
Proceedings on the death of Mr. Justice Bradley.
ing. Mr. Harding, on behalf of the committee, reported a series of resolutions which, after remarks by Mr. Parker, Mr. Harding, Mr. A. Q. Keasbey, of New Jersey, Mr. Samuel Dixon, of Pennsylvania, and Mr. J. Dixon, of New Jersey, were unanimously adopted; after which, on motion of Mr. Ashton, the meeting adjourned.
On Monday, the 7th of March, 1892, MR. ATTORNEY GENERAL, in compliance with the request of the bar, presented these resolutions to the court with the following remarks:
MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT : On the 6th day of February last, the bar of this court adopted a memorial which I now have the honor to present :
“Resolved, That the members of the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States desire to record their sense of the loss that has come to the profession and to the nation in the death of Joseph P. Bradley, Justice of this court.
“He brought to the bench long experience, great energy, strong and patriotic convictions, a scholarship as wide and varied as it was thorough and exact, and an unyielding courage. He was at the same time one of those rare characters in which vast learning is united with intense activity and business capacity; a master of men as well as books, practical as well as theoretical.
“During his long service here he has more than done every duty, growing constantly in his work and in the regard of his fellows and of the nation, until, in the fullness of age, rounded and softened by years of judicial duty, gentle scholarship and labor for the people, he has passed away lamented by the bar, the bench, and the country that he served; a life complete, with a large place in history among the creators and moulders of our national jurisprudence.
“ Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be presented by the president and secretary of this meeting to the family of Mr. Justice Bradley, with the sincere sympathy of the profession in their bereavement, and that the Attorney General be requested to present to the Supreme Court, in session, the proceedings of this meeting.”
These occasions are recurring with painful frequency. In each of the years 1887, 1888, 1889, 1890, and now again at the threshold of 1892, an honored member of this court has been summoned into Proceedings on the death of Mr. Justice Bradley.
that presence of inconceivable solemnity, where all must appear at last to answer for duty done or duty neglected. Well may the bar and the court say they are “becoming reluctant to grant these, their last highest honors.” Yet neither in length of days, nor in their results, is the end of the life of Justice Bradley untimely. Having passed the limit prescribed by the Psalmist, and “by reason of strength” attained almost fourscore years, all the journey rich and useful in the fruits of his talents, his industry, and his learning, “like the mildness, the serenity, the continuing benignity of the summer's day he has gone down with slow, descending, grateful, long-lingering light,” the radiance of the evening giving sure promise of a morning and a morrow of endless brightness.
The oldest of eleven children, of Puritan New England lineage, Joseph P. Bradley was born on a farm in Albany County, New York, on the 14th day of March, 1813, and, therefore, on January 22d last, the day of his death, was near the end of his seventy
The means of his parents, who at his birth were only nineteen years old, were slender, and the circumstances of his childhood and youth were very hard. The little farm was rugged, almost mountainous, the soil thin and barren. The meagre crops were eked out by cutting wood from the hillsides and burning it into charcoal, which young Bradley peddled about the streets of Albany. But though sore pressed to supply the needs of their fast-growing flock, this father and mother were of the intelligent farmer class, so often ambitious to give their children a better chance than their own, and they did for their boy the best they could. A few months' country school in winter, and a few books, were the foundation on which a great superstructure of learning was built, a foundation which, with all due respect to so-called improved school systems and modern methods, it is believed was all the better for the ambitious boy, because the opportunities were rare and the few books so entirely mastered. In the intervals of necessary work we can imagine this boy, in garments homespun and homemade, every thread and every stitch inwoven with the warmth of a mother's love, slight of form but full of life and energy, quick of motion and quick of temper, eager and apt in all the sports with his fellows, but even more eager and more apt in the use of his slight opportunities, by book or school, to feed the beginnings of that Proceedings on the death of Mr. Justice Bradley.
hunger of the mind which was the spur of his whole life and which to the last was insatiable.
At sixteen this boy, with so few advantages, instead of a pupil became the teacher of a winter school, an occupation continued for four seasons. This was the best possible training, because it necessitated thoroughness. As a pupil one may get along with superficial knowledge. Before one can instruct, he must not merely know, but he must know how and why and for what purpose; he must know not merely facts, but principles. At twenty, entering the freshman class at Rutgers, with a very meagre preparation in Greek and Latin, at the end of the year he had, nevertheless, made such progress as to jump the sophomore and enter the junior class, and was graduated two years later with the late Secretary Frelinghuysen, Governor Newell and Cortlandt Parker, all eminent in the law and in public affairs.
Mr. Parker says that Bradley was facile princeps in his class, though compelled to miss the last term of his course, in order, by teaching, to earn money to pay his way.
Of many incidents of his student life, suggestive of his future character and achievements, time forbids to speak. They all prophesied a man of integrity, of industry, and of notable talents.
Young Bradley does not seem to have been strikingly precocious
was not a genius like Grotius or Hamilton, striding at once to the front of his profession. His first years at the bar, as with most young men, were a struggle; his success and greatness were a growth, the result of days of toil and nights of study. The unfolding of the law to him is admirably described in his own language :
“As in the creation we may suppose that the light of the stars did not all burst upon man at a single moment, but came upon him from their distant chambers in successive beams one after another, according to their recondite stations in space, so in the study of the law one great principle after another comes to the yearning mind and overspreads it with light and gladness; and many long years may elapse before one can feel that he has really mastered the law and fully obtained the 'gladsome light of jurisprudence' spoken of by Lord Coke.”
As a student and as a man a most striking trait of his character was thoroughness. He studied almost everything, and whatever he studied became his own, a part of his very self.
Proceedings on the death of Mr. Justice Bradley.
In concluding the address (already quoted from) delivered by him before the students of the law school of the University of Pennsylvania in 1884, an address worthy the pen of Blackstone, Justice Bradley pictured the ideal lawyer as follows: "To sum up all in one word, in order to be an accomplished lawyer it is necessary, besides having a knowledge of the law, to be an accomplished man, graced with at least a general knowledge of history, of science, of philosophy, of the useful arts, of the modes of business, of everything, in fact, that concerns the well-being and intercourse of men in society. He ought to be a man of large understanding; he must be a man of large acquirements and rich in general information, for he is a priest of the law, which is the bond and support of civil society, and which extends to and regulates every relation of one man to another in that society, and every transaction that takes place in it. Trained in such a profession and having these acquirements and two things more, which can never be omitted from the category of qualifications — incorruptible integrity and a high sense of honor the true lawyer cannot but be the highest style of a man, fit for any position of trust, public or private; one to whom the community can look up as a leader and guide ; fit to judge and to rule in the highest places of magistracy and government, an honor to himself, an honor to his kind.”
Studying his life and its results, one is impressed that this picture was ever before him. By a long life of striving, probably more nearly than any one of his time, he attained to that lofty ideal.
Of Sir Thomas More, the first layman commoner to become lord chancellor, and who was wiser than his contemporaries by at least three hundred years, it is said that “ he was perfecting himself in most of the liberal sciences, as music, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and growing to be a perfect historian." So of Judge Brad
”' ley. While the law was his business and the great study of his life, many, perhaps I should say most, other fields of knowledge were diligently cultivated, not only as recreations, but as auxiliary to his profession; mathematics, for which he had a special fondness and aptitude, and which he pursued with delight into its most abstruse applications, astronomy, theology, biblical criticism, languages, literature, science, political economy, in short, he seemed to have studied almost everything, and to have made a part of himself all that his thought had touched. Yet wide and profound as