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Ezra C. Seaman

Ezra C. Seaman image Ezra C. Seaman image
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The followiag artlcle, taken trom the Sunday News-Tribune, written by Mr. Winder, of Detroit, will be found J vcry Intereátlng to most of our readers : Ezra C. Beainan carne to Detroit i In 1S59. nml for ten years was a practicing lawyer in tliis city. Ho Uien spent four years in Washington . and was afterward a resident oí Aun Arbor until he dled fifteen years ago. ' He was a man of integrity and moral wovth, a lawyer of high standing and chai-acter and an a ble writer on scientific and constitntional subfects. He was born at Chatham, Columbla wmnty, N. Y., Oct 14, 1805. His ] (ather, Sylvanus Seaman, was of ' Quaker pareatage, and lus mother, I.ydia ('liainpion, was of l'iiritan Í tr act ion. Koon after liis birth his parents i removed to the south western part of the town of Saratgoa, and he re;-eived a liberal education there and at - Ballston Springs. He studied law s admltted to practice by iiie si ;i :ne court In 1881, wlien he was tv. n,y-six years of agft. He " tieed law in Ballston SpringB, the ' county seat of Saratoga county, for five years. He then removed to Norwalk, O., and liveil there some time. ajid in 1839 carne to Detroit to practice in a new fieXil. In person he was rathr tall and gaunt, being about five feet ten inches n height and weighing about 1(50 pounds, with an erect carriage, broadshouldered and raw-boned. His features were strongly marïied with keen black eyes, a clean shaven face, and large hands and feet. His head was large and broad, in later years, quite bald, and his h.iir and complexion were light, and lie generally wore a black claw-hammer coat and a tall silk Lat. Wh.ilO agreeable and pleasant in social intercourse, his conduct at the bar was the very reverse There his manner was aggressive and doftinatic - two peculiar;tios which made him rather impopular Tvith his legal associates. In addressing the judge or jury he always insisted that hls side of the case was ideaJly correct and proper, and that the argumenta of the other side were not entitled to the slighteet tonsideration. He "was also rather diffuse and prosy, and it was aoticed that nervous judges during his arguments would irequently rise and walk up and down on the judicial platform. He was a whlg in politics, 'and afterward a republican, hut he took little part in politics. KXEW HB WAS RIG1IT. A man of strong convictions he never hesitated'to speak his anind on any subject, his criticiams sometimes being directed at the supreme court, especially when that tribunal gave an adverse decisión on cases in which he, was intei-ested. In 1844 when that court reviewed the case of Green vs. Grave-s, and decided that the general banking law of the stat was uncoiistitutional, Mr. geauian was particularly indignant. His practice at that time was almosb exclusively in banking cases and the decisión struck hiin bard and left hian for a time witb hardly auy business wliatever. His phillipic on tlie court of last resort at that time was a curious production, and is well remembered by the old lawyers throughout the state. In 1847, whide practicing in Detroit, he had his briefs and arguments priuted before subanittlng them to the courts, and was probably the l'irst lawyer to do so in the western sta tes. The advamtagea were so manifest that the profession in this city followed suit, and in 1S5T, when the supreme court was reoruanized and made a purely appellate tribunal without any circuit duties, it was ordained tha1 all such dcouments filed beíore Í1 should be primted. EDITORIAL BXPERIENCE8. In 1849 he was appolnfced as chiel clerk under his friendo Elisha Whlttleeecf., H'i'iuiil coinptroller of the United States, and serevd in that flepartment at Washington until 1S.":5. He returned to Detroit, but in tbe spring of 1855 removed to Aun Arbor, he resumed the practive of law a ml was in partnership with Tracy W. Root trom 1855 until 1802, when Mr. lioot was elected county clerk and the partnership came to an end. After that time he did not pora law very actively. During 1 lic administra t ion of Govenior Kingsley H. Binghaan, irom 1S55 to 1800. he va inspector of ïhe Michigan State Prteoa. In the tonner year he commenced a term of joumalistie work by purchasing a half interest in the Ann Arbor Journal, a republican sheet, and was its editor until 1807. His partner durimg that time was James M. Cole, novv a resideuit of Jackson. In 1SGS hel went on a tour of Europe and visited the principal countries of the old world. OLD TIME TRIALS. During the time that Seaman practice at tho Washtenaw bar the proContinued on 4th page. EZRA C. SEAMAN. Continued from 3rd page. ecedimgs in the courts were eonducted in a ratlier primitive and unconvenventional style. Thia was also the rule ñiall the other rural circuits, and sometiines even invaded the temples of justice in Detroit. Cases were not often set down for a day certain, and all the litigants and their witnesses had to in town on the first day of the term and remain there until their cases were disposed of. The taverns and boarding houses would be jammed full, eaoh bed as a rule being required to do doublé duty, and the saloons and bars did a thriving business. "Court week" would also be punctuated with wordy coutroversie8 between. the litigants, on the streets and ia the saloons, and these rencontres would frequently result in free fights, followed by arrests and tríala before a justice of the peace. Oourt week was always a week of disorder. In the courts a carefully prepared argument on either or both sides of a case was a rarity, As a ruk: the law-ycrs conmienced thelf cases witli very little kmbwledge of the faeta or preparatlon ot' any kind. Like the actor who ".wlmgs his part" - i. e., studies it between the scènes - the attorneys would spar off and paddie alxead with a few generalities, trustIng to lacquire information from the evidence, and would reserve their force for the concludlng speeches, in which tlie oppoetng side would be attacked with feroeity and abused without stint. Lawyyis bestowed upon eath other sueh oup-leasant epithets as "liars," "bloats," "fools," etc. This was so eoinnioii that the courts genorally uttered only stereotyped protests aaid warnlngs. TVhen tlie languoge was unusually profane or grows iIlü coaatroveralaligts would sometimes be fined for contempt, but even tliat puiib-hment seldom stopped the billingsgato. The fines would be paid and tlie utterer would manage to say by ionplication that his contempt for the court was increased by reason of tlie punfehment. HOW HAWKINS SECURKD DELAY. An instanoe of the way things were dome in the Washtenaw oourt occur red one afternoou in the fifties. A case was called, when Olney Hawkins a well-known attorney wlio defend ed the oase, was sent for. He ap peared and said that all hia witness es were absent, and as they Hved in Lodi township, tn miles away, the case should be continued. Judge Lawreaice sald tliat timely notice hac been given and that the trial must coinmeuce iright then. Hawkins pro tested, but the judge insisted and the jury was called. Hawkins then talked agalnst time. He objected to everything, challcnged the whole array and made an hour's speech. The judge overruled lus objections, and he then objected to each of the juvors and u&ed up the whole afternoon in tuis way. When the court was adjourned for tJie day, Hawkins heaved a sigh of content and iaumediately dispatched a niessejiger to Lodi township. Next morning the witnesees were all present and the case went on. THE THAYER-MORGAN CASE. tne of tlie ïamous chancery cases of the Washtenaw county bar, and Lu which Seaman was retained from lts eommeiicement until its close, was the snit of Captain Thayer against Elijan W: Morgan and William Cheever, adminUtrators of the estáte of W. S. M,aynard. Morgan and Maynard were the'surviving trustees of the old Ann Arbor Land Company, of which Thayer was one of the stockholders. The defendant was K. W. Morgan who had acquired the interests of the company, and was charged by Thayer with trying to freeze kim out. Searnao, as attorney for Thayer, fUed a bilí in the Washtenaw county court in 1867 asking ior au accounting and difitribution. The case dragged along Lnthe courts year after year, and threatened to be a masterpieee and monument of chancery practice, like its great prototype, Jamdyce vs. Jarndyce. Every lawyer in the circuit appeared in it, on one siide or the other, and the papers finally filled up a large sized trunk. Whenever the court had a few spare hours Thayer vs. Morgan was called, and the lawyers immediately feil to argutng one of the nu merous "fine points" with which th case fairly bristled. Ia these Sea man was in his element and was, if possible, more dogmatic and combative tham usual. One day after a winidy debate with Morgan they both becaine heated and fiiiaUy had a íistaaid-skull fight in the sacred precincts of the court room. THE LAWYERS NONPLUSSED. In eourse of time the case becarae so intricate that the court and the lawyers became bewildered, and at last did not appear to know what they wanted, One day Judge Higby listeaiing to four hours of argu ment suddenly turned to Morgan and said : '■What decree do you want?" The questiou was like a blow between the eyes. Morgan henimed aaid hawed and finally stammered out tliat he wamted a decree in accordance with his rights The judge then turned to Seaman an'd asked the same question. The latter was also too mu&h disconcerted to make au adequate repljr. "If either of you gentlemen wil] draw up a decree embodying what you want I will sign it," said the judge. The iranical humor of the judge knocked out both parties, and the oas& was not settled. It came up from time to time until August 31, 187 6. when the late Judge George W. Huntingdon finally gave a most Intricate decree for the distribution of $17,000 among the surviving stockholdei-s. THE TAPPAN FIGHT. In 1862, and subsequent years, Mr. Seaman was an ardent admirer and supporter of Dr. Tappan, president of the State Universlty, in the fight with the board of regente1. Formerly the members of the board were elected by distrietis. Dr. Tappan had mnny friends in the state and it was lirlievi'd that if the law were changed and the regenta elected ïrom the statu at large, that he would be sustaiaed by the new board. Seaman went to Lansing in 1861 and succeeded in lobbytng a bilí tlirough the leglslature sulmiitting a constitutional amendment to the people, whieh, if adopted, would make the destred change. In this matter Dr. Tappan's Iriends were entirely Buecessful. The amendment w&$ adopted, and at the next state electiiou seven out of the eight regents elected were friends of Dr. Tappan. The old board adjourned their June meeting imtil after eommenremem andtlien deposed Dr. Tappan and appointed Dr. Erastus Otis Haven as his successor. The new board, which went into commlseion January 1, 18(54, were expected to rein.state Tappan, but they did not, to the intense disgust of Seaman and otlier warm friends of the ex-president. The students were enthuslastically in favor of their old president, and held an indignation meetinig in which they denounced the eonduct of the new board, The newspapers took up the quarrel all over the state, and Seaman waa in the thickest of the fiight, battliaig ior his friend. Professor A. D. White, one of the University faculty, noiv president of Cornell, took up the cudgels tor the other slde, and he and Seaanan had a long literary duel in the newspapers, in which their argumenta bristled wlth. denunciation, ridicule and sarcasm. The change of heart jn the members of the new board was doubtles attributed to their belief that the reinstatenient of Professor Tappan, who had niany enemies as well as friends, would work more mischief to the interests of the University than in leaving Dr. Haven undisturbed in the presidency. HIS I.ITERARY WORK. AltUough a very fair lawyer bis best work was as a writer. In 18iG, while in Detroit, he published "Essays on the Progresa of NAtions." "While a resident of Washington, in 1832, he pubüshed two supplements to his work, and later a second revised edition. In 1870, while in Ann Arbor, he published "The American System of Government," which was translated into the Freneh language and republished in Belgium. In 1872-73 he published "Views of Nature," and also prepared documentary papers for the National PrLson Association. One of iliis essays, entitled "Life and Spontaneous fteneration," first read before the Ann Arbor Scientific Association, created wide-spread interest, and was discussed in scientific circles throughout the Onited States. His writings show considerable forc3 and versatility of intellect, but tliey did not bring any material addition to his income. When engaged in literary work he led the Ufe of a recluse, and seldom appeared on the streets, except for a constitutional. He sttanulated his mental powers in such work by drinküig immense quantiti&s of strong green tea. HIS POOR PEDALS. He was mot a man with whom liberties eould be taken, and no one would venture to make a butt of lilm, but nis peculiarities and queer character afïorded a great deal of amusement for Iris fellow lawyers when he was not present. His feet were a continual souree of jokes, and during his absense would frequently be averted to. One da.y Judge Lawrenee told the sheriff to cali Mr. Seaman, when Attorney Chaun&ey Joslyn, afterward Circuit Judge, arose and in very respeetful tones, said : May it the eourt, it is not necssary to put the sheriff to the trouble. Mr. Seaman is coming now. I hear Ms toes knocking around the trees in tlie court house square." The lawyers wlKi practiced at the Washtenaw county bar vied with each other in resurrectLng all the timeworai jokes about big feet, and applying thOm to Mr. Seaman's pedal extremities. One waa that he wore No. 15's ; another was that when he wemt to a house he could not ring the bell without turning his baco to the door, and another was to the effect tliat his folks could always get supper ready for him in good time, because wlien they saw his feet coming rouad tlie corner they set the kettle on, as they knew he would be home soon. HAD HIS TOE CUT OFF. Altliough a man who was not apparently disturbed by ridicule or liostiile criticism, he took this ridcule to heart. He imvariably wore boots or shoes whieh were much smaller than liis feet, which, of course, gave him a great deal of pain and discomfort. His toes were so crushed and crowded together by his tight boots tiiat the second toe was lifted up amd lay on top of its two neighbora. One of these "riders" afflkted him so imuch that cnie diay he called in a medical student who was boarding in ' ils house. The student was a ' oocious eurgeon, and had instruments ■ n his poasession. Taking off hls 1 shoe he said : "I wtóh yon to ampútate that toe "Why, tluT,. ís nothüg the mal ter wil h is," said the student "I doa't care. It must come off ! said Saamaiu And come off it did. They aidn't use anaesthetics in those days, and he bore the painful operation without a groan. Some old eit izeos of Ann Arbor say that thte operation took place a short time before hifi death, and that it really was the existhig cause of hU taking off. nis kamii.y. Mr. Reaman married in 1835 Mart ette Doe, daughter of Walter P. Doe a retired gentleman of wealth and promiaeiice at Welton, Saratoga Co. N. Y. Tlie union resulted in the birtii of three ons, who all died. August B. Seamaai died in infancy inthis city in 1845 ; Walter Doe Seattnan .l)Oni in Xorwalk, Oliio, was drowned la Detroit iax 1849, aged twelve yeaps and six months. Another son, Marshal Seaman, was twenty-five years odd wlien he died of pulmonary oonsumption in tliO insane anylum at Kalama zoo. Mr. and Mrs. Seaman's home in Detroit was on the west side of Griswold street, where the Buhl block now tands, ajid they both attended St. Paui's Episcopal churcli. Tiie also attended the Episcopal clmrch at Ann Arbor, of which Mrs. Seamaa was a member. Although Mr. S6aman was a regular attendant, he coiüd scarcely toe called a worshiper, as die invariably went to sleep, and alwa.ys with a placid sniile on his face. H-te slumbers were sometinieé punctuated witu snoree, at which hla wife was mueli disquieted. By her ddrection he always carried a bag of peppennint drops in his pocket, which she thought would prevent hls soporfic tendencies. One day during the service h,e iound himselfgrowÈQg sleepy, and put Jiis liand in hu pocket for the dropa. He took the bag out by the wrong end, scattered the contente of it all over the aisle, to the intense amusement oí the coagregation. The Seamans were a very sociable pair aod great entertainers, and the older citizens of Ann Arbor have very pleasant recolletions of the delightful, old-fasliioned tea parties and t heir bospltable mamsion at the corner of State amd E. Huron streets. 1. is now the property of tbe Tappan Guia of the Presbyterian church, to wiiuiu it was bequeathed by the late Mre. Louisa Sackett, eister of Mrs. Seaman. The buildüig is of brick and its style of architecture is mot often seen iu the western states, reminding the tourists of the quiet and beautiful homes in the suburbs of PhUadelphia. Mr. Seaman died at Ann Arbor oa Juiy 17, 1879 and was within three months of being seventy-four years of age at the time of his death. Hia wife died eight months later, on Marcli 5, 1880, in seventy-second year. Hia eetate was inventorie dat $23,250,36, and in his wül made the following disposition of his property: To the State Insane Asylum at mazoo he left $1,000, the interest o which was to be used in the purchast of books and papers for the inmate He also left $1,000 to St. Andrew'e Episcopal School of Ann Arbor in the way for books and papers fot the pupüs and teachers. The sixtli elause was as follows : _J'Being in favor of the largest freedom of opinión on matters of science, government and religión ; opposed to ecclesiastical denomination and the spirit of intoleranee begotten by rigiü sectarianism an dbigotry, as inlmeal to freedom and the best interests of the human family ; believing that the general good of every people and eonimunity requires that they should be divided toto several independent Cüristian sects, and that no sect should comprise a majority of the people oivotens of any state, county, city or municipality ; and believing also that liberal Christianity and the Unitariau clmrches and societies of this country, have been product Ive of good in moderating the violence of degenerate theology and the rigid spirit and intolerance of sectarianism, I give and beI queath to the trustees of the First Uoiitarian Society of Anu Arbor the sum of $1,000 to the purchase of Sunday School books." MRS. 8ACKETT BURNED THE WILL. The remainder he left to his wife. When she died on llaroli 4, 1S80, it was reported at the time that she had left a, will which her sister, Mrs. Louise Sackett, found, and after reading declare-d it "no good" and threw it into the fire. Mrs. Sackett was very original, and certainly thought of no evil if she did so. Nothing of this generally believed story, however, appears im the Probate Court records. Her estáte was distributed according to the intestate laws aonong her natural heirs.


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