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How He Became Judge

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Last Friday we gave a number of interesting reminiscenses of Ex-Gov. Alpheus Felch, of this city, which appeared recently in the Grand Rapids Democrat. "In 1841 John S Barry, of Constantine, St. Joseph county, was elected governor," said Mr. Felch, continuing his interesting conversation. "He was a staunch democrat and was elected by a handsome majority, the tide of i84ohavingturned. Barry held the office for two terms at this time and was afterwards again elected to a third term. I was appointed auditor general by Barry in '42 . There was an amusing incident connected with my appointment. I had been bank commissioner for about a year. I had given my whole time to the business of the office and actually did not get salary enough to pay traveling expenses. I got out of that, thinking it more advisable to make a living than to hold office. There was a gentleman named Barbera candidate for the office of auditor general. He was a strong democrat and an able man, but Barry knew him very well and did not like him. All of the democracy joined in the petition. to have Barber appointed. I. myself signed it. The legislature at length began to press the governor for Barber's appointment, but Barry was silent' for a long time. About this time when I was at my home in Monroe, I received some twenty letters from members of the legislature stating that I had been nominated and confirmed and all of them asked me to decline without coming to Detroit. I considered this matter for a long time and decided to go to troit and pay my respects to the governor, and to teil him that I could not accept the office, and so went up to Detroit for that purpose. Calling at the governor's house, I had a long conversation with him, the grist of which was that he was in a good deal of trouble, for said he, 'everybody has been pressing me to nomínate Baker for auditor general, and I have made up my mind that I will not do it. I know you do not want the office, but if you only stand by me in this everything will be all right. ' The final conclusión reached was that I was to accept the office and hold it until after the legislature then in session had adjourned. I held the office just three weeks, at which time I received my appointment to the supreme bench. Before this Barry had wanted to make me his secretary of state, which, however, I had declined. The pecuniary advantages of the state offices in those days were not very large, only a few hundred dollars. The salaries of the justices of the supreme court at this time was $1,500 a year, and this was the best office in the gift of the executive." "Beginning with your term of office, Governor, can you give me a few of the leading features of the of the administration." With a sort of a benign smile the governor went on: "We were a very harmonious set of folks in those days. I had no trouble with my appointments. Wm. L. Greenly of Adrián was lieutenant governor and acted as governor after my resignation. I don't remember my majority but I know it was safe. At the time of my nomination I was on the supreme bench and I wanted to stay there, and thought I was more fitted for the place I was then holding than for the office for which I was nominated. The action of the convention troubled me exceedingly, but at length they persuaded me to accept the nomination. One of the most important acts during my term of office was the sale of the railroads which originally belonged to the state. The expenses of the railroads were too great, and they were unwieldly for the state government to carry on. At this time but two roads were in existence, the road from Detroit to Kalamazoo and a branch of the Southern from Monroe out to Adrián. I made a pretty thorough examination of the subject and was satisfied that it was wiser to dispose of them and so recommended in my first message. Out of this grew the sale of the roads. We sold the road from Detroit to Kalamazoo for two million of dollars and the south road for one-half million. I signed the old deeds to the railroad company. "An amusing incident of this sale was the trip over the road just before the sale, and I must confess that I was in great terror all the time. We made thr trip in company with the probable purchaser, some Boston and New York capitalists. In those days we used the old strap rail altogether. After long use it had a peculiar way of coming up through the bottom of the coach, what they called "snake-heads," and every moment I expected to get a "snakehead" through me. We said nothing about that to the puachasers though, for you know it would not have done to depreciate our property. We all thought it was our last trip, for the engineers put on all steam,andourspeedwas fully as fast as that of the trainsofhe present day. I was not in a position from which I could communicate with the engineer or I would have told him to slow up. Luckily we all got through safely." "Are there stnl living any or your colleagues in the first legislature ? " "There is not a man now living who was with me in that legislature. The last man died about two years ago; his name was Townsend D. Gidley. He lived about eight or ten miles west of Jackson. He never tield any other office but once ran for governor on the whig ticket and was beaten. At the last meeting of our association - you know we have an association composed of ex-members of the legislature - I took pains to mquire just how many were living. At that time there were two besides myself: the Mr. Gidley mentioned before, and a J. Kidder Green, who then lived at Exeter, N. H., but who ïas since died. At the time he was in the legislature he was in the Niles district. There are only two senators now iving who were with me at that :ime - Hannibal Hamlin and James W. Bradbury, both of Maine. All three of us were born within a radius of 60 miles. Bradbury is two years older than I am. We read Virgil :ogether. He has always been a awyer. His home is at Augusta. Hamlin lives at Bangor. Hamlin is a bright, shrewd man and a thorough aolitician, and pretty much of the :ime in office. He is, I think, three or four years younger than I am. He is a sort of a family connection, !iis grandmother and my grandmother being sisters. Hamlin was a democrat until 1853. I asked him once why he changed, but got an unsatisfactory answer. Upon my return from California I saw Hamlin in Washington. He töld me at that time he was going to change, and his reason was that the democrats were not free soil enough. He said they were too much proslavery. I advised him strongly against this move, but he said he was acting in accordance with his conscience. The public at large said he changed merely to continue to hold office. Mr. Bradbury served but one term in thesenate. We are the only two living who went into the thirtieth congress together. Jefferson Davis' term began at the same time; also that of Simon Cameron, father of the present senator from Pennsylvania, but he had been there a long time before. I was in the senate with Webster, Douglas, Benton and other noted men. I had the great pleasure of hearing Webster's speech on the compromise question, an effort made prominent by the large amount of adverse criticism aroused."