Page images
PDF
EPUB

Mr. Massey withdrew from the canvass and the fight continued between General Echols, Judge Harris and Judge Paul, until a few days before the election, when General Echols withdrew, and Judge Harris was returned by a majority exceeding 1,700. The legislative session of 1878-79 developed sharply the lines of divergence between the followers of General Mahone and those antagonistic to him in the differences growing out of the debt settlement, known as the McCulloch bill, leading to the Mozart Hall Convention, and a regular organization of the Readjuster party and its complete separation from the old Democratie conservative party. At the election for members of the General Assembly in 1879, on the issues then formulated, Judge Paul was returned to the Virginia Senate from his native county by an increased majority, and participated in the election of General Mahone to the Senate of the United States. The Presidential election of 1880 was now approaching, and the Readjusters, who had up to this time continued to call themselves Democrats, were forced to fall in line with the regular organization of that party, ally themselves with the Republicans or occupy a middle ground. This latter course was adopted. Judge Paul being one of the leaders advocating the 7th of July convention, held in Richmond on that date, when a full electoral ticket was placed in nomination independent of both the Hancock and Garfield tickets, became without opposition in his party, its candidate for Congress in the Seventh District, in 1880.

Judge Henry C. Allen, of Shenandoah, declining to follow General Mahone in the movement now clearly tending to a coalition with the Republican party, accepted the nomination for Congress at the hands of the Democratic Convention, but was defeated by Judge Paul by a majority exceeding 700, after an exceedingly hard fought and ably conducted canvass. Taking his seat in Congress in December, 1881, just after the Readjuster-Republican coalition ticket for Governor, headed by Colonel Wm. E. Cameron, of Petersburg, had carried the State, he served while a member of the House of Representatives, on the Committee on Elections, and during the consideration in the House of the Mackey-Dibble contested election case, he delivered on May 30, 1882, a set speech in which he explained the position and the purposes of his party in Virginia. In 1882, he was again the nominee of his party for Congress, and was opposed by Governor Charles T. O'Ferrall, as the Democratic candidate. The certificate of election was given to him, but his election was contested by Governor O’Ferrall, who was awarded the seat after Judge Paul had resigned from the House of Representatives to accept the position of United States District Judge for the Western District of Virginia, which office, President Arthur, at the instance of General Mahone had tendered him in the spring of 1883 upon the death of the incumbent, Judge Alexander Rives. After much hesitation, reluctant even to leave the uncertain field of politics for the life tenure of the Federal Judiciary, he had finally accepted and taking the oath of office on September 5th, 1883, he at once entered upon the discharge of his duties, filling the position until his death.

During his service on the bench, Judge Paul made a number of public addresses, notably, one on the occasion of the laying of the cornerstone of the beautiful new county courthouse of his native county, on October 15th, 1896—a paper as valuable for its exhaustive historical research, as it is creditable to the industry and eloquence of its author.

l'pon his acceptance of the judgeship, there was much specualtion as to how he would discharge the delicate and difficult duties of the position. Fresh from the fiercest political controversy known in Virginia since the war, an extreme partisan, elevated to the bench at a time when the phrase, “We are for Arthur, because Arthur is for us” seemed to be expressive of the political morality of the party to which he belonged, Judge Paul was not long in giving evidence of the standards guiding him in the performance of the duties of this high position or of disclosing his ability to discharge them. He applied himself with renewed vigor to the study of the science of jurisprudence, and soon strikingly, illustrated the fact that in our country many of the ablest, purest and most impartial judges are draw! from among the intensest partisans. All traces of his previous political prejudices passed away upon his advent to the bench, and he became and continued to the last ,an able, honest, fearless and just judge.

I shall not attempt here a survey of Judge Paul's labors upon the bench, either by a review of the great number of cases in which he handed down opinions, as well when sitting on the Cir. cuit Court of Appeals, as when on Circuit, or by a recountal of the many questions of first impression, considered and decided by him or of the cases constantly coming up for decision in which the ascertainment and application of distinct principles of law became necessary.

Nor need the character of that work be recalled, for our emulation and admiration. It is known alike to the Bar and to his brethren of the Bench. It is found in the depositories of our jurisprudence, to lighten the labors of both, and to remain a. monument to his energy, his ability, his strong judicial grasp and his love of right and justice. The bare fact is stated, however, when it is said of hin, what may be said of no man inore truly, that his mental processes were always absolutely honest. His investigations, his reflections, his reasoning, proceeded from motives of the highest honor. He did his work not from the lofty stimulus of duty only, or because upon him alone was its performance imposed, but as well for the reason that he loved truth and honor, and reverenced justice as though it were his "conscience and his king." To him the question is it right, is it just, came with absorbing gravity. With this inquiry did he challenge all propositions, as he gladly dedicated his highest, noblest efforts in the service of his country, by taking part in its administration of justice. Not from the bench alone, but in contact with his fellow-man, and in public addresses as well, did he love to inculcate the sentiment dear to his heart, "Justice is the common concern of mankind.” Whether upon the floor of the National Congress, advocating the cause of honest elections or among his own people, with whom, despite the loneliness of judicial station, he ever maintained affectionate relations, he loved to dwell upon the beauty and holiness of justice. And lest what has been said in this regard may seem due perhaps to the partiality of friendship, his own words delivered on the occasion of laying the cornerstone of the new courthouse in the county of his nativity, afford ample corroboration:

"May those--said he who shall preside in this Temple of “Justice always realize that 'Justice is the common concern of "mankind,' that all, all, the rich and poor, the strong and the “weak, the prosperous and the failing, the high and the low, the “well-to-do in comfortable home, and the paupers in their hovels, “are all equally entitled to the protection of the laws and to “their fair, honest, fearless and just administration. And may it "ever be said of them, that they judged in honor and in truth, "and that their judgments were ever guided by the spirit of “Righteousness and founded in Justice.”

As may be inferred from what has been said, Judge Paul's lack of advantages in early life, the interruption of his academic training, the war ensuing, and the struggle for bare subsistence immediately following, retarded his acquisition of knowledge—but only for a time. He soon became deeply versed not only in the science of jurisprudence, but in the political and constitutional history of the country as well, familiar with the best of our literature, and well informed as to the progress of the world. And as his knowledge grew, so did his sympathies extend, and the spirit of tolerance, ever deepseated in his nature, enlarge and broaden, until it seemed that charity, benevolence and urbanity so enveloped him as to leave no space for prejudice or dogmatism. The clearer understanding of equitable principles, which comes with expanded moral perceptions, grew with him from more to more, until his heart and mind were quick to respond to their intimation.

And to one keenly sensitive to the slightest suggestion of equity, argument were indeed superfluous.

Judge Paul's demeanor upon the Bench will long be remembered by the Bar who practiced before him. An attention that seldom showed weariness under any provocation, a courtesy and kindliness rarely found, a generous consideration for counsel under the most trying circumstances, and a promptness in the

SO

dispatch of business characterized his discharge of the onerous duties of the position and endeared him alike to the officers of the Court, to juries, witnesses and members of the Bar. Withal, a dignity evoking respect and deference, without ever manifesting the slightest austerity.

At the commencement of his service upon the bench, Judge Paul was no doubt inclined to a rather strict construction of the powers of the National Government, but as his study and reflection upon the great chart of its authority matured, he came to be among the many who venerate the work of Virginia's greatest jurist, and his reverence for the name and fame of the incomparable Marshall was second to none in this broad land.

Few men were more genuinely public spirited than John Paul. In all that made for the advancement of his fellow citizens, of the people everywhere, he took a vital interest, and none contributed more than he, within the limits of his opportunities, to the welfare of his community. Early in life he gave special study to the system of public education, and always manifested great solicitude for its promotion and development. Not a few are those yet living who recall the power and earnestness, one might say pathos, put forth in his speeches when in politics, in pleading the cause of the free school system in Virginia. He placed a high estimate on the power of public discussion of all questions affecting the rights and interests of the people, whether in the press, at the fireside, or on the platform. In the work of the Bench and of the Bar of the country, and especially of Virginia, he was deeply interested. He noted with glad approval the advent of the Law Register, and welcomed the organization of the Bar Association; of the law requiring examination of applicants for admission to the Bar–indeed, of all movements designed to promote the science of jurisprudence, and the elevation of the profession.

Judge Paul never wearied of his work, approaching it always with readiness and zest-a disposition finding expression even in the last trying months of his life, as when, though broken in strength, but with spirit undaunted, he remarked as he made

« PreviousContinue »