Address By Hon. William J. Jackson
May it please the Court: I desire to make a motion for the adjournment of this court, but preliminary thereto I wish to say a few words, which I hope may be deemed appropriate to this occasion and the circumstances under which this court is now in session. This day is an interesting one to the members of this bar and the people of this county. We have just withdrawn forever from a forum that for more than sixty years has stood in the midst of the people, as the visible place or temple where the law has been administered, under which the people have lived, and under its benign and protecting influence, have prospered. It has been sacred to the people, because therein the sovereignty of the law was asserted, a sovereignty that assumed the form of organized law, which has always commanded, and still commands, the fealty and respect of the citizens of Rock Island County. In this beautiful edifice in which we are now assembled, we are to continue the administration of public justice, to decide under the forms of law and in a spirit of impartiality, so far as it can be done by human agencies, the claims of contending litigants, and to preserve, protect, and maintain the rights of the, state, and the individual rights and interests of the people, collectively and respectively. Almost sixty-four years have passed since the first session of this circuit court, which, on the 28th day of April, 1834, was held at the plain and unpretentious log and frame house of John Barrel, in the eastern part of this city, Judge Richard M. Young presiding. The machinery of justice, thus set in motion, was started under very humble circumstances. The house of John Barrel contained no paneled ceilings, frescoed walls, or marble wainscoting. There was harmony and uniformity of design, finish and color, both in the interior and exterior, yet it was more in keeping with nature, than art; yet the decrees of that court, from that plain forum, were recognized and regarded by the people, the pushing, hardy, tolerant and hopeful pioneers of that day, who had pushed ahead into this country, then the far west, to found for themselves and the generations to come after them, a local government. The architectural style, beauty and finish of this edifice especially interests the members of this bar. The years of the past have come and gone; the administration of the law and the business of the courts has not been done in marble halls, yet it has been well done. At no time have the people considered it necessary to assume or take the administration of the law out of the regular channels; they have always entrusted it to the direction of the lawfully constituted authorities. There is not, at this bar today, a lawyer that connects us with the beginning of our judicial existence, but few links, however, intervene between this assemblage today and the very beginning. This, however, can only be said of the lawyers. We have with us today in this room, citizens of advanced years, who were active citizens of this county in the years of the beginning; who helped to lay, firm and deep, the foundation of law and order in this county, and who can, and do, today, rejoice that the work was so well done and has been so well maintained. To emphasize this present thought, we would pray that in the conduct and heart of the future people of this county, there shall dwell that sense of the dignity and supremacy of the law that so signally characterized the fathers. The log house of John Barrel was soon superseded by the brick court house, to which we have this day bidden adieu, and while we contemplate the grandeur of the present edifice, and consider the burden, voluntarily imposed by the people to provide for its construction, we must not forget that the pioneers of this county, according to their numbers and ability, assumed an equal burden to provide the court house that we have just abandoned, which, in the day of its completion, was the pride of this part of the northwest. The construction of this court house in which we are now met, is not the result of a protracted effort, first suggested in the board of supervisors in April, 1893, by Supervisor Joseph Fitzpatrick, the means to erect provided by the people, by vote in 1894, the foundation stone laid in October, 1895; and completed for dedication in March, 1897. The necessity for a new court of justice was promptly recognized by the honorable board of supervisors, although the building of a new structure involved increased taxation, and added to existing burdens, yet the people of this county, by their votes, declared that the time had come when the character and dignity of the county, in connection with its executive and judicial departments, demanded a temple of justice that would truly represent the progress, culture and improved artistic taste of the present. The people decreed; it has been done. We look around, and beyond, and behold this edifice, beautiful in design, symmetrical in proportion; in its architecture the designer lives, and will continue to live to tell the onlooker how, in his brain, there was planted that quality of art and artistic appreciation of form, color, quality and proportion, that could conceive and plan this building, about which there can be only one expression, “How beautiful!” Not only does the building display the skill and artistic talent of the designer, but also the skill of the more humble craftsman, who, by cunning manipulation, mechanical conception and execution could, and has, so worthily and successfully fashioned and built that which the artist in beauty designed. This court house stands as a monument to the good taste, broad and liberal spirit of the board of supervisors of this county, who, notwithstanding many adverse and discouraging criticisms, yet, believing that the people of Rock Island County were worthy of a structure that should represent the intelligence and energy of the people, had the courage and determination to build this building. For the push, energy and official integrity that has brought the work to so successful a termination, we will today award to the board of supervisors that measure of credit, recognition and praise that is their due. We should not, at this time, when speaking of the means and forces that insured the successful completion of the court house, forget the faithful contractor, and the superintendent, who have so well performed their labors, and won for themselves the recognition of their fellow citizens, who will award to them the credit of having performed their work with signal ability and merited tribute of praise. The board of supervisors have ordered that on the 31st day of March, 1897, the people should be invited into this public edifice, to cordially and quietly enjoy and contemplate this public enterprise so auspiciously completed; hence we are now surrounded with a busy, earnest throng of citizens, who are this day, with music attending, treading the broad aisles of this court house, enjoying the delight of its beauty, and expressing by their attendance their interest in the work that was so worthily conceived, and has been so successfully completed. And now, in the presence of this court and the people, what shall be further said on this occasion? We have built this house, doomed and cupaloed, principally with iron, stone and marble, not only because we wanted to build, but to build with such form and grace that it should stand in the midst of the people as a public recognition of the supremacy and majesty of the law; the law, not as a shifting and uncertain influence to be changed by the casting of a die, but a controlling moral and political force, that stands guard by day and by night, shielding and protecting all classes alike; not only the house of luxury and refinement, but an all powerful influence encircling and protecting the cabin of the poor; a law so potent that it tempers the power of the executive, as well as the will of the people; the limitations of the law being its safety, its adaptation to all being its strength and beauty. The majesty of its influence was well illustrated in the celebrated speech of Earl Chatham, in the British Parliament, “The poorest man in his cottage may bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown; it may be frail, its roof may shake, the storm may enter it, but the King of England cannot enter it,-all his power dares not cross the threshold of that ruined tenement.” When the citizen surveys this public structure, he can not only enjoy the grandeur of its appearance, but the mental fact that it is the monument of a free people, guided and inspired by wise and just laws, and intent upon the enforcement of them; laws to be obeyed until repealed; and if, in the course of time, experience demands a change to meet new conditions, then shall the change be made, not by wilful disregard of existing enactments, but by legal and constitutional methods, for only by such methods, and under such conditions, shall the “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” survive, and not perish from the earth. I am loath to close my remarks without a few words to my associates at this bar. The sixty-four years of the judicial life of this court is behind us. Many of us passed the summit; what we have done, or left undone, the world knows. The personal and mental characteristics that have marked our lives and actions during the years of the past will probably remain unchanged to the end. If our lives have not been well rounded out by upright conduct and moral force, the fault has been with ourselves. Happy for us if our personal characters have so impressed our fellows that they are willing to concede that our lives have been well spent. But there are at this bar, at this time more than at any former period of its history, many young men of varied talents, who will be the leaders of the future. It is an interesting and important question to ask what will be their position in this court, and what estimate their fellow citizens will place upon them. Will they come and plead at this bar only for personal glory, that men may praise their ingenuity and skill as lawyers? Will they simply estimate their personal importance by their gains, without reference to the means and instrumentalities used to command these gains, or will the lawyers of the future at this bar be men whose highest aim shall be so to discharge the varied and exacting duties of the profession, and their personal duties to their fellow practitioners, that inquiry will not be necessary to find out to what plane of public estimation they have attained, but the constant, truthful, kind and even tenor of their professional conduct shall lead men to a prompt, instant and cordial recognition of their personal worth. I hope this may be the standard of the lawyers of this county. A word to the judges of this court. I speak after an experience of thirty-six years; during those years I have had the honor to appear before all the judges that have presided in the circuit and county courts. Considering the arduous and delicate duties that a judge has o to perform, restraining the impetuous lawyer, client or witness, instructing and encouraging the timid and independent, deciding delicate and intricate legal questions, affirmed by positive counsel and questioned by others- equally positive; and yet, so deciding the questions involved that the decision shall carry with it the respect of all,-duties of this kind would appear to be so difficult that complaint would seem to be the rule; yet this bar, and the people of this county have a right, and it is their duty to accord to the judges now living and to the memory of those departed, that the work of the judiciary has been well and faithfully done; and the kindly and earnest expression of good feeling of the lawyers of this county towards the judges is a just and proper tribute to the bench of the courts of this county. If, in the future, another court house . shall supplant the beautiful one in which we are now gathered, and it is then said about the judiciary, as it can now be said, that the bench has been an inspiration and kindly assistance to the bar, the years of the future in that regard will be years of pleasant association and reciprocated kindnesses. ‘And now, if the court please, in view of the public interest now manifested in this court house dedication, and to enable the judges, lawyers and officers of this court to join with their fellow citizens in this gathering of the people, I move that this court do now adjourn.
Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908